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March 23, 2007
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: We have the five starters from UCLA and Coach Ben Howland. We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Arron, could you talk about the difference this year playing in the back court with Darren as opposed to Justin, what adjustments that was for the team, what sort of confidence level you have in Darren's play now?
ARRON AFFLALO: Both point guards are superb. Jordan played the game with a high IQ, smart basketball player. Darren has some natural athleticism, natural quickness that he uses to his advantage, to help our team. He's become a player that gets it started for us on both ends of the floor the way he pushes the ball.
Darren does a lot of positive things on both ends of the floor. He kick starts everything for us. The way he's matured, recognizes how to play the game a little bit better this year, has been fun to watch.
Q. What can you glean from the Texas A&M game? Anything you can draw from that looking at Kansas?
COACH HOWLAND: Just both great teams that are very physical. Billy obviously coached for and with Bill. Both teams' emphasis is great defense, which Kansas plays. An outstanding defensive team. Holds their opponents to about 37% from the field. They're outscoring their opponent on the year by 17 points a game, which has got to be one or two in the country I believe. Over the last 22 games, they're shooting over 44% from three. There are a lot of similarities in that they're both great teams that are very well-coached.
Q. Coach, I'd like you to compare this year's team to your squad last year at this particular time.
COACH HOWLAND: This year's team has more experience than last year's team from the standpoint of NCAA tournament play. These kids that are sitting up here have all been there. We're a year older, a year stronger, a year smarter. We lost obviously three good players from last year's team. But the nucleus of this team, the top seven guys that are playing the most minutes, all played significant roles last year. I think that's definitely a benefit for us.
Q. Ben, any similarities to this match-up with Kansas compared to your match-up last year with Memphis in terms of two teams that are extremely athletic, very deep?
COACH HOWLAND: Kansas is different. Memphis has a style that is unique really because of how they play. Both teams, though, do have a similarity: They try to beat you off the bounce; they're always trying to get you off the dribble. Both teams shoot the ball extremely well from three. Both teams really, really push it in transition.
Kansas is a great transition team into offense. They do have four guys that can all push it, including Julian Wright, who is terrific at handling the ball, making plays for others.
So, yeah, I guess there are some definite similarities in terms of ability. You look at last year's Memphis team. They had two first-rounders on that team. This Kansas team has a lot of talent as well. Probably a lot of similarities.
Q. Ben, Lorenzo has become kind of an important guy for you this season, can you describe the arc of his development during the season.
COACH HOWLAND: Lorenzo has always been important to me, not just this year (smiling).
Yeah, I'm really excited about how he's developed as a player from his first year. I don't know if you know this, last year he was playing great. We went down to the Arizona trip. It was I think our third and fourth game of the year, he played outstanding. We swept the Arizona trip a year ago. Came back, we were beating Washington State by 20, 23, something like that, he broke his leg about three minutes to go in the game on a hustle play, where Jordan Farmar ran into him after a missed layup, trying to follow his shot.
Last year, Lorenzo had two broken noses, a broken leg, a concussion. Continued to battle back through all those. Played well for us in the NCAA tournament last year as well as in the PAC-10 tournament.
He's had an outstanding year. He's playing his best basketball of the year over the last 10-game stretch. Every time we go to Arizona, somehow that does something to Lo where he really starts to take off. Again, we went to Arizona, since that trip, it's been like up another level, up another notch. To take on, for example, Aaron Gray yesterday, have to battle him, that big ol' body, takes a lot of guts, takes a lot of toughness. He has really shown that.
Q. Ben, a lot has been made about your defense and their offense. Do you think when it comes down to it, it's going to matter a great deal what the pace of the game is? Do you have to play at your pace to be successful? Do you think they can be successful if the game is slower?
COACH HOWLAND: They're a very good defensive team. I think that all gets shot. Our opponents on the year are shooting 42%. Their opponents are shooting 37%. That's a 5-point differential right there between the two teams. They outboard their opponents by more than we do. We're outboarding them by three; they're outboarding them by seven over the last 22 games.
Kansas' number one thing is their defense, make no mistake about that.
I'd like you -- usually it's really done the right way, I suggest for the future, that there's an opening statement by the coaches, they ask questions to the players, come back to the coach, so these guys don't have to sit here and listen to me talk. They're tired of listening to me talk. If you want to ask them some questions, come back to me at the end, we can excuse them.
Q. Josh, a little while ago Coach was talking about the experience of this year's team opposed to last year. With the exception of you, you were injured, what did you go through last year, what you learned from watching your teammates last year, and your progression this season?
JOSH SHIPP: Last year was definitely a tough year for me having to sit out and watch. It was definitely a learning experience. I got to sit on the bench and watch the team make that Final Four run. It was definitely a good experience for me.
I think I kind of became a fan of the game again. Got to watch a lot of my teammates, guys I was close with, play the game they love. Just have fun out there. That's what I learned the most, just to enjoy this experience. It's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.
Q. Darren, pace is going to be an issue in this game. You want them to play at your tempo. That leaves you at the head of that. Talk about trying to control the tempo of this game.
DARREN COLLISON: Offensively that's something we've been preaching all along. We've been practicing since day one in practice. Playing against Kansas, their style, it should be an up-and-down game. I just feel that we get our easy points in transition off of defense. When we play well enough in defense, we get a lot of easy points in transition.
Q. Darren, there have been some articles that were written about people questioning your toughness, in particular there's an anecdote about a confrontation between you and Farmar last year. Can you tell us about what led up to that punch.
DARREN COLLISON: No comment, you know. All that stuff last year is just to make me a better player, that's it. I respect him. He respects me. That's it. We was teammates. That's it.
Q. Lorenzo, Coach was talking about the great game you had yesterday. Ever since the Arizona trip, you've picked it up another level. Could you talk about what it is about a certain point of the season where you kick it into another gear.
LORENZO MATA: I've been feeling more confident. I've been getting more shots, just playing hard all the time. I just play hard all the time. By doing that, just gives me more confidence. The more I'm on the court, the more confidence I gain. It's just about confidence, about my teammates having confidence in me.
Q. Arron, what is it like going up against a team that really doesn't have a go-to guy?
COACH HOWLAND: That's your opinion that they don't have a go-to guy, right?
ARRON AFFLALO: Regardless if they have a go-to guy or not, they're very dangerous. They have a lot of confident players on that team who are all capable of making tough shots in tough situations. I think that makes your team more versatile and more competitive within your own team and when you're competing against others.
Q. Arron all year has shown the ability to shoot in the clutch. Why do you think he's good at taking the must-make shot?
LUC RICHARD MBAH A MOUTE: I mean, Arron's our leader. All the shots just show how competitive he is. He's been leading us all year. We've been relying on him. That's why he knows he can make those shots and we know he can make those shots. We have faith in him. We're going to do everything we can to get him open so he can make those shots.
DARREN COLLISON: I mean, he's on the right track. He's so competitive, you look at his willingness to win, all those shots come easy for him. Every time we go to a clutch situation, he wants the ball in his hands, and everybody understands that. When you have your teammates on the same page as him, that just shows how much he's a leader to us.
But like I said, his willingness, his compassion (sic) to win helps him make those shots. He's done it time and time again. He's going to be doing it in the near future as long as he has that competitiveness in it.
Q. Luc, you were in this position last year, went on to the final game. How much do you think experience will be an advantage for you versus Kansas?
LUC RICHARD MBAH A MOUTE: I think it is going to help us a lot. Like Coach said, all of us here have been part of the team that went to the Final Four last year, went to the championship game. We all kind of know what to expect. We know we got to bring it, especially start with our defense.
Again, Kansas is a very good team. We just can't rely on experience. We got to come out and prove it, come out and play defense for 40 minutes.
Q. Arron, you don't often get a chance to cast yourselves as an underdog. You could possibly do that in this game to a slight degree. Is that an opportunity you embrace? Is there something you can take from that?
ARRON AFFLALO: Well, we never really have an underdog approach. Our whole thing is to compete and play as hard as we can and execute to the best of our ability.
Each game is different. Underdogs are all based on others' opinion. Around our campus, the rich tradition within our school, it's an expectation for us to win regardless.
So, uhm, we're never taking that underdog approach, it's all about winning and competing to the best of your ability.
Q. Coach, you've broken into this press conference four times to give your opinion on how it's been conducted, three about noise and one about a question. I'm curious why you've done that.
COACH HOWLAND: You know, I think when you have a press conference, it should be run to where there's respect towards the players, number one, up here, so that we can all hear, and respect to you so you're able to get exactly what they're saying, not have people talking over in the background.
I just like it to be run in a proper fashion. I was just pointing out to the gentleman standing to your left, he's talked in authority that there was no go-to player on the Kansas team, I want to make sure these guys understand up here that's not what I think. That's why I brought that up.
One other thing, it is quieter now. I don't know if you can tell this. But I am a detail-oriented guy. I like to have the smallest details, and that's the difference between winning and losing, that's the difference between being good and great, successful and not successful. It's all about in the little details. So much nicer when you don't have people that we have to talk over at a press conference.
Q. Well, I guess I'll follow up my last question: It's the opinion of the Kansas coach that they don't have a go-to guy either. It doesn't matter who it is. He said that on March 14th.
COACH HOWLAND: Is that a question?
COACH HOWLAND: Oh (smiling).
Q. Coach was talking about he's a very detail-oriented guy, would you five starters give a small example of how that detailed he can be.
JOSH SHIPP: Example? Uhm, I mean, just when we're doing walk-throughs, he wants everybody to be in the precise spots. I mean, we try to shortcut things just to save time. He stops us and points it out and says we need to get to the right spots. That's how precise it is.
LUC RICHARD MBAH A MOUTE: I mean, he said it pretty much. He said the whole thing. I mean, Coach is very precise. Like he said, it's all about details 'cause, you know, it all matters. It comes down to details, who wins, who doesn't. Always trying to make sure we do everything the right way, do everything we're supposed to do. That's about it.
LORENZO MATA: Just what they said. I mean, attention to detail. We got to get every little detail down, stay focused on whatever we do to get prepared to play our opponents. As long as we stay focused, get every detail right, I mean, he won't stop us and do the same thing he's doing here.
DARREN COLLISON: Comes down to winning and losing. Those little details helps us as a team get better. When he strives for perfection, he's asking a lot of us, we're getting better as a team and individually we're getting better. So when he's real detailed, we understand why he is so detailed.
ARRON AFFLALO: Same here. I think it's important in your pursuit of perfection, you have to pay attention to the detail. A lot of people get caught up in the bigger picture. As you grow and mature a little bit, you understand it's the small things that makes that bigger picture work.
He's so dedicated to winning, that's just part of what he emphasizes to the minute things.
Q. Coach Howland and his staff is one of the most animated coaching staffs in the country. What is it like for you guys having them, especially Coach Howland, yelling at you during the middle of a play? Do you tune it out, listen?
ARRON AFFLALO: No, we always listen. We understand everything he tells us. It's constructive. Emotions do flow a lot in a game, because of that, you have some different responses. Everything is all predicated on winning. That's what it's all about. The coaching staff does a great job of calming us down or amping us up a little bit relative to where we're at in the game.
DARREN COLLISON: To me I think it's unique. To see a coach just keep jumping up and down shows how much he's willing to win. Any time you get that feeling when your coach wants to win as much as you do, makes the game a lot easier. Sometimes you see coaches just sitting down, acting like they really don't care. But Coach is always into it. He's going to be like that for the rest of his time.
LORENZO MATA: Every time I see him jumping on the sideline, I feel like he wants to go in the game and play defense with us. (Laughter).
It's a great thing to see. Just pumps us up more. We keep playing harder and harder. He does a great job motivating us, along with lot of the other assistant coaches. We have the best coaching staff in the nation. It's great to see him out there, trying to get us pumped up.
LUC RICHARD MBAH A MOUTE: Same thing. I've gotten used to it actually. I'm always looking at the bench trying to see what's going on, like what plays, what we do on defense, stuff like that, the traps. Coach is always yelling, the whole bench is cheering. That just gets you pumped up, be more aggressive, play harder. Like they said, that shows how much passion he has about his job, how much he cares about us winning.
JOSH SHIPP: Same as everybody else said. It's good to know that your coach, he wants to win just as much as we do. It shows in how hard he coaches, how he's jumping up and down. It's good for us to see that.
Q. Coach, back to the KU personnel question, who do you contend would be KU's go-to player?
COACH HOWLAND: I would say Rush for starters. He's their leading scorer, great player, shoots the three, creates it off the bounce, great at creating for others. He'd be their number one guy. But they have a lot of great players, don't get me wrong.
I would say number two would be Julian Wright because he, again, can create off the bounce, he can shoot it. He also finishes so well around the basket.
You also have to look at Chalmers in terms of his ability. They have a lot of good players. At the end of the game, if it's coming down to last second tomorrow, I'm expecting that Brandon Rush is going to be their first choice to take a shot.
Q. You gentlemen have a very unique way of ending practice. You have a lot of fun at the end of practice. Everyone goes to halfcourt and tries to make a basket. Who started that and who is the best?
DARREN COLLISON: I'm the best (smiling).
LORENZO MATA: I give it to Josh. Josh is probably the best one shooting halfcourt shots.
DARREN COLLISON: Please!
LORENZO MATA: He always make them.
ARRON AFFLALO: Keep it real. Coach, who's the best?
LORENZO MATA: I'm obviously the best dunker, though.
JOSH SHIPP: (Laughing).
Q. With you guys being the No. 2 seed, obviously KU is the 1 seed, do you feel you have maybe a bigger advantage playing here in California going into this Elite 8 match-up?
ARRON AFFLALO: Yeah, you know, all year long we competed to have the best regular season possible to place ourself at the best advantage. Now, again this is still a neutral site, and we still have to go out there and play hard and compete.
We'll have nice fan support. Hopefully we'll use that to our advantage.
DARREN COLLISON: It's definitely to our advantage. We feed off the crowd. We thought the crowd was great last night.
But, you know, in terms of seeding, I just feel like if you feel like you're the best team in the tournament, it doesn't matter what seeding you got. Last year we was the No. 2 seed, look how far we went. This year we feel like we haven't accomplished anything. Really doesn't matter what seed it is, it's in terms of us taking one game at a time and playing hard.
LORENZO MATA: The crowd definitely, it was great last night. They pumped us up, were loud. We definitely have a home-crowd advantage. At the end of the day, it comes down to defending, us playing harder than our opponent.
LUC RICHARD MBAH A MOUTE: Go ahead.
JOSH SHIPP: The crowd is definitely our sixth man out there. Definitely motivates us a lot. They're real loud. We enjoy that. Definitely a great advantage.
The seeding, we're in the tournament, you have to play good teams, so the seeding doesn't matter now. It's about going out there, proving you're a good team and winning games.
Q. All this talk of the go-to guys, there's a flipside of that, too; you're known for your defense, your no-go guy. Who is the guy on defense you go to when you need a defensive play?
COACH HOWLAND: On the back court, Arron is continuing to draw the best perimeter player on the other team all year long, all last three years. But, you know, our defense starts and ends with our point guards stopping the ball, pressuring the ball, making it hard for the other team just to be able to run their offense.
Up front, Luc has been terrific the last two years and Lorenzo has really grown as a post defender. Luc is so versatile because he can go and guard a point guard all the way to a center. Very few guys are like Luc in that he can match up 1 through 5 with anybody.
I have really been excited and impressed with Josh's improvement as a defensive player. You have to remember Josh as a defensive player the first year he got here, first six weeks of practice, to truly appreciate how good he is a defender. I would say that Josh is our best help defender. In other words, his vision of seeing everything and knowing where he is in relationship on the weak side is better than anybody we have in the program.
Thus we have I think a pretty good defensive team.
Q. Who do the players think is the best defender on the team?
DARREN COLLISON: That's an easy question: It's Arron. When Coach tells him stop the other team's best player, we don't have a problem with that. We know Arron is going to get the job done. He's been doing it all along, ever since he got here. That's not a question.
ARRON AFFLALO: In my opinion, I think each guy on this team does something special defensively. I do a good job of trying to keep my man in front of me, holding his point stat down. Darren does a great job of pressuring the ball, making the pass. Josh makes great help-side plays. Luc and Lorenzo, they do different things, take charges and do things that don't go in the stat book. A lot of the notoriety gets thrown to me for what I do defensively, but we got five good -- our bench, they're great on defense as well.
Q. Arron, being the PAC-10 Player of the Year, obviously you have seen how other teams have tried to adjust to you more, put more pressure on you. Would you talk about your adjustments after being named PAC-10 Player of the Year, how you help the team in other ways than just scoring.
ARRON AFFLALO: My field goal percentage has been down a little bit. As one of the more experienced guys on the team, I have to find other ways to help my team, whether it's defense on the floor, making a pass, doing something else. For myself individually, just have to do a better job of trying to manufacture points a different way, if that's getting to the line, doing some different things.
Q. Talk about the chemistry. It seems really good between you guys. Was it this good a year ago or has it gotten better with you guys?
ARRON AFFLALO: I think our chemistry was fine. You don't advance as far as we did without good chemistry. You have to understand the importance of winning and putting that before yourself at all times. We've done a great job of that thus far, and in the past two years.
THE MODERATOR: We're going to take the student-athletes to break-out rooms. Questions for Coach.
Q. Can you tell us about Darren, the way that you had seen Darren when he first arrived at the program and how the incident with Farmar changed the way you looked on him.
COACH HOWLAND: Did not change the way I looked upon him at all. We knew he was a very good player, tough. I don't know what you're looking for.
Q. From a toughness perspective.
COACH HOWLAND: He was tough. Bottom line is, Jordan tried to throw an elbow at him and he wasn't playing that, and he punched him right in the face, and Jordan punched him back.
Q. You have played in the 50s, 60s, Kansas came in playing mostly in the 80s; they played a slow game yesterday, shot a high percentage. Darren is talking about pushing the ball. What do you think about how important the pace, tempo of this game is?
COACH HOWLAND: They'll allow us to push it, that will be great. We played Arizona in the 80s. I think the great thing about our team is we can play any style you want to play. You want to play a knock-down, drag-it-out Washington State, go down to the last five seconds of each possession, or we can go up and down with them like Arizona. Whatever you want to do, our guys can adjust to and play that way.
Q. So you go into the game feeling comfortable either way?
COACH HOWLAND: Yeah.
Q. Did you ever recruit Brandon Rush at any point?
COACH HOWLAND: We made a call. His brother was at UCLA. We made a call. It ended up that he wanted to stay closer to home. It never really went anywhere.
Q. In your opinion, what kind of player was he coming out?
COACH HOWLAND: He's a great player coming out. He was even flirting with going right to the league, if I remember correctly, right out of high school. Made a good decision not to. He's really improved. As good as he was then, he's much better now. He's one of the finest players in the country, an incredible athlete, along with a great skill level. When you combine athleticism with skill level, then you have truly great players. That's what he is. He is a great player.
He rebounds I think 5.8 boards a game. He shoots it, he bounces it, he defends. I mean, he'll be at some point down the road, when he's done with his career at Kansas, he'll be an NBA player for a long time.
Q. Have kids gotten any wiser to that? He was going to be a one-and-done guy at Kansas. Have kids gotten any wiser to that?
COACH HOWLAND: I don't know if you can generalize like that. Obviously the rule now that you have to go to college for a year changes things. How long it stays like that, at least until the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. It's going to be like this for a while, unless there's some emergency session.
But, you know, I think kids hopefully are getting better and better advice to do what's best for them and their futures, whatever that may be.
Q. I realize this isn't the month for sympathy. After the way Bill Self's teams have gone out the last few years, do you feel some compassion for what he's been able to get done this year?
COACH HOWLAND: I think they've had a great year, an incredible year. They were beat the last two years in the first round, they were beaten by really good teams. What that speaks to is, when you go into this tournament, anybody can beat anybody on a given day. We said that from day one. The only seeding we haven't seen get upset is a 1-16. Almost happened last year with Albany and UConn. It's going to happen at some point. That just shows you the parity in college basketball.
That's why this is such a great sporting event, the greatest sporting event in all of America. When you think about all the people that are involved from all over the country, small schools, big schools, those upsets are what make this tournament so special and so unique, the interest it garners because of it.
Q. I'm not sure Bill would find it interesting.
COACH HOWLAND: Everybody has been upset before. Obviously that's made them stronger, made them tougher this year I think, made them better, having gone through that, having to hear about it.
They're a great team. They're the No. 1 seed, the hottest team in the tournament, by far the hottest team. They were killing people, they were crushing people, 17 points a game over their opponent. That is crushing.
Q. Your athletes talked a lot about how detailed you are. You did, as well. Are you equally detailed in non-basketball things, the other parts of your life? If so, could you give an example.
COACH HOWLAND: Yeah. When I fly fish, you have to be detailed in fly fishing in terms of all the little things that go into throwing a fly, how you mend the line, how you let it float. You're doing it hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times a day. So there's a lot of detail and attention to detail. That's something I enjoy doing. I'm not a golfer. I don't get to do it much, but that's one of my great pleasures, is to get out and fly fish. Hopefully I'll get up there to the Trinidad area someday and fly fish up above you there. I hear it's good.
Q. A lot was made in the old days about the shadow of John Wooden. After 32 years is that still the same or has that dissipated over time?
COACH HOWLAND: John Wooden is UCLA basketball, always will be. He is alive and well, 96 years old, going to be 97 October 15th of this year. They just had a really, really special event that I couldn't go to on Monday. They have an HBO special that airs on HBO here soon. I'm not getting paid to put this on the air for you. I want you all to have a chance to see it. It talked about John Wooden and the 10 championships. They had it at the Mann Theater, which is the Bruins -- right there in Westwood, which is one of the theaters where you have all the premieres to the major Hollywood movies that are coming out throughout the year. Apparently it was just an incredible evening, so many of the former players there, including Bill Walton, Mike Warren, et cetera. I guess it was just really moving. I'm really looking forward to seeing it, number one, and having my players get a chance to view it as well.
Dick Enberg was mentioned because he was there during that run, I believe it was eight or nine years at Pauley Pavilion where he called all the home games, replayed games, on KTLA, that I grew up watching. There's a lot of history there.
His legacy, I don't know about shadow, but his legacy, what he stands for, is really, really special. You think of UCLA, one of the first thing that comes is UCLA basketball, and obviously you say basketball, it's John Wooden.
Q. Talking about great coaches, have you talked much recently or in the past with Larry Brown? What do you think his thoughts might be on this game considering he coached at both schools?
COACH HOWLAND: I got a chance to visit with Larry briefly this year because they came to practice in Pauley Pavilion with the Knicks. Early in the season, an exhibition game. He was great, very gracious. He's someone that I really look up to, think is one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game.
I think Bill may have been on his staff as a GA at one time. I'm sure he's rooting for Bill out of friendship and deference to a former assistant coach.
Q. You talked about Darren's toughness, could you talk about his development as a decision maker, a guy with the ball, what impact that's had on the team.
COACH HOWLAND: He has a great assist-to-turnover ratio for a sophomore guard, I think it's a little better than 2-1 now. I think he can continue to get better. I think Darren's upside, the ceiling for Darren is limitless. That's how good I think he can be. I think he can be just absolutely incredible. You go back to the Arizona game, he had the 15 assists, 16, whatever it was, 15 or 16 down at Arizona, just a great display of decision making. I think he had like two turnovers or one turnover. He was incredible.
But he's getting better and better. As you're always trying to do, you're always trying to improve everything as a player. That's what the great ones do. Great players continue to improve throughout their career, continuing when they get to the NBA. The best NBA players are guys that continue to grow as a player throughout their career, always working to get better at certain areas of their game, something they can do better, a weakness.
Q. Regarding Luc, he was such a big factor last year in the tournament. His points and rebounds are way down. Is that a thing with his knees? What is causing that? Do you think that will change?
COACH HOWLAND: We played three games in the tournament, I think he played pretty well in the first two that I can remember. All I know is we're winning and we would not be winning, sitting here with a chance to win tomorrow if not for Luc. We were very fortunate to get through the first half last night with him playing four minutes and have a lead at the end of the half.
He is so important. We do so much with him at both ends of the floor offensively and defensively. He's had a tremendous year. He was an honorable mention PAC-10 this year as a sophomore.
Some of it's based -- there's people's expectations in terms of what they project on others. That's what a lot of people do, they project expectations onto kids. That's obviously -- this is a case where at the end of the day, great players make their teams win. A lot of things that he does don't even show up in the stats. A lot of different aspects of the game don't show up in stats. He's a very, very special player.
Q. Do you come out and try to establish a tempo or are you happy with the other team dictating that? Is that something that you let play out when you get in the game?
COACH HOWLAND: You know the song "Ventura Highway"? I love that song. You guys keep saying your paper, I actually just pulled that up off the Internet, playing it two nights ago. What a great song. Just a little side-bar (smiling).
But we're going to come out and do a good job, number one, not getting it run down our throat, which is what they do so well. Then, number two, when we get the opportunity, we're going to try to push it and get easier opportunities, which we always do. It's just simple stuff.
I'm from Santa Barbara. When I think of Ventura Highway, I think of home, where my mom lives, so it's special.
Q. I don't know how to segue off of that, but is there -- do you have specific methods to instill toughness in your teams?
COACH HOWLAND: Recruiting is number one. I look for it in kids that we recruit. I think all coaches instill toughness by how you are demanding in attention to details. As soon as you let something slip, it leads to more slips.
I am so impressed with our players, their mental toughness. Mental toughness is where it all starts. Mental toughness, being able to -- like this morning, we got up at 10:00 after getting home late, had breakfast, then went and did our walk-through in practice before we came here, where it was scheduled, we were going to have a 2:30 practice because that's what the NCAA gives us.
After you go through this whole deal, the focus would not be as good having to go through and answer nine million questions, deal with what we deal with in terms of an hour and a half media session. So we did it this morning. That isn't something that would have been ideal. Ideal would not be have to do this at all, just concentrate on the game.
But that being said, I wanted to do it early so we had good focus, concentration. We're constantly demanding they give that, understand how important it is. We are used to preparing for a team in a day and a half time because that's what we have to do in the PAC-10 quite a bit. In fact, almost every game is Thursday-Saturday. And that is hard. It's very difficult to try 'cause we actually try to really, you know, prepare for our opponent in terms of learning as much as we can, then trying to give that information to our team in a manner where they can take advantage of it, not give them too much, but at the same time give them things that are tendencies or whatever it is.
They really know what to expect as best as possible out there.
Q. You talked about you're a fan of the tournament, the upsets. How good is it for the tournament to have the basketball powers like Kansas and UCLA in the Elite 8? What does that mean?
COACH HOWLAND: Great for CBS, no question. They have to love it. The traditional powers have the biggest followings. You know, when you have the biggest followings, you have the most interest. I'm sure they're hoping for the 1 or 2 seeds to advance because it's good for ratings, good for everything in Atlanta. And it's special. It's like when you have traditional football powers that are really good. Same thing in basketball. You go back and look at Kansas, they have a great history and tradition in basketball. James Naismith, it all starts right there. What a great job.
It was funny. I was talking to one of the reporters. When I was a player, my junior year at Weber State, we played against Arkansas in the Pit in Eugene, Oregon, lost to the Triplets, Moncrief, Delph and Brewer. The other game that day was UCLA-Kansas. I remember that vividly. It was Darnell Valentine. I can see it to this day, the size of his thighs. Anybody remember him as a player? He had thighs, I'm not kidding you now, as big as a man's waist. It's like his thighs were like a football running back. He was so bouncy.
Paul Mokeski and I are the same age. You see him on TV a lot coaching now. He was out at Crespi High School. Donnie Von Moore was the 4 man. Leon Douglas' little brother. Leon was a great player in the NBA, played for the Pistons. Had an outstanding team.
I know about their history and tradition. Obviously their coach was a very good coach in there for a long time.
Q. Players obviously live for the moment. How much do you think they're aware and how much do you think they care about the great traditions at UCLA and Kansas when they come to play for you guys?
COACH HOWLAND: I don't know that they care that much about Kansas' tradition. They definitely care about UCLA's tradition (smiling). Part of the recruitment process is those kids, they're aware of all the great players, the great teams. I was thinking about this the other day, the greatest teams in the history of college basketball, you'd have to say that four or five of 'em were at UCLA. The only one that comes to mind to me is Bobby Knight's undefeated team in Indiana over the last 40 years. I think Coach Wooden had four undefeated teams, maybe five. I look back at the Walton and Jabbar teams that were both undefeated during those eras, and also the Indiana team with Coach Knight, being probably the three best teams in the history of the game.
That's incredible to be a part of the same program that boasts that kind of tradition and history. Then you look at great players. Baron Davis was there last night, Bill Walton is there last night, Matt Barnes. They have Bill Sweek. Lynn Shackelford, Keith Erickson.
One thing that's really neat, I've talked about this with our local media, we've had a barbecue at my house, I make it an annual event, I invite the former players, because I want our current players to get a chance to meet them and understand and have a sense of the fact they are really in a special, special fraternity that is unique in all of college basketball.
Two years ago we had Bill Sweek there. He lived in France for 20 years. He's sitting there speaking in French to Luc and Alfred. Bill Walton is in my backyard with John R. Wooden. You have guys like Eddie Sheldrake who played on coach's first team in '48. All different eras. You think about Reggie Miller letter. Marques Johnson. We're talking about Lucius Allen, Jamal Wilkes. Let's talk about the greatest talent of any one program, it's UCLA.
That means something to a kid when you're talking about them trying to come there.
Q. Your players are talking about they believe you can play good defense even if the game is high-scoring, can you explain what they mean. Do you agree with that?
COACH HOWLAND: Sure. You can play good defense and still be in a game that's in the 70s or 80s, as long as you're scoring in the 90s or the hundreds.
Q. Can you survive in that atmosphere tomorrow?
COACH HOWLAND: I think I spoke to that. I might have been out. We can play, like we're playing against Arizona, our games have been in the 80s with them for the most part that I can think of off the top of my head the last two years. Or we can play against the Washington States where, you know, last year we beat them in a thriller, 50-30 up there in Pullman.
Q. Knowing how competitive Arron is, when his shots are not falling the way he's used to, do you see any signs in his play that it's bothering him at all?
COACH HOWLAND: No. He knows. He's about winning. Arron is about winning, making his team win. You do so many other things to help your team win than just shoot the basketball. For the layman, that's all they see, someone making points. Like Rick Majerus said, on ESPN all you ever see are dunks, you never see the 15-foot shot, you never see the things that are actually the staple that wins games for you. It's all about highlight film, highlight reel. That's fun. I understand that.
But Arron gets it. Arron defends. He had seven rebounds last night. I think he was our second leading rebounder behind Lorenzo. He did a great job on the boards. Josh had five boards. Those boards are all critical.
Q. You just talked a lot about great players from the past. Look forward maybe in a year, how do you see Love fitting in this group, which could return intact?
COACH HOWLAND: I tell you what, Kevin Love is a great player. He just received the Naismith Award for the best high school player in the 2007 class. He's a McDonald's All-American. He is the all-time leading scorer in the history of Oregon basketball. As I've said many times, he is the best outlet passer since Bill Walton at the college level next year. An incredible skill level for a guy that is 6'10", 250, 260 pounds.
Yeah, if we all came back intact, we'd be pretty good.
Q. I was talking to some of your guys, Darren in particular said it might not be a bad idea for you to try to run with KU. Would you agree with that?
COACH HOWLAND: He's the point guard (smiling).
Q. Before you got to UCLA and had a reputation as being flashy and showtimey, how do you get your guys to buy into the defensive philosophy?
COACH HOWLAND: It's all about winning. You go back and you talk about the great teams in the history of basketball, and I think about most recently the kids today remember most are the Bulls in terms of six championships. Phil Jackson's teams, including the Lakers, the last three championships, were built with defense first. Yeah, there's flashy plays. At the end of the day, it's about defense. Pat Riley won against last year playing great defense.
All those guys want to be in the NBA someday. That's their goal. They want to be at that level. You look at Dwyane Wade. Michael Jordan is the greatest defensive player as a two guard in the history of the game. Kobe Bryant is a great defensive player. Everybody talks about him scoring 60, scoring 81, scoring 65, he's still playing the other end of the floor. That's why you have to respect and love him as a player.
I love players that can play both ends of the floor. To be a complete player, you have to be able to do that, you have to be able to defend, rebound, make plays for others, create for others, make plays for yourself, make open shots, have a post-up game, have a game off the bounce to be truly complete. That's what we're trying to develop and instill.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach.
COACH HOWLAND: Thank you.
End of FastScripts