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March 22, 2007
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
THE MODERATOR: This is an interview with Florida.
Q. Lee, in 20 years you're going to tell somebody a Billy Donovan story. What's your go-to Billy story?
LEE HUMPHREY: I'll probably tell them about when he came to my home recruiting visit. We got him up on water-skis. Pulled Coach Grant on a tube and he was using my slalom ski and my sister's ski, so he's skiing on two different skis. We'll probably tell that story.
Q. The point would be?
LEE HUMPHREY: I don't know. I just think it's a funny story.
Q. Chris, when you guys were in Atlanta a couple weeks ago for the SEC tournament, you seemed very aggressive and very loose at the same time, and everybody made a big point how you were enjoying the moment. Is it harder to enjoy the moment now if you lose a game? It's going to be your last game and so much is at stake for a bunch of guys who came back for the specific purpose of winning another national championship?
CHRIS RICHARD: I don't think so. Because that's how we play. We go out loose and into the game. Most of the time we do pretty good because we compete at the same time. As long as we stay on edge and have the right focus, most of the time we come out pretty good.
Q. Both players, Coach Donovan was on an underdog Providence team that made a run at the Final Four years ago. Has he regaled you with stories of that how not to, how not to allow Butler to do something similar or what kind of motivational stuff has he told you guys? Because obviously you'll be in the favorites role this weekend.
LEE HUMPHREY: Coach really hadn't talked much about -- hadn't talked about his team from the Final Four, comparing them to Butler. But we know Butler is a good team. Put up on the board before he left all the teams they had beaten just out of conference, I think they're undefeated out of conference and they're good teams and we know Butler is more than capable. If we don't come out and play well we'll get beat.
Q. Guys, what problems does this Butler team create that maybe you guys haven't seen before? Is their uniqueness something that you guys have focused on?
CHRIS RICHARD: See, that's the good thing about playing some of the nonconference games we already played and playing SEC. We've seen every kind of matchup and playing Purdue before them they play similar to defense. All their players can shoot 3s. We played a lot of teams like that also. So I don't think playing against other teams in the SEC early in the season, it kind of helped us for this game.
LEE HUMPHREY: I think Butler's got really good players, and we worked on -- we've worked on a lot of stuff on offense and kind of what they're going to give us and they are a good defensive team. They like to pack it in and really guard from 2s and make them beat it from outside, seems like. But they got some good players.
And we'll just go out and play hard.
Q. Has it been weary at all on you guys to have the big target on your back as a defending champion with so many guys back? Has that worn on you mentally at all during the season, especially in the tournament? Because the pressure is so much more?
CHRIS RICHARD: I don't think so. Because that's old. And we won a championship last year. Our goal this year is to win another championship and not defend the championship because we haven't won it yet. So we just focus this year on what's going on.
So as long as we worry about this year and try to win every game one at a time, we'll be pretty good.
LEE HUMPHREY: I don't think it's been that tough on us mentally. Coach has done a pretty good job. He's always saying "live in the moment." I think our team has done a good job of doing that. We've talked about how last year's championship was last year's championship and nobody could ever take that from us.
We've got an opportunity this year to go out and do well in this tournament. And that's kind of what we've been focusing on.
MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much.
Next up in our rotation is the head coach of the Florida Gators, Billy Donovan. We'll ask him to make a statement on his team being in St. Louis and then go to questions.
BILLY DONOVAN: We're very excited to be here in the city of St. Louis and this NCAA tournament and the field of 16.
I think everybody realizes that to get to this point, you gotta be playing good basketball. You gotta be a good team.
I think for our opponent on Friday night, tomorrow night, we realize Butler is that. They're a terrific basketball team. Had an unbelievable year and it will be a great, great challenge for our team tomorrow night to play against them.
And at the same point we're excited about the opportunity to be able to compete and play tomorrow.
Q. The last time you got ready to coach against Butler in a tournament game you were 34 and you guys were really just getting started in this run. Can you talk a little bit about Billy Donovan then and the evolution of a coach since then? Are you a better coach now? How are you different?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, I certainly hope that I'm better than I was six or seven years ago. I think that's the goal for I think anybody in life. I think if you're not trying to get better, you're not trying to improve, you're not trying to grow, you're not trying to develop. You know, to me you're either getting worse or you're staying the same.
And I was very, very fortunate and blessed to be a head coach at a very young age at Marshall at 28 years old and then go to Florida at 30 and have some things happen at a very young age, going to the Sweet 16 the year before and going back and getting a chance to go to the Final Four in Indianapolis against Michigan State. A lot of things happening. But I always felt for me one of the most important things in my life is to continue to grow and get better and improve.
And I think there's a lot in the profession of coaching to be able to do that. And I'm constantly talking to our team, you know, about getting better and improving. Now, what areas do I see my development and my growth? I don't know. But I think there's always things you're trying to do better. You're trying to coach better and trying to come up with new drills to make players better and individual instruction. Trying to come up with new ways to recruit better. Trying to come up with new ways to motivate and inspire players better. I think every facet of your program you're trying to get better at. And you have trials and error and the learning experience and different things you go through.
So I hope I've been able to get better. And I hope I'm better next year than this year and going all the way down the line. I think if I get to a point where I feel like I don't want to continue to learn and grow in this game, it's probably a good time to step away.
Q. 20 years ago you were on a team somewhat like Butler is now, an underdog trying to get to the Final Four. Do you see any resemblance between your Providence team and this Butler team and do you see anything in that Final Four run that sticks out in your mind?
BILLY DONOVAN: First of all, we do not view Butler at all as an underdog. I think that's a perception that gets created. I think any time you've been a program that's been to the Sweet 16 as much as Butler has and the job that Todd has done and these kids have done, I think that that's almost a label that's not fair.
But I understand the perception. But the perception is not reality. Here's a basketball team that dating all the way back to November has beat Notre Dame, Indiana, Purdue, has beaten Tennessee, has beaten Maryland. Every, quote/unquote, power conference they've lined up against they've beaten.
So to me to sit there and say that they're an underdog I don't think would be fair. They're a great, great basketball program. They're a great basketball team.
And I think the Providence team is completely different and the reason I say that is, one, it was the inception of the three-point line, that was the first year for it. And I also think, two, we were a team that did not knock off the quality of maybe teams that this Butler team knocked off.
Plus, on top of that, we were also in the Big East too and I think the three-point line really carried us.
And we weren't expected to get to a Final Four at Providence. I think with what George Mason did last year that perception, I think Butler is capable of beating anybody in the country. I think they've proven it and I think they've shown that not just on one or two game situation, the NCAA tournament. You can go back to November to see what they've done and they've accomplished.
I don't know what the comparisons would be between the two, but I think the Providence team was a good team as I think this Butler team is a very good team.
Q. For as much as you have tried to focus your team on enjoying the moment and have tried to keep them from feeling the pressure of defending a championship, does all that kind of go out the window when it's round two and you're down 7 against Purdue?
BILLY DONOVAN: I've kind of said this before. I think that it's a lot of talk that people bring up and talk about. I don't know if our players are necessarily thinking about it.
But I think that when the ball is thrown up to start a game, I don't think anybody is concerned about a No. 1 seed or a No. 16 seed or a No. 1 seed or 8 seed or 5 seed, 2 seed.
I just don't think that has any bearing on anything. You know it's like a horse race. I think when they come out and odds go off on a horse race do you think those horses have any idea who is two to one, three to one, whatever it is? No clue. I think when the ball goes up and our guys are competing and playing I don't think they have any concept of what the seeding is or anything else.
I think they realize they're playing against a very good team, and they understand that on any given night I think the vulnerability of being beat is probably the biggest factor.
And our guys have been through enough. I think because people take and put our team expectation-wise on this pedestal, I do think we have to be guarded against it. And we've got to come out and we've got to compete and we've got to play.
I think our guys have done a really good job handling themselves this year. But I think there's no question, like you mentioned there is talk about it. And there is mention of it. But we've got to make sure that we understand.
I think every team we line up and play against could care less what happened last year. I hope our team could care less. I made the comment if we don't win another game in the history of Florida basketball in 2006, that national championship is still going to be up there. But I understand that there's people that want to talk about other things.
But really those other things don't have anything to do with us, because I don't know what it gives us or what benefit it gives us or what gain we get from last year.
What gain do we get from last week? What gain do we get from the SEC? I think you take those experiences and hope you learn from them.
But all that matters is tomorrow night when that ball goes up against a very, very good basketball team that, yes, we could be down again.
That could happen. Or we could be up. But we've got to compete and play to the best of our ability to put ourselves in the position to win.
Q. If perception is not reality, when you're talking about teams like a Butler or maybe Southern Illinois, what do you think is the biggest reason that the mid-major label is disappearing that there's more parity in college basketball?
BILLY DONOVAN: One is I think there's really good players throughout the country. I think, two, the early departures to the NBA and players not sticking around at a lot of these conferences for three and four years. Kids able to leave and go when they're 19 years old.
Scholarship reductions going from 15 to 13. And I think in today's day and age, because guys are leaving to the next level, you know the Kobe Bryants and Kevin Barnetts, they're not in college anymore. There's a lot of parity from the 25th ranking coming out of high school and 125th. There's a lot of parity and I think so much of it has to do with guys' mind set, their competitiveness. How much they want to be part of the team. How important winning is to them. I think those things are very, very important.
So, therefore, you've seen there being not such a difference as maybe there once was 15, 20 years ago. There's a lot of really good programs. Butler is a very, very good program. Gonzaga is a very good program.
I think Florida, we're trying to build a good program. But I don't think you can sit there. And people want to put into boxes what this league is and what this league is and this is who you are and this is who you are. You're high major, you're a mid-major. I think that's something that's really not reality.
But I think a lot of times people can get bought into that. I would say this: I've had a chance to see Butler play a lot. They'd be one of the best teams in the SEC.
Q. Along the same lines, they've been good not only this year but eight or ten years, yet they've got a lot of players, Big 10 schools, SEC, ACC schools didn't recruit wouldn't offer scholarships, how do they do it?
BILLY DONOVAN: I would say this, Al Horford and Joakim coming out of high school were not mentioned in the Top 10 or 15 players at their position coming out of high school. And the reality is that could A.J. Graves play anywhere in the United States of America today? People want to talk about what happened two or three, four years ago when they were being recruited. That's in the past. Where is he at now as a player? He could play anywhere in the country. Crone could play anywhere. Green, their point guard, could play anywhere.
You know, they've got a team full of guys that -- you know what, they're good enough to play anywhere in the country today.
So I don't know why maybe some of them did not get a chance. Maybe they did have those opportunities. I don't know really what happened in the recruiting process. But to me I would take a guy like Joakim and Al Horford and say those two guys are as good as any two front court players in the country. But they didn't have the perception coming out. Jason Williams, who I had at Florida, wasn't even one of the Top 250 players in the high school country. Udonis Haslem wasn't even one of the top 75, 100 players in the country.
There are kids that get better and prove and make great strides and have great internal belief in themselves and the development.
I think if you look at Butler and the fact that Todd has a very exciting style of play, very unique style of play. He utilizes all those kids very well. You can't get to a Sweet 16 unless you have a really, really good team. And I don't know what the reason is on all their recruitment. But I know right now those kids could play anywhere in the country.
That's the truth.
Q. Last week Matt Painter of Purdue said if your club had a weakness it might be free throw shooting. Is he full of it? Is he on to something that you've tried to address and continue to address?
BILLY DONOVAN: I don't know. I think our free throw shooting, the numbers over the course of the season have been up and down. We work very, very hard to try to get better at it.
I think our free throw shooting helped us in the Purdue game. I think if Matt's looking at the statistics I think he has every right to look at those statistics and say that.
Our guys did make some big free throws the last minute or two of that game to keep the lead at a spread that made it hard for them to get back in the last minute or so.
I think what Matt was saying was maybe we do have a good basketball team that he was looking at the free throw line percentage-wise. So I think any time you talk about shooting the basketball, whether it's from the free throw line or perimeter, you can always have a off night. That can always happen. But that's an area we do try to work very, very hard at.
Q. On the idea of guys progressing over the course of time. Can you talk about Al's progression over the course of the year, particularly what's making it so hard -- people are saying Al has the outside shot plus he can make it inside. Also is he kind of an old soul in many ways?
BILLY DONOVAN: The one thing about it is it's really hard to get a player better if a player thinks he's arrived and doesn't need any help to get better. You know, I have to say, someone said to me the greatest compliment I can give our basketball is they're as coachable as they were last year, they're as coachable this year.
I think the one thing about all of our guys is they want to get better and they want to improve. And I would say that, you know, Al has a very fresh, boyish enthusiasm about wanting to get better and wanting to improve.
He wants to look at himself on tape and see where he can get better.
I think when you have that type of mind set that, you know what, I haven't arrived. I can still get a lot better. There's a lot of things I need to improve on. To see his growth when he was a freshman or even coming in as a senior in high school and where he went as a freshman, sophomore and now his junior year I'm proud of the growth he's made. But that growth doesn't happen unless he has the right mind set to want to get better.
And I think Al's very, very mature, as they all are, that I think they internally look at themselves and, you know what, they can look back at themselves and say, you know I've got a lot of room. You can give them constructive criticism and you can point out things and you can make points to try to help them get better.
And I think that was the one thing that's always been encouraging to me about Al is you can be very truthful, very direct, very honest and he doesn't have this attitude like you know what I've arrived. I don't need you or anybody else. You should be fortunate I'm here. That's not his mind set.
His mind set is how do I get better and help the team. It's refreshing.
Q. I was thinking about you've mentioned how Florida doesn't have the tradition of Kentucky or a program like that does. Do you sense that this team is starting to build that tradition and does that matter to these guys? Do you want them to consider that, or you really just want them to live in the moment. But how important is the tradition and building the tradition?
BILLY DONOVAN: I think you always want to build tradition. I think tradition is a good thing because it shows consistency over a long period of time.
And I think in Florida's program there's been pockets of success. And the one thing that hasn't been able to be done where it's been done for a long period of time, and you're working towards that, and I would be hopeful that the guys that have left our program and the guys that leave our program they'll look back and they'll be proud of where it's at.
I think when you look at an Eddie Shannon or David Lee or Brett Nelson, Udonis Haslem, I want them to feel good about where they played and want to feel like we're trying to build something.
But we really don't talk about the whole tradition thing right now with our guys as much as we talk about right now taking advantage of the opportunity that's in front of you.
I think if you can try to do the best job you can taking advantage of the opportunity in front of you, that ultimately builds tradition, that leads to tradition.
MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.
End of FastScripts