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March 21, 2007

John Calipari


COACH CALIPARI: It's good to be down here and get ready for this battle we're going to be in. It's truly going to be a battle, a well-coached, hard playing, rough, tough, man up or go home. That's what this will be about. And we're excited to be here and have this opportunity.

Q. Were you able to locate and bring an orange sport coat along with you?
COACH CALIPARI: No, I've got the orange T-shirt on hold right now. So let's hope that the State of Tennessee is well represented and both programs are supporting each other. We're from the same system.
I would hope for the first time in their lives I see orange jerseys cheering for us. And the first time they see the University of Memphis fans cheering for Tennessee, maybe even singing that song. What's the name of that song (laughter.)
Q. How is Chris Douglas-Roberts today and how effective do you think he can be tomorrow night?
COACH CALIPARI: Obviously I don't know the second one. But he's doing fine. He wants to play. If he's capable of playing he'll play. If he's not capable of playing, he won't. That's the best, special you can ask me a thousand different ways, but that's the best I can tell you. If he's able to play, he will. And if he's not able to play, he won't.

Q. You talked about this being a well coached team that you're going to go up against. What is it about Billy Gillispie and what makes them effective?
COACH CALIPARI: When a team runs a style of play, whatever it is, and they do it well, when they defend and rebound like they defend, then they're well coached. They run their stuff. It's totally different than the way we play, but they run their stuff and they do a good job of it.
If you're not sturdy, you're going to be pushed right into the cheerleaders. You're going to have a pom-pom in your hand pretty fast. They post it, they high-low, they -- and then when the game is ending, who has the ball? Law has the ball. They're going to ball screen or he's going to turn it down and they know what they're supposed to do. I just think he's done a fabulous job. And I even told him. It's one thing to change a culture, and it's another thing to change it in a league that's established. Because I just said to Billy, no one really gave you anything did they? He started laughing. You're fighting and scratching for everything. Do you honestly think Texas and Kansas and Oklahoma? Bob Huggins we know well, yeah, go ahead and take the game. Come on, it's a dog fight. And he changed the culture. It's an incredible story.

Q. When you say this is a man's game, is this going to be a little bit like UCLA in terms of the sheer physicality of it?
COACH CALIPARI: I don't know, but you don't know how the game will be officiated. That will all be dictated when the game starts. That game was really -- it was a rough house game and they let it go rough house. You don't know until this game starts, and they let -- do they let it go? As a coach you're trying to feel how is this game unfolding. Is it really -- are they letting it go. You go to shoot a lay up and you're getting absolutely pushed. Well, make the lay up anyway. There's no -- you just have to feel the game as it goes.
Everybody was asking me about Texas A&M being at home. And it's a disadvantage, there's no question. They're going to have 30,000 fans here. But I've been in this situation before, too, now. There's another side of it. The most pressure I've ever felt as a coach, not even close, was playing Boston College on a neutral court. We had 75 percent of the fans, 75 percent. We were supposed to win the game but they had Curley, pro, Abrams, pro, Eisley, pro. I woke up at 2:00 in the morning. I woke up at 4 o'clock in the morning. I woke up at 6:00 in the morning. It's the most pressure I've ever felt as a coach. I'm talking Kentucky in the Final Four, elite 8 games, Chicago bulls in the playoffs, the most pressure I've ever felt was that game.
Now, the advantage is you're playing at home and it's a great advantage.

Q. Should we be surprised that there are three teams from Tennessee still playing in this tournament? When did Tennessee take over the basketball universe?
COACH CALIPARI: You know, each of those teams, the vital players, are from the city of Memphis. How about that? It's a great story. And all three programs, the job at Vanderbilt, which is a hard job, what he's been able to do there is incredible. Bruce stepping in there and just absolutely turning it around special just creating the excitement. We played in their building and it was like we were playing for the Super Bowl. It was incredible. We're just down on the other side of the state hanging on for our dear lives, but we're doing all right, too.

Q. You might have touched on this earlier, is there a little bit of disconnect, you guys are a 2 seed, playing 3 seed, that's only 150 miles away from home.
COACH CALIPARI: They deserve it because they went to Louisville and won on their home court. To do that they deserve it opportunity. I'm not be grudge go them one thing. They had to go win at Louisville to win to get here. But I will tell you the home crowd, great, but I talked about the pressure. I don't know if you were in here, of playing. You can get it from one of your partners, there -- but the other side is we played UCLA last year. We were 1 seed and they were the 2 seed and they had about 17 thousand there that game, we had about three. So it's what it is. Play the game. We had our chances to beat UCLA, we went 0-15 from the three point line. We went 0 for 15.

