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March 26, 2008

Aron Baynes

Tony Bennett

Taylor Rochestie


THE MODERATOR: We're ready start with Coach Bennett from Washington State, your comments?
COACH TONY BENNETT: I haven't been here before, so I'm not used to giving general comments.
We're happy to be here, great opportunity for our program. Last year we beat Oral Roberts in the first round and lost a heart breaker to Vanderbilt and this was a significant goal for our program to try and get past that. Good thing happened beating Notre Dame, excited to be here but I'm looking forward to the challenge. I understand, I played for the Hornets, I lived in Charlotte for three years in the mid-'90s, and I know this is a pro Carolina crowd, and we're playing the No. 1 seed. It's a great challenge for our system, what we believe in, going against a team of this talent and I think it's what our guys wanted and we'll find out tomorrow if they're ready.

Q. Tony, you mentioned your system. For those of us from the east coast who can't stay up to watch your games, can you describe your system and why you use that system and coach that style?
COACH TONY BENNETT: Well, you know, our system, obviously my father instilled it and when he took the job at Washington State, when he coached at Stevens Point Wisconsin-Green Bay and Madison, his style is a style or system that gives you a chance to compete against the best. We can't always recruit with the upper echelon teams in our league or in the country. So we have a system, we feel, that gives us a chance when we play together collectively to be competitive and hopefully successful against the best. And it's for us, being real sound. There are so many different ways, obviously to play the game and be successful but for us it's trying to be as sound as we can in the half court defensively, be sound that way. Be sound with the basketball, not turn it over, get good shots.
I guess in a nutshell I would say make the other team work to get contested shots and for us to work to get good shots and hopefully be solid over the course of the game and have a chance.
Then when you play against the teams with the elite talent of the North Carolinas or the UCLAs, you can get back and get your defense set. That will be the greatest challenge against how powerful and fast they are and handle the pressure that they put on you.

Q. I knew you when you were an up and coming point guard with the Hornets going against Muggsy Bogues in practice every day. What do you remember about those days?
COACH TONY BENNETT: Obviously the shot that Alonzo hit, and we jumped on him and all rolled around on the court. Coming from Green Bay, my dream was to be part of the NBA and at that time I can remember the crowds in Charlotte and I thought when the brackets came out we were going to play in The Hive, the Coliseum, and they said that's wasn't there, that was taken care of a year ago.
But the memories night in night out, playing in that crowd, getting to know Dell, Alonzo, Larry, being part of an up and coming team it was real special.
The one thing that my father instilled in me, he said good basketball knows no divisions or limits and I didn't have the pedigree or the background of these players in the NBA, maybe our Washington State team doesn't have the tradition of the schools that are in the Tournament, but the thing we sell our guys on and that I believed as a player back then is if you do things the right way, play good basketball, it doesn't matter, you're going to have a chance to compete and advance. You'll get where you want to get to as a player and as a team, and that's real important. My days in Charlotte taught me that. I played my 12 to 14 minutes per game, but I was part of it, and it didn't matter that I came from Green Bay. It's not a hot spot but I played against Jordan and some of the better players in the game and it formed my thoughts about what matters right now.
And I have to say first and foremost I met my wife here. That's the best thing about coming to Charlotte. She's not from here but we met here, and enjoying the community and the town and everybody tells me that was a special time with Hornet basketball and I'll cherish those forever. I wasn't healthy enough to go on but great memories, especially Alonzo hit that go shot.

Q. Coach, do you object to the word "boring"?
COACH TONY BENNETT: Call it what you want, you know, we just have to find a way to be successful. We've turned it around the last couple of years and we don't fly up and down. Opportunistically we will, but when we're successful I think our fans appreciate it, and it gives us the best chance.

Q. Do you do a lot of switching? Do you double team? Do you deny the ball? What are the specifics defensively that you guys try to do?
COACH TONY BENNETT: Depends on what the opponent we're playing does, but we are predominantly a man-to-man team, but we try and pressure the ball, be real solid, keep the ball out of the paint. We're not way out on the floor press and go extending, but solid man-to-man and limit teams to one opportunity.

Q. Did Roy Williams have to apologize to your dad for sort of dissing the style of play? And tell me about that story.
COACH TONY BENNETT: You know, that was back in the Final Four. I can't remember, but my dad has great respect for Coach Williams and I think Coach Williams the same. There are different ways to play the game and, you know, I don't exactly remember the story, I remember there was something about it, but I know they're fine. So you'll have to do a little more research on it and maybe you can inform me.

Q. Most good coaches today that have taken things from other good coaches, like you did, your dad, basically tweak it to their satisfaction for what they want to do and the personnel they have. How have you tweaked what you picked up from your dad?
COACH TONY BENNETT: I think you always look at your personnel and you say, what can we do? Offensively we do a few things differently, maybe some more sets, but it's predominantly the same system. It's what I grew up on. I got to coach under Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, and I don't want to say it's good Midwest basketball because there are different ways to do it, but it's just what I learned. It's what I watched Knight do. It's predominantly solid.
Our upperclassmen, when they were freshman and sophomores there were certain things they couldn't do, and now they have a little more freedom, and that comes with maturity and experience, and it's mostly the same. But because they're older we've done a few different things.

Q. You said the system was borne out of having a way to beat maybe more talented teams. When you're recruiting do you recruit for your system, or if there is a guy out there that maybe previously wouldn't have fit in as much but he's talented, you could start building the layers to bring in more talented kids on his back, how do you handle that?
COACH TONY BENNETT: Yeah, I mean, when we took over the program at Washington State there wasn't much there and most of the kids in our program weren't recruited by very much mid major Division I programs. Kyle Weaver had a Division I, Division II scholarship. And too much is made out of a guy, can a kid play and can they work in your system? When they come it's about last year's success. We've signed kids and are probably rated higher than the previous class. The system we run, everybody has this perception, I'm used to it, it's boring, it's slow, it's not fun. I think we play good basketball, we get our kids shots, they learn how to guard and play with the ball. Many of the NBA programs when kids are developed, they learn how to play. It's an easy sell to talented kids. It's just getting them to believe, can they come to Washington State and maybe have a chance at touching something special, whether it's getting into an NCAA tournament, advancing, contending for a league championship. So much of recruiting is about the relationship with the teammates and the head coach and how they are developed and how they evolve as a player. And I think we have a good system in place for that.
And you look at your personnel, and as I say, it gives you a chance to play against the elite teams and that's how you form your philosophy, whatever that philosophy is, and I don't know why you wouldn't do that. A lot of teams play that way, you look at the Pac 10 with UCLA, Stanford, and since Holland and my father and Tim Floyd and the other coaches, it's shifted and it's no coincidence that those teams have done better in play. And when you get to the NBA level, it's a half court when it gets down to it in the playoffs and things like that, and I think we can sell that to young men and hopefully they'll be happy to come to a great college town like Pullman, it's a wonderful place.

Q. Just wanted to ask you for the namesake of your offense and defense. Is that the blocker/mover that your dad developed?
COACH TONY BENNETT: Yep, we use that and the Pack defense. I don't know if it's because he grew up in Green Bay and it's from the Packers or not, but the Pack defense is the idea of being packed in and protecting the lane and not trying to get split and beat defensively. But, yes, we use the Pack defense, and a lot of teams in the country have used those plans and philosophies.

Q. Is your dad here?
COACH TONY BENNETT: Yep, he's here. He may be on the golf course right now, but he did come and this has been special for him to see these young kids develop that he brought in.

Q. In order to slow down a team as fast as Carolina, offensively is it about execute to where there are not missed shots or not sending as much guys to the offensive glass?
COACH TONY BENNETT: That's the great challenge, I think you have to get back if you're going to have a chance I think you have to take care of the basketball. When they turn you over, they're at the other end laying it in before you can get close to getting back. Handling the ball, being sure with it.
You still have to play the game, you know. That's the one thing I like about our system is when we're playing it well, kids play, they have freedom to make plays and do things. They're not robots out there. So we'll still have to play when opportunities are there. You have to take advantage of them, and you talk about being patient, sound, and aggressive. That's the key. Hard to come to grips with, but that's the key when you play teams, you have to be patient and sound, no question, but you have to be aggressive. If you become hesitant, then you're in trouble and you can't do that.
Against North Carolina we'll have to do that offensively and your offense will dictate your defense, and when the shot goes up we'll have to send some guys to the offensive glass and then get back.

Q. What impresses you about Ty Lawson?
COACH TONY BENNETT: Playing against Jeremy Pargo obviously he's a winner. He maked his team one. He looks like he's complete but, boy, when he gets a head of steam and gets going, very difficult to stop. He gets to the paint and a lot of good things happen, and he's obviously one of the best guards that we will have faced, though we've faced some pretty good ones but his ability to get that team going in the transition and then in the half court, I think his completeness stands out.

Q. Coach, North Carolina has talked about their loss to Georgetown in the tournament last year, and how much do you guys talk about the overtime loss to Vanderbilt or use that as motivation?
COACH TONY BENNETT: We use that, we don't dwell on it. The big thing we talked about is, did we learn from our loss? When we played Notre Dame, we talked about did we learn from being in that same spot a year ago? Because we were close to advancing to the Sweet 16, and we did some things that hurt us in that game, and I said, hey, let's see if we've learned well from that. And I thought the guys did a good job of learning that. And they used that as motivation but didn't dwell on it. I think you can obsess about that stuff and it kinda restrict you.

Q. What was your Kodak moment as a player here personally? Did you take a charge from Jordan?
COACH TONY BENNETT: I got to play against Jordan probably about 14 times. One of my biggest regrets is my rookie year we were playing the Bulls, and a guy came up to me and he gave me a photo of me playing against Jordan, and he said, "You're going to want to save that some day." And I left the photo in my locker at Chicago Stadium and I remember being on the bus thinking, shoot, I left that photo there, and I thought I would have a lot more of them but I didn't.
Playing against him was a highlight, I mentioned the shot that Alonzo hit in '93. The step-back when we beat the Celtics to put out McHale in his last game. That was a highlight, a lot of them. But that shot, it seems like that was the highlight as a player and just the relationships, you know, and being part of a turn-around. The first time the Hornets had been to the playoffs, I think, and some special stuff.

Q. This is to both of the players: How big of an advantage do you think it is for Carolina to be playing here, and to basically have had all their games in the state of North Carolina at this point?
ARON BAYNES: I don't know how much of an advantage it is. It's good for them to be able to play in front of their home crowd, but I think our road record this year is better than our home record, so in that sense it's probably better off for us as well, so I don't know.
TAYLOR ROCHESTIE: Yeah, I think it's a situation where they deserve it. They're the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and, you know, they've been blessed with not being far from their home, and that's something they deserve because they've had a great season. At the same time during the year we've had an "us against the world" mentality, so that's the way we're going to take it to the road and play in Charlotte.

Q. I know your situations were different but what did you guys know about North Carolina growing up? What was your perception of the program, basketball in this part of the country? And do you know any of the players on the other team? Have you crossed paths previously?
TAYLOR ROCHESTIE: I know that my friends and family play with them on NCAA Basketball because they're the best team, and have the most stars under their names. But, it's a prestigious program where you grow up watching them. Even on SportsCenter every day, they're showing the ACC, North Carolina, Duke. And it's someone that as a competitor you want to play against and go up against at the highest level. We're going to embrace and play with passion and see what happens.
ARON BAYNES: Back home, Carolina is one of the only college basketball teams that you really hear about. That's kinda what college basketball is back in Australia. So the east coast biases were seen in Australia as well. So I definitely knew more about North Carolina than the other states. Prestigious program, real solid basketball.

Q. Things that we've read in getting ready for this weekend indicated that one of the things this year was you guys proved that last year was not a fluke with what you did in the Pac 10 and on the national scene. What motivated you this year to have the kind of season that you've had?
TAYLOR ROCHESTIE: I think it's the personnel that we have. Once the lights were on and started playing the game, it wasn't that we then started playing hard. We were in the work-outs in the off-season, running hills, doing weights, whatever, holding each other accountable, knowing that we had success. And it was fun and we wanted to get back to this point and further it, and see how far we could go. When you have a good group of guys pushing each other to get better all season, you're going to have great results.

Q. Taylor, how is your defensive system going to slow down Ty Lawson? And how do you slow down Hansbrough in the paint, Aron?
TAYLOR ROCHESTIE: I'm going to get back. As soon as the shot goes up, it's going to be like the start of a race when you hear the gun, to limit the easy shots that they're going to get. They're a good enough team as it is, if you slow them down so the ability to get back and limit their shots and make each shot a tough, contested one, hopefully that will frustrate them all night.
ARON BAYNES: Tyler Hansbrough is a great player, National College Player of the Year. So it's going to be tough, but he throws his body around a lot down there, kind of like a thrashing croc in the paint down there, so it should be a nice little challenge. But just got to get down there and try and make him play over some big bodies that we can throw at him, and hopefully do our best that way.

Q. Taylor, talk about, does Coach Bennett talk about his NBA career with you? How do you perceive a guy who may be limited in ability but was able to reach the highest level like that?
ARON BAYNES: I think that's something that helps our program. None of us were highly recruited coming into college, so kinda the same way he is. He wasn't in the style of play but he played at the highest level for a while and he got great experience. I think he tries to grind into us that it takes determination and hard work, and if we can play together as a good team, then we'll be able to take our team a fair way for the season and that's what we have to do. We have to grind out games and try and make teams play our style of basketball.
TAYLOR ROCHESTIE: I think throughout his career he pushed his limits, and got to the best of his abilities, and I think that's what he tries to do with his players and this program. You know, he pushes our limits and to see how far we can go and exceed expectations. He's got that underdog mentality and that's a big reason why a lot of the players are on this team and they came to Washington State, because they believe in being the underdog and wanting more than they might be given.

Q. I wanted to ask about playing the system, because the coach talked about the defensive system, that it allows you to win. I'm wondering if it's fun to you guys. You watch Carolina, they're running, sprinting, going crazy out there. Do you watch that and think they're having fun or do you have fun playing your system?
ARON BAYNES: Definitely we have fun. For us, defense is fun. That's what wins games and that's the most fun you can have out there on the court and being able to win, and we know the only way we can do that and by playing our defense. We make that fun for ourselves and get the most out of it that way.
TAYLOR ROCHESTIE: In practice you'll see more people smiling and high-fiving each other on a big defensive stop in practice, or if we do a defensive drill and shut down the offense for a couple minutes, we take pride in that. It helps us win games. We're not going to overpower teams with size or athleticism, but to be able to make stops, we take pride in that and it gives us the ability to win at the highest stage.

Q. One of you recently just said that most of the guys on the team weren't heavily recruited. You could imagine a remark like that coming from Western Kentucky or Davidson, but you guys are from one of the big conferences. Why do you think it was? Why did you guys accomplish so much, a group of guys who weren't really recruited by many?
TAYLOR ROCHESTIE: I think it's, you know, the principles that we play with is passion and servant-hood, playing for a higher power than yourself. We're playing for the people next to us in the locker room, not for individual accolades, and when you get people coming together and believing in a system and believing in the coach and believing in each other, you can achieve greater things than by recruiting great individuals. When you look to the people next to you and you trust them and you go out and know that you're doing it as a team, you can find a lot of success.
ARON BAYNES: Just because we weren't highly recruited coming into that, the coaches go out and try and find guys with the same type of character, you know. The underdog mentality is a big one, trying to be small players, sound players, that's what the coaching staff looks for. With a bunch of guys that can come in relatively with the same characteristics and you're going to be able to bond together and start playing some good basketball.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. Good luck.

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