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March 26, 2004
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY
Q. Can you give us an indication of match-up, especially out on the perimeter?
COACH SUTTON: No (laughter). (Inaudible) probably 8 this evening. You got some ideas for me (laughter)?
Q. Joey, can you and Tony talk about their two perimeter guys? Maybe the best back-court in the country, going against those guys tomorrow, especially defensively.
JOHN LUCAS: Their back court is one of the best in the country with Jameer and West. We know it's going to be a good game. It's going to be a good challenge for both ballclubs. I feel like as long as we go out playing the way we're playing, just stay patient, keep listening to coach, I think we'll be okay. We'll be just fine.
TONY ALLEN: Just marking what John said, if we just stick to the game plan, how we been playing basketball that got us this far, we going to be all right.
Q. Coach Martelli talked about how complicated or at least how many plays, he said he had 40 pages of plays y'all run, how great your communication is. What does that say about John's ability to pick up the offense and the game plan coming in as cold as he did?
COACH SUTTON: Well, I don't think it's just John. I mean, we do run a lot of set plays. John calls the plays. But, you know, I don't think it's that confusing or that complicated. They certainly have done a good job of executing the plays. We botch a play once in a while. But he's right. I mean, I think -- I don't know whether we got 40 or not, but we got a lot.
Q. John, with every win that your team is getting, do you constantly remind yourself how thankful you are that you're part of this Oklahoma State team?
JOHN LUCAS: Absolutely. I always give thanks to God for putting me in this situation. From day one, I mean, I pray before every game, I pray when I wake up in the morning, before I go to sleep, just for putting me in this position, putting me around some of the best players I've been playing with, and also one of the best coaching staffs I've ever been under. I just thank Him all the time.
Q. Tony and John, if you could expand a little bit on the previous question about the match-ups. You guys play best when the opponent is better, it seems, when there's more on line, more at stake. With Tony's kind of honorable mention, All-American, a little bit of a snub some people think, you were third team, each of you please address that, how this is an opportunity maybe against that back-court that everybody reveres as best in college basketball, this is an opportunity for you guys to show how good you are.
TONY ALLEN: First of all, the honorable mention stuff, that's really nothing compared to what we got ahead of us, you know. I think winning this game mean more than that. As far as the match-ups, those are two good players. Me and John are ready to compete.
JOHN LUCAS: You know, all the honorable mention, third team, you know, we're still in the season, we still competing. There's only one thing I think about, and that's the team. I feel like, you know, it's going to be a tough challenge tomorrow, but we going to step up to the challenge like we done all year. You know, that's just how we are. Coach is going to have us prepared. We going to be prepared ourselves, because that's all we want to do, is get to the next level.
Q. Daniel and Joey, can you guys talk about what an opportunity this is. Chances like this don't come around often for schools, other than like Duke and Kentucky. Can you talk about what an opportunity this is, the chance to seize it?
DANIEL BOBIK: This is a wonderful opportunity. Like coach was saying, this is the most exciting time of the year. Like you said, opportunity like this don't come around very often for very many schools. This is extremely important for us to take advantage of this opportunity. I don't know. I guess something that I kind of remember, you guys kind of remember, from Dead Poet's Society, carpe diem, you know, seize the day. I think that's what our team has done a really good job of, is seizing the moment, enjoying it, but at the same time we're not satisfied with what we're at.
JOEY GRAHAM: I feel that our team and everybody on this staff is still living a dream because, you know, this is stuff, as a child, you watch teams and you watch the players playing in a competition like this. You know one day you're going to try to play in some type of event like this. I think this is probably one of the best, greatest sporting events that can be held besides the Super Bowl and all this other stuff. But right now I think I'm living in a dream and we're going to try to take advantage of every situation given to us now.
Q. Tony and John, if someone just watched this team play like last week and didn't know the background, they'd think you guys have been playing together, the whole group, for years. You came from like different places, you came together. How long did it take you to come together and was there something about one another that just got you to click right away?
TONY ALLEN: Well, I think John has a point guard mentality. He been having that since his father been teaching him the game. Our program was looking for a point guard over the summer, ever since Victor. I think he just came in and picked up our stuff real well, you know, gelled in with the offense pretty good. He's just a great guy to catch onto things, I think.
