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April 4, 2004
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
JOHN GERDES: Good morning. Representing Georgia Tech we have Will Bynum, Jarrett Jack, Marvin Lewis, Luke Schenscher, Anthony McHenry, along with head coach.
COACH HEWITT: Two great games yesterday. It was a great game. This is the centerpiece for college basketball. It was nice that it was outstanding, that both games were exciting. I think people walked away happy with the day of basketball yesterday.
Q. Luke, first time you guys played UConn, maybe not one of your best games of the year, what did you learn about going against Okafor that day?
LUKE SCHENSCHER: He's a good player. They say he was injured, whatnot, and he still came away with however many rebounds and blocks he got. He's definitely a presence around the basket, obviously gets lots of shots. He's just bigger at the basket.
Q. Do you have to have a conversation with your team about, "Guys, think about the game, not the big picture, what's on the line"?
COACH HEWITT: I don't think I have to have that conversation with these guys. They understand this is a great opportunity. One of the reasons why they've been successful is because they like to play, they love to play. Jarrett loves to play, Marvin, Will, Tony McHenry loves being involved in the games. I think once we get out on the court, after the first minute or two. They'll forget about everything going on. They'll focus on the game itself.
Q. Coach, can you talk about how Luke has changed as a player since these two teams met?
COACH HEWITT: I thought he played well against him last time. Luke has done whatever we've asked him to do to help this team win. The last time we played him, he did an outstanding defensive job on Okafor. Since that game, watching that game last night in preparation for this, that was actually the game that set me off on this whole thing about how people were officiating him. I thought he was getting a very unfair whistle. For about two weeks, I went on a rampage. I didn't care who I talked to, who I said it to, just basically telling people he's a very good basketball player. But anyone can be knocked off balance with a cross-body block. At the other end of the floor, if he touches somebody on a wrist, the whistle blows. It wasn't fair to him. I watched the game last night, picked up four fouls, 22 minutes, but he was a big factor in us winning that game. He's a big presence around the basket. I don't care who it is, he's tough to shoot over. When our other guys are sharp and alert giving him help, we're going to give guys trouble. He played well in that game, he just picked up four fouls. John Hollis, who has covered us, you've noticed a big difference in how he's been officiated. All of a sudden now people are thinking like this miraculous metamorphosis. No, he's been a good player. I think people are more objective in how they're calling the games against him.
Q. How is your team different from that first UConn game?
COACH HEWITT: The addition of Will Bynum, regaining Theodis Tarver, that helps a lot. If Luke does happen to get in foul trouble, we have another guy who is an outstanding shot blocker who can run the floor. He may not be as accomplished as Luke offensively. Theodis is just as big a presence on the boards and blocking shots. If you've been watching the tournament, you know what Will Bynum means to our team.
Q. Luke, what coach was talking about, about the officiating earlier in the year, how did you manage to not really get frustrated with that? Do you feel they're letting you play a bit more now as opposed to maybe the beginning of the season?
LUKE SCHENSCHER: Yeah. I just got used to it, I guess. You know, they're just calling it the way they see it. Just the way it is. I just go out there and whatever happens happens. There's nothing I can do about it. I can't change their decision. Doesn't matter what I think about the officiating, it's about what they think. They're the ones with the whistles.
Q. Could you talk about dictating the tempo.
COACH HEWITT: The first UConn game?
COACH HEWITT: We played well. We played very well we played great defense that day. You know, there's sometimes you have days like that where you have a good defensive day, and the other team may not be quite as sharp as they normally are offensively. I thought we played well. Only Jim can answer how well his team played, but I've seen his team play better. But I thought we had a very good basketball game on the defensive end of the floor, and that translated to easy baskets for us.
Q. Could you go back to the early part of the season when you knew Will was coming. After Tarver's injury, did you still look at this team as a nine-man rotation that was going to possibly get you this far this late in the season?
COACH HEWITT: I thought we had the potential to do that. With the depth of this ballclub, I think you can overcome a lot of different things. As versatile as they are defensively, we can play three-quarter, full-court, we play a very good halfcourt defense. I thought we had the ability to do that. I said from the beginning of the tournament, I think, you know, winning out an tournament, it comes to injuries, foul trouble, luck of the draw, if you get a bad match-up. I don't think any coach walks into this tournament saying we can predict, where we can be at this point. This year in college basketball, there are about 20 teams that could have made it to this game. The depth and versatility of these guys allows us as a coaching staff to change and mix things to see what we can do to overcome things. At the end the game, I think we have guys that can make plays like Will, Marvin, Jarrett, Luke. All of them had a big hand in getting us here. I think it's their ability and also you have to be a little fortunate as well.
Q. You talked about the early season success against UConn, then the win at Duke. At what point did you start to say to yourself, knowing that the tournament is all about unknowing, that this team really can be special?
COACH HEWITT: February. We played at Tennessee. Because I thought in the early part of the season, we basically did it just on transition offense - defense, rebound and transition offense. For the whole month of January, I'm sure they were getting tired about it, I kept talking about halfcourt offense, "You got to get better in your halfcourt offense." We went up to Tennessee, Jarrett picked up two quick fouls, Will came in the game and ran the club. Marvin and BJ had a tremendous shooting game. We executed so well in the halfcourt. It told me a couple things. Obviously, Jarrett is my guy and I'm going to go with him. But if he gets in trouble, Will can come in the game and do a great job both as a two guard and point guard. They were starting to get the habit, starting to understand, in the halfcourt we can execute and get good shots. From that part forward, February 2nd or 3rd, we've played very good offense in tough spots.
Q. That game against UConn, quite a long time ago, what do you see in UConn that's different from that game? What improvements have they played?
COACH HEWITT: They've made a change in the starting lineup, putting Anderson in. He's a 40% 3-point shooter, which that's outstanding. Villaneuva is eligible. Like any team, they're going to get better, they're going to figure things out. From a personnel standpoint with Anderson and Villaneuva, they're obviously better.
Q. Marvin, going back to the first day you ever laid eyes on Luke, can you tell me what you thought of the sites and what you thought of the sounds?
MARVIN LEWIS: Well, definitely, you know, the sounds were a bit different. You know, physically, just seeing him, I thought he was so tall, but he was so thin. Just to see him work hard and getting stronger, all the extra meals that summer, the summers after that. I mean, it's helped a lot. Just happy he's here.
Q. How difficult was it for you to play six minutes in Milwaukee? What did you learn about yourself from that experience?
WILL BYNUM: I mean, it was difficult. I mean, our overall goal is to win, and we came out with the win. I just tried to stay positive. After that I talked with coach. We had a great conversation. As you can see, you can see the outcome.
Q. Jarrett, before the season, Connecticut was a No. 1 pick, you weren't that well ranked. How much did that win change in what you thought about yourself? Do you think it changed the way people around the country viewed your team?
JARRETT JACK: I think it did a great deal for us. Going into New York, we knew we had an opportunity to go up there and make a name for ourself. Playing against No. 1 in the country, capitalize on the opportunity, came out with the victory.
Q. Luke, what makes Emeka so successful? What makes him a great player, difficult to play against?
LUKE SCHENSCHER: He's just an athlete. He's big, he's strong. He's got great footwork around the basket. He's got great timing, blocking shots. You know, he's just all around a great basketball player on both ends of the floor.
Q. Will, about the conversation in Milwaukee with the coach, what went on in that conversation? What had to be understood?
COACH HEWITT: I didn't come near him in Milwaukee. We didn't talk. I knew better to stay out of his way then. We got back to Atlanta and had that conversation (laughter).
Q. Could you tell us what went on in the conversation?
WILL BYNUM: I mean, coach just told me to have trust in him, my time was going to come, to stay positive. And that's what I did.
Q. In the locker room, when did you guys start to believe that this could happen, that you could make a deep run in the tournament? Was there a time you started talking about the fact the team was coming together? Any moment that you realized you really had a chance?
MARVIN LEWIS: I know for me personally, after the NIT and after our struggles, when we got to the ACC tournament, beat North Carolina, I thought we definitely had a shot. The fact that we pulled it out, played 40 minutes of tough basketball. From there, I just said, "If we can continue to do this night in and night out, we can be successful."
Q. Your team seems to be a real nice blend of the obvious and not-so-obvious. Will, Tony, could you talk about the obvious and the not-so-obvious as part of your success.
COACH HEWITT: Who coined the tournament X-factor, was it Marvin?
MARVIN LEWIS: Yes (smiling).
COACH HEWITT: In the summer, we're not allowed to watch these guys play. You've got to filter information from these guys. Marvin would always come in and say, "Tony is the X-factor." At that time we didn't know if Clarence Moore was coming back or not. We had an idea that he was. But he is the X-factor for us. Defensively he can guard one through five. He was a point guard in high school. He's an excellent passer. And now that he's really gained a lot of confidence in his shooting ability -- because he can shoot the ball, but it's a matter of him believing it. The two he missed yesterday, I thought they were really good releases. I thought the three might have been a little early on the shot clock from my liking. But we talked about that, my staff and I, after the time out. We all said, it might have been a little early, but he looked good taking it. Even the foul line jump shot. He creates a lot of problems for people defensively. When he plays to his ability level offensively, he's a touch match-up. The rest of these guys have obviously bought into the role - Will, Jarrett has been steady all year, BJ understanding that he has to be more aggressive offensively, Isma'il understanding he has to make good decisions when people come to double him in the posts, when he goes on his drives. They're coachable and they understand what they have to do to win. They're very, very unselfish. I can't say that that lesson happened -- that the unselfishness came overnight. There were times last year when I felt that out selfishness may have cost us some games and opportunities. Adding guys like Will, bringing back Clarence Moore, the way this team came together after last season, and when I say "came together," personnel, who stayed, who left, it really gave them a great appreciation of being unselfish on the court. That unselfish play usually gives you a very good chance to win.
Q. Anthony, do you have a T-shirt with Luke's face on it? Could you show us what that is?
COACH HEWITT: Runway model.
ANTHONY McHENRY: Come on, man (showing T-shirt.)
Q. What does it say?
COACH HEWITT: I can tell you about it. At my radio show, there was a guy in the industrial design department who wore it to my radio show. I literally bought it right off his back, okay? I asked him if he could make some up for the team. Do you want to add anything to that, Tony?
ANTHONY McHENRY: No.
COACH HEWITT: It says "Luke Schenscher has a posse." He's a fan favorite, as you can tell.
Q. Tell us, you're playing for the title tomorrow night, what does that feel like?
MARVIN LEWIS: For me, it's a dream come true. From all the years of watching it on TV, just appreciating the game, we're just going to go in there and try and play hard. For me being a senior, keeping this team together as long as possible, it's something that I'm proud of.
Q. Emeka's performance, what you saw in the second half, and then your big guy against their big guy tomorrow night, what you expect?
