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NCAA MEN'S 2ND & 3RD ROUNDS: PORTLAND


March 16, 2012


Kyle Kuric

Rick Pitino

Russ Smith


PORTLAND, OREGON

Q.テつ How much do you know, both of you guys, about New Mexico and what have you seen that could cause you some problems with them?
KYLE KURIC:テつ We know a lot more about them because we're watching the film and scouting them.テつ They're a really good team.テつ They've got some good shooters, so we've got to prevent the three‑point shots again.テつ They're very good in low post.テつ We've got to help Gorgui out, stay out of foul trouble.テつ And also rebound the ball like we've been doing.
RUSS SMITH:テつ We know one of their guards, Demetrius is good off the bounce.テつ We want to try to contain him.テつ They're big guys.テつ They're great inside, so we definitely have to help down low, like Kyle said.テつ And pretty much respect their shooters.テつ They've got guys shooting over 40 percent from the line, with over 100 attempts.テつ We definitely have to close out on that.

Q.テつ Is there anybody you would compare them to?テつ I know you guys have only seen a little bit, but anyone to compare them to back in the Big East?
RUSS SMITH:テつ Not really.テつ They're probably their own team.テつ I can't even think of a team.

Q.テつ Has it really sunk in yet that you guys are one game away to being in the Sweet 16 you win this game?
RUSS SMITH:テつ For real, I don't really think about it.テつ I'm just out there playing.テつ And as we go along, that's what I hear.テつ We would be in the Sweet 16.テつ So I just keep playing.テつ And maybe for the other guys, I don't know.
KYLE KURIC:テつ It really hasn't even crossed my mind until you just mentioned it.テつ We're happy to get out of the first round and now we've got to come back to the second game like we played the first.

Q.テつ Are you aware of any of the past history, 1996‑97 season, New Mexico was playing you guys for a chance to go to the Sweet 16.テつ New Mexico missed a layup the last second and they lost to you guys 64‑63.テつ Are you guys aware of that?テつ What do you think of that?
RUSS SMITH:テつ Wow, to be for real, that's probably ‑‑ that's past my history.テつ I had no idea.テつ I started watching college basketball probably when I was a senior in high school.テつ That's definitely new to me.
KYLE KURIC:テつ Like he said, different words, I had no idea as well.テつ It's history, hopefully it can come again.

Q.テつ We thought you guys were about 45, 50 years old.テつ So that's not the case.テつ Wyking Jones, you're well aware he was a coach at New Mexico last year.テつ How much has he helped you guys with the staff, just give me a little bit about how he's been for you guys as a person and a coach?
RUSS SMITH:テつ It definitely helps because he knows the personnel very well.テつ As far as the seniors and juniors on the team, he knows some of the calls that might be made.テつ So Coach Jones definitely is helping us a lot, especially in practice and in film the past day.
KYLE KURIC:テつ Just what he said, the detail he's able to go into on such a short notice is something that would take a couple of days for the other coaching staff to get in.テつ Since he coached them he knows a lot of the inside stuff that it would take a lot of time to get.

Q.テつ Going back to talking about Wyking, he knows a lot of details.テつ Does that give you an advantage?
RUSS SMITH:テつ Definitely.テつ I feel like as Coach Jones being over there helps us with very short notice to prepare.テつ And it helps us prepare faster.テつ Rather than a day or two, we can prepare within a couple of hours of film work and with a short practice.テつ So him being here is, like we said before, is just great.テつ It helps us a lot.
KYLE KURIC:テつ Pretty much the same thing.テつ Like when we played David Padgett, he knew all of our calls, they knew exactly what was coming and how to stop it.テつ Having Wyking, it's not like we don't have a call for this, we just adjust to it.テつ They'll say something, he'll say this is what you do, this is how to stop it, and this is what you want to do.

Q.テつ What was the mindset back in February?テつ You guys were 2 and 4 in a six‑game stretch.テつ A lot of questions at that time as to what's going on with the team.テつ You guys have been able to bounce back and here you are in this situation.テつ How did you handle that?テつ How did you stay resilient through that whole thing as a team?
RUSS SMITH:テつ We hit a hump.テつ And all pretty good teams hit a hump.テつ We had a lot of team meetings called by the players.テつ And we just laid some things out on the table, here's what we need to do.テつ Here's what we don't need.テつ Here's what we need to stop.テつ Here's what we have to listen to.テつ And definitely we just took it from there and we have a mature bunch.
So guys just definitely looked up to our captains, Kyle, Peyton, Chris and those guys, and Gorgui, as well.テつ Everybody stepped into their own roles and just listened to the captains and coaches.テつ And we were much more focused from that point on, and I think we won maybe seven straight.テつ So just being focused definitely helped us get through that hump.
KYLE KURIC:テつ A big part of it was I was worried about the offense.テつ Shots weren't falling, we weren't scoring.テつ We were having offensive problems.テつ We couldn't hit shots, etcetera.テつ And then we just got back to focusing on defense, that led to us scoring even more points, getting out of the break, getting a lot of steals, and that kind of jump started our team.

Q.テつ Now that you know a little bit about New Mexico, what concerns you most about that team?
RUSS SMITH:テつ Probably the inside presence.テつ They're pretty good on the offensive end.テつ And they got a guy coming off the bench, I can't remember his name, but he brings a lot of energy to the team, he's about six‑nine.テつ And it's a little more athletic match‑up on the wings and as well as for their height.テつ They're six‑five and above.テつ It's definitely going to be a tough match‑up.
KYLE KURIC:テつ More athletic.テつ Obviously we've got to keep Gorgui out of foul trouble.テつ So their inside presence is very strong.テつ And then again, we have to limit the three‑point line.テつ Because that can just kill you.

Q.テつ During the season Rick had talked about you and Peyton needing to get some NCAA tournament wins under your belt with the whole legacy thing.テつ How sweet has it been that you got one finally and now you guys have a chance to maybe win more than one and make a run?
KYLE KURIC:テつ It's good to get out of the first round, we're obviously happy about that.テつ But if we get out of the first round and lose the second game, it doesn't really mean much.テつ We obviously want to keep it going and have another strong performance this game and look forward to next week.

Q.テつ Does New Mexico remind you of any team that you guys have played?テつ Some of the guys were just comparing them, saying it might be a Big East style game tomorrow.
COACH PITINO:テつ I think so.テつ Nothing comes to mind who they remind me of, but they're very physical.テつ They play great defense.テつ They shoot the ball extremely well.
So, yeah, I do expect ‑‑ although it wasn't officiated like a Big East game yesterday.

Q.テつ The fact that you guys play so many different teams in the Big East, how much does that help prepare you guys for different looks in the tournament format?
COACH PITINO:テつ Well, I think it does that.テつ And I also think it helps you as a coach really watch so many different styles and how to go against it.テつ We see a lot of 1‑3‑1, which you don't see too much anymore.テつ And Davidson was going to play a little 1‑3‑1, they never played it yesterday.
You see a lot of full court pressure.テつ You see teams like South Florida which will slow it down.テつ You see a Georgetown, Princeton style.テつ You see it all.テつ Then you see, of course, the smash mouth teams like Pittsburgh and West Virginia.テつ So you see all different styles and it prepares you.

Q.テつ How do you think you all match up with New Mexico?
COACH PITINO:テつ Well, I think in some areas we match up well, and other areas we do not.テつ I think there's strengths and weaknesses that we have with them and certainly there's weaknesses that we've got to overcome.

Q.テつ If you could put your finger on one thing, one thing alone, and say we have to do this to be successful tomorrow, what would that be?
COACH PITINO:テつ I really don't think it can be one thing because I think they pose so many problems.テつ They're a really good outside shooting team.テつ If you concentrate too much on that, Gordon will have his way too much inside.
They're also ‑‑ I think we're both a top 5 field goal defensive team in the nation.テつ So points may be difficult to come by.
So, you know, I think that's what makes New Mexico so tough is that you can't put your finger on one thing.テつ There are some teams that you can do that.
We played yesterday with Davidson, our mindset was if they get in transition, they're going to make 3's, they're going to get to the foul line.テつ So we've got to keep them out of transition.テつ And our guys did a tremendous job.テつ When a team scores 78 points a game, top five scoring teams in the country, and they only have two fast breaks the entire night and they're 0‑2, that was great focus for our team.テつ I'm not sure we can do that with New Mexico, because they have so many weapons.

Q.テつ Wyking Jones, we're all going to make a big deal of it, being New Mexico guys.テつ How much has he helped your staff, how much will he help you for this preparation of this game and this game, give us a little bit what he's been like as a person for you?
COACH PITINO:テつ Well, he can't hurt, obviously, because he recruited some of the players, knows the guys, knows their personalities of when they could get down or when they could be up.テつ But we're going to watch probably over 20 games on tape.テつ Against Davidson I personally watched nine.テつ My son is going to watch every game that New Mexico will play.
So we're going to have a good feel for them in abbreviated point.テつ But he gives us things, a feel that we wouldn't normally get, because he knows the personality of the players.
He's a delightful person.テつ He's more of a West Coast, laid back guy than what we're used to.テつ But he's very much ‑‑ knows what he's doing, very good recruiter, very good with big men.テつ So we're excited to have him on our staff.

Q.テつ Russ was talking about the team meeting during that 2 and 4 stretch back in February, and how far he thinks the team has come since then.テつ What have you noticed that has changed as a team and how far do you think they have come since that stretch in February?
COACH PITINO:テつ Well, according to you all not much, because when we lost to South Florida and Syracuse, you didn't think we were very good.テつ So I don't believe in those team meetings.テつ I had some 50 of them in the NBA.
If you come out and you lose, they say the team meeting sucked.テつ If you go out and win a couple, the team meeting was great.テつ It all depends whether you win or lose coming out of the team meetings.
I think team meetings are good when everybody realizes you've got to dig deeper and work harder to improve.テつ But when you're in the Big East, unless you're Syracuse this year who had a dominant team, you're just going to have your peaks and valleys, it's just part of the game.テつ We had our peaks and valleys, we've had our injuries and now we're healthy and now we're at a peak moment.テつ We won the Big East tournament, which was great.テつ But we ended the season in a valley losing our senior night as well as Syracuse.

Q.テつ What's it going to keep Gorgui out of the foul trouble.テつ And you talked about Jared giving you a lift.
COACH PITINO:テつ To be honest with you, you saw the replay of the first foul.テつ Gorgui has had a lot of bad luck with the whistle this year.テつ And he had two fouls that didn't exist yesterday.テつ And it just happens that way.テつ We've had other players that foul the hell out of somebody and they get away with it.
So he's just been unlucky with that.テつ He had a good, clean block yesterday.テつ A lot of times officials struggle with great shot blockers.テつ They do.テつ So I think every game is different.テつ Yesterday he was unlucky with that, had a great blocked shot, the third foul didn't seem to be there.
So I don't know what to say.テつ There are other games where he's fouled the guy and he's gotten away with it.テつ I think sometimes, and I don't mean to bring it up with referees, but I think we're all making too much of referees.テつ It's part of the game, human error.テつ I've ref'd games, it's the toughest thing on the world.
You're looking on TV right now, they're going to the head of the officials, and let's go over the call.テつ I think that's ‑‑ I don't think that should exist in basketball, I don't think we should go to ‑‑ unless there's an interpretation problem of the rule, I think we need to stay away from that.テつ Because when you referee the game of basketball, it's difficult.テつ It's difficult.テつ So I think we sort of need to stay away from that.
I don't like what they're doing.テつ Everybody's questioning officials.テつ They don't have what football has.テつ They can't go to the monitor all the time.テつ I think we need to get away from that.
Answering your question with Gorgui, he got some bad calls and got put on the bench because of it.

Q.テつ In watching the tapes what strikes you about No. 10, Kendall Williams?
COACH PITINO:テつ Well, he can do a lot of different things.テつ He's a very good passer, very good off the bounce.テつ He's got a terrific all‑around game.テつ He's very dangerous, a dangerous weapon.

Q.テつ What about defense?
COACH PITINO:テつ He's very active.テつ Very active.テつ They've got a deep basketball team.テつ They've got a lot of parts to them.テつ When you look at their ball club, I think Fran Fraschilla said it best when he was watching, he said not because I coached there, but this is a Final Four team I'm looking at.テつ That was his dark horse to go to the Final Four.テつ When somebody says that, you know they have a lot of parts to their basketball team.

Q.テつ What have you thought about this Rose Garden atmosphere so far and now that there's a vacancy in the Trail Blazers coaching position, would you consider making Portland a full‑time stop?
COACH PITINO:テつ Yeah, I really want the job.テつ I'd really like to get out here.テつ The weather has just knocked me over and I really would like to start losing again.テつ I'm dying to coach (laughter).

Q.テつ It seemed that you kind of limped into the Big East tournament and then some kind of light bulb kind of went off.テつ How would you characterize what happened to you guys and was there a moment that you saw a switch in your team?
COACH PITINO:テつ You know, we really didn't limp in.テつ Like I said about peaks and valleys.テつ I said to our team, look.テつ I can't do anything about the pace right now, because we're going to play South.テつ South Florida is going to make us play slow.テつ And we have to go at Syracuse on senior night and if we run with them in the building we may lose our confidence.テつ We're going to play in two slow down games.テつ But I promise you when we get to the Big East tournament we'll press and run and get back to the way we play.
I've gone through this with our fans and our media for seven or eight years.テつ We go through a February stretch where we lose three games and they think we're no good.テつ And we win 7 out of 8.テつ It's tough because our fans just don't understand the Big East and what it's all about.テつ The Big East, you'll have peaks and valleys.テつ If you look at the schedule you'll sort of be able to pick it out.
So we always stay positive.テつ We wound up winning 22 games.テつ And with all our injuries that was a heck of a season with a top ten schedule.
So we never really ‑‑ when we were 12‑0 I never really thought we were that great.テつ When we started losing I never thought we were really that bad.テつ We stayed even keel and we went into the Big East tournament ready to play.

Q.テつ Could you talk about the evolution of Peyton Siva from where you first saw him to where he is today?
COACH PITINO:テつ Well, when we recruited him he was known as a combo guard.テつ Great athlete, and really wasn't a point guard, per se.テつ He really didn't have a great regular season.テつ He struggled this year.テつ And I called him in and said, look, Peyton, I'm going to tell you why you're struggling, because you just play at one pace, extremely fast.テつ And because of that, you have a lot of turnovers, because you don't know how to probe and change your pace and create things because you play at one speed.
And we showed him a tape of Steve Nash and how Steve always probes and gets in the lane and keeps his dribble and comes back and does something else.テつ And that more than anything else really changed his mindset of learning how to change speeds.テつ And he's been brilliant in the Big East tournament.テつ Brilliant yesterday with doing that.テつ And for someone to make that abrupt change like that and really just visualize himself doing that speaks about his basketball IQ in a big way.

Q.テつ Your son said that you said that he might be the best person you've ever coached.テつ Could you elaborate on that?
COACH PITINO:テつ Peyton is what I call ‑‑ and sometimes it hurts him.テつ He's a pleaser.テつ I call him all the time.テつ He just wants to please his coach, please his mom, please his dad, please his girlfriend.テつ And I told him, I said, Peyton, you need to stop pleasing people right now.
He's just such an incredible, nice young man.テつ Very spiritual.テつ I've got six guys on my team that go to Bible study every week.テつ And last year I'd go down and see what the guys were watching on their sets and six of them were reading the Bible.テつ And I asked them, what are you guys doing there?テつ Most guys are sleeping.テつ He said we go to Bible study once a week and Peyton is the leader of the group.
So he's an unusual person in that regard.テつ He likes to please everybody.テつ If he's speaking with you, you'll walk away with such a great impression.テつ Everybody he touches you come away with a great impression of him.テつ And it's very sincere.テつ There's nothing phony about it.テつ He's just a great guy.テつ If you understand the way he grew up you'd be surprised at that, that he didn't grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Q.テつ Can you talk a little about the positive impact a run to the Sweet 16 can have to your program beyond just this year?
COACH PITINO:テつ You know, I don't really think of that.テつ I just think of the next game.テつ Like I told you yesterday when you asked me the question about last year, we really don't ‑‑ it's not going to affect ‑‑ Louisville basketball is the No. 1 revenue producer in college basketball.テつ It has one of the top ten traditions of all time.テつ It's not going to change us to go to the Sweet 16.テつ It's not going to change our program.テつ We would love to be there.
Louisville is Louisville.テつ We're not VCU last year or Davidson a few years ago that goes on a Cinderella run.テつ Louisville is going to have great tradition.テつ 22,000 season ticket holders.テつ It's one of the great programs in all of college basketball.テつ It's probably not going to change us a lot.テつ But thanks for asking.

Q.テつ I spoke to [indiscernible] he said the same thing that you said about Peyton Siva that you told him not to be a people pleaser.テつ How do you teach toughness?
COACH PITINO:テつ He's got toughness.テつ I'm just saying that he ‑‑ these kids go through something different than me.テつ I've told you guys from Louisville a long time ago, I don't pay too much attention to you.テつ Not because I don't respect you as media people.テつ It's just that I have total blinders on.テつ I don't read what you write.テつ I don't watch what you say.テつ I wouldn't even know how to get on a message board in my life.
And the reason is that it distracts you from being positive.テつ Because you just can't listen to them.テつ If you're President Obama, you would never turn on Fox News.テつ And if you're a Republican candidate, you'd never turn on MSNBC and listen to these people.
With Peyton, in today's world of social networking, every game he's getting 50 texts and this and that, and this one is saying this and this one is saying that.テつ I said Peyton you have to develop some toughness and block all that out because it's not good.テつ It's not good to ‑‑ you're not going to stay positive.テつ Everybody ‑‑ you're going to think you're failing all the time if you just listen to them.テつ I just hope he listened to that.テつ Whether he did or not, I don't know.テつ But we had a long talk about it.

Q.テつ We talked a lot last year about scouting reports and how you like things done.テつ At this point in the season do you take the lead role now in scouting every opponent or is more ‑‑
COACH PITINO:テつ I scout the opponent, but it's in Richard's hands.テつ He's the main guy.テつ We all do our job and we all learn each opponent.テつ Normally we share the responsibilities, but I've got a new staff.テつ So Richard's handled 95 percent of the scouting this year and not much is going to change.テつ He is someone that's going to watch 20 games, where I'll watch five to seven games.

Q.テつ You don't have the length of let's say a Syracuse, and you have a 6‑4 Kyle Kuric.テつ Your defense is able to limit the outside shots so well.テつ What is it about the defensive intensity that's been so successful all year?
COACH PITINO:テつ I think the last couple of years we realized we had some shortcomings in certain areas offensively, and we realized we wanted to win a lot of games and be a good basketball team, we've got to get it done at the defensive end.テつ And the guys have done a great job all season with that.
We rebounded very well last night.テつ We did a lot of good, smart, good things at the defensive end.テつ And it's happened that way for most of the season.テつ I think ‑‑ with the exception of Providence, I don't think we had a bad defensive game.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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