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March 31, 2004
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
BILL HANCOCK: Good morning or good afternoon, everybody. We appreciate your calling to participate in today's call. As you know, the format will be 15 minutes with each coach. We'll start with Coach Hewitt, then Coach Sutton, then Coach Calhoun, then Coach Krzyzewski. Paul, I'd like to start off and ask you if you could describe your feelings having qualified for the Final Four?
COACH HEWITT: Obviously, we're all very, very happy at Georgia Tech. Our players have done an outstanding job this season, a season where people did not expect an awful lot out of us. But I thought they did a great job of working in the off-season and raising our own expectations. It's nice to see the reaction that they received from their fellow students as well as faculty and staff here at Georgia Tech on accomplishing this feat.
BILL HANCOCK: We're ready for questions.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about the performance of Jarrett Jack in the regional final the other day, how he has stepped it up?
COACH HEWITT: Jarrett is a young man that really understands the history of basketball, in particular college basketball. I'm not surprised. I wasn't surprised that he played so well with so much passion in that game. A regional final game, I'm sure just being in the game meant a lot to him. I knew he -- I know he has that type of makeup to step up and play a special ballgame in that situation. Without him, obviously we're not going to the Final Four, especially when you consider the fact we played without BJ Elder.
Q. You guys came off a 16-15 season last year. You lose players. I think you were picked to finish seventh in the ACC. Could you go over a couple of key factors that emerged this year that took this team to another level?
COACH HEWITT: The return of Clarence Moore and Will Bynum becoming eligible, those are two things that added a bit of toughness to this team. We have experienced players. That's the thing I focused on starting the free season. I looked at our guys and I thought that Jarrett had gone through the whole year in the ACC. Marvin Lewis is a senior. Isma'il and BJ were Juniors. The other thing that people overlooked, I can't blame them, I thought we had a lot of depth on the frontline. I said ACC media, we have as much or more depth than anybody in the ACC. You just have provide those guys, Luke Schenscher, Theodis, Anthony Mchenry with an opportunity in minutes to prove it. Obviously, I'm glad they made me look good.
Q. How surprised are you that you were able to win those two games last weekend without Elder, basically? How was it done? What is his status now?
COACH HEWITT: In retrospect, I am surprised. While you're going through the game, I don't think you think about those things. You're just trying to figure out a way to put your team in position to win. It says a lot about how tough our guys are and also a lot about the depth we have on this team, that we can overcome an obstacle like BJ's injury, which obviously was a very unlucky thing for us. In regards to how he looks at this weekend, I think he'll play. If he's not at a hundred percent, he should be close to a hundred percent.
Q. I just wanted to get your take on how you go through the season in terms of scheduling, playing games, big-time venues such as the Garden, how that helps getting to this time of year?
COACH HEWITT: Well, it helps an awful lot when you have success. When you win games, it really builds confidence. The bigger the opponent or the more formidable the opponent, it really builds confidence. Winning at Madison Square Garden against Connecticut, that was a big shot in the arm for these guys. Going through the ACC season, any road win is a big win. It builds on the confidence. I thought the timing of some of our wins was significant, in particular winning at Duke late in the year just before going into the NCAA tournament, that was probably the most significant of all the victories.
Q. After getting to see John Lucas on film a couple times, what stands out to you about him? Are you surprised Will has been able to play so many minutes with guys he hasn't played with before?
COACH HEWITT: No, I'm not surprised. Obviously, Coach Sutton, he knows what he's doing. They've always been a team, they've executed very well both on the offensive and defensive end. They really play well together. I remember reading some articles about Coach Sutton early in my coaching career where he would always take the Christmastime, when kids were out of class, really work on some of the execution, both offensively and defensively. John is a very intelligent basketball player. He's also a very confident basketball player. Despite having a poor shooting half against Saint Joe's in the first half, he came back and we all know made two huge shots in that game to advance them to the Final Four. I think his confidence is something that I've been most impressed with than anything else.
Q. Since the other three coaches in this thing have taken teams to the Final Four before and you haven't, do you feel at any particular disadvantage having to deal with the distractions, commotions that go along outside the court while you are there?
COACH HEWITT: I'm sure those guys have a better handle on how to manage the whole off-court things that come with being in the Final Four. But what we've tried to do is just tried to make it as normal as possible, get back to class, we tried to reduce the media commitments just to try to keep it to one day, and really focus on school, the time that we missed in class, get that stuff squared away, and also focus on Oklahoma State. I want them to enjoy this moment. I don't want them to be sequestered and hide, but at the same time still understand there's a task at hand. The fact this is a veteran team, that helps me in my cause to try to keep them focused.
Q. You mentioned one of the ways you built this team was experience and depth. I think one of the things that this change in college basketball that there really is not just one way to win. Would you talk to that and how college basketball has changed that respect over the last 10 or 15 years?
COACH HEWITT: First, I think because of obviously the departures, early departures, you can almost skip a step sometimes if you get lucky on the building process. There was a time when you needed to have guys play together for one, maybe two years, then maybe go through a tough loss somewhere along the line before they get ready in their third and fourth year to make that run. Now, last year Carmelo Anthony taking his team to the Final Four, first time ever a freshman was to do something like that, second time if you count Pervis Ellison. I don't think it's going to be as rare any more, you get that right combination in that given year. You look at Oklahoma State, they have so many new guys coming in. The continuity of college basketball is not what it used to be. You no longer have to have guys play together for one or two seasons. Now maybe half a season, three-quarters of a season might be enough to have them become a cohesive unit and then get hot at the right time walking into the tournament.
Q. Last time you guys were at the Final Four, you had Lethal Weapon III with a lot of individual stars. This time around it's collectively your team. Could you talk about that mentality you have where you don't have much star power, but anybody on that bench can step up and have a big game for you when you need it?
COACH HEWITT: I think people overlook the fact that we have a -- the fact we have a lot of depth, people may not value the talent we have. We have some very talented players. What we have are some very mature and unselfish players. A guy like Will Bynum, Isma'il Muhammad, I think those guys can start anywhere in the country. BJ Elder, obviously he may go someplace else and get more shots. I think what you have is a unique group in that they understand exactly what it takes to be successful. I think they appreciate, especially after going through last year where we were again a very talented team but maybe didn't have the mettle to win those close games, and maybe not the unselfishness to win those very close games. They appreciate what they have to do to win. I think they all are very, very talented. Again, because we play so many guys, it's a different guy every night, people may get lulled into this thing that they're not very good, but the sum is greater than the individual parts. The individual parts of this team are very, very good. It's just when they pull it together, they become especially tough.
Q. Back to the ACC tournament. Do you think because you guys didn't have to play three games in three days, were fresher maybe, these other three teams did, your situation was a little different there, what was the situation at the end of the year as far as the freshness of the team going into the tournament?
COACH HEWITT: I don't think at this point in the tournament it really is a factor. We were fine. We just got outplayed against Duke in that second game. They absolutely took it to us. I guess you'd have to ask the other three coaches. For us, I didn't notice a big difference. I think if we would have played one more day, I don't think it would have made a big difference at all. Again, at this point in the tournament, you have gone over a couple weekends, had quite a few days off in between rounds. I think right now we're all on the same level in terms of freshness and obviously health. We've had some time for everybody to heal up.
Q. When you look at the other three coaches, they may be more prepared about the distractions, do you look at yourself in comparison with them, they're all somewhat legends?
COACH HEWITT: It's the old question of who doesn't belong and why (laughter)? No, you know, I have an enormous amount of respect for those coaches. I coached high school basketball in the New York area for three years before I got into college coaching. I can tell you every one of those guys have, I've looked at a video, listened to them speak in a clinic somewhere along the lines. Those guys are Hall of Fame coaches. They've had unbelievable success. I remember -- I can still remember the cover the Sports Illustrated 1978, with Sydney, High on the Hogs. That was Coach Sutton's team with Delph, Brewer, Sydney. Those guys are the best in our business and I'm glad that my team has put me in position where I get a chance to compete against them this weekend.
Q. You were talking about losing Chris. Obviously a big loss to your team. Do you feel that was a big setback on your program or do you feel like you were where you wanted to be after four years?
COACH HEWITT: What had happened, you couldn't help but feel it was a little bit of a setback. Once we get into the practice, we realized that we have what it takes to overcome, you know, that loss. Chris was perfect for this group. He was a very unselfish player - a lot like the guys we have now. We definitely, definitely miss Chris. Once we got into practice, we feel we can overcome it. Given a couple breaks here, there, the development of a couple people, we can be as good as anybody in the country. We determined that the first 10 days of practice. I remember having a meeting with the team, saying just that. "You guys have a chance to be as good as anyone in the country if we do these four or five things as well." The top of the list was defense, defending, and the second on the list was rebounding.
Q. In the NCAA tournament, foul trouble can be critical in the game. How important is it for the players to get a good feel for the officials quickly, especially when you haven't seen any of the three that may work your game?
COACH HEWITT: It's important. It's very, very important. We're just lucky we have some guys that can come off the bench and offset some of that foul trouble. First game, Jarrett Jack picked up two quick fouls right off in the first half and, Will Bynum came off the bench and honestly, if we didn't have Will Bynum, against Northern Iowa. We would have gone home after the first round. I think it is important, but at the same time you can't lose your aggressiveness on defense. That's one of the things that has helped this team be successful all year. But, yes, you do have to be smart.
BILL HANCOCK: Paul, thank you very much. Coach Sutton is on the line. Congratulations on returning to the Final Four.
COACH SUTTON: Thank you.
BILL HANCOCK: We'd like to go ahead and go to questions from the callers.
Q. The two teams you've taken to the Final Four in the past, what have you learned about how to deal with the outside distractions and commotions that go along with that? How different is the Final Four now than it was that team you took back in '78 in terms of the hoopla?
COACH SUTTON: I'll answer the second question first. I personally think the regionals now are very similar to what we saw in '78 in St. Louis when we took the Razorbacks to the Final Four. I think the tournament has grown by leaps and bounds in all areas, but certainly in media coverage and fan interest. Distractions is really a problem for the coaching staff in trying to keep everybody focused. I'm sure on everybody's campus right now, the coeds go around, pat the guys on the back. Everybody wants autographs, their phone rings off the wall. It's very difficult to just really insulate them to a certain degree. I think it's easier maybe when you get to the final site because there you can lock them up in the hotel where people can't get to them and you can shut the telephones off. So we're not coming down until tomorrow. There's a lot of people I think often go down a day early, but we've missed so many classes that we felt like we needed to stay here as long as we could. We're not going to leave until after classes tomorrow, so we'll get in there tomorrow afternoon.
Q. Considering the tragedy that occurred three years ago, does this season and this Final Four trip have special meaning both for yourself and do you think for Oklahoma State in general?
COACH SUTTON: Oh, I think it certainly does that. I know one of the two players that was part of that squad, Terrence Crawford, made mention after one of the games, I think the first site in Kansas City, he said, "Don't you think those 10 people up there are smiling down on us?" So that's always been on our minds. Those were 10 unbelievable people. But I think that it certainly helps to heal some of the aching that still exists on this campus because of the loss of those 10 people. You know, for our coaching staff, McFarlin, Terrence Crawford, I know this is a very meaningful event.
Q. Can you quickly tell me the first impressions that you had of the Graham twins when a tape went out to you, how they've fit in this year and mesh with your group?
COACH SUTTON: The first thing that jumped out at me was their great athletic ability. You know, they certainly are better athletes when they got here than they were basketball players. I think our coaching staff certainly has helped develop them, especially Joey, Steve is a little bit behind. But I think the other thing, once they got here, was the impression, what great kids they are. They're marvelous youngsters. They epitomize what one would look for in a student athlete. They're both outstanding students. Joey has just developed into an outstanding basketball player.
Q. Could you talk about how you've adapted your style over the years, how you've adapted this year with this team, where the principles that Coach Iba gave you are still evident with this bunch?
COACH SUTTON: I don't think my philosophy in certain areas has ever changed from the day I took over Tulsa Central in 1959. You know, you win -- teams win consistently with good defense, taking care of the basketball, not beating yourself, minimizing your errors, getting your players to play hard, finding out what makes each player tick and motivating them. Some players you have to pat them on the back, some players you have to be more stern with them. Through the years, we have played much faster than we did maybe in the days of Arkansas. I think we were more deliberate. Our defensive principles have not changed. 90% of the thing we do on defense were given to me by Mr. Iba. But with the clock coming in, the 3-point shot, I think a lot of people changed. We play much faster. I think it's up to the coaching staff to identify what is the best for each team that you have. I mean, this team shoots the ball very well. I think we probably shoot the ball a bit quicker than some of the teams in the past. The one thing that we do every year, I think this is where coaches that are successful do, you identify each player's weaknesses and strengths. You hear that term, "He's a role player," well, everybody is a role player. It's up to the coaching staff to tell that person his strengths and weaknesses and his teammates must know this. This is how we have the best chance of winning. Mr. Iba gave me so much, and he gave a lot of other people a lot. You talk to Dean or Bob, Mike, a lot of the things they do are certainly in principle some of the things that Mr. Iba taught.
Q. You have so many transfers in the program this year, have had them over the years. Why is your program so welcoming to transfers?
COACH SUTTON: Well, I think we've had great success with youngsters. We don't ever take a transfer unless we know he's got good character and he's a good human being. I don't take any people that haven't proven either to their last program that -- see, most kids that transfer, this is where presidents go way off base, I think coaches kick players -- I don't believe that at all. Might happen occasionally. Players transfer because for the most part, they want to go down. In the Graham situation or in Bobik, in Lucas, there were reasons they left. We've had great success in getting those players. If we could recruit all the high school players, like Mike does, we wouldn't go after junior college players, we wouldn't go after transfers. But we don't have that luxury of being able to compete at the national level with high school players. So we have an open door. It's amazing how many transfers call us and want to come, and we turn down a lot of them. We're very fortunate in this group of young men we have at the time, they're super.
Q. After you guys won the Big-12 tournament, did you see this kind of run in the team? It looked like you were really coming together at the right time. Were you concerned at all about having to play three straight days there just before the NCAA started or what was the mood set about that?
COACH SUTTON: Well, I think that we won the round-robin, which is the most important part of winning a conference championship. You can get hot in a conference tournament. You know, there's a lot of coaches that feel like you hurt yourself a little bit for NCAA play by tiring yourself out. I've never felt that way. We played very well in the conference tournament in Dallas. We continued to play well for the most part in Kansas City, East Rutherford. I just hope it carries over into San Antonio.
Q. You were speaking earlier about the crash. I know with you guys in the tournament, these stories are being revisited. How much is that tragedy still a part of your life? Are there a lot of daily reminders?
COACH SUTTON: It will always be a part of my life. There's not a day goes by that I don't think about one of those 10 people that lost their lives. We have an academic center right here in our arena. Right outside the door is this beautiful memorial is there, has a picture of each one of the people. I get down there every day. When I walk by there, I pause, I look at some of those guys and think of all the great times, the pleasant memories. I think any of the families, anyone that was a part of it, I'm not sure there's ever complete closure. I think it's always going to be in your heart and in your mind.
Q. What qualities do you define mental toughness in a basketball team, something you look at and can see that that team or player is mentally tough?
COACH SUTTON: Well, I think you can see it sometimes when guys dive on the floor after loose balls, they're not afraid to take charges. Mental toughness covers a lot of areas. I think, for instance, John Lucas has great mental toughness, just like taking that last shot. There are a lot of players that are really good players that I've had through the years, they would go and hide, they didn't want to take that last shot. They didn't want the tragedy of missing it, everybody saying, "Hey, you missed that shot, it cost us a trip to San Antonio." John, certainly he's not afraid to take that shot. I think that's a good example of mental toughness.
Q. Speaking of John Lucas, what is it about his personality that maybe made it easy for them to be kind of accepted right away as a transfer from another program so quickly?
COACH SUTTON: I think, first of all, he's just a quality human being. He comes from a great family. He came in here and I think some of us that faced tragedy in the past, I think we tried to embrace him in every way we could. He made his visit here, fell in love with our players. They're our best recruiters. He wanted to come here. When his mother brought him up here, our players helped him unload the trailer. John did everything that he possibly could to make sure that his teammates knew him as a person, that he wasn't selfish in any way. He wanted to be a part of this team. So he certainly went beyond what maybe he needed to do. But I think our team maybe took two steps even more so in making him feel that way. We have a rule where players have to come to our office every day to sign in. So I think our coaches really made him feel at home. He has just surpassed I think what most of us thought he would be able to do in his first year here. He just has gotten so many better defensively. He understands as a point guard you have to share that ball. I think at times in the past when he was at Baylor, he didn't do that. He was more of an off guard. But he's been a real asset. We certainly would not be in the Final Four if it wasn't no John Lucas.
Q. Your team has been described as not having a first-round NBA pick on the team. What does that say about your team? Secondly, do you divide up your assistant coaching duties any particular way?
COACH SUTTON: Well, we haven't had that many Division I prospects here at Oklahoma State, but we've had a lot of wonderful players that are great college players because they come and they listen, their work habits are good. I've had great assistant coaches everywhere I've been, because I don't hire them unless I think they can someday head up a Division I program. I've been blessed with a lot of super coaches. I've have the great staff I've ever had with Sean, James Dickey. Dickey has been with me at four at Arkansas two here, so ten years, plus being a head coach. Sean has been with me ever since he was a four-year-old and heard those halftime, pregame, post game talks at Arkansas. He sat on the end of the bench. I've got a great staff. Sean probably is more in charge of the offense. James probably heads up the defense. And Zip does a little bit of both of them. This is a great staff, and I say this so often, head coaches get too much credit, assistants never get enough.
BILL HANCOCK: We'll see you in a couple days, Eddie.
COACH SUTTON: Okay, Bill.
BILL HANCOCK: Hi, Jim. Congratulations on being back in the Final Four.
COACH CALHOUN: Thank you.
BILL HANCOCK: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Duke and Connecticut have played some of the most dramatic games in the NCAA history, just a few of them. Have you played enough to be a rivalry? Can you talk about the connection? Is there something there between Duke and Connecticut?
COACH CALHOUN: Again, I think North Carolina and Duke, suffice it to say, a rivalry. NC State and (inaudible). I know Syracuse and us are terrific rivals. Since the Big East has been formed over the past 25, 30 years, a great rival. I think the fact we've been fortunate enough to get terrific players here, and as we've grown in national stature, the program that has particularly over the past decade stood at the top is Duke. We've been fortunate enough to challenge them at points in time, particularly in the NCAA tournament, to try to make a run at that. I guess it was inevitable that if you want to move up in the ranks of college basketball, that you're going to see Mike and company at the end (laughter). We've been fortunate enough to get ourselves to play them in some of those games.
Q. What are your memories of that first national championship when you beat Duke?
COACH CALHOUN: It was a special memory. I think it was more than just one game. It was really, quite frankly, a decade of excellence with our kids from Chris Smith, to Ray Allen, Donyell Marshall, Kevin, all the terrific players, Ray Allen, Travis Knight, all the good kids we had that come so close. A Christian Laettner shot, four-point loss to the eventual champ UCLA in Oakland, a loss to Vince Carter and company in Greensville, North Carolina, some gut-wrenching losses. Then to get to the Final Four, win it against a program that I have great respect for, in some ways have emulated some of the things, not necessarily stylistically, but some of the things Mike has done, and our goal is to beat the best. In my generation of coaches, in and around that period, I think Mike will probably fess up that he's not as old as me, or he'll say it right out, as a matter of fact, but of our generation of coaches over the past 15, 20 years, I think Mike has been the guy to beat, and his teams have been the teams to beat. Clearly it made it even extra special because of my great respect for him, my admiration for what he's done. It was really for all the kids who played for us, including Richard Hamilton, all the kids involved with that team, but the all the great work, starting with Cliff Robinson when I first got here in '86, it really was a summation, it was an exclamation point, "We're here now." Going against Mike made it even more special.
Q. Final Four used to be populated by a bunch of big-time, low-post centers. You don't see that much any more. You have Okafor, how valuable is a guy like that on defense considering most teams don't have a guy like that?
COACH CALHOUN: He's obviously in my opinion the most valuable player in basketball. I know other players, there are some terrific players around, awards, national Player of the Year, rightfully so, but I think if you asked 325 coach, I'd be curious to see who wouldn't want to get a kid who -- until he got hurt, he was averaging 20 points a game, he's averaging only 18 now, 11 rebounds, four-plus blocked shots a game, probably 12 or 15 intimidations. I think when he's healthy, and he hasn't been healthy quite frankly, this is the healthiest he's been, he got hit again today in his head with that stinger that he had during the last game, against Alabama, but with that said, there are very few players like him. Until you play against him, you don't realize how quick he is. He can guard a three man if he has to. His feet are great. To end it with a great shot block, strength at 260 pounds, his ability to score at times has been traffic. But he was our leading scorer up until two weeks ago.
Q. You said Okafor is healthy right now. Can you update us on last weekend? Can you expand about getting hit on the head today?
COACH CALHOUN: I wish I would have talked to you two hours earlier. I would have felt better. Today he was dominating. He dunked everything for the first time in weeks, even before he got the stinger against Alabama. When he got that, the doctor said the average person might have had some severe damage. He had nothing more than a stinger, which as you can all well imagine, is very painful. But nevertheless, he was able to come back within two days, practice well yesterday, was incredible today. Right near the end of practice, as fate would have it, about eight minutes to go, someone just like hit his arm and kind of swung it back. But, you know, the numbness lasted only a matter of minutes, and we fully expect that he may take it easier tomorrow, but will fully practice again on Friday. He's much better than he has been I would say for almost a month.
Q. You talked about winning the national championship. Your memories of going to the first Final Four and the distractions, address that?
COACH CALHOUN: I think we had fun. We went to Fan Jam. We had some real fun with it. I always planned, whenever we went, final eight, Big East championship in New York City, we'd usually go out to eat, try to find a play that the kid might find likable, they usually don't like things like Phantom of the Opera. But we find some entertainment for them. I think you've got to make sure it's an enjoyable trip. We'll take the boat ride on the River Walk, we'll do all those kind of things. Yeah, we're there for a purpose, and the purpose is to enjoy ourselves, for a great reward for a great season, then get on with the business of trying to win a national championship. I think last time that's exactly what we did. We're leaving today. We're excited about going down. I really want the kids to see all the pageantry and all that type thing. But during the work hours when we're at practice, and when we're in meetings with them, I really want them to concentrate on the task at hand. I think we, Duke, Oklahoma and Georgia Tech can win the championship. I mean, if I was sitting on the outside, obviously I'm not, Georgia Tech beat us already, Oklahoma State is good as anybody, Duke is Duke, they're a terrific basketball team, No. 1 much of the season, won the regular season ACC, which is a great feat unto itself. You know, it's one of those things. I think that the distractions should be enjoyed, some of them, as long as you make sure you do that delicate balance between enjoying yourself and making sure you're there for a particular purpose. Our purpose is to try to play 40 minutes on Saturday and 40 minutes on Monday. But we can't get to Monday till we get to Saturday.
Q. Do you have to make your game plans differently or coach the games differently, not knowing what's going on?
COACH CALHOUN: A little bit. Good point. We have kind of developed a philosophy where Emeka went from about 17, I'm talking about January and February, to 20. He was averaging 20 points a game. When he had started having problems again with his back after going two and a half months without any spasms, we just kind of shifted and we started running a lot more stuff for our outside people, we started to make the big double inside because we didn't have the shot blocker there, we were able to take away post people without having Emeka's single purpose to take away from post people. We have plan A, B, and today we were working on plan A, B, even though Emeka was practicing great and was very healthy.
Q. I just wanted to get your take on how getting to this point in the season, how scheduling affects that, playing some of the big games you've played in places like the Garden, the advantage you get from experiences like that?
COACH CALHOUN: When you schedule in the summer, everything seems great. It's great when you talk to recruits. Then when you got to go play at the Dean Dome before 23,000 people, lose by three points, didn't seem like that good an idea. To have to play the three top teams in our league, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame twice, which everybody else in the league didn't have to do, except for those three teams, we played a round-robin. In retrospect, probably forged us and made our will and ability to respond much greater. So there's no question, a difficult schedule against good people is only going to make your program prepared for almost anything. And I think that's really what happened to us. I think our schedule is somewhere around the ninth or 10th best schedule in the country. Once again, I think you may not see it right away, but you feel the ramifications, when you tell the kids, "We've been here before."
Q. Who bumped into Emeka today? Who hit him on the head?
COACH CALHOUN: I don't know. Whoever it is is not going with us (laughter). No, I honestly don't even know. I think Ryan Thompson was in the vicinity. I think nobody's taking credit for it. All it was is simply someone actually hit his arm, which got his shoulder to move a little bit, which I think with a little bit of ice, TLC, talk, he'll be just fine.
Q. Your teams have been a fixture in the tournament. It seems like you've had more Final Four appearances than you really have. How much do you value and appreciate this Final Four trip?
COACH CALHOUN: Well, I value it a great deal, for two reasons. Number one, it's what every coach wants to do. Secondly, I would do it with an entirely different group. There are some great coaches out there who have had three or four Final Four trips with one team. Then when you look back on their resume, they went there four times, but we've done this -- this is a completely different group than went there in '99, just like some of our Big East championships, they span from '90 to 2004. There's a lot of satisfaction. The second part is simply this is one of my favorite teams of all time, not just because they've been able to win games, but during the season we struggled a little bit, the mid part of the season. Regardless, it's one of the nicest group of human beings I've ever been around. They've made this season incredibly pleasurable. For a coach in the year 2004 to say that, every day that he comes to work, even though he's going to have the usual small little problems, I tell you honestly, that's all there's been, small little problems. They really have got the idea of what a team is all about. It's been a lot of fun for me to be around them.
Q. You mentioned the quality of this Final Four field. When if you were just watching it from the outside, a lot to look forward to. Can you talk about the makeup of this group?
COACH CALHOUN: I think the one thing I said, we were saying about somebody's defense, I can't remember, they give 41%, 39%. That was considered high. So obviously all four teams can defend. All four teams can score points. Eddie's team plays a different pace, so they don't score as many points. Every team has a solidness to it, whether it be star related or not star related, that gives it some real fiber. It isn't like shutting down one guy, it isn't like doing one thing that to win a game. You're not going to beat Eddie Sutton by doing nothing. We played Georgia Tech, you do a lot of things right to beat Georgia Tech. Mike's team plays great defense. We probably run conceptually as difficult an offense as you have to line up against just because they space so well, they're so impeccable about how they get you in mismatch situations, allow themselves great room to beat you off the dribble, probably no one does it better. Therefore, each one of the teams creates so many problems for you that whoever wins the championship I think will really true be the national champ this year. I think most years they are, but this year I can clearly say in my opinion, you have to have won two great basketball games.
Q. You mentioned earlier that you emulated certain things about the Duke program. Could you elaborate?
COACH CALHOUN: I think two guys really, you don't put the two together automatically, at least I'm sure in Raleigh they don't, that's Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski. I copied Dean, Mike and I were in the same bracket, he was at Army, I was at West Point, we got to know each other very well, Coach Knight also. I thought Dean formed a program, not a team, the true Carolina program, not only was the sky blue and everything else. Everything about the program was a true program, from the way the managers act to everything about it. It was all geared towards thing: excellence. Then Mike was able to do the same thing Dean did in a different way and to a different degree. But both of them emulate something special about their program. Playing for Duke under Mike became a special, special treat. Hanging banners only allowed after graduation. There were a whole bunch of different things that between the two of them probably are the two programs. If you took a 25-, 30-year program, the two programs have contributed so much to college basketball. There's others like Bob Knight that have done things. I didn't emulate everything about Mike, because I was competing against him at times, but I love the way that he feels. I feel that my Connecticut kids are as good as anybody. He feels that way. I watch him about his team. Even though we tell hopefully at times the honest truth about our kids, and are candid, we also have an affinity to our programs that we don't think any other place is better than our place. I think those type of things, Dean did the same type of thing. Those would be the type of things I emulate, more program orientated than team orientated.
BILL HANCOCK: We look forward to seeing you in a couple days. Is Coach Krzyzewski on the line? Congratulations on coming to the Final Four.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Thank you.
BILL HANCOCK: We'll start with questions.
Q. I wanted to pick your brain on scheduling, how you factored that into your preparation, getting to a Final Four, having played games at places like the Garden, how that might help you at this time of the year?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think each coach tries to figure out what's the best route for his team. Over the years what we've strived to do is not have an inordinate amount of home games. Actually, I think we've played more in the regular season on the road than we did at home this year. If you're going to win anything, you're going to do it away from home. That's the first thing: How you get comfortable playing on the road. Your conference allows you to do that. But even conference play is a little bit different on the road than at a neutral site or huge arena, big city, that type of thing. We try to play teams that have different styles, who we think might be NCAA teams from their conferences so that we're exposed to not just what our conference might do to us but what other people around the country might do. Overall, that's been a good things for us.
Q. How is Chris Duhon, what have you had to compensate for his injury on the court?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, he's better. He won't be a hundred percent, but he practiced about half the practice yesterday. It's like the quarterback in football, where nobody's allowed to touch him. I mean, no screens on him, things like that. We tell him not to be as aggressive offensively, but just to try to get his timing down. This is the first time he's actually done that in the last couple weeks. Although he's played great, his timing on some of his shots, his drives, has not been there. Then what happens is we look at two different lineups when he's out, one with Sean Dockery at the point, the other is a bigger lineup with Daniel there, and Luol goes to the wing with Shav and Shelden. We've gotten more reps for other people so they've had a chance to improve. We just try to be ready for all the situations. In a game, you know, he could get hit, all of a sudden not play. I mean, that's the reality of it.
Q. It seems like this year there's been an increasing amount of anti-Duke sentiment out there, both among media and fans. Is this something that bothers you? Do you ever take it up with your team?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It doesn't bother me for me. I have to try to make sure that it doesn't bother our team, you know, that they understand when we're in an opponent's arena, why the crowd looks different than the tape we had just watched when they played somebody else. The intensity level of the teams that we play against, they're going to look different against us a lot of times than they look against another team. But that's about all. I mean, I think we've been fortunate. We've had a lot of success. I think we've done it our own way, a good way. In anything, when people do it well over a period of time, some people don't like that. We can't do anything about that. I guess the only thing we can do is lose, and we may do that, about you we're not going to try to do that. Just comes with the territory. I hope we're in a territory for a long time.
Q. An emotional loss to Maryland in the ACC tournament, a tournament you're used to winning. Were you a little concerned this was not the way to begin the NCAA tournament or were you confident your players could dismiss that loss?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, it's not so much dismissing the win or the loss, it's just reacting to what just had happened. We've gone to the Final Four after winning or losing in the ACC tournament. So rather the fact of playing three unbelievably hard games like that in a row, what did we learn from it? I think it made us better. I think at the end of the Maryland game, we made some tired mistakes. Part of winning is to be able to perform when you're tired, I mean really tired, and you're beaten down. And we didn't do that for about three exchanges against Maryland. We just always try to use what we've just done in a positive way. I don't believe in, like, that momentum, like just because we lost, we're on a revenge thing, or because we've won, we're on a high. There's a reality I think that you have to deal with. You know, if we made one free-throw, we would have beaten Maryland. You're not going to go through wholesale changes just because you lost, especially to a team that played so well and had so much heart against you.
Q. Basically Paul Hewitt was a little self-depreciating when he said, "Which coach doesn't belong," referring to himself.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Belong in the Final Four?
Q. Exactly. You've had a chance to see him and his teams over the past few years. What shows you that they belong?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Because they're darn good. I mean, he's good. Paul's really one of the good coaches and good people in our game. You hope there's a first time for everything in the coaching profession. I can remember in '86 when we first went to our first Final Four. We had a chance to win it. Paul's team is in the same position. They have a chance to win it. His kids are confident. He allows his players to show that confidence. They run a really good style of play. You know, he's a real player's coach. He's just with a bunch of old guys (laughter). He's going to be the most enthusiastic probably and the best looking, the best dressed, at least the guy who looks the best. He may have the best team. But he's a good guy. I'm really happy for him and for our league that we've been able to get two representatives in there this year.
Q. Can you talk about some of your recollections from '99 when you played UConn in the title game, and also kind of how it is coaching against Jim and how he's been able to use that as a springboard, whereas now his program is considered one of the elites in the country?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, you know, I don't really go back and try to recollect things that have no bearing on what we're doing today. I can just tell you that their team played great, they played better than us. Jim is I think a future Hall of Famer. He was going to win a national championship at some point or more, and he happened to do it in '99 against our team. That game has little relevance in our game Saturday - no relevance to be quite frank with you, because none of the kids played, none of these kids played in that game. Jim will have teams that will be in Final Fours again. He has one of the top programs. He has it because he works his butt off, and his kids reflect his personality.
Q. Doing a story on Jarrett Jack, Chris Duhon, cousins, both in the Final Four. Did Chris ever seem like he was more geeked up to play against Jarrett? How much did y'all recruit Jarrett when he was at Mt. Zion?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: What does "geeked up" mean?
Q. Fired up.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I'm not up on all those words. No, Chris Duhon's geeked up to play everybody. He's not more emotionally charged to play Jarrett. Chris has been one of the outstanding players in the history of the ACC, the second winningest player in the ACC. He gets geeked up to play just about everybody. He has unbelievable respect for Jarrett, because Jarrett is one of the top players in the country, not just one of the top point guards. I think the fact that in our league we have so many good players at that position has made both of those kids better. You have to come ready to play every night at a high level at that position in our league because of the quality of player at that position.
Q. Can you talk about Duhon more, maybe the transformation you've seen in him as a player over the years, maturity as a leader, what it is you've come to admire most about him?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, he's improved each year. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he's had so much responsibility on him each year. The normal progression of a player, if he's here for four years in a prominent role, like Chris has been, is that you're going to see them grow. His teams have averaged a little bit over 30 wins a year, and he's been durable. I think that's one of the most impressive things for me, he's played in all those games, he's not missed practices. There are no excuses from this kid. There were no excuses when things didn't go exactly his way last year when he was leading a really young group. There's no bragging or anything like that as he's achieved to me the highest level of a leader this year. We really are where we are primarily because of Chris Duhon. It was great for me to see him honored as one of the final 10 people for the Wooden Award, and the only player from our conference. I think nationally people understand his value to us, the value that I've seen from day one, and especially this season.
Q. Oklahoma State's presence in this Final Four I think has a lot of people revisited the plane crash three years ago. I'm curious if you remember how you heard about it, and as a coach what kind of emotions it stirred?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, the main thing I think for all coaches and teams, we fly charters, a lot of us fly charters, the top conferences do. That can happen at any time, just because it being something built by a human, run by a human. You know, I think the very first thing you pictured yourself in that position, so you had great empathy for Eddie and his program. We thought it was the whole team when we first heard it. Then when we heard they were on three different planes, there was a little bit of relief, even though there was this tragedy, that it wasn't everybody. The way they've handled it, I think everybody in the basketball community was ultimately impressed with how their whole program handled it and how they honor it today with the memorial they have, those people are remembered daily by the Oklahoma State community. At this time, you know, the thoughts and prayers of their whole community are combined to honor them again. I just think that's great, and it says so much about the people at Oklahoma State.
BILL HANCOCK: Mike, thanks very much.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Thank you.
BILL HANCOCK: One final note to the callers. I'd like to remind everybody that the replay number to call if you'd like to hear this conference again is 402-280-9026. We will be posting a transcript of the call at NCAAsports.com under the men's tournament credential link. The news conferences on Friday from San Antonio will be available on premiere teleconferencing and media can call the number they called today.
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