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March 31, 1995
ALFRED WHITE: We've got Donald Williams, Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace on stage with us. If you have questions, raise your hand and we'll get one of our microphones to you.
Q. For Don Williams, Donald, could you talk about the difference in chemistry from this team and last year?
DONALD WILLIAMS: Well, it's no difference, than last year we went deep, and this year we're not, and the guys are getting more play time.
Q. For Donald, what do you remember about the championship two years ago?
DONALD WILLIAMS: Same situation, we came in the Final Four, as underdogs, and everyone was thinking we were going to not beat Michigan, and we proved them wrong, and we came to the Final Four this year, and same situation.
Q. This is for Jerry. Do you kind of hope that Arkansas presses you?
JERRY STACKHOUSE: No, I know that's what they're going to do. But we ask that they break their initial press and get in our transition game. And once we do, we'll get some easy baskets.
Q. For Jerry. What did you guys learn in watching films? What did Kentucky's press, what did you guys do wrong about that, and what do you need to do against Arkansas?
JERRY STACKHOUSE: I think we changed up a little bit on our press before the Kentucky game. I think that might have been where we mixed up a little bit. I think we went back to the way we've always done things as far as handling the press.
Q. Jerry, you were going along having a heck of a season, and being recognized for that, and then all of a sudden you're declared national player of the year with several games to go in the regular season, a national magazine. Did that introduce a different kind of pressure, was that something for you to deal with or cope with when that listing came out a few weeks ago?
JERRY STACKHOUSE: Not really. I still felt that we had some things, goals that we wanted to accomplish in the team, and I didn't let any individual goals affect the way I wanted our team goals to be. I think we have a -- really didn't have a chance to accomplish the goals we set out for the beginning of the season. I don't think that there is any more pressure there than I had put on myself. I really had set for myself and my team to achieve a lot of goals, and I think that we reached them.
Q. Rasheed, where do you come down on the backboard shattering issue, and have you ever taken one down, yourself?
RASHEED WALLACE: Well, I cracked a couple of rims in my time, but I never shattered a whole backboard, like Big Country did today. That's an amazing feat. Plus I don't think I'm heavy enough to crack a backboard.
Q. This is for Jerry. Jerry, how does it feel, and how do you handle being compared and being called the next Michael Jordan?
JERRY STACKHOUSE: I have to take it as a compliment. I think everybody knows Michael Jordan is the greatest player. For people to think that we have some things in common, gives me a lot of encouragement, and a lot of confidence. But I still think that I have my own style of playing and I think we do do some things similar, but basically it's almost a totally different game.
Q. For Rasheed. Arkansas likes to step out and take the three-on-one, I wonder how that affects your defensive plans.
RASHEED WALLACE: He can take it out if he wants, because the percentages on hitting three, from what I saw of Arkansas, they're pretty good, but it won't always happen.
Q. For Donald. I'm wondering if being so hot two years ago leading your team to the National Championship, being named as most outstanding player, did that change your life at all?
DONALD WILLIAMS: I think I just had a great tournament in '93, and just something to dream about came true. And as far as last year, you know, injuries happen one season, work all summer, and forget about that, and came out with the success we had this year, and was happy to be back again to the Final Four.
Q. This is for Jerry. There's a number of high profile players at this Final Four, such as Big Country, the O'Bannons, yourself, Rasheed, a lot of stars. And when you get into a setting like this, do you feel the need to kind of take it up another level to carry a team, and how important are the so-called stars in an event like this?
JERRY STACKHOUSE: Really sometimes the stars probably wind up canceling each other out, role players and those guys are the guys that really step up and really can dictate what happens in these games. And I think that it would be no different this time. I think it really is going to depend on our guys off the bench come in and help us and everybody. It's definitely a great field, but as long as we don't get up there and get caught up into individual matters, and it's still a team, that would be the key.
Q. I'd like to have both Rasheed and Jerry answer this question. Just about what it's like to play for a coach that's been around and had as much experience as Coach Smith, the age difference you have and whether that ever comes into play in your dealings.
JERRY STACKHOUSE: It's been great, because he's almost like a father figure to us. Our parents are older than a lot of parents of kids my age, so it's good. He's teaching us a lot, not only about basketball, but about other things, and it's been great. He scolds us, but he picks us up when we're down.
RASHEED WALLACE: To me, he's a phenomenal coach, the things that he's done in the past and the things he's doing now. And he's just one of the top notch coaches out there, and he's trustworthy, my mom trusts me with him, and he trusts my mom with me, so there ain't too much more you can say about a coach, it just works.
Q. Donald, you were kind of the last link to your team that played Arkansas in the tournament two years ago, but can you look at Arkansas, they have a lot of the same people playing, tell us how they've changed and become a better team since then. And what do you remember about that game.
DONALD WILLIAMS: The team had much more size in '93. And I think as far as the players they're the same, as far as pressing for 40 minutes, and I think it's added more size, and I think they're better than the 93 team.
Q. How far back, Jerry, do you have any past relationship with Corliss in the summer play or AAU or anything, and talk about the -- just what it takes to defend a guy like that.
JERRY STACKHOUSE: Yeah, we spent some time in the summer and everything, but no, he's definitely I think he's definitely a key for Arkansas, I think. In order for us to be able to contend we're going to have to close down on him and make him kick it out and make him beat us.
Q. For Rasheed and Jerry. I know playing in Carolina, and being part of the Carolina tradition, nothing is supposed to overwhelm you. When it comes to a setting like this, does it feel a little different before a game as opposed to an ACC regular season or tournament game?
JERRY STACKHOUSE: Not really. I mean you have anxieties, but to me it feels almost like an ACC tournament. That's big for us, I mean it's just another step to what we want to accomplish, really. I mean it's definitely a big game. You have the type of fanfare out there this year, you haven't seen, but I think we have to look at it like we're playing a game, it's just going to help us improve for the next game. And that's how we're looking at it.
Q. This is for any or all. When you've made your decision to go to North Carolina, were any of you guys fully aware of the extreme loyalty that many NBA players that have gone there have for the school, and even the coaches that have coached there and their loyalty to the school, and if so, how has that come into your experience, coming in contact with them to enhance your Carolina experience?
RASHEED WALLACE: Well, if we weren't going to the program, then we wouldn't have came to North Carolina, that's the way I feel. And past players that went to Carolina and come in the summer, they have a lot of loyalty, to sit back and tell the stories about their road trips and this and that. But for a lot of loyalty, the Coach Smith has a lot of respect.
JERRY STACKHOUSE: Those guys, they write back and give us good luck, and encouragement, and come back, stop back and talk to us and everything, and give us encouragement. But it's definitely the feeling throughout the program, and it's just the camaraderie we feel among our players past and present is just great.
DONALD WILLIAMS: I think that it's a big family atmosphere. And once a player graduates from North Carolina, and attends back in the summer and play pickup games with us and hang out, I think during the season if we lose or something they call and leave a message getting on us, but they call keep in touch with us, and they never forget the North Carolina program.
Q. Rasheed, would you address the problem of dealing with Williamson and the bulk there? Does he remind you of anybody you were playing against in your ACC?
RASHEED WALLACE: He reminds me of Julian, because Julian has that bulk on him and the muscle. But I have to do the same way, I have to play the same way I played against Virginia, I hustle and really try.
Q. For each of the players, would you talk about the idea of facing a defending national champion? You said it was another game that would help you improve toward the next game, it is a defending champion trying to get another title, talk about that aspect and how that's playing in what you're thinking about as you approach tomorrow?
RASHEED WALLACE: I think that even though Jerry and myself weren't here, Don was here, but Carolina is a defending national champion, also, they won it in '93 before Arkansas won it. So, it's like a battle of champions, it's going to be a good ballgame, and there's going to be some big players, and every player is going to be in possession.
Q. For Jerry or anybody. In hoop dreams, the line of the coach is, keep in touch. And you know he really didn't give a damn. What's the difference? Why do you feel that those guys who go away from Carolina are still drawn back to that program? What's different about what goes on at Carolina?
JERRY STACKHOUSE: I guess it's just the way that it is kept up through Coach Smith. He calls, he's involved with their lives after the basketball is over with. The NBA or the guy who's going to work for some firm somewhere, he cares about us all the same. And I think once guys see that, and sees he has respect, and cares about us the same, they look up to him so much, and they try and keep in contact with what's going on.
