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


March 22, 2014


Chris Crawford

Michael Dixon

Joe Jackson

Geron Johnson

Austin Nichols

Josh Pastner


RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA

MODERATOR:テつ At this time, we are ready to start the student‑athlete portion of the Memphis press conference.

Q.テつ Michael, if I'm not mistaken, you were a sixth man not just here but in your last year at Missouri also.テつ Sixth Man of the Year, obviously, this year in the American Conference.テつ Why does that role suit you?テつ I know you did well in Missouri, as well, in that role.
MICHAEL DIXON:テつ Well, I've just been blessed enough to be on a couple good teams with a lot of good players.テつ The team at Missouri, we had some NBA players on that team and some good players.テつ And it just so happened I just came off the bench all 35 games that we played.テつ Came to Memphis with a bunch of other good players, as you can see, and that's just my role.テつ I just think I've gotten used to it and just fed off it.テつ And all my teammates have confidence in me, so starting the game is not really‑‑ never been an issue for me for the past three or four years.テつ So it's just something that's not on my mind.テつ Only thing we can control as seniors is trying to win.

Q.テつ Joe, when you look at this Virginia defense, do they look like anybody you've played?テつ And how much did you see them during the year?
JOE JACKSON:テつ No, I don't think we played a defensive team like that.テつ I mean, they just do a good job of containing the ball and making you take tough shots.テつ But then again, I don't think they played against a team as quick as Ours throughout the year many times.テつ I think we've got a good chance of playing our game against them.

Q.テつ Joe, along those lines, playing your game, Virginia wants to slow things down.テつ They have a freshman at the point.テつ You're a senior who's been doing this a long time.テつ Are there certain things you do to try to maybe speed up or rattle a guy, especially when he's a freshman?
JOE JACKSON:テつ We just got to play Memphis basketball.テつ We're not a slow‑down team.テつ Everybody knows that.テつ So we've just for do the things to get us easy transition points and just make it hard for them.テつ Make them play on their heels and just play our basketball game.

Q.テつ Guys, yesterday, you were a slight favorite and won the game.テつ You'll go into this one as an underdog.テつ Can you talk about embracing the underdog role for this game against the No. 1 seed?
CHRIS CRAWFORD:テつ We've been in that position a lot in my years being here at the University of Memphis.テつ We've always been underdogs, overlooked, but we're not looking ahead or anything like that.テつ We've just got to come prepared and execute our game plan on the offensive and the defensive end.テつ We'll be good.

Q.テつ Joe, you mentioned Memphis basketball.テつ For those of us who haven't seen you a ton, how would you describe Memphis basketball?
JOE JACKSON:テつ An inside out team, pushing the ball up the floor, trying to get easy points early.テつ And just creating stops, getting transition points and just making guys run, a track meet.

Q.テつ Guys, in a game where you have two teams who favor different styles and tempos, one likes to run, one more methodical on offense, what can you do to make sure the tempo is what you want it to be rather than playing into what they would prefer?
GERON JOHNSON:テつ Just be aggressive with the basketball and be aggressive on the defensive end, both sides of the floor.テつ Hold yourself accountable as a team and do whatever it takes to get a victory.テつ Survive and advance, that's the NCAA tournament.

Q.テつ Michael, you've played for a couple of coaches.テつ When you first met Coach Pastner and even now, what were your first impressions on his style and how he's different from the other guys you've played for?テつ What kind of things did he do that sort of makes him unique?
MICHAEL DIXON:テつ Well, I played for Mike Anderson, who plays the fastest 40 minutes in basketball, Arkansas.テつ Frank Haith, we kind of went small because Laurence Bowers, who was from Memphis, had got hurt.テつ And when Coach Pastner recruited me, he said that‑‑ I mean, he had a guard oriented team with some good bigs and led his guys.テつ Played a way that‑‑ I mean, played to your strengths and things like that.
I saw a team with a group of seniors that were passionate about winning along with a high level freshman class.テつ So I just wanted to be here because I felt like we could be in a position to play for a national title and that's what we're doing right now and we're just trying to take it one game at a time.

Q.テつ This is for anybody up here.テつ Virginia players mentioned that the court surface was slippery during their game.テつ I wondered if you noticed that at all.
AUSTIN NICHOLS:テつ Yeah, I didn't really notice it that much for me.テつ But for other players, it might be slick to them.テつ I didn't see where it was slick.テつ So I just kind of went out there and played my game.

Q.テつ Austin, coming right back at you with this one.テつ Friday, you played your first ever NCAA tournament game.テつ You admitted afterwards to nerves maybe getting the best of you at times.テつ How do you feel going into this now, your second tournament game?
AUSTIN NICHOLS:テつ Still pretty exciting.テつ I just got to follow the game plan, just know that my teammates have confidence in me and they believe in me and just execute the game plan and just go out there and play the way we know we can play.

Q.テつ Austin, I know you were recruited by Virginia.テつ How close were they at any point?テつ And do you feel like you're any more familiar with them, having spent a few days around their program?
AUSTIN NICHOLS:テつ Yeah, with them recruiting me, I understood their style of play.テつ I got pretty close to the coaches.テつ So I kind of know how they play the game and I met some of the guys, of course, on my visits.テつ Kind of got closer to them.
But I'm just focused on how we're going to play them and like I said, we've got to execute our game plan and find a way to get the win.

Q.テつ You mentioned how you guys want to get up and down.テつ Have you guys had a game where you've been able to pull it out even if it hasn't, the pace hasn't been to your liking that you can remember and how you did that?
CHRIS CRAWFORD:テつ Yeah, we had a couple games this season where, you know, we showed the country that we can slow the ball down and execute our plays in the offenseand to slow down the offensive game.テつ But we're a very versatile team.テつ We can get up and down and slow it down and execute and go inside out and play off our bigs.
When our inside presence is big for us, we're very capable, and they stretch out the guards.テつ As far as us being able to get easy points for us.

Q.テつ Is there a game in particular you're thinking of when you say that, when you said that you proved to the country?
CHRIS CRAWFORD:テつ I mean, Gonzaga slowed us down, Oklahoma State slowed us down, LSU slowed us down.テつ I mean, there's a lot of teams that slowed us down, and we were able to get the big win for us.

Q.テつ Chris, how does coach run practices?テつ What's his style and philosophy of how he gets you ready for game?
CHRIS CRAWFORD:テつ Can you ask that again?

Q.テつ What's the way coach gets you ready for games like that?
CHRIS CRAWFORD:テつ Coach Pastner is an enthused guy, he's a positive guy, always has a lot of positive energy.テつ He's an exciting guy, so he brings a lot of positive energy to us as players and gets us ready, gets us fired up for games.テつ He's just a great coach.

Q.テつ Guys, what can you learn, if anything, from yesterday's game, Virginia against Coastal Carolina, particularly that first half, if you guys were watching?
JOE JACKSON:テつ Virginia didn't play a great first half, but you couldn't really learn a lot from the first half.テつ But just overall game, we know that Virginia, they're resilient.テつ They're not going give up.テつ They're going to keep fighting.テつ We know with some of their players, what they run, we're able to watch them in person and we know they play a physical style defense where we're going to have to get it to the second, third side before taking shots.

Q.テつ Geron, you guys were ranked for a long time.テつ You slipped out of the rankings this week.テつ Do you think people have kind of lost sight of you at all, or is that motivation?
GERON JOHNSON:テつ Like Coach Pastner said, we were ranked all year for the regular season.テつ That's good for every team.テつ It's NCAA time, survive.テつ We're not worried about what outsiders think about Memphis basketball.テつ We're here to do a job, stick together and get wins.テつ That's our only identity, our only focus.
MODERATOR:テつ Gentlemen, thank you very much.テつ Good luck tomorrow.
We're now ready to continue the Memphis press conference with Coach Josh Pastner.テつ Coach, would you like to make an introductory statement?
COACH PASTNER:テつ Few things.テつ One, before the game yesterday, I want to make sure I give a shout‑out because a bunch of the police officers from the Raleigh Police Department, they had given me a couple things.テつ But I wanted to tell them appreciate them here, and all law enforcement, military, anyone so we're able to play our great game that we can play.テつ I don't think they get thanked enough.
Secondly, the hospitality here in Raleigh from everybody, you and everybody else, has been terrific.テつ So very much appreciative of all the great people here in Raleigh and the surrounding areas.テつ So we're very appreciative of that.
We play a very‑‑ a great Virginia team tomorrow.テつ I think Tony Bennett is one of the best coaches in the game, period.テつ I think the job that he did at Washington State is probably undervalued and under‑appreciated.テつ And then the job he's done in Virginia has just been, just been amazing.
He's also one of the really good guys in the business.テつ If he keeps winning like he's winning, he's on his way to the Hall of Fame, and I don't think he gets enough credit for how good his teams are, how well‑coached they are nationally.
I mean, I know he got it this year, but he's tremendous, his teams are tremendous.テつ His talent evaluation is tremendous.テつ We know we're going to have to play a great game.テつ It's going to be a road game for us, but we've been a very good road team.
One time this year, we had the nation's longest road win streak in conference play.テつ We won 16 straight conference road games dating back with the American and Conference USA.
So we know we'll have to play great, but we're excited and it'll be a great game tomorrow night.
MODERATOR:テつ We'll open the floor for questions.

Q.テつ Josh, you had to comprise a different attack for your team, game plan, with your game on Friday by going up against a 1‑3‑1 zone in GW.テつ Now you're playing a very good man‑to‑man team.テつ That's how you like to play.テつ Can you talk about matching up against a team that like to play man?
COACH PASTNER:テつ Greg, good question.テつ Greg's from Memphis.テつ Greg does a good job.テつ He's on radio and has a TV show too.テつ We actually did a great TV show together that aired Thursday.テつ I think should have been the highest rated show ever on Sports Files.
Yeah, I mean, look, Virginia's a great defensive team.テつ They're the best in the country defensively.テつ We've done a good job.テつ Last year, we were third in the country in assists.テつ This year, we're third in the country in assists.
We do a good job of moving the ball.テつ We play unselfish basketball.テつ That's a big stat for us is made field goals, how many were assisted.テつ This year, we're right about 61, 62 percent of our made field goals have been assisted, which is tremendous.
If we're going to win tomorrow, we've got to do the same thing because that means we're making shots.テつ You have to be able to make shots against a great defensive team like Virginia.

Q.テつ Coach, just to piggyback on that, they've held 22 straight opponents to less than 50 percent shooting.テつ You want to create some tempo and go up and down a little bit in the half court.テつ How do you try to get shots against them?
COACH PASTNER:テつ Obviously, we like to play fast and we want to be able to get up and down as much as we can.テつ But last night, I called timeout.テつ I put Michael Dixon in.テつ I drew up a play and Michael Dixon hit the shot, and the play worked because he made the shot.テつ It looked like I knew what I was doing because he made the shot.
It's going to be the same thing tomorrow.テつ We'll be in here and they'll say, Hey, great game plan, Coach, if we're making shots.テつ If we don't make shots, it will be like, Coach, not a good game plan and this and that.
I recognize it, I don't think we need‑‑ I don't think it needs to be more complicated.テつ We'll have open shots at times.テつ We just have to make them.テつ If we don't make them, then it makes it much, much tougher.テつ But I give our guys confidence.テつ I want them to step up and put the ball in the basket.テつ There will be opportunities to put the ball in the basket.テつ We've just got to step up and make them.

Q.テつ Josh, speaking of Michael, with the pace that you guys play and the fact that you guys have short turnarounds here in the tournament or in the games that you played, is the importance of your bench sort of heightened at this point in the season?
COACH PASTNER:テつ I think the bench is important.テつ We play‑‑ I probably play‑‑ I played eight guys yesterday.テつ Michael Dixon, think about it, he was the Sixth Man of the Year in the Big 12, and he's the Sixth Man of the Year in the American.テつ Is there another player in the history of college basketball that's been Sixth Man of the Year in two elite conferences?テつ Probably not.
The bench is important, but I think everyone goes on adrenaline and everyone knows they've got to step up and get the job done.
At this time, especially with the length of timeouts, in terms of when you have a timeout, you get length, you get a little extra rest right there, there is no looking back.テつ So you've got to leave it all on the floor.テつ Whether you play five guys, six guys, seven guys, eight guys‑‑ I'm a feel guy.テつ I believe in feel, meaning if I have a group that's playing well, I'll go with that group for 40 minutes or I'll go with a with a group that's playing well as long as I need to until I feel that we need to make a sub.

Q.テつ Joe Harris obviously has proven the ability to be a go‑to guy.テつ Malcolm Brogdon has hit some big shots.テつ What are your thoughts about trying to match up with them a little bit, trying to slow those guys down, the difficulty of taking on two guys that can maybe take over a game a little bit on the perimeter?テつ Also, with your balance on the perimeter, do you think you match up well enough?
COACH PASTNER:テつ They've got a few guys than just those two.テつ They've got multiple guys.テつ Their point guards, like Tyler Ennis, in a way, I mean, he's really, really good.テつ Really good.テつ And so they've got‑‑ and their inside guy's got great motors.テつ They play hard.
I think they're just a very good team, very balanced.テつ I don't think you can lock in on one guy and say if we take him, if we shut him down, we're winning the game.テつ I don't see that.テつ I just look at their balance is so good.
They've got to also match up with us too and we've got some great speed, quickness.テつ We've got senior guards and they have to match up with us as well too.テつ And I know that's something that they'll have to prepare for, just like we have to prepare for them and their perimeter players.

Q.テつ Two questions, Josh.テつ One is were you on the Arizona team that lost as a 1 to Wisconsin as an 8?テつ And what happened there?テつ Is there any lesson to be drawn from that.
Last year, when you played Michigan State, you felt like you weren't prepared, partly because of the schedule, not emotionally prepared as a team.テつ Do you feel that much better now going into the second game of this tournament?
COACH PASTNER:テつ Well, when I was with Arizona in that year, we lost to Wisconsin.テつ Part of it was two things.テつ One, Loren Woods was our starting center and ended up having a back injury.テつ He didn't play in the tournament in those two games, our first game versus Vermont and then Wisconsin because of the fact of his back.テつ Sort of like Joel Embiid Kansas, same thing.テつ But we were kept with the 1 seed even though he wasn't going to play in the tournament.
I remember our guys, when we beat Vermont, LSU, we had got smoked by LSU earlier in the game because we came out and they put us right next to the Tiger.テつ Our guys were more concerned about the Tiger than playing the game and we ended up losing by 30 at LSU in Baton Rouge because our guys were‑‑ all they wanted to talk about was the Tiger.テつ And so we lost by 30.
I remember at that time, LSU was there, and they had won the game before us and we were going to play them in the Sweet 16.テつ All our guys were talking about we want another shot at LSU.テつ Here comes Wisconsin and beats us because we were focused on LSU.
It happened in 1998.テつ We won the National Championship in 1997.テつ And in 1998, we were playing Utah in the Elite 8 and we had the best team in the country.テつ It makes me sick to this day we didn't go back‑to‑back, being part of a team to go back‑to‑back National Championship.
In 1998, I remember in the elevator, there was a couple of my teammates said to me, You got your bags packed for San Antonio? just before we were playing.テつ I'm a guy that's like a possession‑‑ still even at that, I was a possession guy.テつ I was like, You're crazy.テつ We got to win this game.
Well, Rick Majerus came out on the triangle at two.テつ We had four lottery picks on that team, and we couldn't make a shot.テつ They left Jason Terry wide open and they left Michael Dickerson wide open in the triangle in two.テつ They let those guys shoot, and they were wide open and they were awful.
Of four guards, those two, Miles Simon and Mike Bibby, I go back to always say that if they make shots, the triangle in two didn't work.テつ They missed shots so the triangle in two worked.テつ That's what it comes down to.テつ That's why making shots makes a coach look good, missing shots makes a coach look bad.
But going back to the Michigan State, I felt that we didn't‑‑ because we didn't face a team like Michigan State all year, other than Louisville last year‑‑ not this season, but the year before, early.テつ We played Louisville in December.テつ We didn't play another team like Michigan State until we got to Michigan State.
I love Conference USA.テつ I love the administration of Conference USA.テつ I love Britton Branowsky and all the people with it, Judy MacLeod.テつ They have such great coaches in that league.テつ Conference USA is a great league.テつ Even though we won a lot of games, we're great for the league and the league was great for us.
I'm a big fan of Conference USA.テつ But I love the American.テつ And I've said this before.テつ I think Mr.Aresco deserves a lifetime contract.テつ I think Mr.Aresco is one of the best commissioners out there.テつ I think the American is one of the greatest leagues if not the best league in the country.
Five teams ranked in the top 25.テつ So us playing that competition can only help us going into the NCAA tournament.テつ I believe that, that type of competition.テつ So I really believe the American's the best league in the country.
And Mr.Aresco's done such an amazing job with the ESPN package, CBS package that we get.テつ Just phenomenal.

Q.テつ Given that you were ranked all season, do you feel you're undervalued as an 8 seed and what were your thoughts upon the unveiling of the bracket?
COACH PASTNER:テつ No, I knew once Louisville got the 4 seed that we were all going to drop a seed, and I actually felt Louisville was going to get a 2 seed, possibly.テつ And so I knew once they got four, we were going to drop a seed.
We were one of the few teams that was ranked on the first of the polls, first week to the last week of the regular season.テつ And then once you're in the tournament, it's a tremendous privilege.テつ You don't take it for granted.テつ It's not a birthright to be in the tournament.テつ It's a tremendous privilege.
No matter what seed you are, everybody's good.テつ It doesn't matter anymore.テつ The parity amongst teams, it's unbelievable.テつ Everyone can shoot.テつ Everyone's well coached.
You've got to play.テつ You got to bring your game, not your name.テつ And that's the bottom line.テつ You've got to bring you're a‑game, whoever you're playing.

Q.テつ Josh, I remember last year in Auburn Hills, the talk was you guys hadn't won a tournament game, done that.テつ How have you changed as a‑‑ have you changed anything as a tournament coach over these years going through this sort of short turnaround and how important do you think it will be for the program to get out of this first weekend?
COACH PASTNER:テつ If we don't get out of this first weekend, I might be working with you at the "Washington Post" next week with the fan base in Memphis.テつ So no, I mean, look.テつ Last year, they're always going to find something in the sense of‑‑ and I said this last night and I really believe it.テつ I'm just not a negative guy.テつ I don't like negative energy.テつ I believe positive energy.テつ I believe in it.テつ I believe in positive creates positive.テつ I think when you have a positive energy, it raid rates.テつ It's contagious.テつ Negativity just‑‑ so I'm not into negativity.
People are going to find stuff, not only locally, but nationally.テつ Going into this season, we beat St.Mary's, top 25 in the coach as poll.テつ This season, we haven't beat anybody in the top 25 in the AP poll.テつ We won that.テつ One time, we've never won a game with Jay Bilas doing the game.テつ There will be about seven other eight other things.
So I recognize that‑‑ let me tell you this.テつ We've won a lot of games.テつ We've won 75, 76 percent of our games in the five years there.テつ And guys are graduating at record pace.テつ We're back‑to‑back Final Fours in the academic, in the Journal of Higher Education if it was just based on academics.
So, you know, usually when you win that type, 75, 76 percent, people, you get a statue built of you.テつ I was following John Calipari, who had won in his last four years over 90 percent of his games.テつ And I understand it.テつ That's what I was going to be compared to.テつ Every day, that's what I'm compared to is those Final Four years.テつ In those Final Four years, Coach Calipari went Elite 8, Elite 8, National Championship, Sweet 16.テつ In Memphis that's what I'm compared to is those four years because that's who I'm following.
That's why I got the job, because nobody wanted to follow him.テつ They all want to follow me now.テつ So I recognize that.テつ I accept it, and I just, we got to try to win and try to win as many as we can.
We've won a lot of games in our time too.

Q.テつ Josh, a couple of your players were talking about they prefer the pace to be fast, but they have won games where it hasn't been quite as fast.テつ In your mind, how important is pace tomorrow night and is there a pace that would be too fast for you?
COACH PASTNER:テつ No, there's no pace that's too fast for us.テつ I'm the one who pounds on the pavement for a 24‑second shot clock.テつ I wish we'd have a three‑second defensive, you know.テつ I think more spacing and let's make the three‑point shot at the arc and let's make the courts like the NBA.テつ I think the more space, the better.
I'm all for that.テつ So better pace, better for us.テつ I like that.テつ We've won a lot of games where we've had to grind it out too.テつ And we know we'll have to do whatever we need to do to find a way to win the game.テつ If that's grind it out and be a low scoring game.テつ That's what we've got to.テつ We need to do whatever we've got to do to try to win this game.

Q.テつ You've got a lot of reporters from Virginia here.テつ What did you make of the Buzz Williams story?
COACH PASTNER:テつ Buzz Williams, obviously, he's been extremely successful coach at Marquette, won a lot of games.テつ He's one of the best coaches in the country, without question.テつ His team's played so hard every year.テつ Their teams play so hard and he'll do a great job at Virginia Tech.テつ There's no question about that.
Mr.Babcock, the AD there, is an excellent athletic director, and they hired a great coach in Buzz.

Q.テつ Since you got this job, you're known as a very good recruiter.テつ What have you done to become a more well rounded practice coach?テつ What have you done to get better in that side of it?
COACH PASTNER:テつ Last year when we played St.Mary's and we were up 54‑52, and with no time left Dellavedova shoots a 3‑pointer, and he misses it, and the crowd goes wild, and I get a seven‑year contract extension.テつ If he doesn't win the game, if he makes a shot, who knows what happens.
It's the same thing like last night.テつ I drew up a play, Michael Dixon made the shot.テつ I drew up a play for Mike Dixon, it worked, he made the shot.テつ Great coach, great play coach, great tournament win.テつ So I don't put a lot of stock in the whole coaching thing.テつ I'm a better coach today than I was from year one first year one.テつ But I also understand having really good players and players got to make plays.
I think it's a coach's job is to manage and recruit the right what fits you and try to continue to get them better and we've won a lot of games through our time there and I don't think people fully realize how hard of a job Memphis is when we took over when I took over following Coach Calipari, and understanding that, you know, that that's what I was going to be compared to, and it's a very, very hard job and we've won a lot.
And so part of that just comes with the territory, which I embrace.テつ I don't hide from it.テつ I don't duck it.テつ Probably the thing I've done well is I didn't try to come in‑‑ I try to keep the momentum going.テつ Like I was telling recruits, they all love Derrick Rose.テつ I didn't coach Derrick Rose, Cal did.テつ But they just know Derrick Rose played at Memphis so I was selling Memphis.テつ Derrick Rose played here, Terek Evans played here.テつ No one asked me, if I coached them.テつ No they played at Memphis.テつ Coach Calipari coached them.テつ I didn't try to change this.テつ I tried to build on the momentum that's going.テつ There is no manual when you become a head coach.テつ You get better.テつ You learn.テつ You improve daily.テつ And I got a long way to go to continue to improve.テつ I recognize that.テつ I've made a lot of mistakes through my time and I'm sure I'll make many more, and hope to continue to get better.
MODERATOR:テつ Coach, thank you very much.テつ We're out of time.
COACH PASTNER:テつ Wait, we've got one more.
MODERATOR: テつI appreciate that, but I'm sure our time is up.テつ Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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