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March 31, 2014

Billy Donovan

Q.  Billy, you made a reference on Saturday that the guys don't know what they're going to go through in terms of the Final Four, but you've been through it as a player and a coach.  What kind of guidance do you provide and how important of a role do you see that as maybe showing these guys the way a little bit?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† Well, I think that you get into a situation during the course of the year that you kind of get into a routine.¬† Then you go to the Final Four, it's like the Super Bowl in a lot of ways.¬† There are a lot of different demands on your time when you travel.¬† Most of the time we travel even to the SEC Tournament or even to the NCAA Tournament, outside of some open shootarounds, for the most part you're traveling schedule is relatively the same.¬† This is a very, very time‑consuming thing, and there's a lot of things that I think can distract you from playing.
There is obviously an enormous amount of attention placed on the event, and our guys just need to understand that we're there to play basketball.  We've been fortunate enough to get an opportunity to play another 40 minutes.  Sometimes with all that takes place in the Final Four, you can really, really get distracted on some of those things, so it will be very important that we keep ourselves focused mentally and emotionally, and even physically on things that we need to do to get ourselves prepared to play on Saturday.

Q.¬† You were talking about destiny bringing this team together.¬† When you look back to Scottie's recruitment, I know you brought in a number of other point guards, is it pretty amazing how it shaked out that you managed to kind of get him and convince him to enroll in school early when there were a number of other guys that you were looking for‑‑ I think you were looking for a back‑up point guard for Erving Walker at the time?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† Yeah, it worked out great with Scottie.¬† I think the story is well‑documented in terms of him electing to bypass his senior year of high school and give that up.¬† I think he's continued to grow and develop over his four years here.¬† I've enjoyed being around him, coaching him.¬† Then I also think from a standpoint of him being a Gainesville kid, I think there are a lot of positives that can come through him of what he's been through as a player.¬† I think he's got an opportunity to be a role model in a lot of ways in this community for a lot of different kids.

Q.¬† All four games your team had an ability to kind of go on these flurries of runs.¬† Can you talk about your team's ability to make those spreads and stretch leads, 7‑0, and 9‑0 runs in less than a minute?
COACH DONOVAN:  Yeah, that's happened for us during the course of the year.  I think one of the things I think it all comes down to is on the defensive end of the floor.  It's very, very difficult to go on runs if you don't get stops.  I think a lot of our runs can be predicated on the fact that defensively we've gotten stops, and stops get you out on the break.  I think one of the most difficult things to do defensively is get back in transition for any team.  So if you can get stops and you can get out on the break, you give yourself an opportunity to go on a run.  Maybe to press a steal here and there or get a couple of good possessions on defense, but inevitably a run is really going to take place predicated on what you do defensively.  If you get some good defensive stops and stances, you've got an opportunity to go on some runs.

Q.  Going back to Scottie there, unbelievable ability to close out games, first halves, whatever.  Best closer maybe you've had, and where do you think that comes from or has that developed with him?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† I've said this before; for him, he's got an enormous amount of confidence in himself.¬† But there are guys that can have that kind of confidence and not have a real good awareness.¬† What I mean by that is when you're in those situations, if you were just determined to shoot the basketball, regardless of what the defense does and then you've got other guys open for shots, and that's not good, you know?¬† And there are certain guys that have an ego that they want to take the last shot.¬† They want to be the hero.¬† A lot of times taking the last shot may or may not be the right play.¬† I remember in the Arkansas game, he made a great play and he shot the ball and sent it to overtime.¬† Then there was another play late in overtime where he drove it, and he had three guys on him, he threw the ball back out to Dodo for a wide‑open three, which Dodo made, and I think took the lead from 2 to 5.¬† You've got to have a good awareness when the ball is in your hands of being able to make those kind of decisions.¬† I think for Scottie he's done a real, real good job of balancing both, himself and some other guys.
I thought in the Dayton game we got caught way too much with the ball in his hands.  He got caught.  I thought he created a couple really good shots for himself that he normally has made.  But I just didn't like our movement there.  Our guys have to be able to help him.  When he drives and gets in the lane, guys have to move and get open and try to help him.
But coming down the stretch in that situation, I think the worst thing you can do as a player is have this predetermined mentality that I'm going to shoot.  You can have a predetermined mentality of I'm going to be aggressive and try to make a play here.  But once the floor starts to move, now you've got to be pretty good of being able to see what's going on, what's happening and being able to make the next read and the next play.

Q.¬† Your guys have been good about celebrating and putting it behind them.¬† Can you talk about getting that business‑like approach back when they head out to Dallas?
COACH DONOVAN:  I think the first thing for us right now the beginning part of this week is we had to take off yesterday is one, mentally getting prepared to play on Saturday.  I also think, two, that we've got to get ourselves back physically too.  I think both games against UCLA and against Dayton were difficult battling games.  It kind of came down to the last minute or two.  So physically us getting back.
The one thing that's probably good for us going into Saturday's game is at least there is somewhat of a familiarity on our part and probably their part as well playing against each other, even though it was a while ago in December.  Our guys are familiar with their personnel and playing against their team.  Then trying to make some adjustments and changes of things that we can learn from the last time we played them.
But the biggest thing I think right now is what I try to do this time, right now this early part of the week is these guys have got to get their personal stuff out of the way.  I think when you go to a Final Four, there is a lot of stuff coming at them.  I can't even imagine the amount of people that want tickets from them and people want this or that.  There are a lot of things.  I need to give them time to handle their personal stuff.  That's what yesterday and today will be for them.  You need to get that stuff out of the way.
Then this afternoon, we need to move forward in terms of the preparation part of that.  I think for our staff, our trainers, strength coaches, we've got to get them back physically.  Mentally getting them now ready to take that next step,  because, again, there are going to be a lot of things coming at them.  Most of the time you win or lose the game and you move to the next thing.  This is a different situation.  It's just different.  Having a chance and being fortunate to be part of some of these events, I've got to try to help them understand what they're walking into.  In doing that, they've got to really, really pay attention to just them doing their job of moving to the next thing and not get is distracted by all this event brings to it.
It's the greatest time of the year.  It's an unbelievable weekend.  It's kind of the culmination of the college basketball season, but at the same point, we're here to play.  We've got to get ourselves ready to play.  We're not ready to play right now.  We don't need to be ready to play right now.  This is probably going back to the SEC Tournament, the last time we've had maybe a complete week, so to speak, where we're going to be able to be prepared to play.  Now coming out of that week, going into the game against Missouri, we did not play well in the first half, so we've got to make sure that we get this week off, because I think not only for us but the rest of the teams playing, everybody's dealing with a week right now that you want to be really ready to play once Saturday comes around.

Q.  You guys played there last year.  Kentucky has played this this year.  UCONN apparently visited there when they were there to play SMU.  Does all that wash as far as familiarity with the venue goes?
COACH DONOVAN:  I don't know.  It's obviously a unique situation.  It's really the first time or second time I should say, because we played in the Georgia Dome at the SEC Tournament.  But I think we're going to have enough time to get familiarized with ourselves.  Last year we had a lot of those guys played in that building.  We'll have a chance to practice there on Thursday.  We'll have an open shootaround on Friday.  I think that we have more than enough time to get ourselves acquainted and familiar with the building in terms of being in there.
But I think anytime you play in that kind of Dome setting, it is a little bit different.  That place is as big of a place as I've ever been into.  It's a gorgeous building.  But it will be for us a situation where we have enough time that we can get prepared to play in that building with the opportunity the NCAA gives us to shoot ask work out and practice there.

Q.¬† I know you always love us if we ask if your non‑conference schedule got you ready for the conference schedule.¬† But having played now three teams that are in the Final Four, in retrospect do you feel there was some point there where that's made you guys battle ready in terms of how the season has gone?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† I think our non‑conference schedule helped us get prepared.¬† I don't think there is any question.¬† I think going on the road to UCONN, going on the road to Wisconsin, playing Memphis, playing Florida State, playing Kansas, we've played some neutral sites.¬† We've played road games.¬† We've played home games.¬† I don't think there is any question our non‑conference schedule helped prepare us for the league.¬† I think our league helped prepare us for postseason.
So we've gone against a lot of different styles, a lot of different systems, and a lot of different quality of team.  So I think the experiences we've gone through, it's not like we're going to see anything from anybody playing on Saturday.  We've already played UCONN.  Our guys have familiarity with them.  They have a familiarity with us because we did play against each other this year.

Q.  You always get the football school question, and you'll get it again this weekend, I'm sure.
COACH DONOVAN:  You think so?

Q.  Yeah.  I don't want to ask it, but it will get asked.
COACH DONOVAN:  Are you going to ask it?

Q.  No.  But that said, would you talk about what it was like for you and the guys when you got back Saturday, Sunday morning?
COACH DONOVAN:  Yeah, it was great.  There were several hundred fans out there at 1 o'clock in the morning, which is always nice.  I always appreciate people doing that.  I think our guys enjoyed it.  I think any time you win a game like that, you come home, it's always a great plane trip home, and certainly for us the last three years it's not been a pleasant plane trip home.  So it was nice to see people out there and I think our guys enjoyed that.

Q.  How much has this team kind of embraced your motivational tactics this year relative to some previous teams?  We've talked about some of the expressions and the process, et cetera.
COACH DONOVAN:  I feel like these guys were bought into what we're doing.  I think it's a lot easier to get bought into what anybody's doing when you win.  It's a lot easier to be more connected.  It's a lot easier to buy into a strength coach.  It's a lot easier to buy into practice.  It's a lot easier to buy into everything when things are going well.  The difficult part even going back with these guys as freshmen or sophomores, as a young kid, you come into college thinking that you understand the way the world works.  You have an understanding of why things happen as they do.  When things don't go your way, it causes you to pause and reflect and to try to find out a solution.  I think one of the greatest things and one of the most difficult things in life is when something doesn't go the way you want it to go is to legitimately find the answer and the reason of why it didn't go and make the correction.
I think a lot of times you're dealing with young players, and I use Patric in this example.  One of the things for him that he's gotten tremendously better at was his work ethic.  He was a guy a lot of you remember had this great spurts of energy and passion, and then all of a sudden he would disappear.  He never realized that that was a byproduct of practice.  That's how he practiced, and that's how he ended up playing.
He's gotten so much more consistent in practice each and every day of being a consistent worker with a great attitude, and he's been much, much more reliable on that.  I'm not so sure early in his career he ever bought into that fact that the practice part of it was a reflection of him in games.  I think it built up a lot of frustration in him.  As we talked about, he had all these expectations, Dwight Howard, and this, and this.  I think for him it was confusing.
To me it's like having open heart surgery, and the doctor tells you, listen, you have to stop eating fried foods, you have to eat chicken, fish and vegetables.  You tell the doctor, no, no, I can still do that.  The reason I have heart failure is I'm not drinking enough water.  You go back and don't listen, and you go back and get another open heart surgery.  At some point when stuff happens, the act to be able to find out how to correct and get the results you want is something that everybody needs to do.  I think for those guys early on, they got more and more, and started to see some of those things.  I think for Patric, I'm just using him as an example, I could go through examples with every guy, once they started to buy into it, it got better and better.
Chandler Parsons is another example of that.¬† He was like the same guy his freshman and sophomore year.¬† Thought he had everything figured out, and he didn't.¬† Until he hit rock bottom, he started to buy into what was going on, and inevitably you saw him end up having a great senior year.¬† Look at what he's doing in the NBA right now.¬† So you try to‑‑ I always said as a visual you've got to show guys things.
I think sometimes we talk as coaches and words can go in one ear and out the other.  They don't understand.  Sometimes you show things visually, and it helps.

Q.  What specifically are the expressions though?  Because we hear them, I told you this a month ago, and you were glad they were saying that they actually believe it?

Q.  Where does that stem from?  Because when I was here the first time a while back, I don't remember you talking about that nearly as much.  Maybe I wasn't listening very well then.
COACH DONOVAN:  You were probably worried about your golf score when you were coming in here.

Q.  No, but truly you seem to be using that more and more, and where do you get those expressions, and why do you use them as much as you do now?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† Because I think that the same ingredients that go into winning in November are the same ingredients that go into winning in March.¬† The ingredients that go into winning don't change.¬† So there is a process that you have to go through.¬† Getting them to buy into the process, it's a 40‑minute process that you have to go through.¬† Even doubting it, it's the process of each possession.¬† It's can you battle and fight through human nature when things are not going your way?¬† A bad call, a bad play, a missed shot, a turnover, can you get yourself to move to the next thing mentally without your mind dragging you back into the past or worrying about too much into the future?¬† I just believe in those things.
I use those things about staying in the moment of what's going on.¬† There are times when I can see those guys shift in and out of the moment on the bench, by what they say.¬† Let's close out the half after the four‑minutes.¬† Let's close out this half.¬† No.¬† It's not the half.¬† This next possession, it's not about the half.¬† What are we going to do this possession?¬† And you start, and I'm trying to get them to understand how much you have to mentally be focused on each possession, and you can't be really good unless you have five guys focused in the moment of what's going on in that possession.¬† Then you can get to a place where you start to deal with my job, my responsibility, what am I supposed to do?
Again, the game of basketball, there is a lot of reaction.  People are moving, cutting, sometimes you make mistakes, you don't do things the right way.  But if you do make a mistake, can you move past that mistake?  So I think they've learned through those things.  Probably early on in their careers I was talking over their head and they didn't understand it.  And that's probably my fault.  But you try to give them some things and through their experiences, they have a better understanding sometimes of what you're talking about.

Q.  What impresses you most about UCONN in general, and Shabazz Napier, in particular?
COACH DONOVAN:  Well, he's done it a lot.  Obviously, he played on a National Championship team his freshman year.  He is a great scorer.  He can do it by himself.  He doesn't need necessarily a lot of help or a lot of screening.  He's been a big shot maker his whole entire career.  Boatright back there with him is another explosive guard who can score.  Giffey has shot the ball very well for him.  Daniels continues to improve and get better.
I would probably say like ourselves, playing them back in December, they're a much, much better team today than when we played them, and hopefully we've improved as well.¬† But Napier to me is one of those guys that's been in college for four years, he has evolved into an elite guard in this country, as good as anybody out there.¬† Certainly against us he made some really big shots coming down the stretch.¬† He made a three‑point shot we fouled him on.¬† It was a four‑point play, and then obviously, he made the game winner.¬† But he's a terrific player.¬† He's had a great year.

Q.¬† How does the development and presence of Kasey Hill alter the match‑up in your eyes?
COACH DONOVAN:  Yeah, I think Kasey can he definitely help us.  It gives us more depth in the back court.  I would have liked to have played him more against Dayton.  He was in a little bit of foul trouble there in the first half.  I think Kasey in the tournament, and even going back to the SEC has come on.  He's played better.  He's improved.  I've got confidence in him.  He makes our team faster when he's out there.  I thought what he did in the UCLA game really helped us.  He manufactured a lot of easy baskets for us by getting down the lane.  So him being available to play I think helps our team.

Q.  You touched on the familiarity with all three of these teams earlier, is that a good thing for you guys?  Is it a wash because they know you equally well?  Does it help in the prep, if you were to win, the short turnaround prep for Monday?
COACH DONOVAN:  Yeah, it definitely helps.  It helps both teams.  What I mean by that is if you're playing against UCLA and we recruited Kyle Anderson, I know Kyle, the size, the length, we've never played against a 6'9" point guard before, so you're trying to explain to them how to guard a guy or what you need to do against him that they've never seen before.  Our guys will have a familiarity with Napier, his quickness, his speed.  Same thing with Boatright, same thing with Daniels.  The whole roster, there will be a familiarity there because they've been on the floor with those guys.  Also the same for them.
They've been on the floor with Patric Young and Scottie and Dodo and those guys.  So it gives you at least a reference point of what you're dealing with there.  I think that that from a preparation standpoint for both teams, both teams kind of know each other.  We're not in the same league.  We've played each other once.  It was a long time ago, early December, but the game was played, and both teams were out there competing, and both teams have an idea of size, length, speed, quickness.
A lot of times in a tournament when you don't see‑‑ it's like for us trying to explain about Pierre from Dayton at 6'7" who is a small forward, how physical he is, and how good he is around the basket, and he hurt us doing that.¬† We hadn't seen some of that stuff before.¬† That's what happens in a tournament sometimes.¬† You don't see things personnel‑wise, size, quickness, speed.¬† It's a little bit different when you haven't had a chance to prepare for it.¬† Now playing against UCONN, our guys have seen them before.

Q.  I know how you love to go back, but can we go back to Napier?
COACH DONOVAN:  We'll go as far back as you want.

Q.  Let's go to the Napier shot December 2nd.  Did you guys play that as well as you could, and you look at that as a flukish finish in terms of it's such a bad shot, the guy gets a hand on it and it ends up back in his hands?
COACH DONOVAN:  I look at it a couple of ways.  On that night they were the better team.  They beat us.  They made the plays necessary down the stretch to beat us.  The play by Daniels, the ball going back out to Napier was a great play, but you've got to give him credit that he had the wherewithal just to keep the ball alive.  I don't know if he knew where he was tipping it to.
We, obviously, had really good coverage on Napier on the last shot, and we also had three guys kind of run in.  You've got to give them credit that in the midst of all of that chaos, they made the winning play that was necessary in the game to win the game.
I always say inevitably when a game is over with, I always believe in between the lines the best team wins, and they were the best team that day.

Q.  His first shot, you guys defended his first shot?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† Yes, we did a great job on that.¬† We got him to take a tough, off‑balance shot.¬† Like I said earlier, he does not need a lot of help to get shots off.¬† He's just a terrific offensive player.¬† We got him to take about as difficult of a shot as we could.¬† That's not to say he's incapable of making it.¬† But when you look at it, we made him take a tough shot.¬† We didn't finish the possession off, and to be honest with you, it was two or three possessions before that where we did give up some offensive rebounds.¬† Two of the offensive possessions led to us fouling Napier on a three‑point play that put them up one.¬† We were up by three, fouled them, made the free throw.¬† He came down and scored.¬† We were up by 1 at the time or 2, I don't know what it was, and then they came down and tipped the ball up and obviously beat us.

Q.  I remember it was during the SEC Tournament championship game during the huddle before the final play.  Some of the players referenced the UCONN game saying don't run to the rim.  How much of a reference point has that loss been for you guys this season?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† I think you always learn through wins and losses.¬† I always say as a coach the best way to learn is through winning.¬† In that situation a lot of times it's the second shot that beats you, not the first one.¬† When a shot goes up, the tendency is to want to go in there and want to go rebound.¬† We obviously ran in way too deep.¬† Actually three guys ran in below the free‑throw line, and the ball got punched back out to Napier, and he was left with a wide‑open 15‑foot jumpshot, so hopefully that's something we've learned from.

Q.  A lot of attention will be on Shabazz in this game, but talk did DeAndre Daniels and evaluate his play?  He's been having a good tournament too.
COACH DONOVAN:  He's been great.  He's really improved and gotten better.  He's a versatile forward.  He shoots threes.  He's posting up.  He's long, he's athletic.  He can put it on the floor.  Kevin does a lot of great stuff with him to put him in situations where he can shoot the ball.  He can put it on the floor.  He can play out of the post.  But he's a guy, I think, has progressively gotten better during the course of the season.

Q.  Billy, going into your fourth Final Four, what are some different things you're doing to manage this team going into the weekend, and how have you gotten better doing that?
COACH DONOVAN:  I don't know if there's anything we're doing differently to manage them as much as they don't know what they're in store for.  That's the hardest part is they don't know.  When you don't know, I've got to try to give them what's going to happen, the excitement, the enthusiasm, the length of time that they have to deal with the media, the length of time of open practices and availability.
Like I said, it's no different from the Super Bowl.  There is going to be a lot of different things, and you try to prepare them as best they can so that they understand that they cannot get emotionally drained with dealing with all that we have to deal with.  We've got to still stay and keep our focus on playing, and hopefully through some of my past experiences there I can take them and relay them to them and try to get them to a place where they get bought in and listen and use some of the experiences I've had to help them.

Q.  Billy, Kasey Hill said he's still in pain from his turf toe.  Can you talk about his ability to stick it through and be the tough guy and be able to still be one of the fastest guys on the court?
COACH DONOVAN:  Well, I know turf toe is painful, but come on, we're playing in the Final Four.  He'll be fine.  He's a great kid.  Hopefully his toe will be okay and he'll be able to play.  But I do appreciate him working through that.  He doesn't appear to be in a lot of pain when he's running around out there.  He's moving pretty well.

Q.  You mentioned offensive throws and rebounding won you the game against Dayton, but you only fouled them ten times and they only with went to the line eight.  Can you talk about the discipline of your team throughout the NCAA Tournament just being able to not foul in key situations?
COACH DONOVAN:  I think sometimes the fouling does have to do with the team and how they play.  For Dayton, they were really a four around one kind of team.  Lot of it was perimeter shooting for them.  I think that really helped them advance in the tournament.  They got a lot of transition points and they made a lot of threes, and they improved defensively from where they were earlier in the year to where they are now.
But with the way they ran their offense, we were not having to deal with a lot of post‑up situations.¬† Sometimes you deal with a lot of post‑up situations and the ball is at the rim and there is a lot of offensive rebounding and you're more inclined to foul.¬† So we did a pretty good job of keeping our discipline and not fouling in those situations.

Q.  You're plus 9 in rebounding margin in your last three games and had a pretty good rebounding game the last game against UCONN.  How much does the physicality of your front line play a role in this game, and how important is that going to be on Saturday?
COACH DONOVAN:  I think it's who we are.  But you have to give UCONN credit too now.  UCONN played against a very physical Michigan State team.  Michigan State is a very physical team up front with Payne and the rest of their guys.  They jam it inside.  So I think we're a physical team, but clearly UCONN is a physical team as well when you watch that game.

Q.¬† Is everyone making too much about‑‑ I should watch less TV‑‑ but last night they were talking about Michael Frazier's got to get his shot back.¬† You've talked about that he's doing other things to affect the game in this tournament, correct?
COACH DONOVAN:  Yeah, I think what happens sometimes is we go through a scouting report.  There are things that we're going to try to take away from a team.  We have nothing to do with what a team tries to take away from us.  I said this before, Albany plays a triangle and two on he and Scottie best thing they can do is get out of the way and allow some other guys opportunities to do some things.
I thought coming back in the second game against Pittsburgh he got off nine three‑point shots, and I thought they were all pretty good looks, and he was 2 for 9.¬† There was a game where he got good looks.¬† I thought in the UCLA game he shot the ball very well.¬† Dayton did a good job on him but he did make a couple threes.¬† He missed one late that I thought he had a really good look on.
Michael has to just keep working in transition when the floor gets broken of getting himself open.  But we've never been a team, nor do I believe that when somebody's trying to take a guy out of the game, that the only way we can win is by him scoring.  Now all of our focus is trying to get him shots.  We still have Patric Young.  We have Prather, we have Wilbekin.  We have Dodo coming off the bench.  We have Kasey Hill.  There are enough guys out there that we need to take advantage of whatever the defense is there.
Would I like Michael Frazier to knock down five, six, seven threes a game?  That would be great for us.  That would be great.  But sometimes the defense has something to do with that.  If they are taking him away, the maturity thing we need to understand what else is open.  Sometimes that is the greatest sign of respect for a player is when they try to take you out of the game.  Some teams tried to do that to Michael, but we've still been able to move on and advance by doing different things.
I don't think he responded really well after the Albany game.¬† I don't think he did at all.¬† I think his maturity level got better.¬† Sometimes you sit there and say get Frazier going, get Frazier going, but he's taken by far more threes than anybody.¬† I've told Michael, I think in the Albany game, he was frustrated.¬† I'm not really open.¬† Well, they've got a guy guarding you one‑on‑one.¬† The other three guys are in the zone.¬† But he didn't move past that because then he got nine shots against Pittsburgh that were wide open, and he only made two of them.¬† I think some of it had to do with what he was living in on Thursday against Albany.¬† Instead of being able to move on to the next thing, he was still in that, and that is an area for a young player he needs to get better.¬† He has gotten better from where he was a year or two ago, but he can still get better in that area.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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