ALFRED WHITE: We've run out of time with the North Carolina players, Coach Smith is here now. Players are excused.
COACH SMITH: We're very pleased to be here, it's obvious. I think any team that is here has to feel lucky, there's probably 40 teams each year are good enough -- me minds me of the NC State, they have a railroad track. But seriously, we are excited, and I think all the teams should be. And I think anybody could win it. You get this close to win two games, but we're looking, of course, hopefully and only at Arkansas because I just think they're playing extremely well. Any of you saw their game against Virginia, they're very athletic, they're very active defensively, and we didn't look like we were really great against the press and playing Kentucky. They're a great rebounding team, and we have to handle the ball and we have to be able to rebound in order to come out, even make it close.
Q. Coach, with this being the 10th team that you've brought to this level, I'm wondering, is it as gratifying a feeling for you personally, as it was to take teams to the Final Four in the '60s and the '70s and the '80s and even into the '90s?
COACH SMITH: From a coaching standpoint, I really believe each team has its own identity, and we're equally excited with any win or any advancement in the NCAA tournament. I even remember 1967. And I guess that's a good sign. But still I do think I'm equally excited, I'm happy most for the guys that haven't been here. I think it's a great experience. For a while we thought each one of our players should have the experience one time, and in '87 we didn't do a great job against Derrick Coleman and Syracuse and failed to go. But I'm pleased that Pat Sullivan can be in three by redshirting and he can have some good luck for a change.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Donald Williams' role in the last National Championship, and his fitting into the structure of the program since then and it's kind of a different situation for most players?
COACH SMITH: It really has been different for Donald from the standpoint when he was a sophomore and he started about halfway through the season he got in the starting lineup and he became our No. 1 option for outside shooting. We were still intent on going inside there with Eric Montross and George Lynch really didn't have a position, but he was an outside shooter. Brian Reese was tremendous getting the ball into Montross. And Derrick Phelps to me is one of greatest guards in college, and I'm shocked he isn't in the pros. But the outside shot was the main reason they keep telling me why he's not in the NBA, but he'll be there, he has to be some day. So therefore Donald's job was to take any open three and he's gotten so much better as a basketball player in penetration and that little runner, he's better at that. We go equally to Calabria or Donald on any set place for three. So, it's been a different role. And I think midway through this season Jerry realized that this isn't high school where he's supposed to try and make a play every time he catches it. I think the others realize that we had a guy named Rasheed Wallace on the team, and we didn't want him to touch the ball or feel a part of it. And since then I think we've really improved, and Donald was the leader in that. Donald Williams really is getting the ball inside, he's playing well defensively. He's a better basketball player than when he made those five out of seven for two nights, and that of course is why you voted him as outstanding player. I might have voted for George Lynch that night myself.
Q. Dean, are you concerned at all about the way the game might be called tomorrow? Especially as aggressive as Arkansas is with their press?
COACH SMITH: One of the reasons we have the NCAA officiating committee put in force is to create uniform officiating throughout the country. And basketball is a difficult game to officiate, but it still says if I'm shooting or passing and I hit my arm and I have a ball, it's a foul. It's still in the rule book, you still expect it to be called. I'm amazed at how people say how it's called as if it should be called differently. It's supposed to be uniform throughout the country. The NCAA has lost millions of dollars probably trying to get this in place because we do want officiating to improve as the coaching techniques, as playing techniques, as players improve. The game is going just like this, and officiating is supposed to be with it. And I think we have improved it to be more uniform, and so I would be disappointed in you're saying -- let us, know, too, we can fight. That's why I'm saying if I'm driving 70 miles an hour, and the other guy is going 90, maybe both of us should be penalized, but the guy that's 90 if it isn't called is going to win the race.
Q. Dean, Arkansas is going to push the pace pretty much the whole game, because that's their style. Do you fear that, do you want it to be a fast game, can you win a fast game in the nineties or the hundreds?
COACH SMITH: We beat Duke 102 to 100, in overtime. We average 84.9. Arkansas averages 88. So, we hope they don't hit their average, and we hope -- maybe we win 85-82 I'd love that. I'd love winning 39-38, 21-20. So, I think we're pretty flexible on that throughout the season. We've played good teams, and we always look to fast break, ever since I've been the Head Coach, and that's not going to be any different. If they press us, we'll take it through, and if we get an easy one, we'll take it. If we don't get an easy one, we'll wait until we get a good one.
Q. Coach, you know something about what it's like dealing with heavy expectations every year, and how the perceptions can linger, wrong as they may be, if you don't achieve those. With that in mind can you talk about what it might have been like for Nolan with five players back from a National Championship getting back to this level?
COACH SMITH: The first thing you have to congratulate them getting back to this level. With five returning starters, that's unusual. I know we didn't have George Lynch back, who was really the heart and soul of our team of '93. But we had the other guys back. But that doesn't necessarily mean in '93 if we played the Final Four again, we probably wouldn't have won next week. So, that's why I find it remarkable that they have done what they've done. I think they're a better team now for having gone through the Alabama game in Arkansas, to go at Alabama and win was very impressive after that. I think they're a better team than if they would have won all their games coming in here by two or three points. They've gone through some adversities, and it's really helped them. But what Duke came back with -- their key players were back, they lost somebody that didn't -- they really had all their starters back, essentially. So, that's highly unusual today, and it probably won't happen with the professional situation the way it is. You probably won't have teams where they're returning everybody intact for the next year.
Q. How have you adapted to the changing times and the change in life-style in this century that you've been coaching?
COACH SMITH: Century? I didn't coach in the 19th Century, no. I'd say that human nature is much the same. And even though they were exposed to so much more with television and the movies and all this, but I find them delightful young people to be around. They do what they're told. Of course I suppose that's the kind of guy that will choose North Carolina, if you choose North Carolina or Indiana you know what you're getting, so there's no surprises. And a guy that maybe won't choose us that wants to do it his own way, entirely. So, I really haven't seen that much difference in people. And I hope I'm like any other college professor, some of you when you were in college I know had somebody that was in his sixties teaching you, and hope he could still teach his subject. But of course in the coach/player relationship it's a little more involved, because you're with them so much, and it's much more like a graduate student working with one professor.
Q. Dean, Dante is sort of a free spirit type on your team. Could you talk about him as a personality and a player?
COACH SMITH: I don't know if free spirit is a good way to say it, but he's a heck of a basketball player, excellent student, and he wants to be in business and think of ways to make money, he says. He's very frugal with what he has, I know that. He even was trying to sell, I shouldn't say this, but when we were recruiting him, he was trying to work a deal something of -- well, I'll let him tell it, but he was selling something for ten cents, but he got enough students to buy it, so he made about three dollars. But he really is a tremendous young man, and one that is so important to our success. He does it defensively. We may put him on Beck, because he's very good keeping people off the board. He's guarded six ten people this year, six nines, and he's played point guard for us.
Q. Dean, you mentioned the press problems against Kentucky. But you also met a very good team that way. Could there be a better team preparing you for Arkansas than that team?
COACH SMITH: Probably Murray State, Bob, because Scott Edgar was Nolan's assistant for 11 years, and we tried to play the same way. And if Nolan happened to look at the tape there midway through the first half he has to really be smiling about pressing North Carolina. We didn't do a very good job there, and our problem being that we were prepared all year, and played well against Maryland's press in the ACC tournament and they took it off, taking it through, and that's the least of our worries facing Murray State and all of a sudden it became a worry.
Q. Dean, would you update us on McInnis's situation? Did he practice yesterday and how do you think -- how effective do you think he'll be tomorrow?
COACH SMITH: I think Jeff will be very effective. He wasn't supposed to do a lot, but I kind of, well, said, come on out here, Jeff, and see what we're trying to do. Next thing you know he did practice, maybe 20 minutes of the time and did very well. So, I'd say he's ready to go, and if we should be fortunate enough to win, that would be a huge problem, because he needs time on the groin pull. But we don't worry about that, because we're playing a great basketball team, which I think is the best team I've seen, as I started watching the tapes this year.
ALFRED WHITE: Okay. Coach, thank you very much. We're expecting the Arkansas team to be with us any minute, now, so we can stay on schedule.
End of FastScripts....