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March 29, 2002
CHRIS PLONSKY: We'll commence with Coach Williams. Congratulations. Let's start on the right.
Q. The Final Four, especially in the past few years, there's hardly been one of those up-start, low-seed team to come through. Is that simply because there's more resources at a school like Kansas, Oklahoma, Indiana? Is it just a matter of having more money to go out and do more things, build a program that way?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: A lot of people think everything can be broken down to money. That's what it sounds like you're asking me. I have no idea if I could say that. I don't know that I would necessarily agree with it. I think at Kansas, we do have some money. There's a lot of other schools that have just as much money. Our tradition is extremely important to us. The history of our program, the importance of our program to the people within the state. We're going to have 6,300 people at our opening night practice, much less every game. I think it's not just a term of dollars. Yes, that helps, to say the least. The interest, the tradition you've had, the winning records you've had in the past, I think that helps you get more players, that helps you get on TV. Yes, you do need more dollars to help you recruit those players and things, but I don't think it can just be broken down like that. I'm sure there's going to be a "Cinderella" to make a run on this. The more young teams get I still don't think it's a thing of the past.
Q. Freshman point guards are rare in the Final Four. Can you talk about how Aaron has handled the pressure all year, what he's going to have to do tomorrow against the Terps?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: It's rare, I'm sure. At the same time we have played 36 basketball games. I think that experience has been important to him. Kids nowadays also come into the college game so much more prepared than they were 10 or 15 years ago. I can remember when I started at Kansas 14 years ago, we would make a big deal out of taking our team to Hawaii, thinking that would help us in recruiting. Now high school kids go to Hawaii. In the summertime, they go to Hawaii with their own teams. I use the word all the time, the kids are more "Worldly," they're not as naive, they're not as scared. You pick which words you want in there. The players themselves come into the college game with their eyes wide open, they're more mature, they know what's going on a little more. By the end of the season, for us, again for 36 games, going through a very difficult non-conference schedule, then a very difficult conference schedule, kids are more ready to do those kind of things. Yet, you know, we have a security blanket at our place. Take Drew out, we have Kirk, and Kirk has been there for three years.
Q. In recent games, you've used Aaron defensively on the opposing team's highest-scoring back-court guy. Is that going to happen tomorrow? Is he going to see some time?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: Probably just because of switches. But the only reason that's happened the last two games against Illinois and Oregon is both their point guards were their leading scorers on the perimeter. They were the point guards, as well. Juan Dixon, if he moves back and starts playing the point, Steve Blake goes out of the game, then Aaron will play. He may play some on switches. That's not the way we'll start the game.
Q. Rebounding has been so big for you guys throughout the tournament. You run up against a very big and solid frontline in Maryland. Talk about that, if you would.
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I've had two people today ask me what's the single key to the game is. This is not a copout answer. I think it's the total game. I don't think it's just rebounding. I don't think it's just running or shooting or free throws. I think that Maryland plays the total game. I don't think you can emphasize one part of the game and forget the other. I think we're pretty well-balanced, as well. You're not going to beat Maryland just by focusing on one part the game. You've got to play and play very well in every aspect of your game. I've always thought the rebounding was the most important factor in the game of basketball. I think that we try to emphasize that a great deal. It's something I've been worried about all year long. But maybe because of that worry and because of the emphasis, we've done a pretty good job. I don't know that we're going to face any teams that rebounded any better than Maryland did. I think there's some good teams out there, but Maryland, those big guys inside, plus Juan and Mouton, those guys are going to get some rebounds, too.
Q. Somebody said something like 32 of your former players are going to be here. Are you aware of who is here? What does it mean to you? The good luck question, what are you guys going to do here in Atlanta?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: Keep my fingers crossed (laughter). I am aware of the former players that are here. We'll have four or five guys who played on the 1952 National Championship team that will be here. I didn't coach those guys (smiling). I think it's important to me that the players, when they leave Kansas, feel like it is their program and will always be their program. So I am happy that they're back here and will be back here. You know, we have some walk-ons that are going to be here. I have a couple high school players, guys that I coached then, that are going to be at the game. That's important to me. As far as the good luck thing, I haven't found one yet, but I'm still looking (smiling).
