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March 12, 2009

Tom Crean

Verdell Jones III

Kyle Taber


Penn State – 66
Indiana - 51

THE MODERATOR: Coach, we'd like you to make an opening comment, and then we'll take questions for the two Indiana players. And then we'll finish up with questions for Coach Crean.
COACH CREAN: First off, I want to thank every fan that supported us from close, far, in assembly hall, through e-mail, through letters, on the road, you name it. It has been, as I said to the team after the game, we may not understand how great that is right now, but there will be a time, a day when we'll look at it and know that our fan support was just beyond anything that anybody could have ever imagined for.
And early on we tried to make it as clear as possible while we were going through all the disaster that was known as Indiana basketball in April and May and part of June to understand that we had to go through it together.
Whether it was all of our players that were coming in, the two returners, in Kyle and Brett, our coaches, you name it. And our administration. We had to go through it together.
Well, we had to go through it together with the fans and every one of them has bought in. And I can't say enough about that, and I can't show enough respect to possibly put it into context what that means.
As far as the game, as far as our team, I think we've improved a great deal. Everybody on this team has improved a lot. And these two right here might lead the way with that. One, because he had 34 points in his career, and he was asked to do things that he could have never ever dreamed of inside the program and help us in so many ways. And certainly with the way Verdell has progressed throughout the season, throughout the conference season, especially, to see how much better he's gotten.
And I think that's what we're going to really build towards in our program. We're going to build the future built on improvement and improvement will lead to winning.
But we played a very good team today. We played a team that got their confidence early. Cornley was the one guy we were more fearful of than anybody else and we didn't answer the bell on getting stops on him right away.
But we continued to play in it, and it's just the way it is. They're a good team. Very well coached, as is the rest of this league. And I hope they get in the NCAA. I don't even know why it would be close. But there's very few teams here that don't belong in that tournament. And the two that probably don't are the ones that are going home, in the sense of the teams that weren't on the bubble. There shouldn't be a bubble for the rest of this league.
I spent three years in the Big East. It's a tremendous league, but this league doesn't take a back seat to anybody's league.
And there's no question that Michigan State should be a No. 1 seed no matter what happens here, and there's no question that nobody should be shocked if it's nine. Okay. Maybe we get happy with eight. But there ought to be a major revolt if it's seven, because it wouldn't make any sense.
It's a great league, and it's been an honor to coach in it this first year.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Verdell or Kyle.

Q. Verdell, what do you think you've learned? What have you taken out of this season and all the stuff that you guys have gone through?
VERDELL JONES III: This season is definitely a learning experience. But I think the most we got out of this season is if you work hard and listen to what the coaches say you can improve by leaps and bounds. That's definitely what we did this year.

Q. Kyle, you've had one of the strangest careers in Indiana history. And right in the aftermath of it ending, what are your feelings right now?
KYLE TABER: I'm sad to see it end. I mean, it was so much fun playing here at Indiana, and I was just glad to be a part of it for five years.

Q. Verdell, you look like a leader on the court right now, especially in the last three, four games. Do you feel like you've sort of taken on that role as the leader on the court directing everything, being able to score the most points, just being able to direct your team?
VERDELL JONES III: I mean, any point guard on any team is a leader. He's a direct connection from the coach on the floor. I think I've developed a lot more over the season as it progressed to be a better leader.
I think players look up to me, but I also look up to different guys like Taber and Williams, too. They're great leaders. It's a team thing.

Q. Kyle, Coach talked about what they asked you to do from the beginning of the season until now. What's your reaction to that?
KYLE TABER: I appreciate them pushing me from the beginning. I mean, trying to make me a better player every day. I mean, that's all you can ask for out of your coaches, someone who cares about you and do everything they can to make you a better person and player.

Q. Starting your career as a walk-on, what advice do you have to the other guys, those walk-ons that are sitting on the bench right now?
KYLE TABER: Just to keep battling. You never know what's going to happen. Things might play out your way. They might not. You never know. But if you keep fighting every day, usually good things happen for you.

Q. When you guys made it back to the locker room, what was -- I'm sure there's something that the coach said or the guys may have said, what was the sense? Was it sense of relief? Was it extreme disappointment that this is all said and done this year? What was it?
KYLE TABER: I mean, there's a lot of disappointment. This team got along really well together. And we had a lot of fun. We came in and competed every day. Especially for me I'm sad to see it end.
VERDELL JONES III: Definitely disappointment. I can say we're all competitors. And losing like this, it's very disappointing and it hurt a lot.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach Crean.

Q. Coach, it's obviously been a tough year for you guys. What do you think you learned most from this season going forward on to next year?
COACH CREAN: I think it's hard to put -- we haven't coached this season with perspective. I don't think they played it with perspective. I think we played it every day to try to get better, to improve them, to give them an opportunity to have a game plan to win in games.
So I don't look at it like that. But I have great respect. I think what I've learned the most is when people -- there really is no substitute for improvement. I mean, it doesn't matter what your talent level is.
There's so many things you can get better at if you're willing to do that. If you have the desire to improve, really nothing can stop you. Maybe you'll get to a certain level, because maybe your talent can't overcome this or that. Maybe your height can't overcome this or that, but there's no limit on how hard you can work to improve.
When you have a passion for that, which I think so many of these guys do, I respect them a lot for that. I mean, an awful lot. I respect them. I respect how our administration -- our president is here today. I respect working for Rick Greenspan at the beginning of the year; it's now Fred Glass. I respect the way everyone has treated us and it's beyond belief what the fan support has been like.
That would have to be right near the equation for me what the year has been when it comes to the way we've been supported.

Q. Coach, do you think this experience or this season has made you a better coach, or what have you learned from it?
COACH CREAN: It's too early. Again, I'm not into perspective. So I haven't had a chance to think about that. I take a lot of notes during the season on things that we can do better, things we want to do better at a different time. I think it all comes down to the willingness of the players to buy in to what you're trying to get accomplished.
And I've been fortunate everywhere I've been. As an assistant I got to see that from the coaches I worked for. I certainly saw that in nine years at Marquette, and I'm seeing that now at Indiana.
But I couldn't have -- we fully plan to win the game and be leaving here to go playing for Purdue. I haven't got a lot of reflection time right now.

Q. Coach, you're optimistic about the future, but do you think that this team will end up holding a special place in your heart because of all the things you guys have been through together?
COACH CREAN: No question. Every team does. But I don't think there's any question. This team over time, the memories begin with how people supported it.
I mean, when there wasn't winning streaks to bring them to the gym, there wasn't 30-point scores. I mean, there wasn't high wire dunks. We didn't run an alley-oop play all year. We had many dunks but we didn't run an alley-oop play all year. But yet everybody supported it. And to me that's where the memories will be.
We had a lot of great speakers. Tony Dungy, probably a month ago now, when he came in and talked to guys he was up for his book signing in Bloomington, and he said you will always be remembered for building the foundation if you continue to do it the right way day in, day out. And I think that makes a lot of sense. I know they've talked about that at times. And I think it makes a lot of sense.

Q. When you came into this season, you came into a situation, as you said, out of control. Was it --
COACH CREAN: Came into the program, into the program.

Q. Did you feel the way that you handled it, when you first walked in, made a connection with the fans that that led to maybe the support you got? You seem to be pretty much just flat-out honest with them. You didn't just go with the corporate rally. Seemed like you were pretty genuine with people telling them we're going to struggle this year. Did they respond that way, or is it bigger --
COACH CREAN: I think they did. I don't think there's any question. Believe me, we didn't make any moves or people didn't leave, I don't think, with thinking about what was best for the fans at that time. It was what do we have to have in this program.
And what don't we want in the program, in the sense of the way things are. Now, that was hard. But at the same time we're going out -- I'm going out to a lot of different places to speak and appearances and things like that, and you're going through it, and it was probably -- this sounds corny, but it was probably very therapeutic to be going through that and be able to -- I didn't give all the details. I couldn't. First off, most of the people wouldn't believe them.
And I mean, it was -- I'm so sick of talking about it. I know you're sick of hearing about it. But bottom line is when we went out and spoke and went out and met people, they made it easy. I mean, they made it easy.
I look back, and the only thing I compare it to when I went to Marquette, I met Al McGuire in the summer. In the summer of my first year. We ended up spending some time together. He did like six or seven of our TV games that year. Passed away a year and a half later. I never forget going home telling my wife saying he's made it okay for us to ask for advice, to do things our way.
I mean, he flat out came out and said it. He said you don't need permission. I've been here a long time, but I've been done coaching for a long time. We didn't have the Big East when I was coaching. We didn't have the NBA where it is now when I was coaching. He made it okay to go out there and be the coach.
Well, our fans to me have made it okay for us to run this program, and I think for the most part, hopefully they're seeing it the way they would run it. But we made the decisions on what was best for the present and for the future of it.
So with that being said, I think the fans gave us incredible confidence early on, as did our administration, as did Rick Greenspan and the people that we were working with back there.
And I don't want to reflect on that a whole lot anymore. But the fans did an incredible job for us early on.

Q. You've talked so much about building that foundation. What are the next few days, weeks, what are the next steps for you?
COACH CREAN: We haven't thought that far. Certainly recruiting, because that's paramount. And spring break starts. So I think give it a little time. But we're not going to take much time off.
We've got to continue to build our athleticism, we've certainly got to build our strength, and I've never liked the eight hours where only two of them are oriented for basketball. I still think that's one of the most ridiculous rules put out there. If you're on campus, you should be able to work with your players as close to year-round as possible. Somebody's going to. It should be the coaches they signed up to play for.
But we'll maximize our eight hours. We'll maximize everything we can to help them have a great spring and at the same time keep them on the great track that they're on academically right now.

Q. Coach, at the beginning of the game the two most experienced guys out there, Cornley and Pringle, took over right from the start. How far are you from having guys with that mind-set to make plays like that?
COACH CREAN: That's a good question. I haven't really thought about that. You just get your players better, and you continue to recruit good players, and as long as it's done in the team concept, which certainly a team like Penn State has done, it has a chance to happen.
I mean, I haven't given that a lot of thought. I want the guys that come in here to become a part of the foundation building of this program, not have anybody look at it like, well, now these guys are here, now we can go. No, we have to come together. We've had a lot of guys get better this year. And hopefully we'll get ourselves to a point we have that consistent depth. I think that's a big part of winning. And there's so much improvement to be made. And I'm looking forward to doing it. I think our coaching staff is as well.
And in answer to that question, I don't think there was anybody that looked at it as a relief. I really don't. I know I didn't. It's an extreme disappointment, it really is.
And if you guys saw where Kyle Taber was, on the last day we worked him out in May before we had no more workout time, where he's ended up being as of now, that might be the thing that would blow you away the most, because that guy bought into what he needed to do to get better.
And he took every bit of coaching and criticism and anything you want to call it to not allow him to stay in a box, and he played his way right out of that box and he made himself better.
In answer to your question, again, we just gotta have a spring that's like that with everybody.

Q. Was there at any point in the last 48 hours when you thought Devan might have a chance to play and when was the final decision made?
COACH CREAN: It's all been based on how he responds to the treatment and he hasn't practiced all week. And we talked about it yesterday.
He just had a lot of trouble to try to do anything laterally. So, again, he wasn't ruled out when they did all the tests and things again on Monday, he wasn't ruled out. But it certainly at that point didn't look probable. And I didn't -- I was as honest as I could be on that.
We just didn't know. But I didn't feel yesterday when he didn't practice that he was going to have a chance to play today.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

End of FastScripts

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