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March 25, 2007
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
MODERATOR: I'll ask Coach Billy Donovan to open up this session with a statement on the game, then we'll go to questions for the four student athletes of Florida.
COACH DONOVAN: I'm so proud of these kids to get to this point and have a chance to get back to a Final Four again with them. Give Oregon a lot of credit. They're a very, very good basketball team. We knew it was going to be a battle.
I thought the game -- our bigs had a size advantage. There was no question going into the game. But we've always been a team that's tried to take what the defense gives us. And they did a real good job with their other guards getting inside on Joakim and getting inside on Al and Chris Richard, and it took a while to figure out some things.
But it was a game where we were going to have to make some three-point shots and just not play pound the ball inside.
So it was a game where our bigs didn't score a lot of points and our guards shot the ball very well. And it was also a game where our bigs got their front line in foul trouble. Hairston was in foul trouble. Leunen was in foul trouble. So our bigs did a great job.
They just didn't get a lot of touches because of the way they were playing.
Felt like it was a little bit of a different game than Butler. There was a lot of talk about our big guys being able to move their feet and how much we switched out against Butler. We did that because Butler brought a lot of times two players into pick and rolls.
This was a game where they kept our guards on their guards and they really spaced our bigs and tried to beat our guards off the dribble. In the first half we had a very difficult time with their speed and they got to the rim and got some layups.
As the game went on, the guys on help side started to adjust a little bit better to know when to help and when to stay at home.
And you're not going to take away all the 3s, but I think against Butler, now against Oregon, we've made more 3s than those two teams. That's been really important and helpful.
Everybody was talking about our free throw shooting, and free throw shooting certainly kept them in the game. We got to the free throw line 43 times, we outrebounded them.
But our guys just battled and played. And it's not always pretty just because teams, the way they are coming out and playing us, but these guys just continue to battle and compete and play. Like I said earlier, I'm very, very proud of them.
Q. Lee, in the first half, late in the first half you actually broke the twine. Could you tell us about that shot. Did you have any special spin on it?
LEE HUMPHREY: I think it was a faulty net or something. I didn't shoot it any different than I shoot the rest of my shots. I don't know. Maybe the net was a little messed up before the shot.
Q. Corey and Al, could you just talk about the difference in getting to the Final Four this year, how much harder it is and does it make it more rewarding because of that expectation level that was put upon you?
COREY BREWER: It was a lot harder this year, just because night in, night out we get everybody's best shot. And people play us totally different. Easy game trying to figure out a way to beat us.
So we have to adjust. And this has been really tough. But it's been really rewarding because we got the same five guys back from last year starting and just basically the same team with Walter and Chris. And we just love playing with each other. It feels so good to get back to the Final Four.
AL HORFORD: I just really take like -- just think about this and really appreciate about the opportunity that we're getting. Not a lot of teams get the chance to do this again. And it was a different -- we're a different team than last year and people like Corey set plays different. I personally, and I know these guys, we appreciate it a lot more. It's been a lot of hard work and adversity, and to be able overcome it we're just excited about the opportunity.
Q. The other night you didn't get a lot of shots. Maybe 2 for 5. What got you going today and when did you feel it and could you imagine when you knocked down those back-to-back baskets with nine minutes to go that would be the end of your baskets since you didn't score another one?
LEE HUMPHREY: I think one of the main differences was just the way that Oregon was playing defense on us. They really wanted to take away our inside today and the past couple of games teams have been really taking away perimeter.
I don't know, our guys do a good job. Like Coach said, taking advantage of what defense they're giving us, and today was the perimeter jump shot.
Q. You banged those two back-to-back, you guys didn't get another basket the rest of the night and still could win?
LEE HUMPHREY: Yeah, I think that's a strength of our team. I mean, our team doesn't need me scoring those last nine minutes to win. If I get good shots then I'm going to take them. But we've got -- our whole team's capable of putting up points and that's what makes us tough to guard.
Q. Al or Corey, was there ever a point during the season that you guys kind of wondered if you had made the right decision in coming back or regretted the decision and does this reinforce it or vindicate it?
AL HORFORD: Regardless of what would have happened in the NCAA tournament or anything, I felt that we made the right decision. At least I felt like I made the right decision. Just being able to come back and enjoying the process and playing with the guys, it's something I would never give up for anything.
And I'm really glad that we got the opportunity to come back and play.
COREY BREWER: For me, just to have the chance to play with these guys again, just to have a chance to go to college again for another year. It's been great. It's been very rewarding, and I wouldn't trade it in for the world.
I'm just happy that we're back in the Final Four. But if we would have lost in the first round I still would have been happy.
Q. Al and Taurean, you heard the talk coming into the season about how tough it is to repeat and having gone through four games in the tournament now, do you believe how tough it is? Is it tougher than what you thought, what you heard?
AL HORFORD: After the Butler game I was drained. It's really tough. Just you gotta expect every team's best shot. And I think we've done a good job on taking on the challenge. But I think what's gotten us here is that we're not thinking ahead.
We're taking it one game at a time. And that's the way that we'll approach games.
TAUREAN GREEN: Like Al said, the teams we're playing is different. I mean we've heard how hard it is to repeat and get back to this point, but I think we had to go through it. And I think personally after the Purdue game I was drained.
And teams are playing us different. We've had to adjust to the way teams are playing us.
Q. Al, even though both of you have just described this as being more of a grind than last year, is it possible that now that you're back in the Final Four and you've gotten that part of your mission accomplished, that you might be able to relax a little more than you have in the tournament so far and just go play?
AL HORFORD: I mean, we play UCLA.
It's not like we're -- any team that's left at this stage of the game, we can't relax because if you relax it's over. And the other team knows that if they relax it's over. One of us is going home. Now is the time to really step it up and there's no excuses at this point.
Q. Corey and Taurean, down toward the end of the game there, Joe's yelling keep hatin', keep hatin' and we win, we eat. Can you explain that and how much you have thrived under that kind of everybody cheering against you kind of role?
COREY BREWER: He says keep hatin'. He's just talking about how it's us against the world because we're number one. So everybody kind of wants us to lose because everybody usually cheers for the underdog. I know I used to cheer for the underdog in the NCAA tournament. When he said, we win, we eat, it means we win, we're happy. Basically we're happy. And we love being happy, I guess.
TAUREAN GREEN: Like Corey said, we love winning, and he personally hates when other people hate on us. And we use this as energy ourselves. We thrive off of that. We know basically every game we play now is going to basically be an away game because nobody will be rooting for us. We just use that and we like those kind of environments.
Q. How much is it about just getting to play at least another game with these guys? Regardless of what the juniors do, you're done after this. How much for you is it about just getting to play another game?
LEE HUMPHREY: It's exciting for me to have another chance to play at least one more game with these guys. I've been excited this whole year and just have a lot of fun playing with the guys. This is a fun group to play basketball with and they really make the game fun and we enjoy being around each other. We need another weekend to enjoy each other as a team.
Q. Lee, you've got the Florida record for three pointers now, what does that mean to you and when you look back in the record books and you see your name there?
LEE HUMPHREY: I think it's a pretty cool accomplishment. I mean, there's been a lot of great players at Florida and to hold that record is pretty cool. I think it's cool for our team. I think it says a lot about our team and the unselfishness of our guys. And I think there's several records that our guys hold at the University of Florida, which is cool just as a team.
Q. Billy, I need him to jump on this after I ask this of Lee. As Lee was popping the 3s, I'm looking to see who are they going to foul at the end of the game. I've seen Lee has taken twelve free throws all the year. Why isn't a great shooter like that involved in the free throws at the end of the game? Lee, first of all, wouldn't you like to do that? And then I'll ask the coach why he didn't.
LEE HUMPHREY: I don't know exactly. I know I don't get to the line very much, that's for sure. I might have the worst free throws per minute in the country.
AL HORFORD: They won't foul him. I don't know why.
LEE HUMPHREY: I don't know.
AL HORFORD: They won't foul him.
COREY BREWER: He's shooting the nets off and stuff, would you foul him?
COREY BREWER: Nets coming off. Go get letters, they couldn't find one. Lee Humphrey for 3.
COACH DONOVAN: I don't know. Lee is obviously a guy that doesn't draw a lot of contact and doesn't get fouled. But I really don't know.
Q. At the end of the game situations?
COACH DONOVAN: You know, Corey and Taurean have done a good job, sure, if he got the ball. Again, those end of the game situations, there's things that you can try to do to get the ball in somebody's hands. If the defense is doing a good job taking those things away, you gotta do some other things. Taurean has been a real good free throw shooter for us. He missed a couple of free throws, but I think you mentioned a little bit earlier about going nine minutes without scoring.
I don't know if we've been part of a game where we've taken 32 free throws. Part of the reason we're not scoring, we're getting fouled. I felt like those same guys a day or so ago against Butler were making them.
So big thing I think in those situations when we get the ball inbounds, take care of it, and get fouled, and then guys will have to step up and make them.
Q. As a great three point shooter yourself, talk about Lee. How do you relate to Lee and what makes him so special?
COACH DONOVAN: I think the biggest thing with Lee is he's as good as any shooter I've been around. And the thing about him is he can really keep his focus in the game and he can drift through a game and go through four, five, six, eight, nine minutes of play where teams do a good job. Then all of a sudden he gets freed up.
And he really can make shots when maybe he doesn't have a rhythm. I thought that was key against Butler. He made two 3s back to back against Butler where he hadn't gotten a whole lot of 3s off.
This happened to be a game where for most of the game the way Oregon was playing they did a good job defensively against us. We had to go offensively against a lot of things, against them jamming and trying to push up on our pick and rolls, went down to switching to pick and rolls, they went back to half-trapping them. They switched all of our screening action and pressuring us, trying to get disruptive. We faced a lot. But Lee is one of those guys, plays through the game, lets the game come to him.
A lot of times when you're a shooter, if that's what you do, you get frustrated when you don't get shots. Lee has never been like that. He has the best understanding I've been around of a young man that shoots the ball as well as he does, letting it come to him. But the other thing is Lee does a great job defending. I thought he did a terrific job today on Porter as best he could.
And those two guys are really hard to guard. But I think Lee keeps his focus throughout the course of the game.
Q. Coach, this year most all the teams in the Final Four will be 1 and 2 seeds. Is this a random thing or do you think there's a larger pattern at work here in college basketball?
COACH DONOVAN: I think that's a great question, because for whatever reason it's really worked out that way where a lot of the higher seed, lower seed, whatever, I would say higher seeds have gotten to the Final Four. I don't know. I think maybe like there's been some coincidences where maybe there's been those higher seeds that have been between 5 and 11 have gotten there.
I don't know if it's a trend or not. It's hard to say if it's a trend. But I think UCLA was a 2 seed, Ohio was a 1 seed, we're a 1 seed, so those three teams there you've got pretty much the Final Four is going to be 1 or 2 seeds. I don't know the last time that's necessarily happened.
Q. How special is it for you to have these guys back in the Final Four and how would you compare this to last year and your other trips to the Final Four?
COACH DONOVAN: Last year was I think a great learning experience for our team that how much can be accomplished when everybody sacrifices and you become a team, and here's a bunch of unheralded, unknown guys that come out of nowhere. And last year going into the season with the losses of Roberson and Walsh and David Lee weren't even ranked. We were picked to finish fifth on our side on the SEC, some polls had us 75th in the country.
There was a level that they felt they had to prove something. And they wanted to be really the best team they could be. And I felt like last year we had a chance to be a good team. I don't know if we would be able to win it all. This year it's a little bit different. I shouldn't say a little bit. It's a lot different, you know, coming in with the high expectations.
And the thing that's so pleasing and rewarding to me is these kids have been able to get back to a Final Four again where they were totally unheralded, and then totally where whether you want to say bull's eye or the expectations or target or whatever you want to use, they've had a chance to get there on two opposite ends of the spectrum. So I think it really shows a lot about their competitiveness, their internal wanting to win, be a team, and how important each other are to them.
Because I think any time something great and special happens in your life like you had happen in the national championship, it's only human to become a little complacent, a little unmotivated to maybe feel a little full of yourself to think you've arrived and have it figured out.
I would have to say that these guys have stayed focused. A lot of people may or may not know this but these kids started practice in October because we went to Canada and played over Labor Day weekend. These guys have been playing since April, and then had part of the summer off, and then toward the end of August we started practice. We practiced for 10 days.
It's been a long haul for these guys to keep their focus, and that's why sometimes people say, what was wrong with us, when we lost to Vanderbilt or lost to Tennessee or some of those teams, these kids are human beings. They're not machines that are just going to be on focus, on edge, and play the best of their ability, but the greatest thing about them is I know they care.
Q. The hug that Joakim gave you was reminiscent of the national after the SEC championship where he almost killed you. I'm wondering what your back level is right now? And secondly, in your mind was it harder to do this again to get back to the Final Four?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, my back's okay. I had a bad back when he did that to me last time. But just him, he's been through so much over the last -- this season. He's gone through so much.
I'm happy for him, but I'm happy for all the guys. I think how it's different this year -- it's so hard to get to a Final Four. It's so hard. I mean there are so many great programs, great coaches, great players that never get a chance to be afforded what we've been afforded. And I don't think people truly understand how hard it is.
There is no easy road. And I'd hate to say last year was easier. They're both really, really hard, really hard. I think what happened to our team coming into this season is because of our margin of victory last year in the tournament outside the Georgetown game, everybody's expectation or perception is, geez, Florida is just going to roll.
We've had to climb this mountain. We've had to go through this journey a different way. We couldn't do it exactly the same way we did it last year because people were not going to allow us to do it the same way. We've had to do it a little bit differently.
And it's been different things. We've seen and faced so many different schemes and what people have tried to do against us that the journey has been a lot different. That's the biggest thing, the journey has been a lot different. But both very hard.
Q. Has their attitude changed? Do you sense they're having as much fun with this this year as they did last year?
COACH DONOVAN: I think that's a great point. One of the things I've seen happen to teams that have had high expectations on them was the fun gets taken out of it. And people were asking me questions about us cutting down the SEC regular season in Gainesville and we won the SEC tournament championship. I think since we started practicing, when we took the trip to Canada, you know ESPN was with us. Sports Illustrated was with us. Everybody wanted to track our team.
