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March 18, 2009

Matt Bouldin

Mark Few

Josh Heytvelt


COACH FEW: Well, we are obviously very excited to still be playing this time of year. We certainly don't ever take it for granted when you see as many great programs that are out there that didn't make it to the tournament this year.
These guys have had a heck of a year and obviously we want to try to keep it rolling and take this as far and deep as we can. I think when we're playing the way we're capable of, as we have the last couple of weeks this season, I think that's something that we can do.
But obviously it's a one-and-done deal if you're not ready to go. And every team in this thing has earned their way in. And Akron is, after watching them on tape, the more you watch them the more impressed I certainly have become. I don't think I've ever in 20 years of watching game tape have I seen a team that plays that hard. So I think that's going to be a real challenge for us to match their intensity, match their physicalness and just how much energy they play with, especially at the defensive end.

Q. How exciting is it to be here in Portland? The first time they've had the tournament here in over 30 years. How exciting is it to be at this stage right now?
MATT BOULDIN: The NCAA tournament is the best time of the year for most college sports fans, but, yeah, being down here in Portland is great. A lot of Zag fans down here, a lot of people from Spokane got to make this trip.
Yeah, I love Portland, I think it's a great city. Mostly of the support for the Zags is really apparent down here and it's really going to hopefully benefit us.

Q. Do you guys feel like wherever you play you have sort of a following or some sort of support no matter -- you guys are kind of a national program, I would say.
JOSH HEYTVELT: I definitely feel like we have a lot of fans across the entire country and even across the world. I think it's great that we can be so close to home, which will give us a good fan base. The last couple of years we've had to travel pretty far across the country, and that is really fortunate for us that we can be so close to Spokane. And we're going to have a great fan base, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow.
MATT BOULDIN: Yeah, I think we do kind of have a large following across the country, which is awesome. I was down in New York this past summer and I met just as many Zag fans down there as I have anywhere else. So, yeah, it is nice to have a big following.

Q. Akron kind of has a good habit of forcing turnovers, their defense is pretty good at that. How do you guys try to protect the ball? How key is that to protect the ball and ball control in this game?
MATT BOULDIN: It's huge for us. I think we just really need to slow down and kind of execute what we were trying to do. Yeah, really just slow down. You can't get in any rush. And turnovers has been one thing we've focused on all year, trying to cut down on.
And like you said, they're great at forcing them. So really slow down, execute, be strong with the ball. I think they foul a lot is what I was told. But, yeah, just be strong with the ball. We just need to go in there prepared, ready for battle, really.

Q. This isn't your first dance, your first time in the tournament. How high are your expectations this year?
JOSH HEYTVELT: I think we can go as far as any other team in the country. I think it's really a balanced tournament so everybody really has a good chance of doing big things. I think we just have to be focused and come out and play our game. I think we have just as good a chance as any to go deep in the tournament.
MATT BOULDIN: I think our expectations are really high. I think we just can't take any game for granted. I think the last two years have really shown me that. You just have to come out and play as hard as you can every game in order to advance.

Q. Coach talked about the intensity of Akron. Does that compare to the teams in your league more so, less so or just observations on Akron's intensity.
JOSH HEYTVELT: I think they're kind of a defensive team, kind of like WSU and maybe like St. Mary's. They like to pressure you and be physical, try to get you out of your game and go at you on defense. They try to shoot lanes and steal the ball and slap and poke and they're really scrappy and they play really hard.

Q. You're a four seed this time, do you guys identify yourself as you're a program that used to be double digits a lot of years, but now you're really good seeds a lot. Do you guys identify yourselves or remember those days? You guys are in college and ten years ago is when this great run started. Do you remember when Gonzaga wasn't one of these teams that was a four or five seed kind of thing?
JOSH HEYTVELT: I think a couple of years ago we might have been like a 12, even when I was here. And I think it's awesome just to see the growth of Gonzaga over the last 10 years, 12 years. The guys before us obviously made this program into what it is and Coach Few has done a great job, along with the rest of the coaching staff to build this program. And we're not afraid to go out and play anybody in the country, to show everybody that we can be a high seeded team in the tournament.

Q. Coach, for all the accomplishments this program has had in the athletes you've had, is breaking through in this tournament the one last thing you guys need to do as a program, do you feel you need to do that still?
COACH FEW: Breaking through as far as --

Q. Breaking through as far as where your potential can take you.
COACH FEW: I think there's probably a lot of things we can still do. We've had an incredible run these last 11 years now. I'm hesitant to put all the eggs in one basket like so many people like to do with this tournament, when it's a one and done deal. These seasons are long, hard journeys, and I wouldn't take that for granted.
The fact that we've won 26 games with an incredibly difficult schedule, I think we've been averaging probably 25, something like that, year in and year out. The league championships obviously mean a lot to us. We've been to an Elite 8, we've been to several Sweet 16's. It would be great, and hopefully we will.
And I think if we keep fielding the type of teams with student athletes like these guys that can compete at the highest level, then eventually we'll be able to bust through and get to a Final Four sometime. But it's certainly not -- I don't think it's the end all to everything.

Q. You've coached a lot of great players and a lot of great teams. How does this team differ or compare or similar to other teams you've coached?
COACH FEW: Well, that's funny, that question has been asked a lot. It's difficult for me to compare team to team. It's apples to oranges, really. We've had some teams that have been incredibly guard-oriented, like Matt Santangelo, Richie Frahm, Quentin Hall.
We've had other teams that have been very inside-out oriented, Ronny Turiaf, and Cory Violette, and J.P. Batista. We've had teams that were incredibly off the charts offensively efficient, maybe with Adam and J.P. that year. And this team's niche, I think we ended up, Memphis ended up getting us in the end, is second in the country in defensive field goal percentage, which is a great accomplishment. And has great balance.
We've got a lot of versatility, we're able to do some things defensively maybe that we haven't done in the past because of our length, both inside and outside. We've got a lot of balance, we've got six guys, I think at some point in their career that have scored more than 20 in a game or two. So that's probably the most unique thing. We're not obviously a power team, but we're a pretty darned good skilled team.

Q. Can you talk about Pargo's senior year, and what he's meant to this program?
COACH FEW: He's meant everything to this program. It's been an incredible four years. He's as charismatic and engaging person that probably you'll ever coach. You know that right when he gets in the building. You can hear him, even up in my office when he comes rolling in down through the corridors of the arena. He's very positive, a very energetic, incredibly resilient, he's probably missed one or two practices in four years. So he's as tough as they come. I think he made an incredible sacrifice to come back this year.
He was going to get drafted and yet weighed out where he was at and what he wanted to accomplish and what he wanted to do with this group of guys. It hasn't been perfect. I don't think it's been exactly the way that he scripted it. But yet here he is.
As I always tell them and tell all our guys, the No. 1 statistic for a point guard, especially in our program, but I think anywhere, is wins and winning championships and getting your team in the NCAA tournament. This is his fourth one now as point guard and probably right now he's playing as good as he's played all year, including when we were in Orlando, when he was MVP of the Disney Classic down there. So hopefully he can end what's already been a great career with a long run in the NCAA tournament.

Q. Can you point to a turning point that took Gonzaga from a really good WCC team to a team that can play with and beat anybody in men's college basketball?
COACH FEW: I don't think it was one moment in time. I think it's a culmination of things, and I think it shows itself in several different areas. I think the sustained success is one area that obviously the times that we have advanced, Elite 8, Sweet 16's, things like that, the fact that we've been able to win our conference championship 10 or 11 times during this run, but I think because of that success breeds success, it shows in recruiting. It shows in scheduling.
Our administration from our president, Father Spitzer to my AD, Mike Roth, have been unbelievable about growing the product. So during this time we built a new arena. The way our basketball program operates right now is the way every high level basketball program operates, so I think it's a lot of factors that go into that and it's been building and hopefully will continue to build.

Q. How much of a concern or is it a concern that you haven't played in ten days and what have you done to try to counteract that?
COACH FEW: Well, it's something that we deal with every year with our tournament. It's a little bit like your guys' ends a little bit earlier than most. We've stayed really competitive. We've had a lot of competitive drills in practice. We've worked really hard this week. We haven't really tapered down too much. We've scrimmaged a lot and mostly just kept things very, very competitive.
It's hard to say if we play good tomorrow or bad tomorrow if the layoff has been a good thing or a bad thing, who knows. And a lot of it is -- will be because of Akron. They're a darn good basketball team. And like I said earlier, just plays as hard as any team I've watched on film.

Q. You mentioned success breeding success in recruiting, does it also get tougher in that you're going after guys who are being sought after by bigger schools?
COACH FEW: Yeah, no question. No question. It didn't get any easier. It's allowed us to maybe get involved with maybe a higher level or certainly a recruiting situation that's much more competitive than we originally started. But again you're battling schools that have more resources than we have and probably longer tradition than we have for -- in a lot of instances.
But we try to pick our battles wisely. And then we also try -- I think the one thing that we've done is we don't lose sight of what's got us here. So we always continue to try to get some guys that know how to play basketball and appreciate playing basketball that way, instead of always just chasing a great athlete.

Q. Coach Dambrot told me many, many times that he'd like to see his program emulate, and he always mentions your program. He doesn't mention George Mason or Butler or anything like that, it's always your program. Do you know him at all, Coach Dambrot?
COACH FEW: We just got done talking at the head coach's meeting up there. We met under some different circumstances earlier this summer. He was right there at the LeBron camp when we thought Austin Daye blew his ACL. They were great, he and his training staff and everything. They took care of myself and Leon. But no, I think that's flattering that people want to be us. I think there's a danger in that, because I think every situation is unique. And we found a very unique niche that has worked just great for us.
We're a private school that, as you heard earlier, that has a following that not only just nationally, but even internationally, and with the administration, like I said, that was willing, and a great community, obviously, that it was kind of very supportive of us growing and continues to support us. So I think it's just kind of a unique deal. I think everybody has to figure out their own road map for it.

Q. Can you spend a second talking about Micah's maturation and the effort particularly down the stretch and what he's done for you in this -- particularly in this late surge?
COACH FEW: Yeah, both Micah and Josh have grown up so much over the course of their careers at our place. Josh has already graduated and working on his Masters. And Micah is set to graduate here this spring.
The biggest thing for Micah was he's never really been able to trust anybody. He's never been able to trust his teammates or just kind of the whole family atmosphere of a program. And that's the best thing that's happened here. He loves these guys and he trusts them and he stuck it out. Everywhere else in his life he's bounced around after one year. All through high school, I think he went to six different high schools. And obviously at Kansas he left after a semester. The best thing that's happened is he stuck it out. And because of that he's had to grow up and kind of persevere through some adversity, whether it was basketball or school or just life.
It's been great to watch and it's been great to be a part of it, especially to see the end product. He's had a heck of a year for us and he's been a real key down the stretch of some very, very big games where he's hit some big shots or made big plays, including for him to be MVP of the West Coast Conference tournament I thought was a fitting tribute to just how much he's grown.

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