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March 26, 2006
THE MODERATOR: We have from Florida head code Billy Donovan, Al Horford, Joakim, Taurean Green, Lee Humphrey, Corey Brewer.
COACH DONOVAN: Well, you know, coming into this game I want to congratulate Villanova because they have had an outstanding season, and we have great respect for their team, the way they played the game, how aggressive they are, and just the way they have taken on every challenge. We beat a very good basketball team.
I told our guys there were going to be three things important in the game, and one of them we did really well. I thought that our ability to rebound the basketball, and we gave up entirely too many offensive rebounds, but we did out-rebound them because of their poor shooting percentage, so to speak.
I told them our turnovers were going to be critical. We did a much, much better job in the second half taking care of the basketball. First half we had too many turnovers. I have said this for a long, long time, the greatest equalizer is the 3-point line. We were up by 5 and they had 16 offensive rebounds, and we turned it over 10 times.
That is generally a disaster for a very, very poor half. Because we defended the 3-point line, that gave us an opportunity tonight. I think a lot of credit should go to our coaching staff. All year long Larry Shyatt and Donnie Jones, and Anthony Grant, in particular, those guys have done a phenomenal job in terms of getting these guys to understand what they need to do to put themselves in a position to win.
They have done a very, very good job just being able to listen and pay attention and focus in on some things that I think have helped us I will say that last year's game helped our basketball team playing Villanova. I think they had a chance to go against Foye and Ray, and the one thing that you can't really notice on film with their team is their level of quickness at the 4 and the 5, and the level of pressure that they place on the basketball.
For a team that do not get a chance to see Villanova a lot, the first time you see them, it's very impressive. I think last year's game gave us an idea of what they are going to do and how they are going to play, and maybe helped those guys a little bit in terms of understanding their personnel.
I am very, very proud of these kids. It has been a remarkable run up to this point in time just with so much uncertainty surrounding our season with people leaving early, and these guys having to step up.
You know, I thought all these guys played an exceptional game tonight. Joe and Al did a great job on the backboard, eliminating and alleviating pressure. I thought Taurean and Lee did a great job in the back court. I thought Lee did about as good a job as you could do on Foye. The best thing about Foye, he ended up with 25, but the big thing we didn't give him 3s. We gave him tough 2s that he made.
Corey was a definite spark plug for us to start the second half because he was in foul trouble, he did come out, make a couple baskets, and get us going. He did some good things defensively as well. We are excited about the opportunity to play next week. I am proud of these kids that are up here and every guy that's in the locker room.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes. State your name and affiliation right here in the front row.
Q. Corey, I saw late in the game about two minutes ago when Joe gave you the stay focused sign. You kind of gave it back to him. I know that has been around a long time. How important it was not to get ahead of yourself and feel that Final Four right there.
COREY BREWER: You know, all year we have been talking about we have to stay focused because that's what's going to get us to the Final Four. We have been focused to this point.
We were just telling each other we have to stay focused two more minutes, we are going to Indianapolis. That's what we did. We are on the way to the Final Four.
Q. This question is for the four sophomores. You are pretty young, but did you watch the Fab Five when you were in college, and obviously something about you guys being sophomores, you come with poise and come with a lot of confidence, but it seems like there aren't many teams out there that are led by young players such as yourself.
AL HORFORD: I went to high school in Michigan, so I have heard of the Fab Five. They were a great team, and you know what I am saying. We just, you know what I am saying, I mean, I have heard of them. That's the question. I know they are an outstanding team, but we are a different team.
JOAKIM NOAH: I don't know anything about them. I just know that Chris was on that team, and Jalen Rose, but whatever. The Gators boys are hot right now, so no comparisons, but we are very happy to be in the Final Four right now, and just taking possession by possession, game by game, and hopefully we get a nice little ring in Indianapolis.
TAUREAN GREEN: That team Chris Webber called a time-out. That's about all I remember.
COREY BREWER: Me, too. They called a time-out on TV. I seen it. Fab Five started baggy shorts. That's all I know.
JOAKIM NOAH: They had nice kicks, too.
Q. Taurean and Corey, would you talk about the job you had to do defensively on Ray and Foye and Lowry.
LEE HUMPHREY: Coach did a great job with the scouting report and made us aware of what he wanted us to do. We thought Foye and Ray were shooting 3-pointers, and we want to make them take tough 2s.
We thought Lowry's strength was getting to the basket. The best way is to back off a little bit and contain him off the dribble. We collectively, as a unit, did a good job executing the game plan.
TAUREAN GREEN: We knew that Ray, Foye, they were 3-point shooters. We knew that Foye wasn't a good one-on-one player, so we tried to contain him and make him take tough shots and stay up on Ray and just try to make him make tough 2s, like he said.
Q. Joakim, can you address the fact that people didn't think you were going to do much this year, except you guys.
JOAKIM NOAH: It's a great feeling when you have a lot of doubters and prove them wrong. I think it made us a tighter unit at the end of the day, but I think that even throughout the season we have been through so many different experiences, winning 17 in a row and losing 3 in a row. It's all about like when you are young, and you don't play in those situations, you just don't know. So I think that the more we play through these situations, I think the better we are going to become.
Q. Actually maybe Taurean can answer this: David had not played much in the post season, some mock-up time. You needed him to come in and give you some minutes today with the foul trouble. You talk about trying to keep him fired up and keep him focused.
TAUREAN GREEN: David hasn't gotten the playing time that he wants, but he has accepted that and we tell him every day, you know, you have got to be ready to go regardless. Anything can happen, you know.
Coach told us today he didn't know what to expect. Corey got in foul trouble and David came in, did a great job, and just stepping in and defending Foye, yeah. He just did good things for our team and gave us an extra boost when Corey was in foul trouble.
JOAKIM NOAH: He has been working hard, too. During the week off he got extra individuals with the assistant coaches. I definitely want to say, as a teammate, I am really proud of a guy who wasn't able to play as much as he wanted to, but he is not giving up. It is just a sign of his strength mentally, like we definitely needed him today, and just him being ready and working, doing a little bit extra to help the team just shows what kind of person and what kind of character this team really has.
Q. This is for Joakim. What were your thoughts going into the game as far as Villanova's match-up problem with you? Did you know that they didn't have anyone to match up with you?
JOAKIM NOAH: First, when the assistant coach, when Coach Grant put the personnel together, you should see that film. If you are not on edge after that personnel tape, then there is going to be a problem because it's scary when you see what those guys can do, especially when you are putting kind of like a highlight film of certain individuals. I don't know what ours looks like, but I wish I could see it. Villanova's is pretty scary. I mean, we were definitely on edge, but you have to be ready for battle at all times.
Q. Joakim, you mentioned about proving the doubters wrong. Suddenly you are going to a Final Four. You guys may be considered the favorite now. How do you all react to that?
JOAKIM NOAH: If we worried about as many things -- if we worried about the things that you guys worried about, our heads would really explode. I think that we realized that we can't worry about what people are saying and we just have to stick together and play basketball the way we know how we are capable of playing.
So it's great when you have a lot of praise, but at the same time you have to stay level-headed, stay humble and be hungry, be poor, be driven. P-H-D.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for that. We will take questions for Coach Donovan.
Q. Billy, would you talk about the game plan and how it kind of unfolded defensively for you.
COACH DONOVAN: Well, you know, coming into this regional Anthony Grant, as Donnie Jones, once we found out after beating UW-Milwaukee, the amount of tape those guys watch and what they try to do, Donnie did a phenomenal job with Georgetown. They are about as hard a team you could possibly prepare for.
Anthony, and I think along with Larry, because Larry got involved in all of it and tried to help out as much as he can, but it was hard because Larry was watching BC. We didn't know who we were going to play if we beat Georgetown. While Larry was watching BC, Anthony, I mean, he just did a phenomenal job breaking it down.
What I mean by that is he went about film a little bit differently. We try to show personnel and then we try to show what they run. What he ended up doing was he ended up taking every possession they had against BC so that our guys could get a feel of what they were trying to do. The hardest thing with them, with Ray and with Allan, is you can't do both. You cannot take away the 3 and guard them, and Foye is impossible.
In other words, our whole thing with them is, you know what, if they pull up jump shots in the lane, they take runners in the lane, and we are giving up 2, we are going to live with that. But we are not living with 3s.
I think what happened was Anthony, it was over an enormous amount of film-watching, a lot of preparation, a lot of time that went into that, and I think against Georgetown Donnie Jones was creative in a lot of different ways as was Anthony.
It wasn't anything -- see, when you are breaking down a team and you have one day to prepare, you can't overwhelm your guys with so much stuff that they are out there thinking. You have to get it really where they understand this is what we have got to do, and it's simple to them. I think Anthony did a great job today breaking it down that way for those kids.
Q. The big picture, two Final Fours in seven years now. Is that a pretty good answer for those people you talked about yesterday who advised you not to take this job 10 years ago?
COACH DONOVAN: You know, I have said this before, one is I am very, very happy I took on the challenge at Florida, but it makes you realize when you are at a place like this, there are so many other people that are involved other than me being a head coach. You have got a great, great group of assistant coaches, a great training staff, great administration. There is a lot of things that go into, I think, trying to build up a program.
I can be the head coach and be a leader, but there are a lot of people who go through this experience every year that don't get any recognition that play a major role in all of this. The one thing -- and the reason I did come to Florida is I just felt like, administratively, there was going to be a strong commitment to basketball. They were going to try to provide the resources necessary to compete with some of the better teams that were out there.
You know, we had great fans, great environment, home court. I think that, you know, it has been a lot of work, but it has also been rewarding in a lot of ways.
Q. Billy, you're coming back to Indianapolis, and you had a lot of NCAA disappointment in six years, and now you are coming back with a pretty young team. Just talk about the -- how this team came together and any harmony coming back to Indianapolis?
COACH DONOVAN: I really believe this, and I view things differently. During the NCAA Tournament, if you get knocked out, there is always disappointment, and sometimes we look at it as, well, if you get to the Sweet 16, Elite Eight or do this or that, it's okay. To me, whether you lose in the second round or lose in the Sweet 16 or lose in the Final Four, the goal is to keep playing until the last possible day and hopefully end your season on a win.
So I have really never been a big believer in buying into -- well, you know, you have got to make a deep run into the tournament. The big thing with the NCAA Tournament, in my opinion, is you have got to get in it on a consistent basis to do something special. That's really what it comes down to.
You know what, it ended disappointingly for us in Indianapolis five years ago. It was a great experience, but it doesn't take away the hurt of being that close and have an opportunity to play for it all and be on the winning side.
We played a great Michigan State team that was better than us that night. To me, I view it differently. I look at North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona. The trick is you have to get in on a consistent basis. That's the whole trick because if you don't get in, you can't do anything.
So, to me, you know, what I am just as much happy about is that for the last eight years we have been in every year. You know what over an eight-year period we went to a Sweet 16, been to our second Final Four and, you know what, we have gotten knocked out the first and second round a lot. That's what this tournament is about. That's what it's about.
So, to me, I am much, much more interested in getting in every single year and giving yourself a chance to do something. I think too much is made of how deep you go. I am going to tell you one thing right now, I would much, much rather have gotten knocked out the first or second round five, six straight years, and have an opportunity to go back and win it all.
To me, it's not a lot of difference. When you lose, you lose. We are excited about going back there. I am just disappointed that maybe it hasn't been in Indianapolis every single year.
Q. Billy, Villanova got it to 3. Taurean made a couple of shots, head-on bank shot with 2 on the clock, and later on in that run he pulls up and takes a 3 with 26 on the clock. I wondered if you obviously remember those shots, just how big they were, and how much of an impact they had. They didn't get another good shot at you the rest of the game.
COACH DONOVAN: I think our basketball team is -- one of the things that we have to get better at, and we don't have it, is we are not a basketball team that understands all the time how to attack with a level of discernment and decision-making. We have had some games where our guys stay aggressive, but they sometimes don't understand how to back it up and still -- when you are up by 11, 12, 13, with 2 to go, and you know they are going to pressure you, you want to attack them for lay-ups and dunks and fouls.
You don't want to attack and take quick shots. At the same point, when Villanova started coming back, I thought it was important that we keep and maintain a level of aggressiveness. That's what I have tried to do with these kids this year, is not have them where they are worried about fear of oh, my gosh, they are making a run and we have to screen better. No, we have to be aggressive, and they are good decision-makers, play unselfishly, and we have been able to play as a unit together.
But I really think Taurean's bank shot was a big shot. I thought Lee Humphrey's shot for 3 was big in the second half. Villanova made some big shots last game against BC. BC made some big shots against Villanova. Corey Brewer made some big shots against Georgetown. You need someone big to make shots like that once in a while.
Q. When this season began, what did you really think you had? Did you think that this was feasible with as much youth and experience as you had?
COACH DONOVAN: To start this tournament over again, I may not be sitting up here, you know. It is a one-shot game, one-shot deal. Sometimes the "best" teams don't always advance on in the NCAA Tournament. That's why there are so many ups and downs, and that's why there are upsets, because there is one game. One game, you don't play well that particular night, you are going to go home.
This team, starting the season I felt, as a coach, had all the team makeup. They were unselfish. They wanted to win. They wanted to learn, wanted to work, wanted to get better. I didn't know if we had enough experience that we would be able to win basketball games, and a number of basketball games, because they had never been through it before. I made this comment back in January or February when we lost three in a row, I said it's good for our team because it is helping them figure out how to win.
We didn't figure out how to win basketball games when we were 17-0 because we were always winning by 12, 14, 15, 18 points and they didn't understand a missed block-out, a broken defensive assignment, giving up 3-point shots could cause us to lose.
Those three losses late helped our team. But I really felt like this team would play hard, play together and give me everything they have. They have done that. We have been fortunate it has carried over to Ws.
Q. Billy, I apologize if you were asked this. This is the first time since 1980 a number 1 seed has not made it to the Final Four. I am just curious if you think that's reflective of what's happening in college basketball.
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I mean this with all the compliment you could probably give a program, possibly give a program, we have entered a stage right now in college basketball where 15 years ago it would have been maybe totally no way a team like George Mason could go to a Final Four.
It just goes to show you how many good coaches there are out there, how many good players there are out there. On any given night anybody can beat anybody. George Mason certainly has proven that in this NCAA Tournament over the last two weeks.
We, as coaches, use the word parody or whatever word you want to use, the closeness of how this thing works out. I think sometimes people get so wrapped up in this guy outcoached this guy, this guy outplayed that guy. It's not about that. It really isn't.
Sometimes it comes down to fluke plays. North Carolina won a national championship, and the program got decimated with early departures, and they had a fabulous year.
George Mason has been on a fabulous run. Jim is a Providence college grad, I have known him a while, happy for him and his program.
When you get into the NCAA Tournament, if you restarted the program over again, you would have different teams. That's what happens when you play a one-shot deal.
Q. Joakim did not score for a 25-minute stretch, didn't even hardly touch it on offense. Was this a topic of discussion on your bench and what was going on?
COACH DONOVAN: You know, Bob, it was. We talk a lot about that. The problem is you have to give Villanova credit because of their guards and the way they front and play defense. I felt like the foul trouble with Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, we had to play David and Lee Humphrey at the point.
I felt their defensive pressure did not allow us to get it inside to him. Villanova probably needs a little more credit. Once we settled in and were able to weather the foul trouble, I thought the second half we did a better job.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts...