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March 16, 2011
Q. Can you guys talk a little bit about that stretch you guys had in the middle of the SEC stretch where you were playing all those close games? That's the type of games you see in March. Can you talk about how that prepared you guys for the run you have to make?
ALEX TYUS: I think it's big. We're definitely going to have a lot of close games coming up, and just giving us the experience of knowing what we need to do down the stretch.
Q. Vernon, slow starts the last couple, three games. You guys were playing some catch-up basketball. Why all of a sudden the slow starts? And what do you need to do because down the line of this NCAA Tournament that might not carry you through?
VERNON MACKLIN: I think we've got to come out more aggressive, looking to attack and looking to pass the ball to each other, just pass the ball harder in the first half than we do the second half. We're going to carry it over to the second half like we always do and play 40 minutes of basketball. We just got to be more aggressive going to the hole and making more plays and extra passes.
Q. Chandler, if you could go back and see yourself as a freshman, what advice would you give yourself then?
CHANDLER PARSONS: You know, I think that our progress from freshman to senior year is night and day. My whole mental approach, I think, was totally wrong. I came in here with the wrong mindset because -- just because they had just won two back to back national championships that I was just going to come and magically fit right in there. I think I had the whole wrong mental approach. I was always talented, but I think that was the one thing that I would do differently is have the different thought process.
Q. What do you know about UC Santa Barbara? You guys play a big, big schedule of teams, very tough teams, that you know a lot about, but what do you know about this team that you have never seen before?
VERNON MACKLIN: We know, like Coach Donovan said, they have a shooting guard, a small forward that's pretty aggressive and they know how to put the ball in the hole and win the tournament. They're shooting guard averaged 28 points a game for three games and their small forward is putting up 17, and their center was at 12. So that's an offensively aggressive team and they play great defense, also. So we got to go in and play hard every single possession.
Q. Chandler, as a 2 seed, the tournament is essentially saying you're not only expected to win tomorrow but could contend for the whole title. What are your chances to make a deep run considering you haven't won an NCAA Tournament game?
CHANDLER PARSONS: I think the biggest thing with us, we can't worry about expectations. In the beginning of the season, we were preseason Top 10 and people put all these expectations. It's about what you make of that.
As a 2 seed, I think we had a great year and I think we're very deserving of a 2 seed. The thing is all a 2 seed gives you is that's just what you've done up until now. Basically whatever we've done until now is over with and it starts all over again Thursday. We've just got to go one game at a time and no matter if we're a 1 seed on a 2 seed or a 10 seed or a 14 seed, we've just got to play one game at a time. This is it. When we lose, our three careers are over. So we've just got to take it one game at a time.
Q. What did you guys take from your experience last year in the one game, and how are you a different team in one year?
ALEX TYUS: I think just the margin of victory and so many things and different possessions that go on in each game mean a lot. I think that's one thing that we're trying to really look -- think about as far as losing is really, really fragile.
Q. Chandler, did you think -- thinking back now looking forward to your senior season, did you think you would elevate your game to a level of being a Conference Player of the Year?
CHANDLER PARSONS: Yeah, I was always very confident in my game. And being the SEC Player of the Year, I'm very honored to do that. Like I said many times, I couldn't have done that without my teammates and my coaches because they make things happen for me. If you would have told me that my freshman year that I would have been, I probably wouldn't have believed you because my progress is night and day. But like I said, I couldn't have done it without our whole staff and without the players that I've played with.
Q. Alex, as far as the game tomorrow night, you watch ESPN and all the national networks, they're talking about you guys, they're talking about the other big schools getting by their first-round games. Is it hard not to buy into that hype and forget the fact that there's a team out there tomorrow night that's going to try to beat you?
ALEX TYUS: I think it's really easy not to pay attention because we have to play the game. We have to go out there, make it happen, and nothing is easy and nothing is going to be given to us. What everybody is saying is just guess and predictions, and when the game is over, that's the reality.
Q. Alex, Coach Donovan isn't going to score any points tomorrow, I understand, but given his experience and accomplishments, how much of an advantage is it to have him in your locker room?
ALEX TYUS: I think it's a huge advantage, just knowing that we have a coach that has gotten to a championship game multiple times on this stage, we just really have to take his experience, take what he says and believe in him and follow him and help each other, and we'll be okay.
Q. The fact that you won't be playing again once this tournament is over for the University of Florida, how much of that is an impetus knowing that you've got to win to continue to play for the University?
CHANDLER PARSONS: It's huge. Being a senior, this is it for us. And it's been a great run for us and we've had a blast. When we're out there, we're going to leave it all out there because we know if we lose a game, that's it. So we don't want to have that feeling we had in the locker room at the SEC tournament against Kentucky. We want to finish our career as a winner.
We're just going to play extremely hard and keep executing our stuff and trying to defend really hard and just do all the things that Coach Donovan has been talking about all year and keep playing the way we've been playing.
Q. Chandler, obviously there are a lot of one and done players in college basketball. How much sweeter is this season for you guys and your accomplishments and the fact that you guys have kind of been through the ups and downs and the trials and tribulations of college?
CHANDLER PARSONS: I think it's really special. Being a four-year player, I've experienced so much here. I've been through many ups and downs and it's been a great season this year for all we've accomplished and all the close games and just the way we've all been in battle.
Last year I felt like we got a taste of getting back to the NCAA Tournament, and I think that's really helped us with all the close games we had this year, us being a mature and humble team to come back and that's really helped us for the tournament run we're going to make this year. We want to go out a winner.
Q. Maybe for Vernon, how much of a difference does it make that you're able to play here in your home state of Florida and are coming all the way from California? Does that big a make difference, do you think?
VERNON MACKLIN: I don't think so. At the end of the day it's a game, either neutral or away or home, it's a game. These guys are going to come here and play hard like their life depended on it. We're going to do the same thing, no matter where the games are being held at in Tampa or in San Diego. I don't think it means anything.
Q. Chandler, like you said, when you guys came in they were just coming off two national championships, yet nobody on this team has won a tournament game. How does that affect you guys not having won a tournament game either positively or negatively?
CHANDLER PARSONS: I think positively that we're hungry. We want to win, we want to win big, and we want to go as far as we possibly can in this tournament.
Like I said, last year going over double overtime of BYU, we got a taste of what it's like and how hard to have to compete just to get a win. Because like I said, it came down to the last possession three times last year and we fell short. But I think it really gave us a good experience getting there, and we have a lot better understanding of it this year.
Q. Chandler, there's so many big-time programs in this field at this site, Kentucky, UCLA, Michigan State with all their Final Fours, and there's you guys. Where do you think Florida stacks up against those type of programs? Is Florida now beginning to be mentioned with those kind of schools?
CHANDLER PARSONS: I think for sure. Those schools you just named are obvious -- they have great tradition, Kentucky, UCLA, North Carolina, Michigan State, I think Florida you can throw them in there. They've had good runs and arguably the best teams ever with those back to back national championship teams. But I think we're on the rise and I think we're a great team.
Q. Alex, you have a lot to say about the success of this team as being a very successful player in the backcourt. UCSB has got some big guards. I'm sure a lot of SEC teams that you've played have had some big guards, but they're pretty big and pretty athletic. How will you go about defending them and try and keep them from penetrating on you guys?
ALEX TYUS: It's definitely going to be a challenge. Those guards being in the Big West are just as good as any of the guards in the SEC as far as being able to put the ball in the hole. I just think we need to make it tough on them, make them work, and just do a lot of different things defensively and keep them guessing and trying to make the game as tough as possible for them.
Q. We saw Horford in Atlanta. Have you guys been able to pick the brain of any of the guys that made those runs that were high seeds and they were able to get through the rigors of the NCAA Tournament? Have you guys had chance to talk with any of those former guys?
VERNON MACKLIN: Yeah, we have. We keep in contact. Horford actually talked at the Florida game. He came in there and spoke to us about how we got to play harder and keep fighting every single day. But for the most part, we all keep in contact with all those guys and those guys taught us a lot and help us out or they talked through Coach Donovan and he'll come tell us. So we talk a lot with those guys.
COACH DONOVAN: We're very excited to be here in Tampa and part of the NCAA Tournament. You know, certainly it's an exciting time. Getting the opportunity to stay in the state is always a great thing, but we'll have to go out and play against a team that really has closed out the year exceptionally well, had a great conference tournament, and had three great wins and playing very, very good basketball. And I think as you look at the stats from their conference tournament, it's pretty amazing what Santa Barbara has done in terms of their shooting percentages from the field, from the three-point line, and then just how well defensively they played in the conference tournament.
So they're a team playing at a very, very high level, and they've obviously got a phenomenal player and scorer in Orlando Johnson and another terrific scorer in Nunnally. Just seems like in their conference tournament right now, probably Serna is a lot more healthier than maybe he was during the course of the year. So this is a very good team we're playing, and we're excited about the opportunity and excited about being in the tournament.
Q. Just listening to the players, what they've been able to accomplish this year, it still seems a little raw to them, last year's opening tournament game. They seemed almost like they're on a mission. Would you agree?
COACH DONOVAN: I don't know. I think that when you have a chance to go through different experiences throughout your college career, you know, you hopefully learn from some of your experiences. And I think last year the trying to get into the tournament, make it into the tournament, there was so much talk over whether we were on the bubble, the first four in, the last four out, and we were probably more solidly in than people gave us credit for. And we played a terrific BYU team last year with Fredette and a game that went into double overtime.
And I think going into this year, they wanted to try to experience more than they did a year ago, and I think that can be said in our conference schedule, can be said in a conference tournament, and I think going into the NCAA Tournament. There's not a team in this tournament that doesn't want the feeling or the excitement of moving on and advancing, so I don't know if their feeling is any different from any other players in the tournament.
Q. Do we make too much of where you're playing and what the arena looks like and how far teams had to come from, or is there anything there that is a factor?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I mean, I think for Santa Barbara certainly traveling across the country, I think that's always a difficult travel. I believe when the game starts tomorrow night and the ball is thrown up, I think all that stuff will be out the window. And I think the fact that we're in the state of Florida will be thrown out the window because I think we're going to have to go out and play. Although we're in our own state, this is not an arena that we have played in. I think maybe last year we played Syracuse here. But it's not a place that we're necessarily comfortable with or have played a lot of games here. It's a new building for both teams.
But I believe this time of year with the excitement of the tournament and guys getting the opportunity to play in postseason play, when the ball goes up I think you're just going to have two teams playing and competing against each other.
Q. You've got Michigan State and UCLA that play after you guys tomorrow night. Do you find it difficult in a first-round game to make sure that your players are not looking at the opponent that awaits them, looking at the one that's on the floor in front of them?
COACH DONOVAN: I really don't think that's going to be a problem for us. We have a group of players right now that have never, ever won an NCAA Tournament game on our team in a Florida Gator uniform. So we understand what a challenge Santa Barbara is going to be tomorrow. I don't think those guys are even thinking about anything else but Santa Barbara right now. You know, we've had a lot to get prepared for because we're playing against a team that we're unfamiliar with, they're unfamiliar with us. There's a lot both coaching staffs have got to do to familiarize their teams with personnel and schemes, so I'm not really worried about that. I think our guys are totally focused on playing tomorrow.
Q. When you look at this site, there's yourself, there's Kentucky, UCLA, Michigan State, one of the most powerful ever put together as a basketball fan, for the basketball fans out there. How big of a deal is this to come see this type of basketball under one roof?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I think there's a -- when you get to this point in time of the season, you generally have very good programs, very good coaches, very good players, schools that have a lot of pride. Even Santa Barbara was here last year. They got a chance to see Ohio State last year. I think you look at the success that West Virginia has had and Bob Huggins has had and you look at the success that Tom Izzo has had at Michigan State, same thing can be said for Ben Howland, same thing can be said for John Calipari at Kentucky. Not only for this site in Tampa, but across the country you're going to be dealing with some very, very good programs and very, very good teams. Certainly this part, there's a lot of tradition rich basketball programs here in Tampa this weekend.
Q. With all the seniors that you have on your team, I was just wondering what you think about the one and done situation and how that impacts the game? And also from a recruiting standpoint, would you look at a kid differently if you felt he was a one and done prospect?
COACH DONOVAN: No, I wouldn't look at any kid that's one and done any differently. I think that because of the landscape of recruiting right now, you've got to try to fill needs. And if a young man has got the opportunity to be one and done, I have no problem with that. I think that I'd like to see the rule changed. I think that these guys should be allowed to go out of high school when an opportunity affords itself to do that. That should be the young man and his family's decision. That's the one thing I'd like to see change.
But we've had some guys -- I signed Kwame Brown that went right out of high school, Donnell Harvey left after his freshman year, Mike Miller left after his sophomore year, Marreese Speights, Nick Calathes after their sophomore year, Joakim Noah, Horford, Brewer after their junior year. So I think when a player has got an opportunity to be able to go and utilize their athletic abilities and talents to earn a living for themselves and their families, I think they should be provided that opportunity. I think one of the things that could happen is you could have a player in high school that's really talented that's unequivocally a first round draft pick and, God forbid, the kid blows his knee or has a significant injury or maybe doesn't adjust to college as well as maybe people thought he would, and now all of a sudden that opportunity is no longer there. That's the one thing I'd like to see changed, and I think it would also eliminate a lot of potential problems as it relates to agents and things like that dealing with high school players, because a lot of times when you recruit somebody you don't know all the things that are going on around a player. But then if that player comes to your program, you're responsible for those problems, and it's almost like the O.J. Mayo situation in a lot of ways that there's things going on there and I'd like to see those players that have that opportunity that are that good that if they want to go, they can go early.
Q. You referenced the fact that no one on your team has an NCAA Tournament win, I'm wondering how you reconcile that. I mean, do you let the guys embrace the idea that they're one of the select few that are viewed as a team that can win it all and cut down nets?
COACH DONOVAN: My view on the seeding has been a lot of talk of whether or not we're deserving of a 2 seed or not, and I don't know. Our program and these kids and myself didn't give us a 2 seed. And whether or not we're deserving, I don't know. There's a lot of good programs, a lot of good teams out there.
But I would say that on Selection Sunday when the seedings are handed out, the seeding is nothing more than a byproduct of what you did in November, December, January, February and March. But once the seeding is over with, to me that is just a reflection or a statement of the past. That's over with. So regardless of what we're seeded, it doesn't make a difference at all because once the tournament starts, you've got to go out there and play. That's just a byproduct of what happened in the earlier months of our non-conference schedule and our SEC schedule and we were afforded that number based on what we did. Now, based on what we did in those months has really nothing to do with how we play here going tomorrow and forward. Our focus has totally been the same in terms of preparing for our opponent tomorrow night.
Q. We're coming up on 25 years ago, the three-point shot was voted on and added, and I'm wondering from your perspective from that Providence run how much that changed the game and especially this time of year?
COACH DONOVAN: Oh, I think it's totally changed the game and revolutionized the game in a lot of ways. I've made this comment before. It would be equivalent in football that if you had a rushing touchdown, you got six points and if you had a passing touchdown, you got eight points. You would see more people passing the ball for more points.
And I think any time that you have a place on the floor that you can score more points from, it's always going to be a weapon. I would say that at Providence in '87, when it first came in, I don't think our team ever had a chance to play in a Final Four without the three-point line, and it was kind of like a perfect storm, so to speak, with Coach Pitino having a lot of an NBA background and understanding the three-point line, and he was probably ahead of most coaches in terms of understanding how to utilize it. And I remember when it first came in, he was talking about taking 30 plus three-point shots a game. And there was other coaches that were out there and said it's going to ruin the game and we're not going to take it. It's a shot that's not a good shot, a high-quality shot, and can't get caught taking a lot of threes. And that really, really changed, I think, a lot of people's mentality of how to utilize the three-point line.
So I definitely think that that has been, as I like to say, the greatest equalizer in college basketball.
Q. Every team is different now in the postseason and this tournament. What is the most difficult part of your job right now with this specific team to get them through all the distractions and all those No. 2s and all that other stuff? What is it that you have to focus in on?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I think that there is -- this is different right now than any time in the year. You know, we normally don't have a media press conference. We normally don't have an open locker ream, we normally don't have an open practice. There are things that go on that are totally different that your normal daily routine than you have in your non-conference schedule and your conference schedule. The understanding of how to deal with and manage all that. The two part of it, like I said earlier, is just a byproduct of something that's happened in the past. That was something that happened because of what we did body of work-wise. But that doesn't mean anything going into this game and talking to them about that and help them understand that is important. But getting them focused on what they need to do. But this is really a time of year that's exciting. There's a lot more national attention, so to speak, at this point in time than maybe there was before. It's exciting. But as you mentioned, it also can be distracting and how your players can handle and manage that, I think, is very, very important.
And then trying to get them to focus on -- normally all these first-round games are against teams that there's not a lot of familiarity with, and we're having to get to know Santa Barbara better; they're having to get to know us better. And you're trying to give that information to your team, and you don't have a lot of time to prepare. It's just a different atmosphere, and getting the guys to focus on the things that they can control, what can they really control? We had no control over our seeding, we had no control over who we were playing. What we do have control over is how we prepare and how we get ready and how we play, and that's I think where your focus needs to be placed.
Q. Can you recall the conversation you had with Chandler after his freshman season after you sat him down and said maybe Florida is not the place for you, if you don't change?
COACH DONOVAN: Yeah, I think Chandler was a guy that -- he was an interesting guy to coach as a freshman. And I think for Chandler, he really had a lot of skill and a lot of ability and a lot of talent. I just never, ever thought that he utilized it the right way. And I think there were some things that I was trying to get across to him to help him understand, to grow and get better as a player. I don't want to say that he was reluctant. He was never reluctant and he was always respectful, but he thought he had a lot more answers at 18 years old that he realized he didn't have. He didn't have any answers. My thing to him was if you have all the answers, you're not going to listen and utilize the experience that people have here, maybe this is not the best place for you.
I think after his sophomore year, I think he really emotionally and personally -- I don't want to say hit rock bottom because his off the floor life has always been in order. He's got a great family. But I don't think he ever really understood what it was all about. And I think when he got after his sophomore year, that's when I think he really started to grow. I know people kind of made a big deal out of my comment that I wasn't looking forward to those guys becoming sophomores from their freshman year. It was not that I didn't want to recruit, but just because you're a year older doesn't make you a year better. Chandler Parsons played better his freshman year than he did his sophomore year. So if being a year older had anything to do with getting better as a player then we'd all get better. What you've got to do is be able to identify the areas that you got to get better in as player. I really thought after his sophomore year, he really got focused and bought into the things he needed to get bought into to become a better player. And I think it was just more of this illusion of what he thought he was and could do and wasn't matching up with reality. And I give him a lot of credit because he's a tough kid, he's a resilient kid, he's a great, great worker. I never, ever had any problems with him.
Sometimes there's guys that have a bad attitude or they don't work hard or they're selfish or they're not about the team. He's never been that way at all. It was just more getting him to have the right approach. He had such a poor approach going into games, the season, just all those things, and you know what, he started to place a focus on those things, and that's when I think his game really turned and changed and got better.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports