April 4, 2003
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
JOHN GERDES: Good afternoon. Welcome to the 2003 men's Final Four. We're joined first by Marquette head coach Tom Crean. We'll ask the coach to make an opening statement, then we will open it up to questions.
TOM CREAN: First of all, for our entire university, this is an honor and a privilege. We said just getting into the NCAAs that the feat that that is, for 65 teams, is incredible. You're fortunate to win every game. But to get to the Final Four, to be getting ready to go against a team like Kansas is an incredible feeling. I know our entire team shares in that. At the same time, I don't think anybody has took a breath and decided that the season needs to be over. I think they're all excited to play, as I'm sure the other three teams are. We've had a very spirited week. I'm very proud of the way my players have handled all this. It's an exciting time for them, but they've continued to work very hard in our practices and preparation. We've tried to find as much of a sense of normalcy as we can, which is difficult, especially when you pull up on a bus Wednesday night, there's a band there with all the beads going around your neck. That brought our guys to life. Things are a little different now. You don't quite get that when you fly around Conference USA. It's a great feeling for everybody. We're excited. I'll open it up.
JOHN GERDES: Questions.
Q. Would you adjust pace as it pertains to Kansas, what your ideas may be on that tomorrow?
TOM CREAN: Adjusting pace, you said?
TOM CREAN: They want the game so high scoring, and they're so good at it. When the game is in the 80s and 90s, it certainly behooves them, it's better for them that way. First and foremost, our number one focus is our transition defense. I think every team that plays Kansas focuses on that first because they're so good at getting the ball up the floor. The two things that I've learned more so in watching them play this week, you know about the break, you know how good Kirk and Nick are, you know how good they rebound, certainly know how excellent of a coach Roy is. What you see, they are great passers, almost like one through five on the floor. They have guys that can make passes. Their pressure defense is very, very good. Part of setting tempo is we have to be able to handle the ball against their pressure, we have to be able to move the ball, find the open man, continue to make the extra pass like we have. If we don't get back on defense in a big way, the tempo will be in their favor. That's not the way we can win.
Q. Much has been written about the return to Marquette's glory days since the '77 Championship. I was Coach Majerus says he feels some of your predecessors distanced themselves from that past and you've embraced that. Can you talk about your relationship with Coach McGuire?
TOM CREAN: I never thought about it much when I get there. I was a Marquette fan. I only remember seeing Al coach one game on television, that was the championship game. I fell in love with basketball watching Dick Endberg, Billy Packer and Al McGuire. When I came here, I loved the tradition. That was one of the big reasons I wanted the job. I felt he was as big a part of the tradition as anybody else. I never looked at it -- maybe it would have been different if I had grown up in that area. I never looked at it as any kind of burden or weight on my shoulders. As I got to know him, he made sure I never felt like that. He's the one that made it okay not to live in the past, made it okay not to worry about his error, what he done. He always said it's a different time. Your time is a lot different than my time. You just have to be patient and your time will come. Those were things that he would say. The relationship I would have with him, I never get tired of talking about it. It was a year and a half that is as meaningful to me as anything I've been a part of as a man, as a coach. Certainly this is awfully meaningful. I've been a part of some great teams as an assistant, now as a head coach. That relationship that I got to develop with him, I went from being an awestruck person to somebody I considered him to be my buddy. I think he felt the same way. It was real easy to embrace him, real easy.
Q. Can you at the same time talk about your relationship with Jim Boeheim, Bernie Fine, how instrumental they've been in advancing your career?
TOM CREAN: Bernie, especially, I don't know if I ever would have had a shot at my age as a Division I full-time assistant if it wasn't for Bernie. No doubt about that. He's the one that introduced me to Ralph Willard, who worked for Jim. He set up the interview. I had a great meeting with Ralph a couple days or a week later I got the job. I spent five great years with Ralph. That's all because of Bernie. I think a -- buy insurance from Bernie (laughter). I have a lot of respect for him. Jim has always been nice to me. I've had a ton of respect for him growing up. In high school, as a young coach, I've always -- the first Final Four I ever saw in person was in '87 right here. I had a chance to watch that game. I think they do a great job. Mike Hopkins on that staff is one of my best buddies. I really, really admire what they've done and what he's done over the long haul.
Q. There was a lot of focus last week about your big men's matchups against the Pitt guys, then the second game, too. Can you talk about more of a challenge or different of a challenge is Collison going to be for them?
TOM CREAN: He's a different challenge because of his versatility. I don't know if there's a more versatile forward in college basketball right now. That's one reason he's a Player of the Year candidate and All-American, because he does so many different things. It's amazing how skilled he is with his left hand. We're always trying to get our players to be better with their off hand. There's time he's dribbling to the ball, going to the rim, you can't tell what hand. He's very good around the post. He's very strong. Certainly appears that way to me on film. Watching him play, he's got great strength, great balance. He poses problems because you have to guard him all over the floor. You can't just play him as a post man, as a shooter. He's a very quick, a passer. He makes so many plays with the ball. He defends. He is constantly running. If he catches that ball in the paint, and burrows you in the paint like he's been so good at, it's very hard to guard him, hard to beat him. We have to have some great team defense on him.
Q. With all of Marquette's success this year, your name is being mentioned with other jobs. How do you handle that? Has it been a distraction for your team?
TOM CREAN: I don't think it's a distraction at all for my team because I don't let it be. I've handled it well. It's flattering sometimes to see your name. Everybody wants to be known as somebody that does a good job. But it's not a distraction to me at all. Watching Kansas film is a distraction because you're trying to figure out how you're going to get back on defense, to stop five guys that are great on a break. We've been focused all year with this team. They've been focused from Day 1. Here we are. I don't let anything get in the way of that.
Q. A lot has been made about "mid major" teams making it here. How proud are you of that? Why is it so hard for a non-BCS school?
TOM CREAN: Are you referring to us as a mid major (smiling)?
Q. All right.
TOM CREAN: You know what, I have a lot of respect for all college -- some of my best buddies are on this trip that coach at different places. Go through Conference USA, Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis, trip to Marquette right now, there's nothing but big-time basketball about that. It really is. The crowd support, the coaching, the players in this league. I mean, Bobby Lutz is a coach at Charlotte, one of best coaches around, excellent. That's what we deal with on a consistent basis in our league. As far as being a non-BCS school, I think it says a lot for a lot of people. Xavier had a great year. Constantly teams having excellent years. I think it gives people a lot of encouragement that if you follow a game plan and some things go right for you, your kids respond to what you're trying to do, things have to go right to get in these positions. There's a lot of very, very good basketball teams that aren't here for one reason or another. It does give a lot of schools more of an opportunity to dream-like we've dreamed and work like we've worked to have something like this happen.
Q. Three of the teams here have a first time All-American, the fourth has maybe the best freshman in the country. Do you need that kind of special player to get to this level and to win at this level?
TOM CREAN: Well, obviously, Dwyane has done a ton for us. I'm sure when you talk about every other player, TJ, Nick Collison, you're referring to Carmelo Anthony, there's no question they have a lot to do with the success of the programs. I think your team defense, your ability to rebound, ability to get to the free-throw line, strong guard play. That says it best, those are the four keys to winning at this time of year. One of the guys that knows best. I think that has a lot to do with it, too. In these games, your best player throughout the season is not always going to have the best games. You have to have other people that can pick up the slack. We've gone through that, whether it would be foul trouble with Dwyane, not having a great night offensively, injury here and there. Your team has to have a ton of confidence this time of year and be able to execute under pressure. If you can rebound, defend, get to the foul line, I think you have a chance. It certainly helps to have those marquee guys that most importantly can get a basket when the play breaks down and when the clock breaks down. That's what Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich are so good at for Kansas. They can make plays when it doesn't look like there's one to be made. Dwyane is like that for us.
Q. In your opinion, does Dwyane have to have a similar stat line that he did against Kentucky for you guys to come out with a victory?
TOM CREAN: I don't ever get into that. I think Dwyane needs to play as complete a game as can he play. When he's getting deflections and steals and blocks, when he's communicating defensively like he's been, plays with confidence on the offensive end, rebounds the ball. We play pretty well. Does he need those kind of numbers? That's not fair to put on him. That was a special, special game. He's capable obviously to do something like that. We need to play great team basketball against a great team, we really do.
Q. Could you discuss Robert Jackson a little bit, where you'd be without him? Did you have any apprehensions about taking a one-year transfer?
TOM CREAN: I don't think we'd be talking right now if he wasn't with us. He did a great job for us sitting out last year. He made our team better. We felt many a day that was the best big man we faced day in and day out. It prepared our past seniors last year and Scott Merritt and Terry Sanders for what they had to go against in our league. He had a great off-season, he had a great summer season -- great sit-out season, great summer season. When he worked on his game. And he's really, really -- it's great to see him. He's a senior. He's our only senior. He's having a fantastic year. I haven't regretted it one day. We needed to help him grow in some areas. We needed to help him become a better player, more consistent fundamental player. I think he felt he wasn't getting better where he was at. I knew some people that knew him. After a four-hour conversation with him, I was convinced that his heart, his mind and his attitude were all in the right place. He's done that for us for the past two years.
JOHN GERDES: Coach, thank you. We are now going to bring the student athletes up.
Q. Tell us what kind of coach is Coach Crean?
TRAVIS DIENER: Very energetic, very intense. But his energy, he brings a lot of energy to us, it carries over in practice, in the games, along with his intensity. He's very prepared and well-organized.
DWYANE WADE: Same thing Travis said (smiling).
Q. When you were being recruited by Marquette, considering other schools, did the idea that you could be at this level ever come into your mind at that point?
DWYANE WADE: Actually, it was talked about in the recruiting process, that we was going to work as hard as possible to get to this level. You know, I believed in Coach Crean, what he said. I was the kind of player who wanted to work as hard. I know the other guys did. Yes, it was.
TRAVIS DIENER: Coach is very persuasive when he talks. When he says something, you have to believe him. When he was recruiting me, I really believed what he was talking about. He has brought us to the level we're at today. It's just great to be a part of Marquette basketball right now.
Q. Dwyane, any pressure that you feel to duplicate 29-11-11 from last weekend?
DWYANE WADE: Not at all. If I could duplicate that, it would be unbelievable. If I can't and we get the win, that would be unbelievable. Doesn't matter. I'm trying to play as complete a game as possible. If it results in the triple double, that would be great. If it doesn't, it will be great also.
Q. The last time Marquette won a championship was in 1977, which obviously was before either one of you were born. What did you know about it before you got to Marquette? What have you learned about it in the last three weeks?
TRAVIS DIENER: Before I got to Marquette, I really didn't know much about it. But Marquette basketball is based on Al McGuire and the 1977 team. They've left a legacy for Marquette. We're trying to be linked in the same sentence with that team. We got a lot of respect for the players that played on their team. I think they respect us a lot. It's just great to be a part of this upward thing that we're trying to do right now.
JOHN GERDES: Dwyane, did you want to add anything to that?
DWYANE WADE: No.
Q. How important in the recruiting process is your coach? Recently coaches have left to go to other programs. Some of the players are disillusioned. How important is a coach in the recruiting process to you? What would it mean if a coach would leave?
DWYANE WADE: I think in the recruiting process, you know, you look for a coach that's going to stay all four years that you're in college. If it doesn't happen, you might be hurt. But I think Coach Crean, you know, we believed he was going to stay and turn the Marquette program around. He was very committed to doing that. I think he's made a home in Marquette. I don't think no one's worried about him leaving or anything. I think it's fine with him at Marquette University.
TRAVIS DIENER: Like Dwyane said, I think he's happy where he's at. I trust he's going to be there for my career. He's had job offers previous years and never took them. So he's a great coach. Any great coach is going to get offers every year. I don't think anyone in the Marquette program is too worried about that.
Q. Travis, TJ Ford has gotten the bulk of the attention. Aaron Miles has experience here at the Final Four, pretty good season. Can you talk about what it's going to be like being matched up against him?
TRAVIS DIENER: Well, I remember playing him. He's a great point guard. I like how he plays the game. He's a great passer. He sees the floor extremely well. Can knock down the open shot. But he never forces a bad shot. So I got a lot of respect for the way he plays. It will be a battle. He's a great point guard. I think he's under-looked maybe in that conference. He's got a lot of respect for me and from our team.
Q. Can you kind of assess what you've seen as far as Kansas, their fast break, transition game, what's going to be important to slow them down?
TRAVIS DIENER: Well, they got probably the best transition offense and fast break in the nation. They get a lot of percentage of their points out of the breaks. I think we've got to get back extremely quick and communicate extremely well. I think the more points you score, it kind of slows down that break. I mean, they do a great job either way, off a miss or a make. It's just key that we get back and communicate well.
Q. There's always a lot of talk this time of year about whether college athletes should be paid or not. What are your thoughts? Do you guys deserve more than what you're getting?
DWYANE WADE: Well, actually, in our argumentation class back in school, we're doing a report on that also. It's a debate. We're going with should. The class is going with shouldn't. I wish we did the report and I could tell you how the reports came out. You know, if we should be paid, then we would be. That's all my answer is.
JOHN GERDES: Travis?
TRAVIS DIENER: I'm with Dwyane on that. We're going to have a debate in there in a couple weeks. I think we'll win that.
Q. Travis, the North Carolina situation where basically their best players had an insurrection to get rid of the coach, can you imagine that ever happening? No allegations of physical abuse or anything like that. Can you see any situation where on a college or high school level, that could or should happen?
TRAVIS DIENER: I guess they're having problems with Coach Doherty, from what I heard. But I've never been around a program like that, where the players kind of take a stand like that. I think here at Marquette, something like that would never happen. We respect the coach too much. We worked too hard for that. I can't see that happening. But obviously the players at North Carolina had a problem and they wanted to solve it.
Q. Dwyane, what has Coach Schwab meant to you inspirationally? Do you see him as one fighting the good fight, battle?
DWYANE WADE: Yes. Coach Schwab is a guy who showed us that, you know, even though life can be short, you don't know what cards life is going to deal you with, he comes in with a smile every day, comes in to work hard. He's got the oxygen tank. He's in the office when we go in there. He gives us the incentive we need to go to practice, play hard, knowing to just have fun when you're doing it because you don't know how long you're going to be here. He means so much to us.
TRAVIS DIENER: He summed it up pretty good there. He inspires all of our teammates and all of us to play hard. He's in there late at night breaking down film, trying to help us. We're trying to help him and make him happy by winning ballgames for him. He inspires us every day to play hard and go out and give it all. Like Dwyane said, you never know when your time may come.
Q. When Dwyane is having one of his special performances like he did Saturday against Kentucky, how do you resist the temptation to just stop and watch, let him do everything?
TRAVIS DIENER: I might have found myself doing that a little bit on Saturday. But that's just the type of player Dwyane is. At any point he can take over a game, whether it be scoring, rebounding, getting a key steal, doing the things he does. That's what makes him the best player in the nation, the things he can do to disrupt an offense that we're going against. I mean, he had an unbelievable game on Saturday. Like he said, he doesn't have to put up those type of numbers for us to be successful, but he's always capable of that.
Q. Obviously there's two Big-12 teams here this year, just like last year. They kind of like to talk about how playing during the season really prepares them for the post-season. Do you feel like Big-12 teams are any more prepared than you are? Does conference affiliation mean anything at this point?
TRAVIS DIENER: They're playing in a great conference. But we play in a great conference, too. We have battles with teams, Louisville, Cincinnati, teams like that who are very successful. We played a tough non-conference schedule. We've played a lot of teams that have won their respective conferences. Our schedule is very difficult and we play a tough schedule. I mean, they have a tough conference schedule. I think you can throw that all out the window right now and just go out and play 110%. Whoever makes the plays will win the games.
Q. With being linked to the '77 team, we talked about how is it's a blessing, does it make you anxious to make a name for yourself?
DWYANE WADE: I believe so. You know, coming to the school, you hear "1977." I think every player who came through the program, they want to go down in the history books also. This has been a great time for us to just have our name mentioned with the 1977 team, the best team in Marquette history. Hopefully we can be linked right next to them at the end of the season.
TRAVIS DIENER: We know we're not going to be separated from that team, even if we win a national championship. That team was so special. They had a special coach. We believe we have a special team and a special coach, too. We're trying to be mentioned in the same breath as them. If we can -- I think we're coming close to that. If we can win two games this weekend, I think it will be very similar to the way people look at Marquette.
Q. Compared to Marquette, the three other schools here are behemoths and probably will have a lot more fan support in the stands. Is that something you think about? Is it something that makes you guys feel special or motivates you?
TRAVIS DIENER: Well, maybe they will have more fans, but I doubt it. I think Marquette fans are great and we'll have a great turnout. I think if you're at last Saturday's game, we out-numbered Kentucky's fans by a lot. Our fans will show up. I know they got big schools and will have a big crowd also. We'll just go out and if there's more Kansas fans there, that will just motivate us even more.
JOHN GERDES: Dwyane, anything to say on that?
DWYANE WADE: Like Travis said, our fans have been great all year. You know, they all going to be out there to support us. If we don't have, you know, as much fans, like Travis said, just more motivation for us. Once you playing the basketball game, fans doesn't really matter. It's the 10 guys on the court, so it doesn't really matter.
JOHN GERDES: Thank you.
End of FastScripts...