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


March 21, 2014


Chris Jones

Rick Pitino

Terry Rozier


ORLANDO, FLORIDA

THE MODERATOR:  Chris, I know it's tough when you're playing a team that you necessarily haven't seen a lot of.  What have you been able to find out about your opponent tomorrow?  What do you think they do best?
CHRIS JONES:  They've got five seniors in the lineup, so obviously going to be a veteran group who have been through a lot.  I think we just need to play how we've been playing the whole year.  I think we need to change up defenses like we've been doing the whole year, just don't stick with one defense against those guys.  If we do, they'll make changes at halftime, I think, and we'll get better during the game.
THE MODERATOR:  Terry, your thoughts on what you see in Saint Louis?
TERRY ROZIER:¬† Like Chris said, they've got five seniors so that's always tough playing a team with five seniors.¬† They've been running the system and running the plays for four years now, and it's going to be a great game, a hard‑fought game.¬† It all comes down to who's more well‑coached and who wants it at the end.

Q.  Coach Pitino talked about the benefits of having a tight game the first round.  Why do you think you're better off having the game and the test you had last night?
CHRIS JONES:  Because I think if we would probably have gotten settled, we would beat them by 40 last night and probably lost to Saint Louis tomorrow.  Being in a tight game like this to start the tournament is great for everyone.  That shows us it's not going to be a relaxed game.  Every game is not just going to beat people by 30 every game.  That really woke me up for my first NCAA Tournament game because I see everybody play hard every second, but it came down to possession and who made stops at the end of the game.
THE MODERATOR:  Terry, your thoughts on a tight game?
TERRY ROZIER:  Like he said, if we would have easily won this game, it could have got us relaxed for the next game, and then it would have been a tough one.  We would have dug ourselves a deep hole.  We've got a lot of teams that's going down early because they're not preparing themselves well.  I think that's what we need and I think that would be probably our toughest game in the tournament, so we just want to keep preparing like we always prepare and just play Louisville basketball.

Q.  For both of you guys, you've waited a long time to be a part of the NCAA Tournament.  What's it like to be here and be on the podium after all the time you've put in?
TERRY ROZIER:  A lot of people know my history.  I was supposed to be here last year, so I'm just honored to be part of a team like this.  We've got nice seniors that have been leaders since I first came in, NCAA Tournament they said would be nothing like this and a great experience.  Hopefully we can keep winning games and go far, very far.

Q.¬† I want to ask you if you were able to watch the end of the Saint Louis‑NC State game and what that shows you about staying in games until the end.
CHRIS JONES:  That shows us we're going to have a battle the whole game, no matter how many points you're down, the team is going to play until the buzzer goes off.  NC State didn't make their free throws down at the end of the game, but it just showed us Saint Louis never go away.  So it don't matter if we're up 20, 22 points, this team is going to fight until the end of the buzzer.  We've just got to close out the game tomorrow.
TERRY ROZIER:  We got to watch the end of the game of that.  Nobody wants to go home early.  Nobody wants to go home at all, from seniors all the way down to freshmen.  No matter how many points you're down or up, everybody is going to fight until the end of the game.  I think anybody could have did that, anybody would have fought, no matter if you're down by 14.  Any team would have did that.

Q.  What time did y'all get to bed last night?
CHRIS JONES:  We left here at 2:00.  Us young guys, you get to your room, you're very tired, but once you get into your bed and take a shower, you really can't go straight to sleep.  I really didn't go to sleep until 4:00 but coach let us sleep in because he knows the benefits of the NCAA Tournament.  He let us sleep in, and we needed that too much because I think during the game someone is going to get sleepy on the bench.  I'm happy coach let us sleep in.  I think that will help us in the long run.

Q.  Coach, it's hard to believe that you've never coached head to head against Jim Crews in all your years.  Your impressions of Coach Crews and the job he does at Saint Louis?
RICK PITINO:  Well, I think it's quite confident.  Anytime you watch him, it's like watching one of Larry Brown's teams this year.  You weren't quite sure whether his team executed better on offense or defense, and that's indicative of Saint Louis and Jim's teams.  They execute at both ends of the floor in a terrific fashion.  Obviously they've got seniors, and seniors execute very well, and they're very impressive.

Q.  Much has been made about Billy Donovan being here and almost coaching in Orlando.  When he was about to make that NBA jump, did he consult you at all for advice?
RICK PITINO:  Yeah, we talked.  My opinion at the time to him was to stay put.  He was ready to make a move, and it was an interesting story about him when he did left, then right back.  I think Billy made the right move for the right reasons.  That doesn't mean that down the road some day he may change his mind, but at that time he made the move for the right reasons, and you've always got to go with your heart.

Q.  How important was it for you guys to win a game when you were down late, to have guys have to make shots down the stretch, as much as you've been blowing out people this season?
RICK PITINO:¬† I thought it was really, really important because I knew we weren't going to blowout Manhattan.¬† I knew that game, regardless of what you thought, I knew the way that game was going to be played.¬† I knew it would be a tight, hard‑fought ballgame.¬† What was impressive to me is that Russ, Montrezl were having nightmarish games, and down the stretch with the game on the line, they both made great plays.¬† And that tells you something about their abilities.¬† Russ made a great three to tie it up, made a great pass, another great pass to Montrezl inside, free throws, and to block out the fact that you're having a bad game and to just make all the right plays speaks volumes of two veteran basketball players who have been through it.¬† So I thought it was crucial for us to move on because this is not last year's team.¬† Last year's team, although we were in a tight, hard‑fought game with Davidson, as well, this is a totally different type of team that needed a close, hard‑fought game.

Q.  Obviously a lot of emotions involved in last night's game, given the particulars.  How difficult is it for you guys to bounce back, not only for an NCAA Tournament game, but then to bounce back from what was such an emotional game?
RICK PITINO:¬† Well, I think that's the easy part.¬† We've been to two straight Final Fours, and we played four games in the Big East Tournament championship the year prior to this, last year and now this year with the AAC.¬† So we bounce back quickly.¬† We got in very, very late last night.¬† Judging from what somebody told me with Steve Fisher, it could have been worse.¬† It could have been New Mexico State having to fly back.¬† You heard about that, right?¬† It was his idea to do that, so it was‑‑ no, it's not difficult.¬† You're on adrenaline right now.¬† The coaches, we've had literally two‑and‑a‑half to three hours' sleep.¬† We watched film and got up early and watched more film, but we're on such adrenaline, we don't need 5‑Hour Energy to stay up.

Q.  So much has been focused on your relationship with Russ and throughout his career and all.  How tough, though, is Russ Smith as a basketball player, for a guy of his stature who gets bumped on every screen, his thumb was bothering him, his knee, and he's not that big of a guy and takes a lot of hits and still keeps ongoing.
RICK PITINO:  How tough is it for him or for me?

Q.  Just how tough is he?
RICK PITINO:  How tough is he?  I was disappointed in him last night, no question about it, the way he was playing.  But he showed me more last night in the way he responded in the waning minutes of the game than at any time in his career because nothing was going right, I was upset at him, and he just totally blocked his game out, the way he was playing, made all the right plays.
What Russ has to understand, and it's what makes him great but it also makes him have some bad nights, and he found out in the last few minutes, Russ is most dangerous as a passer than he is a scorer, even though he's a great scorer because everybody keys so much on him.  They know they've got to stop him, and he's going to draw two or three people, so what does that mean?  People are going to be open.  And that's where he's at his best, when he finds people when he draws double teams.

Q.  In the Big East it seemed like every team you would play in the tournament you could draw a frame of reference to somebody you saw during the season.  I don't know if you can do that this year, but who is Saint Louis like at all?  Are you able to explain to players it's similar to this?
RICK PITINO:  I don't know.  Saint Louis would be like a tall version of Marquette, extremely well coached, tough kids.  It's not often that you get a great team that has five seniors starting, and when you look at Mercer right now, I think, what did they have, seven seniors in their lineup; is that correct?  You know, that didn't surprise me.  I mean, Warren Buffett probably saved a lot of money with that game.
You know, it's very difficult coaching young players.  It's very easy coaching older players.  It was very easy coaching my team last year, and it's a lot more difficult coaching this team than it was last year, even though we do have some veterans.  But when you've got five and seven seniors, they know what to do in situations.  You don't have to call timeouts.  They know what to do.  They know how to play the situation.  They've been there before.  Fundamentally they're as sound as can be.

Q.  It's very rare to see two coaches of you guys' experience of you and Jim cruise who haven't really coached against each other.  Having watched Saint Louis on tape what do you take from what he's been able to do there?
RICK PITINO:  Well, Jim coached at Evansville, right, before this?  So the likelihood of us playing was not great, so that's not a big surprise.  I think what you're alluding to is the fact that we're both old.
You know, I said it last year because I've already seen six games of his, last year I was just blown away with how good a coach Gregg Marshall was when I watched tape.  I was blown away with how good Dana Altman was at Oregon, had never coached against him.  Blown away with the coach at Colorado State, Larry Eustachy who was at Southern Miss before that.  The more you go against guys you haven't seen before, you realize what a big country this is with great coaches.
Jim Crews is as good as it gets when you watch his team playing on film.¬† Defensively they don't let you run your things, which is what you try to do as a defensive team.¬† Offensively they get high‑percentage shots with great duck ins, pick‑and‑rolls, slips, they step their big men out to shoot it, and one‑day preparation, Jim Crews‑type teams are nightmarish to go against.¬† We have a little advantage in this game, because he'll try to break down Russ Smith and he won't have a clue how to play him.

Q.¬† Billy said today there's still some aspects of the NBA coaching that are alluring to him.¬† I'm just wondering, he's been a college coach for almost 20 years now.¬† When you've been a college coach for that long, what are the‑‑ what is the pull of the NBA, and do you think he'll ever coach in the NBA?
RICK PITINO:¬† Billy?¬† Do I think Billy will ever coach in the NBA?¬† He's like a son to me, but I couldn't answer that question.¬† The last time around his dad‑‑ what shocked me the most, his dad and his wife were all for him going to the Magic, which was shocking to me.¬† I was the only one against it, I think, in his inner circle.
You know, it's always been not a dream of Billy's but a dream of mine to see a court named Billy Donovan Court.  I thought it would happen a while ago, to see his name on the court.  I still very much want to see that some day because of what he's meant to Gator basketball.
That being said, if he wants to try it someday, that would be great.¬† He'll do a‑‑ just like Brad Stevens, Brad Stevens will be a great Celtic coach, but he'll be a great pro coach.¬† Billy if he wanted to do that will be a terrific pro coach because he's always thinking of plays, defenses, and he'd be great at it.¬† Me personally, you know, I just want what's best for him and his family.¬† Florida is very lucky to have somebody like that for a long period of time.¬† How many years has it been?

Q.  18.
RICK PITINO:  That's amazing.  I really feel like I just left him in Providence like seven, eight years ago.  It's amazing.

Q.  He grew up a Knicks fan.  Do you think the Knicks job would be alluring?
RICK PITINO:  He would never coach the Knicks.  I know him.  He grew up in New York but he's not a New Yorker.

Q.  You mentioned that Harrell is one of the most improved players you've had in the year, a year's growth.  What are some of the specifics where he has improved?
RICK PITINO:  Well, as I said, like Gorgui Dieng, he came in a great athlete, a great runner and dunker with very few skills and fundamentals, wasn't a very good passer, wasn't a very good ball handler, didn't shoot the ball real well, and he's really improved in all those areas.  He's a very good passer.  He's a very smart basketball player, picks up scouting reports quickly, makes good plays.  He didn't have a good game last night, but like Russ, made big plays in the final minutes of the game.
You know, like I tell him, he was getting beaten up in the low post by Manhattan's players and when I tell him, son, if you have pro aspirations, you better be able to guard those Manhattan Jaspers, and he got the message late in the game.

Q.  You talked about many times if Luke is open he's going to keep shooting no matter what.  He gets the big steal, hits the big shot last night.  Is there something about the big moment or the big game that his personality, he embraces it or he's well suited for?
RICK PITINO:¬† Well, I actually had to jump Luke in the last time‑out, hard.¬† I said, Luke, if you have an open shot, stop ball faking and shoot the damn ball.¬† I don't want to see you open one time without you shooting because he passed up about five shots.¬† We're struggling with guys shooting it that shouldn't shoot it, and our best guy is not taking the open shot.¬† The steal was a big‑time play, the shot was a big‑time play.¬† But when we pass the basketball, pass it, we are a terrific team.
The last two games we've been just a good team because we only had 10 assists.  Prior to that, we were getting 19, 20, 21 assists and we looked like a great basketball team.  And when you get all those assists you shoot a higher percentage, you get your press on more and your style of play takes place.

Q.¬† I'm sure you saw last night that Saint Louis was face‑guarding T.J. Warren pretty much the whole game with a bunch of different guys.¬† Do you anticipate that at all with Russ, and what other things have teams tried to do to Russ to try to slow him down, and has any of it ever worked?
RICK PITINO:¬† You know, I would imagine they'll try everything to stop Russ, but like I just said earlier, Russ makes us a better team when he passes more.¬† You know, we've got a lot of playmakers‑‑ who would you say the MVP of the game was last night by your naked eye?¬† If you had to pick one guy for us?

Q.  Harrell or Hancock.
RICK PITINO:¬† Well, Hancock would be I think the obvious answer.¬† I thought it was Chris Jones by far.¬† Now, he may have been 2 for 11 but he was 6 for 6 from the line, five rebounds, three assists, no turnovers playing 33 minute of the game where I thought Van Treese the other night was the MVP.¬† It's what the whole ‑‑ when you breakdown the tape what the value of a player is to the team.¬† I thought Russ and Montrezl had very poor games last night but played like All‑Americans when the game was on the line, but that's what you would expect, but Chris Jones played a terrific game. ¬†So we have a lot of guys who make plays and taking away Russ, I don't think hurts us too much, because you've got Chris, you've got Luke, you've got Montrezl, you've got guys that can make plays.

Q.  Two things:  First of all, you talk about Luke, getting him to shoot the ball and not the ball fake.  I remember at UCF this year you were yelling at him the same thing.  He's a shooter, but does that surprise you?
RICK PITINO:¬† Believe it or not, he drives very well, he passes very well, he likes to ball fake.¬† But against Manhattan, they leave the middle open, they close out hard on the middle, and then if you don't take the quick shot they close out well.¬† So you've got to take what's given to you by certain teams.¬† And last night it was necessary for him to do it whether he‑‑ what happens with Luke, he misses a few and says, let me go to something else, and he couldn't do that in last night's game.

Q.  Obviously Mercer pulled it out today.  Talk about being on the other end of that upset.
RICK PITINO:  Well, nobody handles it as well as Coach K does.  There's nobody who has more dignity and class in the game than him.  He handles it the best of any of us.
That being said, it's torture.  It gnaws at you.  I remember last year, two years ago, and I always tell this story.  It made me write that book One Day Contract.  We have great media in Louisville and I don't read them or watch them but they're great people and I love being with them all the time.  I don't read them or watch them for a different reason.
But three years ago we lost to Morehead State, and Moorehead State played great and we had a terrific season.¬† Our best player broke his ankle.¬† We were up four with eight to go.¬† Bad break, we lose the game.¬† So my son, who listens to‑‑ my oldest son listens to the fellowship of the miserable, and he said to me one day at lunch, boy, dad, they're all over you.¬† They say you've lost your touch and you're too old.¬† I said, too old?¬† We had a terrific season.¬† He said, yeah, but you lost in the first round.¬† I said, the kid broke his ankle.¬† He goes, dad, they don't understand that.¬† This is call‑in shows.¬† So I said, why are you listening to that?¬† Why would a son of mine ever do that, and why would you tell me?¬† That's why I started writing the book One Day Contract.¬† It's the way I'm going to coach from this point on because of our media today and our social media today.
With that in mind you have to understand that that's the way it is today.
You know, you can lose today‑‑ you've got a veteran team like Mercer or Saint Louis or Manhattan, that's why I knew the game was going to be so tough.¬† They're a senior team, they've been together, it was their moment finally.¬† I think if they would have been faced against another team who didn't know them as well as we knew them vice versa, they would have gone to a Sweet 16, and so that's why I was a little disappointed for one of my players.
But today you get these Mercers and the Manhattan Colleges and the Ionas who have all those seniors, they can beat you on a given night.¬† Duke is a very young basketball team, so it wasn't a surprised.¬† But that's the way it is.¬† That's what makes March Madness the greatest month in sports.¬† It's even much better‑‑ people want to believe back in the old days at UCLA and when North Carolina all had their seniors, yes, it was great to see those guys like Patrick Ewing get better each year, but it's even better today because nobody‑‑ they can have as many guys in ESPN jackets that they want, they can't pick it.¬† And they can be as bright as Vitale and Bilas and all‑‑ they can't pick it, because it's just impossible.¬† The teams are so good, so balanced, and it's so much fun to see.¬† It really is so much fun to see.¬† I could easily see Mercer going to a Final Four this year the way they executed today, and that's‑‑ my assistant coach Marvin Menzies took it into overtime.¬† My other assistant, Herb Sendek played in overtime last night.¬† It's just so much fun, not for my assistants to lose, but to watch those guys and what they're doing with their programs.¬† March Madness is just absolutely incredible.

Q.  Last year during the NCAA Tournament you also had a horse on the derby trail.  Do you have one on the derby trail this year, and if not, how much will you miss it?
RICK PITINO:  Oh, I won't miss it because I'll be there.

Q.  Having a horse on the trail.
RICK PITINO:  I've been very lucky in that business.  I've had three derby horses and three Breeders Cup horses and I'm only down a million dollars (laughter).  It's a fun sport to be involved in.
You know, I root for it.¬† I have friends that will have horses and I root for it.¬† No, I don't have one right now.¬† I've scaled way back in the horse industry right now.¬† I'm just watching my friends that own horses.¬† But I do have Megatrez, a two‑year‑old with Nick Zito, going to be a very good horse.¬† I have Lieutenant Dale coming up, too, a great two‑year‑old horse with Nick Zito.

Q.  Kind of talking on the March Madness, Russ just told us that his bracket is a total mess and I'm curious if you helped him make his picks this year?
RICK PITINO:¬† I try to spend as little time with that maniac as possible.¬† I would lose my mind if I spent‑‑ I spend enough time with him, with his texts late at night, his videos late at night, what he watches.¬† On my 60th birthday, I get a thing at 1:00 in the morning, he knows that I drink Grey Goose‑‑ I used to.¬† Actually I don't drink anymore, and he texts me a huge bottle, thinking of you on your birthday.¬† I'm not going to ever even try something like this, but I'm thinking of you.¬† Then I get videos of Samurais being stabbed 100 times, and it's 1:30 in the morning.¬† I don't know why I leave my phone on.¬† Because you have children and you leave it on.¬† This is what I get from this.¬† I spend as little time with him as I possibly can so I can keep my sanity.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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