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April 2, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with Coach Huggins.
Q. Kentucky obviously had tremendous size, but they didn't guard you too well on the three-point line. This Duke team has size, but has one of the best three-point defenses in the country. What kind of problems do they pose for you that will make them even more difficult?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, we're not primarily a three-point shooting team anyway. So we're just going to do what we do. We're just going to run offense and try to make good cuts and try to make good passes, just run our offense and do the same things we've done all year.
Q. Coach, in what ways do you see Bob Knight's influence in Coach K and the way his team and program is run?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, I think they do a great job of guarding. They give good ball pressure. I think their help defense is very good.
I think there's no question that Coach had a tremendous influence on Mike, but I think Mike has done a great job through the years of playing to his guys' strengths and letting them play to their strengths. I think that's to be commended.
I think Mike is very much his own man.
Q. Why do you think there's such a strong bond between this team and the entire state?
COACH HUGGINS: You have to kind of spend a little bit of time in our state to realize. But athletics are everything in the state. We don't have professional franchises. There's not really anybody else there to root for.
I think it's inherent. I think there's such a strong bond between the university and the people of West Virginia, and it goes back generations. I can remember sitting on my grandfather's lap listening to West Virginia football and basketball games. I think a large part, if not all of the state of West Virginia, grew up like that.
Q. Coach, yesterday you sort of mentioned, somebody asked you if not being at the Final Four was something that you worried about or you ever wondered if you'd make it back. You said, Not really. Is there anything in your job or your life that you do worry about a lot?
COACH HUGGINS: Not really. You know, I can't say I worry about our guys, because our guys are really good guys. Certainly I want them to be successful and do well and do well academically.
I never live my life worrying, you know.
Q. Bob, could you talk about the value of your year at Kansas State.
COACH HUGGINS: Well, I think the best thing about Kansas State -- well, there were quite a few things. But I think an unbelievable administration from Jon Wefald, Bob Krause, Tim Weiser. Great people, absolutely wonderful people. I don't know that there was a day that I was in the office that somebody, whoever, Casey Scott, whoever, would come in the office and say, Is there something we can do for you today? Is there something we can help you with? That was totally foreign to me. I guess to a large degree I think it restored my faith in people of that ilk.
And then the fans were phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal. Selling out, the way they bought tickets, came in and supported us was absolutely phenomenal.
Q. Coach, can you talk about some special things maybe you've seen that have shown you how special this run has been to the people of West Virginia.
COACH HUGGINS: Well, I mean, I think there's a lot of things. I think we came back from the Big East tournament, got back at 2:45 in the morning, and there were a couple thousand people at the airport when we landed, then there were at least that and maybe more at the Coliseum. It was cold. They had been standing there for a long time waiting for our guys to come back.
It's been that way after the first round and after the second round. I'm sure it will be that way when we go home, no matter what happens this weekend.
Q. Guys like Da'Sean Butler, Wellington Smith, senior leaders for your team. There's no one-and-done player teams here this year. Why do you think that's been the case this year? For your own program personally, do you try to preach staying in your program until guys are ready? How do you approach that during recruiting?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, it's that way this year because we beat Kentucky. If we hadn't beaten Kentucky, that wouldn't be a story. In all honesty, I've said this, the longer any young person spends on a college campus, certainly the more prepared he's going to be for the rest of his life.
With Da'Sean, Da'Sean never thought about exploring the draft. That never crossed his mind. Devin, a year ago, never thought about it. Devin had a meeting, because I think all the circulation that he was thinking about leaving. He came back and just said, How do we stop this?
I mean, those guys never thought about exploring leaving.
Q. How important is Joe Mazzulla's ability to drive to your offense, your ability to score?
COACH HUGGINS: I think Joe enables us to get easy baskets which we have at times struggled to get. Certainly the more easy baskets you get, the easier the game is going to be for you. I think Joe gives us that opportunity in transition.
Q. How have you seen the role of the coach expand in 10 years? Salaries keep going up. How have you seen the role of the coach expand?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, I think we've always been a promotional arm of the university. Not the promotional arm, but a promotional arm of the university. I mean, I don't know. There's a lot of people you could ask that would know more about that than I do.
I think it's like anything else, it's what the market bears.
Q. What is it about you that inspires such loyalty among fans, coaches that you work with, and players? Also, you were a polarizing figure in Cincinnati and remain so. Do you have any thoughts on why that still is?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, I would hope that part of the reason is because I treat people right and that I've always had time for people. I think in the players' case, they know how much I care about them as a person. People see me on the floor and they think that's the way I am all the time. You know better than that, but a lot of people don't know better than that.
You know, I don't carry things off the floor. You know, there are coaches that are that way. I'm not that way. When it's over with, it's over with. We kind of walk off the floor arm in arm.
But I hope that the biggest reason is, I've tried to do right by people. I've tried to be honest. I've tried to be accessible. I've tried to do the right things by people.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH HUGGINS: I'm not sure what that means, 'polarizing.'
Cincinnati is a great town, it's a great sports town. Hopefully, over the years we gave them a lot of things to be proud of. They were great to me. As you know, I had countless opportunities to leave, and I didn't want to leave because I didn't want to leave the city, I didn't want to leave the people. I think more specifically, I didn't want to leave my players.
Q. Coach, can you give me your impressions on the Duke guards Scheyer and Smith.
COACH HUGGINS: Oh, I think they're terrific. I think they do a great job with ball security. They seemingly make every open shot that they get. They really play within themselves, which I think in today's world is easier said than done.
Mike has done a great job. I had an opportunity to talk to him a little bit yesterday. He's done an unbelievable job I think of guys doing and filling their roles, doing what they're good at doing. Those guys really look for each other. They're great in penetrating pits. They run really good offense. They've got great size. They really try to push everybody out defensively and do a great job with it. But at the same time, they maintain that semblance of help, which is harder to do than what one would think.
They're just really good players.
Q. What do you remember about the game in Washington a couple of years ago? With a lot of the same players on both teams, does that have any impact at all on the preparation and mindset for tomorrow?
COACH HUGGINS: No. We were a totally different team, and they're a totally different team. They were much smaller in Washington. They were really a three-point shooting team. I think that's when they caught fire and really started playing well. They made a lot of threes. We were so dependent on Joe Alexander I think to make plays for us and score the ball. So I think both teams are considerably different this time around.
Q. Bob, when you're playing Duke, you just played Kentucky, whenever one of those named programs, how long do you have to win to be one of those teams? Does getting to a Final Four elevate you? Is it a national championship? What do you become one of those programs?
COACH HUGGINS: I think when you sustain it like they have. I mean, Mike has been to 11 Final Fours. He's probably, I would guess, the most successful coach in the history of the NCAA tournament in terms of longevity, keeping things going. I mean, you can't be considered one of the them until you really are one of them.
I think Iz is starting to approach that. Six finals in 12 years. When I think you do that, then you are one of the elite programs in the country.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH HUGGINS: My pleasure. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with West Virginia student-athletes.
Q. Joe, a couple years ago you beat Duke pretty handily in the NCAA tournament. You made some comments you thought they were a little bit overrated. What do you see from them this time around as opposed to then?
JOE MAZZULLA: Yeah, I think their big three is a lot more experienced. You know, I just think they're a much better team. I don't think there are too many comparisons with the game two years ago because of how different teams we both are.
We really haven't looked too much into that game from two years ago.
Q. Can you talk about how you can tell how important this run for your team has been to the state of West Virginia.
WELLINGTON SMITH: Well, as basically the only team that really gets spotlighted from West Virginia, it's kind of amazing. We have like 12,000 people come out just to see us leave to go on a bus. It just feels amazing knowing we're the focal point of West Virginia. And West Virginia basketball and football is the only thing that people really live for and thrive for. We just feel honored that we get the opportunity to make 'em feel good.
KEVIN JONES: Yeah, definitely just going off of what Wellington said, we're the only sports team in the state. They basically look at us as their pro team. I'm glad we could do this for them. It's been since 1959, the last time they went to a Final Four. This is definitely big-time for the state of West Virginia.
Q. Joe, the Duke game two years ago, do you remember slapping the floor in that game? What went into that? Was it a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing? Do you plan on doing it again tomorrow?
JOE MAZZULLA: It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. You don't think you get a chance to play Duke that many times in your career. They obviously a team with such great history and tradition. You get caught up in the emotions. It was more a spur-of-the-moment type thing.
Q. Do you plan to do that tomorrow?
JOE MAZZULLA: Depends on how the game goes (smiling).
Q. Joe, the 1-3-1 did a great job last week with Kentucky and Cousins down low, kind of beat him up. How will it affect Duke's guards tomorrow?
JOE MAZZULLA: I mean, it just depends on how they try to attack it. I don't think Kentucky really made it a point to try to get the ball to Cousins. I think Zoubek and Plumlee are more active on the defensive end. We'll have to work harder to try to keep the ball off of their hands. Scheyer and Smith are good at getting into the lane. We'll just have to try to contain them.
Q. Da'Sean, can you talk about Joe getting healthy, how that's added another dimension to your offense, how much better you are now than you were two months ago when he was still struggling?
DA' SEAN BUTLER: You know, just getting him back has been a pleasure, just to have him back. He does so much for the team while he's own the floor. Just having another person that's out there that's passionate about defending the other team's best players or best guard or best big guy on the team. Joe is the first one to stick his hand in and tell coach, I want to guard that person, I want to do that. He's just another leader on the floor. He does so much for the team that when he was out for a while, it was very difficult for the team to actually just gel.
But when he got back, he's just done nothing but amaze everybody. It's something we see every day. So nobody on the team is like, Wow.
Q. Da'Sean, Wellington was saying how he played against Zoubek and Lance in high school in New Jersey. Did you play against Lance Thomas in, like, a Christmas tournament or something, with St. Benedicts against Bloomfield Tech? Can you talk about that game, what you remember? Did you also play against Zoubek at all?
DA' SEAN BUTLER: Never got the opportunity to play against Zoubek. I do remember playing Lance. We played in the Citadel Gym in South Carolina. It was a very defensive game. He had five points. Everybody on his team had, you know, around that area. I think I had a good 16. I can't remember the name of the tournament. I remember we played against St. Benedicts. It was a very good game. They ended up winning.
Q. Since Joe has been asked to pick up the slack for Truck, since his injury, what have you been seeing in the way that he's responding to it?
DEVIN EBANKS: Joe has been working hard really since his shoulder injury. He's been our leader for evening. We see him working hard like that, when he comes back to the court, he's going to step up and play his regular game.
It's no surprise to us how well he's doing right now.
KEVIN JONES: Joe is a very experienced point guard. He's been in the Sweet 16 before. He knows this type of pressure, what to expect. I wasn't surprised when he stepped up the way he did. He's playing great for us and I know he'll continue to play great.
Q. Joe, do you think there's a chance Truck will play some tomorrow?
JOE MAZZULLA: I mean, I have no idea. We really don't see how hard he works behind the scenes, his treatment and stuff. We don't know what his progress is. I mean, we'll probably find out around game time tomorrow.
Q. Da'Sean, going back to the game two years ago, when you dominated the boards, you said that coach warned you going in they were easy to rebound against. When you look at them this year, do you see the same? Is that an area you think you can exploit?
DA' SEAN BUTLER: It's a little bit different being that they're a lot more aggressive on the boards this year, especially offensively. You know, Zoubek and Lance Thomas and Singler do a great job of just attacking offensive guards. For us to be successful, this year I believe we need to neutralize that, make sure we don't let them get to the offensive glass as much as they usually do. Coach said they're the best on the offensive glass that we played all year, so...
Q. Does making the Final Four in your senior year make this experience a little bit more special for you? Could you also talk about having that four-year college experience. In recruiting, did Coach Huggins emphasize being here for an extended period of time?
DA' SEAN BUTLER: I didn't have anywhere to go. It wasn't like I was leaving to go anywhere.
It's a great system. You know, doesn't really take long to understand.
Q. Being in a Final Four in your senior year.
DA' SEAN BUTLER: Yeah, it means the world to me, honestly, because we've come a long way since our freshman year. Me and Wellington and Joe, we've overcome a lot since freshman year. I don't think we would have the ties now if we didn't stay three or four years in West Virginia and met the people that we met, just staying there for a short period of time. We've done a lot in our community, for our school, for our campus and everything. We wouldn't have been here. We wouldn't be able to enjoy this experience if we didn't stay long.
Q. Kevin, as far as being a No. 2 seed, feeling like you should have been a No. 1, how much motivation do you bring into this thing? Do you still feel like you have something to prove when you are here?
KEVIN JONES: I think we pretty much proved what we wanted to. I mean, we made it here to the Final Four. But this is definitely not done. We're definitely focused on our makeup goal, and that's winning the NCAA championship. I know we've been working hard all year. Sometimes we don't feel like we get the credit that we deserve.
I mean, we just got to keep on working through it and keep on proving why we should be here.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.
End of FastScripts