Q. You talked about Acie Law. Can you talk about his ability late in games and what impresses you most?
COACH CALIPARI: Reminds me of Sam Cassell who I coached in New Jersey. See, there are certain guys that want it that you don't want to want it. And then there are guys that don't want it that you want to want it and that doesn't work, either. Then there are guys that want it and you really want to want it and that's him. And that's Sam Cassell. We road Sam Cassell to playoffs the year before my last year, and I've seen him do it over and over, and now I've watched this. He really reminds me. You say he's athletic, but not dominating. He's physical, but look at him. He's skilled, but, wow. But you know what, he wants it. His coach wants him to want it. There will be 28 thousand Aggies that want him to want it. And he should want it. He's good.
But Carter is good. Their inside people are absolute Monday centers. Kirk now all of a sudden -- now you've got to deal with him. They come off the bench with two kids that are really good. They're well coached -- this is what it's supposed to be when you're in the Sweet 16. That's who you play. They guard. They're good.

Q. You were one seed last year, how much better are you this year than last year? Can you see the improvement?
COACH CALIPARI: Here's what I would tell you. Everybody that played us that played us a year ago said we were better this year than we were last year. Now I don't know if -- I can't really look back and figure it out. We lost 50 percent of our points. We lost 50 percent of our rebounds. We lost three starters, two first round draft picks and dairy us Washington, who is a great college point guard. And we're still standing. But what's happened is we're a better unit together. We pass it better. They get along better. It's just -- we're a better unit. But I like the fact that Rodney could put his head on the rim and that Shawn Williams could dominate a guy and that Darius could muscle a point guard. Obviously those three aren't here.

Q. I'm sorry if this is a repeat question. You talk about those guys that just left and then Chris Douglas-Roberts seems to have stepped up and embraced his new role this year. Can you talk about his development?
COACH CALIPARI: That's a great question. The hardest thing, and I've seen it many times in college basketball, there's a lot of players coming back, but they lose that one guy and those support players cannot step up and do what you're saying. And that team takes a dip. And they're on the coach, what's going on? They were support players, they were not going to be the leading role guy or the star. Well, these players, whether it be Antonio, whether it be Joey, whether it be Chris Douglas-Roberts and at times you're throwing Andre Allen in, they relish, give me the lead. Let me be the lead. But we didn't know that prior to the year. That was the biggest question, could our support players become stars? That was the question. And they performed. And they're looking at me like sucking their teeth when I say we have to find out. Stop. We know what's happening. We'll be fine.

Q. Can you talk about Andre and his extended role last week and how you feel like he'll fit in this week?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, he -- his swager is tremendous. His feel for the game. His calmness when the bullets are flying over his head is incredible. Willie Kemp, our starting point guard is a freshman and has had a wonderful year. But this is all well and done. So if I see he's rattled at all we'll take him out.
Here's what I'll tell you, which is kind of good and kind of scary, Jeremy has not had a break out yet. Jeremy has just played okay to this point in the tournament. Matter of fact it's below okay how he played. And Willie has been below okay okay how he's played. And I would expect him to have a break out. The greatest thing for will I is Andre. What happened with Texas was when their point guard struggled they lost. When our point guard struggles I put in Andre. If I have to play him 36 minutes, I do. So, will I, just go play, make shots, shoot the ball, if you don't play well, it's not that big a deal, I'll play the other guy. You're not going to be put in the position to lose the game for us. The same with Doneal Mack, try to steal a ball. If you're playing great I'll give you minutes, if you're not, it's not a big deal, you're not going to be in there in a position to hurt us. You're a freshman.

Q. Does anyone remind you of any team you've played and if not, is there a leap you have to make?
COACH CALIPARI: They play a grind it out game, they'll play it. It's more high-low, Southern Miss played that and gave us problems. They did it different, but they played it. They're just a -- they're one of the best teams in the country. They've been in the top five or six all year. So they don't -- the biggest thing I keep saying, it's time to either man up or we've had a heck of a year. You don't come and bring it physically and know that I'm going to be a man today, if not this is not -- this one is for the faint of hearts, let me just put it that way.

Q. We saw Robert and Joey both respond last week. Is the challenge playing against this kind of team going to be, since Georgia Tech, is it really the biggest game for those guys since then?
COACH CALIPARI: Yes. Thank goodness they're way better than against Georgia Tech Roberts played the best he'd played the last two games. This will be a challenge for him, because the physical part of this, as we all know, if he can make a shot or two, I think you'll see him go crazy, because he can drive the ball, he can step out, he can go in the post. For Joey, he's made so many strides. And I think he knows -- it's like we came out against Nevada and I'm talk walking down, it's 7 in the morning, and he had gone for a walk in the morning, I saw him walking out of the hotel about 6:45. I look at him, what are you doing? I just went for a walk. I knew he'd be ready. And I think in this case we'll find out. This is going to be so much fun for you to watch, not for me to coach. But it will be fun to watch. And it's going to be a great kind of college game of contrasting styles.

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