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April 6, 2008
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead with questions for Memphis.
Q. Are there parallels to be drawn to this team and the one in 2003, Syracuse, Carmelo Anthony, specifically with Derrick?
COACH CALIPARI: I hope so. I don't know. You know what, it's funny, we played that team early in the season, now that I remember in Carmelo's first game. I hope so.
But this is a veteran team, a driven team, and he's made us better. But the other reason we're better is the guys you see sitting here have gotten better. Chris Douglas, Antonio, and Joey aren't the same players they were a year ago; they're way better. So, I mean, I don't know if that's the case with their team. I don't think these guys would know.
Q. Is everything okay with Derrick? He walked in and walked out?
COACH CALIPARI: He said his stomach was bothering him, so...
I told him to go back and see the trainer.
Q. Can you explain to us when you made the decision to go into the offense that you run now, what you think about it that makes it work, if you think that it is true that your success could help it spread around. There's already stories about how many people are using it.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, Vance Walberg came to watch us practice, was a junior college coach, stayed three days. On the second day, I took him to dinner and I said, Tell me about what you guys do. He said, You don't want to see it 'cause you won't do it. I said, No, I want to see it. He showed me it.
Because I had coached in the NBA, what I loved about it was the spacing. I had a player on my team, Antonio Burks that needed space. If you gave him space, could really do things. But I didn't have a lot of other players that could play this way.
So for a year or two, we only did it in spots for Antonio to do his thing.
But when I had a team full of these guys, I said, You know what, I want to go fully with it. Now, defensively we do not play how Vance, his system, is. He take a few more chances than we used to take, but we're the same.
But I just think these guys feel unleashed. Every one of them knows that they have the ability to take the ball to the basket. But the biggest thing is whenever they drive, they know where everybody is. And there's reads off of it. If a guy stops on a certain point on the floor, another guy knows what that means: to go to the rim, to come out. The weak side post would know. If he stops here, I do this. If he stops over here, I know I do this. If he drives to here, this is what I do.
They all know what they're supposed to do.
Q. Was it risky knowing you had this great selection of talent?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, you know. The one thing you have to do coaching this way is you have to -- if you have 10 ropes you're holding onto, you have to give up about three and hold onto seven because there's more freedom for them to make choices. You have to count on your team to be unselfish, you have to count on your team being able to make great decisions on the run, and you have to understand that what makes it good is they feel unleashed. They never feel like they can't make a play.
Q. Last night, Bill Self was in here saying things like players making plays, he didn't want to corral his guys, he felt like at one point during the game last night he didn't have control over them. Sounded similar to a lot of stuff you're saying. Could this title game be a lesson, recruiting great players, putting them in a position to be great isn't such a bad coaching philosophy?
COACH CALIPARI: First of all, you're recruiting players, and the challenge is to get them to play together. The second challenge is to get them to accept roles. Normally less than they want, each of them.
The other challenge is to get them to accept how we're gonna play.
And then lastly, it's are they getting better. It's not just bringing in a guy and telling him to play. What I get great satisfaction out of is that they look at the guys on our team and say they're better than they were at the beginning of the year. Year to year, they've gotten better. That's the challenge for us coaches.
But as coaches, every coach, not this style, Billy's style, Roy's style, Ben's style, is to put players in position that they can have success. This style for us gives us our best chance of success for the last three years. If I played another style, would we win as much? Maybe. Maybe not. But I feel for us playing this way gives these players the best chance to win and the best chance to play their best.
Q. Can you talk about over the years how you've changed under the recruiting culture in Memphis? When you get there it was all about recruiting mostly Memphis kids. When you started going outside coast-to-coast, there was somewhat of a backlash from fans.
COACH CALIPARI: I just felt that if you want to be a national program, you have to recruit nationally. You can't be a regional recruiting team and say we're going to recruit regionally, but we're going to be national. Can't do it. I always said I'd like to have a team of five to six Memphis kids and then five to six kids from around the country. It's gotten a little less than that. But there are kids in Memphis that we're recruiting that we really want. But we can't take 'em all. And every kid in Memphis we try to help, whether it's with another school, whether it's with a prep school, junior college, whatever way we can help the kids, we're a resource.
But we can't recruit them all. Memphis is a great high school basketball city, always has been. And now the private schools in our city have taken it to another level. So now not only do you have the city schools doing well, now all of a sudden the private schools are competing nose to nose with them for the best players.
Q. How do you explain shooting 80% from the line? Are you offering any clinics this summer for free-throw shooting?
COACH CALIPARI: Rick Barnes said he wanted me to come down and do a free throw clinic in Austin for him. After I saw his players shoot the air ball from the free-throw line in Little Rock, I said, You use him, you don't need to use me.
You know, they'll tell you. We spend no time thinking about free-throw shooting. The only thing I did different this year, my cousin is a high school coach in Pennsylvania, John Miller. One of the best coaches in the history of high school basketball in western PA. Said I used to bring kids in, let them have fun shooting free throws in the morning before class, figure out some way they'll have fun shooting free throws. We did a free throw ladder. So for 10 minutes prior to every practice, we put 10 minutes on the clock, a running clock, and there was a ladder. They would challenge somebody above them. It was a pyramid.
They could yell, scream. They got five shots. Whoever won, they changed. Then at the end of that day, whoever finished first got five points, the second four points, the next three. We had fun with it. They laughed. I think it was to say, You don't make it like, You got to make this or we run. We didn't do it that way.
I think I have mentally tough kids. If they're relaxed, they're going to make free throws. A kid that's not mentally tough that shoots 90%, knees knocking, he's missing it. Percentage doesn't matter. And we've got tough kids.
Q. Obviously you have had a terrific season, but it seems like once you got into the tournament, the level went up a little bit. Did you feel something? As a coach, how do you walk that line in terms of getting a team ready to peak?
COACH CALIPARI: Everything we've always done that I've done in coaching is to try to get my team ready for March. That's all it's been about. League play was all about seeding. The tournament was all about seeding in the NCAA tournament. That's all it was.
And we want them mentally and physically fresh at the end of the year. These guys will tell you, the last month of our practices, we're going 1 hour and 20 minutes. The last two months of our practice, we never -- have we watched a full game tape? We watch clips. I don't want them in the film room more than 15, 20 minutes. That's a long time.
The reason I don't want them in there, that's my job as a coach and our staff to watch tape. They never get a scouting report. We show them, we talk to them, we tell them personnel, go through it on the court. I don't think they need to read a 30-page report. I want them to play. I want them to worry about us, how we play.
We'll give them what they need to know on the other team. So we want them to be fresh mentally and physically. And our teams historically in March have done pretty well.
Q. Has any team ever zoned you guys and does it work?
COACH CALIPARI: Oh, yeah, they've tried everything. The people here that watched our team closely, we've see 1-3-1, 2-3, 3-2, two-man zone, one-man zone, we've seen box-and-one, triangle-and-two, what else? Six men, one guy left an extra guy out there. I mean, we've seen every -- Kansas now could throw a 3-2 at us. They've played that. They played box-and-one against Curry. They could do that. They played triangle-and-two. They can do that. The only thing is we've seen every one of those. We may not play well against it, but it's not because we haven't seen it.
You know, we'll touch on all that today, you know, to say, Hey, if they go to this, you know what we're doing.
It doesn't matter what they play, we want to attack. We're going to try to attack the rim.
Q. Antonio, every night you're covering the team's best player. How much energy do you have to expend to do the job that you do?
ANTONIO ANDERSON: It's pretty much not energy. I just take a lot of pride in just going out and try to make it as hard as I can for the best team's offensive player, just to help my teammates. I'm just willing to do whatever it takes to win. If I don't have to score any points, I can just play defense for my team, I'm willing to do that. These guys believe in me. I got hope with Joey behind me and Rob as well. It takes a lot of pressure off our guys, like Chris and Derrick who got to do a lot for us on the other end. I rather them do that and me play defense than me have them do a little extra more.
Whatever it takes for my team to win, I'm willing to do it.
Q. Getting back to recruiting. Seven of the 13 players on your roster played high school basketball in North Carolina. Is that irony or part of your strategy?
COACH CALIPARI: It was prep school, some of them. Doneal Mack was high school in Charlotte. No, you're not beating those schools in that state. Something happened that, you know, someone called us to say, Hey, this kid would like to go with you. If I know the best kid in North Carolina, there's a good chance that North Carolina and Duke are going to recruit him.
I've got enough trouble with Duke and North Carolina in Memphis, let alone going into North Carolina, so...
Q. If there was a stat sheet for guys that get yelled at the most at on your team, who is one and two on that list?
COACH CALIPARI: They all argue. They all think it's them. I got 12 guys that think it's them.
But my wife's son is Joey, so when I yell at Joey too much, it's the first thing I hear when I walk in the door. Would you just leave him alone?
And last night, like I got on him. The reason I got on him is because I know how good he is, and I know that you all watched and he won the game for us. I know that. I know he had 15 rebounds. That block, I've never seen it. I've seen that block sometimes three times in a game. I've seen him dunk with his head on the rim. But I've also seen him -- we throw the lob and he's not ready, he fumbles it out of bounds. Which he did a couple-of-times. I know how good he is.
I'll get on him. I'll get home. My wife, Just stop yelling, yell at somebody else. Okay, I'll stop. Last night when I met the team, I walked in, I guess Joey had said to my son Brad, He yells at me more than he yells at you, Brad. My wife says, I already told him to quit yelling at you. I walked in, said something about, I know I'm going to hear I yelled at you too much tonight.
The whole point of this, whether it's any of these guys, I get on Chris Douglas because I want his motor to run like Rip Hamilton's. When his motor runs, it's ridiculous. But he doesn't always have the motor running. So I'm challenging him to do it.
It's funny. I'm on him. What game was I on you?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: Tulane.
COACH CALIPARI: He had like 26 at half because he did a breakaway and he went half speed and missed. I can't believe it. And he's like, What? I got 26 points, it's halftime, and you're yelling at me.
So I spread it out pretty good, I think. But they also know that I love 'em, so I can do that. You can't yell at my son. I can. I can say things about my son. You cannot. If you write stuff that's not right or is mean and vicious, I'm going to say something to you if you do it about these guys. You can do it about me. Some of you have fun with that. But you do it to them, they're my son.
So they know I love 'em.
Q. Could you give us your impressions of Derrick Rose when he entered Memphis? Was he cocky? How was he when he came into school?
JOEY DORSEY: Very shy, very humble. He doesn't speak a lot, you know, 'cause he didn't really know us like that. He was just laying back, observing us.
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: He came in with so much hype, and the way he handled it, I had to admire it, because he fit right in. He always wants to -- you know, when people say things about him, he tries to put it right on us. Like I've done this because of my teammates.
I admired him. I admired his attitude as soon as he stepped foot on campus. There's no way you can dislike somebody like that.
Q. You said Derrick's stomach is bothering him. I wonder how your stomach is doing hearing that news. You mentioned how much you love this team. No matter what happens, it's the last time you're going to coach them. Can you reflect on that a little bit.
COACH CALIPARI: Too early to do that. I'll do that after this game. But I will tell you that this has been -- I've been through one of these in '95, where the team just dragged the coaching staff, had a great rapport where they can tell me, Calm down, quit yelling at so-and-so. You don't always have that kind of rapport with your team.
These guys are mature. They're intelligent. They have great hearts. They're a Dream Team. We went through it, and it was amazing, this is what a Dream Team is. There were 14 or 15 points. We all looked at each other and said, We meet all these.
I'll think about that later. I know I got another - what do I have - 30 hours.
Q. Could you comment briefly, did you catch the Kansas/North Carolina game last night? What were your impressions? What do you think of the matchup, how you match up with them?
ROBERT DOZIER: They came out early. They was making shots, playing great defense. They played aggressive on both ends.
Know it's going to be a tough matchup. They got great players who can knock down open shots and get in the lane. We're going to have to try to stop that.
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: I was very impressed with them. I've kept a close eye on them because I talked to a couple of the players, so I've seen them play throughout the year.
They're similar to us, you know. They have great guards. They have a great inside presence. You know, their bigs are pretty skilled.
So it's definitely going to be a challenge. It's going to be a great game because it's so evenly matched.
Q. The way you describe your offense, sounds like there's a degree of scripted structure. How does that compare to the various versions of the Phoenix Suns offense that people use?
COACH CALIPARI: If I had Steve Nash, we'd be playing like the Phoenix Suns.
This offense is geared to all four perimeter guys being able to start the offense and some of it is scripted. That's why I say it's like Princeton on steroids. It's just faster. You saw the back door to Chris Douglas that basically finished the game, I thought, when he dunked that ball. That was a scripted play. We pitch, we drive, boom, we stop in a certain area, that means he's going back to the basket, it's a back door, we go. I know Princeton does it with a spin. We just do it different, but it's the same idea.
Some of it is scripted. Some of it is free flowing based on where the guy wants to drive. Chris can drive left or right. We'll play off your drive. But he'll know where everyone -- he could close his eyes and throw the ball to somebody. He'll know where they're supposed to be.
Q. What did you see in Chris when you were recruiting him? You talked about his motor running. When he's got his motor going, how difficult is he to stop?
COACH CALIPARI: You can't stop him. He reminded me of Earl, The Pearl when I saw him the first time. I went to see the family, the AAU team in Detroit. I was watching, he knows this, his teammate. I watched the game. I'm watching the game. I keep seeing this skinny kid running half speed. He just keeps getting balls in the basket. I start watching him, like his feel for the game, his ability to handle. He didn't shoot it well, had a body language, this kid's body language isn't great. Then I kept watching him. I said, I love this kid's game. I went to his coach and I said, Speedy, I know I came to see this guy, but that's the guy I want. He said, You got the right one. He is the guy.
My challenge was to get him to defend better. The challenge for us and for himself is to improve his perimeter shooting, which he has. The last challenge is the motor, that I'm sprinting that floor, I'm cutting off cuts, I'm never jogging, to play at that level.
When he hits that, you're going to see, you know, that he is as good as anybody in the country.
Q. What have you learned and how much have you grown since the last time you coached in a Final Four?
COACH CALIPARI: I was in my early 30s, was overwhelmed with everything, from the phone calls to the preparation to go down to the tickets, to everything. I walked out on this floor and my whole thought was, This is the next game. I did not look at this like it was anything other than the next game. And I told those guys. I didn't know, but that's how I felt. I did not feel that way when I was 34 or 35, whatever I was, at that age. So I was a little bit overwhelmed with the whole environment.
But I've mellowed out (smiling).
Q. What would you say is the biggest misconception about your team?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: It really doesn't have anything to do with basketball. The biggest misconception is us as people, I mean, off the court. I feel people judge us and don't really know us.
But we've been dealing with it. But the biggest misconception has nothing to do with basketball; it's us as people. They don't really know us and they tend to judge based on how we look, how many tattoos or whatever. They don't see the real people. They don't see how great of a teammate Joey is or Robert or any of us.
JOEY DORSEY: Just like Chris said, just being labeled off the court with us as people and not seeing who we are. As good as teammates as Chris, Antonio, all the guys are, we friends, you know, like a family. This is my family right now and I love these guys.
Q. How much has the doubt that critics have cast on your team this season, how much has that motivated you? In the regular season, you were phenomenal, but they were saying you didn't play anybody in your conference, couldn't hit shots from the stripe. How much more gratifying is it to get to this point with all that was said?
COACH CALIPARI: That stuff could inspire you for a game. It's like sugar. It goes in your system and it fires you up for 24 hours. The reality of it is what drives you is competing against yourself and our past performance. We've already talked about it. Right now our challenge is to see if we can play better than our last game we just played. That's our challenge. It's not what somebody says. They're not gonna pierce our armor. Articles written about our program or me or these players will have no effect on us.
Jesse Jackson said it best to us: Don't read anything. The bad stuff, trying to get you off point, they're trying to distract. The good stuff, it doesn't do you good either. If you want to read anything, read it after the games are over. You concentrate. That's what he said to the kids and he said it to me. What great advice.
You know, the one thing, I don't play us against the world. I don't do that. This is the information age. We'll have guys, We're not all against you, we're just not going to pick you to win. Well, you're certainly not with us if you're picking everybody else throughout the tournament.
So they see it and hear it. This guy said this. They see it all. They're on the Internet. But it's not what drives us. What drives us is competing against ourselves to be better than we were the last game.
Q. Could you discuss your relationship with Bill Self a little bit, how that's developed over the years, and if it will be difficult coaching against a relatively close friend in a national championship game?
COACH CALIPARI: One, I know him because we both started the same way, under Larry Brown. I'm so appreciative of Larry Brown as a mentor and friend. I walked with him this morning on The Riverwalk. None of the things that have happened for me or my family would have happened. When I was fired in New Jersey, he reached out and said, I want you to come and join my staff. I'm like, As what? I want you to be my assistant. I want you to sit right beside me. He didn't have to do that. He didn't need me. The guy is a Hall of Famer.
And Bill Self knows it because he feels the same way.
Through that connection, we've been friends. What Bill has done at Oral Roberts, then he went to Tulsa, did exactly the same thing, then he went to Illinois. The team that went to the Final Four was his team. He did the same thing. Now he's at Kansas doing the same thing.
I am so happy for him and what he's been able to do in his career. He's a good man. He's a great coach. We probably recruit the same type of kids and the same players. Recruit more against Kansas than I recruit against anybody else.
It's interesting. You know, we're two competitive coaches. It's easier for me when I like somebody than it is if I really want to beat somebody, 'cause that gets me off point. I tell these guys, you get inspired when you're mad. I can't do it. I'd rather have a guy that I really respect and like. Let me go coach against that guy, have fun doing it.
Q. Chris, how much better is this team now than when the tournament started?
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: We've gotten much better. I mean, I feel we've gotten better every game. We've sort of peaked. We've sort of found ourselves in this tournament. Because at the end of the year, you know, everybody has their role, everybody knows what they're supposed to do and how to help the team. And now we've been working on it for the whole season, and now it's all come together.
So we're much better now. And we're much more confident. And, like I been saying the whole tournament, we're relaxed. We're having so much fun on the court. Like coach said, we look at it as the next game. I don't know how we're doing it, but everybody on the team is really looking at it, Okay, this is the next game. This isn't a national championship game. And that makes it easier for us to go out and perform.
Q. Could you talk about your recollections of your time up at Kansas as a young assistant coach.
COACH CALIPARI: I loved it. I was with Ted Owens and then I was with Larry Brown. But I worked at the -- I was a volunteer. To eat, I worked at the training meal. The Sinclairs ran the training table. I would serve peas or corn, What would you like? I'll be there early for practice if you want to do some extra shooting. Would you like peas or corn? That's what I did.
But you know what, it was the greatest time of my life. I remember the first time in Allen Fieldhouse, the old locker room, I went in, and it was old. I'm thinking, Phog Allen showered in this shower. I mean, it was old. And I said, This has been here since the building, right? They said, Yeah. The storied history of Kansas. The environment to live, to raise a family. It was tough for a 25-year-old because you're not going to hang around the students. You didn't have any money to go to the country club. So that 25-year-old, that was tough.
But what it made me do, I just got into basketball. I was in the office all the time doing stuff. It was a great time. And I met my wife in Kansas. So we met at Kansas. She was poor, I was poor, I guess. I don't know.
THE MODERATOR: We'll let the student-athletes go to their breakout rooms.
We'll continue with questions for Coach Calipari.
Q. You were talking about Chris. It almost sounded like Bill Self talking about Brandon Rush. How much are they alike as players? Do you anticipate they'll be matched up against one another tomorrow?
COACH CALIPARI: You know what, they may be. They may be. I've watched Brandon play, but I don't know him as thoroughly as I know Chris Douglas. So I don't know.
I would imagine Brandon probably shoots it a little bit better, and maybe Chris drives it a little bit better. But they both got great size and athleticism, you know, leaders of their team, have sacrificed a lot for their teams. So they're probably similar in that regard.
Q. Can you just talk a little bit more about how you ended up at Kansas, how Ted ended up bringing you there.
COACH CALIPARI: Bob Hill was an assistant coach there and I was working at Camp Five Star. Saw me working the camp. Said, Why don't you come out and work our camp. I said, Okay. I went out and worked his camp. Ted Owens watched me do a station. He said, Why don't you stay here. I can't pay you. If you want to help out, and be in the office and stuff envelopes, and learn about college basketball, I'd love to have you here. I went, Are you kidding me?
So I went out there with two pair of shoes, three pairs of slacks, a blue blazer, three shirts, and two ties, happy as hell.
Q. Did you have anything else going on as far as your career at the time?
COACH CALIPARI: No. I had just gotten out of school.
Q. Brandon Rush, what jumped out at you from what you saw last night? Could he play for you at Memphis?
COACH CALIPARI: Oh, yeah. Our teams are similar. I mean, they're bigger. They've got bigger players, especially their inside players. But the players are the same. You know, very similar mentalities, they go after -- they're very aggressive, they attack the rim. Brandon Rush could play for anybody in the country. I mean, he's as good as they get.
Q. Derrick and CDR have basically been gobbling up everybody they've been matched with the last few games. Talk about this matchup and what would be the deciding factors on whether they can do that again.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, the reason that that's happened is they've had the mismatches. What we've done is we just figured out, Lets go through them. They're not going to double-team, then score the ball. If they do double-team, find somebody. These teams we've played have decided not to double-team.
Will Kansas double-team or play zone or do different things? I don't know. But we need Robert Dozier. Last year's run in the NCAA tournament was about Robert Dozier because he stepped up and that's why we were good enough to advance to an Elite 8 and win 33 games.
Well, we need him to play. Shawn Taggart has helped us. Then our bench. We really need Willie and Doneal to step in and play and really defend. If they defend, can you leave them on the floor. You can leave them out there and let them work into the offense until they feel comfortable to make baskets.
So I think this game will come down to Willie and Doneal coming off the bench and playing well, and what kind of game Robert Dozier will have.
Q. You had a funny answer last night about the perception of some that there was only one coach on the floor last night. You have an ego. How does it not bother you, there is a perception among some that your team wins because it has great players not because it gets good coaching?
COACH CALIPARI: There's one trophy that I'm striving for. I've been national coach of the year. That's fine. I want the national title for this team and this city, and that's what we're striving for. And if it's, yeah, they won it, but he can't coach, I'll do seven back flips with one hip coming off the floor, I swear I will. At least I'll try.
So my job is to do the best job I can for these players, give them the best opportunity at success on and off the court. We've graduated 15 of our last 17, and we've won a whole lot of basketball games. We've had three McDonald's -- two or three McDonald's All-Americans in my eight years. We have teams now in our country that have seven, eight McDonald's All-Americans. We've had three in my time here, really in my time.
So I'm just trying to do the best job I can. If people respect that, if they don't think that's very good, I can't control that, so...
Q. When did you get the bad hip?
COACH CALIPARI: I had it when I was 35 and I didn't get it replaced early enough. But I did have my hip replaced. This shows you're getting older. That's why I sit a lot more than I used to.
Q. How would you describe the relationship with your program and some of your players with William Wesley?
COACH CALIPARI: He's my friend of 20 years. I've known him for 20 years. Do our players know him? Yeah, they know him. Did they know him before they came? Maybe two of them did. I have a team of 13 players. Two of them knew him before he came.
But he's no different than any other friend I have. This stuff on recruiting is about relationships. It's what it is. Whether it's with AAU coaches that you coached one of their kids and you did well by them, they'll help you get another kid. That's what recruiting is. And it's all about having relationships where people will talk good about your program and you. I have a lot of relationships. That's why I've been able to recruit pretty good players.
Now, most of them were in the top 100. They weren't McDonald's All-Americans. They weren't. You look at my roster right now. Most of them were like top 100, top 90. They weren't McDonald's All-Americans. They turned into pretty good basketball players.
But for all of us, whichever coach is here, recruiting is about creating great relationships around the country. And the only way you create 'em is the kids that you recruit, they do well, they graduate, they get better. Now, those people want you to coach more of their players. That's what it is.
Q. You just beat UCLA. You're going to play Kansas. You talked about their tradition. Is part of this trying to get Memphis to crack the club in college basketball?
COACH CALIPARI: You hope so. But we're just trying to win a ballgame. We got a ballgame Monday. We're going to try to play it and win it.
At the end of the day, I keep saying this, I want anybody that watches the game that says Memphis had more fun than any team in that tournament, the entire tournament, Memphis had more fun. And that's what I'm trying to get through to the guys. And there's one way to have fun: and that's just compete at a really high level. And the only thing that aggravates me, it's not a missed shot, it's not a turnover, it's if you're getting out-competed, in other words, they're beating you to balls, they're beating you to rebounds. I get aggravated by that. Because you can't have fun if that's happening. Our team can't have fun.
Q. The perception outside, when a coach wins a national championship, it elevates his status. Is that true inside the business as well? Do you treat guys that you know differently or do you see them being treated differently after they've won?
COACH CALIPARI: You know what, it may be. But within our coaching -- I think all of us are disappointed that a career has to be established or validated by a Final Four appearance. We can name how many coaches that did not go to a Final Four? And in most cases, they weren't at a school that should get to a Final Four. But they coached better than anybody in the country.
You could go from John Cheney to Norm Stewart to Gene Keady. One is in the Hall of Fame, the other should be in the Hall of Fame. If you tell me, They never got to a Final Four, that's why they're not in the Hall of Fame, you're crazy. How about Bobby McKillop right now at Davidson. Are you crazy? Him getting to an Elite 8 is winning three back-to-back national titles. It is. I mean, so we're all in different jobs. There are some jobs, it's expected that you get to a Final Four and you win a national championship. You got the resources, you're at a school that recruits itself.
So I don't look at it that way and I'm not -- at the end of the day, time will talk about -- our legacies will all be left as coaches by the players we coached, over the times we coached, and how those young people are doing. And I think history is not a snapshot, one guy's article, This is what this guy is. History will be over the time, what have his players done graduating, what have they done in the real world, how many of them went on to be professional, if that's what they chose. For all of us, I think that's what it's about.
Q. Different teams do different ways on the off-day practices. Some don't do anything. How do you go about it?
COACH CALIPARI: We're still trying to figure it out.
Q. Is it how tired you are?
COACH CALIPARI: I let them sleep in this morning. They had a late breakfast. We're not going to work out this afternoon. If we work out, it will be later. We're still trying to figure out what we do.
Q. Take us back to a crossroads you were at right before you took the Memphis job. Was that a no-brainer, easy decision? When you look at your career now, would you say it ended up being a resurrection for you by going there?
COACH CALIPARI: I was with this Philadelphia 76ers with Larry Brown when they called me. My initial thought was, I thought it was like Temple, a downtown campus. No disrespect for Temple, but it's not what I wanted to do. Larry Brown said, You're out of your mind. They tried to hire me. I really should have taken that job. You need to go see it.
So when I went down to see the campus, it's a suburban campus. It's outside the city. It's in East Memphis. I saw the campus and I said, Wow. Then I saw the pyramid. I go, Whoa. I said, I think we can do this here. Because I knew what we had at UMass. And I also knew that you're in a better recruiting area there. And I thought we were in a better league than we were at UMass.
So I went from not wanting the job to saying, I want this job. So it worked out well for all of us.
Q. You talked about the time you first saw Chris Douglas-Roberts on you're recruiting trip. Can you talk about the first time you saw Derrick Rose in a gym?
COACH CALIPARI: I busted out laughing. I said, This kid is ridiculous. He was so fast. You know, I just saw a really quiet, never said much on the court, his look never changed. When I knew I really wanted him, he lost an AAU game, and he cried tears 'cause he lost a game. I said, I got to get that guy. That's who I want. If a kid's gonna cry over an AAU game, he's going to have a will to win.
Q. Whose game does he remind you of?
COACH CALIPARI: You know, everybody says Jason Kidd. And the reason they can say that is, when Jason was in high school, he could get the ball anywhere on the court that he wanted to get it and then jump over you. He was a little bit bigger.
But this kid's different. He's got like really unbelievable speed, athleticism. I mean, he's just different. I mean, he's gonna be his own self. There are going to be people five years from now talking, Is he like a Derrick Rose? I mean, this kid, he's a unique program changer, probably, in my opinion, at all levels.
Q. You're talking about how you run into Kansas a lot on the recruiting trail. You guys are both after the Henry kid.
COACH CALIPARI: We can't talk about recruits here.
Q. What I'm getting at is, people are talking about this game, it could be like an NBA game, watching two NBA teams, the athleticism. What are the similarities you think between you and Coach Self, what you're looking for? How fun could this game be tomorrow night?
COACH CALIPARI: One of the things they've always played is a high-low offense which he got from Coach Sutton. He changed it because the more tape I'm watching, he still has those opportunities to go high-low with his big guys, but he's opened up the court for his drivers. So I think he's taken all that stuff to another level.
I think instead of the middle being jammed up now, he'll go and pick-and-rolls, he'll slip guys to the rim. He's just done a phenomenal job of taking that high-low offense from Coach Sutton, and said, We're going to tweak it, we're going to make it even better.
We're different in our styles, but we're the same in that we'll play fast, we try to open up the court, but we do it different ways.
Q. There were three great guards in last year's class, Gordon, Mayo and Rose. Why did you look in on Rose? He's projected as a top three or four pick in the draft. Any scenario where you could see him being back next year?
COACH CALIPARI: We haven't talked about next year. If you try to, the kid is so -- he goes on the bus, and our bus has satellite, so it's on ESPN. He'll watch it. And if his picture comes on, he goes like that (looks away). I asked his mother, How did you raise a kid this good as a player, yet he's humble? She said, I told him that you're no different than anybody else, and you treat people the way you want to be treated. And that came -- pretty easy lesson right there, pretty great advice to all of us.
But that's what he is. I did see the others. But for our team, I didn't need a volume shooter. We needed a point guard who could run this team and dominate the ball when he needed to, and that wanted to pass before he shot, which is what he's done.
The reason he shoots as much as he does now is 'cause I tell him to. He'd rather have 20 assists than 20 points.
Q. Can you elaborate on what makes Memphis a great basketball city and why these guys have resonated with the people back in the city.
COACH CALIPARI: It's historic. It's before my time. It started with Bob Vanatta back in the '50s. He took a team to the NIT when the NIT was big. And it moved to Gene Bartow. You know, you have all the great players that played in the '70s and the '80s.
But high school basketball in Memphis has always been big. It's always been big. The kids are played up like they're college players. They're in the newspaper like they're college players. And there's always been good players and good coaching in Memphis.
Now they're also throwing in private schools. The private schools are taking their programs to that level. But you'd have to maybe ask a life-long Memphian. I think what they tell you, It's one of those things we take great pride in.
I think whether you're in Orange Mound, which is one of the oldest black communities in our country, or you're in one of the suburbs, you see these young men as your children. They look at those, They're our children. They do dumb things, and people just are mad for 'em and sad for 'em. You know, when they play great, they're out there, they love to watch 'em. They interact with the people in our community. They're quick to sign an autograph. They'll wait.
You know, they're good to all the people in the community. These kids have not forgotten where they came from. They know where they've come from, how far they've come. You know, if they can go grab a young person and make him feel better, they do it. So I think they've connected that way.
Q. So much was made of the game last night of it being a matchup of sensational freshmen. Can you talk about, over your years as a coach, how the college game has changed from a senior leadership game to one where freshmen can be the difference makers.
COACH CALIPARI: It's all based on the NBA. When the NBA started drafting players directly out of high school, you had 10th graders, their whole mindset was, I'm going straight to the NBA. The NBA then came back and knew they made a lot of mistakes on kids and paid a lot of money to kids that had not been tested except in a McDonald's All-American game, in a pickup game. They said, You're going to have to go to college for one year, knowing the kids would go to the biggest leagues, biggest schools and be challenged by juniors and seniors, you could see what they were. That now keeps some of these kids in.
I'm not sure if a kid is really talented and he's a junior, even sometimes a sophomore, to stay another two years, if you're a first-round pick, I'm not sure it's very intelligent. Seems to me the history says the longer you stay, they're finding more kinks in your armor. Doesn't mean I don't want kids to graduate, I do. But if a kid is a first-round draft pick, my recommendation will be, You need to go for it. I ask that you come back and finish up. We'll help you with courses in the summer. We'll do our thing. But you probably should do this.
Q. One of the things that Chris Douglas-Roberts said earlier in the hour is that he feels people don't understand the Memphis players. A fairly high percentage of them have run into troubles, be it academic or team rules transgressions or legal. Can you help us understand what we're missing about them that helps us reconcile what has happened in these incidents and who they really are?
COACH CALIPARI: Here's what I would tell you, you're right in what you're saying. You have some that will put a blotter together because they know what the appearance of that makes the program look like. But the reality of it is to come and spend time with them, come to practice and spend a week, go and hang out and see them, be around them, that's what they're saying.
Do they screw up sometimes? Yeah. I've always been about access and opportunity. Whether I was at UMass or at Memphis, I was at two schools that were about access and opportunities. So every once in a while a kid will do something that's just dumb, like my own children, and I deal with it. I don't throw them under the bus the first sign of trouble. When I need an intervention, I had one with Jeremy, I had one with Sean Banks, I had an intervention. A family that understands what I'm talking about, an intervention, you can't be a part of this any more. Don't come home to our family unless you're willing to change.
A lot of times I may let them back, like I did Jeremy, because they change. He got his college degree, got his life in order. Why not give him another chance. If he was your son, how would you want me to treat him?
They're not coming all the time from families and cultures where they're on third base. They're starting in the dugout, and they're gonna make some mistakes at times.
But here is what I would tell you: the success stories and the success for these young men and how I feel about that far outweighs a couple kids screwing up, far outweighs it. It's always, for me, not what they come in with, it's what they leave with. It's giving them an opportunity to do something.
And a lot of times you're stopping a cycle in their family. A lot of these kids are first college -- will be first college graduates in their family. Joey, first high school graduate in his family. So all of a sudden he came a long way.
Now, if I was at Stanford, I would recruit players who could be successful at Stanford. If I'm at Massachusetts, we graduated 80% of our players. I'm recruiting players who can graduate. I'm at Memphis. I'm recruiting players who can graduate from here. If they leave early, I'm ecstatic for them. The guys at Memphis know I'm not going to hold a kid back. I made the statement, if you want to do what's right for you and your family, you should consider leaving. If you want to do what's right for me and my family, you probably should stay.
So you try to look out for them and say, You know, I'm gonna do what I can, but if you're not right, you must change. And if they change, but they screwed up along the way, but now they're different, why hold that against them, unless you want to put that blotter together?
So their thing is, Look, I've done some dumb things and screwed up. Have any of you here? Look back and say, I did some of the dumbest things, I can't believe it. The good news for all of us, there wasn't the Internet, there wasn't phones with cameras on 'em, there wasn't cameras at every establishment we went into when we screwed up and did dumb things.
They've done enough to lead you to say, Well, how can you say that? But we're not the only program. You look throughout programs, it happens. All I can tell you is, I got a bunch of good kids. Do they screw up some? Yeah, they do. My wife and kids, they're in my home a lot. Talk to my wife, she'll tell you about them.
Q. Even though it's a basketball tournament, we hear the term "BCS conference," "non-BCS conference." Where is it so rare for non-BCS schools to get this far? You've led two to the Final Four. What are the challenges facing people from non-BCS?
COACH CALIPARI: The hardest thing is the seed. The seed is the most important thing in this tournament. If you've never coached in it, you really don't understand that. The seed is the most important thing. People say, We're in, don't worry about your seed. You never coached in this tournament.
If you have the wrong seed, your first game is not an easy one, and your second game is against the Celtics. We played Oklahoma State a few years ago. I'm telling you, four of those guys are in the NBA right now. It was varsity versus JV. I walked off the court, I saw Coach Sutton, I said this is JV versus varsity. Up 22. I don't know if he stood up. We ended up getting a seventh seed. That's who our second game was.
So it does matter. For a non-BCS to get that high seed, very unusual and very hard. You must play the kind of non-conference schedule we played. The second thing you have to do is if you're in a league, non-BCS, someone in that league that beat you has to be a top 30 team, top 25. If they're not, and they beat you, that gives the committee the opportunity to say, Well, they're a 4 seed or a 5 seed.
You got to take care of business and you got to go play non-conference games that put you in a position to get the best seed. Our whole season is based on playing for that seed.
Q. From a media perspective, being compared to Jerry Tarkanian has good and bad things. How do you feel about being compared to Jerry Tarkanian? You seem to have an independent experience. And Jesse Jackson could be seen at divisive. Can you talk about the reasons why you brought him to talk to your team?
COACH CALIPARI: He called because of Derrick. He was in town and wanted to come to our practice. I said it would be fine.
I was going to have our team read the "I Have a Dream" speech that day. I said, Let him come in. If he wants to talk, and if it's good, we won't do this. We'll do it down here. He came in, he was fabulous.
I've never seen my players in awe of anybody like they were in awe of Jesse Jackson. He talked about the struggle. He talked about the things they've overcome and what's happened for these young men because of their struggles. He talked about Martin Luther King being educated, graduating from high school at 16, graduating from college at 19, graduating from seminary at 22, having his doctorate at 26. Basically telling the players this was an intelligent man, and you're here to get an education. And so what he did was powerful.
Is he divisive? You know, I think we have some people in the democratic party that have a chance to be president because he decided to run when he ran when they said, You're gonna be killed, you can't make it. He decided to run anyway.
So I think for my team, that was powerful, and for my staff. Some may not see that, but I thought it was important and powerful for them to do it. And just so you know, we took a team picture, the players and Reverend Jackson. I said, I'd like to take one by myself with him. They said, Wait a minute, we want to take one by ourselves, too. So they all lined up and they took one by themselves with him. I thought that was great. I thought that was fabulous.
COACH CALIPARI: I think it's more about how our team plays. I respect how Jerry coached. His teams played so hard. You know, I respected their defense and what they did. They won championships. Also did it in a league like ours. They had to go in their league and do well. I think our league is much better than everybody gives it credit for. Tulsa just won the other tournament. UAB and Houston just kind of faltered at the very end of the year. I thought they both were going to get in the NCAA tournament. And I feel next year we'll get three teams in.
So this league is a little better than everybody gives it credit for.
Q. Kansas came in here and embraced the underdog role when it played North Carolina. You mentioned how some people have been picking against you. Has your team maybe embraced that role at all? Do you sense that in your players?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, I say all the stuff, they can be inspired by that, but that's not what drives them. That can get them fired up for a game, and get them moving that way, but our whole thing is, Let's play against ourselves. Let's be better than we were last game.
Q. You mentioned the time with the Nets as it related to Larry Brown giving you that kick start again. Do you mind reflecting on where you were in your career then and that career path that brought you back here? If you look back on it now --
COACH CALIPARI: Are you saying being fired in New Jersey? You're saying that nicely?
Q. You brought it up. Yeah, I mean, remembering that.
COACH CALIPARI: I think all of us learn much more about ourselves from failure than we do all the success. And in that regard, I did. It was a great experience. I got to meet some unbelievable people. I improved as a basketball coach because of that experience. I still get calls from the players. Sam Cassell called me in the locker room after the game here and was screaming and yelling. So I've stayed in touch with the players that I coached then. It was a great experience.
Getting fired? Whoa, that's like falling down a flight of steps. A lot of times there were people on the sideline kicking you to fall faster. And that's part of life. And anybody that's been in a position that you find out who your friends are. I had a hundred calls when I got the job. I had, I have to say, three calls when I got fired. Larry Brown, my father, and Howard Garfinkel. Those were my three calls.
So you know, anybody that's been through it knows what it is. That's why Larry Brown reaching out and saying, Come on down here and join me. What it did for me, one, it starts to bring you back. Men, their livelihood, how they make a living, is how they think they are. That's their life. So you kind of die. And so he helps there.
He also confirmed how I felt about the game and how to teach it because I was with him. He also opened my eyes of a different way in the NBA, where things that he did.
But it was an experience that a lot of people have gone through. You're not alone when you get fired and you're falling down and you're getting kicked down the steps. If you think you're the only one it's ever happened to, you're not.
You know, for me it was a great experience to learn and try to stay positive instead of being vindictive or mean or mad. You know, I tried to stay above it all, didn't blame anybody and learned from it.
Q. What was the most important thing you got out of your early exposure to Larry Brown during your time in Lawrence? I've heard stories about you slept on a cot in Allen Fieldhouse?
COACH CALIPARI: How did you know that? That was my first bed. This is a crazy story. They were doing The Day After. The movie was shot, if you remember the movie The Day After. I had just gotten to Lawrence. They were throwing these cots away because the whole Allen Fieldhouse was a triage, so it was filled with cots. So I didn't have a bed. They went over, They're throwing these out, take one of these. I got the wide cot. I had to put a piece of wood under it. But that was my first bed.
But I'm telling you, it was the best time of my life. I had no worries. I had no money. I had a car. We had different places we ate on different days 'cause it was the cheapest place to go. You know, it was just fun. I mean, it was a fun time.
And from Larry Brown, what it was, he comes every day and he comes with passion every day. He has in his mind how the game should be played and he holds that standard to everybody. This is how the game, in his term, playing the right way.
But every day he tweaks, he wants things better. Even now we're walking, he's talking to me about different things he saw, this and that. His mind never stops.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach, for your time today. Good luck tomorrow.
COACH CALIPARI: Thank you.
End of FastScripts