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March 15, 2012
THE MODERATOR:Â We're joined by Saint Louis student‑athletes Kyle Cassity and Brian Conklin.
Q.Â When you're playing a Memphis team that loves to get up and down the floor and obviously your style is kind of that grind it out, how do you slow the game down?Â Is that the goal when you're playing a team that plays as much transition offense as they do?
BRIAN CONKLIN:Â Well, to get a lot of their stuff in transition, like you said, and in doing that we're going to probably get a few more guys back than we normally do.Â They like to get a lot in early offense too, whether that's a pairs down screen, they like to set a down screen and have the guys kind curl off and create plays.
So it's definitely going to be getting more guys back and getting kind of packed in the lane and then building out from there.
So definitely going to stop their early transition and make sure they use all 35seconds of the shot clock, and we have to box out.Â We have the opportunity, we're going to run against them.
Q.Â Do you want to turn into that sort of half court team, obviously that's different than the style that they're most comfortable playing, and when you watch them on film, is that something you think you can do?
KYLE CASSITY:Â I think so.Â That's one thing we'll have to do.Â They get most of their points in transition.Â They like to defend you and turn you over and get up and down the floor.
And like Brian said, we're going to send a few more back than normal to kind of stop that, try to make it a half court game, and that's kind of where we're at our best.Â Hopefully that's what we can turn it into.
Q.Â Is there any concern you guys might be a little starry eyed coming out in the spotlight in the big game, NCAA Tournament?
BRIAN CONKLIN:Â You know, not really.Â You play in tournaments, state tournaments where we had 12,000 people there.Â We've played in front of big crowds before.
There's just all this extra media attention going on.Â Your name's mentioned on ESPN five more times than it normally is during the season.
It's not a big deal.Â We come out.Â We know we have Memphis.Â And doesn't matter what the name on the jersey is, we're going to play their guys, personnel, what we saw on video, and we're excited.
Q.Â Coach Majerus has been around for a while.Â I'm curious‑‑ and he's been to‑‑ I think this is his 12th NCAA Tournament.Â How much did you feel the need to pick his brain at all about things?Â How much advice or whatever did he give you guys heading into this?Â And the second part of the question is:Â He has been around a while and some people around him think he's mellowed maybe a little bit.Â I'm curious:Â What's the insider view of Coach?
KYLE CASSITY:Â As far as the first question, Coach doesn't really change his philosophy.Â He doesn't from one game to the next.Â He coaches every game as if it's the NCAA championship.Â So there really hasn't been anything different, and he hasn't really told us anything different than he would normally.
What was the question again?
BRIAN CONKLIN:Â Inside scoop on Coach.
KYLE CASSITY:Â You hear all the stories about when he was younger, he was kind of feisty.Â But, I mean, that's Coach Majerus.Â We love him.Â He's a great coach.Â He knows what he's doing.Â He hasn't changed.Â We've only known him now, so that's Coach to us.
Q.Â Feisty, would you say?
KYLE CASSITY:Â I don't know.Â As he's a coach he's passionate and he loves the game.Â That's what you want.Â You didn't want to come somewhere and it was going to be easy.Â You wanted a coach that was going to push you.
Q.Â Brian, could you think back, I know you were saying the other day that memories are blurry, could you think back to Anaheim and the tournament there, and how about the momentum that you guys got out of that tournament and what that's meant to this team and the season?
BRIAN CONKLIN:Â Like you mentioned, we were talking about Kyle and I's junior year we started out two really close home losses and we had a young team and that really puts the holds on what your season is going to be from that point on.
When we got to Anaheim and we got three more wins added on to the three we had at home, 6‑0 and the momentum we built off that, like you said, our offense was clicking on all cylinders, defense was playing great, we had five guys flying around, so we definitely took the momentum.
And that was a really big tournament for us.Â We played some really big teams.Â We're going to bring that same intensity to this tournament.
Q.Â And after the ups and downs in the first three seasons, it seems as though this season has gone remarkably smoothly.Â You only lost consecutive games once, it's been‑‑ has it been a pretty smooth ride?
BRIAN CONKLIN:Â For the most part, except for all the other losses.Â We find those as bumps, just because we hold ourselves to a high expectation, and you never want to lose.Â You can still get teaching points out of wins, but you get teaching points out of losses, too.
It was a smooth ride for the most part, but you don't want to lose those games we did do.Â But it's a one‑game season from here on out.
Q.Â Brian, can you talk about the development of Dwayne Evans?Â Obviously from the start of this year until now he's incredibly domineering down low.
BRIAN CONKLIN:Â He's put on I think 15pounds since last year.Â I mean, he's 6'6", 220, 225.Â He's just a really physical kid.Â Worked on his jump shot all summer.Â He'll knock down the jumper out from 17feet.Â Hit a couple 3s in the conference tournament.
He's really long.Â And he uses his athleticism to his advantage.Â He's posting up guys that are 6'4", 6'5", but they're not going to be 225 like Dwayne is and they're not going to be as long as him.
So he knows how to use his lower body when he's posting up.Â And that's one big thing that Coach preaches:Â Post with your low body, don't post with your upper body.Â And he's used that to his advantage.
And I think playing a lot last year really helped him.Â He kind of got the feel of the flow of the game and he definitely took this summer to kind of work on what he needed to for this season, and it's shown.
Q.Â How have you guys changed over these four years of playing under Rick and everything you've gone through?Â How are you different from when you wandered onto this LIU campus all that time ago?
KYLE CASSITY:Â Brian, I think when he got here his freshman year, Coach was always on him about slowing down and he liked to do everything so fast and he kind of got himself in trouble in some areas.
But this year he gets into the post.Â He slows down.Â He's got his head up.Â Finishes around the rim.Â And that's been huge for us.Â So we needed an inside presence, and this year he's been great.Â He's been great for us.Â We wouldn't be here without him, that's for sure.
BRIAN CONKLIN:Â The first thing is Kyle's beard, definitely.Â As you can see, he didn't have that.Â But as a basketball player, Coach is always telling Kyle look to score, look to shoot, look to score, look to shoot.Â And you hear that ad nauseam.
But Kyle, I think he's finally realized that when he does look to score, look to shoot, his passing is that much better.Â He's a great passer.Â He knows the offense in and out.
Kyle's one of those guys that's a coach on the floor.Â He's calling out plays that Coach totally forgets about.Â Coach will put a play in three weeks ago and Kyle will bring up that play during a timeout.Â And Coach will be like, yeah, let's do it.Â Because Kyle knows what the other team's doing and what their tendencies are and how we can break it.
You just see Kyle grow into a leader over the years, too.
Q.Â How important is it tomorrow for you guys to be patient?Â Is that going to be a big thing or not?Â Are you okay playing up and down the court with them, or do you have to be patient?
KYLE CASSITY:Â We have to be patient.Â We can't run with these guys.Â That's what they do best, that's what they want to do, and that's not our game.
There's times when we can get up and down the floor a little bit, but we can't run with them 40minutes.Â That's not going to work.Â That's now how we're going to win the game.
We'll slow it down, make it a half court game, grind it out, and make them guard us.
Q.Â Obviously you've had some time to prepare for Memphis.Â How much‑‑ have any of the practices changed?Â Has it been a little more intense?Â Has it been more relaxed?Â Is it a different feeling with Coach?Â I guess this is for Kyle.
KYLE CASSITY:Â Like I said earlier, Coach doesn't really change his philosophy from game to game.Â We kind of do the same thing every week.Â If we have four days off, three days off, two days off, it really doesn't change.
We come in, we prepare.Â We watch film.Â We run through their plays, we run through our plays and kind of shoot, get some shots up, and then get out of there.
So this late in the season he doesn't want to go too long.Â Some of the guys, it's late in the season, you want to save your legs as much as possible.Â So it doesn't really change.
Q.Â Brian, now that you're here, what's it like?Â You've dreamt of this for years.Â What's it like?
BRIAN CONKLIN:Â I thought the police escort was kinda cool.Â It's funny, you need a police escort for two blocks.Â But other than that, you're staying at a hotel like you normally do.Â You're going out to dinner.Â You're having shootarounds, you're having practices.Â You're watching film.
So a lot of it is the same, it really is.Â Besides the police escort, nothing's changed.Â There's a few more signs around and, like I said, a little more extra media attention.
But we're here and got Memphis on Friday, and we're really excited.
THE MODERATOR:Â Thank you.
Up next we have Saint Louis head coach Rick Majerus.Â Questions.
Q.Â You had the health situation where you were hospitalized a few weeks ago.Â Can you talk about how you feel entering this tournament?
COACH MAJERUS:Â Let me clear it up.Â I wasn't hospitalized.Â What happened is I'm an old guy, a bit inept, kind of foolish, and I mixed up some pills.Â And I took some blood pressure pills instead of some blood thinner pills, and I was going down for the count in the locker room.
And so I'm sitting there, and of course they want you to go to the hospital.Â And they're saying, well, what pills did you mix up?Â I said I wasn't trying to, you know‑‑ the team hadn't been playing that bad that I wanted to go south, you know (laughter).Â And I said if I knew what pills I mixed up, I wouldn't have mixed them up.
So once they get me in the hospital, what do you think they're going to do?Â I mean, they want to run tests on my knee by the time I'm ready to leave.Â And like with my heart surgery, they see me as a guy who they can go in through his wallet (laughter).
So that was‑‑ I was at the game 45minutes ahead of time.Â I swam a mile that morning.Â I had just‑‑ you're too young probably.Â You take any medications (laughter)?
Like I take magnesium.Â They're not medications.Â Magnesium, potassium, iron‑‑ and remember the other one, Rach?Â There's one more; I can't remember it.
But it's just the way it is.Â Now I've got a bunch of pill cases.Â It's funny because my mom just passed away at 84.Â I got her all these pill cases and she wouldn't do it either.
That was the best basketball question we could have.Â Go ahead.
Q.Â Wonder if you can describe a little just the journey over these last five years, and is it especially gratifying getting back to the tournament given you having that time off from coaching?
COACH MAJERUS:Â This is my first recruiting class, because when I got the job it was the last day.Â You came down and did a very nice article on everything.Â The first two years I'm just scrambled with what we have.Â The third year we were 23 and I think something, 12 or whatever it was.Â But we were fourth in our league definitively, and into the conversation of the NCAA Tournament up until the last week losing right at the end to Temple and playing very well, I might add.
Then last year we suspend our top two players, the only time anyone's been suspended in my career.Â I didn't suspend them.Â I thought they were suspended unjustly.Â And didn't make any difference what I thought.
Then we lost Cody Ellis to a labrum tear and Femi John ends his career with a knee, and then I get hit by two players, get shoved into a buckle of a scorer's table, cut my leg, get an infection, I end on my back for six games in 23days that I missed.Â Our compliance officer is right there, and in order for me to get Tony Young on the floor, I had to capitulate and say I wouldn't talk any basketball to our players or to our staff during that time.
When I came back, we won 4 of 6 and beat Duquesne by double digits, who we lost to by double digits in my absence, beat Dayton on Senior Night by double digits, who we lost to by double digits, and played really well down the stretch.Â And then this year we had a good year.Â So it was kind of an aberration that year.Â And I'm a dedicated coach, but I didn't want to lose my way.
It was just a real weird thing.Â I was turned the wrong way, two players hit me.Â One of my favorite players of all time, Paul Eckerle, he's in medical school now, just shoved me into some kind of bracket that was protruding at the scorer's table, and then that was it.Â I remember I asked the doctor should I go to the hospital.Â He said no, the hospital's the most dangerous place because of staph infections, you already have an infection.
And that's it.Â So, Christ, this is like a medical clinic going on here.Â I feel like I'm conducting a seminar.Â I'm still trying to think of that fourth vitamin I take (laughter).
Q.Â What concerns you the most about Memphis?
COACH MAJERUS:Â Athleticism.Â Barton is a phenomenal scorer, athlete.Â Black, No.10, is great on the low block.Â Collegiately you'd rather have a low‑block, wide‑body tough guy than almost a tall guy.Â If I could have Black or any of the Zellers I'd take Black.Â And I'm not just saying that.Â I like a low‑body wide guy with strength and toughness.Â And then they have a bunch of shooters, 22.Â The U.S.A. track coach, Stephens, should come down and get him right away.
When you start to ascribe athletic ability, a lot of people will omit, for example, like with Black, balance and hands, everyone goes for bounce, athleticism, lateral movement, hang time, whatever.Â They're very athletic.Â They play really hard.Â They're nine deep.Â They do a great job of that.
And they have tremendous offensive transition, and they play very disruptive defense.Â They run through passing lanes.Â They pressure, things of that nature.
Q.Â Think back to that first recruiting class where you got Brian and Kyle and Kwamain?Â How much was the selling point of being the first guys, the building blocks of the program and for the future they could establish here?
COACH MAJERUS:Â Each had a peculiarity.Â Brian no one recruited, he was like Doleac.Â Doleac was out of Portland, Oregon.Â Brian was out of Eugene, Oregon.Â Both gifted students.Â Both ironically made Academic All‑American and both were the only two the school offered scholarships to.
I told Conklin, look, come out here, you've got a good chance, we'll work with you, you want to work with us, we'll partner up together, and that's what happened.
Kyle, we were the first person to offer.Â Then Penn State offered.Â Michigan offered.Â But they looked at it.Â He's a very good student.Â And then he was never going to leave his family.Â I knew that.Â So when Southern Illinois and Missouri didn't offer, I felt good about our chances.Â And he's done really well.
And then Kwamain, I was from Milwaukee, I knew a lot of people, had a good reputation in Milwaukee, and Kwamain's mom was not unlike Andre Miller's mom, the education meant a lot to and my track record academically and the universities I've been at, Saint Louis is a great school academically, and when Kwamain's mom came down, you can be a good player at a lot of schools but you might not have the self‑realization of your academic endeavor at many schools.Â And I think that that kind of sold her.
Q.Â How much of it was it, though, the start of something new?
COACH MAJERUS:Â We talked about that, but that's not a real plus with kids.Â Like playing time is.Â And we told them there would be plenty of playing time.Â But playing time wasn't an issue with Conklin and Cassity.Â Conklin and Cassity are both‑‑ have graduated as seniors with honors, getting their MBAs, and Conklin's Academic All‑American.Â So.
I was able to sell SLU academically to both of them.Â That was very big.Â Smaller classes, more personalized attention.Â And I got the help of good faculty members, because their education appealed to them.
And they understand.Â Conklin may play the Ukraine, Ireland.Â He can go‑‑ like I just had a kid, Luke Meyer, graduate with honors, play three years in Australia, now he's back making six figures in an accounting firm.Â I think it's Pricewaterhouse in St. Louis.
Conklin can go and have that dream and go play B league/level two in Australia, but there's no pros on this team.
Q.Â Ask you something a little bit different, off the beaten trail.Â With the advent and rise of social networks, Twitter and Facebook and all this stuff, I'm curious what, if anything, you guys do, you, your staff, the university‑‑
COACH MAJERUS:Â I've never been on a social network in my life.Â I don't even know what Twitter is nor do I have a desire to.
Q.Â Does anyone police whatever your guys may or may not write on there?
COACH MAJERUS:Â I don't know.Â I certainly don't know how to do it.Â Maybe my assistants are.Â But I would think they would use good judgment.Â I can't see this Twitter thing‑‑ you know, just went to the beach, the water was wet (laughter).Â You know, I mean, it's like what is that?Â You know, it's funny.Â I mean this sincerely.
I've been very lucky in my life to have like three friends that are billionaires:Â Huntsman, Chaifetz, and a great guy named Ritchie Smith, who are Giants fans and friends of mine in Utah and St. Louis respectfully.Â They don't Twitter.Â They don't have cell phones.Â They don't have any body guards.Â They don't have a posse.Â They can hire an accountant.Â I mean, you guys probably need it.Â And I'm just against that stuff.Â I'm really old school.
I like to pick up the New York Times.Â And I mean that.Â I get it every day.Â I get four papers every day:Â Times, St. Louis, I get the Christian Science Monitor because the international, although it's slipped quite considerably, and I get the Wall Street Journal.Â And I like reading it.Â I like reading it in the bathroom.Â I like reading it in the easy chair.Â And it's just a contemplative experience.
So I hate all that stuff.Â Don't know what they're doing on it.Â Can't imagine anyone being interested in it.Â I can see it can be lucrative.Â Someone told me you get this Twitter site, you can get these followers and get these advertisers.
Q.Â Suffice to say you don't say any warnings about embarrassing themselves.
COACH MAJERUS:Â I think my assistants may talk to them.Â I don't know.Â If you're going to embarrass yourself, embarrass yourself.Â Hopefully they wouldn't.Â Have our guys said anything on these things?
Q.Â For example, the University of North Carolina football program just got all these NCAA sanctions.Â That all unravelled on Twitter because they were posting themselves in clubs in Miami and they found they had ties to agents, et cetera, et cetera.
COACH MAJERUS:Â Maybe we should watch it.Â I don't know.Â I mean, I'm not‑‑ listen, I'm not naive, but I just‑‑ and I can't imagine like‑‑ like who would follow all that stuff?Â What kind of life do you have (laughter) when you could read a book or you could go to a play and you're sitting there looking at a machine.
It was sad last night.Â I was out with my friends.Â My friends are with the team.Â And there's three of them at the table.Â Instead of talking to each other, they're like all moving, looking at whatever that stuff is.Â But I'm an old guy.Â My way is gone.
Q.Â Can we go back to the medical stuff for a minute?
COACH MAJERUS:Â Yeah, sure.Â I'm an authority on a lot of things with the heart, especially payment (laughter).
Q.Â Did you say payment?
COACH MAJERUS:Â Payment, like fee‑for‑services, like insurances.
Q.Â You've had all this bad luck.Â Anything that's ever made you think the second go‑around at coaching isn't going to last as long as I want it to?
COACH MAJERUS:Â Look, I haven't had hardly any bad luck.Â My best friend has ALS.Â Bad luck.Â I mean, my mom got small‑cell cancer.Â Bad luck.Â You could get‑‑ I've had a couple of‑‑ I've had great doctors.Â I never look at it that way.
Part of the problem is me.Â I fight it.Â Like my drug‑‑ I can relate Whitney Houston in this sense.Â Like tonight, I'm going to go out and eat with some friends.Â And I just‑‑ it's a tough thing for me at night.Â It's my drug of choice.Â But watching films is that.Â Like I appreciate your sentiment there, but I really never look at my health issues as woe is me.Â I've seen the reality of that.Â And it's not a pleasant thing.
Q.Â Just to make sure I'm on the right track, you say food is your drug of choice?
COACH MAJERUS:Â Everybody has something.Â Everybody has something.Â Chaucer said it best:Â There's ghoulies and beasties and things that go bump in the night.Â And the thing that happens is with some people it's drugs.Â With some people it's sex.Â With some people it's cell phones.Â With some people it's gambling.Â Because everybody‑‑ some people have an addiction to TV, ESPN.
I mean, when I was on ESPN I couldn't imagine‑‑ you wouldn't believe the letters I got.Â "You said this."Â And I'm going, hey, get a life (laughter).Â I'm just kidding.Â But, I mean, we may want to conceal it.Â There's that great line about Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel, after she goes to the bathroom there's somebody else standing outside there so it looks like she didn't do it (laughter).
Q.Â This is obviously a contrast of styles.Â Memphis is an offensive, is very high‑powered, dribble‑drive offensive team.Â You are a very opportunistic defense.Â How do you think those two different styles of‑‑
COACH MAJERUS:Â That's what makes this a great tournament.Â That's what makes it fun.Â To see Syracuse's zone, for example, and not many people play that as well, or to see the high‑octane offense of Memphis, or the measured pace at which Wisconsin plays.Â Contrasting with somebody you like of Memphis or us contrasting with Memphis.
That's why the tournament is so good.Â It's interesting, too, how you play in a league and it becomes homogenized, pretty much like you don't know Iowa is sort of bucking the trend.Â I only say this because I'm up late at night because I can't sleep and I haven't had my drug, I haven't had that burger, so I watch and I see Iowa, the coaches trying to up tempo it in a fastbreak in a league where it's a methodical slow‑down.
And that's the interesting thing about our league.Â We have like UMass and Duquesne who play similar to Memphis, and we have Temple who plays sort of a measured Wisconsin.Â And I don't see any of these‑‑ I don't say any of this critically.Â And then you have Xavier that plays to more of a pro set than anything.
And that's what makes it‑‑ we have a 16‑team‑‑ wait, 14‑team league.Â And it's what makes it fun about leagues.
THE MODERATOR:Â Thank you, Coach.
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