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March 26, 2010

Gordon Hayward

Matt Howard

Shelvin Mack

Ronald Nored

Brad Stevens

Willie Veasley


THE MODERATOR: We welcome Butler representatives to the stage. We will take a quick opening statement from coach, then direct questions to Butler student-athletes, then go with questions for coach.
COACH STEVENS: I don't really have anything to say other than we're excited to still be playing. We know that obviously we're playing a great basketball team. You know, when you're down to the round of eight, when you're in the Sweet 16 before that, round of 32, you first get in the tournament, that's going to be the case.
We're going to prepare like we always prepare. There will be nothing new in our approach. Just trying to get ready to play a very good basketball team.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Where did you watch the Kansas State game last night, when you thought of it? Do you think there will be fatigue from the game?
WILLIE VEASLEY: We just watched it back at the hotel. I mean, they're young, 20-, 22-year-olds. I'm sure playing that late is not going to have much effect on them.
RONALD NORED: I think the same thing. You know, they're playing the Elite 8. They're going to be excited, fired up, ready to go. They're a scrappy team that likes to get up and pressure. I don't think playing that late is going to change that for this game.

Q. Shelvin, the world has been sort of told to stop calling you guys the loveable, scrappy whatever. You knew the Final Four was in Indianapolis this year. When you're getting ready at the start of the season, did you dare even dream about taking a couple-mile ride to play in it?
SHELVIN MACK: We dreamed of it. We also know we had a long season ahead of us, take one practice at a time, one player at a time, continue to improve each and every day in practice.
MATT HOWARD: Well, you know, when we sat down and made goals and thought about the season, we said, Why not shoot for the ultimate goal. There's no reason to hold yourself back and say, Hey, let's just shoot to make the tournament. Why not try to win the whole thing.
That comes with a preparation and mindset that this team has and the coaches have. It sort of carried over so far.

Q. Not to compare you to George Mason, but still you aren't the super heralded name in college basketball. How great is it for college basketball when you have a not-a-super-big-name school advance this far and now you have a shot at the Final Four obviously?
MATT HOWARD: You know, I think it's good for any team that maybe is in the position, I guess you could say, that we are being a mid-major school.
You know, if you work at it and believe, you can get to this point and there's no reason why you can't.
GORDON HAYWARD: I mean, just going along with what Matt said, I think it's special for any team to get this far, mid-major or not. It's really a tough thing to do. But I guess if we want to be labeled as a mid-major school to get this far, America's team, whatever you want to call it, then that's fine for that.

Q. Butler has been on quite a run with its defense all of February and March. Willie, how does maybe this team's defense compare to your three previous years? What makes your defense so effective?
RONALD NORED: I'll let Willie answer about the past teams.
But I think our defense, we do it as a unit. It's not an individual one-on-one thing. Yes, you have individual responsibilities, and yes, you need to do those with every possession. For some reason that doesn't happen, you have teammates covering for you.
I think Coach has implemented a good system. I think that's been passed down for the past years. We try to execute that to the best of our abilities.
WILLIE VEASLEY: Just basically going off of what Ron said. We just play defense as a whole. It's not one guy out there on the island. It's five guys covering for each other. You know, that's the way our defense works. If it's four guys or three guys, we're not as good of a defensive team.
With our past teams, I think this team, I don't know if it's that we're a better defensive team, I think it's like we just want it more. We're a year older and played together, this is our second year together. I think we just know each other. We just got a feel for each other when we're on the court on the defensive end.

Q. You alluded to the idea of the Final Four being in Indianapolis, a long-term goal. Can you describe how it feels, so immediate, you're 40 minutes away from making that happen. Is it a different feeling?
SHELVIN MACK: I don't think it's a different feeling. Tomorrow we got a great team we have to look forward to. Kansas State is a great team. We can't take anything for granted. We've just got to go out there and play.

Q. Matt, I feel like maybe you're growing wary of the mid-major or Cinderella questions. Is too much made of the size of the school, the conference you play in, by us?
MATT HOWARD: That's pretty hard to judge, a pretty tough question.
But, you know, the way we look at it, we don't look at it as a mid-major and all that. The only time that we think about it is when we get asked the question.
So, you know, we realize that we're playing really good teams. You know, the first two may have been classified as mid-majors, but they were great teams. That all gets thrown out the door.

Q. Where do you think you fit into the overall Indianapolis sports and talk about the appeal of playing in the Final Four in your home city? Can you afford to even think about that?
SHELVIN MACK: I think we rank below the Indianapolis Colts, first off, in Indianapolis. They're a great team (smiling).
We don't try to look forward to that. We just try to come in, do our job. The community embraces us because we can all get along with the community. Everybody will be touched by anybody that comes up to us, stay humble the whole time. Thank the community. Indianapolis loves that.

Q. Gordon, this far in the tournament, maybe you haven't had to deal with some of the pressures other higher seeds have had to deal with. Is there any pressure when you make it to an Elite 8 game and possibly beyond that?
GORDON HAYWARD: I think any game leading into the tournament, there's going to be pressure. It's you win or go home. So I guess you could say because we've kind of been on a lower seed. I think in the first two rounds we were expected to win so I think we had some pressure on us in that regard.
Like the said, the whole seedings and the pressure, I don't think that we get affected by it that much. This whole year, we've had expectations and we're up, then we were back down. But throughout the whole thing, I think we kind of stayed together.
So that's what we tried to do. We really don't try to focus on what you guys say or anything like that. It's just inside that locker room, what coach says, and he's believed in us this whole time, so we've believed in ourselves.

Q. Gordon, in the media guide it says your advice for young kids is to dream big. Is that your mantra? Does this fit into that big dream category?
GORDON HAYWARD: Well, I mean, I think the young get started anywhere without the dream. You have as a little kid, I think that kind of goes and you have passions from those dreams. After you have the dreams, I think you have to work hard to reach those dreams.
I think we kind of embrace that. Like Matt said, someone's got to go to the national championship and win, so why couldn't it be us. We set that goal at the beginning of the season. We weren't trying to go anywhere but to that, at the end of our end goal.
So I guess that kind of fits for us.

Q. Matt, were you aware your moustache now has its own Facebook page?
MATT HOWARD: I did not know that (smiling).

Q. What do you think of that thing on his lip? What do you think of Gordon's raping?
RONALD NORED: I'll answer this one.
The moustache is awesome. I love it. A lot of guys, I can't remember where we were, but we all decided that maybe we were going to try to grow moustaches. Some guys shaved them. I had a little one going. I can't grow a big one, as big a one as Matt. But I shaved it. Going to Valpo we decided the moustache was kind of going to kind of be our thing for the post-season.
You asked the question about dreaming big. Gordon is just too big. The rap's not bad. It's all right. I think Gordon has inspired some other people at Butler to start raping, so you might see some people coming out with albums from Butler University. So look for that soon (laughter).
SHELVIN MACK: No comment (smiling).

Q. You talk a lot about the winning culture. Frank Martin was talking about the winning culture. What does that mean exactly? How does that manifest itself for you when you come onto campus and get involved in this program?
GORDON HAYWARD: Well, I think when you step into a program that has been winning, having so much success, I think the first thing that comes to mind is you want to follow in those footsteps and don't let anyone else down.
When we first came in, some seniors left. As freshmen, I think we didn't want to take any steps backward. I think some people thought we might have done that, but we came and wanted to improve on that.
I think it's real easy to do that with the older players that we have, like Willie and some of the other seniors, who showed just by example of how to win and what you have to do. That starts when you first get on campus in the summer and then the fall. Just the coaches, too, just show you, kind of pave the way for you. It's really easy when you already have that foundation.

Q. Playing for Coach Stevens. Did that make you feel uneasy with a coaching change? Does the fact that your coach is about 15 minutes older than the rest of you, did that affect your perception of your coach?
WILLIE VEASLEY: When Lickliter first left, told us that he was leaving, going through the process of trying to find a coach, we basically had a meeting with our athletic director and told him that we wanted to stay with somebody who was already there at Butler. Coach Stevens is the one he picked. As you can see, that was a great decision, the right decision.
His age doesn't really mean nothing when he coaches because he's just a brilliant coach. He always sets us up for success in any situation.

Q. Gordon, you were still in the recruiting process when Coach Lickliter left. Did that influence your decision at all or were you attached to Butler because of Coach Stevens?
GORDON HAYWARD: I don't really remember. I think you recruited me as the assistant at first for a little bit maybe. Then it was the head coach. It didn't really matter to me. Butler was just the right place for me, just the right program. So the fact that there was a coaching change I guess, I think it was a little before me, but it wouldn't have affected my decision at all.
THE MODERATOR: We'll dismiss the student-athletes and continue with questions for Coach Stevens.

Q. Could you talk about Kansas State's backcourt duo, how big they've been playing in the tournament, what problems they present for you.
COACH STEVENS: Well, undersized has never meant anything to me. You look back through the history of Butler basketball, some of our best players prior to the ones that are sitting up here with me today were six foot and under. We had guys like Brandon Miller, Thomas Jackson, Mike Green, A.J. Graves that led us into the Rounds of 32, Sweet 16s, and beyond. So 'small' means very little when you get to this level.
I think those guys play much bigger than they are. They have huge hearts. They're incredibly fast. Right now, Clemente scares you as much as any player you're going to play against, as does Pullen. Pullen might be having the best tournament of anybody in the country right now.

Q. The whole mid-major question that I have to ask. There are a lot of people who say there's no such thing as a mid-major once you get into the tournament. But there is a lot more coaching turnover, not quite as much TV exposure. There are some issues there. Where do you stand on that whole thing?
COACH STEVENS: Well, I think what it boils down to is revenue. I think that's where the term comes from. Maybe it didn't start that way. Maybe it started with conference affiliation. But the bottom line is it's about revenue, which has no impact on a five-on-five basketball game. That's how we look at it.

Q. How about building a program?
COACH STEVENS: You got to find your niche and find the right guys to fit your niche. That's what we've always tried to do here. Recruiting is hard. Recruiting is something that's not an exact science. As you can see, mid-major, major, low major, whatever the case may be, we've got pretty darn good basketball players here.

Q. When the season ends, you're going to have to go through the whole process with Gordon Hayward, his desire to go to the NBA. This is not something that happens very often at Butler, if ever. What is the process going to be? How will you approach that? How much have you discussed this issue with Gordon so far?
COACH STEVENS: We've had an open dialogue about it. But in honesty, we've talked very little about it because we've both said, What's best for Gordon right now is the same thing that's best for us, and that's to focus on being the best student-athlete that he can be. If he gets too caught up in other distractions, you know, he's an engineering dual degree major at Butler. He works incredibly hard to be a great student. He's an academic All-American. He's a great basketball player. We'll cross that bridge when we get there.
I do think this: Gordon will certainly be the priority in that decision, and that's a decision that he and his family can make. I'm going to support him a hundred percent, whatever he chooses.

Q. Could you take us back to the transition from Lick and your interview with Barry, how formal that was. I'm not sure anybody outside the Butler basketball family was interviewed. How long was that interview?
COACH STEVENS: You asked Gordon earlier. Maybe the best part of the first three weeks was our first visit with Gordon Hayward. When I was head coach, and soon thereafter got a chance to know them, spend time with them. Ended up obviously being a pretty important part of what we're doing.
It's fun. It's been a lot of fun, even as an assistant, and now to the head coach, of looking back at some of those things.
When I was first interviewed, Coach Lick took the job on the national championship Monday. I was interviewed on Tuesday night. You know, didn't have any results of that interview. Got a phone call the next morning wanted to be interviewed again. The next night, I was the head coach. You know, I've been asked a lot about that recently, about how do you react to that. You take about four minutes to react to it, then you want to talk to your current team.
I saw Zach and Matt the next day, they were incoming guys. They were still excited about coming to Butler. That obviously makes you feel really good. You know, talked to Shawn because he was further away than those guys. You felt like the transition was going to be pretty seamless when you realized everybody was right onboard.

Q. What is the biggest difference you see in Shelvin Mack from last year to this year?
COACH STEVENS: Shelvin, he's just a basketball player. He loves the game. I don't know that there's any noticeable difference in his approach or any noticeable difference in his mind or his toughness or any of those things. But he just gets better because he lives in the gym. When we leave the court, he stays extra. He's the guy that stays the longest. He's the guy that is in the gym the most. Because of that, I think he earned the right to make shots.
He's a special guy. He's been a great guy to coach. You know, I'm certainly thrilled he's a part of our program.

Q. I think I heard you yesterday say that you had a scout on Kansas State a little bit earlier this year when they played Xavier the first time. Are you able to take anything away from that or have they changed so much?
COACH STEVENS: I wasn't watching Kansas State. I was watching Xavier because we played them the next game that time. The first time I really watched Kansas State very closely was recently, obviously in the last 24 hours. So obviously really talented, really long, great guards.
I don't think our guys are slow, but I do think that certainly you have to get back and you have to set your defense. Like these guys said, you've got to be playing in sync as one, five guys playing together.

Q. Why Butler? Why have you been able to accomplish what you've done over the last decade? Why has it happened at Butler?
COACH STEVENS: I think there are a lot of things that fit into the niche that we were talking about earlier that we can recruit to. One of the things obviously is you have terrific degree opportunities at Butler. It's a private school. Small school. 11-1 student-to-faculty ratio. Couple that with the fact that you're in a town and in a state that is mad about basketball, add on top of that that you play in a building that every basketball purist in the world wants to go through at one time or another.
Does that work for every kid? No, it doesn't work for a lot of 'em. But it works for the guys on our team. I said this last week, and I think it's probably the best way to put it. You bring a kid in that loves Hinkle Field House, that means he appreciates tradition, he appreciates history and is likely a good teammate because he appreciates what's gone on in the past.
I think those are things that have added up. All that put together creates a niche that we have to continue to try our best to recruit to.

Q. Did you think last night was pretty much the way you handled things from the perspective of just valuing every possession? Seemed like that was a very big focus for you.
COACH STEVENS: It's got to be. It's got to be. And right now you look -- you don't have to play perfect. Kansas State doesn't have to play perfect tomorrow to beat us. Nobody's gonna play perfect in this tournament.
But what you got to do is you really got to be able to move on to the next play and you've got to be able to maximize your possessions.
Our guys really, really went after loose balls last night. They really took care of the basketball. That was probably the reason why we won.

Q. A couple of the players were saying, We talked Final Four early in the season. I'm sure it's not your focus early in the season. What is your take on that? Did you legitimately talk?
COACH STEVENS: Never once mentioned Final Four. I never once mentioned Final Four. If they talked about it, they talked about it. Whether it be Kansas State, whether it be Butler, any of the teams remaining next weekend, I hope your goal's not to finish fourth. The bottom line is you're trying to win the next game. So our deal has never once mentioned Final Four, Elite 8, anything else. Just try to win the next game.

Q. You mentioned the privilege of playing in a basketball-crazed state. How recognized is Butler in Indianapolis? What kind of credit do you get in Indianapolis? Where do you think you rank?
COACH STEVENS: I'm not really interested in ranking us. That's for everybody else. We have great fan support. We have wonderful alumni support. There's a large alumni base in Indianapolis. I think there's a lot of passion about the school and the basketball program in general. And I think that our guys have done a nice job. We're not perfect. None of us are perfect, coaches, players, whatever the case may be. But they've done a nice job of representing Butler the right way.
I think that makes it a product that's more likely to be followed and to have people come through the doors and those type of things.
But it's kind of like I heard one of those guys say, we don't want to rank ourselves against the Colts; we'd rather go cheer for them. It's something that we all like to work together because it's a great city with a great sports landscape.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

End of FastScripts

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