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March 27, 2008
Q. Just talk about when Coach implemented this new offensive system, what went through your head when he gave this system to you guys?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: That's what this offense is, you create, and if you can't create for yourself, you create for your teammate. It's very controlled. You have to know and you have to be the -- the spacing has to be exact. So it's not hard to learn, but it's not easy.
Q. The coach for Michigan State was saying that his teams are not as physical this year as they have been in the past. Can you tell from film how physical a team is, specifically their team, and what are some of the more physical teams you have played against this year?
ROBERT DOZIER: They are a pretty physical team. They bump and try driving you on the basket. That's what this time is about anyway, being physical. We have played against some pretty physical teams like Mississippi State and Southern Miss, they are a pretty physical team. The BIG EAST teams, UCONN, Oklahoma, but I'm pretty sure that they will be right up at the top. They have no weight on and know how to use it, so it will be a pretty physical game and we have to be prepared to battle with them.
Q. Chris, do you think that this offense gives you the ability to showcase your talents on the one-on-one level than any other offense in the country?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: Yes, definitely, because like I said, if you -- this offense is really for players. I mean, if you can't play, you know, you can't put the ball on the floor, you really can't play here. And this offense gives you a great opportunity to show your one-on-one skills and just to show your skills, period.
Q. How tired are you guys of hearing the stories about how you guys can't make foul shots?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: We're tired of it but we're not thinking about that at all, not really. We've heard it for three years now, and we've been here three years straight. We're not thinking about free throws. Free throws never lost us a game.
Q. Give your impressions of the Michigan State team, and also talk about the player that you'll be matched up with tomorrow night.
ANTONIO ANDERSON: Well, Michigan State is a pretty good team. They have some great shooters and a great post presence, great wing players, as well. We just have to be ready to battle. I'm probably going to be holding Neitzel and Marquise that's going to be a tough matchup, he's a guard that can dribble, shoot and also makes his teammates better. I've just got to go out and play as great defense as I ever did and just try and help my teammates win a ballgame.
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: Michigan State is a physical team and they are a Big Ten team. It's going to be a war. It's going to be a war. A lot of our teams are interchangeable, and I don't know who I'm going to be matched up with, but whoever I am matched up with, it is definitely going to be a dogfight. We have done that yet, so today in practice, I'll have a full understanding of who I'm guarding on the Michigan State team.
ROBERT DOZIER: This is going to be a physical game. I know they have four guys down low, and not sure how to pronounce all their names but I know they are pretty big. This game is going to be about tempo, so just going to try to make it a fast-paced game and not get it set up in their halfcourt sets.
Q. What's your relationship with Lucas and some of the other Michigan State players, and is there any extra emotion going against a team from your home state, probably for the first time?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: Yeah, it's the first time but I am keeping all of the emotion within us and within my team. But Kalin and Durrell, we all played for the same AU team in Detroit, and that's how I've always looked at them as the younger guys, but I'm proud of them. They have emerged and they are playing great, Durrell is going to be great in the Big Ten, and it's still a family. You know, we are always a family and it still is.
Now we're opponents, so I have to look at them as the opposing team. I can't look at them like I usually would.
Q. You guys obviously have made the Elite 8 the last two years; how hungry are you to make your first Final Four trip?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: It gives us a great deal of confidence. We have within here before and all of our starters are experienced except Derrick and I feel he's experienced. He's far beyond a freshman.
It definitely makes us hungrier, because we have been here and we know how it feels to lose an Elite 8, so we are so hungry. We're probably more hungry than any other year we've been here.
Q. Robert, much has been said about the Conference USA being the weaker conference, but do you feel your out of Conference schedule has prepared you for the teams that you might face ahead?
ROBERT DOZIER: Definitely. I think we had maybe the top five non-Conference schedule. We played some good teams. Our league was actually much more improved than what it was last year. Might not have looked like that on paper. But those guys, they fought, battled. Those were the biggest games when they played us, so they gave us their greatest effort.
I think our non-Conference schedule has prepared us enough to where we'll be able to handle a big game when we play a great team.
Q. You guys see Chris as much as anybody obviously in the practice and all, can you describe his game, some of his moves, just kind of what he does?
ANTONIO ANDERSON: Can't describe it. It's something that just comes with his game, you know, Chris is a very hard worker. He stays after practice, gets up after his shots. He just works on everything he feels to work on. The shots that come with him, it's just hard to describe. He just has them shots in his game and there's just nobody else has anything like that but Chris.
ROBERT DOZIER: It's the same thing. You can't really sit up here and describe his game. You know, you can kind of look at it like, wow, how did he do that. That's just the way he's done it, you know, since the day he set foot on campus. This is what we expect, though.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, I believe in my team. I have great trust in them. The way we play offensively, you have to have great discipline. They have had it all year. The way we defend, you have to have great discipline; they have had it all year.
And I think we are in a great position because no one expects us to win. I've got a pretty good team, and we're not supposed to win any of these games. I'm starting to question, how good are we? I don't even know how good we are.
So I don't think there's anything on us right now. We're just going to let it go and play ball and try to have as much fun as we can. I'm going to try to be relaxed and have fun and see where it goes.
Q. Coach Izzo a few weeks ago mentioned talking to you on the phone and his closeness and friendship with you. How special is it to be in a regional where so many friends are?
COACH CALIPARI: I'm about coaches. One of my mentors, Larry Brown, is about coaches, and about the game. You know, being here with those guys -- because there are probably about 12 to 15 coaches I call throughout the year once a week, once every two weeks.
I called Tommy and he helped me. We didn't know we were going to play each other but I gave him some issues, how do you deal with this, this, and this, and he was great, and Rick Barnes, same thing.
I grabbed those guys out in the hallway, and we laughed. But it's hard, I'm playing against a friend, I'd rather play against someone I don't know, shake his hand after the game, win or lose, nice to see you, but this one is hard. Tom and I talked the next day after the pairings came out and first thing he said, "I hate this."
I said, "I hate it, too."
But we are going to play and both of us are competitive enough that when it starts, I am not looking down there and I doubt if he looks down my way.
Q. Following up on that a little bit, when Tom was in here, he talked about the fact when he had some chances to move NBA, he called you for advice; can you elaborate for us, you've been back and forth on the differences.
COACH CALIPARI: Just once for me. Basically I said: If you think you can get a better job than the one you have, when you get fired, because you are going to get fired, then do it. And if you think you have the best job, ever, then don't do it.
And his comment is, "I don't know if I can have a better job for me than Michigan State."
I said, "Well, then you're absolutely out of your mind thinking anything, because in that league, it's different."
Q. You guys obviously have been at the Elite 8 level the last two years. How much confidence does that give you coming here again, and how much do you sense that the guys on your team are hungry to try to do more this season?
COACH CALIPARI: The greatest thing is they are experienced, they are hungry, but we are not supposed to win. All of the pundits, we are losing this game and here is why; bam, bam, bam.
We are just going to go play. Like I say, I believe in my team and I trust my team. I have a bunch of veterans and young players that I have great faith in. And we're not supposed to win. I don't know if we are one of the better teams but I think we are pretty good.
So we'll be able to let it go and hopefully, again, I want these guys having fun. I got uptight the first game, because I didn't want our program to be the first one to lose to a 16 and Texas-Arlington was pretty good. And they are even after me, let us relax and go do what we do. I tell them, I believe in you and I trust you.
Q. Coach Izzo said his teams now are not as physical as they used to be; do you buy that? And how do you do against physical teams, do you give as good as you get?
COACH CALIPARI: Sometimes. When you look at Tom Izzo, one of the great coaches in our country in college basketball, one, his teams are always tough, but it's also mentally. It's not just physically. And it's because of how he coaches.
The second thing, people don't realize how fast they play. People think they walk it up the court. They don't walk it up the court. Lucas is flying; Neitzel is flying; Morgan is flying. When I tell you flying, flying.
Now, his teams have always been able to grind it out and run good stuff. This team does that, also. We've played physical teams. We've tried to throw all kind of different teams in the non-Conference and the Conference teams all played us different. Houston played wide open.
UAB played a lot like we play. Southern Miss played a different style, more of a physical/grind it style. They all play different styles whether it's Georgetown and Princeton offense, or Connecticut with shot-blockers; USC with stars on the perimeter. We played a schedule that prepared them for this moment.
Q. When you first came to Memphis, the graduation rate was pretty low. How did you change that culture?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, we've graduated 15 of our last 17 seniors, and when we arrived at Memphis, it was a zero percent graduation rate for the past six years. Part of it was staff. This is not acceptable. Biggest part of it was the university decided we are going to go do things a different way. We are going to go invest in academic support and make sure these young people have every opportunity to graduate, and they do the work, they are going to have every opportunity. The way we travel, we miss less class than any team in the country because of how we travel.
All of a sudden, you say, you go from zero to 15 out of 17; yeah. And again, I'm proud of that, and I'm proud of our university making a commitment to these student athletes.
Q. When you look at this field, who do you see right now as the team to beat? You guys are obviously the No. 1 seed, Texas, they are playing in their own backyard. How do you see that? Who has the most pressure?
COACH CALIPARI: Obviously I don't think we do because no one thinks we are going to win. So I think it's all fuss and whoever it's on, I don't know nor do I care; it's just not on us.
I would tell you all the other No. 1 seeds right now that are supposed to win and easy roads, that stuff becomes hard. It starts weighing on you. With us, it's like we are going to lose. I would tell you everybody has something different, Stanford inside, Texas outside, Memphis obviously doesn't have much coaching because we are not pick to do anything. You look at Michigan State, their style of play, what they do, their toughness and coaching and all those things, so I think every team has something a little different.
Q. Free throw shooting has been an issue, but you disagree. What other concerns do you have for your team besides the free throw shooting?
COACH CALIPARI: The biggest thing I think for us is offensive rebounding for us, and keeping teams off the glass where we don't let them offensive rebound on us. That's the major thing with me.
The other thing is the pace of the game. We can play either style, and figuring out what is the pace, do we want to change the pace. For us, does that mean pushing the ball or does that mean defensively. Those are the issues I have.
But I'll come back to, we've been in the same free throw shooting team for three years, and our record has been pretty good for three years. All of a sudden, it's now -- and I'll be honest with you, whether it's us or North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA; free throw shooting could play a part in anybody's game, now, not just ours.
But I'll say this. It will never come into play if we offensive rebound and really gang rebound on defense and don't give them offensive second chances and third chances. So at this point, those are the two issues I would say to you.
Q. There are a handful of freshmen that have excelled and people just assume are one and done in the college game. Talk about, you know, how Derrick has handled that and sort of how he's handled the tournament, as well.
COACH CALIPARI: He's been tremendous. He reminds me of the same personality that Marcus Camby had. When you're a player that's really strong and really talented and is one of your best kids, boy, it's fun to coach.
I said at the last meeting, if my thing -- if Derrick -- if it's about Derrick and his family, they have got to strongly consider leaving. If it's about me and my family, they have got to stay. (Laughter).
Q. How tired are you about hearing your free throw shooting just mentioned on and on the last week or so? And is there anything your team has shown that they are doing better?
COACH CALIPARI: When we played Mississippi State and had five turnovers against one of the great defensive teams in the country and had 11 blocks. And all anybody wants to talk about is free throw shooting. I almost think it's funny.
My team, I'm just telling you, I'm with them. You have to understand, past history, three years of shooting free throws about the same, with four minutes to go, we make the free throws we need to make.
Now, we'll miss some, but they don't play a factor. They make the game closer. I sweat a little bit. But they are looking at it like, Coach, you trust us, we'll do what we have to do. So the big deal about it, that's fine.
If you look at our team, there's so many other good things to talk about how we play; how we play defensively, how we swarm, how we play offensively, it's different. People that don't know it, think that it's just throw the balls out and shoot layups. And that's fine, too.
But this team I have, I'm going to say it again, I really believe in them. And for them, I may have been about the first coach to believe in them. We don't have the McDonald's All-Americans.
So I was the first coach to say: I believe in you as a player. I think you're better than everyone else thinks you are, and if you come with us, you'll do some better things and you'll get better Chris Douglas. You may have been Top-100 but I'll tell you right now, you can do something special.
Whoever it is, we have had a great belief in these guys from the beginning. Derrick Rose, I watched him play in high school, I just said, this kid on our team, oh, my gosh, who helped us recruit them, our starting point guard from a year ago, Willie Kemp. The reason he is with us is Willie wanted him with us. If you talk to Derrick, Derrick did not want to come to Memphis.
One last thing, they are friends first and teammates second. They really like and support each other. We played Texas-Arlington and three players said to me, please get Willie in, we need him. Let him make a mistake or two and let him play. I did, and the next game he hits four threes and probably the biggest reason we won the game was Willie Kemp.
But his teammates, how about, this the guy playing his position said, so I've got a unique group. I don't know how unique we are because we're not supposed to win but I think we are pretty good.
Q. You've talked about your new offense this year, how you talk before your kids, really grasp what you want them to do and was there one game or maybe even a practice when you said, hey, we have got it, I know this thing is going to work this year.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, we had to get it first as a staff. Grant Wall from Sports Illustrated, he wrote a great story, because a normal person could read it and understand a little bit about the offense. But the person that just looks at it and has conventional basketball, 22 screens, flex cuts, all that, we are not doing that, they don't think we are doing it. It's Princeton offense on steroids; we are running back cuts; we are running chin cuts, we are doing all the same stuff, but we are doing it faster. But it took us time to grasp it. And I have to fly to Fresno three different times and spend four hours a day to really -- it's not what I learned. It's not what I've been taught as a basketball player. It is totally the opposite.
When we fully incorporated two years ago, since that time, we have been pretty good. Our stats offensively, our shooting percentages, at times we shoot too many 3s, well, that's on me. At times we don't post it enough. If we had a great post player that could run, he would have to be able to run, yeah, we could go to him. But if you're a post player that wants to stand there, no, can't do it. You would have to be an athletic long man that could play in the post but still score and run the court.
Q. So much is made about freshmen and how much they learn in the first year and a guy like Derrick and has thought to be none one, No. 2 pick, did he have stuff to learn and how much better is he now than when he came in?
COACH CALIPARI: Shaun Miller was, you know, he looked and he said, initial thought was he'll be like your 12th best player. And that was early on. He has gotten so much better and so much more comfortable; the only thing you have to tell Derrick is what you want him to do. When you teach Derrick, whatever you teach him, he owns. It's no longer yours. You see if the guy doesn't own it, the minute it didn't work, you know what he says? This guy, what's he teaching me, showing me this, that and the other. But if he owns it, it's his, he makes it work.
Derrick, anything I've talked to him about, he owns and he's getting to the point now where he tells me, relax, we've got this. Marcus Camby used to do that for me, relax.
Basically I'm saying, would you please do more so I can do less, and I'm talking to him in those terms. He is one of the neatest young men I've ever been around. I asked his mother, he's so good, but he's not like the normal great player. She said, "I told him growing up, treat people like you want to be treated and you're no different than anybody else, just remember that, Son."
And all of a sudden, again, you know what he did? Took her advice and he owns it. And the way he treats it and the way he looks at himself, he's humble, and he thinks he's got so much more growth. I hope that means one more year at Memphis but I don't know about that. But he is a terrific young man.
Q. Can you talk about Willie's progression, and what he's improved on this year? And can you also speak to Tim Floyd's positive comments?
COACH CALIPARI: He and I were talking, and he said the most important player on your team is Willie Kemp. I said, "Why are you saying that?"
He said, "Because now you have two point guards on the floor when he's with Derrick Rose, he can make shots and he can make plays."
But I made a little mistake and Coach Brown helped me with it, Willie got to thinking that he was coming in to score. I said, Willie, you're a player, just come in and play, and if you have shots, shoot them. If you don't have shots, that's fine. Drive the ball, create for your teammates, you're not coming in as a Dale Curry, just shoot every ball, make them, deep 3s, that's not what you are. He didn't know who Dale Curry is; he knows his done but don't know deal. You're a player, that's what you are. You are not just a scorer.
And he's been -- but think of this. Starting point guard, recruited the guy that moved into that position. That's Willie Kemp. That's the essence of Willie. I recruited him to Memphis so we could compete for national titles and with him here we are.
Q. Late in the game against State away from the basketball, Dorsey was tripped, and you said in your post game, you would toy with the idea of having him run around to try to make it an intentional foul. Would you actually do that?
COACH CALIPARI: Yes, now let's think about this. We rebound the ball when Joey starts running up the sidelines and they are going to foul. Don't get fouled. Just run from the guy, how about this, run in a circle, run to the backcourt, fake the guy out, don't get tagged; if they grab him, is that an intentional foul? Two shots on the ball? I think so. It would be hard not to call. Yeah, we have worked on this, so if we tried to grab Joey, you're going to see like a track meet in a dodgeball tag play, just get away from people.
Q. You said earlier that they play faster than most people think. That being said, do you want to play as fast as you can?
COACH CALIPARI: You know, it's amazing he's played ten guys, he's played a lot of people; they are ready for this moment, they are. His teams can play two different ways. Our teams can, too. I've played a lot of people for this moment so that we have a lot of, excuse me, options.
But here is what I will tell you. I've put on the board yesterday, we are playing our game, and I'm not going to change now, not happening. We play how we play, and Michigan State plays how they play, and most people think Michigan State is going to win. We play the game.
End of FastScripts