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March 21, 2009
LARRY WAHL: From Syracuse we welcome Jonny Flynn, Arinze Onuaku and Derek Devendorf.
Q. I know this got talked about a little bit yesterday but could you talk about how your relationship with James Harden began and how much you guys talk over the course of the year and just how much you guys maybe even mimic certain -- I guess at one point during the year you guys were even wearing the same shoe. Just give us the story, if you will, about how this relationship was born and how it's developed.
JONNY FLYNN: Well, playing basketball you meet so many different people. You create long-lasting relationships for the rest of your life. I met James Harden I think it was my sophomore year at the Reebok ABCD Basketball Camp. We just clicked right from there, and we exchanged numbers and then it carried on. We would talk to each other and would see each our at numerous basketball tournaments over the course of the years. And then our senior year we made the McDonald's All-American Game together. So we chilled and kicked it a lot. Really kept in touch.
As a matter of fact, last night we got up together and really went and got something to eat. It was really a dream relationship, but tomorrow on the court, I don't think you're going to be seeing too much of that. We're both fighting for the same goal and we're going to have to put that aside on the court.
Q. Where did you go?
JONNY FLYNN: We went to someplace on Ocean Drive. It was a nice little restaurant. We went and got something to eat and just talked about how his year was going, how our year was going, and just really reminiscing on a couple things.
Q. You're playing for a spot in the Sweet 16. How much does it add that it's against a guy -- there's no real history between the programs really to speak of. What's it add that you know a guy on the other side?
JONNY FLYNN: Whenever you play a friend that you're close to or someone that you equate yourself with, it makes the game even more bigger. You don't want to lose to him and have him call you up and rub it in your face how he beat you five years, 10 years, 15 years from now wherever we're playing basketball at. It makes this much game much more important to me and for him.
Q. Eric, you guys went through a little bit of a slump this season where I think you won 3 out of 10 games. You're playing well now. Is there a difference or just the competition you were playing at that point? I know you had some really tough road games and really tough go of a schedule at that point?
ERIC DEVENDORF: I just think that the Big East is a different type of animal. Obviously it's the best conference in the nation by far, in my opinion. You know, there's going to be a time during the conference play when you go through times like that. Everybody had them. Obviously you see Georgetown and Notre Dame, and nobody expected them to be in the position that they were put in.
It's just one of those slumps that we went through, and I think every Big East team maybe besides Louisville or Pittsburgh or something like that went through it. We got through it, and we're here right now, and we're happy with the position that we're in. Hopefully we can play good tomorrow and get a win.
Q. You're not playing against them tomorrow, but one of the teams that's going to be playing here is Cleveland State, and you guys obviously had some experience with them earlier this year. Can one of you guys take me back to what that was like watching that shot go through the hoop and how long it took you guys to get over that loss?
JONNY FLYNN: A lot of people talk about the shot that they hit, but you know, just for them to come into the Carrier Dome at a time when we were playing good basketball and really being a close game with us, you know, they're a good team. A lot of people look back on the shot and say it was a desperation shot, it was a lucky shot, but if you really look at the course of the game, we were the ones fighting back the whole game to stay in the game.
You saw last night Cleveland State is a well-coached, well-disciplined basketball team and caught Wake Forest slipping. I congratulate them on a big win that they had, and they're a team that you can't sleep on.
Q. Both these teams play zones every play of the game. You practice against it every day, so do they. How will that affect the game?
JONNY FLYNN: I think Arizona State plays a match-up zone, we play a 2-3 zone. A match-up zone is probably the hardest zone to play against because it looks just like a man-to-man zone, but they might bump a guy through and send another guy and things like that. I think Coach Boeheim is just a basketball wizard. He knows exactly the positions to put people at so they can play the best basketball and make plans for us to win. I think he prepared for us really well out there on the court, and we are well prepared, and it's on us as players now to go out there and execute as planned.
Q. You guys are used to 25, 30,000 crowds at home in the Dome, and the Garden I'm sure was kind of a raucous environment for you guys last week. Was yesterday, even though it's an NCAA Tournament, the building wasn't full, it wasn't overwhelmingly loud. Was that a disappointment at all? Was it what any of you had sort of envisioned for that NCAA Tournament environment?
ARINZE ONUAKU: I mean, it's just a different environment. Yesterday there was not really that many people there, and we're used to the 30,000 and a lot of people screaming, and that's what intimidates opponents when they come into the Dome. It was just a little bit different. I mean, we was able to get through it.
Q. Eric, given the fact that Arizona State is out west, they weren't on ESPN much this year, prior to the last 24 hours had you seen them much at all?
ERIC DEVENDORF: I mean, I think everybody watches everybody in college basketball. We know what they're capable of doing, and obviously they wouldn't be here if they weren't a good team. But I've seen them through the course of the season a couple times, and I definitely know about James Harden and what type of player he is.
You know, we're just preparing to have a battle out there, like the Big East or something like that. We know Arizona State is a very capable team and they're a well-coached team, so we've got to go out there tomorrow and play our hearts out.
Q. Jonny just called Coach Boeheim a basketball wizard. What makes him that way? Not just X's and O's, what makes him a basketball wizard just to the guys?
ERIC DEVENDORF: I mean, it speaks for itself, his rÃ©sumÃ©. He's a Hall-of-Fame coach, and you know, it's just the little things that you try to pick up from practice when he's talking. You know, really when it sinks in and you think about it a little bit, you're really like, wow, that's some stuff you really can take from him. He is a basketball wizard. Jonny said it.
Q. Apart from the X's and O's what makes him a basketball wizard?
JONNY FLYNN: Well, he's so intelligent. Just to be able to make in-game adjustments the way Coach Boeheim does, a lot of coaches can't do that, only the great coaches can, be in the heat of the moment and make great in-game adjustments to put us in position, if we're down, if we're trying to stop another team from making a run to put us in a position to win the game. He does that the best. I haven't played for any other coaches in college, but he's a Hall-of-Fame coach and that speaks for itself.
Q. Probably hasn't a day gone by ever since you won that six-overtime game against Connecticut that people haven't talked about that. In the grand scheme of things, do you think people are making more of that game than it really is, or do you really feel that that was some kind of turning point for the program and really allowed to you go into the Tournament on a roll?
JONNY FLYNN: Well, I think that definitely was a turning point for ourselves. If you look at it from the outside, it was a historic game, six overtimes in the Big East Tournament, Madison Square Garden, the biggest stage in the world. That's history in itself.
Speaking for the team's sake, we really bonded. We really came together as a team, and you seen it. If a guy fell on the floor, you had the whole team running over. Seton Hall, even though it was bad, a little scuffle, everybody on the team was running over, people had to be held off the bench to keep from coming on the court. I think we gained a lot of team camaraderie from playing in that Big East Tournament, and that's really going to help us in the NCAAs.
Q. Have you ever played man-to-man one possession during a game, and what does he say when you ask him?
ERIC DEVENDORF: Jonny does it every day.
Q. And what's his response?
JONNY FLYNN: "I've been doing this for 33 years."
Q. Arinze, Jeff Pendergraph talked yesterday about the challenges of playing you guys as a team with your size and with you and Rick being able to come at you from both sides rebounding. Just your opinion on Jeff and the challenges that he'll present as a center tomorrow?
ARINZE ONUAKU: I seen him play a couple times this year and we also saw him play yesterday. As you can see, he's a great player. I mean, he posts down low and he scores around the rim. I mean, his field goal percentage is high just like mine. I mean, it's going to be a tough battle tomorrow.
Q. Jonny, you mentioned going to dinner last night. Was it just the two of you or were there other guys there, too?
JONNY FLYNN: At first it was me, Paul Harris and Scoop Jardine. He had called me up. I told him we was probably going to South Beach and I seen him after the game and told him what we was going to do. He came with two of his teammates and it was just fun just to interact a little bit off the court. He's way on the west coast, I'm on the east coast so we really don't get to see each other like that. We're real good friends, and this relationship is going to carry on forever.
Q. Going back to Cleveland State for a moment, Cedric Jackson is sort of an underrated point guard. How good of a player is he?
JONNY FLYNN: He's definitely a good player. I believe he transferred from St. John's to Cleveland State, so he played in the best conference in all the land. He's definitely able to play at a high level all the time, and one thing about him is he's an active defender. He's a guy you can't just dribble out in front of him, you can't make a lot of careless mistakes because he's going to capitalize and jump right on it. His offense has really come off as of late. You saw in the championship game he really took over the game for their conference against Butler. You seen that last night versus Wake Forest. So when he's out rolling and playing well, the sky is the limit for Cleveland State.
LARRY WAHL: Thank you very much, guys.
Questions for Coach Boeheim?
Q. I was just wondering as a connoisseur of zone defenses what you think of Herb's zone and what strikes you about it.
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: Well, it's a match-up. Villanova won the National Championship with a match-up a number of years ago. Not a lot of teams play it. Joe Mullaney probably started it at Providence that I remember back in the east, and Rollie used it obviously to pretty good results.
It's a good defense. It's a difficult defense to play against. It's a difficult defense to coach. Not many people try it. A few people do. Arizona State plays it the best of anybody right now in college basketball. It's a good defense, a real good defense.
Q. Is it a little bit easier for you to prepare for today because while you don't play the match-up, you obviously have played zone for 30-something years?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: It's a different attack against it. You really have to attack it differently than you would a man-to-man or a zone. Again, there aren't many match-ups. We've seen a couple match-ups this year but not very good. So it's a little different defense. But we'll try to figure something out to try tomorrow.
Q. When a match-up is being played well, what's going on in it? What makes a good match-up?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: You know, I'm going to do a clinic in about two months. You can come to that and I'll try to explain it to you (laughing).
You cover us every day, have I ever talked about what we're going to do against anybody?
Q. How are you feeling today? And how is the team feeling with the flu?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I'm good. I'm good. We're all good and ready to go.
Q. I know it wouldn't be tomorrow, but eventually here you're closing in on 800. It's a long time obviously and a lot of wins. Can you just ruminate a little bit on that?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: You know, we're looking for our second win in this tournament tomorrow, and we're focused on that. That's all we're really focused on right now. Those other things, if we ever get there, we'll talk about them, I guess, for about two minutes, and then we'll go on.
Q. I don't know if you were in the wings when Jonny called you a basketball wizard. What do you make of that?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: He's called me some other things this year, too (laughter).
Q. Why do you think he said that?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I think you have to take things with a grain of salt that young guys say. To him that probably means I'm old, kind of.
Q. As an opposing coach when a player like James Harden has the kind of game he did yesterday, do you think he's probably not going to have two poor games in a row?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I never think a player is going to have a bad game against us. He's a tremendous player. We expect him to have a good game.
Q. You guys played Cleveland State earlier this year. What jumped out at you about them, and they made a name for themselves now?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: They're a tremendous defensive team. Gary is a tremendous defensive coach. I had a lot of battles with him when he was at Rutgers. He's a tremendous coach, and they've got veteran guys that have played together. They've learned their system.
I knew in the first two Butler games that they could have won both of them. We saw one of them on tape, and they had a chance to win both of them.
I was talking to Lynn, a Committee person out there, it's the real dilemma that the Committee has, if Cleveland State had lost to Butler, they wouldn't be in this tournament. It's unfortunate, because obviously as they proved, they're a good team. It's just that it's hard to get those last teams and figure out who should be in and who shouldn't. When you see them play, like we did, up close, and it wasn't that we played -- we didn't play one of our best games against them, but we played okay, and they were still able to come in and beat us.
So I just think they're a really good defensive team. They've got guys that can score, they've got veteran guys, and I didn't see the game against Wake Forest, so I don't know what happened or what transpired. But we were kind of watching the score ticker, and they seemed to be in control the whole game.
But they're a very, very good basketball team.
Q. What makes James Harden such a tough player? Is he sort of like a Tarrance Williams who can do a little bit of everything?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: Well, I saw him a few times this year, and I don't have much of a life, I watch late night TV, I watch PAC-10 games. He's a good shooter. He's a guy that can score. He gets in the lane. He's very strong, very patient player. He's just a really good offensive player, and he's got a very solid game.
Q. Jonny and James have both talked about it, that they have a friendship that goes back a few years. You've been doing this for a while obviously. When kids from opposing teams know each other and are close and go to dinner and that sort of thing, does it add anything on the court do you think for them? And should it in a way?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I don't think so. I was with the Olympic guys this summer, and they went out to dinner every night, and I saw Dwyane Wade -- I think LeBron knocked Dwyane on his butt one game this year. When they go out to play, if anything they may play harder against each other because they want to win more.
But we had those guys all summer, and they were the best friends. It made it so much fun, they were great guys to be around and they got along so well. But when they play, when they come back, they have a lot of pride and they want to win. And that's the way it is with kids. They all know each other, they all play against each other all the way through high school, the AAU tournaments all summer long and camps and stuff. So they all know each other. But when they go to play, they want to win.
Q. You and Herb know each other pretty well, and when you heard Arizona State was going to hire him what were your thoughts?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I thought somebody was pretty stupid and I thought somebody was pretty smart. I'm not going to mention which one. Herb is a good friend of mine. We're on a couple of committees together actually. I've known Herb for a long time, going back to days when he was living in his car up in Providence working 14 hours a day for some crazy coach.
He's a great basketball coach. Got a great feel for the game. He's a lot smarter than all of us, and he's just a good guy. He's a real good guy.
But you know, when the game starts, it doesn't matter. I'm only worried about the guys on the court, not worried about who's on the other end coaching. And if we were playing, I think I could handle him even at my age (laughter).
Q. Would you post him up?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I wouldn't have to.
Q. I know McMillan spent the summer with you guys in Beijing, and I just was curious your impressions of him and did he have any interaction with you and kind of pick your brain at all?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: You mean his father?
Q. No, I know he was there with you, as well.
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I actually didn't even have any time to talk to him at all when we were over there. I'm sure Nate is going to be rooting against me tomorrow.
LARRY WAHL: Thank you.
End of FastScripts