Q. Could you talk generally about the impact that the three freshman, Miles, Langford and Simien have had on the team? Also, did you think going into the year they could have that kind of impact?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: They have a tremendously positive impact on our team. Yes, I thought they would be really important. Even a year ago, gosh, I guess it's more than a year ago now when we were recruiting them, I said, one freshman is going to start. I don't know which one of you guys is going to be, but one is going to start unless I'm practically surprised. It worked out it was Aaron because of how flexible Kirk was playing different spots. Aaron gives you the solid play, the defense, the assist turnover ratio. Keith gives us a slasher to the basket, better and better defensive feel. I'm beginning to believe he may be a fantastic defender. Wayne gives you the muscle, rebounding, scoring touch up front. All three of them have added something different to us.
Q. You talked about tradition, your past success. Do you think you and your program had any more pressure put on you to be here and be successful here? If so, how have you kept your team relaxed?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I think at Kansas every year there's stress because it comes from the expectations. Sometimes they're not quite as realistic as they should be. Coach Smith had a saying long ago, he said if you have no stress, you have no expectations, you may not have any interest. So which one do you want? I'd rather have the interest, even if that stress and expectation comes with that. But at Kansas, our folks think we should always be good. Some of them think we should always be the best or always be really good. That's not as easy as it appears. But this team has handled it pretty doggone well. We've tried to do the best we could every day, whether it was practice or game. Today we went out and we tried to work for about 45 minutes. I think that's what we've sort of hung our hat on, we're going to try to do our best every single day, and at the end of the year hopefully be playing our best.
Q. You mentioned the other day that you always liked to play fast. Obviously with Drew and Nick, you have the makeup of a team that can get up and down the court. I'm curious in the last couple years, did you change anything in practice? Do you do anything different to try and get a pace that other teams really just can't copy?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: Well, it is hard. You hit on part of it right there. We've had some big guys who were really good. Greg Ostertag, Eric Chenowith, those guys were really important for us, but they didn't run as well as Nick and Drew. For us this year, we looked at those two guys and so we feel that they will be able to at least run as well as most of the other teams' big guys. In fact, they'll be able to run better than a lot of them. We really wanted to emphasize that. One thing that's been a huge plus that is hard to simulate is how well Kirk Hinrich runs. When Aaron is the point guard, Kirk flies out of there. Something we've been missing a little bit the last couple weeks since he hurt his ankle. Aaron can get the ball and look to pitch ahead. That part has been something that's really helped us. When we bring Kirk back to the point guard, we haven't been able to get Keith and Jeff Boschee to run quite as hard as we would like them to, nor do they have the ability to do it or that innate sense of how important that is. So when Kirk is at the three and running, and Aaron has the ball, it gives you another option, not only just your big guys running, but another perimeter player who can fly out of there.
Q. There have been volumes written on Juan Dixon, all the intangibles he has. When you watch the guy on film, what is it that makes him so effective?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: Wow, I think, you know, a little bit like one of the answers ahead of me, I really believe he is a complete player. He makes 90% of his free throws, he shoots a great percentage from 3-point line, he's great on the defensive end of the floor, he gets rebounds for them. I mean, when you start talking about basketball players, I start trying to think if it's somebody we're going to play, where his weakness is, how can we exploit that. I think with Juan, he's not a guy that really has any. Everybody knows a little bit about his story, so the character is there also. I think that has a lot to do with how difficult he is to handle on the court. He gives you the inside game, the ability to take the ball to the basket, ability to shoot it. If you foul him, it's like giving him an uphill putt, makes 90% of his free throws.
Q. How important are matchups this time of year? Tomorrow will be a bit of a chess match. You start with the three guards. They have a traditional team more. How important do you think that's going to be?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: That is a good question. Somebody asked last night, each position as a whole. They're going to be with Mouton and Dixon, they're bigger at the two, three; one, two and three. That helps them a little bit eon the backboards. We have got to try to exploit hopefully some quickness that we may have. I think you find the matchups to me don't really become important till they get into the flow of game and you see how the game is going to flow that day. I think you can play somebody one day and it be in the 80s, 90s, next day be in the 60s or 70s, just because things aren't quite as smooth that day. If it's going up and down, 80 -, 90-point game, maybe our smaller size might not be a disadvantage for us. If it's a little lower tempo game, that extra couple inches they have at each spot, could help them rebound a bit more, that could bother us there.
Q. How important is winning this to you? Do you ever feel like the best golfer who has never won a major?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: (Laughter) I get a lot of emotions when you ask that. One of my things is that if we go 0 and 25 one year at Kansas, they're not going to call me the best coach to have never won. At least that means they're winning a lot of games if they put me in any best coach category. I love to tee it up. I can tell you the first day after the recruiting period is over, I'm on the golf course. May be 9 in the morning or 9 at night, I'm going to be there. I get that question quite a bit. Best coach to have never won a major championship or best golfer never to win, best coach never to win a National Championship. That doesn't bother me nearly as much as people think. Maybe even as people think it should. The biggest plus would be if we did win it, I wouldn't have to answer the question anymore. I forget which exact word, want to win it? As much as I want to breathe. But at the same time it's not the only thing. I mean that. A couple years ago I think I was about -- about four or five years ago, I think I was so -- had so much tunnel vision that I didn't allow myself to enjoy the coaching part of it and enjoy the kids as much as I am right now. I tell our Kansas people, I have more desire to win a National Championship in my little finger than all the Kansas people in the world. But I'm enjoying this club. I'm enjoying coaching. I'm enjoying doing what I'm doing. I've matured a little bit, too, because now my goal is -- my dream is that I want to live long enough to coach my grandchildren in little league baseball and little league basketball. I think I'd have fun with that.
Q. Do you think the tournament has lost any of its appeal because of players going early to the NBA?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I really don't. You know, tomorrow it's going to be Kansas and Maryland, that old cliche about the college game, the names on the front of the jerseys are more important. I would have liked to coached Pierce, Stevenson, instead of him going from high school to the pros. The college game is a fantastic experience. The look on your guys' faces when you walk out, it's a big game, or the look on your guys' faces after winning a big game, the way I could stand to the side and watch my kids jump around, cut down the nets, turn their hats on backwards and sideways after the Oregon game last Sunday. No pro coach gets to enjoy that feeling as much as we do.
CHRIS PLONSKY: Coach, thank you very much. Questions for the players, please. We'll commence.
Q. Both players, your coach has taken some heat over the years for being the successful coach that hasn't won a championship. What does it mean to you guys to go out and get it for him?
DREW GOODEN: I answered this question about 30 times the last two days (laughter). It's going to be -- it's something that we want to do for Coach, but yet we want to do it as a team, as a whole. I think that's what counts, is what we accomplish as a team. I know Coach Williams knows he's not being selfish that the championship is just for him, it's for the whole team.
JEFF BOSCHEE: I just think he's been there for us for my whole career, really been a father figure for all of us. Being away from college, probably the hardest time of your life, yet the most fun. He's more caring, you know, think about what's going on in your life, just besides basketball. I think just giving back to him what he's given to us for the past three years is real important to our team.
Q. Drew, do you find it more difficult to go up against a big man more similar to you in terms of tall and agile or a shorter, more muscular guy like Lonny Baxter?
DREW GOODEN: I think it's harder for me to go up against a guy that is just as agile as I am. I can't beat him with my speed because I think we'll be at the same pace, or some of my outside moves. I think it's easier to play against a guy that is bigger and not as agile or mobile as I am. But I'm not taking anything away from Lonny Baxter, he's still a good player. I'm not going to say he can't hold me or anything like that.
Q. What scares you about Maryland?
JEFF BOSCHEE: I think the biggest thing is they almost resemble us in a way. They are real athletic and mobile, big guys down low who can score any time you give them the ball, great perimeter play. Obviously, Dixon and Blake out there. You know, Blake is tall and lanky, able to look over most guards and be able to find the open man. Dixon, as well, scoring. Mouton, excellent role player, can take the ball to the basket. I think they resemble us the way they get up and down the court, the way they rebound and work.
DREW GOODEN: Same what he says. Almost a mirror image of both teams. You have the match-up as far as Chris Wilcox, me, Lonny, Nick, Steve, Blake, Juan Dixon, Mouton out on the perimeter, matches up with our perimeter guys. I think that's the only thing that's different from any other team that we played this year.
Q. Drew, you do match up so well inside, but you dominated against Illinois and Oregon. What's the challenge now against a bigger frontline?
DREW GOODEN: We can't get all uptight. We have to keep our same mindset and mind focused as far as winning basketball games, what got us here. We are just going to stick with that.
Q. Jeff, in your time at KU, have your players ever gotten together and had a, "We have to win this for Coach Williams meeting," and if so, when was that?
JEFF BOSCHEE: I don't think we've ever got together and said we've got to do this for Coach Williams. I do think it's all understood among the players because, you know, he just puts so much time and work into what he does. You know, if we had an off-day, he's flying to the West Coast or east coast recruiting for this program to make it better in the future. He just does so much, works so hard, I think it's understood amongst us that we want to get it for him.
Q. After watching the tapes on Maryland, is there any one weakness that you think y'all are best equipped to kind of open up?
DREW GOODEN: Kind of tough to say. We haven't played against Maryland in the past. We haven't played against them. It's going to be our first time playing against them. We can only see what they do on tape. They're playing against different teams. It's going to be tough. We're scouting them right now. We watched a lot of film. But kind of tough to say they have a weakness.
Q. Drew, what do you see as the key to winning the rebounding battle tomorrow?
DREW GOODEN: Just boxing out, just having the desire and the willingness to get every rebound without fouling (laughter).
Q. Matchups are pretty even, like you say. One advantage they may have is Final Four experience. Can you talk about that?
DREW GOODEN: I think that's a big, huge advantage they have. They've been here, they've been in this atmosphere before. They were up 20 points against Duke last year. I watched that game at home. You know, I thought they were going -- they were on their way to win, and they lost. So I think they're hungry. They got back here. It's hard to go back-to-back Final Fours like they have. I think they're hungry and they got their eyes on the prize. But we have to play a team that's determined. But we're a determined team, too. I think that's what makes this a good game.
Q. Drew, what makes a West Coast guy with all the attractive options you have out there to Kansas, where you're fully aware of the Kansas tradition?
DREW GOODEN: Could you repeat that again?
CHRIS PLONSKY: He wants to know if you were fully aware of the Kansas tradition, and what makes a West Coast guy with options come to Kansas.
DREW GOODEN: I don't know. I ask myself that every day I'm there (laughter). But, you know, everything turned out great for me as far as coming from California to, like you say, a Kansas tradition type of basketball, where it's very fundamentally sound, team oriented. I think it took time for me to adjust to that. It worked out well. I finally adjusted probably about a couple months ago (laughter).
Q. Jeff, what is it like playing on this team which gets up and down the court so well, so quickly, and has the ability to put so many points on the board in such a quick amount of time?
JEFF BOSCHEE: It's extremely fun. You got to be in tip-top shape. It does get tiring at times. We work so hard every day in practice, getting up and down the court. Coach really pushes us to make sure we sprint every time, not only to offense, but to defense as well. That's a tough chore to ask, especially when we got guys playing 30, 35 minutes a game out there.
Q. Drew, earlier this year you said that you and Nick were Tim Thomas like. Could you comment more on Tim Thomas, how you complement each other, what makes you unique as -- ?
DREW GOODEN: I think we're two guys that can step out a little bit from the basket and put the ball on the floor and get to the basket, you know, draw some mismatches because we are two guys who can play out on the perimeter. Sometimes, if I had a mismatch, Nick gives me the ball, gives me my space to work. When he has a mismatch, I give him the ball. We get the ball to him. We give him his space to work. I think we almost try to take like the best advantage we possibly can get through teams and our mismatches for me and him being so agile and versatile.
Q. Drew, you talked about having not played Maryland. You only see it on the film. Do you run into that with other teams who haven't seen you guys and don't realize how good you are, how fast you run?
DREW GOODEN: Yeah. I think if they watched the Oregon game, they kind of found that out. That was a track meet, if you guys were watching that game. That was an up-and-down game. We could run with the best of them. I think as far as the running game, transition, I think the best team we played so far was Oregon. For us to still get our transition in, score 100 points against Oregon, says a lot about this team and the transition.
Q. You guys have been so dominating on the boards in this tournament. What has been your key to success in rebounding?
DREW GOODEN: Wanting to win. That's the key right there. We're going to do whatever it takes to win. Coach Williams said at the game against Oregon, it's not going to be one about beating each other up and down the courts, rebounding the ball, getting extra possessions, having them have less possessions. That was the key to the game. He said that's what we need to do to win. That's what we did to win.
Q. Earlier you mentioned the adjustments you made since coming in as a freshman. How did you make those adjustments? What were they?
DREW GOODEN: One thing is just trying to run the offense before putting up a shot, listening to Coach, playing good team defense, I'm not going to let my man score but help my man out on the court. That whole first year for me was a learning experience. I knew nothing about Xs and Os, knew nothing about team defense and team defensive principles. I think it was a big adjustment for me, where for Nick and Kirk, they already had that teaching, upbringing, as far as basketball knowledge. They knew that. They had a head start on me. My whole first year, I was trying to catch up with them, the mental part of the basketball game. I think that was the biggest adjustment, the mental part of basketball and Coach's coaching philosophy.
Q. A lot of people are saying that Maryland and Kansas might be the two best teams here, trying to make this into an early championship game. Your thoughts on that, what the implications might be for the winner of this game Monday night?
DREW GOODEN: I don't really want to get into all that because Oklahoma/Indiana are two good teams. We know Oklahoma is a good team because they beat us in a tournament, and we beat them once at home. We know Indiana is a good team for what they did against Duke. That says a lot about that team. You can't take nothing away from them. I think all four teams we will play have done something and proved that they deserve to be here. For people to say, us and Maryland is a championship game, I don't think you should say that because, you know, both teams do have that No. 1 sign before the team's name, but that doesn't mean nothing. It's still four teams left to play. We got to play Maryland, and Oklahoma has to play Indiana. Whoever wins that is playing for the National Championship.
Q. There's a theory, guys, I don't know if you agree with this or not, there's a theory that one of the reasons Kansas wasn't as successful in the NCAA tournament in past years as it wanted to be because that Coach Williams was so intense, the practices are so tough, you guys are just emotionally burned out. Do you agree with that theory? Has he changed anything?
DREW GOODEN: I think the only thing --. Do you want to answer this?
JEFF BOSCHEE: Go ahead.
CHRIS PLONSKY: You both can respond.
DREW GOODEN: Seems like he's falling asleep over here (laughter). I think the difference between this year and my first two years is that I don't think we deserve to have light practices because we weren't doing anything. We weren't playing good basketball, we weren't playing good team basketball. Coach didn't trust us. It went both ways because we were playing out there like we didn't trust what he was trying to teach. So that's why we had the two and a half hour practice before each game, during the whole week, getting burned out. He knew that was the only way we were going to win, if we played hard and we were well-conditioned. The difference in this year is we bought into his philosophy and he trusts us, has confidence in us, we have confidence in him. He have been successful doing that. I think that's the reason why. We have experienced guys. That also helps in practice. It's not so many mistakes out there. I think that helps, we were having 45-minute practices from today to, I don't know, two or three months ago. I think that keeps our legs fresh. We just know what to do to win.
CHRIS PLONSKY: Jeff, would you like to add anything else to that?
JEFF BOSCHEE: I think Drew pretty much said it all. In the past we did have some times when we were struggling a little bit. I think Coach was just trying to teach us, really emphasized the factors that he's trying to teach us. You know, this year he's trusted us a lot more. Maybe that's because we're a lot more experienced in things like that. Practices have been shorter a little bit this year. I don't know what his theory behind it is. You know, I know the players like it (smiling). You know, it's worked. Coach is just out there trying to do his job. Whether it's going to be a two-hour practice or a half hour practice, we're going to respond the same way, whichever one it is.
CHRIS PLONSKY: Thank you very much.
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