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March 22, 2006
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: What a thrill it is for West Virginia to be back in the Sweet 16. And then to be playing a team like the University of Texas where we have been watching them since we played in November and just like many of the teams that are playing right now have a chance to win it all. And a legitimate chance of winning it all. So it's a great challenge, great opportunity and we're just thrilled to be back.
Q. I know you don't like to give away secrets. How long have you been using the 1-3-1 and what you liked about it and why you went to it?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: We started using it my last year at Richmond a lot more than ever which would be now five years ago because we just did not have some personnel to match up in the Atlantic 10, so we decided to use it. As we used it more, we found out that it's so unusual that it will work at times against certain teams and will work at different points in games and that we can't get out of it quick enough sometimes as well.
So it's been -- I won't say it's ever been any type of albatross for us, but it has been a great way that we can stay in some games sometimes. If you stay long enough in college basketball, you can win at the end.
Q. You alluded to this a little bit, given the nature and volatility of college basketball now, is what Duke has done over last 15 years at all comparable to what UCLA did in the '60s and '70s? And could you comment on how Jamie Smalligan has done during his red-shirt year left of Butler?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: This is all UCLA obviously it was incredible what they did. I don't think anybody will ever match that. But I think from what I have read about those the old NCAA tournament, I used to just follow UCLA and what they were able to do, and Coach Wooden is probably the greatest coach of all time. But I think the travel and adversity and things like that that someone goes through a field of 64 for what Duke has been able to do has to be right there with UCLA.
I think getting to the final just getting to the Final 4 is such a monument -- or such a difficult task that it's almost what UCLA used to have to do to win a National Championship. That's just -- that's not taking anything away from Coach Wooden. What I am trying to do is say what Coach K K has done has been incredible.
Jamie has had a good year. I thought he had a terrific environment in Butler. I thought the coaches were absolutely terrific to him. He realizes that I think now, and looks for this opportunity to make himself a better player and I think as many times he's showed that he has got some pretty good potential for the future but still has some long ways to go in some areas.
Q. Your senior class I know you didn't bring in a lot of these guys but some you did. Talk about other schools you recruited against to get these seniors to either think about Richmond or come with to you West Virginia?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: Only one I didn't recruit to go to West Virginia was Pittsnogle. The other four were all our staff. Pitts knew I was recruiting, trying to get him to go to Richmond. He was a young man who we liked to have at West Virginia now, that he was going to stay in the state and go to West Virginia University if they wanted him.
The other -- we sort of found guys that were maybe being underrecruited a little bit. And Johannes Herber was in Germany. We had heard about him from a friend of mine. And J.D. Collins we found in the last day of April and we were looking for leaders and strong men of strong character that could run a team. Patrick, you know, taking out the garbage one day I said, Do you have anyplace to play next year? And we ended up getting Patrick. And Mike Gansey we had played against in the A-10 when I was at Richmond, so as a result I watched him on tape and ended up saying to my Richmond staff, These are the type of kids we need to recruit if we want to win at a higher level. And when St. Bonaventure had that bit of a mess that they had and we finally wanted to transfer, he became a kid that we were very fortunate to get. Is that all five? Yes.
Q. What it is like to go around West Virginia and run into the legacy of the Jerry West teams? I know you are asked this year in, year out, but I am curious what it's like for you to go around what you hear from people, how they feel about you bringing it back to a level?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I think what is special about it is that I think before -- West Virginia has had great football tradition, but I know myself growing up being a basketball fan, that basketball was the sport I followed from West Virginia, and Jerry West. I think he and Hot Rod -- and Rod Thorn and Fritz Williams all those guys, everyone who followed college basketball knew what a great tradition they had there. And the tradition continued with Gale Catlett as well.
Jerry is something special. As a result we're just -- to be put in the same type of category, when people say, hey, the last time they went to a Sweet 16 two years in a row was when Jerry was playing there or -- we're pretty proud to be able to accomplish that.
Q. What do people tell you?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I have had 1,000 people tell me that I used to go, you know, in a pick-up truck with my father and drive up on a mountain and listen to the games on radio. We must have had a heck of a gym because I have had a million people say they saw Jerry West play. And but that's where I think that a lot of people that would be the first baby boomers and those that had just come back from service, and were in their 30s, you know, became in love with college basketball was around Jerry and Hot Rod and Rod Thorn.
Q. Last year your run was one of the more unexpected stories of the tournament. This year not at all. How have you prepared this team for this week given what they went through last year, given what they went through, and have you noticed any differences in the way they've played this week?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: Had I known we were going to do what we did last year I would have kept a journal to try to duplicate what we -- everything from what time we ate and everything, but I didn't do that. Trying to recall some of the things.
I thought what we have accomplished this year although because last year was so unexpected has been even more complimentary to these kids and our staff because of the expectations that to go through the Big East, 11 wins, then get to the Sweet 16 again, it's -- I think it's been more difficult because we just -- all of a sudden we were 10-and-0 last year then all of a sudden we were 1-and-5 in the Big East and everybody sort of gave up on us and we made a great run.
This year we started 8-and-0 in the Big East, now we had to hang on for dear life when we had five of our last eight on the road and I think our average RPI was about 16. We got through that and then had some good first round wins.
So I think our kids are experienced. If there's a downside to it, it's the win over Wake Forest last year in triple overtime or double, whatever. It was such a great win and we came off such a high. This time when we ended up being up by 20 and then hanging on to win, just took a little bit out of us, a little luster of the Sweet 16. But these guys got it back now. We're really excited to be here.
Q. Talk about your conference, you mentioned along those same lines having four teams in the Sweet 16 still. Does that more prepare you for this NCAA tournament or does it beat some teams down?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: It's tough -- I think over the long run we'll be able to know that answer a little bit better. When you see what's happened to go some teams that played so well in the tournaments and got knocked out in the first round, there has got to be some correlation there. I think we find out as we continue to have games where I think we're up to 28 games and between exempt tournaments, I think one of the things that Coach Krzyzewski has done a great job of is keeping people fresh.
What does it take to stay fresh down the stretch. Is hard work -- how much shooting should you do? I think as we get into this, we have to probably study that as coaches much more than ever. Coach Boeheim who never does a shoot-around is a perfect example of longevity by doing less sometimes is more. So in the league because we're beating each other up -- I have been in a lot of leagues, Big East is by far to me is the greatest. But I am a bit prejudiced there, but every league goes through that. There's not too many people and coaches going to tell you at the end of the year we're not beat up.
Q. When it comes to 1-3-1 zone does it really help a team if they faced it once before in a season or no matter how much tape they have seen on it?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: It depends because it -- we have played teams before that absolutely torched it the first time and the second time weren't as productive. We practice it almost every day but six people, seven people, people running -- we don't know what people are going to do against it as well. It's not a gimmick now. It's just a thing that we try to we have a unique style just given what our -- whether our size, our quickness, things like that try to play uniquely.
I would think it would be better, how much better to not -- to face it for the second time than it would be for the first time. Maybe just slightly. I hope it makes -- (laughs) I hope there's no difference at all, but I know better than that.
Q. Talk about tomorrow night's matchup and specifically what you think might be the one key of success for you guys?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: If we -- for us, usually comes around making tough shots and our ability to make open shots. If we can get open shots we need to shoot those at a very high percentage. You are not going to get very many open shots against Texas but we'll get a few occasionally. If we get five of those we have got to make four of them because you are just not going to get many of those.
With them, I think that we could be all over some of their guys and they're still going to make shots. So the ball is going to bounce a little bit, you know, it's going to bounce one team's way or another's at different points of the game, and for us it's obviously very important that ball just bounces just a little enough to the West Virginia guys.
Q. Any talk of karma around here with what the football team did in this town a couple of months ago?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: A little bit from the fans on the radio, I believe, few people have mentioned it to me. But our football stadium is over here and our basketball stadium is over here and we have only been home for 36 -- home for about 36 hours before we left, and so no, I didn't pick up on a lot of that. I know that would an great story line, but I hope there's the same -- I hope it's the same result, that's for sure, but we would be lying to say that we're feeling some spiritual advantage in here.
Q. Would you briefly run through your theory on rebounding and against Texas rebounding was 54 to 22 and you lost by one point, how that worked out. Could you do that again?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: We wanted to get rebounds, there is no question -- worked like crazy to try to get rebounds. And with our recruiting needs in future we tried to address that. The truth is with some teams it's very difficult to rebound. What do you do? You don't quit the season and say, okay, we can't rebound, we might as well just mail it in. You try and find different ways to play and as you inherit different teams you look at their strengths and weaknesses and we try to combat our lack of ability to rebound with a tremendous value for the basketball. And if we get outrebounded by 10 but they have 10 more turnovers than us and we have seven and they have 17, then the battle of possession is evened out.
I would love to have a team one day and I hope to be able to recruit that team that wins both the rebounding and the turnover advantage, then that's going to be one tremendous basketball team we would hope. But right now, we just got -- we know our strengths, we know what our weaknesses are and we have to try and get a good blend of those two and stay in the game.
Q. Kevin, Ben Howland told the story that when he went down to Pitt that he went down to recruit you but he knew right away that you were going to West Virginia, is that accurate and who else other than Pitt was recruiting you?
KEVIN PITTSNOGLE: When I came out of high school was probably Pitt, West Virginia and Clemson and he came down, recruited me, offered me a scholarship. I was playing a summer league game. I wasn't actually sure where I was going, but pretty much set in mind.
Q. Your reasons for wanting to stay in West Virginia and how much of that had to do with the legacy of basketball there and what people thought about it, the tradition of Jerry West, how much of that just used to be such great teams in the state?
KEVIN PITTSNOGLE: I never really thought about that. I didn't really know too much about the basketball legacy nothing like that. Didn't really pay too much attention to college basketball until I got to college or my seen in high school. Wasn't really too worried about what kind of basketball legacy they had. I wanted to go somewhere I could play and have fun and somewhere close where my parents would be.
Q. Talk about when you reflect back to a year ago your emotions going through this tournament, contrast to where you are now clearly expected to be here, how you prepared this week maybe differently than did you a year ago?
MIKE GANSEY: I think this year we had a lot more expectations rather than last year, last year we kind of came out of nowhere and made it to Elite 8. This year obviously we taking very, very seriously because we're playing a tremendous team in Texas. Last couple of days we practiced we're working hard. Trying to go back to where we were last year. To do that we have got to be a great team in Texas.
J.D. COLLINS: I feel like last year we were struggling towards the end of the year and nobody really gave us a chance in the game so we just want to go out there and prove everybody wrong. As far as for this year, I think people doubted us again, but we believed in ourselves again and we expected to win the first couple of games. We have got to go out there and play fearless tomorrow, just go out there and compete and try to pull the job.
Q. Kevin, what were the repercussions of that Texas game for you personally, those free throws, and how did you handle all that in the next couple of days after it was all over?
KEVIN PITTSNOGLE: I kind of tried to forget about it as much as possible actually. Missed two big free throws; really doubted myself after the game, didn't want to talk to anybody. I got into the gym the next couple of weeks, practiced free throws, a couple hundred a day every day until I made them.
I have learned a lot from that game because I mean, the way we ended that game we should have won and hopefully we can get it back.
Q. Along those same lines, Mike talk about the taste I guess from that game, the revenge factor, and if you were fouled on that last shot attempt?
MIKE GANSEY: I didn't think I was fouled. I thought it was a tremendous call by the ref. Aldridge came over and made a tremendous block. It was a tough game for us to take in last time. I thought we had a great opportunity to win and Texas just made better plays than us down the stretch, got a couple of rebounds and it was just a credit to them and hopefully tomorrow we play better and just kind have come out with a win and do the best we can.
Q. In light of my question to Kevin before about the legacy of basketball, for all three of you players, what is it like to be in West Virginia, what kind of it interaction do you have from fans who might be happy about what you have done for the program? What you hear from people in West Virginia about what your class has done for the state?
KEVIN PITTSNOGLE: We have got a lot of fan mail, a lot of people come up to us and thank us for just coming to school there and playing basketball after the year they had before we got there. Just for the fans that we started with if was 4,000 and now our stadium is now up to 15, 14,000 a game is just tremendous to have that kind of fan support throughout the past couple of years. Hopefully we can keep that up.
MIKE GANSEY: I think a lot of people give us a lot of credit. I remember someone was telling me yesterday, they are like, You guys have been the greatest thing ever to West Virginia since Jerry West. You seniors are going to go down as a great class. You guys, the thing you guys really stress was team ball. That's what made you guys so special.
When people can say that to us, it really means a lot because we have worked really hard tried to represent West Virginia the best we could.
J.D. COLLINS: The same minds with these guys. The fans really embraces us. They come out and support us every time we have a game no matter where we're at. I think they really appreciate what we have done. We have worked to go, played hard even when times got rough we stuck together and we're just a nice group of guys that in the community, when you see us out, we speak to everybody, we're very polite. I think that along with what we have done on the court have made the people of West Virginia really proud.
Q. Any of you three would speak to what Frank, his development from last year to this year, what he's meant to you guys and what he brings to you guys.
MIKE GANSEY: Without Frank we won't advance in the Big East tournament. Tyrone Sally got sick. He stepped in, did a tremendous job. Someone like Frank, his freshman or sophomore year, he didn't really play that much. Then last year right at the end we needed him when Tyrone got sick he really stepped his game up. He's become one of the better passers we have on our team and one of the better all-around players. Without him we won't be this far as we're right now.
KEVIN PITTSNOGLE: I agree with Mike, he's a tremendous player. He's added a lot to the game over the past summer. He's done so much like last year we didn't know he could pass like he can this year, made some tremendous passes. Everybody knows he can shoot the ball. He's a lot more athletic than people give him credit for, gets a lot of loose balls and rebounds. Between this year and next year he will be a ten-times better player too.
J.D. COLLINS: Frank brings to the team a toughness. You can't measure that, loose balls, rebounds he's not supposed to get he ends upcoming up with them, and he's a great shooter, great passer like they said.
I just think that he's brought so much to the team and toughness is the main thing that we needed and he's filled in for Tyrone great.
Q. Talk about the importance of the three-pointer to you guys and how the personality of the team is when you hit them early and then obviously when you don't hit them early in a game or if they are not falling.
KEVIN PITTSNOGLE: I think as of late we haven't relied on the three as much as we normally do through the beginning of the year. We kind of relied more on penetration and kicking and getting 15 foots and jump shots. We really do rely on the 3. And when we're hitting them early I think the whole team is on. If we're not then it takes a little effort and time to get different types of situations to get points.
MIKE GANSEY: Just like Kevin said, last couple of games we haven't really relied on threes.
I think especially when we hit 3s early and obviously a lot of games this year we have really hit a lot of them, that just feeds off our defense. When we're hitting 3s everyone is getting excited. It helps us play better defense and just helps us in other ways. Because they will worry about our 3s, that kind of opens up some opportunities.
J.D. COLLINS: With the three ball, like Mike said, it motivates us in every area of the game, especially on defense. When I see one of these guys make a 3 early, I am feeling confident as well. I think that rubs off on the team and gets us going.
Q. Talk about the Big East Conference. Do you feel like it's by far the best conference? How much does that help you guys in the NCAA tournament?
KEVIN PITTSNOGLE: One of the better conferences in the country, if not the best, I think. We have had the top teams in the nation as Villanova and Connecticut, both number-one seeds in the tournament and going through that schedule that we have had this year just in the Big East conference and the tournament, just is unreal. The type of competition you play against night in, night out, you see one, two point wins every night. You don't see any blow out. The physicalness of the game is just unreal.
Q. Can you guys in maybe one or two lines best describe P.J. Tucker? Kevin, you are kind of the dominating physical force. Kevin, P.J. is the same for Texas. Describe P.J., who has the better tattoos, you or P.J.?
KEVIN PITTSNOGLE: He's definitely one of the best players. I think he gets their team up and gets them going and he's one of their better players on their team. He's a great player.
As far as tattoos, I haven't really seen his because a little darker than mine, so mine stand out. So I am not sure who is got better to the as to.
MIKE GANSEY: He's a beast, P.J. That's one word to describe him. He's the heart and soul of that team. He goes as the team goes, that's what makes him such a great player. He's tough. He shows Texas toughness, and without him, they won't be a great team. He's what makes their team.
Q. What makes their zone defense tick?
MIKE GANSEY: Think it's just our hustle and being active out there. I think the last couple of games in the NCAA tournament I think our 3 zone has been very, very effective. Before that towards the end of the year we really didn't go through the three zone partly it's my fought because I wasn't as active. Me being the guy at top I have to be the leader and show the hustle right away, but it's just tough for teams to defends and just hustle and guys being at the right spot at the right time is very, very key.
J.D. COLLINS: The 1-3-1 gives opponents a different look, not used to going against a 1-3-1 with the fastest guys on the baseline, the centers in the middle, and then you have Mike passing you up top. Just being able to assimilate that in practice you can't do it because you don't know everything that we're doing is on -- I just think it's tough for people to prepare for.
Q. Texas has one of the best front courts in the nation. Speak to that. Also is it comparable to any of the ones that you saw in the Big East?
MIKE GANSEY: I would kind of maybe compare them to Rudy Gay, Josh Boone and Hilton Armstrong. Those three against those three, I think would be a draw. Three tremendous athletes, three strong guys. Just like UConn, they rebound very, very well and if you don't rebound with them you are not going to win many games.
Q. After the first Texas game when Kevin and Joe both missed those free throws, did either one of you see any kind of reaction from Kevin in the days after that game, and did you try to do anything to pick him back up?
MIKE GANSEY: I could tell Kevin was upset obviously after the game. I know when Kevin is upset he kind of keeps to himself. Next game Kevin had 27 something points on Kentucky, so I knew he was back to his old self. Obviously Joe, Joe is obviously upset, but the next day he was back to his normal self. I think they really put the Texas game behind them and moved on.
J.D. COLLINS: If you are a competitor you will be mad if you miss those free throws as well, but the game wasn't lost at the free-throw line. I think Texas really did a great job of getting offensive rebounds, second chance points when we stopped them at the end of the game. And as far as the mood after that, like Mike said, 27 points in that game speaks for itself.
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