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NCAA Elite 8 Press Conference Transcript: Pittsburgh (March 27, 2009)

Friday, March 27, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 7:48 PM, under , ,

Athens, GA (Mar 27, 2009) -The Elite Eight comes tomorrow. The press conferences keep coming too. Here is the transcript of the University of Pittsburgh press conference, as provided by the NCAA.

COACH DIXON: Obviously we had a light workout today in preparation
for Villanova, obviously a team that we're familiar with, played them
once during the year. We know a lot of their guys, know their
personnel. Our guys are familiar with their guys, a little unique in
that way, I think, in a Regional final. Looking forward to the

We're proud of our guys and how they played last night, but we know
that we've got to get our focus on what we have to get ready for with
Villanova and understand what they do and things that we have to do.

Looking forward to the game and the opportunity.

Q. Sam, two games in a row you haven't sat a minute. Are you kind of
getting used to the idea that you're going to be playing every minute,
every game, do you like that?

SAM YOUNG: To be honest, I don't even think about it. If that's what
Coach wants to happen, then I'm all over it. I love to play. I never
want to come out of the game, anyway. So the more I play the happier I

But I never really thought about the situation. I want to play the
whole game.

Q. For Sam and DeJuan, do you have a memory of a first Big East
player or coach or team that you remember watching when you were
coming up that kind of caught your attention about the league, maybe
just a great player that you have a memory of?

DeJUAN BLAIR: Well, I watched Darrell Porter, I watched Pitt, I
watched Darrell Porter when he played with Sean Miller and the rest of
those guys. It was a nice team. They had a lot of depth. It was just
Georgetown back in the day, that's who the big dog was. That's who I
was watching, Darrell Porter.

SAM YOUNG: Actually, I didn't watch college basketball until I got
to college (laughter). No.

Q. DeJuan, the first game you played against Villanova in the
Spectrum, what are your recollections of that game? I know you got
into some foul trouble. Villanova people put a lot of stock in the
atmosphere in that game, they were closing that building and it was
hot. What are your recollections of that ballgame?

DeJUAN BLAIR: That ballgame I picked up two fouls early. Of course,
I came out, but we played bad and we were still up eight with two
minutes to go in the second half and then we blew that. I can't get in
foul trouble for my team to win. I've just got to be out on court. I'm
going to try my best not to get fouls and just do what I've got to do
for us to win. I know we're going to find a way to play good and play

Like I said, we've got the motivation to do it, we've got the
players to do it and we've just got to show up tomorrow.

Q. Levance and Sam, just to follow up on that, that game was two
months ago. Is there anything that you can take from that first
meeting with Villanova, whether it's preparation or motivation?

LEVANCE FIELDS: There's a lot of change from two months. You can
watch it over and over, but really, I don't think you can gain
anything from it.

The biggest thing for us is to definitely keep DeJuan out of foul
trouble. His presence alone when he's on the court makes us a better
team. So if it is one thing, it's the foul trouble with DeJuan.

And other than that it's going to be a totally different game. Both
teams are, I think, better than they were two months ago. Tomorrow
hopefully it can be a great game.

SAM YOUNG: I piggyback off of what Levance said. Definitely make
sure that DeJuan is on the floor. And I think turnovers, I think we
turned the ball over a little bit too much against their pressure. And
just being more aggressive on the boards, making sure we I think if we
win the boards and collect on the turnovers and keep DeJuan on the
floor, we're in pretty good shape.

Q. DeJuan, and I'm not saying this in a team sense, but because of
what happened the first time around do you personally feel like you
have a little bit of a score to settle here? The second part of that
would be Coach Wright said after you guys played that he noticed a
difference in the way that you were playing. Maybe there was more
discipline. Did you learn something the first time around?

DeJUAN BLAIR: Well, you could say that. But I picked up two fouls
against Louisville. I'm more disciplined now. Everybody on my team and
my family and my coaches and everybody just say to stay out of foul
trouble. I've just got to keep playing. I've got to play disciplined.
I've got to go in acting like I've got two fouls, as my coach told me.
I just can't get fouls and we'll be hot.

Q. Do you feel at all like you have that personal score to settle?

DeJUAN BLAIR: No. That's two months ago. I don't even know what
happened a month ago. So that game we lost because of us, it wasn't
because of nothing else. And like Levance says, it's going to be a
totally different ballgame. We're just going to go out there, I'm not
going to worry about the first game. Whatever happened the first time
happened, but there's always round 2. So it's on a bigger stage, this
is a bigger stage, so anything can happen.

Q. Jermaine, your brother won a championship in 2002 with Maryland.
How much have you reached out to him just for that experience and
tried to draw anything from his experience running through and getting
to a Final Four and winning a championship?

JERMAINE DIXON: Me and my brother talk about that. He said it's a
top program and playing with the players they have that they brought
back, we could definitely win a national title. Before the tournament
started he told me take one game at a time, take no team lightly.
That's basically what he told me. He just told me to go out and play
hard. He told me to have DeJuan stay out of foul trouble. And just
make sure we play as a team and we can definitely win it.

Q. I'd like to pose the same question I posed to the Villanova team.
When you look at their team who defines the term "baller" on their

TYRELL BIGGS: Corey Fisher.

JERMAINE DIXON: I would definitely have to say Corey Fisher, too.

DeJUAN BLAIR: I'd say Scottie. He's the general for their team.


SAM YOUNG: I'll say Dante, because he plays tough and he's
aggressive. He always does whatever it takes to win.

Q. DeJuan, Coach Wright was describing what a Philadelphia
basketball player, I asked him: What is a Pittsburgh player like, and
he used you as a reference. Can you describe a typical Pittsburgh
basketball player, what are the attributes? Is there any kind of
Pittsburgh Philly rivalry going on when you're coming up in the high
school ranks, anything like that?

DeJUAN BLAIR: Well, he said what a Pittsburgh basketball player I'm
the only basketball player that came out of Pittsburgh (laughter). So
Pittsburgh, it's the same as Philly, hard nosed, same as New York.
We're all from the city. We fight for what we want. And that's what we

As a rival, you could say that, Pittsburgh Philly. But in high
school we beat all the Philly teams, Chester, Robinson. That's the
only team. We played we played them in the championship. So it's kind
of I didn't know he was from Philly, but now you just made a rival,
then, me and Coach Wright (laughter).

Q. Levance, a lot has been said about the senior leadership of
Villanova's seniors. How have you and your fellow seniors contributed
to the success of this team in terms of leadership?

LEVANCE FIELDS: Starting the tournament Coach said he was going to
ride the whole team, and the underclassmen are going to ride me, Sam
and Tyrell, throughout this whole tournament. That's what we've been
doing, trying to lead by example, stay together and help any way
possible for our team to win. Our focus has been better than ever.

I think Sam's even turned it up another notch as far as his focus.
And Tyrell, he's the guy that's undercover. Nobody talks about him,
but he does all the little things for us that helps us win games. So
from that standpoint we all are just trying to do whatever we can,
once again, like I said, to help our team win.

Q. Same question I asked DeJuan, sort of your recollections of how
the game in Philly went. The Philly people, at least at this point,
put a lot of stock in the setting, the Spectrum was a crazy thing that
they were closing it down. You guys led by five at the half.

COACH DIXON: Yeah, we were up early. It was great to be involved in
that game. Not growing up in Philadelphia or in Pennsylvania or really
the East, I didn't have any real vivid memories, personal memories, of
playing and being involved in the Spectrum. But it was great to be
involved. Obviously I remember certain games and games that have been
there. It was a nice event, nice setting.

And I think it was a good game. We played well. We got off to a good
start. Everybody talks about DeJuan, but we had a number of guys in
foul trouble. I think the numbers were 24 fouls. It was very one sided
on the foul count. Tyrell was in foul trouble. DeJuan didn't even foul
out. Tyrell was in foul trouble, he hurt us. Brad was in foul trouble,
even though he played well early, we couldn't get him in as much in
the second half because of fouls. That was a big difference in the

We've only had really two games where we've had that game and the
game at Louisville where we've had the entire team everybody talks
about DeJuan, but we've had other guys in foul trouble. Tyrell is the
other one. I think we can handle one, we can't have them both in foul
trouble. And that's obviously for every team in the country. You can't
have your two starting big guys in foul trouble.

It was a very well played game and hard fought. And I thought it was
I didn't realize going in how important it was to be playing in the
Spectrum for the last game. But I'm glad we were a part of it.

Q. Jay had said that there's kind of some symmetry between your
programs. You both have been to a certain point since you've been
there, since he's been there, but not really gotten through. Is it an
irony you're facing off to be the next Big East team with Louisville
and Syracuse and UConn getting to the next level, going to a Final

COACH DIXON: You know, they have that National Championship, I
think, that we don't have. But over the last couple of years, I think
I've been there ten years now, and I think we've kind of our program
is thought of differently and looked at differently during this time.
And I think they've been on a great run, as well.

Just going off the top of my head, I think over the last I know
we've got the best record in the league the last eight years and I'm
sure they're up there with us, as well as Connecticut.

I think we're both teams that have been consistently very good and
are very familiar with their players. There's a lot of connections, I
think, with all their guys. A number of them we recruited. We go into
Philadelphia and recruit. They don't seem to go into Pittsburgh to
recruit very often. I don't know if the symmetry still exists there.
But we have great respect for their program at the same time. So I
think that is something we both have in common, as well.

Q. What do you say to DeJuan or any big man you've ever had who has
had foul trouble to kind of tone them down a little bit but without
losing what makes them special, the aggressiveness and physicality?

A. He hasn't been in foul trouble that often. Those are the games
that have been talked about. Generally we won 31 games and we tend to
talk about the ones that we lose. And there's a couple that he was in
foul trouble. But, again, we've talked to him. I think he's cut down
on some.

Sometimes there's going to be a bad call that may happen once in a
while. You guys may see one out there. The first one against
Villanova, I just watched it today, you have to wonder. So it's part
of the game. And you play. You play with the mindset that they're
going to even out and it's going to be balanced. And you play smart.

We've talked to him about you can't have the, we call silly fouls,
and those often fouls aren't from aggressiveness, from fatigue,
frustration oftentimes or not being prepared, not anticipating. And
that's where you get your fouls. So again, he's done a very good job.

I think it's just been the games that he's been in foul trouble
we've had other guys in foul trouble. And that is sometimes has been
lost in the translation, I guess.

Q. Two parter, could you discuss what you like about Villanova
seniors, Cunningham, Clark and Anderson. And what about the
contribution of your own seniors to your success this year?

COACH DIXON: That's interesting, both teams with three seniors,
three prominent seniors, all three starting. Interesting with their
guys because we know them very well. I can remember being in Dante's
home, doing a home visit with him. And I thought we were going to get
him, actually. We were recruiting him. We did a lot of really were on
top of that recruiting. We thought he was going to be a very good
player, not surprised how he developed. He's a great kid.

Shane, another kid that we recruited, as well. Didn't know as much
about Dwayne. But three tough kids. You love to see kids that
gradually got better each year, and I think that was something. Again,
Shane and Dante, I had a pretty good idea that they were going to be
very good players. I'm not at all surprised by their success.

And with that we've had great leadership with our three seniors.
They have grown as players, but more so as and I've said this
throughout as leaders. You're talking about three very different

Sam is, kind of like he said, he wasn't really a basketball guy
growing up. He really is new to the game, relatively speaking. But
he's opened up. He's become more vocal. He's become more comfortable
speaking out in front of people and speaking to his teammates and
letting them know, and even today, just through our walkthrough and
stuff he pointed out some things to a freshman, which if you'd seen
him as a freshman that would be something that maybe would have been
hard to envision.

And then Levance has always been a leader in a lot of ways with his
toughness and competitiveness and his winning attitude.

Tyrell has been a solid, great kid, a rock. And again, undervalued
guy because when he's been out those have been the games that we've
actually had our few losses that he's been in foul trouble in those.

Q. Sam had talked about leaving after sophomore year and you were
able to convince him that he was going to blossom as a player. What
did you see in him the first few years that you thought maybe this is
going to be your time?

COACH DIXON: There was a couple of things, I have no problem with
kids that want to play more. I want kids that want to play more. So
that's not sometimes people look at that as a negative. If you don't
have kids that want to play more, then you've got real problems. It
was nothing other than he felt he wanted to play more.

The basic thing is he was making adjustment position wise. He was an
inside guy, a five man, really, in high school, that was becoming a
three four. He wanted it to happen in a day and it takes some time.
And he's still getting better and better.

But I think we talked about a couple of things. I knew he would
become our leading scorer going forward. It was a big jump, but it was
something that we knew going into his junior year. I talked to him. I
told him that he would be. But along with that came some
responsibilities. Leadership, on and off the court, other things that
you have to do. He was somewhat reluctant to talk to people, media,
players. And those were things that come with being a leading scorer,
and that was something we talked about.

Q. The Villanova players and Jay Wright kind of agreed that your
first game or the game in the regular season was a benchmark for them
in terms of they began to expand beyond Dante and Scottie. Do you see
them playing a lot differently or significantly differently now than
when you played in the season?

COACH DIXON: I think Dwayne Anderson has really become much more of
an aggressive offensive player. I think he and Shane, as well. I think
their seniors have really stepped up in that regard. I think they've
settled on their rotation and feel like, as every team, you try to get
better. I think we're a better team now than we were then. I think
that they probably feel the same way about themselves.

That was, again, a long time ago, two months ago in a regular season
game. That's a long time ago. And so there was a lot of room for
improvement and I think we've made improvements.

Q. If you think back to growing up on the West Coast, what was the
reputation of the Big East then and has that changed in your mind
since you've been at Pittsburgh?

COACH DIXON: Well, I grew up in the west, but I spent my, as I like
to say, my parents, I was the only guy that summered in the Bronx. My
parents were from the Bronx, and we would drive across country and I
would stay with my grandparents in the Bronx and Throgs Neck and Port
Chester. I did both.

I can remember going to St. John's and playing and shooting around
over there and trying to play games and different things. So I had an
affinity for the Big East, even in the west. And plus the fact back
then those were the games that were on TV. The Big East was always the
main draw, the main conference as far as college basketball.

Obviously because of my family and my roots and New York, the Big
East had even more of a special meaning than a typical kid out west.
It's always been a big always something I've been well aware of and
have always been now it was a draw to me when I came to Pittsburgh ten
years ago, to be honest with. That was something when I made the
decision to come to Pitt, that was part of it.

Q. You referenced recruiting in Philadelphia. I noticed that this
year Nasir Robinson's playing time kind of dipped at the end of the
season. What's your plans for him going forward and was there anything
that happened during the year that may have caused that playing time
to diminish like that?

COACH DIXON: I'm very excited about Nasir Robinson. He's a great
kid. He plays hard. He's getting better. We're playing him at the four
this year, because of having Sam and Gilbert, they're experienced
guys, fourth year guy, three year guy, at the three. Next year, we've
talked about it over and over again, he's going to be a three for us.

He's become a much better shooter and defender. He's a great kid and
a great teammate. And I'm just so happy that he's part of our program.
He's a great kid.

You know, rotation, we've kind of cut down on rotation a little bit.
He's been in there, in and out of the games, and he's always ready.
He's going to be a very good player for Pitt, I know that.

Q. Now that you've gone to five Sweet 16's in the last eight years,
but now breaking through to the Elite 8 for the first time in your
tenure, did you feel more relief or pure joy after the game? Is it
fair to say you're relieved you don't have to answer those questions
about Pitt hasn't been to the Elite 8 since '74?

COACH DIXON: I didn't give it much thought. As soon as the game was
over it was about who we're going to be playing and getting our guys
back to the hotel and getting them rested and preparation for the next

I think it's an interesting thing. I know there's about 330 programs
that would like to ask that question and call the Sweet 16 like a bad
thing. It's been an accomplishment. It's something that we as a
program I never considered as a possibility, and we were getting there
on more often than everybody but two schools in the country. So I
think Kansas and Duke are one up on us.

So we've had a very good run, very good success. But at the same
time we know that a National Championship is something that we have as
a goal.

Q. It's almost an axiom in basketball, big men, particularly guys
with great mass don't get the benefit of the doubts often with fouls,
whether it's the one they have to absorb or the ones they're called
for. Is that a learning thing for DeJuan, that it's not always fair,
but you have to adjust your game to that perhaps unfairness?

COACH DIXON: I think DeJuan is just a sophomore. He's going against
older guys oftentimes, but he's developed and gotten better. His
development has been anybody that saw him in high school. I can
remember telling people, local people, media, that he was going to be
our starting center, and I was laughed at. Who was going to replace
Aaron Gray. And he's doing pretty well. The kid is doing pretty well.

He's improved from his high school year to his freshman year. In his
freshman year, he's improved in his sophomore year and as this year
has gone on. He is a sophomore. He's getting better. I think he's had
some great games and continues to be just a great, great teammate.
He's a great guy to have around and a great leader as just a
sophomore, too, which is an amazing thing to do, especially for a big

Q. I talked to DeJuan a few times about the legacy he's created for
himself in Pittsburgh, and at such an early age being so successful.
Can you talk a little bit about how much this means to the city as you
guys are having so much success and what it would mean if you guys can
make it to a National title game?

COACH DIXON: I've said all along that I think DeJuan, the things
that he's going to do for our city, and I've really talked to him
about it and really challenged him. I think he can be really have more
of an impact in our city, in the Hill District from where he's from,
after he's done playing. I think he's going to be a role model for
kids and as an adult he's going to be a member of the community and
the city in a lot of different ways.

I encourage him to do that and I try to put him in a position to do
that even now as a young sophomore, 19 years old. That's something
we've really talked to him about and grown with as the years went on.

He's handled everything well. It's a great thing for us. I think
what's made it bigger is obviously everybody knows the difference is
that we've not had a lot of Pittsburgh basketball players over the
years. So it probably feeds upon itself even more so. He sticks out
even more. It's a challenge that he's handled well. I think that I'm
very proud of everything that he's done, because I think he's going to
touch our community in more ways than just on the floor.

Q. What's it like to have your dad with you every step of the way
with you, as you advance further in the tournament?

COACH DIXON: You know, it's something it doesn't seem any different
to me, because he's been there everywhere I've ever been, really,
where I've played and where I have coached. I think it's something
that I'm just used to. I know he's having a great time. And I think we
really encourage family in our program and talk about we want all of
our families around whenever possible. And I think it's just something
that I'm very fortunate that he's around and I know he's enjoying it.

Q. I can you think about the scope of the entire league? There's
still a chance you'll have an all Big East Final Four, there's five
teams still alive. Have you been able to take a second and think what
we're competing in right now is one of the high water marks of a
league that's had some very high water?

A. There's no question, I have talked about it. And I've said, and I
think early on, I spoke to how good this conference was going to be, I
think in the spring last year. I said looking at the teams coming
back, the players coming back, I should say, that this thing had the
potential of being the best conference in history of college
basketball. I know that I made that comment.

And as coaches and promoters of our leagues sometimes we tend to
overexaggerate and inflate some things that never really seem to come
to fruition. But if anything has lived up to it, it would be this
conference and what's happened this year.

As the year went on, now as we go in the postseason play, to be in
this position is quite remarkable. Usually you beat each other up, but
somehow we've had some teams survive it. And to be in this position,
however it ends up, I think it did what is very hard to do, live up to
coaches' lofty proclamation. I think it's really put itself in that

Q. Your team has obviously won all the first three games, they've
all been by close margins. When you look back, do you feel like your
team has had something missing through those first three rounds,
hasn't been firing on all cylinders or do you look at it as we've been
a that knows how to win in these close situations?

COACH DIXON: You always feel you can play better. So we have that
thought. I've never come out of a game saying we can't play better.
But there are no bad wins in the NCAA tournament.

I think we've played well. I think we can play better and our
players feel we can play better. I think every team feels that way,
there's still a lot left. We've played three very, very good teams
that I recognize as being very good teams going into the game. I'm
happy with how we played. We've played hard. We've battled. We haven't
shot it great yet, I think we will shortly. And that will be something
that can really push us to another level.

Q. If you could give me your perspective on if you thought it was
critical in that first match up in the second half, it seemed like
Villanova was blitzed and double teamed Levance a lot, and got him out
of offensive rhythm and it seemed to take him out of the rhythm to run
the offense. Is that accurate and do you think from looking back at
the film that was a key to Villanova's success in the second half is
to slow down the offense and only score 26 points?

COACH DIXON: There was a lot of things that went on. I think the
biggest key is everybody knows the foul trouble, the number of guys we
couldn't play in the second half. We were playing a lineup that we've
never played. And that's part of it. So that would be the key.

They we know what they're going to do and they did what they
normally do in the first half as well as the second half. It wasn't
really any change in that. But I think we had a five point lead, gave
up a three to start the second half and really it became a back and
forth game there down the stretch. We clearly got, as we talked about,
we can't get beat at the free throw line, and we got beat at the free
throw line that game, and we talked about that going in. That to me
was the biggest difference.

Q. Jay was talking about playing at Bucknell, coaching at Hofstra,
and how much that helps him appreciate getting to this point. What
about you at TSU, being at Northern Arizona, Hawaii, how much you
appreciate getting to this point?

COACH DIXON: LA Valley College, don't forget that. And TeAute
College in New Zealand, that was my first coaching job, I coached
kids. There was no question. I started out to get into this is I
wanted to be a California junior college coach. That was something
that was in my mind. I thought that would be a great way to coach and
be around kids. It wasn't about the level. It wasn't about it was
about coaching, being around the game, being around kids and the

And that's what it is, to be at this and to be at a great
university. A university I'm proud to watch it grow and watch it
develop. That to me is the most exciting thing. Our University has
gone from a school that's ranked has dramatically increased the
rankings in every academic field over the last ten years. And being
some small part of that has been to me the most gratifying thing.

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