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April 2, 2000
Q. To any of the players or Coach Donovan, so much has been made of Michigan State's
older group, senior class especially. Kenyan, I'd like you to talk about being the only
senior on this team. Then to anybody else who can address it, do you guys kind of see him
as the grandfather of the group?
KENYAN WEAKS: I'm just really, really happy to be a part of this basketball team. I'm
the only senior, and, you know, these guys have showed me a great time this year. You
know, I really appreciate it. But Michigan State, they have a lot of seniors, but, you
know, that's not going to win basketball games for them. Our youthfulness has won us a lot
of basketball games this year. I don't know if that's going to be a big problem in the
COACH DONOVAN: Well, obviously, for me, I did not recruit Kenyan and since I've been a
head coach he's been the only player that I've had a chance to coach from his freshman
year to his senior year, so it's great for me to be able to see him finish out his career
playing in the National Championship game and it means a lot to me. Yeah, Michigan State's
a basketball team where they do have a tremendous amount of experience, and depth and
they're a great basketball team. And there's no question about it. I think that they've
proved throughout the course of the season that they can win with or without Mateen
Cleaves. He was hurt for quite a large stretch there in the middle of the year, thought
their guys showed tremendous character, finding a way to win. Obviously when he came back
they didn't miss a beat and probably improved as a basketball team with him on the floor.
Yeah, you got to look at their experience. But I also think that tomorrow night's game,
it's the first time playing a National Championship for both teams. You know, that's the
thing right now, is I think it's new for everybody. So I think like Kenyan said, we're
excited about having the opportunity to play for a National Championship. We've got to go
out, perform and play well because of how good they are.
Q. This is for Mike and Teddy. Michigan State, their last three games, have gone
through some real severe dry spells. They went 12 minutes last night without a field goal
at the end of the first half. Do you feel that if that happens the way tomorrow night, you
have the type of team to take advantage of a dry spell like that and give them the
knockout punch that Iowa State and some of those teams and obviously last night Wisconsin
was not able to do?
MIKE MILLER: I think it's important. We've been a team of runs throughout the whole
tournament. If they're going to get a dry spell, we hit one of our runs, last night, we
went on a run with North Carolina at the beginning of the game 18, 3. Michigan State's
going to fight their way back into it. They're a great basketball team, they're going to
get a dry spell, maybe we can make a run. They're going to make runs back at you. It's a
National Championship game, it's going to be a game of runs the way we play.
TEDDY DUPAY: During the course of the game tomorrow night, both teams will have a
period of the game where they don't shoot well. Dry spell. Like Mike said, there's going
to be times when we do shoot well. It's going to be a game the whole way through.
Q. Would you guys talk about Teddy, what he brings to the team on and off the court.
KENYAN WEAKS: You know, Teddy's a great player. He provides excellent three-point
shooting and, you know, he's one of the guys on the team that tries to get everybody
motivated before the game to go out and play hard. You know, I think every team in the
country needs a guy like Teddy.
MIKE MILLER: I just think Ted's a great competitor, and with his size and the way he
was brought up, it's amazing he's playing at this level. He's got a lot of heart, he's a
great competitor. It makes him a valuable part of our basketball team. He's a great
shooter but a great leader, too.
Q. Billy, so much is made of the chaos or havoc you guys wreak. What's the rhyme or
reason to what you guys do in terms of full court and pressure and all that stuff?
COACH DONOVAN: I think that our style of play is completely misunderstood. People think
that it's just running and jacking up three-point shots. You know, this year probably more
so than any time I've been in Florida we've had a formidable front court to throw the ball
inside to people and they've had the ability to score. But basically what we're trying to
do is limit our turnovers, on the offense then we're trying to get up more shots than our
opponent by turning them over, by offensive rebounding. I think that the three-point line
is revolutionized college basketball, it's changed college basketball, and I think you see
a lot of times teams maybe with a lesser seed in the NCAA Tournament beat a higher seed
because of the three-point line. So although we want to take advantage of the three-point
line, shooting it, I think it's even that much more important to guard the three-point
line. We put a tremendous emphasis on guarding the three-point line. Basically, every team
in the country, when they go to practice, is going to practice their half-court offense.
We try to be as disruptive as possible and take teams out of what they practice on a
regular basis, is in essence what we're trying to do. I realize that Michigan State, with
their experience, we counted I think in the Iowa State game the coaching staff in the
first half they ran 21 different sets. So, you know, they're a basketball team that's
disciplined and they're going to run their stuff. We've got to try to not allow them to
run their stuff by taking them out of that set, scoring, getting our press on, being
disruptive and forcing them to play at a faster tempo than they normally do. I think at
this point in time if you let teams come down and do whatever they want to do, it's very
difficult to stop them.
Q. Billy, the time and effort that was put in to recruiting Mike Miller has been pretty
well chronicled. Can you just discuss how important it was, successfully recruiting him in
terms of what you're trying to build, what you're trying to develop in Florida?
COACH DONOVAN: Mike was a guy that being from South Dakota, had a tremendous reputation
and for us the coaching staff it was a lot of fun recruiting him and fast family and
getting to him and his family, they're great, great people. There's probably not enough
talked about with regards to a guy like Teddy Dupay, who could have gone almost anywhere
in the country who committed sophomore year. I look at Brent Wright, Major Parker, Udonis,
certainly Mike's recognition and the name and all that other stuff has meant a great deal.
The best thing about Mike, to me, is here comes a kid that comes into the University of
Florida with all these hype and expectations, and they're probably could have been
jealousy amongst our team. Our guys wanted to win. Mike came in extremely humble,
coachable, got along with all of our guys very well, he has a great relationship with the
guys from Miami, Matt Bonner from New Hampshire, Donnell Harvey from Georgia, he's a
great, great kid. He's come in, he's gelled and he's meshed and he's never been about
himself. He's always been about winning and wanting to win. I think certainly when we
signed him there was a lot made about him coming from South Dakota, to Florida, but the
reason it's worked so well I think for him, here, has been his make-up, the way he was
brought up by his family, his character as a kid, and I think his desire and his ability
to want to win and then obviously you take into consideration his tremendous feel of how
to play this game.
Q. For Kenyan and Mike, Cleaves obviously is Michigan State's leader on the floor. You
guys substitute so much it really doesn't seem like there's one player for you guys that's
a leader. Is that true or is maybe Coach Donovan sort of the actual leader in the team?
MIKE MILLER: I think we got a lot of leaders, you know, that's what makes our team
special is that, you know, everyone knows their job and their duty when they step on the
court. If they don't know their job and duty, coach is going to plant that job on them and
they're going to do it. I think coach is our main leader, just like Coach Izzo's their
main leader. When you're on the court you have to leaders, too. We definitely look at
Brent Wright, Kenyan Weaks, Major Parker, who coach assigned as our captains. We got ten
guys that are playing. Whenever ten guys are playing you need more than two or three
leaders. Whenever we're out there, I think everyone leads by example and vocally, when
something needs to be done people are going to step up and say it?
TEDDY DUPAY: I think that's what's important about our basketball team. Mateen Cleaves
is a great leader for them. It's been said he has the will to win. I think our team has
the will to win, too. We got ten players that are going to lead ourselves to hopefully
victory. They have a great basketball team. Mateen Cleaves is going to lead them as best
he can. I think they have a lot of other leaders besides him also, so it's just going to
be a great basketball game.
Q. For Billy, Brett and Teddy, the story has kind of come up from time to time this
year about the -- getting benched in Maui. Billy, why did you do it? Brent and Teddy, what
did you learn from it?
COACH DONOVAN: The first thing was I got asked after the game did you intentionally
want to lose the game. I, as a coach, have never intentionally wanted to lose the game.
Bottom line is there are ten other guys on the basketball team that gave me the will and
wanted to win. I think it was just a situation where I maybe myself was doing a poor job
explaining to them or they just weren't getting the message or they had a different
agenda, but it got to be the point where I told them several times what I wanted done with
regards to offense, what I wanted to run, and I gave them both the time to do it and they
didn't do it. So I moved Mike to the point. But I knew that early in the year having a
young basketball team, I think I had a pretty good understanding what it was going to take
to get to the point we're at right now. I felt I needed to nip a lot of those points in
the bud and get those guys to understand their roles and play their roles out to the best
of their ability. And Brett Nelson has been able to be as creative as he possibly can
within the frame work of our system. At times in Maui, it was just him out there by
himself. And Teddy, I think, coming out of high school is a tremendous scorer, was having
a difficult time adjusting with Eddie Shannon being gone, a lot of his playing time last
year came at the two guard shot, when to shoot, when not to shoot, when to run our team.
I'm proud of both of these kids because they've listened to me, we have a tremendous
relationship, they've got better and I'm happy to see them where they're at right now in
their basketball playing careers and how much they've gotten better and improved over the
last five months.
TEDDY DUPAY: You know, I think it was really good for our team. It was a tough time,
you know, from the ego standpoint, you know, to have to sit there and watch the tteam have
a rough second half. But, not only did it get a point across to me and Brett and what he
wanted from us, but it also, you know, indirectly sent a message to the rest of the team
that you guys, look, we're going to have to do this together. We got too many good
players. If you have to worry about things individually for not doing what coach says to
do. A big deal was made of me and Brett, but at the same time I think the message was to
everybody on the team as well.
BRETT NELSON: That was just another learning experience for me. I wasn't doing what
Coach wanted me to do. He sat me on the bench, which was a good thing because it sent a
message to me. He just told me I have to do exactly what he wants. And that was just a
learning experience and just something that I've taken in and I will just do exactly what
he says now.
Q. Mike, since you hit that game winner against Butler, have you allowed yourself to
think even for a second the magnitude of hitting a game winner in a NCAA Championship
MIKE MILLER: Not yet. As far as our team goes, I don't think we've looked back at the
past games yet. I think that's good. If you ever look back at those games, maybe you
become complacent. That's one thing we don't want to do as a team. When it's said and done
after Monday night, win or lose, we'll sit back and reflect on the tournament. I know that
will be a special moment for me and it always be. But right now we're concentrating on
Michigan State and that's probably, you know, the Butler game was a game that really
propelled us in the tournament but it's a game that we have to keep in the past for now
until Monday's game over and then we can reflect on that.
Q. Billy, as a head coach you've definitely been on the fast track. Has it sunk in
you're only 40 minutes from a National Championship?
COACH DONOVAN: You know, it's amazing. Everybody keeps saying the same thing, I've had
a chance to be a part of a couple Final Fours before this point, to enjoy it. Right now, I
don't want to enjoy it. I want to exhaust every possible avenue I have as a coach to try
to put these guys in the best possible position to win. I think time to enjoy and reflect
back on the year as Mike alluded to is when the season's over with. The only reason I'm
sitting up here in the position I'm in right now is because of the guys that are next to
me and the players. These guys that bought into a system, they've been extremely
coachable, they have tremendous character, these guys are the ones that got it done. I
just basically taught them the system, tried to get them to play unselfishly together as a
team, try to use a style of play that I thought was very, very unique and difficult to go
against, and I'm just happy for these guys and I think I have a tremendous amount of
appreciation now for this experience. And the fact that I can share it with these guys and
now they're going to have a chance to be a part of something obviously is very, very,
special. I haven't focused on the fact that we're 40 minutes away from a National
Championship. Probably more we're playing Michigan State and what we have to do to try to
Q. Udonis, Michigan State goes very aggressively to the offensive board, usually sends
four people to the offensive board, as well as you guys run, if you rebound well
defensively, can't you create some opportunities for yourselves?
UDONIS HASLEM: Well, I think we definitely try to start our break off rebound. They
send a lot of guys to the glass and I think throughout this tournament we've been doing a
pretty good job of getting to the glass and starting a break. I don't see why it should be
any different against Michigan State. They go pretty big. We've got pretty big guys. Mike
leads us in rebounding at three guards. We definitely want to try to get to the backboards
so we can start a break and get the game up-and-down.
Q. Coach, your bench scored at least four points, guys one through ten last night.
Michigan State has a talented bench but other than Chappell, nobody scored consistently
for them this year. How do you exploit that advantage tomorrow night?
COACH DONOVAN: You know, I really don't worry about other teams' bench. That's not any
knock on Michigan State's bench. I think what I worry more about is personnel. Who's
coming off that bench and what is their best asset and strength and when they do come into
the game make can sure our guys understand that is guy's a shooter, post player,
rebounder, whatever it may be. But we're going to do, we're going to play our guys like we
normally have, and you know, I don't know if we'll be able to wear Michigan State down.
They're deeper than maybe some teams we've played up to this point in time. Seniors --
probably can handle 40 minutes the way we're going to play. But I think for us right now,
we have just got to try to play, again, our style of play with tweaking and making
adjustments and preparation and today's a tough day, because you talk about, again, a very
limited amount of time. And having our guys understand their assignments and what we've
got to do. I've got a respect level for all their guys they bring off the bench but I
think it's more important, not their bench depth, but what they do when they come into the
game. Like last night with Max Owens, okay, it's not concern about Carolina's bench, I was
concerned about Max Owens coming off the bench and knocking down three-point shots off us.
We needed to understand we could not give him a wide-open, three-point shot. Carolina late
in the game, six, seven point game with two or three to go, they put him in that game. Our
guys didn't understand what he could do coming off the bench. So whenever they sub, we
have to understand who's coming in.
Q. This is for Billy and Teddy, so often you hear about running-gun pressure,
up-and-down, threes. Sometimes the men down low can be overlooked and underrated. Can both
of you talk about how much Udonis has grown and what he means to this team as a player and
as a person?
COACH DONOVAN: I think Udonis is as good as any front court player in America,
especially scoring. He's got great hands, has tremendous post moves. The best part about
his game is his feel from the low post. He doesn't really force very many shots he makes
the game easier on our perimeter guys. And, again, I alluded to this a little bit earlier.
The mentality is that we just come down and hoist up three-point shots. You know, we don't
take nearly as many three-point shots this year, we did my first year. My first year at
Florida we had no front-court players -- we had to let them go. We had to take 30 a game
to get ourselves in a position to win. With Donnell Harvey and Brent Wright and Matt
Bonner, we have four guys that I feel very, very comfortable with throwing the ball inside
to. Good things happen when those guys get the ball inside. So what he has done and the
rest of our front court guys have done, they have made the game easier on our perimeter
guys. And, you know, I'm proud the way Udonis has stepped up and performed and played. To
me, he doesn't get enough credit. Our front court players don't get enough credit. They
are the ones that really start things off. People don't understand what Brent Wright and
Matt Bonner go through from a physical standpoint. Those guys are the front men on the
press, chasing around guys like Jason Williams from Duke, Cota, Doug Gottlieb, they got to
go rebound, outlet, set pick-and-rolls, the physical demands on our front court players
are extremely demanding on these guys. I don't know if there's an appreciation for the
type of shape these guys are in and what they do on a consistent basis night in and night
out. Certainly our perimeter guys get a lot of publicity and things like that. But these
guys, the post guys make the game much easier for our perimeter guys.
Q. Billy, Mike and Brett, same question that was asked of the Michigan State players
and Coach Izzo this morning. None of the four teams shot well this morning. Can you
contribute some of that to the environment of the dome and not being used to shooting the
space behind the basket?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I know playing in the Superdome when I was a player, it's
obviously a little bit different. I don't think that we have any excuses because we played
two games in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse where we shot the ball pretty well. I thought
part of our lack of shooting yesterday was part due to Carolina playing good defense, part
due to the fact that at times our shot selection was not great. I thought when we had good
looks at the basket our guys were able to knock shots down. We don't have any excuses.
We've had a chance, again, to play two games in Syracuse in a dome setting before coming
here to Indianapolis.
BRETT NELSON: I don't think it was a dome setting. We played in the Georgia Dome, SEC
Tournament and Carrier Dome. I think it was, myself included, we were taking a few bad
three-point shots and some bad shots when we got open looks. Like Coach said, we were
knocking them down. Plus North Carolina, they went into that zone, that was a pretty good
zone. We were taking contested shots.
MIKE MILLER: We've had experience in the dome setting. You know, we have no excuses.
You know, the Michigan State-Wisconsin game was just a Big Ten matchup, banging around and
the shots weren't falling for them. I don't think for any of the four teams it can be a
real excuse. You know, tomorrow night's game hopefully the shooting will pick up for our
team, but, you know, like I said, there's no excuses made here.
Q. Billy, in some of your regular season National TV games against Arkansas and
Kentucky and some of the other teams I don't remember you guys pressing as much as you
guys do. Have you stepped it up in terms of the press with this tournament and if so, why?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, a lot of times within your league the officiating has a tendency
to challenge a little bit and certainly for us pressing without fouling is a major key.
For us when we played against Arkansas, I think we like to play fast. They play at warp
speed compared to us. It's very, very difficult and I mean that is a tremendous compliment
to Nolan Richardson, because his system and the way they play is very, very difficult to
go against. And I think the press gets the game going up tempo for us. I think against
Arkansas, there wasn't a need to press because the game was going to go up-and-down
because that's the way they want to play too. But there's times that based on scouting and
reports that we have not pressed. I can't sit here and tell you that we're going to start
with the press tomorrow. We may not press Michigan State to start the game tomorrow. A lot
is going to depend on our film and our break down and try to put our guyss in the best
position to win. So we go from game to game of what we're going to do with regards to our
Q. This is for Mike and for Teddy. Did you guys ever even buy into the notion that the
team comprised of freshmen and sophomores couldn't make it this far?
TEDDY DUPAY: No. I don't think so. You know, of course you look at a lot of, you know,
past champions, they've had juniors and seniors as a majority of their team. But still
have been good teams with freshmen and sophomores, they just haven't been able to get a
break here or there. We've got a break against Butler and played really well since then.
By this time, I don't think experience is any kind of an issue, to tell you the truth. I
think the game is going to be played between the lines. Players are going to have to make
Q. This is a two-part question. First for coach, I'm wondering if you feel a little bit
like destiny's child because of the close call in the opening round against Butler, the
fact is you survived. The second part is for Mike Miller, how strange was it, Mike, to
practice in Butler's gymnasium after what you did to them?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, you know, everybody makes a big point about the Butler game, I'll
be the first one to tell you that instead of sitting up here today I could be sitting at
home or on the road recruiting. So I understand how fragile this whole thing is right now.
But I also realize, too, that if you go through basically every team that's won a National
Championship, there's been that game. You know, I look back at UCLA with Tyus Edny making
his shot at the buzzer against I think Missouri. Everybody has close games. Coach
Guthridge was talking about the four games he played in to get to the Final Four, either
one of those games could have gone either way. You have to have a little luck on your
side, you have to execute, you have to try to do those things. No question about it. I
think we're very, very fortunate to be here. I realize we could be sitting at home. I
think that game gave our guys a tremendous sense of energy and emotion of you
understanding of how fragile this whole thing is and how you can be sitting home at the
blink of an eye.
MIKE MILLER: I just think it shows a lot of class in what Butler did. They allowed us
to go in there and practice on their floor after, you know, a game which a lot of people
thought, you know, they should have won. They're, you know, up 7 with two minutes to play
in overtime, up three with, you know, 30 seconds to play. So I think it just gives them a
lot of class and, you know, to say how do I feel after what we did to them, it's a
difficult question to answer right now. So I just, you know, have to thank Butler for
letting us even practice there. It was a good opportunity for us to prepare for North
Q. Bill, you got 87 minutes out of your nonstarters last night. That's 50 more minutes
than Michigan State got. Would you use this many players that much off the bench if they
weren't quite as good as they are?
COACH DONOVAN: I think a couple things. One is if you take the national scoring average
and then you factor in to what the scoring average is in the NCAA Tournament, there's
generally about a ten-point differential. Part of the reason by us wanting to run and
press is I try to take away the anxiety and feeling that every possession is life and
death to get these guys to go up-and-down, play fearlessly, confidently, to try to go out
there and win the game. To answer your question, every coach has 13 scholarships. We don't
have 13 players on scholarship. I elect every single game to play those guys because I
have confidence in them. I have confidence in every single guy on our team. And I realize
that your bench is important because if somebody gets hurt throughout the course of the
season or somebody gets in foul trouble, I want that guy to know that when he's walking on
the floor to step into the game that he is somebody that can handle that, not say, geez,
Coach hasn't put me in all year long, now he's throwing me in because this guy's hurt or
in foul trouble. To me, I try to give the guys coming off our bench confidence. I don't
look at us as a starting five, a second five. We have ten players that play. And any one
of them, I'd have confidence in starting and any one of them could play more minutes than
the other guy. It calls on the situation, what we're trying to do, where we think we have
advantages offensively, what we need to do defensively. But I have confidence. I think
every coach elects whether or not to play their bench. That's a coach's decision. I elect
to play them.
Q. Teddy and Udonis, after the first weekend Michigan State has pretty much been the
prohibitive favorite of this tournament. Do you have an underdog mentality going into this
UDONIS HASLEM: To be honest, we're kind of an underdog for every game. We weren't
supposed to beat Duke, Oklahoma State, we're not even supposed to be here. We definitely
feel we're supposed to be here but at the same time we're no better than anybody else. I
think we got it going, get up-and-down, do things that we do that made us successful.
TEDDY DUPAY: I'd say pretty much the same thing. Even though we won some games here, I
think people are still kind of doubting us, saying you can't press, why do you guys play
ten players, I just remember, you know, before the Butler game, we were 5 seed, they're a
12 seed, people were still picking us to lose that game. Granted, we were really close to
it, but pretty much the whole way, people have been kind of, you know, the consensus has
been against us. I don't think we're, you know, taking that in vain. I just think right
now Michigan State's the favorite, they're the highest seed, higher-ranked team, but
they'll tell you the same thing. It really doesn't matter once we get out there on the
Q. This is first for Mike, then if Teddy and Udonis can sound off on this -- Mike, you
guys are obviously a very balanced team and there's no star in this system, but you hit
the shot against Butler, most outstanding player of the region. Could you describe your
role on this team? And if Teddy and Udonis can talk about Mike's influence and his impact
on this team.
MIKE MILLER: My role is just to be a consistent basketball player for this team. If,
you know, I go out there and play consistently, you know, help rebound, not necessarily
score, just get people involved, I think the one thing that's most important about our
basketball team, if you look at it, against Duke I shoot 2 for 9. I play, you know, I --
against North Carolina last night I'm 3 for 13. We still win those basketball games
against very good basketball teams. That just goes to show that I'm not the -- I'm not
just the man on this team. There's so many good basketball players on this team that can
do a lot of things. The one thing I've learned and one thing Coach has done a good job
with me about, regardless of how I score, there's a lot more ways I can affect the game of
basketball. If that's the rebound or if that's the, you know, set people up for shots, you
just got to always be -- have the mindset that while you're out there you have to help
this basketball team. That's the way I've kind of looked at it through this tournament. I
have to give credit to my teammates. They've stepped up and done a lot of special things
for this tournament. I was fortunate enough to hit the shot against Butler, moved us on
and propelled us through the tournament. Without these guys sitting next to me and the
rest of the other guys, you know, we have no shot of winning.
TEDDY DUPAY: I'd say the same thing. He influences the game in so many ways. Of course
he's going to get a lot of attention because he's so skilled, he can make a case for him
being the most skilled player in the country. So, you know, he's going to draw a lot of
attention on team scouting reports and a lot of the media attention because he's so
skilled, but he influences the game in so many other ways that you really, you can't key
on him because he'll get other people shots, he'll rebound, he'll hurt you in other ways.
UDONIS HASLEM: I agree with those guys. Definitely have a lot of parity on this team.
If it comes down to it, you definitely want the ball in Mike's hands, he can do so many
things with it, get guys shots, penetrate, shoot a floater like he did in the Butler game,
rebound. He does a lot of things for us.
COACH DONOVAN: Or pass it to you.
UDONIS HASLEM: Or pass it to me, which I like when he does. (Laughter.)
Q. This is for Mike Miller or any other guys that want to answer it. A question sort of
on the same lines. With so many different players capable of doing so many things on this
team and using ten players all the time in different people stepping up every night, does
that take -- does that relieve a lot of the pressure that's involved in some of these
high-profile games because no one guy feels a burden to do something?
MIKE MILLER: I think it definitely helps. But when it gets down to it, someone's got to
step up and do something special. I think with our basketball team we have a lot of guys
that can step up and do something special. If I had all the weight on my shoulder, would
it be a lot more pressure? Of course it would. But right now we have -- I have the
pressure evened out. We got a lot of guys that can do a lot of special things. Any night
someone can step up and do a lot of things. The one thing I think you got to look at with
our basketball team, we're going to have five, six guys in double figures every night.
That's the thing that's really scary, if a team's looking at us, of who to stop and who
not to stop. Well, I know there's a lot of people in this team that can go out, get 20, 25
points, I think the scariest thing about it is there's six, seven, eight, nine, ten guys
that can come out and get 12, 14 points which is a lot harder than stopping a guy that
gets 20 points. If you look at a real good basketball team, sometimes a defense will come
in there and say we'll let him get his 20 points if we can stop, you know, their second
scorer and their third scorer and let their No. 1 scorer get 25 points, we can still win
this basketball game. With us, you can shut me down, but then you got to shut down another
nine players. So that's important.
Q. Bill, I'm told and I've read that Rick Pitino did not encourage you -- was not
encouraging you about taking this position. I wonder if others felt likewise, and what did
you see in Florida and did it take a leap of faith for you to do this?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, you know, I think Coach Pitino's mindset was two years before the
job opened they were in a Final Four and I think they had maybe won twelve games, and had
a good recruiting class and he just thought that maybe expectations were at a point where
they were expecting to get right back to a Final Four. And then for myself, having a
chance to talk to Jeremy Foley, our Athletic Director, find out where his mindset was at,
where the program was, made me feel comfortable and put things in perspective when I was
at Kentucky as an assistant coach, one of my scouts, when you were able to go on the road
and watch teams play, I had Florida. I got a chance to go to Gainesville and watch games
in the O'Connell Center we always felt as a coaching staff it was one of the more
difficult places to play in. The crowd was on top of you, students were involved. We spent
a lot of time recruiting the State of Florida when I was at Kentucky. Certainly been a lot
of great ones that have come out of that state. I don't think it was a leap of faith. I
think I certainly put my trust in Dr. Lombardo, who was the acting president at that time,
and Jeremy Foley, the AD, I put a lot of trust in those people. But I felt with the right
resources that certainly we could build something at Florida.
Q. Billy, you guys played a veteran point guard last night in Cota, you'll be playing
one obviously tonight. I'm just wondering if you feel like your kids got any benefit out
of learning how to handle that type of player?
COACH DONOVAN: I thought last night Ed Cota did a great job against our press. We had a
very difficult time guarding him. He handled the ball, split traps. Mateen Cleaves, I
think because of his competitiveness and his will, he'll be another challenging guy for us
to try to press. The mentality that we used against Carolina was use your legs to wear
down their legs. And the big thing with Mateen Cleaves is you can't reach on him, you got
to do a good job moving your feet because he's just, again, like Cota, too crafty with the
ball, he just does too many things. The problem for us with him, when you try to trap him
and take him out of the game is Granger, Mo Peterson, Charlie Bell, three-point shooters
that he's able to find. When we trapped Cota and Forte, there were not a lot of
three-point shooters. Carolina in the NCAA Tournament was only averaging ten three-point
field goals attempted per game. I think Michigan State is capable of taking a lot more
than ten. So we may be able to learn something from playing against Ed Cota but I think
Mateen is a little bit different than Ed and the players around him are different than
players at North Carolina.
Q. How much of what you do can be traced back to Frank Morrison in High School?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, you -- that brings back some memories, that comment there. I think
a lot. I obviously was played in this system, as a high school kid, and then going to
college. I also had a chance to play for Joe Melaney when I played with Otis Tharp
(phonetic) my first two years at Providence, it was a very, very slow methodical way we
played and rightfully so we had a such great player in Otis because he needed to get the
ball to play. I wasn't -- Frank Morrison has played a major role in me getting into
coaching, my philosophy, my mentality. It's great to have him in the State of Florida,
coaching at Mariner High School, I get to see him more and talk to him more about the game
Q. Billy, how much do you resent the perception that Florida is this helter skelter
team that operates as kind of a one-trick pony off the press when you believe deeply that
there's more to it than that?
COACH DONOVAN: I think it's great. To me, I don't have any resentfulness at all towards
it. I know that our style of play is a fun, exciting style of play to play. I know and
I've said this before, I think it's a lot more difficult as a coach coaching in this style
than any other style, because of the room for error in your press with pushing the
basketball like we do. But, no, I have no resentment at all. I think you've got a lot of
different people, there's probably a lot of coaches out there that really, really are.
Look at a guy like Dick Bennett, I've got the utmost respect for Dick Bennett as a coach.
His personality would not allow him to play the way we play. My personality would not
allow our teams to play the way Wisconsin plays. I think the biggest thing is, the it's
not resentment, in order for anybody to have an opinion, coach, media person, a fan,
whatever it might be, it means you're convicted in a certain situation. I am totally, 100
percent convicted in this style of play. And that's what I believe in. I think, you know,
Bobby Knight's convicted in his style of play. Bill Guthridge, Dean Smith, those guys are
convicted in their style of play. That's what makes those programs great because of their
conviction in a style of play and as a coach selling the system to your players and
getting your players to buy in. So I know our guys love playing this way. I think it's the
way to play the game. There's probably other coaches and people who think the game should
be played differently.
Q. Coach, just along those lines, if you did have a couple of seven-footers and you did
have a strong forwards complementing those in terms of size, much slower team that wanted
to -- that was more suited for half court, would you learn to enjoy it and would you enjoy
it as much as what you're doing now? Or would basketball be something less for you if you
were forced to play it that way?
COACH DONOVAN: No, not at all. I mean I have no problem, I mean we've got a -- if you
look at our system and our games, I mean the Butler game that we won was strictly a
half-court game. You know, we have played both ways this year. I can't sit here and tell
you that every team that we've played against we've forced an up-tempo style of play. It
has been that way. There's been games where it's been half court. You have to play
half-court. You know, we're not averaging 95 points a game in the NCAA Tournament right
now. We're averaging probably quite a few points less than our 85 points per game this
season. We have been forced and have had to play this way. If I had Brendan Haywood, I
would not be running and pressing, the ball would be going down inside to him and we would
be doing those things. The beauty about being in college is you have a chance to go out
and recruit to your system. And that's what I've tried to do. I am a big, big believer
that you cannot get to this point that we're at right now if you can't shoot. Nonshooting
teams don't win. You've got to be able to shoot and to me you always have to have, the
fewest, three. Ideal situation: Four three-point shooters on the floor. Because when
people talk about spacing and going inside to your big guys, if you have no perimeter
shooters it's no good. They're going to pack it in. So you could have a guy like Brendan
Haywood but if you don't have four guys around that can shoot the basketball, he's
completely neutralized because no one guards your perimeter. We have a balance, we have a
post game and we have a three-point shooting game, as does Michigan State, as did North
Carolina. The reason why Wisconsin got to the Final Four was because of the way they shot
the ball from the three-point line and then obviously their staple, their defense. I don't
think enough was made about how well Wisconsin shot the ball from the three-point line.
The three-point line is the whole key, to me, in advancing or getting knocked out in the
NCAA Tournament. You've got to have both. If you can't shoot, you can't advance. If you
have a bad shooting night and the team has a good shooting night, chances are you may go
home. That's what makes Duke so good. They put five guys out there sometimes that can
shoot the three. It's difficult to guard. Duke's a team to me that doesn't have that
7-footer, we would certainly make adjustments. In college, with the zone, it's more
difficult to take away a front-court player because of changing defenses, collapsing
defenses, no zoning rules like the NBA if you don't have any shooters in the perimeter.
Q. Dupay talked about the way you're able to motivate the players, they can almost
taste it. One, what is your technique? Number two, how do you feel about being described
as one of these new breed coaches? Do you take pride in it?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I think when a season starts, there's so many great coaches,
there's so much great players and there's so many great teams out there, I think the
mental part of the game, the mental makeup of the game, I've always been very, very
intrigued about the mental confidence of a Michael Jordan, why is it that he has that will
to win? What is it in him? And what -- how do you get players to have that mindset? I've
always been a guy that's been a big motivational reader and a lot of different people and
a lot of different things. I think that that's a big part of coaching, is getting the best
out of your players. And obviously you got to know the Xs and Os part of it, that's
certainly a big deal. But you also have to the motivating to bring the best out of the
players. I think you have to have both things. I'm not a psychology major so I try to do
the best job I can reading up and just finding different ways and different tactics to try
to motivate these guys, people gather at this event, but people don't realize, I've been
with these guys coaching them since August 1st when we had individual workouts in groups
of three. We're already in April. It's a long year. I mean I run out of stuff to pull out
of the hat sometimes to motivate these guys so I have to try to think about different
things. With regards to being a new breed coach, I really have never looked at it that
way. I think that I've been fortunate to be around a lot of good coaches and a lot of good
people throughout my life. I think God has blessed me and put me in this situation to have
a chance to coach these kids and hopefully contribute to their lives but I don't look at
myself as being maybe a new breed coach. I think people maybe say that because of being 34
Q. Billy, you're surprised that your team was as fatigued as it was against Oklahoma
State after a tough Duke game. You had a tough game last night. Is that going to be a
concern for you going against Michigan State?
COACH DONOVAN: No question. I think that it definitely is. You are always concerned
about that. You're concerned about the emotional, the emotional drainage that your team
goes through throughout the course of the -- of this -- this Final Four. There's a lot of
things. I think that this game, because of the limited time for preparation, that a lot of
this is going to take, for both teams, a tremendous amount of mental toughness, character,
heart and guts. You know, it's going to be that way for both teams. But that's certainly
concerns me. We've got to practice here at 2:30 this afternoon, I think we got to make
sure that mentally and physically we can do the best job we can as a coaching staff to
make sure these guys are fresh for tomorrow night.
Q. On the lines of the motivation, Billy, Friday night you took them to see Rudy?
COACH DONOVAN: We brought it in.
Q. Last week I think it was the Ali-Foreman fight. Why those types of films and what
goes through your mind when you're trying to think of this type of thing?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, because I think it's all about perception, and everybody said that
we could not get to this point in the season. No one felt that we could get there. People
thought that maybe we were a year away from getting there. So I think the Ali thing was a
situation where he's fighting George Foreman and the whole story was about how Ali,
everybody gave him no chance. Obviously Rudy, was a situation where I think I wanted to
display that kid's hunger just to play two downs for Notre Dame football. That's how
important it was to him in all the stuff he went through to get to that point in time. I
think I've put those situations in front of our guys, that they can see what a hunger,
what a passion, what a desire has for a human being when they want something or try to
accomplish something. So it's been more along those lines.
Q. Yeah, Billy, the story going around is that when Rick came from the Knicks to
Kentucky and you talked to him about coming and he discouraged you from coming into
coaching, is that true? If it is true, why didn't you listen to him? And have you ever
thought about how your life would be different if you had listened to him?
COACH DONOVAN: No, he definitely did not want me getting into coaching. He told me I
was too nice and that wouldn't be a good thing for me. I had a chance to experience
working on Wall Street for a while, and just could not see myself doing that for the rest
of my life. I looked at the people that impacted my life the most besides my mother and my
father, it was coaches that I played for. And I'm obviously thankful that I got into
coaching because I'd probably be very, very unhappy this day if I wasn't coaching. I
certainly owe a lot to Coach Pitino for allowing me the opportunity to go to Kentucky. I
think in the beginning maybe he wanted to see how sincere I was. Was I just trying to buy
time or was this something I really wanted to do as a profession?
Q. Billy, just to go back to style of play for a minute. A lot has been made about that
style as being the supposed style of the future. But it seems founded on pretty old-school
values when you look at unselfishness, rebounding. Talk about that a little bit?
COACH DONOVAN: No question. The thing I take a tremendous amount of pride in is the
last couple years our basketball team has led the SEC in assists. We talk about making the
extra pass all the time, playing unselfishly, rebounding, all the fundamental things. I
think sometimes when people don't play as far as we do and they play half-court, those
things are brought to the forefront a lot more. Solid defensive team, great rebounding
team, unselfish, I think any good basketball team has all those ingredients. All we're
doing is trying to get easy baskets in transition. You know, do things that are maybe a
little bit unconventional but still we've got to rebound the basketball, we've got to play
unselfishly, we still have got to screen and execute, our guys need to run their lanes in
the fast break we need to get into the press, help each other, we try to step up and draw
charges. I think all the fundamental aspects of the game of basketball, we're do doing,
we're just doing them at a faster rate.
Q. Billy, could you talk about the time and effort that you take in recruiting?
COACH DONOVAN: I think any program, it was interesting because I went to a dinner on
Thursday night and Coach Wooden had a chance to talk, and he talked about his ten
Championships. He said, "You want to know how come I have ten National Championships,
it's because I had real good players." And you got to have good players, they've got
to be coached, they've got to be disciplined, they've got to want to be part of a team,
they've got to play unselfishly. If you look at the tradition-laden programs, you look at
North Carolina, you think about Michael Jordan and James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Walter
Davis, the list goes on and on and on, they've had over the years, great players and
they've had great coaching. You look at Duke, over the last 20 years since Coach
Krzyzewski what's been there with Grant Hill, Tommy Amaker, Johnny Dawkins, Danny Ferry,
they've had great players and great coaching. So to me, because maybe Florida's program
wasn't tradition-laden, I obviously -- people told me I could not recruit players to
Florida. We could not get guys there. So we've been able to do that and I think that we've
done a pretty good job coaching them and getting them to play as a team and getting them
to play unselfishly. But the back bone of any program is your ability to go out and
recruit and bring quality kids, quality people to your institution.
Q. Billy, what do you see as the two or three or four keys to tomorrow night's game?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, first thing is we've got to rebound the basketball, Carolina
really hurt us on the defensive glass. They really pounded the backboard. I felt like I'm
watching the game, Michigan State really hurt Wisconsin pounding the offensive glass. We
have to rebound the basketball. The other thing that we've got to do is we've got to be
able to get high-percentage shots against their defense. They're a very physical
basketball team who plays great sound, solid defense. We've got to get back in transition
because Mateen Cleaves with the ball in his hands at the open floor is terrific in pushing
the pace of the game and creating shots. Personnel-wise, keep Mateen out of the way, limit
three-point opportunities Peterson gets. Front court Granger is a great step-back,
three-point shooter, limit the amount of times he gets threes off Hutson up front. Their
whole team, there's a lot of things we have to do against their personnel so they're not
in a position to win.
Q. Billy, you've had two back-to-back, top-five recruiting classes. You have all this
talent, you could have all this ego, too, as far as these players with a lot of high
school credentials. How do you keep them under control and mesh? Is that something you've
learned with Rick Pitino?
COACH DONOVAN: It's a constant sales job. And you sell winning all the time. And I
wasn't on the staff the year Coach Pitino won the National Championship, I think it was
'96. Certainly I think they had more depth and talent than we did. Like most competitive
kids, they want to play 40 minutes a game and they never get tired, they never want to
come out. But you have to talk in terms of winning and utilizing what you have. And that,
for us, has been a constant battle. I shouldn't say it's been a battle, it's been a
constant process of getting them to understand the system and teach the system. For me,
you know, earlier in my career, I was at Marshall, I had eight seniors, I had to teach the
system. I had eight seniors left, I was there, whole new team had to teach the system.
Then I go to Florida, had to reteach the system again. And then obviously last year we got
some guys coming back but a lot of new players coming in, different ropes, teach the
system again. It's been a process of trying to get these guys. I also think, too, we have
high-character kids who are about the right things. They're not ego-driven, they don't
want to -- it's not all about them. They want to be part of a team and win, plus you also
got to understand, too, a guy like Mike Miller, he came here because he wanted to play
right away but he also wanted to win, too. A lot of people told him he should not have
come here. For him, he wants to win and Dupay -- these guys want to win. Winning is a high
priority for these kids.
Q. Billy, you know all about how you're influenced by Rick and the things that, you
know, he preaches. Watching your team, I get the sense there is a little bit of Tarkanian
Vegas flavor from the late '80s and '90s. Is that true? And if so, why does it work with
the group of kids and the system you're trying to play?
COACH DONOVAN: When you talk about Tark, whatt are you talking in terms of (Laughter.)
Q. On the court. (Laughter.)
COACH DONOVAN: As far as what? As far as defensively?
Q. Your style of play and the way you -- pressing defense and try to score in
COACH DONOVAN: I feel, and I have a tremendous respect for Jerry Tarkanian, he's a
great coach. I didn't know what you meant, his staple defense, I wasn't talking about him
running or offense or defense. Defensively, they break down the defense better than
anybody in America. If there was one thing I'd love to take or be compared to is how hard
his teams played when he was at Vegas. They played with tremendous intensity, tremendous
pride and really played hard. I have not been around their program enough or in enough
practices to say there are similarities there. It would be difficult for me to do it. But
we try to get after it defensively like they do, I don't know, I can't tell you we do as
good a job because I think they've got it broken down to a science as well as anybody.
Q. No influence?
COACH DONOVAN: His influencing me? No, no.
Q. Billy, speaking of influence, how much of what happened those first few weeks when
Pitino came and you had to go from the style that Melaney played to what Rick was doing,
how much is that still part of what you're doing now, "Oh, I?
COACH DONOVAN: Oh, I think it's huge. As the style I was playing in Providence as a
player, I could not have played there for four years. Because my athletic ability got
exploited. Teddy Dupay could not be playing at Florida if we played in the 40s and 50s.
He's not athletic enough to do the things that he does. So for me, I had a chance to play
in a very, very deliberate, slow-down style of play and it wasn't good for me. It was
probably good for some other people. So I think that's had a tremendous -- my past
experience as a player, going through it in a slow-down system compared to going to an
up-tempo, I've had a chance to play in both. I will say this, the reason I went to
Providence College was because of Joe Melaney. I have a tremendous amount of respect for
him as a coach and what he did. For me individually, that was the best style for me. I had
a tough time in the Big East against David Wingate, Reggie Williams, Mark Jackson and
Willie Glass. I couldn't get my game off. I couldn't play at that level. Once coach Pitino
came in and the floor got broken and opened up and there was broken plays, I could now do
maybe what I was able to do best.
Q. A lot of the talent that you have, chances are you're not going to get to coach
until they're seniors. I'd like to know, first off, how concerned you are about kids
coming out and what's your general philosophies on that?
COACH DONOVAN: I'm always concerned about it. I think there's been too much made about
our talent level. Mike Miller, obviously, some day is going to play in the NBA. I just
don't know if any of our guys are emotionally ready for that right now. I think Donnell
Harvey has a chance to play in the NBA. Outside of those two guys, Brett Nelson, are there
any lottery picks on our team right now? I don't see it. I look at, you know, going
against, you know, Duke's basketball team and some other teams that we've played against,
I just don't see us being like Duke was last year, the Kentucky team in '96. We have very
good players, I can't sit here and tell you we have five lottery picks on our team. We may
only have two or three guys playing in the NBA from this team. But at the same point, I
would not recruit a kid if the kid's total focus was he was using college to get to the
NBA and college was a stepping stone for hey, this is about me, how many shots am I going
to get, how many points am I going to get, am I going to be able to improve my status with
the NBA. There's certainly a problem with guys leaving early. It hurts the game. I'd like
to see us do something baseball does, once a guy goes on campus, he has to stay for three
years. That's better emotionally, mentally, socially. It's hard to argue with a kid going
pro right out of high school, his family doesn't have to work a day in their life after
that. I don't know what you can do to combat that.
Q. Billy, Rick was 34, maybe 35 when he took your Providence team to that Final Four.
What did you learn from watching him as one of the youngest coaches ever to go through it?
Also, have you talked to him over the last couple weeks about this experience?
COACH DONOVAN: You know, it's amazing. I look back on it now because I'm 34 and when I
was playing in the Final Four in '87, he was obviously young. I guess the way he came
across, we all seemed like he was this wise old man. You know, even though he was 34. I
don't think we ever really looked at Coach Pitino as being a young coach. I know people
talked about that, that he was a young coach. As a team, we never looked at him as being a
young coach. We looked at him as being our coach. I've heard from him through faxes. I got
a message today that he's going to be coming in tonight. I have not spoken to him. I spoke
to him after we played Oklahoma State. I spoke to him right after we beat Duke, briefly. I
understand with the NBA and his schedule it's certainly difficult with them travelling to
speak him on a regular basis.
Q. Billy, I apologize if you've answered this already, I was out of this room for a
while. The question you were asked earlier about sitting Brett and Teddy out in Maui, did
you ever go through anything like that playing for Pitino and if you can recall what your
emotions were at the time it happened.
COACH DONOVAN: No, he certainly has had a few choice words over the years for me while
I was playing for him, I'll tell you that. You know, he's threatened to sit me, but never
really did. I think as a player I tried to do everything I was asked to do. So does Teddy
and Brett, I'm not trying to say they don't. He certainly got on me as a player, I will
say that. He drove me and he motivated me. If I wasn't doing what I was told to do, it was
certainly a -- he would take me out of the game or he would do something. I don't recall
him sitting me for a half like I did to Teddy and Brett.
Q. Coach, two-part question. You mentioned you had a chance to hear John Wooden speak
and it's been 25 years since Wooden won his last title. What lessons are still relevant to
you from John Wooden? Secondly, you showed your guys Rudy on Friday. What are you planning
to show them tonight?
COACH DONOVAN: I don't know yet about what we'll show them tonight. You know, the thing
about Coach Wooden to me, just listening to him speak, I believe he's 89 years old right
now, is I think the principles that made him so successful when he was coaching in the
'70s are still the same principles that make people today, basketball teams today
successful. Certainly he must have been way ahead of his time when he was coaching. But
when I listen to him speak, it's always in terms of the team, unselfishness, playing
together, and the biggest thing I think that he -- that he presented to his team was and
even Bill Walton said when he introduced him, there was never, ever a doubt that UCLA was
losing. They just weren't losing. Obviously that stems from him as a coach. I really
marveled having a chance to listen to him talk about some of his values and some of his
things. Certainly he's been a tremendous ambassador to this basketball game with what he's
accomplished and what -- the things that was so special was when Bill Walton did not even
talk a lot about his coaching but talked about him serving other people. And I think
that's what you're really in coaching for -- that's what you're in life for, to help other
people. The way he sacrificed his life for other people. Obviously he's a very spiritual
guy. I said before, God has provided me this opportunity, I think job is to help these
kids. It was really moving for me to listen to him talk.
Q. There's been so much talk about your press and about your three-point shooting. But
it seems like an overlooked part of the team's game that's really a vital part of the game
is the strong inside player. You mentioned before the four post players. Does that work to
your advantage that so much focus some other things that those guys are overlooked
COACH DONOVAN: It's amazing. You know, I've had a chance to talk to some coaches that
we've played against. When they see us on film, the immediate first thing is, got to get
back in transition, stop the three-point line. Then when I talk to teams that we've
played, they talk about in terms of they feel like the key to our basketball team is our
front court. So, you know, for a fan that's watching, it looks up-tempo. That's the first
thing you see. But for us, and I think to be at this point in time, again, you have to
have balance, and certainly we cannot beat Michigan State strictly from the three-point
line. We got to have great low post scoring, great low post balance. We cannot beat
Michigan State if we just don't shoot the ball well. You got to have both in these
Q. Billy, clearly Brett Nelson has been a major factor for your ballclub in this
tournament. Was there a point in the season where you began to see that he could do
something like this and how much do you think he was set back early by the fact that he
came to Florida with a reputation as the greatest -- "The greatest player from West
Virginia since Jerry West?"
COACH DONOVAN: I think those are right on the money there. I think that for Brett, the
break through game to me was when we played at DePaul and we lost to DePaul. It felt like
after that game he started to figure things out, started putting games back-to-back,
back-to-back together that were good games. I think for Brett, you know, looking back on
it, it was so hard for him with all the publicity and the expectations and probably having
to justify why aren't you figuring it out, what's taking so long, you're supposed to be
able to come in here, people are comparing you to Jerry West. Well, Jerry West is the logo
for the NBA right now. Brett Nelson is not the logo for the NBA. Jerry West is obviously
going to go down in the history of this game as one of the greatest all-time players.
Brett Nelson is a high school kid and that hurt him. We had a lot of conversations, he
felt he was letting a lot of people down. The pressure of living up to that was difficult
on Brett. But he has started to figure things out and he's playing a lot better.
Q. Two things. Is there any place you wouldn't go to recruit? And Mike Miller earlier
said he's not sure you've slept since the tournament started. During the course of the
season do you ever try to find time to relax?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, we really try to make as good decisions as we can as a coaching
staff, is where to recruit. If there's a Top 10 or a Top 5 high school player in Raleigh
Durham, I would say we're probably not going to go recruit that kid. I think geographics
play a major role for us. In Mike's recruitment we knew he had to leave the State of South
Dakota. It was not a decision of whether or not to stay home. Matt Bonner made a decision
to leave New Hampshire so there was not a decision for him to stay in the state. So I
think that we try to pick some guys that we feel would want to leave their geographic
region or have to leave their geographic region who make the decision to do that, and
Mike, certainly, made that decision so it made it maybe a little bit easier for him to
come. If there's a great player in Los Angeles, it would be very difficult for us to sign
them. We're not going to go chasing guys. The big thing is you could do a great job
recruiting a kid and no chance of signing him. That's a waste of time. The big thing is
not wasting time and really going after good quality kids that we feel we can sign. With
regards to me sleeping, time to relax, probably for me, the day that I do that, during the
year is when we get to SEC and we've got to take a mandatory day off, I try to take all
day Sunday and spend it with my family. But I can't tell you that I sleep a lot during the
year, I'm no different than any other coach out there. We're all the same. You know, try
to give your team every opportunity and exhaust every avenue to try to put yourself in a
position to win.
Q. Coach, you're young and your assistant coaches are even younger than yourself. Do
you not have any -- do you not care about tradition or the past, and then the second part
of the that question would be what do you think the coaching establishment, who do you
think will be rooting for you tomorrow? Particularly those coaches with North Carolina
COACH DONOVAN: : Okay, I don't know if I quite understand your question here. The first
Q. Do you -- your coaching staff, everybody's entirely young, younger than you. Was
there, when you put your staff together, do you not care about past tradition?
COACH DONOVAN: When you say, "past tradition," having an older guy in my
Q. Older, wiser, whatever.
COACH DONOVAN: You know, again, I think John Pelphrey, Anthony Grant and Donnie Jones
are great assistant coaches, done a great job. John Pelphrey played the game so did
Anthony Grant and Donnie Jones. I never really looked at it like that. I'm not going to
make a decision, say well the traditional thing to do would be I'm young, 28, let's go
hire a guy 45, 50 year old because he may be able to -- he's got more experience. I tried
to assemble a staff that would work hard, be dedicated. I really wasn't concerned about,
well this is the traditional thing to do. I just thought, I think this is the best thing
to do for our staff and for our program. So that's pretty much why we went with the guys
we went with.
Q. How about the coaching establishment? Who will they be rooting for tomorrow?
COACH DONOVAN: I don't know. I don't know. I've got obviously some close friends that
I'm sure will be rooting for me. Tom's got some close friends that will be rooting for
him. I really don't know. I just know that I'm happy that our program is at this point to
play for a National Championship.
Q. Billy, what made you, I guess, the quintessential gym rat as a player, and how has
that attitude carried over to the way you approach your job?
COACH DONOVAN: I think more importantly it really has carried over for me in recruiting
because I would just have a very, very difficult time if it's December 21st and the whole
entire school is home on Christmas break and obviously your team's there practicing
because you're playing December 23rd and you walk up to the court to practice and you got
13 long faces because no one wants to practice. I have really put a large emphasis in
recruiting. As someone would look at ball handling, passing and shooting, I have placed as
large a premium on somebody's love for the game. Because I love this game. I've devoted my
life to playing this game. I think my passion for the game shows through to our guys, but
it would probably be very, very difficult for a kid to come to the University of Florida
and play for me with the time and energy I put into the game and that I would want them
and expect them -- the one thing that's great, NCAA limits us to only 20 hours per week. I
can't tell you how many of these kids are in the gym late at night by themselves knocking
down shots. Last year we played Florida State on the road, and beat them, it was a huge
win for us. Mike Miller did not play well. He's a freshman. I get off the bus, we get back
in at one o'clock in the morning, I realize I got to get some tapes. I go into my office,
go downstairs and I hear the ball bouncing in the practice facility. I'm like, now, who is
in the gym? Mike Miller's in a dead sweat running up and down the floor at one o'clock in
the morning. I said, "Mike, what are you doing." He said, "Coach, I played
terrible. I have to work on my game." I said, "Worry about it tomorrow, get some
sleep." He said, "No, I can't leave." Those are the type of kids I have. I
think that's the way I was as a player. That's the one thing that makes it so much fun is
that these kids love the game. I don't have to prod them to get them to come to practice.
I mean they practice hard, they love it. I mean, do they play well all the time? No. But
they love the game.
Q. You mentioned a little bit about the adversity you faced as a player earlier on in
your career at Providence. I understand at some point you were considering transferring
and had to do soul-searching and decided to stick it out. Were you able to pass on and
draw from that experience when Kenyan was in his sophomore year and thinking maybe there
might be an easier place to go, and to explain to him the value of sticking around?
COACH DONOVAN: A little bit. When I was a player I probably did, like most immature
kids do, I was running from a problem. I thank God that my dad helped me a tremendous
amount because I think a lot of times, as parents, you think your kids are the best thing
since sliced bread and they do no wrong. My dad said, the problem is you're not good
enough to play at Providence right now. You need to make a decision. You need to transfer
and go to a lower level, or you need to face the music right now and you need to get
better as a player. He said you're not good enough and you don't deserve to play right
now. Those words probably smashed me right in my face. Here I am, 18 years old, 19 years
old, I'm running from a problem, totally out of shape, not that great of a player, what
makes me think I'm going to go to someone else's program and they're going to play me? I
was running from a problem. I think Kenyan was a guy that it was challenging every day for
him, but if he was going to go to another college, another coach was going to be just as
demanding on him. I sat down, and Kenyan and I had a lot of conversations, I tried to get
him to the point where he would understand what playing in college was all about. But I
think Kenyan's mother probably did a much, much better job than I did. She dealt with
Kenyan when he went to prep school and he wanted to leave Fork Union all the time. She
probably, during the tough times, said stick it out, don't run from your problems. He
stuck it out and developed into a good player for us.