JOHN LUCAS: You know, same thing as Tony. I came in. I wasn't too worried about me getting along with anybody because, you know, I adapt to things quick, just by moving around my whole life, city to city, different schools like every other year or every year. I came in from the tragedy at Baylor. First thing I really wanted to do was make sure I knew all my teammates the best I could, love them like they're my own little brother or my older brother. I think we gel so good because we always together, we always doing something. I mean, it's rare that you see us on campus without another teammate walking to class, eating lunch together, even hanging out when we don't have class. I think that's how coach and them guys, we live together, and that's how we bond. I mean, we each have each other's back, and that's big. To play on this type level, even in this type of competition, you got to have each other's back. There's no letdowns. You know if one of your teammates gets beat off the drill, he has help, where we can stop, and then we get back to our man. I think that's what make us a big key.
Q. Coach, you said the other night that you were picked fifth in the Big-12, you probably felt that was about right pre-season. Was there a point during the season, any specific point that you thought, maybe something like this is possible?
COACH SUTTON: I think as the season progressed, we all gained in confidence and realized that we could be a very special team. I don't think it just happened one day. In fact, early in the year, I probably felt like that maybe fifth place was about where we would finish. But, you know, once we started, I think there were two places where it really helped us. We were way behind Kansas State, Manhattan, rallied to win. I think we really grew a little bit after we won that game. But then the game that probably made us all realize that we do have a good basketball team was when we beat Texas in Austin. They had a 25-game winning streak. We went in there and beat them. I think that made all of us realize that when we play like we're capable of playing, that we can play with a lot of people.
Q. Ivan, since you haven't said anything yet, I'll start with you. A lot of people who follow you guys have felt that your team quickness has been a major asset, but there's been some comments from the Saint Joseph's people that they feel they have a quickness advantage over you. What is your response to that?
IVAN McFARLIN: Well, I've been seeing them play throughout the season. They have a lot of quickness, but from the point guard all the way to the center, we have a lot of great quickness. I think everybody has quickness in their own way. I don't know if they've seen us play yet. They probably have. That doesn't really kind of (inaudible), overall quickness they have. It all depends on tomorrow when we play them. I know all our players are ready. Tony is ready, I'm played, John, Daniel and Joey. We going to come out and perform and use our overall quickness, as well.
JOEY GRAHAM: I pretty much don't look at it as a quickness thing. I think if we control the tempo of the game, the quickness is not going to take part, you know, we got outside D and all that coming, defensive side of things. But I don't think, you know, the quickness is really going to play a major factor in their game tomorrow.
DANIEL BOBIK: I think quickness is overrated. I think that it's important, you know, obviously to be quick, but I think it's more important to be smart. And I think we definitely have a smart team. Like each one of us has said, we each have each other, we help each other out really well. You know, I think that makes up for a lot of things.
JOHN LUCAS: I just feel like we go out there and play the way we've been playing, everything's going to fall on our side. You know, we not going to get into, you know, this team quicker, that team quicker. I mean, that's not how we are. We're just going to go out there and play the game of basketball.
TONY ALLEN: I think it's all about buckets. Whoever get the most buckets, that's who going to win. But we got to defend the 3-point line real good, you know, play good defense, not make careless turnovers. But the game ain't going to be judged off no quickness. You can be faster than Carl Lewis, but the game going to boil down to buckets.
Q. Joey, last night Tony was struggling a little at one point, John had been taken out of the game. That's when you made that run, helped jump-start your team. Did you sense that or was that just the way the game had come and the shots were there, maybe you were taking advantage of the match-up?
JOEY GRAHAM: I think that's just part of, you know, going to the game. A lot of times a lot of teams put a lot of emphasis on John and Tony, it kind of leaves me with the opportunity for some open looks. At that point in time, I just try to take advantage of the situation. When John was on the bench and Tony was struggling for a little bit, somebody had to step up and make a few buckets. That's what is so special about this team. You can't just focus on one person, we have a lot of options to go to.
Q. In all of your years of coaching, I'd like you to comment on what Tony said, is that what it boils down to, buckets? The second part of question is, just sort of the evolution that you've gone through as a coach from when you went to the Final Four at Arkansas, then when you went to the Final Four at Oklahoma State, how have you changed in terms of what's important?
COACH SUTTON: Well, you know, the regional tournaments now are bigger than the Final Four was in '78 when we went to solution with the Razorbacks. I think the NCAA tournament now has grown by leaps and bounds. I don't think that I've changed as far as the approach that one takes when you come to the tournament. As it is now, the thing I've tried to tell our players, "Don't be worrying about what anybody else is doing. Don't even look at the bracket. You look at what's going to happen in Kansas City, who you play first, who you going to play next. You win that tournament, you move on to the regional. Now it's a four-team tournament. If you win that, you go to the last segment of the NCAA." Tony is exactly right. You always are saying, what are the keys to this game? The biggest key is you hope you have a great shooting afternoon or evening because when the ball goes in the hole, it camouflages a lot of shortcomings that you may have in other areas of the game. So that it is the most important. Whoever can get the ball in the hole the most times. You can talk about defensive play, rebounding, minimizing your turnovers, things like that. But it really boils down, and certainly because shooting is an art, there are nights you don't shoot the ball as well, even when you get wide open. So that's the thing I always tell our team, "Let's have a great shooting night. If everything else is equal, we have a great shooting night, I'll win." I like that "buckets," I had never heard that before (laughter).
Q. Coach Sutton, do you look at this as a "road game" because of the number of Saint Joseph's fans that will be here in comparison? I know earlier you were a little I don't want to say miffed, maybe that's not the right word, but concerned you didn't get to go to St. Louis. What does it mean?
COACH SUTTON: There's no doubt that they'll have a lot more fans than we do. But still we've got a sizable group of fans. Maybe they can yell louder than the Saint Joseph's fans. I don't think it's what you call a road game. It's certainly not what you would call a neutral game either because of the number of fans they have here. What was the other part of the question?
Q. You're the champ of the league. Kansas is in St. Louis.
COACH SUTTON: I had no problems with Saint Joseph's being No. 1 because they earned the No. 1. I don't care what conference you play in, if it's a major conference. You go like they did, I have no problems with that. I've said this before, there's very little difference between a 1 seed and a 2 seed. My concern was a little bit, I wish we could have been the some -- in some way gone from Kansas City to St. Louis, then we would have had a big advantage as far as fans are concerned. But it's a tough job the NCAA has, the committee, in making sure everything works and everything is as equal as they can get it. You know, you're just happy to be in the tournament. We've had great success here. The last time we were at the Final Four, we beat two teams that certainly were every bit as good as the teams that are here now. You know, I feel very confident in our team, if we go out and play like we have been playing, we've got a great chance to beat them. If we play like we did the first half last season, then we may be in trouble. Biggest key in the ballgame, other than hoping you have a great shooting afternoon, you have to take away some of their opportunities to shoot 3's. They are as good as any team I've coached against for a long time in being able to spot up around the perimeter and just jump up and shoot the ball, dribble penetration, help off, kickoff, open shot. In order for Saint Joseph's to win, I think in looking at film, they have to hit, you know, quite a few tre's. But they're probably the best 3-point shooting team I've seen in a long, long time.
Q. Eddie, how tough is it or tricky is it when you're recruiting two brothers where one may play a more prominent role than the other? Joey, how much of a transition has it for you getting used to still water after playing in Florida?
COACH SUTTON: Well, I think Stevie has made a lot of progress - not as much as Joey. I think in another year, Stevie will be a very, very good college basketball player. Different type of players, but these two guys came from a great home. Their mom and dad have done a marvelous job in raising them. I don't think there's any jealousy. I think the fact that Joey is doing well, Stevie is his biggest supporter. Sometimes brotherly love isn't as thick as it is with these two guys, but I think they really support each other. I am very optimistic that a year from now Stevie will be a heck of a college player. I think he's got a chance to help us tomorrow afternoon.
JOEY GRAHAM: I think the transition -- it was a big transition for me. Coming from the Atlantic Sun, competition was so much greater than where we was coming from. Guys were a lot bigger, a lot faster. I think the tempo was a lot faster than the Atlantic Sun conference we were in. But I think we've transitioned comfortably. The first year we sat out, was just a learning and a growing period, where we can just try to learn and absorb all the information that Coach Sutton had to teach us. Coach Sutton told us that, when you guys ready to play next year, we're going to have a major responsibility, and that's to come in, play great defense, get some rebounds. I think we're doing a great job so far of doing that.
Q. Coach, Ivan, Daniel, Tony, has John Lucas exceeded your expectations of him coming in this season as a transfer from what you were expecting him to be this season?
COACH SUTTON: Not being critical of the coaches staff that he had at Baylor, but he's so much better this year. There's a reason for that. He is a willing listener. I mean, he is a student of the game. He's been around basketball. Like any coach's son, he has a great instinct for how the game should be played. But he came in and he listened to my staff. He can take criticism because when he's done things that we didn't think he should be doing, we'd jump on him pretty good. He's certainly improved as a defensive player. His shot selection is so much better. There were times last year I think he felt when he crossed mid-court, he had the green light to shoot it. He's much more disciplined. But in answer to your question, yes, he has come a long, long ways. He certainly is one of the best point guards in college basketball.
THE MODERATOR: Final question while the student athletes are on the day dais.
Q. Ivan, update us on the food poisoning virus, but more importantly I want you to discuss, you have been called undersized all year long. This time people are saying you have the advantage inside. Can you talk about that match-up a little bit?
IVAN McFARLIN: First of all, I'm better now. I feel much better. About the size inside, you know, coach has told us we have a big advantage inside. Me and Joey and the players off the bench, TC, Jason, Davie, are going to have to step up tomorrow and produce. I think at times Joey steps up and at times I step up, and in some games we both step up. It's going to have to be one of those games that we both have to contribute and help out our perimeter players.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen. The student athletes will now go into their break-outs. Coach Sutton will remain on the dais and entertain all questions.
Q. Coach, John Lucas' dad last night said one of the things that he wanted for his son, he wanted him to work with a coach who has been through some adversity, he thought that would help him. From Kentucky, from personal problems, from the crash, do you think that's helped you at all?
COACH SUTTON: I think it has. That was a horrible experience that the Baylor players went through to think, you know, one teammate was killed by another, then all of the other things that followed as far as the violations. And I think the fact that some of us had gone through the tragedy with the airplane, my personal problem, what we had at Kentucky, I think that I was maybe able to relate to him. That was one of the first things he did when he came in. I wanted to make sure that the coaching staff embraced John. We did that. We wanted him to make him feel like he was part of our family. And I think the players did the same thing. I think the one reason this team has played so well is what John basically touched on, we are family. I've never had a team, I don't believe, that were any closer as an entire ballclub as this team is. We've had some great teams, certainly we always try to teach the family atmosphere. But I think this ballclub really, they chum around. That was one of the things that I think surprised John was at Baylor, you know, they lived in different places. The only time they saw each other was when they got to the practice court or game night. And our guys all live basically in the same complex, same area. So, you know, they're very close. I think that's helped. I think the team sensed that John, the horrible experience he had been through, they embraced him. I think of course we only have a couple of players that are still involved in the plain crash, Terrance Crawford and Ivan McFarlin.
Q. In a game that is so much talk about guards, can you expand a little bit on what Ivan said about the inside advantage you guys have, then a little bit on Ivan, as well, his career NCAA games, he's averaging in double-double.
COACH SUTTON: Well, there's no doubt that I would agree that, you know, their guard (inaudible) is certainly one of the best in college basketball. But they have some other players in the perimeter that are very good shooters, very good players. I think what he was playing that maybe if there's an advantage on the frontline, maybe he and Joey would be rated maybe higher than their four and five men. I think that's basically what he was trying to say. I don't know whether he said Coach Sutton said that. Sean might have told him that. I didn't say that. Ivan is a real warrior. Teams need blue-collar-type players. They need guys that will do the dirty work, take charge, take the rebounding, play defense. And it is true that he is averaging I think double-double in the NCAA games that he's participated in. So he's a very valuable player, and many times he isn't given proper credit for what he means to the basketball team. Yesterday he had an off day, but he was sick. You know, I wasn't sure he'd even be able to play because he got sick. He was sick all night. Even yesterday morning he didn't eat anything. The trainers and the doctors got him where at least he felt good enough that he could play. But he didn't have one of his best games.
Q. Following up on the question a while ago about some of the personal hardships you've been through, then looking at the success you've had in bringing in transfers, do you have a soft spot for kids that maybe need a home that are out there in the college basketball world, kind of looking for a place to fit in?
COACH SUTTON: Well, we made great success with transfers, but we never take one unless they're really good people. If they don't have a good character, I won't take them. All the players that we've ever taken like that, transfers, are really quality young men. I don't know whether I have a soft spot. I have a soft spot for all my players. But the one thing you always have going for you, when a young man transfers, he's really kind of locked in. Where is he going to go? Division II, Division III? Somebody coming from Baylor, somebody coming from Central Florida, BYU. So we've had great success. Probably wouldn't take as many junior college player transfers if we could recruit all high school players. But at Oklahoma State, I'm not sure we have some of the same advantages that other teams in our conference have. So we've had to take some transfers, and we've had to take some junior college players in order to compete with Kansas or Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma.
Q. Can you talk about defending their guards? Do you think help is the way to go when they penetrate because of their ability to kick ought? Do you have to defend them further on the 3-point line?
COACH SUTTON: No. I think the more you have to help, the more you hurt yourself. Sometimes it's better to give up a two-point basket than it is to allow somebody to break your defense down and kick it out and shoot a tre. This ballclub, of all the teams we've played this year, I've never seen a team that does the job any better in being able to penetrate, kick it out, open shot, knock it down. So, yes, we'll help at times, but there are going to be some times tomorrow that we will do things that you normally don't see us do. That is, if there's a shooter on the perimeter, somebody penetrates, we might not help. We might just not let him catch the ball. So it will be interesting. I think it will be an interesting ballgame. The two teams are pretty evenly matched in a lot of ways. So I guess the team that gets the most buckets will win.
Q. Coach Martelli noted that he's 49 years old, you've been coaching most of his adult life. What does that mean? He says at the same time there's nothing that he's going to throw that you've not seen before. What does it mean to coach for so long, what's the advantage? What has kept you in this for so long? How important is it for you to play for a national championship?
COACH SUTTON: Well, I think it goes without saying most endeavors, the more experience you have, the better off you should be. I coached a long time. I think I have seen probably almost everything that possibly your opponent could throw at you. The reason I have stayed in coaching is because I still think of myself as a teacher, educator. I feel like that our program has really helped a lot of young people in maturing and getting them prepared when they go out in the real world. To win a national title would be nice, but if I don't win a national title, I've had so much fun coaching, all the great kids that I've had, the wonderful assistants that I've had. You know, I know that all the young men that we've coached, a great many of them, really prospered from being a part of our program. Why do teachers stay in teaching? I mean, they do it because they feel like they're helping youngsters.
Q. You could coach many more years, several more years probably, and reach some real big records. Would winning a championship this year or making it to the title game lead you to retire now? Have you thought much about it?
COACH SUTTON: No, I really hadn't.
Q. What are the odds that you would not coach beyond this year if you win the championship?
COACH SUTTON: Thousand to one. I'm planning on coaching next year. I mean, we got a lot of these guys coming back. You know, coaching's a great profession when you win. It ain't worth a damn when you lose. If I was losing this whole ballclub, I'd say, "I think I'll retire," because I don't want to have any more seasons where you're sweating your fanny off while they're scratching a victory out every two or three games. I don't know. Right now, if I can get my hip feeling better, I'm going to coach some more.
Q. You said it's not that important to you to win a national championship personally. How important is it for the school? How precious is this opportunity?
COACH SUTTON: Well, you don't have that many opportunities to get to this point and get to the Final Four. I think with the teams that are left in the field, I think that we can play with all of them, and certainly most of them can probably beat us. But I think it's very important for your school, for a lot of reasons. For that, I hope that we're able to win tomorrow evening and move on to San Antonio and give ourselves a chance maybe to play for a national championship.
Q. Phil was saying when you're a young coach, you know everything. As you get older, you probably know what you don't know. Have you noticed anything about any trends about young coaches, what you've seen? Are they more humble? Do you think they think they know more than everybody?
COACH SUTTON: Well, there's a lot of bright young coaches. I think for the most part, they're pretty humble. I think they have a lot more advantages than we did coming up when I look at Lute Olson or Gene Keady, coaches, John Cheney, there weren't as many clinics. You didn't have the opportunity to watch teams on television. So I think if a coach, a young coach, is really dedicated, then he can probably improve himself quicker than maybe some of us were able to do. There's just a lot more ways to become a better student of the game. When you say "young coaches," young to me is 50. But if you're talking about coaches in their early 30s, late 30s, I mean, there's some bright young coaches. You brought up a point the other day, I firmly believe there's a lot of outstanding assistant coach, given the opportunity, can do a great job. If they've been under good coaches and learned from them, there's no reason they can't go out and run a Division I program.
Q. In all your years in the game, do you remember any team that has accomplished as much without an interior offensive presence the way Saint Joseph's has this year?
COACH SUTTON: Well, I'm sure there's been some, but I'm not sure I could give you one team that's done any more with just playing primarily a perimeter offensive game. They're big guys. I think they can score in there. They get a lot of their points just on put-backs or when the guards break the defense down and the person covering their frontline has to help off, then they get an easy layup. They've done a great job, their staff has really done a great job, because it's hard to win at the level they have won without having at least a little bit of an inside game. I mean, we're a little bit like that, although we've gotten a lot better. Ivan and Joey, especially Joey and his emergence as he's gotten better. But, you know, I think that it's easier to win with quality guard play than it is if you have a big guy and you don't have any guards. If you got a big guy, the guards are going to get him the ball. But I have been a great advocate of back-court play all my life. You look at most of the players I've had, I haven't had that many big guys, but I've had some great guards in my coaching career. They can determine -- they can handle tempo. For instance, the team we played last night. They controlled the tempo of the game with their offense, with their guard play. They shortened the length of the game. If you've got good guards, this he can harass the other team's guards, disrupt their offense. The two best defensive guards I've ever had, and, Dale Walker and Alvin Robertson, both 6'4", great athletes, took great pride in their defense. They didn't play four years together, but I'll never forget they coined the phrase "Let's make them start their offense with their ass to the glass." That's exactly what they were able to do. When those guys covered them, those guards out there were fighting for their lives. So if you got good guards, they're so valuable at both ends of the floor. That's why I think that Saint Joseph's is terrific, because of their great guard play.
Q. You were saying the other day how you have been a head coach your entire career. Do you remember anything about the very first basketball game you coached, or if not the very first, then your earliest recollection of a specific game that you coached?
COACH SUTTON: I was a grad assistant for one year with Mr. Iba (ph). But I went to Tulsa Central, the largest high school in the state of Oklahoma, when I was 23 years old. But I knew, you know, after having played there, been the assistant, coached the freshman team, I knew I could coach. Like I say, it's a lot easier today for a young coach to become a student of the game. I was very fortunate to have played for such a great coach, and he taught me so much about the game. In some ways I look back and maybe I would have -- if I had gone out and been an assistant first, probably I made a lot of mistakes in those early years. But I do remember the first game we played, Booker T. Washington. At that time in Tulsa, they were just going through where the African American students were coming to some of the other schools. Booker T. was terrific. I'll never forget, we played them, and they just -- at that time we played very conservative. We played very slow and deliberate. I think they beat us 44 to 41. So, yeah, you remember. You can't remember all the games, but you remember some games, even dating back to 1959 when I started coaching.
Q. When you were at Central High, '61, I think that's the last time Saint Joseph's was in the Final Four, I believe. Do you remember Saint Joseph's at all? Do you remember that Final Four? Do you remember that national championship at all?
COACH SUTTON: I don't remember that. You know, I remember the big five of Philadelphia. At that time that was one of the hotbeds of college basketball. But I don't remember that particular national championship. What year did LaSalle and Golan go to Kansas City and play?
COACH SUTTON: '54, I hitchhiked from Stillwater to Kansas City. One of the student managers and I hitchhiked, which is about 300 miles. You wouldn't hitchhike today. But we went up there and walked up and bought a ticket for $5. Wasn't sold out. Played in the municipal auditorium, which is where more national championship games have been played than any other place. I remember Tom Golan, LaSalle, watching the game. But you forget as you get older things that you once could just...
THE MODERATOR: We thank you and wish you the best of luck tomorrow night.
COACH SUTTON: Thank you.
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