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April 4, 2011
Connecticut – 53
Butler - 41
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with Connecticut. Couple opening remarks, Coach Calhoun.
COACH CALHOUN: I've been fortunate enough to have some great teams at UConn, were enough to win a couple tournaments. Very honestly, this group to me will always be incredibly special. They're all special in their own way. But I needed this team. Very rarely does a coach say that. But I need this team every day for 109 practice sessions, for their walk-ons. For everybody involved, they truly were brothers, they truly were trusting of each other and very, very special.
I heard some comments about our league. One of the reasons we were able to do some of the things within the tournament was because of the Jim Boeheim, John Thompson, some of the great coaches that exist in our league. They help prepare us for the moments when we couldn't make a basket, like the first half, and we had to come up with something different.
I'm a Big East parochial guy, and I have a reason to be. Secondly, as I said before, this group has taken me on one of the great special journeys better than I could possibly imagine. When I needed maybe a little more of what I do, teach and coach for 39 years, they gave me it tenfold.
Butler gave us everything that we could handle. It was as tough a physical game. We were up 10 points and it still seemed we were up 1. Brad has done an incredible job. Their kids compete. They run their offense full speed.
I'm sorry I didn't say that right off the bat. They were a magnificent opponent. We just happened to be a little better tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Jeremy, you didn't have any points in the first half. You came out in the second half, scored 12 points. Did coach tell you something at halftime to motivate you? How does it feel to be national champs after everybody doubted you at the beginning of the season?
JEREMY LAMB: Well, yeah, going into halftime, I didn't I have any points. My teammates just encouraged me saying, We need you. Coach got into me. He was just encouraging me, you know, saying, Let's go, pick it up.
Right out of the half, they ran a couple plays for me. I was able to get to the foul line. All I wanted to see was the ball go in the net. After I saw it go in a couple times, I got my confidence back and was able to knock down some shots.
Starting the season, yeah, there was a lot of doubters. We didn't really let that get to us, so...
Right now it feels real good. People said we was young. People said, you know, we was a one-man team. Kemba didn't have any help, no post players, anything like that.
As the season went on, we just kept working, kept working. We end up being a good overall team. Kemba just led us really.
So it feels good right now.
ALEX ORIAKHI: Yeah, like he said, in the beginning of the season we was hearing a lot of negativity, too young, all we have is Kemba Walker, no true post presence.
With this team, we just worked hard. This is a team that we was in the gym every night after practice, after pickup in the pre-season, all that work has definitely paid off. I'm happy the hard work has paid off and we were able to prove people wrong when they said we couldn't.
Coach Calhoun was one person that believed in us when nobody did. It's a great feeling right now.
KEMBA WALKER: These guys said it at all. From last season, you know, the loss to Virginia Tech, coach, he gave me the keys, you know. From that point on, I just drove. I called these guys, told them that we gonna work hard. Just be ready to come and work hard. That's what they did.
Like they say, we had a lot of doubters, picked to finish 10th in the Big East. We finished 9th. But I still thought we overachieved. Big East tournament, came out strong. We got a lot of confidence from that tournament. We kind of felt unstoppable. It was right. We was unstoppable. That's why we're national championships. We're the best team in the country.
Q. Alex, how much did your length bother them? Did you sense them getting frustrated as the game went along?
ALEX ORIAKHI: I definitely think our length bothered them a lot. Roscoe, myself and Charles, I think, were pretty good shot blockers. Anytime they was able to drive into the lane, we tried to alter a shot or block it. I definitely think we was able to do that. That affected them throughout the whole game.
Q. Jeremy, did nervousness contribute in the first half? At the end of the game, you ended up with the ball in your hands and threw it up. Describe your emotions having the season end that way for you.
JEREMY LAMB: Uhm, first half, no, I wasn't really nervous. I got a couple open shots and just missed 'em. I got a little timid. I wasn't really aggressive. Yeah, it was a lack of aggressiveness. I only took a couple shots.
But at the end of the game, uhm, it just felt good, you know, having the ball, knowing that we won the game through all the stuff we've been through this year. Like he said, we always be in the gym late at night. It just feels good to know that, you know, your hard work pays off.
At that point, I just thought about all that. I thought about all the doubters. I just thought about a lot of stuff. It was just a weird feeling. Shabazz threw the ball up, that was that.
Q. Can you describe how your team played so well in tournaments this year, Maui, the Big East, the NCAA. How did that happen?
KEMBA WALKER: Uhm, you know, we all know that it's one game and you're done. You know, nobody wants to lose. So, you know, we just went into those games, we just played hard. Every time we play hard, great things always happen for us. Going into games we always say, you know, If you miss a shot, it's all right. But if you don't play hard, it's not good enough.
So, you know, as long as we play hard, great things happen for us.
Q. Jeremy, talk about your growth as a player throughout this season. Kemba, talk about your thoughts on Jeremy.
JEREMY LAMB: Uhm, early in the season, I had to get adjusted to the speed and really the strength of the other players. Early in the season, I didn't do the little things like set my man up to come off screens, just do everything full speed.
So as the season went on, coach stayed on me about going full speed, staying low, just the little things. And as I started to get better, you know, Kemba started trusting me with the ball. He started finding me. I started getting plays ran for me and I was able to knock down shots.
KEMBA WALKER: Jeremy's grown, you know, a lot throughout the season. Early in the season, he didn't have much confidence. He just didn't know his role on his team. You know, as things started getting tough for me, I started to tell Jeremy that, You're going to have to score.
Once he realized that he was going to get open shots, I was going to find him, he started to find the right spots and he started to make shots.
Jeremy, he's a hard worker. He's in the gym every night. Coach would tell him, Jeremy, don't shoot. Jeremy would still go shoot. Jeremy would have a bad game and go straight to the gym after that. He's just a hard worker. All his hard work pays off.
Q. Alex, in the first half it seemed like you were really dominating under the boards, your offense was out rebounding their defense. Can you talk a little bit about what you did under the boards to help get that advantage and how that might have thrown them off throughout the rest of the game?
ALEX ORIAKHI: Well, in the beginning of the game, coach told us they out-rebounded VCU 18 to 20. I knew they was a great rebounding team. I just boxed out, went back to fundamentals. I was able to box out, get a few rebounds here and there. I think that disrupted them because they weren't able to get second shots.
When you're able to get a defensive rebound and you shut them down like that, I definitely think it disrupts them.
Q. Alex, you said people questioned your postgame coming into this season. It seemed early on you were too much for them to handle down low, then you picked up the second foul. How frustrating was it for you to sit out the majority of the first half?
ALEX ORIAKHI: Beginning of the game, I was able to score the quick four points. I didn't think there was anybody out there that could really guard me. I picked up the two quick fouls and I knew I was going to sit down the whole half. But that definitely has happened before throughout the whole season.
While I was on the bench, I just tried to be the biggest cheerleader. I told myself, I'm going to need a big second half, and I was able to do that.
Q. Kemba, what did you ultimately have that they didn't have that allowed you to win it? Can you speak to Jim's place in the Mount Rushmore of coaches, what this does for him.
KEMBA WALKER: I thought our inside game was a little bit too much for them. Alex, Charles, Jeremy, Roscoe, those guys, they're extremely long and lengthy. I think they gave 'em a tough time shooting the ball. We blocked a couple shots. I thought we did a great job at just keeping them to one shot. There wasn't many offensive rebounds for those guys.
Coach Calhoun, uhm, he's been through a lot this whole year with deaths in his family, NCAA stuff, you know, everybody just picking on us, of course. But, you know, I think we helped him overcome everything. It's not much to say. We won two of the biggest tournaments on the collegiate level.
I think we made his year (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen. You can go back to the locker room. We'll continue with questions for Coach Calhoun.
Q. You've been coaching for 39 years now. I won't say you're the oldest, but I'll say you're the most experienced coach to win a national championship. Any thought about going out on top?
COACH CALHOUN: We're on top I think at least momentarily. Recruiting starts another day or two. Everybody will say, they really didn't have that good a season, they have everybody coming back, something of that nature. So it begins again.
But I was riding in an airplane a number of years ago with a guy I became incredibly close to, that's Dean Smith. Coach Smith was kind enough when I was coaching at Northeastern University to allow me to spend a week down there, just watch the whole operation.
In the midst of the conversation, because it was years later, getting near the end of coach's career, he said to me, One thing you should always do is be who you are and be true to yourself. And the worst time to make a decision about any kind of coaching situation is to do it in the great emotion of great things happening to you or maybe last year when an 18-16 year was not the kind of season that team should have had. We were much better than that. And I was really disappointed. Give yourself some time, some space.
As I said yesterday, and I still know today, I know who I am. I didn't know I was necessarily going to do this. When I said I know what I've done. This is absolutely special.
Right now I will do what I have done over the last four or five years. John Thompson mentioned to me on the sidelines simply that everybody kept telling me that I coached against a young coach, 34, you know. Took five years. Had already been coaching five years in Division I when he was born. But John made a point that maybe some old, experienced guys can do a good job along with some young guys, too.
Simply it's going to be what I feel passionately, can I give the kids everything humanly possible that I can. If I can, I'll coach as long as I can keep on doing it. If I decide that I don't, then I'll move on to something because I do have an incredible life with my family and friends and other things that I do.
Q. Can you tell me what you told your team at the half. You were struggling a little bit. How were you able to be so dominant in the paint?
COACH CALHOUN: If I told you what I told the kids at halftime, I would probably make one of those YouTube things again when somebody asked me about my salary, so I'm really not going to do that.
I ended that up, though, by making some technical adjustments where we switched a lot of things that we don't normally switch to get them to chase them off the three-point line. And secondly I ended up the last two minutes, the assistants just told me, with kind after plea to them: You're too good for this. If they beat us, that's fine, but we're not playing full speed. We look awful on offense because we're walking into screens, we're just not doing the things we're capable of doing.
I said, If you play fast on defense, we'll get faster on offense. Quite frankly it worked out that way because of what Kemba said, they're such an incredible group of kids. One question someone asked before which relates to the halftime, very simply, you asked how we do good in tournaments. You can give all things to kids. We walk through a lot of stuff this morning, and yesterday we couldn't have much of a practice. Kemba couldn't practice. His ankle was kind of tough. Bottom line is, what we gave them in short periods of time, they absorbed, took, and ran with it.
It's a very unique kid today who looks at their coaching staff the way I think this particular group has. Maybe because they're young. Maybe that was one of the great advantages we kind of had, where they accept all the advice we gave them. I think the things we told them at halftime they did them perfectly the second half obviously.
Q. Offense comes and goes. Shot falls, they don't fall. Defense can be consistent if you work hard enough. Is that what we saw this weekend from your team?
COACH CALHOUN: Yeah, you know, I think in the future you're going to see Jeremy Lamb be one of the best players in all of college basketball. We keep forgetting, I get on him all the time, Alex is a sophomore. He's just grown into his game. Shabazz is going to be a wonderful player. The kid who has been in an incredible shooting slump but came on tonight Niels Giffey. We have a couple big kids sitting out. With each one of those players, we thought the way to disguise our youth was get better at defense every day.
Down the stretch, we would take literally 50% of practice on nothing but defense. Two-on-two, three-on-three, shell, five-on-five, retreat. That's much more than almost any other team I've done. I thought when we got to situations, we were quick. Shabazz can stop any offense at its point of attack. Shabazz is going to disrupt your offense. Every once in a while, he's going to take a chance, I'm going to yell at him, pull him out put him back in. That's the drill. But my point being, he can disrupt your offense, and so can Kemba.
We started to use that relatively small lineup. We used Niels Giffey today, 6'7" power forward, Roscoe, power forward, Jamal Coombs at power forward, Shabazz. We went small. Yet the key ingredient on every timeout for us is what defensive things we were going to do. I think it saved us all the way through this tournament. It really was incredible during the Big East tournament.
I'll tell you, the theory I have, I've been in a few domes now coaching, generally speaking, I thought this is the best dome I've ever been in. I thought it was a magnificent facility. Not because we won. I said that a couple days ago. It wasn't really a bad shooting gym per se. 75,000 is a gym to me. Point being is that you're probably not going to see the rims be a little bit tighter, everything is new, it hasn't been broken down, it's in place.
You need to understand that defense is going to really take you and hold you in any game till your offense gets going. I think that's what happened tonight.
Q. Was this one more gratifying because everything you've gone through over the last couple years health-wise, what you went through certainly with the NCAA?
COACH CALHOUN: Well, what I went through with the NCAA, as I said before, is private. The only thing that was hurtful about the NCAA wasn't the situation. I took full responsibility for secondary offenses that took place in my program. There was some people that felt it was a great time to take cheap shots. That was the only hurtful part. People I like. People I don't know...
You have to listen to who you respect.
The sweetness of it, it's very sweet. I have no business towards anybody. I don't. You can write what you want, you can say what you want to see. I know who I am, where I'm going, what I've done.
With that said, the kids gave me much more joy because of the death of my sister-in-law, my college roommate, some other things that have been happening within our family. The gift of trust, the gift of faith they had in me, their inability to ever give in, that's what I got into 40-some years ago when I became a high school teacher/coach. I couldn't ask for a better gift.
It reaffirms everything I believe I've done in my profession. When I walked out tonight, saw Ben Gordon, all the kids came to our game, Charlie V, Rip Hamilton, all those guys, it reaffirms that this is a great, great job to have.
Sometimes you kind of need that. When a team gives you that, this is as sweet a ride as I've ever been on my life clearly.
Q. We've heard people refer to the game as not pretty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. How beautiful was this game for you tonight?
COACH CALHOUN: Because you couldn't shoot early, we had to go to something. Everybody gets all excited when they see, hypothetically, the Green Bay Packers, they've changed a little bit, and the Steelers. Great defensive teams. They get into incredible struggles.
I'll tell you one thing, I know where the Horizon League is. But Butler really plays defense. They really play defense. And we I think play defense. I think eventually our quickness and length got to them.
But from a purist's standpoint, you want to teach them defense, take a clip of both teams, you'd see some terrific defense.
If you like it wide open and you want nothing but a 49-42 football game with a lot of scores, it wasn't your game. If you want two teams, I can tell the way they play, they gave it everything they have. When I saw the kid Howard hurt, I didn't like that. I'm serious. I didn't like that. Because he gave so much during the game.
Both teams were matching that. To me that's beauty. That's what this game should be about. That's what this game should be about.
Yeah, you'd like a few more baskets made certainly. But it was two teams that weren't going to give into each other and finally our superiority took over. But, damn, I loved it in the sense of the fact of the fight, competitiveness between the two teams.
Q. You've always admitted to being a big fan of the Red Sox and baseball. With the way you used Shabazz this year, did it almost feel like you had an ace in the bullpen from middle relief in the third or fourth inning?
COACH CALHOUN: The only occasion, sometimes Shabazz would, likely the three-on-two fastbreak, when he wanted to make it look better, I kept telling him you don't get style points for the assist, you just get the assist. I've always felt that way about him. For a young guy, very unusual, you can always tell, Kemba alluded to how much I trust him. I truly trust him. Trust him to ask him in the middle of the huddle, What do you think? Whatever.
But my trust in Baz, occasionally I have to remind him of things, he's one of the greatest defenders I've ever seen for a freshman. The players he played, his job tonight on a kid who I think is a special player, Mack, I think we held him to 10 shots, magnificent, absolutely magnificent.
So I always feel I have a guy that can jump-start our offense, get us going, get us excited, really defend the heck out of you.
Q. You didn't want to discuss your coaching future tonight. As a competitive coach with three national titles, how about taking a stab at your legacy in college coaching?
COACH CALHOUN: Well, up until the last few years, I used to think that other people write your legacy. I guess as I've seen some things with some of my fellow coaches, like Jim Tressel and other folks, I wonder really what your legacy does become. Do really facts write them or do other people think they can by some supposition define what the facts are or aren't?
My legacy, if it ever comes down to who I am, what I am, all I've ever asked anyone to ever do, was talk to my players. Talk to those hundreds and hundreds of guys who played for me. Talk to Jimmy Boeheim and the people I've coached against for a long period of time, talk to people from our league, then maybe you'll find out more about me. Then if you want to look at my legacy number-wise, that's okay.
My dad told me something a long time ago: You're known by the company you keep. That's awfully sweet company.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH CALHOUN: Thank you all.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports