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March 10, 2001

Jonathan Beerbohm

Troy Bell

Xavier Singletary

Al Skinner


THE MODERATOR: Ready to say "questions"?

COACH AL SKINNER: Any questions?

Q. Al, the script was pretty much the same, kind of did it a little bit earlier tonight. Again, you had a team hanging around, hanging around, then boom it was there.

COACH AL SKINNER: You know, the thing that we had to figure out was exactly what we wanted to do defensively, and once we kind of settled down and realized what we wanted to do defensively and some of the looks that we wanted to take away, you know, to try to make them go to some of their other options, when we did that we kept our pressure up, you know, we was able to get some turnovers. Guys started to really attack the ball. And it allowed us some transition baskets. You know, the confidence started to build. I think everyone that was sitting here watching, you could just see it in the players that the ball just started to move better. Guys started to get the looks they wanted. And the fact of the matter is Pittsburgh was a little bit tired. I think that definitely came into play, and allowed us to execute and get us the shots that we needed.

Q. Al, talk about the lift Ryan and Jonathan gave when they came in off the bench.

COACH AL SKINNER: They've been able to do that for us pretty much all year. You know, that's just part of our team and who we are. You kind of, maybe it's a little bit unfair to them, but we kind of expect that they're going to come on the floor, give us some energy, make some plays, just pick up things for us, and they obviously did that this evening. But that's all part of who we are, and guys filling their roles and really come in and do a good job with it.

Q. Al, how sweet is this considering, you know, where you guys were? I mean just two years ago on that court, Syracuse beat you by 41. How sweet is this for you?

COACH AL SKINNER: I think for the players it's tremendously a good taste in their mouths because it didn't feel very good last -- those couple of years ago when we lost like that. It didn't feel good last year when we ended up in 13th place, and guys wanted to do something about it. And this is the best way to do something about it, is go out and win basketball games and we played consistently through the season and ended up with the regular season, and then to come here and win a tournament is just continuing to add to the sweetness of the whole thing.

Q. Al, I asked you earlier about the thoughts that were probably crossing your minds as this scene unfolded. Can you share with us now what those thoughts were?

COACH AL SKINNER: The thing that I was probably -- that I was thinking about was that, you know, we're close to winning this championship and we needed to make sure that we take it home. And I was just extremely proud of the guys and the way they handled themselves, the way they played. And I think they showed a lot of class while they were out on the floor. They really played like a -- really played like a good team, like they shared the basketball, and, you know, they really made me look good. And I appreciate that.

Q. For any one of the players, do you guys have a name for that dance?

TROY BELL: That's your dance.

XAVIER SINGLETARY: If we call it anything, it would probably be the bounce. We was thinking about it yesterday out there after we played, we said once we win tomorrow, everybody could go out on center court and just go bounce around. We do it before the game to get us amped up, get us excited, get us ready. We did it today after we won the championship.

Q. Al, you beat two teams who had disappointing regular seasons to win at the end. How much harder is it to go in as the favorite?

COACH AL SKINNER: Well, probably the most difficult thing about the whole thing is we hadn't played either one of those teams prior and really didn't have a good feel for them. So we weren't exactly sure what to expect. Obviously you see them on tape, but we really didn't have a good feel for them, and because of that, it made -- I thought it made the task a little more difficult. Whereas I thought we were a little bit familiar with our first opponent.

Q. I mean as far as the rising expectations and handling those?

COACH AL SKINNER: Rising expectations for us?

Q. Yes. And handling that.

COACH AL SKINNER: It really was of no concern. We didn't really think about it. You know, we just sort of -- we just saw it as an opportunity. And that's the thing that we just wanted to try to take advantage of the opportunity that was presented to us. And we, you know, the thing for us, our attitude was that, you know, let's not give this back. If we can get it, if we can grab the brass ring, let's grab it and that's what we did.

Q. Question for Troy Bell. First of all, how does it feel to be the MVP after last season, not going as far? And also what does it say about the team that you weren't even the big scoring star today, especially during those key spurts.

TROY BELL: It feels really good, especially since we were at the bottom of the barrel last year, 13th place. MVP is a great award. No way I could have been here without my teammates. I got a great team. Every night my teammates come out and give it their all. They put up numbers just like everybody else in this conference. I don't think my teammates got the credit they deserved. No way I could have been here without my teammates.

Q. Jonathan, can you talk about how sweet this is?

JONATHAN BEERBOHM: It's just unbelievable. Hard to put into words just how much it means coming from the last two years when we won six games and this year we've almost, you know, quadrupled that, or 26 games is an unbelievable number. And just the feeling of winning, you know, it's expected now. I mean last couple years we just got in a rut of losing. It was tough. It was really tough. It's just, you just feel like you've accomplished something coming from, like you said, bottom of the barrel. Now we're on top. It's just the hard work you put in. It's just the rewards you get. It's nice.

Q. Is it time for people to stop asking if you guys should have respect or if you deserve to be where you are for as good as you are. Is it time to stop wondering about that?

JONATHAN BEERBOHM: Yeah, there shouldn't have been any doubts before, but after tonight there definitely should be no doubts of us. We're a great team. We've proved that night in and night out. Teamwork, that's what we're about.

Q. Al, where do you think you belong in the seeding?

COACH AL SKINNER: Well, I think most teams that have been regular season champs and tournament champs out of the Big East should be a No. 1 seed. And, you know, we'll see what happens with that.

Q. I mean, would that surprise you, given the other --?

COACH AL SKINNER: It wouldn't surprise me. It wouldn't surprise me because I think we've earned it. We've gone out and proved that, you know, I think we're one of the best basketball teams in the country and we're going to continue to do that up until this point. I'm not sure what more they can ask us to do. So we'll see what happens. But I'm, you know, in saying that, we're still very happy just to be in the tournament. If it doesn't work out to be that, then that's fine. We'll go out and do what we have to do. You know, whether we're a one seed or a twelve seed, it doesn't matter. For us, for this team to be in the tournament in comparison to a year ago is a tremendous accomplishment. For us to even talk about a one and two seed, you know, that's a different story. If this was a movie, it would be too corny, you couldn't write it. People wouldn't believe it.

Q. Could not being a one seed be even more motivation for these guys?

COACH AL SKINNER: They know what they have to do when they get on the floor. They're focused on what they have to do. Whoever our next opponent is, we have to go out and take care of business. You know, it's a little bit of umph. But when a team plays this well and does the kind of things we did, you know, those little type of motivations really, you know I just think it's part of the conversation. This team is -- has got a thread of some fiber throughout this team that makes it the quality team that it is.

Q. For any of the players, Coach talked about, you know, the need to just figure out what you guys wanted to do on the defense. Could you just kind of talk about the confidence you guys have knowing that even when you're down 20-9 or whatever it was, that you guys would make a run eventually.

JONATHAN BEERBOHM: Yeah, I mean, there's no doubt in our mind we're going to win. We've been down a couple times this year and there's no doubt, you know, like in the back of your mind that we're going to win. It's just we don't know how we're going to do it. Pretty much every game we do our defensive end. We can't have guys going in different directions, that's what helped us all year, staying together and saying, "All right, they made their run. All good teams make a run. Now it's time to make our run." We sit down and do it, it's something we realize we have to do and just get it done.

Q. John and Xavier, why has this happened? Why have you gone from last place to first place? What's changed so much?

XAVIER SINGLETARY: I think the biggest thing is we believe in each other. I mean, way more than we did in the last year or the year before. I mean, you got just as much confidence in your teammate as you do in yourself. I mean, when it's like that, I mean, only good things can happen. And I think that's the biggest thing, just believing in one another. So, I mean, passing up opportunities for the next man sometimes, or, you know, whatever sacrifices needed to be made, you willing to make them, you know. And everybody got that same mentality. I just think that's the biggest thing, you know, confidence in everybody on the team.

Q. For each one of the players, could you just share with us what your lasting memory will be of this night. One snapshot that you would take out there.

XAVIER SINGLETARY: My lasting memory will probably be the guy, one of the guys on the team, Johnny, he's -- I can't pronounce his last name. Ekweozor. He made a basket in the game. (Laughter.) I was so excited for him. He was like the manager on the girls' team the last couple of years and I mean he on a Big East Championship team and got an opportunity to get in the game and make a shot. I know that was like his dream, just like it was all the other guys' dreams. It was just special for him, not even getting a scholarship and getting a chance to come to college and getting this opportunity to play in the Big East Finals and even score a basket. I just kind of felt real good for him.

Q. Troy?

TROY BELL: I think for me, it would be Kenny Harley cutting down the nets. I mean, he's always talked about it. When he was a freshman I think the year before, the seniors won the Big East tournament in '97 I think it was. He was always talking about how excited they were, how he felt about watching it on TV. To see him go up on the ladder and watch him cut the nets down, it made me feel good I was a part of that.

JONATHAN BEERBOHM: Just out at half court celebrating our victory, doing what X calls the bounce. It's a great feeling. We know where we came from last year being 13th, now we're on top. Just that feeling out there, knowing that all that hard work has paid off, it's just going to be a lasting memory in my mind.

End of FastScripts....

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