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March 27, 2009
THE MODERATOR: I'm going to ask Coach Anderson to offer a few general comments, and then we'll go to questions for the players. We'll keep Coach when the players go to the breakout rooms.
COACH ANDERSON: It is certainly exciting times for Missouri basketball team. I think our guys can attest that they're excited about surviving and advancing. And now they have an opportunity to play against one of our toughest challenges, and that is an outstanding Connecticut Husky team led by Hasheem Thabeet, All-American, Defensive Player of the Year in the league, I mean, you name it.
But I think they have some other guys on that basketball team that are some outstanding players, A.J. Price. You talk about Stanley Robinson, someone I know from Birmingham, Alabama. A guy that can jump out of the gym. It just seemed like Jeff Adrien has been around a long, long time. So you add that to Austrie, and you have a Hall of Fame coach in Coach Calhoun.
It is probably the ultimate challenge for our basketball team. We have a day to catch our breath and get ready to play against a very good Husky team.
Q. For each of you, you have built up the reputation as a great defensive team. You are great offensively as well. What is it do you think, if each of you can talk about it, what makes you so good offensively?
J.T. TILLER: I just think our defense is what makes us so good offensively. We use that to our advantage. When we get our defense rolling, that definitely gives us the confidence on offense.
MATT LAWRENCE: I think we have done a great job all season limiting our turnovers and getting a good shot up every possession. I think a lot of games also we take -- attempt more field goals than the other team which is another key to our basketball team, our success.
DEMARRE CARROLL: Like J.T. said, our defense kind of really leads the ease of offense, ease of layups. When we get steals, it leads to easy layups. So I think our defense is basically our offense. The better we play defense, the more easy the shots we can get.
LEO LYONS: Our defense plays a huge part but also I think we are very unselfish. We share the ball more than anybody you can see -- than I have seen. We have a lot of unselfish guys that are making plays for other players.
ZAIRE TAYLOR: I would agree with Leo on the unselfishness as far as getting assists. And also I would say the versatility. I think everybody on this team can shoot the ball as well as get to the hole.
Q. Mike, I am sure you haven't had a chance to reflect on everything that has gone on from last year to this year and the success and the journey you have been on. When you take the time to, what will stand out from where this team has come so far this year?
COACH ANDERSON: What will stand out?
Q. The journey from last year to this year.
COACH ANDERSON: I tell you what, I talk about going through some storms and having an opportunity to come out of those storms. I think the biggest statement we made last year was the Nebraska game where we suspended most of my team. We had six gay guys playing and we went on to play the Nebraska team. I will never forget, our fans were unbelievable. It was a game we lost. A game we almost pulled off.
When we made a statement what our program is going to be about, the brand, exciting, up-tempo basketball, players will do the right things on and off the floor, I think those guys became the core unit of our basketball team that you see here today. I think as we went into the summers -- summer school this summer, I think these guys made a commitment to be there on campus with the young guys coming in. I think that started the process of bonding.
We took a trip to Canada. And you could just see we had more options with this basketball team. I think when they all got together, I think they made a decision that, hey, we are going to be known for more about what we do on the floor and off the floor than the things that are taking place.
They wanted to erase what took place in the past. So to me I think we put in some hard work. These guys worked extremely hard. 6 a.m. workouts, individual workouts, running in the sand. They did a lot of things to get to this point. I think that's why you see these guys are kind of reaping the benefits of the success they're having.
I think they trust one another, they believe in one another. They push one another. Our practices, if you have ever had a chance to watch our practices, it is war. We get after it. We get after it. When you watch us play in the games. And we utilize our bench. All these guys play. They are having fun. These guys are actually having fun right now. And hopefully we will have some more fun tomorrow.
Q. DeMarre and Leo particularly, what about the prospect of acting as bait to the beast to get him to follow you to the perimeter? Is that a key point? Do you have to hit outside to get him out there?
DEMARRE CARROLL: Well, I think that's a big key but I think the biggest key is we got to get that big beast to run. We got to get him up and down the court. We got to play to our advantage, me and Leo, you know, versatile big man. So hopefully we can get him running up and down the court and fatigue could be a big factor in this game.
LEO LYONS: That's right, just like he said. He is great at blocking shots. We want to see how good he can run, get up and down the court. See if he can slide his feet on defense as well.
Q. Coach, at the Big 12 Media Day earlier this season you had a look in your eye and you talked about how excited you were about coaching this core group of guys. You said you were going to surprise some people. Are you surprised yourself at how good they have become and how good a team you guys are playing right now?
COACH ANDERSON: I thought we had some more options with this team. I thought I had more guys that fit what we wanted to do. I thought the leadership and the ownership which I saw developing and just continuing throughout the summer months and even into the fall months before the conference meeting, that's why it was refreshing to me to have some guys that were -- they were in tune to one another.
I think they wanted to go out and really prove to people that they are a good basketball team. And so to be at this point, you can't see this far. I'm a visionary but not that much of a visionary.
But at the same time, I know in the game of basketball anything is possible, especially if you can formulate a team. That's what we are. We are the ultimate team. If you watch our basketball team play, these guys are so unselfish. They trust one another. They share the basketball. There are no egos, and I think that's the secret to our basketball team.
I always say our bench is our strongest component of our basketball team. That's not taking away anything from these guys. These guys are pretty darn good at what they do. But I think our bench enables us to really have a strong finishing in the games that we have had an opportunity to play in. And I thought it was last night, it was typical, too. The guys that came off the bench gave us some great, great minutes, enabled these guys to get some rest where they can finish the game up.
Q. Can you just talk about how much you guys like the challenge going up against the quality front court with Stanley Robinson and Thabeet? Do you guys like that?
DEMARRE CARROLL: Yeah, we love it. But, you know, like I said at the beginning of the year, I think me and Leo, we should be riding them top big-man tandems. Because day in, day out we go against guys like Blake Griffin and Cole Aldrich in the Big 12. Not to take anything from Thabeet and the rest of this team -- I mean, the rest of the big men, but I think they are pretty good. But I think we are pretty good ourselves.
LEO LYONS: I agree with DeMarre. We have dealt with a lot of big-man tandems in the past and we made some mistakes back then, we learned a lot of course like Pittman and Blake Griffin. We learned a lot from guarding those guys. I think we will be ready tomorrow.
Q. You talked about the other Big 12 guys. Which ones do you think Thabeet would compare to the most?
LEO LYONS: I don't think he compares to any of them. None of them is quite as long as him, as tall as him. But he is a defensive force. We are going to try to turn the offense to another level and turn our speed up to another level.
DEMARRE CARROLL: Like Leo said, I don't think he compares to none of them for real. But Cole Aldrich, you can compare him to him because he will shot block it himself. Other than that, he's 7-3 and blocks shots. Like I said before, he blocks a lot of shots, but we got to get him to run up and down the court and get him out of the lane and hopefully we can use that to our advantage.
Q. DeMarre, can you just tell us how far back you go with Stanley Robinson. He remembers playing against you a few times. I don't know what the extent of your relationship ever was other than running into each other on the court a few times.
DEMARRE CARROLL: I remember Stanley when I was a senior, he was, like, two years below me. We was always meeting in the regional finals to go to the -- like the Civic Center. That's the Big Dance, what we call the Big Dance in Alabama.
We always beat him, so hopefully we can keep that trend. Stanley, he can always jump out of the gym. I think he got a lot better from then to now. Hopefully we will keep that trend of me beating him like we used to.
Q. Back to congested lanes, Zaire and J.T., can you drive the way you want to and the way you have been if the beast is hunkered down there?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: (Laughter). Personally, I love challenges. 7-foot, I think that makes the lane a little more enticing. But I don't know. He is 7-3. Blocks shots. He is one of the -- Player of the Year. One of the Players of the Year from the Big East for a reason. It will be fun. I think it makes it that much more fun personally.
J.T. TILLER: Just for the fact of driving, I don't know that driving is going to be any harder. It is just the layups that might be a little tougher (smiling). It means Zaire is going to attack like we normally do but it might be a lot of driving and kicking to get our other teammates open for us tomorrow.
Q. Just for any of the players, anybody that would like to speak to this, you're on the brink of having a chance to do something extraordinary that this school has never done before to make history. What does this opportunity mean to you, this chance to make history?
MATT LAWRENCE: I'll take it. You know, for me personally, I grew up in Missouri, so it would mean the world to me especially being a fan of Missouri basketball for most of my life and growing up there and just seeing, you know, some of the great teams from the past and being talked about in the same breath as them is really special for us.
Setting the school record in wins is also very special. I think after this season, a lot of us will look back and really realize what we just did. But at this moment right now, UConn is only on our mind. So I can't really answer for everybody.
It definitely has been a very special season for us. It is just great to be at a university that has such great basketball tradition, to be talked about in the same breath as them.
Q. Matt and Leo, you guys were there when the transition took place with Mike Anderson taking over and the program where it was and to where it is now, when Coach took over, could you have seen a day like this just three years away that you guys would be playing for a shot at a Final Four?
MATT LAWRENCE: Yeah, I mean, the way Coach Anderson came in, he was preaching about I'm going to bring this program back. I think a lot of people were like, all right, well, maybe five, six years down the road perhaps because the program when he got it was definitely in disarray.
But I just knew something -- I had never seen a guy just hate losing so much and the way he instilled that in his players is unbelievable. Now we hate losing that much. I never thought I would hate it so much. I didn't want to do anything after we lost games. Just seeing that and trying to reflect him out on the floor, I think you are starting to see that more and more here in the tournament.
LEO LYONS: Yeah, I agree. When he first got there, we had a meeting in the locker room and the first thing he said was "we are playing for a national championship." Everybody probably didn't believe it at that point, but all the hard work we put in, we slowly but surely became winners. It was like -- we lost our fourth game and we thought the season was over. That was different for me. We got all these good wins.
And now I think slowly but surely the Missouri program is becoming a winning program again, and we have instilled that it in these freshmen. I hope they carry it on, too.
Q. Zaire, the style you guys play sometimes it wears people down physically and maybe mentally, too. Do you get a sense when you are playing a team that maybe they're beaten even if it might not look that way on the scoreboard? When you are playing your style, the body language, or is there something about how your opponents are reacting, did you see that at all last night?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: I would say so definitely. The fun thing is, as much as you can say the other team is getting tired, you get tired, too, of course (smiling).
But at the same time I know that I could get tired, I know Miguel Paul is going to come in and do the same thing or even raise it up another notch, so I don't have anything to worry about if I get tired. Whereas, after the first half went by, you look at the sheet or something and it says Tyreke Evans played 19 minutes. You are like, wow, that doesn't seem like they have too many other options maybe.
So that's when you start to realize that the wear and tear, when I feel I'm tired, that's when you want to kick it up a notch because I know I can come out and I know everybody else on the team does the same thing. That's where it goes back to what Coach said, where our biggest strength is our bench.
Q. You guys talked about after the Marquette game that you guys had yet to play a full game. Did you play that against Memphis or at least two halves? Have you played that against Memphis? If not, how good can this team be if you put two halves together?
J.T. TILLER: I think we've yet to actually reach our full potential. I think we played maybe, like, 30 minutes of a game yesterday, especially when they were coming back and our defense started to slack a bit. I think we have yet -- I think we have yet to put together 40 minutes. It is still to come, though.
THE MODERATOR: We will excuse the players.
Q. Mike, can you explain the circumstance about how Zaire got to campus. I think DeMarre recommended him after a game on campus or something. Did he have a scholarship automatically when transferred?
COACH ANDERSON: Well, actually, I think his name surfaced -- he and Keon Lawrence played some basketball, I guess, back in the neighborhood. He is from Staten Island. Keon is from New Jersey. I think they had a friendship there. I think he had posed to him possibly about transferring.
Pretty soon we had him in on a visit. Came in, and I think he struck a bond with our guys right off the bat. He was able to come back and be a part of what we're doing. I think that's where it started, but Keon had the relationship there. I think he struck a real good bond with those guys, especially like with DeMarre. He had to sit out when he first game because he was a skinny, wimpy little thing. The first thing I saw he had a big belt on, a big belt on. It had "cash money." I'm serious. I told him, boy, you get rid of that belt if you are coming back here.
What a joyful kid. You listen to him, and Zaire has been instrumental in all the things that have taken place. Having to sit out a year, he got a chance to see all the things that you don't want to have in your program. I thought that gave him a sense of pride when he became a part of our team. And I think he even showed up with some of the leadership qualities.
As you can see, he is a happy camper.
Q. Can you just perhaps recall what it was like to go to a Final Four at Arkansas and what that meant to the school, and without asking you to suggest you will or will not win tomorrow, do you have any way of understanding what it would mean to Missouri if you guys did?
COACH ANDERSON: Well, I tell my coaching staff and I have told my guys, I have had a chance to be in, what, three Final Fours. There is nothing like it. The first time we got there in 1990. It was so ironic because my daughter was born that year and I call her my Final Four baby. We had a chance to go and play in Denver against a great Duke team. They ended up losing to Vegas in the championship game. Getting there the first time, it just gives you a sense of wanting to get back there. So I experienced it.
And then of course won a national championship in '94. For me as a coach, even assistant head coach, I saw a lot of work to get to those Final Fours. So that's why when I took the job at UAB as a head coach, I said, "I'm going to win the championship; I don't know when it is going to take place."
So every year -- I'm sure all the schools, that's what they look forward to, to have an opportunity to be in the championship game. That's the goals that you set high.
And along those, then you are going to have some smaller goals that are going to take place. With our basketball team, this year a lot of good things have taken place. We were in the hunt for a championship in the conference regular season. We ended up winning the conference tournament. And here we are having an opportunity -- that's what you want to do to have an opportunity to play against a great UConn team to possibly advance to the Final Four. That's all you can ask for.
I told these guys, just follow me. They have done that. They are seeing it through my eyes. They are seeing it through my eyes.
And so here we are. Our focus right now is Connecticut. As our guys said, that's the approach we had all year long. One day at a time, one game at a time. So Connecticut is a game that's in front of us. What takes place after that, we'll go from there.
Q. I'm curious, your kids touched upon a little bit, with all due respect to the centers you play in the Big 12, what kind of special, unique issue, problem does having Thabeet in the middle of what they do cause for you on both sides of the ball?
COACH ANDERSON: He presents a big problem. I mean, he is going to be the last line of defense back there. He is quick. He is athletic. I tell you what, he is really progressing to be a tremendous player. That will be a challenge.
But we won't change anything we do in terms of attacking. We are an attacking team. With that being said, I think versatility is going to be -- hopefully we can bring him out. He will have to guard our guys on the perimeter at times. We have to be aware when you do go to the basket.
But he is not the only one back there blocking shots. People forget, Stanley Robinson, the Edwards kid. So they have some other personnel on that basketball team. But I think defensively without a doubt, I think he protects that basket. But we just got to be active. It took in an attack mode very much like we were last night.
Q. You kind of mentioned some of the issues you dealt with last year off the court and now Connecticut has a cloud hanging over their head. How much does some of that external stuff affect what happens on the court?
COACH ANDERSON: I can't speak for Connecticut. I think with our basketball team, there is no question about it, when you are struggling, you are trying to really establish a program. You got things that are -- you got more things that are affecting your team off the floor, it takes away what you are doing on the floor.
To me, this year is refreshing because I get a chance to coach basketball. I don't have to deal with all those -- that's part of my job, though. I dealt with it. And I think that's the great part about it, is I think we've learned from it. I think the guys that are in our program have learned from it.
Hopefully from the standpoint when kids come in, they know what I'm going to be about. I want character kids that are going to do the right thing. Because I think talent -- character sometimes can outweigh talent. And I say that in the sense that kids will develop.
If you look at our program, it is all about kids developing. Who would have thought Matt Lawrence would be one of the 1,000-point scorer -- the second top 3-point shooter in the history of the school? Leo Lyons, Leo Lyons was playing five minutes a game and look where he's come to. DeMarre Carroll, DeMarre, he came but he was pretty limited in what he did. That's what I mean.
When you got character kids that are going to work extremely hard, they are hungry, they are humble and they are hungry. That's why you see this team like it is. And hopefully it is going to be something that continues for many, many years.
Q. You mentioned the UAB job and talking to Herman Frazier earlier today, he mentioned when interviewed you, the other four guys he interviewed were all head coaches. This is one of those obvious questions, but can you talk about what in the scheme of big coaching situations and opportunities being hired at UAB did for your career?
COACH ANDERSON: Well, I always say I give Herman a lot of credit for giving me an opportunity. Herman, it is amazing sometimes you meet people and you just hit it off. Herman was a longtime associate athletic director at Arizona State. I was a longtime assistant coach at Arkansas. We had some ultra success. And of course I was still there.
Lo and behold, Coach Richardson gets fired and I didn't get the opportunity to get the job. All of a sudden, I get a chance to meet this guy. As I told him at that time, "you give me an opportunity, I will make it look good." And he did. Boy, what a whirlwind. He was there with me. I got the job, I think, in April. He was gone in June. He took off to Hawaii. So how about that? The president was fired in June as well. So here I am right at home of all places, in Birmingham, Alabama, coaching UAB. But the great part about it, I had an opportunity.
But Herman is someone that's real dear to me.
Q. You just heard Matt talk about how he has never met anybody who hates losing more than you do. Where does that come from for you? Where does that --
COACH ANDERSON: I'm just a bad loser. I like to win. I'm used to winning. In anything I do -- that's not bragging. That's not boasting or anything like that. I'm just used to winning. I told our guys, if I'm playing marbles with my grandmother, I'm going to beat her. That's just my attitude. I mean, that's just my attitude. It has been like that, I guess, ingrained when I was little. There was five brothers. And so there was always competition. Sometimes competition just for food.
But I guess that's just something that's in me.
Q. I do want to know if you beat your granny at marbles if she gets ticked at you. But you say your team has no ego. You have said that several times. Do you have to find a player with no ego or can you find a player with ego and run it out of him or yell it out of him? Or can you take that ego out of them?
COACH ANDERSON: Absolutely. I think that's part of coaching. That's the key. That's part of coaching.
I'm sure every guy that you sat up here, they came with the understanding, hey, man, I want to play in the NBA. They have dreams of playing in the NBA. I want guys with that aspiration, I do. I want guys also that want to come, they are going to work hard and they are going to develop and they want to win. I think they want to win.
I think with the way we play, the way we play, to me it's -- a guy gets a chance to showcase his God-given abilities. And I say that in the sense that I have heard a lot of people say, hey, you won't play so many minutes here, you won't do this, you won't do that. J.T. Tiller played 35 minutes. Played 35 minutes of the hardest minutes of his life. Kimmie English played 13 minutes against Marquette. The kid had 17 points in 13 minutes.
So there's quantity minutes and quality minutes. I like those guys that get quality minutes in. I continue to say it. Those guys continue to develop.
It goes to winning. If you want to win. I think people like winners. People like winners. If you can play, they are going to come find you. The guy -- the big boy, they are going to find you. I tell you what, more and more NBA guys like guys that want to win.
Q. UConn like built its reputation for success as a running team, transition team throughout all these years. But as you see it now and what you see on tape, are they pretty much going to try to slow you down and become a half-court team?
COACH ANDERSON: It isn't like they walk up and down the floor. They score with 70-some points a game. I'm sure they are going to try to go to their strengths, and their strengths are their big guys. They have guys of size, athletic guys. They also have a guy named A.J. Price who can really put some numbers up. And Austrie, he shot the ball well yesterday.
Their team can bang the boards. We have got to be our best tomorrow, to have a chance against this UConn team.
Q. Wanted to find out, how do you feel about your name being mentioned for other jobs at this time in the tournament?
COACH ANDERSON: We are playing -- we have an opportunity to go to the Final Four. I'm excited about what we're doing at Missouri. We are doing some great things. If you look at these kids I have up here, I'm excited about the future.
Q. What do you have to do defensively to stop the Connecticut big guys and keep them off the offensive glass?
COACH ANDERSON: We have got to somehow just disrupt what they want to do. I think our defense is geared toward disrupting. You heard our guys, one of the things they always talk about is our defense. We want to hang our hat on our defense and create some easy offense with our defense. We want to be in attack mode.
We got to -- whether it be doubling it up, singles, we got to run some things at those guys to disrupt what they want to do. We got to keep them off the boards. I think that will be a key. We have got to put bodies on those guys.
Q. When you are trying to dictate tempo on another team, does it start on defense? People tend to focus on what you do offensively in your numbers. But does your style of play really start at the defensive end? Is that where the key is when you are trying to dictate your tempo?
COACH ANDERSON: I think this time of year energy is really, really important. I think you got the energy on defense. It will be huge. You got to create stops. I think our defense -- pressure defense, whether it be in half court or full court, we want to make sure we are on the attack also on offense.
So our offense becomes pressure offense. I mean, it becomes pressure, too. Our offense becomes pressure because we are pushing the basketball and we are trying to get people -- when they are disorganized on the defensive end, that creates mismatches for us.
So we are trying to get pressure both ways.
Q. At Arkansas, when you did go to the first Final Four, did you recall the impact on the state and on the program? Is it fair to assume that first Final Four led to some recruiting benefits that actually helped with the '94 championship?
COACH ANDERSON: Yes, that's a great point. That year as sophomores, we had Lee Mayberry, Todd Day, Oliver Miller, those were the core guys.
As sophomores, they got to the Final Four. They got to the Elite Eight their junior year. So you can see it was just a progression. Then they got to the second round their senior year and now we are bringing guys like Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman, Corey Beck, Dwight Stewart. The first year they go to the Sweet 16. So success continues. It kind of breeds success. The next year they win the national championship in '94. The next year they go to the national championship game.
I would say that '95 team really started things. And that group was in our third year. When those guys game -- it was in 1988 when Lee Mayberry, Todd Day and Oliver Miller, those guys showed up on campus and, boy, just took our program to another level.
Q. The impact at Arkansas that year, do you remember in the state what it was like after going to the first Final Four, what it meant to people?
COACH ANDERSON: Oh, it was -- no question, it was pride. There was tremendous pride in Arkansas basketball. Arkansas is a major university in the state. There is a lot of support there. Anywhere you go, it was Razorbacks, Razorbacks. Not only that, those guys were sophomores. You are looking at the next year with those guys -- the next two years with those guys. It was a lot -- it was a great feeling there in the state.
Q. When was the last time you talked to Coach Richardson? Were you able to talk to him earlier today, last night, anything like that?
COACH ANDERSON: Talked to him probably -- I guess we got out of here around -- it was probably 1 o'clock his time. We got a chance to talk a little bit. To my surprise, he was still up. Said he couldn't sleep. He was excited about the game, he really was. Like a proud papa, he was excited. And like another coach, in your mind, because my mind goes to the next game. But he was. He and Rose -- I got a chance to talk to he and his wife last night.
Q. Mike, you talked about your offense. How important is it the fact you have five guys that can shoot from the outside and pass the ball? It seems like the versatility of your offense is pretty remarkable.
COACH ANDERSON: Our guys -- I think our guys have picked up on things, and that's why this summer was very important. They got a chance to go and play with one another, get familiar with one another. I think that was important to our basketball team. So now you see there are times we look like a well-oiled machine in terms of what we're doing, the curling, the cutting.
It is tough -- when you are working teams on defense and then you go on offense and you are attacking, you're attacking, you make about five, six passes, we tend to get good shots. Our guys are making better decisions and we do value the basketball. That's what gets lost in what we do.
People don't understand, we get good shots. I think that's a testament to our guys. It is something we work on every single day in practice. But can you imagine you are trying to run your offense and practice every single day and these guys know exactly what you're doing.
To me, again, the games become fun. Especially when the fatigue factor comes in. It becomes fun to our guys.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts