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March 21, 2009
LARRY WAHL: Arizona State Sun Devils, we have Jeff Pendergraph, Derek Glasser and James Harden. Questions for the Sun Devils?
Q. James, can you talk about your relationship with Jonny Flynn? He was saying you guys have known each other for a long time and went out to dinner last night.
JAMES HARDEN: Well, me and a couple of my teammates went to South Beach just to hang out and we saw a couple of him and his teammates there. We just hung out, relaxed for a little bit, checked out the scene.
Q. How far back do you two go?
JAMES HARDEN: Just a couple years, just from being at different camps throughout the summer and just hanging out, that kind of friendship.
Q. James, does it add anything -- there's not a whole ton of history between the programs to speak of. Does it add anything that you know a guy on this stage playing for these kind of stakes, a spot in the Sweet 16?
JAMES HARDEN: No. It's just a friendship. On the court it's different. I'm sure he feels the same. He wants to win just as much as I do. Off the court it's a friendship, but obviously on the court we both want to win.
Q. I remember on Selection Sunday you talked about this is the biggest stage you have, but you have to approach it just like any other game. I know it's hindsight, but looking back do you think that approach served you well against Temple and will probably also serve you well against Syracuse tomorrow?
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: I think it helped us a little bit. We didn't entirely approach it like another game, we put a little emphasis on it. I think if we approached it like some regular game we would have come out a little flat. But guys had the right mix of things going for them, and I think that's why we came out really well against Temple and I think that will help us again on Sunday, no game jitters or first time jitters. That's all kind of out the window.
Q. You've faced some big guys before, probably not as many on one team like Syracuse. Talk about the challenge you've got tomorrow.
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: It's probably the biggest challenge I've had all year. It's not like one goes out and another one comes in. It's like two go out and three more come in. It's going to be just like a constant big guys banging against each other and wrestling. It's going to be like a big wrestling match. They're big guys, their post defense is really good, too. It's going to be kind of a war down there in the post.
Q. Jeff, do you think it's possible that Derek might lead the country in getting elbowed in the face?
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: Oh, man, maybe. Elbows to the face, fouls that don't get called but he's always on the floor somehow, concussions maybe, boos, all that stuff, all those stats that nobody really keeps track of. I bet Derek is probably leading all of them.
Q. That segues nicely into what I was going to ask: Derek, why is that? Have you been able to put a finger or an ice pack on the root of why these things happen to you it seems to often?
DEREK GLASSER: Well, I think the elbows are because I'm so short that I'm at elbow height, so I think that might be the reason for those. You know, I just try and bring a certain level of toughness to our team and dive on the floor, just make hustle plays for the team, and sometimes that just leads to knocking into people sometimes and getting booed or getting put on the floor. I don't know.
Q. In all seriousness, so much has been written and said about the way that you got to Arizona State and the circumstances surrounding ultimately your decision to end up there. Have you had any time to sort of stop and appreciate the position that you're in, especially right now being one win away from the Sweet 16 and just what a long, strange trip it's kind of been for you?
DEREK GLASSER: Not really. I haven't really had time to step off the pedal, at least this year. Maybe after the season is over I'll have some time to think about it. But right now just focus on what's in front of us, and right now it's Syracuse.
Q. For any of you guys: Just what your impressions are of Syracuse's own defense, if it's similar to what Arizona has done or anybody else you've played this year.
DEREK GLASSER: In a way it's similar to what Arizona does. You know, they don't have conventional zone, they do little things that are different than any other team that we've played that's played zone. But we're going to have to execute the game plan for us to win. Coach Sendek is going to game plan together along with other coaches to create open shots for us, and we're just going to have to step up and knock them down.
Q. Jeff, you'll be going on tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. Arizona time. You're playing a traditional power in Syracuse. Have you thought about how much this game can mean to this program if you guys can get to the Sweet 16?
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: I think for me it would mean the most out of anything that any team has done in a long time. That's getting to the Sweet 16, for any team is a big deal. I mean, especially for us, what our program has been through, and how much better we've gotten the last couple years. I think that would be kind of just another layer of icing on the cake for this year. It would mean a lot.
Q. For any of the guys: Does the fact that you all play a 3-2 match-up give you any kind of advantage when you're getting ready to face Syracuse's 2-3?
DEREK GLASSER: I don't think there's an advantage for us. We both play zone, so if you look at it, probably the transition games will be hurt a little bit for both of us, because we're a pretty good transition defensive team, and we get back and set up in our zone. But I don't think there's an advantage for either team. You know, we both shoot the ball really well, and it's just going to come down to which team can make more plays.
Q. Coach Boeheim earlier was saying that you guys play maybe the best match-up in the country and he's a pretty good authority on zone defenses. Would you have thought a couple years ago when Coach put this in out of desperation maybe that you'd be doing it so well? And also, walk me through, was it really difficult the first couple of practices when you were trying to put in the zone that he had never even coached before, right?
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: Definitely. I mean, it does mean a lot coming from Coach Boeheim because he is kind of the authority on zones. I mean, when we first had our first practice I think my sophomore year, we spent a good two weeks breaking down how this defense works. Coach had it down for every position, wherever the ball is at, where everybody should be. At first it took a while because my freshman year we played man and played man all in high school. Everyone that came in played man in high school. You don't really play zone. Coach emphasizes that it's not really a zone defense. We have man principles and you've got to play defense like you're playing man. It wasn't that hard for guys to adjust and get used to it.
Q. For any of you guys: You're playing at 9:00 Arizona time tomorrow. I'm sure you haven't played basketball at that time. Is there any concern about that early start time?
JAMES HARDEN: Yeah, it's really early in the morning, but it's whoever can wake up and be ready to play. You know, early game is no excuse. It's the NCAA Tournament. It doesn't matter what time you're playing. Both teams want to win, so you have to wake up, get up early, get a good breakfast and just be ready to go.
Q. This is for any of the three of you guys: When you talk about the match-up zone it confuses the heck out of people. Do you ever find yourselves confused at points when you're out there? I know it can be complicated?
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: Sometimes we'll get a little confused but we kind of correct it by just going out there and playing hard, and eventually everything ends up correcting itself. Guys will be out of position a lot and people will be guarding people they're not supposed to or our big man will be guarding somebody at the top. Some things turn into scramble modes and you've got to play as hard as you can and eventually things will balance out. It's confusing, but as long as we play hard, it'll end up working itself out.
Q. Derek, how important will it be to try to keep Jonny Flynn out of the lane because he creates so many shots when he gets inside for his teammates?
DEREK GLASSER: To try to keep him out of the paint, that's going to be one of our big focuses. He makes their team go. Jamelle and I are going to have a tough task up top trying to keep him out of the lane, because that's the main focus.
Q. Jeff, there might have been a sense at the start of the year that this team was you and James and a bunch of other guys, fairly or unfairly. Not to put you on the spot, but Derek's emergence as a scorer, the things he can do, the things he did yesterday, how much easier does that make the load on you two guys especially?
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: I think it makes things a lot easier because I mean, it gives a defense another person to key on instead of like how they've been lately with just James. They've got a guy following him around everywhere. Derek is hitting open shots. You can't just keep letting him hit open shots and the next thing you know he's got 40 points. If you don't guard him, he's capable of doing something like that if people don't play him.
It helps, especially because he's your point guard, too. He always has the ball in his hands. And the defenders aren't always backing off of him. Post entries or entries to James it makes things a lot easier because he becomes a threat and it just opens up the court so much more.
JAMES HARDEN: I think Jeff played well yesterday, even when I have a bad game or something like that, it's always good for guys like Derek to step up. He can shoot the ball really well. Earlier in the season he was hesitant on shooting the ball, but later in the season he's beginning to shoot the ball, and he's been playing well.
Q. Jeff, there seems to be some debate whether when you get in the Tournament whether you root for everybody else in your conference to keep winning or whether you root against maybe your rival, who also happens to be here. Did you guys watch the Arizona game last night, and do you pull for each other because you're the west coast teams out here? Or is there still a little rivalry there?
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: We kind of watched some of it. There was so many games we kept flipping back and forth between all of them. But when we got a chance, I feel like it's the PAC-10 against everybody else right now. The rivalries are kind of being shadowed by this big old thing that's called the Tournament. We're rooting for everybody, and I would think they would root for us, too, but when next year comes it's back to the PAC-10 season and all that stuff is going out the window.
LARRY WAHL: We'll expect coach Herb Sendek momentarily.
We'll open it up for questions from Coach Sendek.
Q. I'm just wondering what was the genesis of your match-up zone and what you think is the best thing you guys do with that?
COACH HERB SENDEK: I'd never really coached zone before. We had employed it a few times through the years, mainly in desperation hoping the other team would miss, and we could get the rebound. But our first team at Arizona State found itself in a situation where we had to do something to try to be somewhat competitive, and so we just started trying to figure something out and really didn't have any idea what we were doing. And over time it has just evolved, and now it's something that we've decided to stick with and play. But really it was born out of necessity and just an attempt to try to be competitive as possible our first year.
Q. Did you study it from somewhere else?
COACH HERB SENDEK: It was really something that we kind of put together on the fly. I'm sure there's nothing new or unique that we do that hasn't been done somewhere in basketball, so I don't want to make it seem like we had this revolutionary idea that nobody has tried or done before. But really just within our own offices, with that first group, we just tried to put them in a position to be successful, and even over the last couple years it's continued to evolve and change. We're still trying to figure it out as we go a little bit.
Q. Two hard-hitting questions here: One, Boeheim said he could take you on the court. Your reaction there. And also he suggested early in your coaching career you were living in a car.
COACH HERB SENDEK: Well, if he can take me one-on-one, that's really not saying a lot (laughter). I mean, that's not like he went out on a limb and made some outlandish claim. I didn't exactly have a stellar career at Carnegie Mellon. However, just taking a look at it and sizing it up, I don't know that I wouldn't have a chance against him at this point.
I didn't live in a car, but I did live in a very humble-looking dormitory at Providence when I started. In fact, I didn't have a car my first year, I walked. I would have liked to have had a car to live in.
Q. Is your biggest concern tomorrow just keeping Syracuse's front line off the boards?
COACH HERB SENDEK: You know, we have a lot of concerns. I don't know if they can single that out as our biggest. That's certainly among them. They're an awesome rebounding team. But I really think they're in the mix of teams from the beginning who people who could legitimately point to and say hey, they're a contender for the National Championship. Their talent quotient is tremendous, and it would really be an oversimplification for us to say, boy, biggest concern, only concern, we've got to focus on this. We're going to have to play an great all-around game, a balanced game, and it's difficult to just limit ourselves to one thing.
Q. If I could take you back to the match-up, when you first employed it, I can imagine you never thought it would become what it's become and that you would stick with it for this long?
COACH HERB SENDEK: That's right. We thought it was a stopgap, something we thought we had to do that year to keep games as close as we could just to be different. We didn't feel like we could match up with anybody and guard them man-to-man. We thought it was stopgap, that it would be a one-and-done, over-with, done-with type of thing, and by our second year we'd hopefully be going back to play man-to-man because it was what we knew and it was what we'd always coach.
Q. I know you said you kind of put things together on the fly. Can you take me through what that process was actually like for you.
COACH HERB SENDEK: I mean, it was just a process of learning what we could do to make it better. When other teams showed what they were going to do to try to attack it, it forced us to rethink things, and that continues to this day. One great thing about our game is there's never a finished product. Your personnel is always changing and the other team's personnel is always changing. So there's always new variables that are introduced as you play the next game. So you're always trying to make things better.
Q. Have you ever coached a player that seems to get beat up as much as Derek does on almost a night-in, night-out basis?
COACH HERB SENDEK: He has taken some shots this year, there's no question about it. I don't know if I could rank him, but I know where you're going. You've seen us play all our games, and he's taken a licking, there's no question about it.
Q. What does that say about his toughness?
COACH HERB SENDEK: He's a tough guy, and not just physically. He's a mentally strong young man. He, I think, really has demonstrated that exceptionally well down the home stretch of this season.
Q. Two things if I may: First, to follow up on the last question, I guess he's had a bad tailbone issue for a few days, when he goes down in a heap and is back up on the court a minute later, does that give the other four guys on the court a real boost seeing that every time he gets hit, he pops back up?
COACH HERB SENDEK: I think all those kinds of things can be contagious. If you're a leader and show a measure of toughness and have grit, that can have a real positive influence on your team.
Q. And the second going back to the zone if I may: When you first went to it, was one of the concerns about it was that a lot of players -- it doesn't seem like it's always taught well at the high school/AAU level, that a lot of coaches have said players can be lazy in it. Was that a big concern? And how crucial is your transition D in that in getting back to set up the zone? How vital is that just to start it?
COACH HERB SENDEK: I don't think man or zone has anything to do with it. I've seen teams, including our own, be lazy playing man-to-man. You can be lazy playing anything if you want, or you can play whatever defense you choose well. I don't see that as being unique to zone.
I know on a number of occasions through the years our team has played man-to-man and I've been upset with our effort and energy level from time to time.
Q. Your club was able to knock off Arizona three times. Any advice to Cleveland State on how they can beat them?
COACH HERB SENDEK: I don't have any advice. Right now we're focused on Syracuse. We had some hard-fought games with Arizona. I think our players would be the first to tell you that those games could have gone either way. They were competitive games. Two of them came down to the last possession, I believe.
Q. James was telling us he went to dinner last night with his buddy at Syracuse. Is that something that you encourage, don't encourage, the friendship with him and Flynn? Is that good for the game? I mean, these guys are 2,500 miles away and they get to see each other this week.
COACH HERB SENDEK: Yeah, you know, I'm not in the business of trying to dictate our players' friendships. I mean, they have good judgment, and I trust them to pick their friends wisely.
The truth of the matter is, you know, all these guys, or many of these guys, know each other. They get to know each other in high school. They play together during the summer. They play against each other. They keep in touch. I mean, I think that summer circuit that extends into the spring, as well, has brought the basketball world closer as much as anything for the kids, not further apart.
Q. You preached that you want to prepare for this game like any other game regardless of the national stage. Hindsight is 20/20, but are you very proud of how the team did carry itself for, again, a squad that really doesn't have experience on this stage?
COACH HERB SENDEK: Yeah, I thought our guys did a good job of keeping their poise and composure and made a number of plays that we needed to down the stretch to actually hang on and win the game. We withstood a couple of hard-tempo runs and didn't come unraveled, and so I was pleased.
Q. When you look at the turnaround that your program has made over the past couple of years, and you look at I guess one of the centerpieces would probably be Jeff. What has he actually meant from when you first got here and had to kind of maybe even re-recruit him to really use him as a cornerstone?
COACH HERB SENDEK: Well, he has been a cornerstone. He's been a great ambassador for our university and our basketball program, and obviously he's been a terrific talent on the court. You know, on the court I don't know where we would be without him because he's meant so much to us. But he's also done it in such a great way that he's represented the program and the university with great honor and class. He's gone out of his way to touch so many people in the community, and he does it as a matter of ordinary life. You know, he doesn't need a big stage to do it, but just as he goes through one day and into the next, you know, he just really cares about people and he touches people in really good ways.
Q. (No microphone).
COACH HERB SENDEK: Well, it's very beneficial. We've definitely profited from his presence. I mean, he's a great player and a tremendous person.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Jim Boeheim and just what you see in him that's made him so successful for this many years.
COACH HERB SENDEK: Yeah. I mean, obviously he's one of the game's all-time great coaches. I mean, he's truly a Hall-of-Fame coach. He's a good person, and he always struck me as he'd be like a really good guy for your son to play for. You know, he's a good guy, and would treat him the right way, would care about him the right way. I just get the sense watching from a distance through the years that his rapport with his players has been really good.
And now at this stage of his career, I know how involved he is for the betterment of the game. He gives of himself and his time to improve the game, to make things better. He doesn't have to do that. I mean, I don't know that he personally gets anything in return from that, other than he really cares, and so I really respect that about him a lot.
Q. I know your primary focus is, of course, Syracuse tomorrow, but this time of year these questions are inevitable: Western Kentucky wins for the second straight year, Siena for the second straight year, Cleveland State last night. Can you talk about the overall health of the college game, and if these are the things that perpetuate that this is still a very special time of year for kids, for coaches, for schools?
COACH HERB SENDEK: Absolutely. There's so much balance in college basketball, it's so competitive, and the nature of our sport leads to those kinds of occasions. It's certainly not a new thing. We've been witnessing those kinds of games for many years. That's why "March Madness" is such an appropriate name for this time of year.
Q. I think the PAC-10 was 5-1 through the first two days. Were you surprised by the outcomes there? It seemed like maybe across the country people were a little more down on them than it showed?
COACH HERB SENDEK: The PAC-10 was really good this year. I've been saying that to anybody who would listen. And even some who wouldn't. I've just been proclaiming that with great conviction. Our league this year was outstanding.
I know the other leagues are, as well. I don't have any great need right now to try to handicap or compare conferences; all I can tell you firsthand, playing against the teams in our league, that it was really good. Does 5-1 in the first round prove it? Not necessarily. Like I said from the beginning, sometimes if you'd replay all the games the next day, half of them would have the opposite outcome. I mean, but it was a really good league. All you've got to do is watch our teams play, and you'd probably come to that conclusion on your own.
LARRY WAHL: Thank you.
End of FastScripts