There was so much publicity that people can start to critique every little thing you do. And the thing I did not want to happen to these kids, I did not want the fun to be taken out of it. So that was part of the reason why I want them to celebrate and have fun and enjoy it because, you know what, there's been times where I've seen really, really good teams win and the kids are in a locker room upset because people are saying, you only won by 5 or you didn't do this or that. What happened here? What happened there? What happens, it's like, geez, unless I'm perfect and play perfect it's not fun.
And I really have worked very, very hard on my end to make sure that they enjoy and have fun with the competition part of it. Enjoy it, I think these guys had a great time. I see them having as much fun and enjoyment this year as last year. You know what, that may be the hardest thing to do.
Q. Billy, kind of goes along with what you were saying. But the ability for these guys to remain as unselfish with the basketball as they are from one year to the next when some of them maybe start thinking about different things, how has that maintained that -- you've maintained that so strongly.
COACH DONOVAN: I think one of the things that you have got to try to do is you gotta create a level of awareness before the season starts with the team and you also gotta have an individual that has the right mind set that's willing to listen to those thoughts.
One of the things that happens when you win a championship is people want to credit different people for being the sole reason. The sole reason for us winning a championship last year perception-wise was Joakim Noah. He was the reason, he was the difference, he was this, he was going to be the Preseason Player of the Year candidate and the Preseason SEC Player.
We've all in this whole group sat down and tried to prepare them as best we could of what was going to come at them. I told them I thought the greatest gift they could give each other this year was the gift of unselfishness, that nobody's role was more important than the next and that we had to maintain a level of unselfishness and we still had to have the attitude of who cares who scores, let's just make sure we play the right way and take advantage of what's available.
I can honestly tell you I never had a problem with them all year where somebody was worried about the next level or somebody was worrying about their role or somebody wasn't getting enough shots. The thing if you look at our team, the difference of shots between all five, six of them it's remarkable how close it is. They really try to play the right way.
We're not -- we're a flawed basketball team just like everybody. Everybody has their weaknesses, things you want to get better at. One of the strengths of our team is they play unselfishly and really try to play together and care for each other.
Q. Is there any disadvantage to facing UCLA a team you handled so easily in the title game last year? Are you concerned at all about that, seeing that team again? And what did you see this year compared to last year?
COACH DONOVAN: I knew I was going to get a question about the next game. It's hard to enjoy it even today here a little bit. UCLA has had a terrific year. Their team is probably a little different than it was a year ago. Jordan Farmar not being there. Collison being in.
We know it's going to be a challenge. I've got to really watch more film and try to evaluate it. But there's no question I think for us to be back there playing against a program like UCLA with the tradition, with what they've done.
And two teams give UCLA kids a lot of credit, give our kids a lot of credit, two teams that were there last year. Half the Final Four from last year is back. Kind of a neat thing, too, I think of kids going into a season really trying to compete to get back to that point.
So I probably will be a lot more educated over this week as we try to get prepared.
Q. You can probably anticipate one of these lines of questioning, this really isn't a Kentucky question, but I'm kind of curious. Have you had any humorous incidents over the course of the last few days from either fans or administrators or players, people blatantly sucking up to you to make you stay and fall in love with Florida more?
COACH DONOVAN: No. No. I've got an unbelievable relationship with our administration, with our coaches. Love the University of Florida. And our relationship, I think, is a lot deeper than that. And I can honestly tell you -- and this is not because of anything else. I do this all the time.
The minute I get on the road, I don't even look at my cell phone. I give it to my secretary and tell her she's in charge of it. If anything comes through that I have to deal with, that's fine. I do not know one person that's called me that I've spoken to. Really what I try to do I go from practice to watching film. That's what I do.
I don't even have a phone to deal with. So I haven't seen anything like that, no.
Q. In today's game, did you guys put more emphasis on Porter getting out on him or do you think he just kind of missed some shots today?
COACH DONOVAN: I think he kind of missed some shots. I can't sit there and say -- because you know what, he and Brooks are about as two of the better guards we've seen and played against that they make tough shots. You look at the shots Porter made against UNLV, they were the same exact shots he missed against us. He's so fast and quick you're not going to prevent him from getting it off.
A lot of times it's a matter of is he hot now. There were a couple ones that he didn't really have a clean look and he missed pretty significantly. But he and Brooks, boy, they're two really guys that are hard to guard. Both of those guys.
So we somewhat did a pretty good job. But I think you look at the shooting percentages of their team from the three-point line against Winthrop, Miami (Ohio) and UNLV. It was really impressive, and tough shots.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts