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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 24, 2014
Q. ¬†Can you talk a little bit about Patric told us this story about climbing Mount Everest that you told to the team.¬† How did you research that and how pertinent is that going forward with what you guys have to face in Memphis?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† Well, I just think that the year is always a climb.¬† You're always trying to climb and continue to go on and pursue, and I think a lot of times it's very, very easy in the middle of your climb to look back, see how far you've come, to want to rest, relax, maybe lose sight or perspective of where you started out as a team and how you're trying to continue on in that journey.
When you're climbing, you're dealing with a lot of adversity.¬† You're dealing with a lot of challenges.¬† There's a lot of struggles.¬† But there's also a lot of great things, opportunity‑wise out there in front of you, and I think the minute you start to look back on where you've come from, where you've been, and you pause and you do that, I think you lose sight of what's out in front of you, and maybe you never get a chance to realize your fullest potential as an individual or as a team.
So I was just using that as an example that we need to continue to climb, getting out there climbing.¬† When you climb a mountain, it's cold, altitude, there's a lot of adversity and challenges you're dealing with, and I think no different than what every team that's left playing is trying to do is climb and move forward.
Q.¬† Casey Prather, it's been up and down for him defensively this year, and I know you expect a lot out of him.¬† He seemed a little bit more engaged in the Pittsburgh game.¬† How important is that to have him locked in and focused on that end of the floor?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† Well, I think it's no different on either end of the floor.¬† I think you need guys, in order to be a connected team, to have everybody kind of locked in, doing their job with a level of discipline.
Casey has shown moments of being a terrific defender, and he's certainly got the ability to do it.¬† And then there's been some moments where he has not done what we've needed him to do.¬† He continues to get better.¬† I think he understands areas where he needs to get better.¬† I think that's one of the most important things, too.¬† You can talk about guys getting better or needing to improve, but you've really got to get them to believe they've got to get better and improve in those areas.¬† And I think Casey has taken it upon himself to try to do a better job with that, and he certainly has scored the basketball a lot better this year for us than maybe he has in years past.¬† He's been able to rebound the ball very, very well.¬† Out in transition he's very, very explosive.¬† But he has great ability and great talent in my opinion defensively.¬† He's long, he's athletic, he's got good foot speed.¬† But again, I think for him that scenario of focus and concentration that he needs to continue to have.
Q.¬† Was there anything physically wrong with DeVon Walker or was that a case of you shortening the rotation a little bit given the circumstances?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† I think with the way the game was going, one, there not was a lot foul trouble.¬† I would anticipate using DeVon in the next game.¬† It was really more my decision than anything else.¬† I felt like our minutes were pretty equally distributed.¬† We did not really deal with any foul trouble.¬† There was not very many fouls called on both teams.¬† Nobody was really in foul trouble.¬† We were really substituting more out of fatigue and trying to get some guys off the floor and rest them.¬† So the opportunity for him probably didn't present itself to really get in there and play with the way the game was going.
Q.¬† Back to the Everest metaphor, have you found it both rewarding but also challenging to motivate the same group of guys who have been around the program for so long and has that been a different hurdle you've had to experience this year?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† You know, I think everything is always different even though you have the same guys.¬† I think there's different ways that at least myself and the staff try to get things across to guys.¬† I've always been a big believer when you're dealing with young players and young people, sometimes when you talk and you use words or you try to explain things, sometimes in a lot of ways your words can get lost, and they may not take your message verbally as you wanted them to take it.
So a lot of things for me for our guys have been visual, different things visually during the course of the year to get a point across, to get them to see things of how we would like to see them.
I think you've got to be unique.¬† I think you've got to be creative.¬† I think you've got to come up with different ideas and things to do, and every game there's different challenges that present themselves, and in presenting those challenges to your team you want to be able to get them across, and sometimes, like I said, when you talk verbally, sometimes the message doesn't get across.¬† Sometimes you've got to do it visually; where they can see things visually it makes it clearer maybe what you're trying to get across.
Q.¬† (No microphone.)
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† Yeah, you do that, I think that was just an example of we're playing Auburn and it's very, very easy to look at their record, and as a coach you're sitting up there and you're watching them on film, and they run really good offense.¬† They've got two really, really good guards.¬† It was a battle in Auburn.¬† The tendency is to be, okay, we beat them at Auburn. ¬†We didn't play our best game.¬† We're at home, we'll be fine.¬† Jamming a bunch of weights in a duffel bag and asking a guy to pick it up and him going in there with the expectation this is going to be pretty easy to pick up and then all of a sudden being caught off guard like wow, this is a lot heavier than I thought, my point to them was this game is going to be a lot harder than you think, and it ended up being that way.
So maybe that illustration wasn't a great job because we were down by two with 30 seconds to go, so I probably need to come up with something else because that didn't work too well.
Q.¬† How is Scottie's knee?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† I have not heard anything.¬† We were off yesterday, but no complaints.¬† The trainer didn't say anything.¬† He went in, he was diagnosed with a bruise or just kind of banged knees.¬† Actually thought at first it was some cramps because he's had some cramping issues during the course of the year, but there's no issues right now, at least that I've been aware of or made aware of as it relates to him practicing and going forward.
Q.¬† What's wrong with the SEC?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† You know, I'll go back to saying this, too; there are teams in our league, like a Missouri, they were right there, and LSU, that really came close to‑‑ we're right there, Arkansas, three teams there, and I said this after the SEC championship game, that I think that there's teams that are not in this tournament that are from our league that could get in this tournament and really win some games.¬† And maybe every league could say that.¬† Maybe there's some teams that were left out that could say that.
But I also feel, and I've said this numerous times, when you look at a league, it's very, very unfair to pin a league based on what happens in November and December.¬† In a lot of ways those non‑conference schedulings‑‑ and I get asked the same question by you guys all the time, has your non‑conference schedule prepared you for the league, are you ready to go into the league.¬† In a lot of ways what you're saying is you're not really where you need to be, have these games helped you get better, have they helped you improve, have they prepared you for the next step, and in a lot of ways maybe some of the losses that our league took in November and December prepared them to be better in our league.
So I've always had great respect for our league.¬† I think our league can play with any league in the country.¬† But I would say this, and I've said this before:¬† Just because a certain league teams get knocked out early doesn't mean the league is overrated, and because a league really, really advances in the tournament doesn't mean the league is great.¬† I just get upset when all of a sudden everybody just throws out and makes assumptions or draws conclusions of a league being good or bad based on what's happened in the non‑conference.¬† That to me is, I think, somewhat unfair.
I think if everybody in the SEC was out of the tournament, they'd say, see, I told you the league is no good.¬† Now we've got some teams advancing; wow, the league must be really, really underrated.¬† Sometimes it has to do with match‑ups, sometimes it has to do with who you're playing against; sometimes it has to do with how well you're playing.¬† There's a lot of variables that go into, I think, winning in postseason.
Q.¬† What really stood out to you most about UCLA last night offensively?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† Well, unique team, probably unlike any team we've played this year.¬† Really, really fast, explosive in transition, great scoring ability from all five spots.¬† You know, a uniqueness about them because one of their leading rebounders is Kyle Anderson.¬† It's a little bit unique for a point guard to get as many rebounds as he does and starts the break, and that's where they're really, really great is in transition.¬† They also do a really good job with their half court offense.
To me just based on watching them some last night and obviously this morning, you know, maybe the most explosive offensive team we've faced and maybe the most unique offensive team we've faced this year.
Q.¬† I was curious your reaction to Bruce Pearl coming back to the league at Auburn.
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† I had a chance to talk to Bruce.¬† He had called me and we had talked a little bit.¬† I'm happy for him.¬† I think just being in the league with him for that long and kept in touch with him the three years he was out, and I think for him it was‑‑ he went through a lot of difficulty personally internally.¬† I think it was really hard on him.
I think probably after the first year of being out and getting on with ESPN, he wasn't really sure if he wanted to coach again.¬† He, I think, evaluated it, he looked at it, but he's an outstanding coach.¬† I think it's good for our league.
I made this comment:¬† I thought Tony Barbee did a good job with his team.¬† I really thought he did a great job coaching his team.¬† We played them twice this year, so I'm not in the inner circles of what goes on at Auburn, but in watching them on tape, I was really impressed with what Tony did with his team and the position he put those guys in.¬† Their record, maybe it doesn't reflect that, but I think if you look at the scores and how close they were, they were right there in so many games.
I think Bruce coming in will do a great job.¬† He'll certainly bring energy and enthusiasm to the league, to Auburn, and I'm happy for him if that's what he wants to do, and obviously it is, and he felt comfortable about making his way back into coaching.
You know, for him I think I'm happy to see that that's kind of‑‑ he wasn't sure.¬† I think there was a lot taken out of him from that situation, and I think for him he maybe got back that enthusiasm to want to get back into coaching.
Q.¬† I asked you last week whether you were a better coach now than you were years ago.¬† I failed to ask why.¬† Is it because‑‑ how much of Larry Shyatt defensively had maybe trickled into your coaching?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† Well, you know, I think it's like anything else.¬† A player, you know, going through a season, hopefully is going to be better the next year, and I think for me, I'm always eager to learn, to get better and to improve.
I had three unbelievable coaches when I first got here in Donnie Jones, Anthony Grant and John, and they kind of all left, and I think the one thing that Larry brought to the table is when you bring somebody in from the outside, and Larry and I knew each other, I was maybe a year removed from college when Larry went to Providence and I was still trying to play so I was back up there a lot of times in the summertime working out so I developed a relationship with Larry and knew Larry, and Herb Sendek and I coached me, and Herb and I worked together for five years at Kentucky he was on the same staff with Larry at Providence.
I think anytime you bring in fresh and new ideas, ands a head coach you're forced to think about different things.¬† I think Larry came in and did a great job for us, really, really helped us.¬† I think probably defensively our philosophy probably has somewhat changed since Larry has left, but I also think, too, when Larry came here, he never believed that you could press and be a good half court defensive team, and I think he changed in realizing that you can do that.
And I think there's probably some things he brought to the table that we still do here today, and there's probably some things that he didn't do that he's probably taken with to Wyoming that he's used.¬† I think I've been very fortunate here knowing Larry and Donnie and Anthony and Rob Lanier, Rick Pitino, a lot of really, really good guys around me coaching‑wise that have helped.
Q.¬† But you were never known as a defensive coach early on, and that's kind of changed.¬† I was just kind of wondering how that evolved.
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† Well, you know, I think we've had some really, really good potential defensive teams.¬† I mean, the team in 2000 was really, really good defensively.¬† That's in our third or fourth year.¬† I even thought the year before that we were really good.¬† Through recruiting maybe our defensive teams were not as good.¬† I thought in '06 and '07 we were exceptional, great shock blocking, different.¬† I think the last couple years we've been good.¬† I think like any other team, there's going to be things you're good at and things you're not good at, but the one thing I've always felt like as a coach for me personally, I feel like it's my responsibility to put these guys in situations that they're going to be able to utilize their offensive skill set, and there's only so many things you can do defensively in the half court.¬† You're going to play zone, you're going to play man, you're going to deny, you're going to give help.
Offensively there's unlimited amounts of opportunities of things that you can run and you can do.¬† So obviously you've got to be good at both ends of the floor to be able to continue to move on and play, but I've always kind of been the guy that has always come up with, so to speak, an offensive game plan of how we're going to utilize our personnel going into every year.
So it's not that I'm not interested in defense.¬† I think it's really important, and obviously we've, I think, had‑‑ certainly the last two years we've been exceptional at it, and it's always been a point of emphasis for us.
But I also know, too, that you can be the greatest defensive team in the world, and if you can't get past 50 points every game, it's going to be hard to win.¬† So you've got to be able to do both things, and there's definitely a balance there.
Q.¬† And I know being 3‑0 against UCLA in the tournament means absolutely nothing in this game‑‑
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† Why do you say that?
Q.¬† But when you're preparing, do you personally have flashbacks to maybe some of those games against the Bruins?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† Well, I think it will get brought up, but not really because right now you're dealing‑‑ I mean, it doesn't even necessarily need to be UCLA right now, and what I mean by that is you have a totally different coach, you have a totally different style of play, you have a totally different philosophy and you have totally different players.¬† The name on the jersey happens to be the same one that we've maybe played three different times in the NCAA Tournament, but everything else is really a lot different.
I'm probably the only guy, maybe a couple of our guys played, but I don't think the last time we played UCLA in the NCAA Tournament any of our guys were even on that team.¬† They had Josh Smith and Reeves and they had Honeycutt.¬† Nobody was even part of those match‑ups.
Q.¬† (No microphone.)
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† Yeah, so I mean, to me it's totally different right now.¬† There's nothing we can even take from those past games that you can sit there and say, wow, there's a great carryover to getting prepared to play them here on Thursday.
Q.¬† We talked about Scottie and his knees and how he's trying to recover from that, but I'm guessing at this point of the season every player in the country is at least a little bit banged up.¬† As a coach in the NCAA Tournament, how do you deal with convincing players to maybe take a little rest or maybe take it easy during practice so they can be fully healthy for the game?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† We're not going to do that.¬† I mean, we're not going to take it easy in practice.¬† I think when you get between the lines, there's certain days that are more physically demanding than others.¬† For example, coming out of the SEC tournament on Sunday and then having to leave on Tuesday and go to Orlando, we needed to get our legs back under us so we adjusted practice.
Playing on Saturday against Pittsburgh in a relatively quick turnaround playing at noon, there was a very, very limited amount we could do physically.¬† We had off yesterday.¬† Hopefully our guys have gotten somewhat their legs back under them.
But for me as it relates to us practicing and what we do, a lot of it is predicated on the trainer, predicated on the strength coach.¬† But when we get between the lines, whatever it is we're doing, we want to work at maximum level.¬† I don't think I'm different from any other coach from that standpoint.¬† Now, how much you go up and down and run and bang, those are decisions we'll make.
But we're just not going to walk on the court and say, Scottie, you bumped knees, just chill out today, just relax over there and take it easy.¬† He needs to get on the court and get his work done.
Q.¬† Can you talk about Michael?¬† He's been struggling from three lately.¬† Can you tell me what he's been thinking and how his confidence is going into the Sweet 16?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† Yeah, I think Michael had two things that happened, and I told him it was one of the greatest learning experiences he could have as a player.¬† He did not get a lot of free looks against Albany, and Albany did a very, very good job on him.¬† He did get a couple looks he didn't make, and I think in the game with the way Albany played us, Dodo, Patric, Kasey Hill, there was opportunities for those guys to be a little bit more aggressive offensively and do a little bit more offensively.
The opportunities were not quite there for Scottie and for Frazier, and I think that's what's made our team good is we can have different players in different situations step up and score and do things offensively.
I think Michael, after the game, even during the game, there probably was a level of frustration, wanting to be more involved, wanting to inject himself.¬† But I think when a team makes a decision to guard us however they choose to guard us, there's always going to be something open and something available, and to me the greatest sign of respect is when you try to eliminate or take away something from our team.¬† And you've got to be able to deal with that.
I think that bled over a little bit into the Pittsburgh game.¬† He took nine three‑point shots, and he had phenomenal looks, and instead of being worried about what happened against Albany, you've got to be able to stay engaged because Michael did a great job defensively on Hooley.¬† He had a great game.¬† But a lot of times people look at Michael and see the three‑point shooting and they lose sight of some of the other things that he does for our team.¬† He's come down with some really big rebounds.¬† He really did a good job defensively getting over screens and taking Hooley out of the game.¬† He did a lot of great things.¬† But a lot of times people only talk about with Michael just his shooting, shooting, shooting.¬† There's a lot more to his game, and I think he needs to understand that.
The best example I can give of that is in '07 when we played in the national championship game, and this was why Noah was great.¬† The year before, he's MVP of the Final Four.¬† He comes back, we go back to the Final Four, we're playing Ohio State in the national championship game, and I told him, because Ohio State had four three‑point shooters on the floor, I said, you've got to play Greg Odin one‑on‑one.¬† Just do the best job you can.¬† We're not going to double‑team.¬† You have to play your position because if we start doubling, it's going to open up three‑point shooting for them.
And Joakim Noah was a non‑factor in the game, but he just played his role and did what he needed to do to help our team, and Michael, based on however we're being guarded, whatever is going on, just needs to play his role and take his shots when they're there.¬† He happened to get nine off against Pitt.¬† He didn't get nearly as many off against Albany.¬† That's going to happen.
But against Albany we shot 51 percent from the field, so we were still scoring, and the offense I thought ran pretty well in terms of what we were getting and what we took advantage of.
Q.¬† What's your relationship with Steve Alford, and is it kind of interesting, you guys go back to the Final Four in '87?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† Yeah, I've always liked Steve.¬† Steve and I have always had a good relationship.¬† We obviously got out of college at the same time.¬† He played some time with the Mavericks, I think, and then took over at Division II school and kind of worked his way all the way through.¬† I've always liked Steve.¬† I've got a lot of respect for him as a person.¬† He's a really, really good guy.
I think there's probably a lot we have in common because we both played in the same era at the same time.¬† Obviously we had a great run through the Final Four, winning a national championship that year.¬† So with him being out west and being at New Mexico and then UCLA, our paths probably crossed a lot more in the summer through recruiting.¬† But I've always liked Steve and have known him for a long time.
Q.¬† And what characterizes his teams?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† Well, I think Steve's teams, I think Steve is a really, really good offensive mind.¬† I think he does a lot of really good, unique things with his team.¬† I think he puts his guys in situations to be successful.¬† He's probably taken some things from Indiana and playing for Bobby Knight.¬† He's probably taken some things on his own based on his team.¬† But they've always been really, really good offensively.¬† I think very disciplined, sound.
I think he does a great job with his team.¬† He's certainly resurrected New Mexico's program and did a great job there, and his first year at UCLA, he's doing a tremendous job this year.
Q.¬† You've talked a lot about Scottie and the challenges during the off season, but how much have you kind of challenged and pushed him over the four years to become a better point guard?¬† I know you can be tough on your point guards sometimes, and how receptive has he been to that coaching?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† I think the hardest thing for Scottie his first two years which probably maybe hurt his development a little bit was he just kind of came in because we had so much offense in the backcourt with Beal and Boynton and Rosario and even Murphy stepping away.¬† We never really needed his shooting.¬† What we did need was his defense, and his freshman year he came off the bench, played about 18 minutes a game and gave us great minutes.¬† But a lot of times the ball wasn't in his hands a lot, it was in other guys' hands a lot.¬† Same thing could be said his sophomore year, although he played more.
I think last year going into being a point guard and really kind of having more responsibility, there was a lot of growth that he had to make, and there was a lot of things he needed to learn.¬† I think he's gotten better at those things, and I think over the last two years, he's progressively gotten better offensively.¬† I think Scottie has always been a good offensive player, it's just maybe some other guys offensively were on a different level than he was at, but he's gotten better over the course of the last two years of doing everything, understanding how to play in pick‑and‑roll, making decisions, getting guys shots, having an awareness of where players are on the court.
His defense has always been the same.¬† He's always been accountable there, he does a great job, but he's really evolved, I think, as a complete guard maybe where he was his first two years.
Q.¬† Defensively how much of a challenge is UCLA?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† Well, it's a challenge.¬† I mean, obviously Kyle is a great passer.¬† He's got a great feel of how to play.¬† He's got an incredibly high basketball IQ.¬† He can see over defense.¬† He makes the game easy for those other guys.
But Adams is a terrific player.¬† The Wear twins are terrific.¬† They've got Powell, they've got an explosive offensive team, and they all kind of do their role.¬† They come off with Steve Sun off the bench who's a terrific shooter and a really good point guard, LaVine coming off the bench is really talented and gifted.¬† Parker off the bench is a big, strong, physical front court guy, McDonald's all‑American.
So Kyle probably does as good of a job of utilizing those guys and getting those guys the ball where they need it, and then I think those guys do a tremendous job of getting out in transition and running.¬† They're a tremendous running team and they're a tremendous passing team.¬† I think if you look at their assists they average about 17 assists on the year.¬† That's phenomenal.¬† And then they also are an extremely high steal team.¬† They get a lot of steals, as well, defensively, and when they get steals and they get turnovers and they get out on the break, they're really playing to their identity and who they are.
Q.¬† I know you can't do anything about it and this probably has more to do with my deadline issues than anything, but you've got the SEC tournament and then this past weekend you had all those early games and now you have the 9:48.¬† Is your game day preparation altered?¬† What do you have to do when you have a game that starts so late in this instance?
BILLY DONOVAN:¬† I think you take your experience that you've had during the course of the year.¬† We obviously went to Kentucky, played a 9:00 game on a Saturday on‑‑ it was College Gameday.¬† It was that game.
We played Missouri here at home in a 9:00 game.¬† We had to go to Ole Miss and we had to play Ole Miss at Ole Miss at 11:00 in the morning Ole Miss time.¬† We went to Arkansas and played at Arkansas, I think, at noon our time here.
So we've had those experiences, so what happens is that day, if you look at it as a shell, there's things that we're going to do inside those time frames that our guys have always been accustomed to if they've had a chance to experience.¬† So our day playing Pittsburgh at noon was something that they already experienced even going against Kentucky at noon the last game of the year.¬† So they kind of have an idea of what the day is going to be like, although it's as late of a game as we've played this year, playing at 9:45 or :48, whenever it starts.¬† Our guys have had some similar situations like that.
The 12:00 game against Pittsburgh, no shoot‑around.¬† This game against UCLA we'll have a shoot‑around time, be more of a fuller, completer day.¬† But they've kind of been through some of that already just based on our experiences outside the league and inside the league.
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