Q. Usually youth equates to inexperience. With your guys, it seems to be something
else. How much of it is the kids you recruit, and how much is what happens once they get
COACH DONOVAN: I think a lot has to do with the kids we recruit. We have a lot of
high-character kids, in my opinion, kids that love the game of basketball. My job as a
coach, when you have a young team and have setbacks and lose at home to Tennessee in
double overtime, and lose on the road to DePaul, those are tough losses, try to get them
back with some confidence. One thing you realize with a young basketball team throughout
the course of the year is their confidence level wavers up and down and the emotional
swings go up and down. I felt like after the Butler game, our guys have kept every win
along the line, along the way in this NCAA tournament in the proper perspective. There
hasn't been an overenormous amount of celebration and jubilation after winning. They kept
things in perspective. I think their goal is to try to win a National Championship. Even
last night, I think our guys kept things in perspective. I think hopefully they're growing
up, maturing, they understand the situation they're in right now is probably a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You don't know what the future holds, if you'll get back
here. You need to try to seize the moment.
Q. You had a brief stint in the NBA as a guard. When you look across the floor tomorrow
night and see Mateen Cleaves, does he look like a guy who can play at that level?
COACH DONOVAN: Oh, I think so. He has tremendous leadership qualities. He's a great,
great competitor. I know people talk about him not being a great shooter, but it seems
like every film I watch he's knocking down three-point shots. I think like anything else,
for most college players when they get to the NBA, their shooting gets better and better
and better. I think he has all the qualities to be a very good guard in the NBA. I would
be surprised if he's not playing in the NBA next year.
Q. Among the many misconceptions about the style of play, one is that when a team is
breaking the press in the first half, it's not working?
COACH DONOVAN: I think there's a commitment level. Also, I have to be smart as a coach,
too. If we're giving up easy baskets, getting into foul trouble, with about three minutes
to go in the first half, we were fouling too much. All of our front-court players had two
fouls, and I took the press off and switched and just kind of went to zone to get to the
half without putting them to the free throw line. I think there's times where you got to
make adjustments in your system like anything else. I'm committed to it, but not the point
of, hey, this is hurting us right now. You know, it was like at the end of the game with
three minutes to go with a 9-point lead, I didn't want to press and trap and give broken
plays where they could get some three-point shots. We kind of pressed but didn't trap. But
I think, you know, for us right now, you got to be committed to the style of play and you
also got to understand there's going to be times when the game starts and teams are fresh
and they're prepared for the press that you may give up some easy baskets. Again, you try
to make some adjustments from the sidelines with regards to your rotations. The one thing
that happens to us a lot of times is teams change their press offense from what it was on
film to when we play them. And you need to make adjustments obviously at the first
timeout, 16-minute mark, but sometimes you're going to give up. I say this all the time.
There are coaches that coach full out, overplay denial defense where you're going to get
beat backdoor every once in a while and live with that. If you press, I don't like giving
up easy baskets, you might give up a couple, but if you give up a couple and the tempo's
where you want, sometimes that's worthwhile. You don't want to give up an overenormous
amount, where it's just defeating the amount of pressing.
Q. Billy, last week Tommy Amaker said he had trouble envisioning himself coaching as
long as guys like Dick Bennett and (inaudible)?
COACH DONOVAN: The way I feel right now, I'm totally in favor of that. I think that the
game has changed so much. I don't think that myself or Tommy or a lot of coaches our age
will be coaching to 55, 60 years old. I just think that it's the energy and effort that
goes into it is unbelievable, because of us trying to build something, Tommy trying to
build something at Seton Hall, I'm trying to build something at Florida, the recruiting,
having to go out, having to promote your program, dealing with the players, recruiting,
going and speaking, alumni, boosters, there's so much. I love all of it, but to me, the
part I love the most is being on the floor with our guys. And the way coaching has worked
out right now, that's a very, very small percentage. I'm only on the floor with our guys,
max, max, 20 hours a week. And I'm being paid to coach our guys, but only 20 hours a week
I spend coaching. There's a lot of other stuff that gives you tremendous demands on your
time. I mean from start to finish during the year it's an emotionally, emotionally
draining roller coaster dealing with guys 18, 19, 20 years old. I love every minute of it,
but if I don't have the energy when I'm 55 years old that I have now and I can't do it to
the level I want to do it at, then I can't see myself doing it at that point. I don't know
if I'll be able to maintain that energy level until I'm 55.
Q. Billy, you mentioned earlier that the common thread among your players is their love
for the game. Does it amaze you you've had success in bringing in ten guys from such
diverse backgrounds and they gelled and became something? You don't see that anywhere?
COACH DONOVAN: No, that's the thing that's been amazing. I think what's brought our
guys close together, all different geographic backgrounds, South Dakota, New Hampshire,
Georgia, Miami, Florida, Cape Coral, I mean it's amazing where these guys are from. But
the one common bond they have is the love for the game. And it doesn't matter, race,
color, you know, what your religious preference is, it's that bond of basketball that --
and all their guys love the basketball and winning, that has brought them together. I
think that their morals, their ethics, their character, although they're from different
parts of the country, are all pretty very similar, which I think has brought them close
Q. I want to ask you about Donnell Harvey and the impact he's had on you coming in as a
freshman this season?
COACH DONOVAN: Donnell, besides the rebounding, has brought an enormous amount of
energy and intensity. He makes stuff happen when he gets in the game. Last night with
about eight minutes to go in the game, we put him in there. I thought he dominated the
backboard. We got hurt by Carolina he rebounded the basketball. He is a guy at the end of
games, the Butler game he made great plays. Everybody talks about Mike Miller's second
shot. If you go back and look at the rebounds, plays he made to put Mike Miller in a
position to win that game, it's truly remarkable. Great, great talent, plays with great
energy. He gets involved in every play, plays with a tremendous amount of energy. Wing
span is an aircraft carrier.
Q. Last night at about eight, nine minutes to go, Udonis and Donnell had fouls. Last
night they didn't even pick up their fifth earlier in the tournament, same situation. Is
that just maturity or coming along?
COACH DONOVAN: Probably me telling them if you do foul, we're not going to advance. So
stop fouling. I just try to talk in terms of last night to those guys that when the ball
goes inside, to try to stay in between you and the basket and try to get to Haywood.
Haywood did a phenomenal job last night putting those guys in foul trouble. He's a
tremendous low-post player. I think what's happened, they've gotten older, more
experienced, that has helped them, I think in their development more so than anything
else. They've been in that situation before and have fouled out of games.
Q. You talked yesterday or Friday about giving up control and how hard it is not to
direct every pass and every movement on the floor. At what point in your coaching career
did you give that up and what did -- what happened to cause that and how do you continue
to be able to give that up?
COACH DONOVAN: Probably came from me as a player. You know, I liked playing the game as
a player with the freedom and knowing that the coach had confidence in me to make a play.
And the one thing I think I learned from Coach Pitino and being in his practices is
there's a tremendous amount of coaching going on but he's teaching guys how to play the
game. And that's what I try to do, is teach them how to play the game and I've -- I try to
help them make decisions and teach them how to make decisions as well as in the press, in
those type of things. You know, I think a guy like Bobby Knight, to a certain extent, you
know, he gives up a lot of control because they run a tremendous amount of motion off of
guys that make reads. They play the game of basketball. We try to do the same thing. Just
as we do in defense with our press, they've got to make reads. If they're not making the
right reads, I have to make corrections and coach them. Every time we press, there's a
chance we could give up an easy basket or we could foul. Every time we run the ball down
the floor in transition, there's a chance we may turn it over. It's a lot easier playing
the percentage if you walk the ball up the floor, shove it in, but to me, I want our guys
to express themselves on the floor and have fun playing the game. I think if you were a
kid and went out and played in the school yard you'd play up-and-down. I'm not saying it's
a school yard atmosphere for us, but I got to try to teach them how to play the game. To
me, teaching them how to play the game is teaching them how to make decisions and make
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