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March 25, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Coach, if you could open with a statement, please.
COACH DONOVAN: Well, we are excited to have an opportunity tomorrow to play to get to a Final Four. We are going against a basketball team that started this season ranked in the Top 5 and has been there the entire season.
When you look at Villanova and you look at their losses this year, it's pretty impressive. Connecticut, I think everybody feels consensus just with their team, their, their athleticism, maybe the best team in the country, but they beat Connecticut at home.
You look at going on the road at Texas, they had a tough loss there. Texas is a tough team, Top 5 in the country. I think everybody knows what happened with Ray's eye, and probably didn't finish the game healthy.
They have been a model of consistency all the way through as a basketball team with the way they have played from start to finish. They have been consensus one of the top two or three teams in the country all year long. I think there will be a lot of talk about last year's game.
In my opinion, they are a better team this year than they were a year ago watching them on film. I would say that our basketball team is totally different. Every guy up here and every guy on our team is playing a completely different role than they did a year ago. You know, the only thing that may be helpful playing them last year in the NCAA tournament is knowing their personnel and style and system, but I think that if he remembers of our basketball team, there is really not a whole lot that these guys can take from it.
Roberson started at point, now Taurean is there. Joakim played about a minute or two in the game and he is, obviously, playing more minutes for us now. Al, and Corey's role, Lee Humphrey's role, has changed.
We are a different team. I don't know if it's better or good or what it is, but it's different and different roles. I don't know how much we will be able to take from last year's game. It is a new day, new season, new opportunity for both basketball teams.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for anyone up here.
Q. This is for Joakim, two-part question: First of all, have you played much basketball in France before you came back to the US, and second part, what did playing in the New York playgrounds, what did that do to develop your game?
JOAKIM NOAH: I always loved basketball, and I used to go to an American school in France, so everybody played basketball. Then when I moved to New York, basketball is a religion in New York. So not being able to play as much as I wanted to, or just not being able to play, I didn't have that experience so I felt like going and playing in the playground was definitely something that could help me and help my teammates out.
It just -- playing in Harlem, playing in the playground just helped me get my swagger back a little bit. It was just a great experience.
Q. Billy, when you saw this class of sophomores, what was your pitch to them? How much can one class sort of change the face of a program and how did that class come together?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, to be honest with you, I really didn't know what I was getting in terms of their makeup as people. They were all very, very good high school basketball players,
Corey probably received the most recognition, being a McDonald American coming out of high school, had a relationship with Taurean's dad, Joakim was a guy that really started to evolve and develop probably a little later in his high school career, and Al's dad, I played against in college a little bit and had a chance to watch Al play.
I felt like they were all very good basketball players, but the thing that I didn't know or didn't realize was the makeup of them inside and what they are all about.
This is probably been the greatest collection of guys I have had in one class in terms of understanding what unselfishness, what team is all about, and I think so many times when guys come from high school into college, they revert into what made them successful high school players.
A lot of times that has nothing to do with making them a successful college player. You know, I look at their makeup, last year Al and Corey, their role was pretty much to defend and rebound, and they understood that that needed to be their role to help our team win and they bought into it and they did it and they made our team much better.
You know, last year Taurean a lot of times playing he and Roberson together, Roberson felt more comfortable on his hands. I had to play Taurean at the two guard spot. He understood that and accepted that.
I think for Joe it's always been he has had great passion and enthusiasm. I think it was hard for him last year not playing a lot, but he understood that was best for our team. I think in the recruiting process you can sit there and evaluate ball handling, passing, I think it is the old adage you can't put value on a guy's heart, and competitiveness and unselfishness and willingness to win.
I don't know how it will turn out tomorrow, but I know our basketball team will compete and play very hard because that's what these guys are all about. I think that's what our team is all about. That has been probably the most fun for me as a basketball coach, is they really understand what winning is about and how they have to go about doing it.
It is through teamwork and unselfishness, as simple as that may sound. They get that piece of it.
Q. Corey, do you think both teams kind of slugged it out in the wins on Friday, and I think you both like to get up and down the floor a little bit? Do you see this game being more up and down, more athletic and fast-paced than your wins were last night?
COREY BREWER: It's going to be an up-and-down game. We have to come out with a lot of intensity. That's what we like to do, run up and down the court, so we are going to have a good time.
Q. Billy, what is it like to coach the son of a former teammate and also a guy, son of a guy you played against?
COACH DONOVAN: You know, I often said this before, I wouldn't be coaching right now if Sidney Green passed the ball more to me when I was a player. No, I mean, I grew up. Sidney was several years older than me and growing up in New York and on Long Island, he was kind of one of those New York legends, so to speak, coming out of Brooklyn.
He was the guy's name that was talked about a lot. He was a great, great high school player. I think I was probably still in elementary school when he was playing. But I got a chance to play with him for a year with the Knicks. He always treated me very well. We had a very, very good relationship.
I think in relationship to Al's dad Tito, I really didn't have a relationship with Tito, but we played against each other in college. We knew each other a little bit through that.
So there was maybe some previous relationships, maybe a longer relationship with Taurean's dad than maybe with Al's dad just because Al's dad and I played against each other one time in college, and our paths met again when we were recruiting Al.
Q. Billy, their quickness on the perimeter remains the same as last year. How much of a concern is that? How do you see this group matching up with their quickness compared to last year?
COACH DONOVAN: Villanova, the biggest thing with Villanova to me is it's not only the quickness, it is the physicality. I thought last year's game that we played them they were by far the most physical team we played against.
Certainly watching last night's game, they are probably even more physical this year than they were a year ago. They do a great job of really being extremely physical with you, and then sometimes when you try to retaliate back with physicalness, they do a great job of drawing charges and getting calls and getting themselves to the free throw line.
I would say it's not only that quickness. I would say they are about as -- I can't imagine any team in the country more physical than they are.
Q. Question for Al. A lot of guys on your team are not from the state of Florida. I know you, being from Michigan, had a lot of teams in the Big 10 were interested in you.
What sold you on going to Florida to play?
AL HORFORD: Well, basically, it is the style of play. I like playing a tempo game and I felt with Coach Donovan and Florida I had the best opportunity to excel in the type of game they like to play.
Q. This question is for Joakim. When coach talks about your class's understanding of what team is, how did you develop that understanding? Was it last year when you all had to be kind of role players?
JOAKIM NOAH: Well, first of all, we are like brothers. We have lived together for a while so our relationship is not just on the court, but it is also off the court. I mean, I met all my roommates in the gym. I remember coming in, I had my three bags, and that's where I met those guys. We all have the same goal and that's winning and playing basketball.
So it's cool when you are able to live with guys who all have the same goal. I think that's definitely made us tighter as a group.
Q. Billy, has playing Tennessee, they play one big, four guards, basically, and Wisconsin Milwaukee the same way, has that in any way helped you get ready for Villanova tomorrow?
COACH DONOVAN: I don't know, and I think that's a good question. I think their system and their style is a little bit different than the way Tennessee plays. Tennessee does play with four guards and Dane Bradshaw was kind of that point guard, but Tennessee ran more of that flex offense.
Villanova tries to get you in mismatch situations. They space the floor. They allow Foye and Allan and Nardi to make plays, and Cunningham up front, because their guards demand so much attention that sometimes you get caught when they shoot the basketball with two people on the ball, and they do a great job of offensive rebounding.
Their offensive system and their defensive system is totally different. I think that maybe the similarities you mentioned is they do play four guards, but Villanova's four guards and Tennessee's four guards are just different.
Q. Coach, going back to the sons of former pro athletes, it is unusual to have three guys of that type of lineage on the same team at once. Is there some sort of inherent quality or trait or characteristic or mind-set that these guys have because of that lineage?
COACH DONOVAN: I have been asked that a lot. I think it's a very, very interesting question because, you know, it's almost that thing where you try to get into stereotyping something, and it's like the old adage, if a kid comes from a lot of wealth he is going to be spoiled and unmotivated, and that's not necessarily true.
There is also the adage, well, if a son of or a daughter of a professional athlete watches or has a chance to view their parent in a professional situation, then all of a sudden it becomes a right of passage, and they don't understand the work that needs to go through it because they just see their parent as a professional.
I think where their parents have done an unbelievable job is, one, have kept them very, very grounded, and I throw Lee Humphrey and Corey Brewer into this category too, and their parents didn't play professionally, not that I know of. No? Was your dad professional?
LEE HUMPHREY: No.
COACH DONOVAN: I think what has happened is with Al and with Taurean and with Joakim, when you are competing in a professional level, you realize that it's not all about talent, that you are going to line up and play against somebody as equally gifted and talented and you, and so much more is the mental makeup and approach going into competition.
