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NCAA MEN'S REGIONALS SEMIFINALS & FINALS: PHOENIX


March 21, 2012


Kenny Boynton

Billy Donovan

Erving Walker


PHOENIX, ARIZONA

COACH DONOVAN:  Well, we're certainly very excited to be in Phoenix and still playing in this tournament.  Coming off of two games in Omaha where we got an opportunity, certainly, to prepare for Marquette who has had a terrific year, outstanding team, great challenge for our team.  Certainly they play with great energy and passion as a reflection of Buzz.  So I think our guys are excited and looking forward to the opportunity tomorrow to play.

Q.  Rick was up here earlier talking about when he first got to Providence and you went in and asked for a transfer and he shopped you around, couldn't find a taker and came back and told you to lose weight.  Could you recount that first meeting and your impressions of him and whether you thought you could succeed and stay at Providence?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† Well, the story is pretty accurate.¬† He had actually heard that I was thinking about leaving.¬† I hadn't played very much.¬† And he ‑‑ whether or not he made calls or not, I can tell you on some of the calls I tried to make on some schools I thought would be interested, they were not.
And then I really think what happens to most people, especially when you're young, when it's not going well for you, you have a tendency to look at a change being better and maybe you don't look at yourself in terms of what you've got to do to get better.
And I don't think that my commitment was where it needed to be to play in the Big East and at that level.  And there was a couple of guards that were older than me that were better than me and probably deserved to play.  I think when coach got in there, he said, Listen, if you lose weight and do everything I ask you to do, you're going to have a great experience.  I always loved the game.  I was always committed to it.  I was a gym rat that lived in the gym.  And I did that.
It obviously changed my career, my life, in a lot of different aspects.  I learned some incredible lessons through coach and the investment in the time he made with me.

Q.  He talked about putting you in a cowboy hat (INAUDIBLE)?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† No, I did not want to do that.¬† I think the one thing he probably did was ‑‑ I think the self‑esteem of our team was so bad because we had had three straight losing seasons.¬† It had been ten years before they had ever played in postseason play.¬† Players were criticized about not being good enough.
I think it was a way for him, getting me to do that was a way to probably boost my self‑esteem, my confidence.¬† I was not happy about doing that.¬† And that media guide, I hope that's no longer able to be found.

Q.  How would you have rated your team's play at the end of the regular season when you were struggling and how did you get that turned around so quickly?  What did you say, without putting too much pressure on them?
COACH DONOVAN:  I don't think that we were really struggling.  I really don't think so.  I do think one of the areas we were struggling with is when Will Yeguete went down in the Auburn game.  We only had a couple games left to play.  I think we had to make some adjustments and changes and guys needed to fulfill different roles than they were in before that.  And we had to tweak some things.
But I think if you look at our closing schedule, having to play at Vanderbilt, play Kentucky, play Alabama, play Kentucky, played against four really good teams.  One was on the road, two were a neutral site, and one was at home.  And I could see that our team was getting better.  We were improving.  I think we were addressing the absence of Will Yeguete with his injury, and guys were seeing things that they needed to do.
I think like anything else, when you win, a lot of times the things that you're not doing very well get covered up.  And when you lose, the things that you do do well, no one really talks about.
But I think as a coach, you've got to look at your team and what they're doing.  And certainly as it relates to wins and losses, no, we did not close out the regular season very well.  But I would say probably give credit to playing on the senior night at Vanderbilt.  Kentucky has been the best team in the country all year long.  We played pretty well in the SEC tournament.  And played Kentucky pretty well in the SEC tournament, as well.
I saw our team making strides and getting better.  I think the biggest thing I tried to do was keep their confidence level high that they were doing the right things and this is the thing we needed to confront and get better at to push us over the hump a little bit.

Q.  From what you've seen on film, what impresses you about Jae Crowder?
COACH DONOVAN:  Well, he impacts the game maybe more so than any other player in the country, in every facet.  He's a tremendous offensive rebounder.  He is a great defender.  He comes up with loose basketballs, deflections.  He is a great outlet passer to start the break.  He has incredible stamina with the way he can run up and down the floor.  He shoots 3's, he puts it down.  And maybe the most underrated part of his game is he's a phenomenal passer.  He can impact the game in almost every possible way.  I love the way he competes.

Q.  Can you talk about conditioning and how big a role that will play against Marquette?
COACH DONOVAN:  Well, I think the game will certainly be a fast game.  With the way we play and I think the way that they play, I think conditioning probably in both of our practices is probably of a premium.  You're doing that in practice, where you're trying to condition to play that way.
I think that's the thing that's so impressive with Crowder is how many minutes he can stay on the floor at the intensity level he plays at.  It's really impressive.
With our team, I generally will sub when guys get somewhat tired and need a blow or are not able to play at the intensity level I like.  But certainly the conditioning for us is very important every year, just because of the way we'd like to play.

Q.  With not knowing how many minutes Davante Gardner may or may not play, that really changes Marquette's style, how do you game plan for both of those styles not knowing how many minutes he'll get?
COACH DONOVAN:  I don't know that their style changes a whole lot.  They're going to play fast and they're going to attack you.  They're great in transition, they get it out quick.  Certainly when Gardner is in the game he gives them a great low post presence because of his size and strength and ability to score.  They're able to play fast with Wilson if he comes in for them.
I think they're going to play the way they're going to play, whether Gardner is on the floor or off the floor.  I think when the game gets into the half court, Gardner with his size and presence physically adds a different dimension in terms of playing post defense.

Q.  Can you talk about the coaches that are in town this weekend, Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino, yourself, National Championships, tons of Final Four appearances.  And then there's Buzz, as well as trying to build that résumé.  Can you talk about the contrast between these iconic coaches and then Buzz?
COACH DONOVAN:  Well, one thing I'd say about it is everybody has to start somewhere.  All of us, Coach Pitino, Tom Izzo, myself, Buzz, you have to start somewhere.  And Buzz has done a phenomenal job with Marquette since he took over for Tom Crean.  He's recruited very well.  He has great passion, great energy, great enthusiasm for his kids, the program and his game.  And all you're trying to do is build your program.
And sometimes I think people's perception of coaches, they've won a National Championship, but I had to start somewhere.  Coach Pitino had to start somewhere.  So did Tom.  And Buzz is starting at a high major program like Marquette in the Big East and he's done a phenomenal job and he's building something.
I think you can do a great job in coaching and be a tremendous coach and never get to a Final Four, and have a tremendous program.  There's a lot more that goes into it.  I think that Buzz will continue to grow that program just because of his energy and his passion.

Q.  How much of who you are as a coach and the way you run a program was influenced by your time with Rick?
COACH DONOVAN:  I'm incredibly impacted by him, not even so much with the basketball part of it, but just, more than anything, I think when you're young and things aren't going well for you and you're handling adversity and not understanding how to handle adversity, but just with perseverance, with the work ethic, with a dream, with a goal, a lot of things could be accomplished.
I look at myself as maybe not being, quote, unquote, a McDonald's All‑American or a high profile player.¬† And what he was able to do for me and the way he was able to transform me.¬† I think that's where it starts for me in our program is work ethic‑wise, of guys that want to improve and invest that amount of time.
I think the other part of it for me with him was game preparation, scouting, individual player development, practices, all those things.
Now, I think what happens is from year to year your personnel changes, so everything ‑‑ you can't ‑‑ what I did with Joakim Noah and Al Horford, we're not necessarily doing this year.¬† You've got to make adjustments based on your personnel.
But there are core beliefs that are built into your program that I would sit there and say if Coach Pitino was talking about his core believes, how he wanted his team to play, I think you'd say Billy Donovan mirrors a lot of that.  I don't think there's any question about that.

Q.¬† I saw your team play against Syracuse earlier in the year.¬† From then till now is there anything about this team, the way it operates on the court, changed drastically or how they've grown, what's the biggest difference in that four‑month span?
COACH DONOVAN:  I can't even remember that far back.  A long time ago.
Well, Syracuse was playing great.¬† We were without Erik Murphy in the game, and got him back a couple of games later.¬† Now we're out with ‑‑ without Will Yeguete.¬† So our team is kind of, at that time, we've had two front core players that are now missing.¬† Murphy for that game and now Yeguete.
We've continued to grow, we've developed, we've got better over a period of time.  I think we're playing good basketball right now.  I think our team is playing together.  I think guys understand our roles.  If I'm not mistaken, we probably had six or seven games under our belt.  It was very early in December when we even played that game.
So that was a great experience for us because clearly they have proven to be, if not the best team, certainly two right behind Kentucky with the way they performed.  So we've had some really good tests against some really high quality programs.  And I think that that game probably helped us get better.

Q.  Can you talk about Scottie, he's still only 18, he's got six NCAA tournament games under his belt.  What you saw in him and how much he's been able to do and how much he's grown?
COACH DONOVAN:  I think the one thing is you never really know what you're getting.  Scottie was a little bit different because he lived right in Gainesville, I knew his family well.  Kind of knew what kind of kid he was, what his work ethic was like.
I think when a guy bypasses his senior year in high school, the first thing you worry about is he physically strong enough, is he going to get knocked around and what kind of foot speed does he have.  And I think the one thing that's enabled him to play last year and this year, is he's a great defender with great feet.  And he's also a physically strong guard.  And he can physically defend.  He has been one of our better defenders on the perimeter the last couple of years.  And he takes great pride in that.
I think his offense has continued to get better.¬† But he really ‑‑ we can put him on a lot of different people and he can really defend.

Q.  Can you update Casey Prather's status, is he fully recovered?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† He's fine now.¬† Shouldn't be a problem.¬† In the Norfolk game with about ten minutes to go, the trainer just said he ‑‑ we need to sit him.¬† He's not doing great.¬† I didn't even know if he would play in the game.¬† But he gave us a few good minutes in the first half and didn't play a lot in the second half.¬† He's fine now and a hundred percent and hasn't missed anything since that point.

Q.  I know you could probably write a book on this, but what was tougher, is it building a program from kind of nothing or keeping it at the level that you got it to?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† Well, I think it's always harder to try to maintain, in my opinion.¬† And the reason I say that is that when you're trying to build something and it's building, once you've built something, trying to maintain it is so difficult because there's so many peaks and valleys and there's drop‑offs.¬† And the energy and the passion and the drive that it takes day in and day out to try to maintain something is very, very difficult.
You can get to the pinnacle and then a lot of times there's going to be a dip and there's going to be a drop.  And do you have the energy to try to build back up or maintain where it's been.
And I don't like using the word "maintain," because I think you're always trying to get better.  But certainly being a team that can get into the tournament and have a chance to compete and advance and do those things is very, very challenging and difficult.
Maybe 16 years ago here I probably would say the hard part was trying to build something.¬† They're both very, very difficult.¬† But there's ‑‑ I heard Kobe Bryant made an interesting comment when they had won a few championships.¬† He said it was very, very hard to accept having to go all the way back down the ladder and start back over again.
And I think in order to go back down that ladder and start back over again you've really got to have a passion, a drive and a determination and a motivation to kind of keep on doing that because I don't think anybody ever stays on top forever.  And there's going to be a lot of dips and peaks and valleys throughout the course of that process.

Q.  Obviously it would be fun no matter who you're playing, but because of Marquette's style how much fun do you think this game will be?
KENNY BOYNTON:¬† I think it will be fun.¬† It will be an up‑and‑down type game, a very physical game.¬† I think the big keys to the game is getting back in transition and matching their physical.
ERVING WALKER:  I think it will be a real physical game.  I don't know if that's much fun.  But Marquette's a great team.  And at this time whoever you play is going to be a challenge.

Q.  Can both you guys talk about Scottie and just what he did coming out early from high school and missing the senior year of high school, can you talk about that.  Have you seen some maturation in him?
KENNY BOYNTON:  I think Scottie, he made a big jump, skipping his senior year in high school.  And I think when he came to college he worked hard.  And he's handled it well.
Lately he's been hitting some outside shots.  And I think as the year's gone on his offense has gotten better and better.
ERVING WALKER:  I think Scottie's improved a great deal since he first came.  He's always been a great defender, but I think his offense is improving game by game, and he's playing with a lot of confidence.

Q.  When you lose a bunch right before the postseason starts, is there a tendency to kind of hit the panic button?  How did you guys get out of that and turn it around?
ERVING WALKER:  I would say we definitely didn't hit the panic button, but we knew it was time to buckle down and listen to coach and have some great practices before we got to the NCAA tournament.  And I think it's definitely paid off for us.
KENNY BOYNTON:  I think we were playing some good teams, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Georgia.  But we needed to do the small things, rebounding and getting back to the things that had lost us those games, and we focused in on them.

Q.  Do you guys look forward to playing against a team that wants to go up and down the court and doesn't really want to turn it into a half court?
ERVING WALKER:  I think that benefits us, a team that wants to go up and down.  But like I said before, at this time of year everybody is good, so the style of play, I think it really doesn't matter.  Each game is going to present a challenge, no matter who you're playing against.
KENNY BOYNTON:  I agree with Erv, I think it benefits us.  But we really have to getting back on defense.  I think both of us are going to run, we just need to get back on defense and communicate.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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