COACH HEWITT: Well, obviously being an ACC guy, I was pulling for Duke. When I saw the score was seven at the half, Emeka didn't play much, I thought Connecticut was in great shape. Emeka is somebody we recruited out of high school. Marvin hosted him. I don't know if he did a good enough job of hosting him, or they would have gotten him. That's the only thing he's done wrong in four years. As Luke said, he's such a presence on both ends of the floor. He's improved so much offensively. It's interesting, when you go out and watch these guys play in the summertime, I thought Emeka Okafor was overlooked because he played with a kid that shot every single time in the AAU circuit. He's been a good defending, great rebound are, still is, but offensively he's improved a lot. He's just a big, big presence. As far as Luke is concerned, Luke has given pretty much every big guy he's faced, if he stays out of foul trouble, trouble all year. It's going to be a great match-up. He's going to have to play one of his better games. Luke has had 17 points and 17 rebounds against Carolina, 18 and 12 against Duke at home. If we can keep him out of foul trouble, it's going to be a great, great match-up.
Q. Marvin, what do you take at all from the NIT win against UConn? What exactly did you mess up when Emeka visited?
MARVIN LEWIS: In regards to the visit that's Emeka's decision. I did my best. I did my part. We just let it go to Emeka. In regards to the NIT, I think the confidence that we had then, we can just try to take that. But, I mean, on Monday or tomorrow, none of the past is going to dictate tomorrow. We're going to go out there tomorrow and play hard, play our game.
Q. Paul, how much did you pay for the T-shirt?
COACH HEWITT: The guy gave me at cost. I don't remember what it was. My wife writes all the checks in the house.
Q. Luke, have you ever had a posse before? Did you know who that was when someone first showed it to you?
LUKE SCHENSCHER: Yeah, I know what a posse is. But I've never had one before, no. Not that I know of anyway (smiling).
Q. How much of the success this season is rooted in you guys trying to prove you could play and keep the program at a high level without Chris Bosh? A lot of people were surprised that you guys have done as well early in the season without a guy like that.
COACH HEWITT: It didn't enter into my thinking that we have to do this without Chris. Chris made a decision that everybody in this room probably would have made. He remains very close to these guys. Jarrett told me he's coming to the game tomorrow night. I spoke to him last Saturday before our Kansas game. Called to wish me luck. These guys, they're good basketball players. This is a good basketball team. If Chris was here, would this team be better? I think it would be because he's a very unselfish player, both on the offensive and defensive end of the floor. But he made a decision that we all agreed was the best thing for him. We had to move on. Again, it's not like he left us high and dry. We had a good team coming back.
Q. When your team is picked seventh in the league, as a coach, do you use that as motivation, at least early on?
COACH HEWITT: No, not really. I mean, we talked early in practice, about a week or 10 days into practice, I told these guys, I think it was the first wave of exhibition games on ESPN, "Guys, if these are the best teams in the country, we're as good as any of them. Let's keep working and we'll get a chance to prove it."
Q. Eddie Sutton said after the game last night he really believes if he played Georgia Tech 10 times that they'd win a series against you guys, basically he feels like he's the better team, but on that night they weren't able to win. Do you think that's how a lot of coaches sometimes end up feeling about you guys? Does that take away from the talent you have? Seems like people disregard how talented this group is, think it's smoke and mirrors.
COACH HEWITT: Well, I don't know what would happen in a 10-game series. I think we've got an excellent basketball team. We're an old-fashioned team. We move the ball. We share the ball. We don't have one guy that we live and die with. I'm not going to challenge a statement by a guy like that. I'll let these guys challenge it. Will is itching here waiting to say something (laughter). Maybe people don't appreciate the way the game is supposed to be played. It's supposed to be a game that's pass first, team first. I always talk to you about my New York roots. The old New York Knicks, man, hit the open men, Red Holzman. Maybe people don't appreciate that style of ball anymore. I appreciate it. I'm glad that these guys appreciate it. Will, you can have it.
WILL BYNUM: Pass to Jarrett.
JARRETT JACK: I mean, a lot of teams say that. We're the team moving on. They're going home. That's pretty much what it boils down to. We're playing for Monday.
Q. Will mentioned the other day the Duke victory as being a turning point as far as he could see for you guys. Could the rest of you comment on that, what the Duke game meant.
JARRETT JACK: I think it did a great deal for us. We just came off of two-game slide at home where we lost two in a row to Wake Forest, NC State. We went into a hostile environment, against a great team, come out with a W, I thought it did a great deal for our confidence.
JOHN GERDES: Anthony, any thoughts on the Duke game?
ANTHONY McHENRY: No (smiling).
Q. Earlier in the tournament, Paul, you pointed to the Maryland team from a couple years ago, the depth, trying to get 10 guys together for a steady run. Can you talk about developing that over the course of the season, the battles that are going to go on in practice every day as a result, starting with the two guards sitting next to you. Jarrett maybe could follow up on it.
COACH HEWITT: There's no doubt when Will came on last January, he challenged Jarrett every day in practice. Jarrett, being the competitor he is, he went right back at him. It's made both of these guys stronger. But, you know, a lot of credit has to go to these players because you look around the country, and everybody's being told that you've got to be the man. You can be on a successful team and get all the individual rewards or all the individual goals, you can reach all your individual goals. As coaches, we try to do our best with individual instruction. One of my goals when these guys come in is to help them improve as much as possible as players and make sure they get their degrees. After that, I always tell them, "Whatever you want to do with your life to earn your living, that's on you. My goal is to get you to be the best basketball player I can help you become and make sure you walk out of here with a degree in hand." They get a lot of credit for being unselfish.
JARRETT JACK: I think, you know, when most people look at the situation me and Will were placed in, another guard coming on the scene, is really good. You look at the negative parts. I think we both made a conscious effort to come in each day and make each other better. I think it paid dividends for our team down the stretch.
Q. Could you talk about BJ's first game against Connecticut in New York, you called it his national coming out party, and do you think he's been a bit frustrated with how much he's been able to contribute lately?
COACH HEWITT: Before that game, I always said he was the best kept secret in college basketball. Since that time, people understand how good a player he is. Yes, he is frustrated. He's trying hard. I suspect he'll play a big game tomorrow night. He's getting better and better. I thought the end of the game yesterday, his ankle was feeling better, but we just felt good about Will. Last game, he's going to have all summer to heal up. I think he'll be fine. I think BJ is going to play a big game tomorrow night.
Q. Injury update on BJ. Isma'il looked like he was hurt late in the game.
COACH HEWITT: Patella tendonitis. We did a precautionary MRI this morning to make sure nothing was structurally wrong. It's painful. Again, the reason why I asked the trainer to do an MRI is to make sure there's nothing wrong. They don't suspect anything is wrong. If the MRI comes back as we suspect, he'll be ready to go.
Q. Can you talk about the feeling being here, yesterday people talked about the marquee game, the second game, some people were maybe bypassing that first game. Tomorrow night many people feel the championship was won yesterday. I know you don't feel that way. Can you talk about being quite often in this underdog role where people maybe don't give you the respect you deserve?
COACH HEWITT: I don't get caught up in that. It's not going to make a difference when the game is four minutes to go. Doesn't matter what people say. It's unfortunate. I don't think people really appreciate a good team these days, and I mean "team" in every sense of the word. I think we spend so much time focusing on the individual, we forget this is a team sport. I think that's probably what's wrong with our game today. In the NBA, it used to be, growing up, it's the Knicks versus the Bullets, the Bucks versus the Celtics. Now it's Shaq versus Yao Ming. What's that? That's not basketball? That's tennis. I'm serious, that's what's wrong with our game today. This is a team. There's not one name they can latch onto. But you can't tell me that Luke Schenscher can't start for anybody in the country. You can't tell me that any of these guys can't start for anyone in the country. That's where our game has evolved. It's no longer a team sport. I used to look forward to Knicks/Bullets, Archie Clark, Earl Monroe, Knicks had Barnett, Fraser. It was a team game back then. The guys who saved the NBA, Bird and Magic, they did it with the pass, they didn't do it with the shot. I think now everybody thinks the NBA is going to be saved with the pass or the game -- everybody thinks the game is about the shot now. The guys who kept that league alive and really put college basketball in there, they did it with the pass. You think about that '79 game. Those guys put the pass back into basketball, then became popular again. Now we're trying to go back to, you know, the '70s again with it, the late '70s when the game almost died.
Q. Marvin, Jarrett, I was wondering with the psychology of playing a team for a second time. Do you think it's advantageous or disadvantageous to have won the first game between two teams? How have you used a first game when you get a rematch against a team that has beaten you?
MARVIN LEWIS: For me, I think it can be an advantage and it can be a disadvantage. I think it depends on how your team takes it. For us, we're going to go in there and not worry about how we played last time. We'll just go in there and play with confidence, because both team are at a different stage in the game. The season has added a lot to not only their team but our team. We got Will Bynum, Theo back. They got Anderson playing well, Villaneuva is back. I think overall it's just going to be a new game. Hopefully we can come out victorious.
Q. Jarrett, could you simply address what it means to play for that national title tomorrow night?
JARRETT JACK: I mean, you can't just really put it into the words. Looking at the fact two teams playing out of 320-some odd division teams. To be one of the two teams left, it's just a great feeling.
JOHN GERDES: We'll let the student athletes go to the break-out rooms. Coach will stay here. Continue with questions for Coach Hewitt.
Q. With players leaving early and the win-now attitude, how difficult is it to let a team evolve and develop in this day and age? How do you go about that, trying to be patient?
COACH HEWITT: That comes from your administration. I've got a guy in Dave Braine and a president in Dr. Clough who told me , "Look, just do the job the way we want you to do it. Bring the guys in that you think can do the schoolwork here, play your style of ball, we'll be patient." They allow you to be patient.
Q. There aren't a lot of coaches that this relatively early get a shot like this. Can you talk about whatever happens to you in your career from here on out, some of the moments you're going to remember about the past few days? Could you talk to us about Luke's physical maturation, what he's done?
COACH HEWITT: The game yesterday, Will Bynum shot was a big, big moment for me. This is a young man that has had some patience with me. I just kept asking him to trust me. The day before, not quite as big a moment. I tell you what, close, we took the team over to David Robinson's Carver Academy. Mary McElroy, our assistant athletic director, she went to the Naval Academy with Dave, set it up. We didn't know he was going to be there. He came out, took the kids around for half an hour. I'll tell you what, if his name is on the presidential ticket, I'm voting for him. I have never ever met a more impressive man than David Robinson. He showed us around the club, told us what it means. I told Mary after we got on the bus, "If nothing else happens this weekend, this is great." But Will's shot yesterday meant an awful lot because I was happy for him because he's had to have a lot of faith in what we're trying to do. For him to get that moment and win it -- you know, here is a guy, he's as tough a kid as I've coached. When I grabbed him at halfcourt, he had tears in his eyes. That was huge for me to see him enjoy this moment the way he enjoys it.
Q. More about your graduation rates.
COACH HEWITT: (Laughter).
Q. Just a joke. Georgia Tech, you've been around it long enough to realize that it's not like other schools in its academic requirements, it's academic community. What would winning a national championship in a visible sport like basketball do for the Tech psyche, the community?
COACH HEWITT: Nothing brings people together better than a sports team, a successful sports team. So, you know, yesterday seeing Bobby and his old guys here, seeing so many different people come out to support this team, it's great. I mean, it's one of the reasons why we do this. Sports brings communities together, whether it's religion, race, whatever. It brings people together. It would be no different at Georgia Tech. You bring a lot of different people together. Maybe you can accomplish some things that maybe weren't possible to accomplish before if you didn't have this type of run. For my players, I always tell them to use this as an opportunity to springboard yourself into something else once you get out of basketball. I'm serious when I say this. By next month, people won't remember the four teams in the Final Four. They might remember who won it, but they'll forget the other three teams. So use this right now as an opportunity to meet some important people, as you get your education, and when you get out, maybe that can lead to a job interview, lead to a conversation about this weekend run that can lead to a job. Just winning this thing is not going to make you a success in life. Winning this thing can really open a lot of doors that can lead to success in life.
Q. We're in the age of big men who want to shoot threes. Is Luke a natural, comfortable down there? What are his best assets right now?
COACH HEWITT: He's been a five-man since the day he stepped foot on campus. He wants to play in the low post both defensively and offensively. His number one asset is he understands the game extremely well. He's a very, very bright player. The next thing he has, he's got very good hands and he runs well. I put those in tandem. You got good feet and good hands at 7' 1, you're going to make good things happen. Last piece to the puzzle, he has to grow physically. He's getting better physically. That's going to happen. I work for Nick Macarchuk at Fordham. He used to tell me, "Big guys don't play their best ball in college, they play their best after college. You have to keep working with them till they get to the point where they can help you, because later on they're going to really help themselves."
Q. Could you touch upon what this means to you, age 41, to be able to play on Monday night. Are you comfortable with sort of taking the torch in the line of the great African American coaches, evolving into a role model?
COACH HEWITT: As far as playing Monday night, what it means to me?
COACH HEWITT: It means a lot. It's the first time for me. But I always tell the players that coaches get to do this over and over again. I always say that to them. I say, "You guys are the ones, you have four chances." In the case of Marvin, this is his last chance. They have to learn to give it their all to get to this point. If something happened tomorrow, and they said, "We don't want you to coach at Georgia Tech anymore," I could probably be an assistant someplace, latch onto a team that could make a run like that. I don't think I'm at the level of a Coach Thompson, those guys. I don't. But I will say this: I'm well aware that if it wasn't for a John Thompson, John Chaney, George Raveling, Nolan Richardson, I wouldn't have an opportunity. You look around the South now, you have an African American black head coach at Florida State, Georgia, Clemson, Georgia Tech. I mean, 15 years ago, that was unheard of. If it wasn't for Coach Thompson, what he did, especially winning the championship in '84, I don't have my job. A lot of you writers, black writers out here, you don't have your jobs. A lot of officials, they don't have their jobs, referees. I mean, I watch all those videos. It's interesting watching how the game has changed over the years. You watch the Bird/Magic, Final Four highlights, all of a sudden you start to see an African American official pop up here and there. Again, that's what sports does, it opens avenues to people. That's why I'm really passionate, when I see rules being passed that can close doors, like the eight-five rule. One of the side effects of the eight-five rule is there were 200 scholarships that sat on the table that could not have been used in the first year. I think 190 in the second year. Well, 71% of the participants in men's college basketball happen to be black. So that rule basically locked out, what is it, 140 kids, because we couldn't use them because of the rule. I was hoping just the very fact that maybe it was an unintended consequence, but the fact of the matter is, the net result of the eight-five rule is there were 140 African American males that could have gotten a scholarship. You would hope the NCAA would say that they need to rethink this rule and find a better way, because it's discriminatory.
Q. The game seems like it's becoming more and more perimeter oriented. Do you see maybe a bit of irony in the fact that tomorrow night's game, a lot of the spotlight is going to be on two pretty prototypical centers.
COACH HEWITT: I think the college game has been more about guards over the years. Even the great big men have had a hard time winning The Championships, other than say Kareem or Bill Walton. Over the years, I think the guards, you talk about like David Thompson, even the Villanova game was more about the guard play of Gary McLain. It's been a guard/forward game. It's great to see these two young men. Knowing Emeka Okafor from recruiting him, he's a Class A kid. I'm not surprised he's graduating in three years, I'm not surprised he's student athlete of the year, and the guy we have is a class kid also. Another worked very hard. Both of these guys have worked very hard because you remember coming out of high school, Emeka Okafor was well under the radar. Again, I think a lot of it is because he played with a kid in the AAU that shot the ball every single time. All you saw Emeka Okafor do was block shots. Because of his academic background and his work ethics, we tried to recruit him. Obviously, Jim got him over us.
Q. You talk a lot about your roots, being a Knick-ophile . Just a couple quick questions about that. Were you a subway kid? Where did you learn to play ball that way?
COACH HEWITT: I didn't start playing basketball till I was a sophomore. I've always been a huge sport fan. My high school coach, Martin Reed(ph), he played a pressing style that employed a lot of people. We played 9, 10 guys a night at Westbury High School. But also growing up, just being a Knicks fan. The last time we won a championship, was it '73 (laughter)? You watch Red Holzman, you read stuff about him. You hear him talking about hitting the open man, playing unselfish basketball. Between my high school coach, being a Knicks guy, Red Holzman guy. I didn't know him, but one of the biggest thrills in my life was when my high school guidance counselor introduced, me to Coach Holzman an before he passed away. I think that's the way the game is supposed to be played. It's about the pass, it's not about the shot.
Q. Do you think that philosophy is from Siena?
COACH HEWITT: Yes. We had it at Siena. Those kids at Siena were extremely unselfish. It took it a while to get it in here. At Siena, it took right away (snapping fingers). Statistic of Siena, we had five guys in double figures.
Q. About the pass coming before the shot, will that ultimately be part of your team's legacy, 25 years after Magic and Bird? How hard is it to manage a culture of unselfishness in an industry that doesn't seem to promote it?
COACH HEWITT: It's getting harder and harder. But when you have quality guys, and quality parents -- see one of the reasons I've been able to, you know -- I'm not going to use the words keep Will under control, because that's not it. His mom, Rose Robinson and I talk pretty regularly. When I'm having a little trouble with him, I just call Rose, and she gets the message across. Same with Jarrett. Mrs. Jack and Mr. Jack, when I need to get the message across, I have no problem calling Louise and say, "You got to tighten your son up for me here." They're good kids, and their parents are involved, as well.
Q. Was it just a coincidence, the jacket you wore last night? How many old New York guys have you heard from and how many of them are out here?
COACH HEWITT: Unfortunately, not a lot of them could come out. One of my best friends from elementary school, they flew to Dallas.
Q. His name?
COACH HEWITT: Curtis Jacobs. No, the jacket wasn't a coincidence. I can't wear it back to back, though. It hasn't worked yet.
Q. That was the Duke jacket?
COACH HEWITT: That was the Duke jacket, yes. Camel hair coat has been in the closet for three years. My wife bought it for Christmas three years ago. She's been after me to wear it. I wore it against Duke. I called her. You would think she would say congratulations. She said, "See, the jacket worked," after the Duke game. Got a little magic in it, I guess (smiling).
Q. If your team is trying to emulate the '73 Knicks, are Jim's guys the '73 Lakers?
COACH HEWITT: More like the Celtics, they pushed the ball.
Q. Your team seems very loose up at the podium today. How are you reading them? Close wins kind of fed into this confidence, for them to enjoy the moment?
COACH HEWITT: They enjoy being together. One of the ways I try to motivate them at the start of the tournament, every game you win, you get to keep this team together, you keep it together for another day. That's something Martin Reid, my high school coach used to talk about, high school playoffs, if you guys like being a team, you have to show me how much you like the team by keeping the season alive. The goal is Monday night, play together the last game this team can possibly play together. I think they've had some sense of accomplishment. Obviously, when we go out to practice today, our entire focus will turn to UConn. I think they'll get a little more serious about things.
Q. A lot has been made of Luke versus Okafor. Can you break down the guards, theirs and yours, how that will factor into the game?
COACH HEWITT: Taliek being a senior, been in many NCAA tournaments. He's somebody we have an awful lot of respect for. Ben Gordon is one of the best two guards in the country. If he's not first team All-American, I'm sure he's second team All-American, I don't know. So those two guys, that's a handful. But we've done it by a committee, a five-perimeter committee the whole year. Hopefully those five guys can play to their ability tomorrow night against Brown and Anderson and Gordon, those guys.
Q. What do you take from the game back in November? You said you watched it last night, the tape. Can you elaborate a little bit on what you've seen lately, the last few minutes of the game last night, in Rashad's game?
COACH HEWITT: That game was so long ago, it really felt like two seasons ago. You know who's going to have the ball in their hands at the end. You know Anderson is a great-point shooter. You know Gordon can score in many different ways. Emeka, he impacts the game on both ends. Could be a game where fouls play a big part in who has an advantage.
Q. Other than calling their parents, how do you get the players to buy into the team rather than the individual? On yourself growing up in a family that emphasized academics, how did you become a coach?
COACH HEWITT: My mother would be happy to hear that question (laughter). I'm not going to say I was a bad student. But in my house, I wasn't at the top of the list, all right? Let's put it that way. I've always loved sports. My dad and I particularly. We love sports, whether it's hockey, horse racing. I see Jerry sitting here. I used to look forward to Sunday nights, a show called SportsExtra, Channel 5. That was like the forerunner to SportsCenter. I just love sports. I played baseball until I was a sophomore in high school. My high school coach probably had the biggest impact on me getting into coaching. Your first question, I'm sorry?
Q. Other than calling their parents, how do you get the players to buy into the team thing?
COACH HEWITT: I think you have to address that players have individual goals. We spend a lot of time throughout the season, not just in the pre-season, post-season, on individual player development. We bring them in the gym with either one person or by themselves and work on their ball handling, their shooting, their passing, because they want to get better. I mean, they're paying people a lot of money to play this game. I think it's a good goal to have. If you can get there, why not shoot for it? Not at the expense of your education, of course. I think our individual instruction program helps to build some faith and trust between the coaching staff and the players.
Q. There was a reference in your media guide that perhaps you wanted to be a sportswriter at one point.
COACH HEWITT: Like I said, I love sports.
Q. What caused you to turn away from such a reputable profession?
COACH HEWITT: Entry level salary (laughter). I'm telling you the truth. Not that coaching was much better. I promise you, I went to the career placement office at St. John Fisher, salaries, the way you have to live. "I don't know about this." But I love sports. Any sport you want to talk about, my dad and I. I enjoy watching, I enjoy talking about it. I especially love the history of sports.
Q. The other three coaches here have been around a zillion years, won a million games. You come in under the radar. You got a big new contract. Did you expect this? Do you pinch yourself?
COACH HEWITT: Yeah, I mean, you don't expect. When I got into coaching, it was the fall of '85, junior varsity coach at Westbury High School. Once I got in the gym, I knew this is what I wanted to do. I was aspiring to be a high school coach and maybe a guidance counselor, which obviously I would have been very happy doing that. But I've met some people through this game that have opened some doors for me. I've met some great people like George Raveling, Nick Macarchuk, Steve Lappas hired me. Of course George Raveling is probably the guy that has opened more doors than anybody else.
Q. You seem to in the beginning of your stay here you want the kids to see the sights of the see, enjoy themselves here. Has that changed now that you're in the championship game? What is your mindset for the team for tonight and tomorrow?
COACH HEWITT: Well, that changed on Thursday night. I thought the first day I wanted them to soak things up. You know, we wanted to get down to business on Thursday night. We got in and watched tape Thursday night, started really getting into the at the tails of scouting Oklahoma State. I thought the trip to the Carver Academy on Friday was worthwhile, even though it was a detour from thinking about the game, what David Robinson is doing in this community with that school, I thought it was worthwhile to show the kids.
Q. I asked Marvin about your love of the Knicks. Does he revel you in stories? His eyes almost rolled in the back of his head. What did you tell these guys?
COACH HEWITT: I just tell them they had a big win, which has been few and far between lately.
Q. Second of all, do you still have the Jamaica Patiois?
COACH HEWITT: I can break it out once in a while. I'm a loyal Knick follower. I love the Knicks. They're going to win a championship again soon, I feel it. I hear Wes Durham laughing back there. He's always killing me about the Knicks also. My friends are passionate Knicks fans.
Q. Every season has an ebb and flow. I'm looking at the schedule here beginning with February 14th. You lose three out of four, starting with that game at Virginia. Any concerns during that stretch?
COACH HEWITT: I was concerned because I thought we were allowing offensive lapses to dictate our defensive energy. If you remember, I kept telling people that we're playing well, playing good basketball. In that league, in the ACC, if you have a two- or three-minute stretch that you allow to become a four-minute stretch of bad basketball, you are going to lose the game. You don't have the margin of error you have may have someplace else in the country. You remember the Virginia game, we played well until the last three minutes. We're up seven, three to go, we lost. Against NC State, we were eight for eighteen from the foul line; against Wake Forest, we missed eight or nine layups, point-blank layups. I was concerned we were allowing that to affect our defensive intensity. After that stretch, it hasn't happened.
Q. You were pretty steady throughout the season saying that this team was playing well. There were people out there saying, "What has this guy smoked?" Why did you always have confidence in this team?
COACH HEWITT: Because of its depth, its unselfishness. They play the game the way it's supposed to be played, in my opinion. They play the game the way it's supposed to be played. People want to focus on individuals, that's fine. You have a chance to advance in a one-and-out situation if you have versatility, both offensively and defensively. You got to be lucky. I'm not going to sit here and tell you it's all about coaching and style of play. But I think the more unselfish you are, the greater chance you have to overcome obstacles.
Q. After the game last night, what was the rest of your night like? From the time your day started today, what is your day today going to be like?
COACH HEWITT: I was actually more tired I think during the game. Once the game was over, we got all the obligations out of the way, I got back to the hotel, had a meal, I was ready to go. I stayed up till about 3:30, watching taped. Got up about 7:00, watched another game. I feel like I'm where we need to be on UConn. When we go out there at 1:00 today, they'll be ready for a crisp walk-through, ready for the game.
Q. What will your schedule be like the rest of today and tonight?
COACH HEWITT: We have a 1:00 walk-through. We're not going to do much. Probably won't even break a sweat. I want to keep them fresh, mentally and physically fresh. They'll go back to the hotel, get rest, a meal, and I'll just keep watching more tape - more nervous energy just watching tape. You don't want to inundate them. I think everything will be pretty much in by this afternoon, because they know this team. You don't want to inundate them on a one-day prep. You want to keep them mentally as free as possible.
Q. Being a New York sports fan, you live in a world of heaven and hell, right?
COACH HEWITT: You're right (laughter).
Q. What is your dad's name, and give me three or four moments you shared with him, both heaven and name?
COACH HEWITT: B-u-r-c-h-e-l-l is his name. The heaven and hell? In '92, going to the Garden to see the Knicks win Game 6 against the Bulls. I've never heard a building louder in my life. Hell, no question, the Charles Smith. That was tough. I mean, I don't want to put it on Charles Smith.
Q. Were you there?
COACH HEWITT: No, we watched that on TV. My dad and I, we would go to a lot of playoff teams. That was tough. Everybody loves Mike. I don't love Mike. I don't like him, I don't love him. I respect him, but he's caused a lot of pain in the Hewitt house. No question for my dad when the Rangers won the Cup in '94. For me, when Tonelli passed it to Nystrom in '80, that was a great, great moment. There's a lot of them. We watch all the sports. I can remember, what was it, '90, the Giants out at Candlestick. I can remember driving home on the Northern State Parkway listening to the game, blowing my horn. I was so excited when they won that game. There's a lot of them that my dad and I share.
Q. He passed that Giants legacy down to you?
COACH HEWITT: I'm talking about New York Giants football, when they won against the 49ers. LT caused the fumble, Matt got the field goal.
Q. What in your mind is the importance of getting teams here at-large to the conference? What's the importance of getting teams to win championships? You guys have done that as a conference.
COACH HEWITT: The only way today you validate yourself is by getting to the NCAA tournament and placing teams in the Final Four, which is unfortunate. Unless you're around the ACC, you cover it every day, you have no idea how hard the games are, especially on the road. And for the national media to realize there are more than just two teams in that league, you have to advance. North Carolina State, if they're healthy, they could be sitting here very easily. Wake Forest, easily could be sitting here. Maryland, the way they were playing at the end of the year. But unfortunately I think a lot of times in the national media, we just take an overall look and say that it's only two teams, move on. They don't look at the depth. For us to be picked seventh in the league, coaches would say, "You guys are nuts." That's the business we're in. People don't have time to get into detail to find that Jarrett Jack improved last year, they won at Iowa, played Texas Tech tough. Gary Williams, Skip during the summertime when I would see them, shake their heads, "We know you're lining the weeds. We know you guys are going to be good." Unfortunately, like I said, you have to reach this point before people realize, you know what, it's pretty good basketball over there, the best in the country.
Q. Do you think winning championships maybe helps get more teams in the tournament, higher?
COACH HEWITT: Actually, my second year -- the year before I got in the league, only three teams got in. After going through it that one year, I said to myself, if there's ever a year with the ACC gets three teams in, people need to get their heads examined. Second year, Virginia beat Duke when they were No. 1 in the country, and Virginia got left out of the tournament. If there were 65 better teams, better than Virginia the year they got left out, I'm sorry. There's no way. I think a lot of times, you know, we all get battered with information and it shapes our view. People say well the ACC is down, must be down, so they only get three teams in. That was the year before I got in. Let me tell you something. There is no way that there ever should be a NCAA tournament with less than four or five ACC teams in the tournaments. You look at how many McDonald's All-American come in, how many first-round draft picks come out, who's who of McDonald's All-American, who's who of the NBA. The talent level is still outstanding. That's what the game is about. It's about players making plays. The ACC will always have great players.
Q. You mentioned foul trouble playing a role. Both teams that lost last night had guys getting in foul trouble. We can say that was a dumb foul. Is a foul like that a physical mistake or a mental mistake, you know you have two, go for a rebound?
COACH HEWITT: There's some fouls that coaches don't mind, you see a guy making an aggressive play. There's some fouls people have to understand, the kid didn't try to do it, the referee saw it that way. Doesn't make the referee wrong. It's a game of judgment both on the player's part and official's part. Sometimes a foul happens because the player made an error in judgment, sometimes because the official made an error in judgment. Happens, move on to the next play.
Q. Much of the attention will be on Okafor tomorrow. What kind of problems does Josh Boone present to teams?
COACH HEWITT: He's a tremendous offensive rebounder, he's athletic. He also gives them some insurance defensively if Okafor has to go out of the game. They're the best defensive team in the nation, not only because of Emeka Okafor, but because of their guard play, Taliek Brown, but also another guy, Josh Boone, when Okafor is not in the game, that maintaining a strong presence around the basket, blocking shots, taking away second-shot opportunities.
Q. Walking around the meeting rooms, watching five-year starters, Luke has a hundred guys around him, on a podium. It's almost surreal to be sitting here and watching that, following you in Atlanta. Tomorrow night everyone will know every one of your player's names. How have they handled it, this whole process? I can't remember a team that has kind of come out of nowhere in terms of exposure. Can you talk about how they're handling all this notoriety?
COACH HEWITT: They're handling it very well. They're intelligent kids, young men. They're very, very intelligent young men. I don't have to give them a lot of instructions. Maybe a year ago, two years ago, I would say to make sure you're more complementary than anything to your opponent. But they handle it well. They handle it very, very well.
Q. You're obviously a very engaging, charismatic man. You're a nice guy. But a coach has to be very tough also. How do you balance that with your players? How do you get to the point where they know you're a nice guy, but...
COACH HEWITT: When we're on the court, it's all business. I don't like to open my practices because I don't like to talk to our guys the way sometimes I have to talk to them in front of other people. But if they're serious about getting better, then whatever we tell them, they're going to listen to, because we're sincerely trying to get them to a point in their life where they can use their ability in basketball or their degree to do something positive. I'm telling you, once this game is over, if we win it, it's not going to do anything to pay their bills. It's not going to do anything. But they can certainly use this to propel themselves. It's the same thing with their class work and their attendance in school. If they don't go to school, there's a side of me that they don't like to see. Their parents have trusted me, their high school coaches have trusted me that I'm going to do the right things by them. That's my obligation.
Q. What did you take from your time with George Raveling? Also you referred to this metamorphosis from selfishness to what you have now. What exactly kicked that in? What caused that?
COACH HEWITT: As far as what I learned from Coach Raveling, I don't think anybody's prepared for anything as he is. This guy is unbelievable in his preparation, whether it's preparing for a game, a business trip, an interview, anything. The guy, he's phenomenal. He's unbelievable how well he prepares himself for whatever he's getting into, whether it's a speech. He's pretty well nationally known as a speaker, goes out and does motivational speeches. Being around him one year, I would see him prepare for a speech. He would know everything about the company he would talk to, CEO, key people in the organization. I learned you can never be too prepared for anything. I forgot the second part.
Q. Selfishness to unselfishness.
COACH HEWITT: Just guys maturing, that's all. It takes time. It takes time. They have to realize that you do have their best interest at heart. "Just listen, just work with me." Now, it doesn't work for some people. We've had guys leave this program. We tried as hard with all of them, but some guys, they say, "It's not for me. I want to do my thing." They leave. You just wish them luck and you hope somewhere down the road they're going to find what they're looking for, be successful. So it doesn't work for anybody.
Q. Will has a strong basketball personality. What did you do to get him to subjugate his ego and suppress his game to fit in?
COACH HEWITT: I begged him. I did. I just kept telling him, "I can't give you anything tangible. Trust me, when you leave Georgia Tech, you're going to have everything that you want, all your goals will be met. I promise you that." I said, "Just hang with me. Please hang with me." I couldn't say, "We're going to play in Nevada, you're going to get the last shot of the game." I couldn't promise that. I just asked him that faith. Like I said, I talk to Rose. Rose is a sweetheart of a lady.
Q. You come out to California, a New York guy, work with USC, was it a big culture change for you? Could you describe the feelings between New York and Southern California?
COACH HEWITT: No knock on LA. I love working for Coach Raveling. In the off-season, I couldn't wait to get back to New York. What I did to pass time in the off-season, I went to Jack Murphy Stadium, Anaheim, Dodger Stadium. When I got the chance to come back and work for Nick Macarchuk , I like the East Coast, I ran back. That's probably the only regret I have in this business. I was supposed to work another year with Coach Raveling. The opportunity to get on the road, be a full-time assistant, was too much to pass up. To get back to the East Coast was too great for me.
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