That's where I think their family has done an unbelievable job with them, is -- I know in talking to them a little bit they have seen or they have heard their parents talk to them a little bit differently in terms of what it really takes to be successful. Yeah, you have got this talent, you have this gift, but there is a lot more to it than just that.
That's, I think, the one thing that they have had. I can't sit there and say that every son or daughter of every professional athlete has that. You know, these guys do, and I think a lot of it can go back to their families.
Q. Coach, I was wondering, can you talk about just the preparation that goes into getting ready for Villanova, such a quick turn-around. How do you guys go through that process?
COACH DONOVAN: You know, it's a little more than a year removed. There is some familiarity because we played them last year, but both teams are at this point in this time of the season because of what they have done and who they are.
Villanova is going to do what they do and the University of Florida is going to try to do what we do. Now, inside of that, there is adjustment and changes and things you have to make in terms of scouting, dealing with personnel, guarding, screening action. There is also adjustments and things you need to do -- we probably wouldn't play or attack Villanova the same way we would attack Georgetown defensively.
There are ways we have to do things inside of our system to try to put ourselves in a position to play the very best we can, but at the same point, too, I don't want to overwhelm these guys with one guy with so much.
We are not going to be able to totally capture and get every minute detail down on Villanova's system. They have been doing it for more than two years now with this type of personnel. We have to cover the key components and ingredients and give those to our guys and figure out how we have got to play them and how we have got to try to attack them.
Q. Billy, we have read and heard a lot about Joakim's interests extending beyond the basketball court. What kind of guy is he off the court?
COACH DONOVAN: He is -- I think the best thing that I can say about him is he has got -- I mean this, the best thing about him is he -- no, it's hard to put in words because, you know what, it is hard for him, in all seriousness. He doesn't like this.
What I mean by that, he gets bothered that a lot of the attention or people want to talk to him because it is a unique story, it is a unique family. He worries about getting too much attention and taking away from the rest of the guys that are up here. He doesn't want that.
So I think the best way to describe him is he has a tremendous caring and giving heart and a level of unselfishness, and I think he has great passion and vigor for life. He has great enthusiasm for life. He has great respect for people and where they come from and what their heritage is and what their beliefs are.
I think for him, you know, he doesn't like all this. He is more concerned about let everybody get a little attention. I don't want it to be me. I think the other guys up here know he feels that way. He is very, very unselfish and very caring and giving.
Q. Billy, could you talk about the recruitment of Corey Brewer and what you saw as you got to know him as a person. Were you able to spend much time in his hometown during that whole process?
COACH DONOVAN: What's that Chinese restaurant we used to eat at? I had a chance to see Corey play his junior year and I felt like he had great potential and great upside. Really, the guy that did the best job, and I got involved with the relationship with Corey and his family, but Anthony Grant did a phenomenal job. He had an opportunity to watch Corey a lot, as I did during the summer months.
For me, and I think for any head coach, in the months of January, February, March, it's so hard to be entrenched in recruiting. Corey and Anthony Grant developed a good relationship. I think the thing that attracted Corey to Florida and us to Florida, it was a really good fit, style of play-wise for what his strengths and talents and gifts are as a basketball player.
I think from there, I think it's always difficult to have your son or daughter leave and go away from home when there is opportunities close by, but I think for Corey it was almost like, you know what, and I would say the same thing for all these guys, although Taurean spent time in Florida, they put themselves in the great situation for themselves. We are happy they made the decision to come to Florida because they all contributed to our program.
In recruiting him, it was a great recruitment because he has a great family.
Q. You talk about Villanova is pretty much the same group and you talk about how different you guys are. You would think that would give you somewhat of an advantage. The second part of the question is, even though they have great physicality, this team is far more tougher than the team you had last year.
Can you talk about why this team is tougher?
COACH DONOVAN: Our team or Villanova's team?
Q. Your team is tougher, why this team is so much tougher than the group you had last year.
COACH DONOVAN: I have always kind of debated that when people say this group is tougher. I think that there were things that maybe physically we weren't able to do last year that we can maybe do a little bit better this year. Joe is a year older, Al, Chris, Moss is a year older.
I don't know if it gives us an advantage. Does it give us an advantage? We have better size and physicality is basically what it comes down to than we did a year ago.
I don't know if necessarily I say that we are just tougher, but we have the ability to play more physical and tougher than maybe we did a year ago.
How much more tougher we are, I don't know. I think we have made some strides from defending and rebounding. We have gotten better there. That goes -- can step back to these kids and their makeup.
Q. I was wondering if you can talk about Al, his growth and development a little bit from last year to this year.
COACH DONOVAN: Well, Al, you know, last year, like I said, he was a guy that, as a freshman, I didn't know what kind of role he would play. Al is very, very serious and very, very focused as a player and as a person. He is very mature.
I think Al is more mature beyond his years in terms of understanding, understanding scouting, seeing things on film. He has a great feel and mind for the game of basketball. His freshman year he didn't early get a chance to play a lot, and then his practice went on, the more I watched him and more consistent he was, started to see different things out of him, we moved him into the starting line-up.
He was a guy that understood his role was to defend and rebound. He did a great job defending and rebounding. As the season started to go along, and even through this summer, I think his body started to change, started to work on his offensive game, his offense continues to get better. I would say he is a little more or a lot more fluid offensively than he was a year ago.
He is a guy that probably took last year's experience getting the opportunity to play as much as he did and it probably made him a better player here today. But Al's greatest strength to me, besides his ability to rebound, his physicalness and competitiveness, is he as smart as any player I have coached at Florida. He is very, very intelligent on the floor and understands what's going on, understands how teams are playing defensively, understands what's going on offensively, both ends of the floor, very, very gifted there.
Q. Billy, being a former Big East guard, where would you put Foye, Ray as far as best guards ever in the Big East?
COACH DONOVAN: Probably behind me. Serious -- no. You know, I would say back -- I kind of was playing the Big East when the league was relatively new. Both of them are as good and have had as good a career as any guards that have ever played in that league, and you take all the guards that have played in the league from Allen Iverson to a Pearl Washington to a Mark Jackson.
When you talk about just a college career and what those kids have done and for them, they probably have a different level of appreciation for winning because they were thrown to the fire as freshmen and sophomores. They figured out and started to form and create an identity for themselves.
I think their identity that they formed probably going through some heartaches their freshman and sophomore years, playing in a league so unforgiving as the Big East, helped them understand, appreciate winning, and how to do this.
They created a great identity for themselves that is known throughout the United States of America. When you talk about college careers and guys in the Big East, and you put not only their numbers and their stats, but add on top of that the fact that they have won as much as they have won, I think you can throw them in there with any guards that have played in that league.
Q. Did you find yourselves getting frustrated with the pace of last night's game a little bit? Did it take you a while to get into that grinding-out paste?
TAUREAN GREEN: No, we came into the game and knew it was going to be a grind-it-out game. We knew we had to sit down and guard their offense. We knew they were going to go deep in the shot-clock and we knew we couldn't have any breakdowns at the end of the shot-clock.
Q. For Taurean and Lee, will you just talk about the challenges of defending Villanova's guards, and which of the four of them, if any, stand out in your mind?
LEE HUMPHREY: I think all four of their guards and their whole team is very good. They have a lot of good quickness. We will have to contain the ball off the dribble and guard the 3-point line, and rebounding is going to be a big key. They have guards that can really go to the glass and do it well. As guards, we are going to have to focus on boxing out and keeping them off the glass.
Q. Billy, and any of the players, during your 8-game winning streak, they showed 20 percent from 3-point range, before that it was a lot higher. Is that just coincidence or what have you done to make that happen?
COACH DONOVAN: I made the comment, I don't know when it was, maybe January, February, we had lost three games in a row. After winning 17 in a row, our guys just really felt like all we got to do is just play hard, play with emotion and passion and we are going to win every game, and we had some games where we have played all year with great emotion and passion, but we have played against good teams, teams that went to the NCAA Tournament, and we got into a situation where it was a possession here, possession there. I think those losses actually helped our team understand how important it is to defend and rebound. I think the 3-point line in college basketball changes the whole complexion of it.
You have to understand how to take the three, and I think you have also got to understand how to guard the three. As you mentioned, we have done a good job defending the 3-point line the last eight games, but not anymore of a bigger challenge than we have tomorrow guarding the 3-point line when you have a guy like, I think, Ray and Foye have taken like almost 500 3-point shots of their 700. So they are going up.
They get them up and they take difficult ones, and they make difficult ones, but I really think the 3-point line is as important. You look at Villanova's field goal percentage from 2s, it's good, solid. But it's the 3-point line, and it's the rebounding with them that's so good because they have such great ability to go one-on-one.
But I just think the 3-point line is the greatest equalizer in college basketball. You take the West Virginia game against Texas, they got hurt on the backboard by Texas's size, huge rebounding margin. West Virginia, maybe 15 3-point shots. You are going to have a chance to win most games or have a good chance to win.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Donovan will stay with us. Players will head over to the break-out rooms.
Questions for the coach.
Q. Billy, what makes them able to compensate for lack of size in the four-guard line-up, do you think?
COACH DONOVAN: I think that's the misconception. There is a lack of size, there may be a lack of height, but there is not a lack of physicality. That's the thing that's so impressive about them, is that guys like Lowry and Foye and, you know, Allan Ray, they just can play five different spots on the floor, you know. They bang you. They wheel on you. They spin on you. They physically get in there and battle. They are aggressive. They are tough.
What that does is it eliminates any "height advantage" that you may have against them. They do it against everybody. Connecticut may be one of the biggest teams in this tournament, and they play those guys the same way.
So I think that your "size advantage," if you want to call it that, it is totally negated. We don't have a size advantage against them. Nobody has a size advantage against them the way they play.
Q. Billy, beginning of your career a lot of people talked about what a great recruiter you are and questioned your coaching. I am just wondering if there was ever one moment, you know, you are driving along the highway by yourself, you are in bed, did it ever bother you? Did it ever bug you for one second?
The second part is, you guys have won games this year, SEC championship game, the other night if people would have asked, can Florida win a 57-53 game against Georgetown, do you think you are proving yourself as a coach?
COACH DONOVAN: I never, ever look at it that way or view it that way. I think that that's not what coaching is to me. That's not who I remember Coach Pitino as, or my high school coach, or Joe Malaney as.
I think that our teams, and we have been very, very successful in Florida over the last eight years, and maybe the last five we haven't gone as deep in the tournament as we would have liked to, but our program has been hit as hard as anybody's program has been hit with early departures and guys leaving early. We won, in my opinion, quite a bit.
To me, a coach, it's not about wins and losses because, you know what, I couldn't tell you what happened five years ago on January 15th if we had a game. To me, if you are going to say whether or not I am a good coach or a bad coach, or however you want to classify it as, go talk to Mike Miller.
If their mind-set is I didn't learn anything from that guy for life, he never prepared me after I left Florida, I don't have a relationship with him, he was all about him, then, you know what, I am a bad coach if my players say that.
I think sometimes there are coaches that don't necessarily win as much as they are supposed to win or people want them to win, and you get labeled that way.
It doesn't bother me because I think that when you -- you know, I was 34 years old, I think, when we went to the Final Four and played for a national championship, and I think when you have success, people always look for reasons to say whatever they want to say. At 34 years old it wasn't that Billy Donovan did a good job coaching. It was just that he has all the best players in the country, they are the most talented team in the country.
I think when you are young you are never going to get a level of recognition because that's the way it is because there has to be a reason why Florida has been successful. Well, they get all the best players in the country. That's an easy answer.
But to me it has never really been about that. I hope that some day when Al Horford has kids, I would be anxious to hear what he says to his kids about Billy Donovan as a coach. To me, that's your essence as a coach. It's not the wins and losses. It is me preparing and teaching those guys.
You know what, I have been so blessed. I have been a part of three Final Fours. I have gotten drafted, had a chance to play in the NBA. I have had a chance to coach a mid-major level, coach at University of Florida, I have had a chance to experience championships, cut down nets. I have experienced it all. The only thing I haven't experienced is Florida's winning a national championship, but we played for one.
So, to me, I get a lot more pleasure seeing a guy like Larry Shyatt who, in my opinion, is a great coach, experience this opportunity because you know what, as great as a coach he is, he has never been to this point. I get a more pleasure from Al Joakim Noah, Lee, Humphrey, Moss experience this because they have never experienced it before, but I have.
People like to label people and put them in a box, and when you are young and have success, there is a reason, and it's this or that. You never get -- I don't feel maybe -- I don't expect to be recognized. So I never really worried about that. I just tried to do my job and work as hard as I can.
Q. Coach, your players talk about being brothers, and Villanova's players always say they are part of the Villanova basketball family. They say "family" all the time. It sounds all warm and fuzzy, but really, as a coach, the chemistry that goes into calling each other family, is that really like catching lightening in a bottle, and is it really helping this team succeed?
COACH DONOVAN: I think it is probably one of the hardest things, and it's almost -- it's really hard to create. There has got to be a connection and a bond. With that connection and bond, you have to be able to accept everybody inside your family for all their faults and everything else.
It is no different than a regular family. You have siblings that are arguing and fighting, but they have to love each other for all their faults. It's easy to love somebody, care about somebody for all the good things that they do.
I think that's the one thing you try to get across as a coach, when you are part of a family and team, you have to be able to accept the next person for who they are, and what seeps into that or creates a level of problem with that is when you have got people on a team that feel like that guy is selfish or that guy is selfish.
To me, that's the hardest thing to overcome, if somebody on the team feels that one of those guys is selfish. I am sure Villanova's comments about being a family, as our guys' comments made, they are not worried, they accept each other for who they are and they are not worried about the level of selfishness.
Selfishness is the hardest thing to overcome. When you feel like they are selfish, you are in competition, that guy may be stealing what I want. When you have a level of care for one another, that makes it a lot better.
Q. Billy, you talked earlier about your sophomores, and for lack of a better term, how they get it and understand how to play. Was that something that you guys have missed the last few years? Was there any apprehension at all going into this season, basically turning your team over to four second-year guys?
COACH DONOVAN: I think that our teams over the last couple of years and people may look at it like -- I hear comments "you underachieved." I don't ever believe I have ever underachieved in my life, not as hard as I work, and not as hard as our players work. I don't think that a lack of winning, as much as people want you to win, is ever a level of underachievement.
To win in this tournament you have to be able to win in a variety of different ways. Over the last several years we have been a pretty predictable team. There's nothing more than that, that is just kind of the way our hand has been dealt.
To be honest with you, I am surprised over the last three years how much we did win, seeing all of our faults, shortcomings, we were a very one-dimensional team.
I felt like this year's team would be a great team to coach, a fun team to coach. They would be a team that would play unselfishly, play together, would be a fun team. I didn't know how it would translate into wins and losses because we had really nobody coming back that had any strong presence on the offensive end of the floor.
You know, to me, again, this tournament is all based on or how deep of a run you make. John Thompson III could be sitting up here right now. Al Skinner could be sitting up here right now. There are plays and events that take place during the course of the game that don't create the identity of the team or coach or something like that. It's just not that way.
For us, this team is about playing together, playing hard, playing unselfishly, playing as hard as we can and moving on to the next challenge.
Q. Billy, I read when you took the Florida job that there were people close to you, mentors, who tried to dissuade you from taking the job. I wondered if any of that was about the perception of Florida being a football school, and if you had to resolve that in your own mind, and even if since then, as you are recruiting, if people have tried to recruit against you by telling your kids, if they go to Florida, they are never going to be as important as the football team?
COACH DONOVAN: I think it goes back to what I said to Lenn a little earlier, there is always going to be negativity surrounding your program, recruiting, whatever it may be. I think with that being said, Florida is a unique place. It's a different type of place. In the state, the number one passion is football. It's the number one passion. They love it.
But what overrides football in the state of Florida, if you are a Florida fan, is the love and passion for the University of Florida and the commitment to having excellence, not only in football, but in men's basketball, volleyball, baseball, women's basketball. There is a strong commitment there.
So we have, in my opinion, one of the greatest arenas to play in, one of the more difficult environments to play in in college basketball. There has been a strong commitment by administration to build up our basketball program.
Certainly you are going to hear that basketball is not that big of a deal or that important. My answer would be come watch one of our games and see this type of support that our fans give, and the type of environment they have created for a home game.
But certainly, without question, when I took the job, there were a lot of people that told me I shouldn't do it, not because of the perception, but just I think when Lon Kruger took over the job, there were so many image issues he dealt with, and corrected, and built Florida basketball back up and gave it great credibility, and took it to the Final Four.
I think when he left, at that point in time, the team had had a couple tough years, and my people that I spoke to told me that you are going to lose for a while before you win, and you are at a place like Marshall where you have a Jason Williams and good players you have recruited.
Stay where you are at and reap the rewards you and your staff have put in. Don't do this. The first two years were hard. I don't know how many games we won, but it was hard. It was really difficult. That was probably part of the challenge, that you look back on it now, and I can't believe how far the program has come over a 10-year period. It's not Billy Donovan. It is the administration, the assistant coaches, the players, the support people, it's everybody involved.
But we really have been -- and I talked about trying to build tradition there. Tradition has never been built there. We are trying to do something that has never been done inside a program in the history of its school. Like I said, the biggest misconception is we have all the best players in the country, and that's just not the case. We have good, solid players. We have one McDonald American, and that's it, Corey Brewer. You are always dealing with the perception of your program and trying to build it back up.
Q. Tomorrow George Mason is going up against, sort of, the overwhelming tournament favorite. When you were playing in Providence, you also faced a similar situation in the Regional Final. What does it take to be able to pull off that kind of upset?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, it's only one game, and I have said this before, this is not the NBA playoffs where it is a seven-game series. If you lose in a heartbreaking loss in a seven-game series, you come back the next day.
I think, for George Mason, they have a great opportunity and a great chance and great challenge, but you know what, in a one-shot game, anything can happen. That's the thing you realize. So I am sure that they are a basketball team that feels very, very confident in what they have done up to this point in time, and a team that will go out and play probably very hard.
I don't know if there is anything to say they have to do this to pull off the upset. They are going up against one of the best teams in the country in Connecticut. I think it's a great challenge for any team.
Q. Same thing I asked Corey earlier, do you anticipate after both teams slugged out a win last night, maybe more of an up-tempo style, both teams looking forward to getting out and running a little bit, and also, secondly, BC, it seemed like their inexperience showed a little last night with some turnovers.
Do you think that's going to play a role with a lot of your kids not being there as much and the experience Villanova has?
COACH DONOVAN: As I said earlier, I am hopeful that playing Villanova once last year, there is some level of familiarity how they play and their quickness and physicality. This is new chartered territory for our basketball team. None of these kids have played in a game like they are going to play tomorrow.
You look at 21 turnovers to BC, I think you also probably have to maybe say BC maybe felt in their mind they could do a better job of taking care of the basketball. I think you have to give Villanova some credit, too. It is the same thing with us last night against Georgetown, I thought we struggled at times offensively. I can say we didn't do a good job offensively, but Georgetown deserves a lot of credit to that, too.
This is a game where, you know, no question the experience factor, the age factor is on their side. There is no question about it. So we are going to have to play a very good game to have an opportunity to win.
Q. Billy, Corey is probably going to be down quite a while from that shot last night. The tournament seems to make guys' reputations. Do you think you would have been a big-time college basketball coach now if you had to make your reputation in this tournament as a player?
COACH DONOVAN: I think that there is no question that winning in this tournament provides opportunity. I don't think there is any question about it. Like I said earlier in the week, I have been on both sides of it. I have been part of some heartbreaking losses, the Connecticut-Duke game, playing against Gonzaga, tip-in, and I have been involved in some great moments where you look at Mike Miller's run against Butler, and also Corey Brewer's shot.
That's sometimes what it comes down to. I mean, you look at NC State, when that guy bombs one, you know, Lorenzo Charles dunks it, it's incredible. You look at just different plays that happen, Keith Smart's shot, Michael Jordan's shot. There is no doubt that Providence's run in the NCAA Tournament, it opened doors for Billy Donovan, no question about that.
Q. Billy, pardon the provincialness of the question, you are obviously a Northeast guy, Long Island, Providence, your dad played at BC. You turn 70, you move to Florida. You are 40 now, and you have been in Florida for years.
At what point did Florida become home? At what point did you stop maybe thinking I want, at some point, to go maybe to a Big East school or something like that?
COACH DONOVAN: I think there was a lot of talk earlier on when I was at Florida that I wanted to get back to the Northeast, and my wife is from New York, I am from New York, we both went to Providence. We moved to Florida with two children, and my kids were four and two years old. Right now we have two more. I have two children that were born in the state of Florida.
Outside of living at home for 18 years, this is the longest place I have ever been. I went away to college, was at Providence four years, and messed around a little bit, trying to play professionally, then I was at Kentucky for five years. Realistically, when I went to college, there was really not a place that I was at as long as I have been at Florida.
So for myself and my family, I feel like it is home there because we have spent so much time there. My wife and I have raised our children there, had two children there, and as you mentioned, maybe people become 70, they figure out the warm weather is not too bad. Believe me, the weather is not bad in January or February, and I have had a chance to enjoy it the last few years.
End of FastScripts...