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March 19, 2009
LARRY WAHL: We have the Syracuse Orange, the No. 3 seed in the south in an at-large bid and we have Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris and Arinze Onuaku. We'll open it up for questions.
Q. This is for Jonny: How long did it take for you to get your legs back after that Big East Tournament?
JONNY FLYNN: I'm still trying to get them back right now. It was just a fun tournament. We played in an epic game versus UConn that's going to go down not only in Big East Tournament history, but college basketball history. To be a part of something like that despite a loss in the finals was great to be a part of, something I can cherish for the rest of my life.
Q. For Arinze and Paul, can you talk about the feeling of actually being in the Tournament, because I know you guys have missed it the last couple years. Arinze, for you, you were on the team three years ago but you didn't play.
ARINZE ONUAKU: It's just a great feeling for us. We struggled so hard this season just to get to where we are right now, and it feels great to be here. We've just got to go out there and take care of business. Today in practice we had the police escort and everything was everybody was watching them. It was just a tremendous feeling for us individually and as a team.
PAUL HARRIS: For me it feels so great because I remember two years back when I was a freshman and we was at Coach Boeheim's house and we thought we were in, and we were watching Selection Sunday and we didn't get in. It's like reminiscent, we went to his house last week. We got in, I was so happy and so relieved, and the team was jumping around and Jonny Flynn was saying, "We can't stop now. Let's just try to win the whole thing."
Q. Jonny, going back to the original question, does adrenaline kick in now considering how spent you guys were to go through that Big East Tournament?
JONNY FLYNN: No, we're all young guys. I think we have our legs back, our energy is back, so I don't think that will be a problem. This is the NCAA Tournament. We're going to have running off adrenaline for the first game, first couple games, first how many games we play. So that's going to be a big part of us going out there and playing the best basketball we can play.
But I don't think fatigue or energy level is going to be a huge problem for us. I think if we had to play this game today we'd be ready to play, but just getting the extra day off, getting more days after that Big East Tournament really helped us get better as a team and we focused our energy towards the NCAA Tournament.
Q. I heard after the UConn game you weren't able to sleep and you went and watched some film and stuff like that. Can you talk a little bit about that? And did you ever actually get any sleep before the next game against West Virginia?
JONNY FLYNN: After the UConn game we got back to the hotel around 2, 2:30. I was just so hyped after a win like that, beating UConn. It was a perfect story line - got two Hall of Fame coaches in Jim Boeheim and Calhoun, you've got the Syracuse-Connecticut rivalry and you're on the biggest stage in the world, New York City, Madison Square Garden. There was just a lot of adrenaline running through my body, and I actually didn't go to sleep until around 7:00, 730.
I called Mike Hopkins and he was still up, so I knew I wasn't crazy being up that late after a great win like that. But it was fun to play in a game like that and it was something to share that moment with my teammates.
Q. This is for any of you: What do you guys know about Stephen F. Austin and what stuck out to you when you watched them?
JONNY FLYNN: Well, we knew that's a good defensive team. You have to look at every team in this tournament. They have to be a good team to win the conference tournament at the NCAA Division I level, so you know they're going to be a good team, especially we've seen crazy things in March Madness; anybody can get beat. They're a good defensive team, they have really good post players that can step out and shoot jump shots. We just have to be prepared and play Syracuse basketball.
Q. Can you expand a little bit about what Paul was saying when you were over at Coach Boeheim's house and you said, "Let's keep this going. Let's go the whole way." And what the Big East Tournament might have done for you guys in terms of kind of catapulting you?
JONNY FLYNN: I think that game was a great confidence boost, not only for us, but it showed the rest of the country that we can really compete with some of the top teams in the country. We played two No. 1 seeds in that tournament, so that gave us a great opportunity to show the people that we can come out here and play with the best.
Our goal coming into the season was to get to the NCAA Tournament, and halfway through the season you kind of get the feeling that we were going to be in it. You don't want to just be happy to be here. You want to get in here for a storied franchise for Syracuse, that's used to winning in the NCAA Tournament, won the National Championship just a few years ago. We don't just want to be happy to be here, we want to get in and make a run and win the National Championship.
Q. Your only loss outside the conference was to Cleveland State on a miracle shot. Does that serve as a reminder that anything can happen in the game? And did you get any sleep after that game?
PAUL HARRIS: Well, I think in college basketball you can't take no team lightly. I think Cleveland State was a great team, and it was just a last-second shot that was a miracle, and in the NCAA Tournament there will be a lot of those kind of shots happen. You just never want to get yourself in that type of position and you want to keep on the other team if you can and keep the pressure on. Hopefully it don't come down to a shot like that.
Q. Just curious, Eric Bell of Stephen F. Austin is 5'3". When is the last time any of you guys played -- he's the smallest guy in a tournament. When is the last time you played a guard who was 5'3"?
JONNY FLYNN: I would probably say when I was in the seventh grade playing pick-up basketball. You've got to watch out for guys like that, real scrappy, quick, can be a pest on the defensive end. Watching him on the film, he's a guy at that really gets especially up and down the court and really is going to get after it defensively. I've got a tough match-up right there, but my big guy, I'm going to have him come up and set some screens for me and get me open, so hopefully everything is going to be the best.
Q. Jonny, seems like you play with a smile on your face a lot of times, a lot of exuberance. Has that always been the case?
JONNY FLYNN: Definitely. I love this game. That's why you start playing it, because it's fun and it's something you can do to get away from everything, something you can do to clear your mind. It's one thing, my father always told me, "If you're not having fun, you should quit." When I'm out there not smiling or if that day ever comes, that's the day I'm going to quit basketball. Hopefully that can be a thousand years from now, but as of now I'm happy, we're in the NCAA Tournament, I'm doing this with my close friends, and it's just a great feeling.
Q. Coming to Miami, this beats going to Minneapolis, doesn't it?
ARINZE ONUAKU: Yeah, coming to a warm place, South Beach, types of things like that, it's great for us. We're in Syracuse where it's always snowing, to come somewhere warm it's great.
Q. Is there time to do anything else but get ready for this tournament? Can you guys go out at all? As you mentioned South Beach, can you enjoy it?
ARINZE ONUAKU: You can walk around a little bit. We know what we came here to do. We're focused but after we get our win tomorrow, we can walk around, have a little bit of time and get back to game plan.
LARRY WAHL: Thank you, guys.
LARRY WAHL: Coach Jim Boeheim, make some remarks about being here in Miami and the season you had.
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: Well, we had a solid season. We've played our best at the end of this year starting with the St. John's game. We really started to play better, better defense, and I think it actually helped our offense get going and be even better.
We had a good weekend in New York, or week, whatever it was, and we're looking forward to playing here. We know that watching tapes that we've watched, Stephen F. Austin is a really good basketball team. That's what you get in the NCAA Tournament now from day one.
Our players understand that, and we're ready to play.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what the Big East Tournament could probably do for this team in terms of catapulting you toward this tournament? And as a follow, does it seem like four years since you've won here?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: Yeah, I don't think about that too much, the last part of that question. But we basically had played well at the end of the year. Our best games have been the last four games of the regular season, particularly winning at Marquette was a great win. You know, they lost one game at home this year, and that was to Connecticut. We played very, very well those four games. We played well in New York.
You know, I think all that is good. But it really doesn't have any carryover effect, I don't think, how you play at the end of the year. You'd like it to, particularly when you're playing well, but I've seen teams playing well coming out of the tournament in New York and not play that well in this tournament, and I've seen the other side of that, too.
But we've been pretty consistent all year. We started out the year, we played very, very well at the beginning of the year. We had a couple injuries, I think, that affected us a little bit during the year, and then we finished well. We closed well. So we're in a very good place right now and looking forward to playing here.
Q. After not being in the Tournament the last couple years, does that change the way you approach this tournament with this team not having a lot of guys with this kind of experience? Or do you see any of the guys leaning on maybe Eric or Arinze who have been around the longest?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: You know, I don't think that's that relevant. Stephen F. Austin doesn't have anybody that's played in the tournament. I just don't think that's that much of an issue. We're coming off a hard tournament where we played really good teams, and you know, obviously it is the NCAA Tournament, but for a lot of these guys, they know it's another tough game, and we've had a lot of tough games this year, and we should be prepared for that.
Q. Can you amplify on what you said the other day, and you've said it in the past, as well, that this tournament is what teams get judged by, that the regular season is forgotten pretty much?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: Pretty much.
Q. Can you talk about that a little bit, whether that's good, bad or ugly?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I think that's just the way it is. I think that you still should feel good about what you accomplished in the regular season. I think that's good, and I think that you should feel that way. You know, I'm very happy with what we accomplished in the regular season and the Big East Tournament; that's good. But in college basketball, it really is about what you do in the NCAA Tournament. That's the bottom line.
Two years in a row we won the Big East Tournament, and because we lost in the first round, that's all anybody ever writes about. Whenever they write a story, they don't write about winning the Big East Tournament; they write you didn't win a game in the NCAA. So obviously that's the mindset of at least the media when it comes to judging what a team has done.
I was proud of winning those two tournaments. It's hard to win the Big East Tournament. You know, the way we played there this year was great. But it still will come down to how you play in the NCAA Tournament. That's just the way it is.
Q. How is your mindset, though? What do you think?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I'm happy with what we've done in those years, and I'm happy how we played this year. But if we don't play well in the NCAA Tournament, then that will be disappointing for sure. And you can play well and you could still lose, but you'd like to play well.
Q. Obviously your kids know what it took to get here, but is there a downside to coming to Miami and maybe not going to Minneapolis considering all the things that Miami has to offer that could sidetrack kids, young men?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: We're not going to be sidetracked. We'll play just as well here as we would in Boise or Minneapolis or anyplace else, I guarantee you that.
Q. Those two Big East Championship teams you referred to and then losing in the first round, did you find that on either one of those occasions your players were drained because of the emotions and the energy that was expended?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: Not the first time. The second time Gerry had gotten hurt a little bit in New York and wasn't ready, really wasn't able to go at all, and that was a factor. But the first time, we just didn't play well. It was one of those games where we just didn't have a good game at the wrong time. If you have a bad game in the NCAA Tournament, you're going to lose for the most part.
But we helped Tom Brennan, so I guess we've got to look at the positive side.
Q. I apologize if you were asked this earlier: You were very adamant that Eric deserved a second opportunity and were very quick in coming out and saying that. What is it about him that has sold you so much not just as a player but as a person?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: Well, first of all, I think you have to look at every individual case that you're involved with with every kid. I've had kids over 35 years, 40 years of coaching, 33 as a head coach, but I've been at Syracuse 40 years, but kids have problems, kids get into situations that they shouldn't get into. You have to look at each case individually. You have to know all the facts, which nobody does, and you have to make a decision based on what you know, and in the cases that I'm not really going to talk specifically about Eric, but when I decide a kid should have a chance to play, I do it based on all the facts in the case. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether this player is going to help us win or not. It's strictly a matter of what's the right thing to do.
Unfortunately when you get into situations where there's obviously two completely different sides to a story, it's always very hard to figure out what happened in this case. And I think you have to make a judgment in each case about what you think should be done.
I've been through 15, 20 times during my career where somebody, a player, has gotten into some situation, and you know, you make the best decision you can at the time. It's always going to be viewed by one side as the wrong decision and by the other side as the right decision. And the people in the middle are always going to be up in the air. But that's the way it is with any decision you make. You just have to make the best decision you can.
When I decide we play zone, there's this group over here that thinks I should be fired and this group over here thinks I'm brilliant and the group in the middle is waiting to see whether we win or lose before they decide. But I make those decisions. Some of them are university decisions that you have no control over, as it should be. A player goes through the university system. We've had dozens go through the university system, and they make their decision based on what they feel is the right thing to do, and those decisions change and can be appealed, whatever. There's a process. And everybody goes through it, and the decisions are made.
You know, I don't agree with all the decisions, but that's the way it is.
Q. After that six-overtime game, how many people called you the next morning and said, hey, I watched until midnight, how did you come out?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: Everybody that called me stayed up all night. I don't know how they did it, but we had a lot of messages. It was just exciting. I think it was just a great game. It was a great basketball game. I never look at games and say, well, this was a great game because it was a tournament game or this was a great game because it was a non-tournament game or a final. I just look at games as games, and as a game, it was an unbelievable game in a lot of ways.
The fact that the two teams could give the type of effort that both teams gave in a second-round game, didn't really matter. When players go to these tournaments, they don't care what round it is or whether it's important or not, they just play. They go to play. And the two teams gave such an unbelievable effort in the game, and it was great to be part of that game. It was great. I wish we could have won a little earlier, but I'm happy that we were able to win.
But just to be part of that game I thought was tremendous. I thought the biggest thing was we came back the next night and beat West Virginia, and West Virginia was playing great. I thought that was very surprising for us to be able to do that, and we played well against Louisville.
It was a great tournament. It was great to be part of that one game. I told the players, people will remember that game for 20, 30 years from now. They really will. Everyplace you go everybody will talk about it now. Those games happen a lot and it's on a Tuesday night or a Wednesday night or it's not on television, and nobody really buys into it. But when it's on Saturday night and most people get home at 10:00, 11:00, whatever, 12:00, they turn on their TV to see what's on, ESPN usually, sports fans, and that game is on, so you watch it.
So I think a lot of people got hooked into that game at some point. So it was great, great to be part of it.
Q. You were there in Beijing this summer. You have a ring already. You've won gosh knows how many games. You've been to the Tournament who knows how many times --
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: 27.
Q. 27 now? Thank you.
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: Who's counting?
Q. Are you at the point in your career where you needed a little bit of personal reaffirmation in terms of getting back here? Is this still very, very significant to you just to get back to this arena again?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: It could have been a crushing disappointment or horrendous season if we didn't get back here this year. I don't count two years ago since we weren't an NCAA Tournament team. I think the Committee, they had a malfunction. Last year we weren't quite good enough. Whenever you miss, it's difficult, because this is what you play for, this opportunity. If you don't get into this tournament, it's not good, not a good time. Nothing else matters.
The Olympics was great; that's a separate issue, and it was great. But this is different. When this isn't that important, then I won't be here.
LARRY WAHL: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts