March 30, 1996
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY
COACH CALIPARI: I was proud of our guys. We played hard. It's just that they played with a little more emotion than we played. If you were wondering why I was jumping, I was trying to get them to go or reach down. But I thought the game was played and unfolded the way we wanted it to unfold. We gave ourselves a chance to win against a great basketball club. We refused to lose. We never stopped playing. We played right down to the end. And I'm proud of them. I told the team after this game in the locker room that I learned more about myself as a coach and a person this year than I have in all my other years of coaching and I thanked them, because you're talking about unbelievable human beings that I coached this year. And it may never happen for me to coach a group. It's about the kind of people and character they had. You don't come back. You don't win close games like we do without kids with strong character and smart kids like we have.
Q. For Edgar Padilla. Could you talk about how hard it was to play against the press. You played so much of the game, particularly while Carmelo was out with personal fouls?
EDGAR PADILLA: It was kind of hard, because we had a lot of guys standing instead of moving and coming to the middle. And sometimes I didn't cut to the middle, either, and that made it a little harder. But they just played hard on us, and that's why we lost.
Q. This is for Marcus and Donta. You guys both had good success inside scoring and rebounding against Kentucky, but I was wondering if you could make comments on their front court defense?
DONTA BRIGHT: They came out and we didn't attack them the way we should have. And they just made us make tough shots. Every time we shot the ball, there was a hand in our face. They played pretty good defense.
MARCUS CAMBY: They played good, aggressive defense. In the beginning, they forced me to take some bad shots, which I did. They played great today.
Q. For Marcus Camby. Have you thought at all about what your future is? Will you come back to UMass?
MARCUS CAMBY: I haven't thought about it. I'm just down right now.
Q. This is for Coach Calipari --
ALFRED WHITE: We're going to take the players' questions before we get to Coach Calipari.
Q. For Marcus. Can you talk about their attack ability offensively, the way they can score so quickly?
MARCUS CAMBY: They came down and made some big plays. We were scrambling and a couple of guys drove deep and got baskets. They're a great ball club and they proved that tonight.
Q. Carmelo, there's a lot of talk about how Kentucky had not played a lot of close games, and no one was sure how they'd react. When you got it close, did you see any panic or how did they react at the end when you guys got close?
CARMELO TRAVIESO: I don't think they panicked. They made the plays they had to make. They passed the ball real well and they executed when they had to and made plays.
Q. Marcus, looking back on the game now, what would you have done differently in the game now that you've had a chance to go through it? Was there anything you'd be doing or changing in your game?
MARCUS CAMBY: I probably needed to be a little more aggressive when the double team came. They were knocking balls out of my hand and forcing me to take shots I didn't feel comfortable taking. So I probably should have played a little bit more aggressively.
Q. This is for Edgar or Marcus. Since you played the most minutes for UMass, could you talk about their depth and how much that wore you guys down because they didn't have a single player that played over 33 minutes?
MARCUS CAMBY: I didn't think it wore us down. This was our last game of the season and it was do or die. We would rather be playing than sitting on the bench. I wouldn't say their depth had that much of a factor because we like to play.
Q. John, down the stretch, there were several places where it seemed like they had thrown enough punches to finish you, and there was always a chance to cut it to two. It seemed like they could have finished you up four different times down the stretch. And even with Padilla's shot nearly went down in the last minute, you're still there. I don't know if you had to ever come back that many times during the season, certainly not against a ball club of this caliber. But it was something to see.
COACH CALIPARI: We've done that, though. And I just think that this basketball team plays to win. They're not playing not to lose. They're not worrying about the time. They play to win. That's how we try to work it. I keep telling them play to win. We got to three with four minutes to go and had two possessions and got away from how we played. Took a bad fader and took a three, and barely caught it and threw it at the rim and got an air ball. We had our chances. And that's all -- in this kind of game, when you're playing an opponent like that, that's what you're trying to do. That game unfolded the way we wanted it to unfold. We just didn't make plays down the stretch and they did. Marcus needed to make more plays in the first half. The second half he was fine. They're a great basketball club. You watched the game. I would say people enjoyed that basketball game.
Q. John, you said in your opening -- you told the players you'd learned more about yourself this season than any other. What did you learn?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, I honestly learned that it isn't life or death, winning basketball games. And I learned that when you're coaching, you understand that when you have good people, it's very fun to coach. And when you have guys that you're struggling with, it's not very fun to coach. And the record of your team doesn't matter as much as that. And I think I also learned when there's some adversity thrown at me how I'll respond. And when it's thrown right quickly in your face. Until that stuff is done, you don't know how you're going to react. And I learned a lot about myself. I made moves this year, spontaneous moves that happened. And I'm not just talking Marcus's situation, other things that happened throughout the year. But I'm just -- I learned a lot about myself as a coach, too, because of these guys.
Q. Coach, can you talk about is it like playing two teams when you're playing Kentucky, with the ten guys, and Syracuse, like you, doesn't play a lot of people. How hard does that get as the game goes on?
COACH CALIPARI: Doesn't bother us. We've played teams that play a lot of people. I think what happens is at times for us, we want a team to sub a lot because we think they get out of rhythm. Because in a full court game, up and down the court, you can sub liberally because you're trying to do it on athleticism, speed and quickness. In a half court game, it's about chemistry, and the more you sub, the less chemistry you have. We have a chance,, don't worry about them subbing. That's not going to wear us down. That didn't play a factor in the game. We didn't make plays down the stretch. We didn't get to about four or five loose balls or rebounds that if we get, we're right there in a buzzer kind of game. We never got those balls. A couple of breaks, that could have gone one way or another, seemed to go another. That happens in a basketball game of this magnitude at times.
Q. John, can you comment briefly on Edgar's game tonight, 39 minutes, 12 assists and only four turnovers?
COACH CALIPARI: He was terrific. They banged him and it was physical. He got knocked around. It's not just his legs. It's like playing a little like football out there when they're hand checking and pushing. He did a pretty good job defending, too. Edgar Padilla has done it all year. Edgar, our starting five, and Tyrone. I'll tell you, I was most proud of Giddel Padilla. You're talking about a guy I haven't played that much. I looked down the bench and said, "Giddel, get in there," and you know what, he played to win. He played to show people he's good enough and he went out there and the lead went from 13 to 6 or 7 when I took him out. And I put Carmelo in and it stretched up and so I put him back in. And as a coach, that's what you're hoping, that guys wait for an opportunity and then they take advantage, instead of being mad and crying. When I get an opportunity, even if it's the last game of the season, I can show that I can play. And I think he learned a lot from this season and I'm happy for him.
Q. Coach, how far has Kentucky come and how have they changed since the first time you played them? And having played both teams in the National Championship, what kind of game do you expect?
COACH CALIPARI: I don't know what to expect and I haven't thought much about it, but I think Kentucky is a better basketball team. They're more defined. As that game got close, I thought they might panic. They did at times, but not enough to sway the game. There was a couple of plays they didn't make. But in the end, they did everything, including making free throws and play our press and do some good things. The last time we were up 4 to 6. We were up. And we made the plays. This time they were up and they made the plays. But they're a better team, they're more well defined. They've accepted roles and they're going to be tough to beat. But I'm so happy for Jim Boeheim, because you're talking about a guy I believe can coach basketball, who has been maligned as a guy that can't, but he can. I'm happy he's here and in that final game. And obviously Rick and I are close, so it will be a good game and I wish them both well.
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