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March 31, 2014

Billy Donovan


DAVE WORLOCK:  Welcome to today's teleconference with the four coaches of the Final Four teams.  We look forward to having you all in North Texas.
At this point we'd like to start taking questions for Coach Billy Donovan of the Florida Gators, champions of the South Regional.
Congratulations on advancing to another Final Four.
At this point we'll turn it over to the media for questions.

Q.  Could you talk about the matchup between Scottie Wilbekin and Napier, how much the dynamics that could change particularly in light of what happened last time with Scottie's sprained ankle, how it forced you to go to a 1‑3‑1.  Could you talk about how much coaching in the Final Four, the experience of having done it so often, how much of an advantage does that really give from a coaching perspective?
COACH DONOVAN:  Well, Napier is a great player.  I obviously have an enormous amount of respect for him.  Being a Big East guy, I've always followed Big East teams.  I know they were in the American this year, but Napier obviously played in a national championship game, been a national championship winner.  He is a really, really gifted offensive player and I think a gifted leader, as well.
I always believe that Scottie Wilbekin is a great defender and Napier is a great offensive player.  I always believe that great offense beats great defense.  So this is not necessarily going to be a situation where Scottie is going to be playing Napier by himself.  We've been a team, a defensive team, and we've got to try to do as good of a job as we can collectively helping Scottie in whatever situation he may be in during the game.
As it relates to the Final Four, getting a chance to be a part of some of those things, I don't know if there's an advantage or not in being there.  I think the one thing for all teams, I'm sure Napier could really help his team being somebody that's gone through it as a player, but the event of the Final Four is almost like the Super Bowl.  The players just need to understand what they're walking into.
But when the ball gets thrown up at 5:00 on Saturday, both teams are going to go out there and play.  We've got to do as good of a job as we can preparing for UConn and getting ready to play them this week.

Q.  A little bit more about the game on December 2nd, what you remember from it, what you take from it.  You're going to have more of your pieces in place for this game.  What do you remember from that matchup?
COACH DONOVAN:  It was a great game.  It was a great environment.  I think it was a game that really helped our team going forward.
Napier made some great plays coming down the stretch.  He made a three‑point play.  We fouled him on a three‑point shot, ended up being a four‑point play and he made the game winner.
There were a lot of ebbs and flows in the game.  We jumped out on a good lead, they took the lead back.  The game really went back and forth in a lot of ways.  It really came down to the last possession.
I thought Daniels for them made a tremendous play keeping a loose basketball alive on a rebound and Napier got a great look from the free‑throw line and knocked it down for their team.

Q.  You said that game really helped you guys moving forward.  How did it help you?
COACH DONOVAN:  Well, I think, one, it was really our second road game.  We played Wisconsin early, I think it was the second game of the year.  I think when you play against a good team and you've got to battle and fight, go back and forth, and the game really went back and forth in a lot of ways, it helps you understand how hard you have to fight, battle, persevere.  It was a great venue, in their building, a great crowd.
I think any time you play in a game like that, you get a chance to learn and grow.  Obviously it was a tough loss for us, losing like that at the buzzer.  But there's things we can look at in the game, right after that game finished, of where we needed to get better and improve.  We did a much, much better job I thought going forward.  In particular we gave up some offensive rebounds coming down the stretch, and their team did a great job coming up with loose basketballs.
I think any game that you play where it's against that kind of competition, it only helps your team get better.

Q.  Could you comment on the job Kevin Ollie has done at UConn?  What do you see in terms of similarities and differences between his teams and Jim Calhoun?
COACH DONOVAN:  It's hard for me to say what the differences would be between their teams because I was not in the league there and competing against Jim's teams, so that would be hard for me to answer.
I've always respected Kevin.  He obviously was a terrific player, first‑class guy.  He's done an unbelievable job.
One of the things I respect more than anything else is here's a guy that plays at UConn, assistant coach there, he's obviously taking over for a Hall of Fame coach.  There's no question that Kevin is comfortable with who he is, what he stands for, how he wants his team to play.
I'm sure there's probably differences between him and Jim.  Obviously I think Kevin has looked at his team, he's probably putting his stamp on what he thinks is the best way for his team to play.  He's done a magnificent job coaching them all year long.

Q.  I wanted to ask about Patric Young's role as a mentor for some of the young guys, specifically Chris Walker, and how important it is to have that kind of player‑driven mentorship within the locker room?
COACH DONOVAN:  The one thing that happened for Chris Walker, which was hard, when he came in in December, he had no idea about anything.  He didn't know how we stretched, how we lifted weights.  He did not know any drill in practice.  He didn't know what we were doing on offense, defense.  Didn't know how to guard a pick‑'n‑roll.  He was a 6'10" live‑wire athlete.
As a coach, we spent a lot of time with Chris trying to get him caught up on what we do.  What was probably more impactful for Chris was the amount of time that Patric spent with him, explained to him why it's important to stretch, how to go about stretching, how to get yourself ready to play, how to get yourself ready for practice, not showing up 15 minutes before we practice to get taped, but get here 45 minutes or an hour, get out on the court.
Patric has spent a lot of time helping him.  That's just the way Patric is as a kid.  It probably has less to do with Chris Walker and much, much more to do with Patric.  I think if any player was here with the situation that Chris Walker was in, Patric would do it.  I think he's grown fond of Patric because of the time and investment he's made in him.

Q.  It's obviously been a long season for everyone.  What concern do you have about keeping guys fresh mentally, physically and otherwise?
COACH DONOVAN:  This reminds me a little bit of coming out of the SEC where the teams that had a bye had a little bit of time preparing for their first game.  Now we obviously have a little bit of time here playing on Saturday to get prepared to play UConn.
But I do think, as you mentioned, trying to get your guys back physically, mentally and emotionally is important.
I think the one thing that's probably good for both ourselves and UConn is there's some familiarity, although the game was played a while ago.  Both teams played against each other.  They probably have a feel for each other as players.
So I think with what we're getting ready to walk into on Thursday, going to Dallas, it's different than anything else these guys have ever gone through.  I think we've got to get ourselves as a team just mentally, physically fresh to practice and get back to getting to work and getting to work preparing to play UConn.

Q.  I know obviously you have a huge game coming up.  You're familiar with Wisconsin and Kentucky.  Just a version of the nuts and bolts of that matchup, what each team might need to do to be successful this weekend.
COACH DONOVAN:  It should be a great game.  Two, I think in a lot of ways, contrasting styles.  Kentucky obviously is unbelievably talented.  They continue to get better and improve.  Great rebounding team.  I think the Harrisons have continued to get better shooting the ball from the perimeter.  Great size and length they basket.
Whereas Wisconsin is going to give you a lot of that flex motion where the floor is going to be spaced.  Outstanding three‑point shooting team.  I think Kaminsky for them is a unique player just in the fact that with his size, he can step away from the basket and shoot threes, he obviously can post up and score around the basket.  Really good cutting and reading screens.  A team that's very, very deliberate.
So you have really two contrasting styles.  I think that game will probably come down to the backboard will be a big key and the three‑point line will be a big, big factor in the game.

Q.  How big of an advantage is it that you've played all these teams?
COACH DONOVAN:  I think for us, whoever we're going to play, the other team's got the same thing.  They're familiarity because at least from our standpoint, we've played UConn, Wisconsin and Kentucky.  So there's familiarity with us, too.
I do think that is a good thing as it relates to preparation.  I use this as an example.  When we're playing UCLA, we have not seen a 6'9" point guard like Kyle Anderson.  A little bit different, a little bit unique.  You're trying to explain that to your guys, show it to them, but they really never have gone against it.
Whereas I think for us playing against UConn, our guys know Shabazz, Boatright, Daniels, they know their roster.  UConn knows our roster, too, because we played against each other.
From a preparation standpoint we can take some things from previous games, things we need to do better.  I think every team right now, since we've played them, has evolved in some ways.  Hopefully we've evolved, as well.

Q.  Is it a good or bad thing to have such recent history with all the other Final Four teams?  Usually that doesn't happen that way.
COACH DONOVAN:  Yeah, I mean, I could tell you this, we're excited.  I'm sure we're no different than anybody else, we're excited to have an opportunity to play another 40 minutes.  The teams that are going to Dallas earned their way to get there.  They've earned their way because they played well in the games leading up to this.
Sometimes the Final Four shakes out in a lot of different ways.  In a way for us, we've played against all these teams.  There's familiarity, but there's also familiarity with us.
For us, we're just excited that we get another opportunity to play.  Whoever it may have been, we were going to play the winner of the Michigan State and UConn game, could have been either one of the those teams, both great years, great teams.  UConn won the game, so we're playing them.
We don't have any control at this time of the year for who our opponent is.  We're just focused on what we need to do and how we need to prepare to play.

Q.  What is your personal feeling when people now start to put you in the same category with coaches like a Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino?  Do you ever allow yourself any personal reflection with your record as a coach, personal satisfaction?
COACH DONOVAN:  How do I answer that?
I think for me, I've been very, very blessed, one, to be at a place for 18 years.  Two, I've been very, very blessed that I've had a chance to coach some good players and some great kids.
As a coach, you're only as good as your players are.  There's a lot of great coaches out there that have never had a chance to get to a Final Four that are great coaches.
For me, I almost look at it as the players for me have allowed me to coach them and have allowed me to implement a style and a system of how we want to play, and they really have bought into that.
Although those things are nice to hear and they're great compliments, the one thing I've always admired about a Dean Smith, a John Wooden, even Mike Krzyzewski, is how a player talks about those guys as coaches when they played for them.
I have a really good reference point.  Playing for a Hall of Fame coach in Coach Pitino, he was not a Hall of Fame coach when he coached me when he was 32 years old.  He was a young coach coming up at that time.  Regardless of whether or not he would have ever been in the Hall of Fame, regardless of whether or not he would be where he's at today, the impact he made on my life changed me in a lot of ways.
I always think about that when I coach.  Can I make the same kind of impact with my players that he made with me?  Some guys probably do it better than others.  That to me is the essence that I want because I know how it changed my life in such a positive way and afforded me some great opportunities because of the investment he made in me.

Q.  Describe the growth you've seen in the Harrison twins at Kentucky over the season and into the tournament.
COACH DONOVAN:  The one thing I've always admired about those guys is they're the same every game.  I think they're really good competitors.  They look like they like playing.  They play.  I mean, they play every day.  Like any player, there's probably some ups and downs of good performances, bad performances, but they play.
I've always admired that about them.  I've admired their competitiveness.  They go out there and they play the game.  I think they've been doing that all year long.
I'm sure through their experiences this year they've grown and learned and gotten better.

Q.  Do you at all look at what Kentucky has been able to do on the recruiting path and be somewhat amazed?
COACH DONOVAN:  I mean, I don't know.  There's been some times we've recruited against them on some different guys.  Our paths maybe haven't crossed a lot.
John is probably a better guy to answer that than I would be in terms of the recruiting part of it.
DAVE WORLOCK:  Thank you, coach.  We appreciate your time.  Best of luck.
COACH DONOVAN:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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