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April 7, 2008

Darrell Arthur

Mario Chalmers

Darnell Jackson

Russell Robinson

Brandon Rush

Bill Self


THE MODERATOR: Coach, if you could just give us a quick overview of the game tonight.
COACH SELF: Well, you know, it was a fabulous game. Both defenses were great. Neither team got rhythm offensively. Chris and Derrick made some huge plays for them. And then we just labored offensively.
But, God, we competed hard on every possession. You know, it's one thing to win; it's another thing to win the way we won. Just no quitting, these guys.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Mario, go through that last play in regulation leading up to your shot, your emotions afterwards.
MARIO CHALMERS: I think the play was just go flat and have a penetration pitch. I seen that Sherron kind of fumbled the ball. I relocated behind him. I was able to get a good look at it.

Q. Russell, being here four years and, Darnell, going out like this, how does it feel winning the championship?
RUSSELL ROBINSON: You couldn't have written it any better. It's great. Great effort. Both teams came out and played. We let it out there on the line. It was two teams out there competing, you know. Like I said, there's no way you can write it better.

Q. Can you talk about what was in your mind that allowed you to think you could come back? What was in the gut of this team that allowed to you come back?
BRANDON RUSH: Our whole mindset is just knowing we get one stop and try to get some buckets on the other end. We needed to try to pressure out, try to get one stop, one stop at a time.
RUSSELL ROBINSON: Coach Self did a great job in the huddle keeping guys relaxed, calm, guys being able to go out and make plays.
DARNELL JACKSON: The main thing is for us to just stay focused. For a while, guys was kind of getting down. A lot of us thought the game was over. We kept saying, Believe, there's a lot of time on the clock. Coach did a great job of making us focused. Every time we got the ball out, we made some great plays. Mario made an unbelievable shot.
MARIO CHALMERS: Yeah. I agree with what everybody said, but I think the big thing was last year's two games again Texas. We was down by 22 and something else. We were down big versus them. Everybody remembers that game, how hard we fought back. I think everybody contributed. Everybody had the mindset we could come back and we could do it.
DARNELL JACKSON: I missed a free throw block, I thought the game was over. Coach called a timeout. He was just like, You just got to believe. We came right back. Mario came down, made the unbelievable three to tie the game up. I just knew that we had the game after that. On our toes the whole overtime.

Q. Did he actually use that term, You got to believe?
DARNELL JACKSON: Yeah, he said, you got to believe.

Q. Could you talk about the domination you guys had in the paint tonight, particularly what you did to keep Dorsey in check after some of the games he had earlier in the tournament?
DARNELL JACKSON: Our job was to try to wall up more feed it in. And when a shot went up, just try to block him out then. Then for a while, he got kind of frustrated because me and Darrell, we kept putting a body on him, he kept crying to the ref. Our job, me and Darrell, all we did, every time the ball went up, just try to get the rebound and get it out and get some great shots in transition.
DARRELL ARTHUR: Yeah, like Darnell said, I thought we did a great job just putting the body on them keeping them frustrated, not let them get easy paint, just try to take it to them on the offensive end.

Q. Mario, I admire your humility, but are you aware of the historical significance of the shot you made tonight?
MARIO CHALMERS: No, I'm not. I just know it was a big shot. Teammates had confidence in me. Coach Self had confidence in me. I mean, it was a big shot for me.

Q. Mario, I heard you say after the game, you kind of knew in the back of your mind they're not a good free-throw shooting team. Can you address that, how much that played into any confidence you had down the stretch, you could come back?
MARIO CHALMERS: Yeah, I mean, all along people have been talking about how bad a free-throw shooting team they are. Coach Self told us to foul a couple of their worst shooters. We got lucky. Chris missed two free throws. Derrick Rose missed one free throw. That was a big thing for us. We just took that and ran with it.

Q. Mario, were you surprised you weren't fouled there at the end?
MARIO CHALMERS: On the last shot?

Q. Yes.
MARIO CHALMERS: No, I wasn't surprised at all. I didn't think they was going to foul. I thought they were going to keep us from shooting the three. I had an open look. I had a person in my face. It was just a lucky shot.

Q. Were you trying to run away from them?
MARIO CHALMERS: No. That was just a play. Just relocate if Sherron drove and I seen he drove, and I relocated. I think the defense, kind of confused them what we was doing, and I just had an open look.

Q. Brandon, can you talk about guarding Chris. I think you only had two buckets after halftime. You got 22, but how do you feel like you did on him defensively?
BRANDON RUSH: I think I did a pretty good job on him. I let him get out in the first half, he had 13 in the first half. In the second half, I tried to buckle down, sit down on his left hand or something. Then my team helped me out, too. So they did a good job on him, too.

Q. Mario, what year was it that you saw the Final Four here as a child and how surreal is it to have a moment like this?
MARIO CHALMERS: I think it was 2004, when UConn played Georgia Tech. I mean, that was a great experience for me. I was able to watch one of my good friends, Jarrett Jack, who was playing for Georgia Tech at the time. I talked to him after the game. He said, One day you'll be there. When you get here, make the most of your opportunity. That was something, when we got here, we all believed in ourself. Coach believed in us, and we believed in Coach, and we all fought together.

Q. Mario, did you think the shot was going in?
MARIO CHALMERS: Yeah, I thought it was going in when it left my hands. It felt pretty good when I released it.

Q. Brandon, yesterday you talked about all the adversity you had gone through to get back to this point. Are you going to come back for another season?
BRANDON RUSH: I'm not worried about that right now. I'm going to have time to think about it, discuss it with my family and stuff.
But it just feels good right now, just coming from what I had, ACL surgery, coming back and giving my teammates a Final Four, I mean, a championship (smiling).

Q. Darnell, there was a moment after you cut down the net, you went over there to the podium and sat down by yourself thinking a little bit. What were you thinking about?
DARNELL JACKSON: The only thing I was thinking about, when Mario made that shot. I sat down and I just realized that this was my last game. This is my last game as being a Kansas Jayhawk. I'm going to miss these guys when I go. I'm going to make sure I stay in touch with everybody up here, including the guys in the locker room.

Q. I know you just won, but you look like you're getting ready to play another game tomorrow night. Where are the smiles at?
BRANDON RUSH: They're around.
RUSSELL ROBINSON: They're right here. They'll be around for a very long time.
MARIO CHALMERS: We're just relaxing right now. Sinking in right now. It's a very big moment. We're trying to be serious with you guys (smiling).
BRANDON RUSH: Yeah, serious questions (laughter).

Q. Brandon, the matchup with CDR was really interesting. It seemed as if he wore down a little bit as the game went on. Could you tell us if you think that happened? What happened on the first possession of the overtime when he tried to drive?
BRANDON RUSH: What happened on the first -- what?

Q. OT.
BRANDON RUSH: We were just trying to crowd the lane so he couldn't get a lane to the basket. So Sherron got a steal, laid it up on the other end.
The matchup with him was pretty amazing. He got a herky-jerky game. It's pretty tough to guard him. I tried to sit on his left hand and my teammates just helped me out by being a strong help the whole time.

Q. Could each of you address with all the personal tragedies you went through this year, what lesson you learned from Coach Self?
DARNELL JACKSON: Everybody up here has been through a lot and everybody up here has that mindset, Man, what am I going to do next?
With Coach Self, he was always there. No matter what, even -- when something happened, he would give you the day off. He'd tell you to go back to the room. Then he'd tell you to cool off. Then he'd call and talk to you. You'd go see him the next day in the office. It's like he cares so much about us and we care so much about him. He was just a father figure to everybody on this team.
RUSSELL ROBINSON: One thing coach always told us, winning can cure a lot of things. Not only for yourself, but for your families. Winning big in a game like this, you know, I couldn't imagine what the fans in Kansas are going through right now.
MARIO CHALMERS: I agree with both of them. I think the biggest thing is that Coach Self cares more about life than basketball. He knows whatever happens off the court is going to affect us more than what happens on the court. He knows that when we get back home, we get our heads straight, we're going to give a hundred percent and he knows that.
BRANDON RUSH: We've definitely been through a lot with this team. Mario is laughing at me. But we've through a lot with this team. It's probably about as strong -- and coach always being there. Like D said, he always gave us a day off. I never had a day off, though (smiling). He gave Rod and Darnell a day off when they had a personal tragedy.
DARRELL ARTHUR: Coach Self was the biggest motivator I've ever been around. When your spirits are low, he can just lift them back up with one little speech. That's probably the greatest thing about him. He just has that in him. I don't know, there's something about him. He can lift your spirits up way high.
He had us lifted this whole tournament, so I love you for that.
THE MODERATOR: At this point we'll need to let the student-athletes go back to the locker room. Thank you very much, gentlemen. We'll continue with questions for Coach Self.

Q. A lot of characteristics have been mentioned about this team, but how much does this win speak to its toughness?
COACH SELF: Well, you know, no team would be in the Final Four unless they were tough.
But we haven't played in that many close games this year to be real candid with you and we haven't -- we've been in the situation where we've been behind late. Three of the times we weren't able to pull it out.
But there was something different tonight. Even though it didn't look good, you just felt like, that all we needed was just a break and we could get right back in it.
The guys were good on the bench. You know, and as a coach, you love to win. But it's totally different when you win when you're not supposed to win and you have to do it through toughness and guys stepping up and just making plays when it doesn't look good. That's one thing that we did this weekend. We had guys, when things weren't going well, just somehow will themselves to make a play which, you know, provided a big spark for everybody else.

Q. What does it feel like to have coached an instant classic?
COACH SELF: I think, yeah, that is instant. I mean, to be real candid with you, I'm a little overwhelmed now. I'm totally humbled to have an opportunity to coach where I coach and coach a group of men that I get an opportunity to work with every day.
You know, competition's great. And I really like the guy on the other bench. I think he's great for college basketball and has a terrific team. And I think they're class.
I thought tonight, you know, although I know they missed a couple of free throws and we caught a couple of breaks late, but -- you know, I don't know if a coach really deserves what happened to me tonight because I can't imagine it being any better any time.

Q. You kept telling your players to believe that the game wasn't over. Did you think it was over?
COACH SELF: No. No, I didn't think it was over. When I thought that -- you know, after Sherron got the steal in the corner and then made the three, and that cut it to four, if I'm not mistaken, then we jacked around and we weren't going to foul Chris, and Mario goes out and fouls Chris, and then he misses I believe it was a front end, if I'm not mistaken. He may have missed two. I can't remember exactly what it was. I just thought, you know, we can do this. We can do this. And we just need to catch a break. And we caught a break.
But I never thought it was dead. I never did. But I knew it didn't look very good.

Q. Can I get you to talk about Mario's shot and what kind of significance you feel like that shot's going to have in the annals of Kansas history.
COACH SELF: It will probably be the biggest shot ever made in Kansas history. You know, when Danny and The Miracles won it in '88, they were up four late or whatever. So I don't think it had -- I mean, there were big, great plays that were being made, but none like that.
I don't know about the '52 championship team, how it came down, the last few possessions. But, you know, that was very reminiscent, although the stakes were much higher, and the game -- it was later in the game, Mario's shot against Texas in the Big 12 tournament, not this year but last year when we were down through and he made the shot about 10 or 12 seconds left. Remarkable play. Just remarkable.
This question was asked earlier and I didn't answer it. But, you know, he has no memory. You know, the next thing that happens is the only thing that he's ever thinking about. You know, just remarkable that a guy can that that much poise when the pressure's on like that.

Q. For you personally, two years ago after the Bradley thing, three years after Bucknell, going from the lowest low to the highest high, the range of emotions for you tonight?
COACH SELF: You know, I'm gonna differ with you a little bit in that, you know, the lowest of low... If the worst thing that happens to you as a basketball coach is that you win your league, you win your league tournament, you get upset in the first round of the tournament every now and then, from my vantage point, you know, that stinks. But there's a lot of guys out there fighting and clawing every day that wish they had it that good.
So it's a tough emotion, especially when there's so many people around you that remind you, whether it be fans or whatever, remind you every day how that's not acceptable. But, hey, that's life. That's life. You know, sometimes bad things happen. I never saw it the lowest the lows, but it was a down moment in my coaching career, no question.
I'll be honest, I don't know how I'm gonna feel about this totally just yet because I'm a little in shock and a little overwhelmed. To see these kids go from losing in the first round to winning the national championship... To me, losing the first round prepared them to win the national championship because I really believe everything that happens in basketball or coaching, you can spin that to help you. It created toughness; it created a lot of things. We weren't ready to win a national championship last year. That loss to UCLA prepared us for this year and gave us incentive and motivation.
I don't know exactly how my emotions are. I know that I'm not a better coach today than I was yesterday. You know, maybe just got a little luckier today.

Q. Can you talk about your decision tonight to go with Sherron more? The steal, you had a timeout right before that, did you talk about going for the steal?
COACH SELF: If you're talking about the one right before we made the three when we were down, when that happened, we went small. So Russell was in the game also, if I'm not mistaken. And the deal was, hey, if Chris or Derrick catch it, we're gonna trap him, we're not going to foul him. Sherron made an unbelievable play to cut in front of him in the deep corner and made a great save to Russell, then Russell fanned it back out to him, if I'm not mistaken.
Sherron is a clutch player. He hadn't been healthy all year long at all. This weekend was as healthy as he could be. It wasn't a knock to Russell that he didn't play as much tonight. I just thought Sherron was on a little bit roll offensively.

Q. You mentioned from the podium tonight and a couple other times 1988. Did you at any time during the season or perhaps tonight have a sense of destiny or magic connected with that?
COACH SELF: I told our staff at pregame that, you know, Danny's part of it now; he was a huge part of it then. Went through Nebraska. Went through Detroit. And then when I saw the official line, Ed Hightower's refereeing. That sounds weird, but Ed refereed the championship game in '88. I thought to myself, The stars are aligning for whatever reason.
I know that doesn't have anything to do with anything. But there were so many reminders to me that this was gonna be a special night.

Q. A lot of people talked about this going to turn out to be an NBA-style game, a lot of points scored. Can you get a sense of how tough defensively both teams were and how tough it was to make a basket?
COACH SELF: Well, yeah, I think that our length bothered them, and I know their length bothered us. You know, we shot the ball miserably. What did we make, our last two threes, 1 of 10? Shady made a 12-footer. Darnell made a 12-footer. Other than that, how do you score? We had to get the ball all the way to the rim to get a basket. Very little transition.
You know, both teams take great pride in not giving up any easy baskets. Regardless of what anybody thought, I knew it would not be one of these games - at least I felt it wouldn't be, because I felt our guys were so in tune of understanding if you let Memphis get out in the open court and run, you know, their execution, whatever, just goes to a different level.
So we were hoping -- I'll be honest, I was kind of hoping it would be a grind-it-out game. We didn't execute for the longest, but we certainly executed the last seven minutes.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.
COACH SELF: Thank you very much.

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