Athens, GA (Mar 28, 2009) -The Elite Eight comes to a close tomorrow. Here is the transcript of the Michigan State University press conference, as provided by the NCAA.
BILL BENNER: Joined by Michigan State. We'll start with an opening
statement from Coach Izzo.
COACH IZZO: Well, we're thrilled to be here. Excited. It's been kind
of a goal and a dream all year. It's finally reality where we have a
chance to play not only a great team, but play in one of the great
venues and great events. The Elite 8 is a special time because if you
win, you move on to that ultimate goal. To have it in your own state
makes it even bigger. And yet the team we're playing, I think, is
playing about as well as any team I've seen playing at this time of
BILL BENNER: Questions for Coach Izzo and the student athletes.
Q. Tom, both you and Rick have been two of the more successful
tournament coaches. Talk about what has been some of the keys to being
able to sustain that kind of success level.
COACH IZZO: Well, I think one is to have good players that buy into
what you want to do and believe that in tournament time it's one and
done, that the little things matter. I think that's one thing we've
stressed as a staff.
The second thing, I was fortunate my first year in the NCAA
tournament. We played Princeton on the second day. I think we had to
develop a preparation pattern that we use because that's such a
different kind of team to play. When we did and we had some success,
we've kind of stuck with that pattern over the years.
I think it's helped us in our preparation, especially the one day
preps. I think the tournament itself, if you get good players, you get
a chance to move on.
If you've been a team one of our battle cries this year was, I don't
want to be known as a rebounding team or a defensive team. You want to
try to have balance. And yet when it all comes down to it, you know,
whether it be any sport there is, come tournament time or playoff
time, your defense and your rebounding have to be solid, and ours has
been that most years. I think that has helped us get through.
Q. You'll be wearing the green tomorrow. How much are you going to
look back at the road success you had and try to be the road team
again. A lot of Louisville fans here.
GORAN SUTON: We rely on Coach Izzo. We're just looking forward to
playing tomorrow. Wearing green for the first time, I think it's kind
of exciting for us.
But I think we're all about focusing on tomorrow and worrying about
what we do, not about what Louisville does.
KALIN LUCAS: G pretty much said it. You know, it's going to be a
great game. One thing we do have to have is a great focus. We just got
to bring our A game.
COACH IZZO: I don't know. I just said our green uniforms are the
ugliest. If that's the case, ugly is beautiful as far as I'm concerned
'cause we're 17 4 away from Breslin Arena. I think that's what maybe
these players deserve as much credit for. You talk about every era
somebody has done something it seems like in the last 12 years. One
thing these guys have done is found a way to win on the road. We
realize it will be kind of a road game. There will be a lot of
Louisville fans here. We have a lot of people, but not to the extent
with Louisville so close.
But I think that's one area that doesn't matter to these guys. We've
played on the road in some of the most hostile arenas in the country.
They've learned how to do that. That's the advantage of playing a
tough non conference schedule and the advantage of playing in the Big
10 where there are packed houses everywhere we play.
Q. Tom, you and Rick have avoided playing each other all this team
time. What are your thoughts watching him and the way he coaches?
COACH IZZO: Well, I've loved what Rick has done. We've talked a few
times. We've been in the Final Four together in 2005. Being an Italian
guy, I guess we have to stick up for each other a little bit.
I watched his career. When I looked at the opportunity to maybe go
to Atlanta that one time, I called him and talked to him about it.
Different things that have happened.
So we're not guys that talk each week or month, but I think I have
great respect for what he's done. I love the way his team plays with
energy. I love the way he coaches with energy. And I think he's been
successful everywhere he's been. That's because of the system he has
and his approach to the game, his development of players, I think, is
second to none.
Q. Tom, not to ask you to give away the game plan, but for you and
Kalin, you both want to run, you both play great defense, are you
willing to run with this team rather than take your chances against
their zone defenses?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, we're gonna run. We're gonna attack the press.
That's what we do, too. I think my other experience back in my first
year in the NCAA tournament or first Sweet 16 appearance, I kind of
changed what we did, figuring I had to do something different. We're
not going to be crazy. We're not going to throw up shots for no
But we plan on pushing it, see if we can get some easy
opportunities. I think pressing teams do better when they know there's
no damage at the end. In other words, if you're just trying to get it
through the press and not try to score on it.
We're gonna do what we do. We're gonna try to push the ball, run the
ball, and not turn the ball over. I think those will be our big keys.
KALIN LUCAS: Yeah, you know, we gonna play our basketball. You know,
we're going to push the ball, fast break, try to get some good shots
and we're gonna try to get some open looks.
Q. Raymar, how is the nose? Did you break it? If you did, are you
going to have to wear some Rip Hamilton mask?
RAYMAR MORGAN: Yeah, I did break it. Yeah, I'll be wearing a mask.
Hopefully I can get fitted for that today and go from there.
Q. Coach, any concerns about the pressure Louisville will have over
the course of 40 minutes, what that will take out of Kalin?
COACH IZZO: I don't think there's any questions that's what they'll
do. I think we have multiple guys. I think that's where Travis Korie
Lucious struggled a little bit his first freshman time under these
bright lights. But I have faith he's going to be able to rebound from
that. Chris Allen, Durrell, I think, even in you look up here, you
know, Goran can handle the ball, so can Raymar.
Kalin, him and Travis, have been as a good conditioned athletes as
we've had. We know the pressure they're going to put on. Sooner or
later it's going to come down to who outlasts who.
But we do have depth. We do substitute quite freely. Am I worried
about it? Yes. Is it going to change my opinion on how we play? No.
Q. Back in November, Louisville was in a pack of teams with you.
Last 13 or 14 games they played much better. In terms of watching
video, where do you see they've improved?
COACH IZZO: Well, I guess I'd have to answer that. They've watched
some video. I'm sure they've all seen Louisville play.
But, you know, Williams has been a big key. I mean, he's gotten
better and better. For a while, I don't know if they were struggling
at the point, but they were moving some people in and out. And I think
they've got a consistent rotation, which is where they've really
improved. That's one area I don't think we have improved in. We don't
have a consistent rotation. We have a seat of the pants rotation. It's
not anybody's fault. It's been due to the injuries.
I think that consistency, the last half of the season, last 13, 14
games, there seems to be an even flow with them. Plus their freshman,
Samuels, I think gets better. Everybody's just improved as the season
went on. I don't know why some of those games early they lost to a
Minnesota team. When you play the way they play, the one thing you
have to be able to do is everybody has to bring energy every minute.
But when you're pressing like that, if you had a down couple of
minutes, you're gonna give up a lot, too. And I think when they got
the rotation down, they were able to maintain that for 40 minutes
compared to maybe doing it for 35 and losing a couple of those games
they lost early.
TRAVIS WALTON: Yeah, you know, they've been playing great
basketball. Not that we've been playing good basketball. We both won
our conference. They lost some games. We lost some games.
So, like coach said, they got a consistent rotation. They got some
great players on they team. Terrence Williams has been playing great
basketball. Earl Clark. One thing about they team is they all stay
consistent about what they do.
You know you're going to come to the game and Terrence Williams is
going to give you an all around game, Earl Clark is going to give you
points and rebounds, Jerry Smith, Sosa, good to make steals and big
shots. I think we got some good players on our team that do the same
thing and step up at the big moment and make big plays. It's going to
be a game of something like that.
COACH IZZO: Sounds likes Travis has watched more film than I have,
and I think he's right on.
Q. Korie Lucious struggled a little bit last night. I assume he
would be key in this game. Do you have a thought of maybe more ball
handlers in a game like this?
COACH IZZO: I think you guys must be used to watching football. I
mean, the game plan, I'll give it away if you want it, we got to take
care of the ball, we can't let them turn it over, and we've got to
make some shots. How is that for a game plan (smiling)?
I don't think it's any big secrets. They got 30 films on us. We got
30 on them. You guys have all watched both of us 30 times.
So, yeah, you know, a lot of these guys are going to be key. I think
your points are well taken. They do want to wear you down. They do
want to speed you up. We want to speed up under our control, whatever
that is. We don't want to get out of control where they're forcing us
to take shots, keep the dribble too long. They get the back, tip you,
turn you over, all those things.
We have to understand some things that maybe are a little bit more
difficult from the standpoint of it's hard to simulate what they do,
especially in one day. That is very difficult. If this was a normal we
had a week to prepare, we'd have seven or eight guys pressing our
five. We'll do a little of that today. But it's just hard to simulate
the athleticism and the length.
But, you know, as Travis said, as everybody said, they've had their
moments, too, when things haven't gone right, just like the rest of
us. It's our job to exploit those, figure out what we can do to make
those advantageous for us.
Q. Delvon, as a freshman, what are the biggest things you've learned
in these three or four tournament games, seeing what coach is doing,
what your teammates are doing?
DELVON ROE: Basically that everything is up a notch. Everything in
practice is more serious. You can't get away with little things that
you can get away with earlier in the season. You're accountable now a
lot more than you was at the beginning of the season. You have to
bring it every night 'cause you never know which game's going to be
Q. Tom, you mentioned the phone call to Rick before going to
Atlanta. Was there anything that stuck out from kind of what he told
you that you applied?
COACH IZZO: You know, he just talked to me a little bit about the
pluses and minuses, of course. There were some pluses. The big one
then I guess was financial. There were some minuses, too, on the
control you have, what you get to do. We didn't get in depth on it. He
just said he thought I made the right decision for my situation at the
time. I always respected that. I respected what he went through.
I mean, some of it I watched from afar, not even talking to him. I
saw this coach who I thought was an incredible college coach, and he
was a good pro coach at times, too. But the different struggles.
So it was kind of learn by observation as much as anything else.
Q. Tom, you said something yesterday about the Big 10 and not
looking at how far the Big 10 teams have gone in the tournament, that
it's a matter of matchups. Do you think the Big 10 has not had the
best matchups in this tournament in contrast to the Big East?
COACH IZZO: Well, not really. I mean, I'm just saying in general. I
think sometimes we anoint a league. Even when we went to the Final
Four a couple times, we had two Big 10 teams in it. I'm just saying
sometimes matchups at this tournament in general for everybody, every
year, can sometimes determine who wins and loses. Certain teams don't
play as well against certain teams.
I guess what I was getting to is for some reason, you think of
Louisville, you think of racehorse basketball. I think we've averaged
like two points less than them this season. So I'm giving my normal
hurrah for the Big 10 because I think too many people, especially some
on TV, have abused it.
What you found out in this tournament for the most part is there
were a lot of games played with lower numbers most part. And it's
because possessions matter. It's because people are gonna ratchet up
their defense. I think in our league, the coaches in our league, it's
ratcheted up almost year round.
You know, so I was not saying anything about the teams that we
played or the teams the Big East played. They're top teams. There's
been no argument from me that they're as good as it gets. But I just
think our conference top to bottom is also one of the best in the
country, I really do. And I think sometimes people evaluate that on
how many points you score or what goes on or what perception you have.
And I don't agree with that.
Q. Travis, it's been very important for you to get to a Final Four.
Now it's possibly one game away. How do you manage knowing you have to
get through this game but also trying not to look ahead?
TRAVIS WALTON: You know, I think you got to look at it and say, if I
look ahead, we might get beat by 30, you know. So you got to take it
one game at a time, focus on Louisville. It's going to be our toughest
task of the season, you know, playing against a great basketball team.
You know, from one second you look past them, that could be a 10 point
You know, so you got to give every thought, every dream, got to go
to beating Louisville, not getting to the Final Four right now, you
know, because you got to go through them before you can get to the
Final Four. And they having the same thoughts and dreams as we have.
So our focus has to be on Louisville, what we can do to kind of
contain them and win this game.
Q. Travis, you are known as such a tough team. You've been tough for
years and years. Is that something that guys generally bring to
Michigan State or is that something that is specifically developed
while you're at Michigan State?
TRAVIS WALTON: I think it's both. You know, I think coach recruit
tough players and he recruit players that can score. The players that
are not as tough as the ones he recruited that are supposed to be
tough, we kind of get 'em tougher from the drills we do.
We know from our famous War drill, that's kind of the tough man
drill as far as, you know, everything is everything. You go after each
others head. Got to take hats off to the coaches for recruiting tough
players and the things we do. That's why we are a tough program and
known worldwide for being tough.
Q. What's the War drill?
TRAVIS WALTON: The War drill is a drill no out of bounds. They shoot
the ball. It's five on five. Everybody just run at each other like you
all little kids, trying to get a little basketball. So we just go at
each other, no fouls called. You grabbing, you pulling, you
scratching. Sometimes people get to bleeding and different things like
When they get real tough, we might put football pads on. So it's
Q. Travis, are you joking about putting the pads on?
TRAVIS WALTON: No, I'm not joking. I think my sophomore year or
junior year sophomore year, we got the Michigan State football team
pads and put pads on (laughter).
Q. Goran, I've asked Travis a couple times about the importance of
getting to a Final Four. He's a senior. There's that streak going
under Coach Izzo. You didn't play in a Final Four. There's got to be
significance for you, too.
GORAN SUTON: Yeah, I think, you know, as seniors, me and Travis and
Idong and Marquise have all kind of said to each other that we were
there, but we were on the scout team, but we didn't step a foot on the
floor. We didn't play a minute in the Final Four.
So, you know, as much pressure as it is on Travis, there's as much
pressure on me and Idong and Marquise to get there because we haven't
played in one. You know, it would be huge. It would be the best thing
that's happened to us. You know, hopefully we'll get there.
And I'd like to add, I didn't know how to put football pads on
Q. You were asked about the Arizona job the other day. Obviously the
Kentucky job has come open. That's not an insignificant job. Can you
address that briefly?
COACH IZZO: Well, you know, I'll address it the same way I've always
addressed it. I don't think there's a guy in this planet that would
ever say he's not going anywhere, not doing anything. I don't think
there's anybody on this planet that would ever say, I'm here to stay,
I'm this, I'm that. I don't think me, you or anyone else. So I would
never do that because I think it would be insulting to you and me.
But at the same time I got so many goals and so many things I'd like
to accomplish here yet. I got so many great players I get to coach
here yet. I get to do something that maybe few get to do, and that's
actually build something and watch it be built from not the bottom,
because it was already there, but build into a national power and one
that is respected hopefully by everybody in the country.
When Final Fours come up, Sweet 16 and Elite 8, Michigan State's
name is always in there, that's my ultimate goal right now. I still
got a lot of work to do to accomplish that. We've put a heck of a dent
in it. But when you look at Kansas, Kentucky, Carolina, Duke in
general, we're not at that level yet, and that's the level I'd like to
get to. So I still got a lot of work to do. The people at Michigan
State have been great to me. I'm going to continue to work for them.
Q. Tom, when you see a guy like Chris Allen, who made significant
strides over the last couple weeks, he might have played his best game
last night, scoring seven points. When you see that, has this been one
of the more rewarding years for you as a coach from a teaching aspect?
COACH IZZO: We have gotten a lot out of different guys at different
times. Some by necessity. It's been rewarding, but it's been
frustrating at times. But to see Durrell and Chris, they're two guys
that I just think, you know, when you when Travis talks about guys,
the guys on this table are pretty tough. Although G wasn't back in his
younger days. But he's grown into a fine, tough young boy that still
can't buckle a chin strap (laughter).
You know, I'd say Durrell and Chris are two guys that had to become
tougher mentally and physically, had to kind of grow some passion for
the game. You know, there's nothing wrong with having certain
personalities. There's really not. But as I tell my players all the
time, Passive personalities don't win championships. You can still be
a great player sometimes, a very good player.
So that's where I think Chris has grown. He is kind of a passive
personality guy and I think he's learning how to play harder and
understand that, you know, it's not just about how you play yourself,
it's about dragging other people with you. And if you're gonna be an
impact player of any kind, you have to have the ability to drag your
teammates with you.
And Chris and Durrell, they're both getting a lot better. But I
think it's an area they both have to improve on. I think these guys to
probably agree with me.
Q. Could you talk about the War drill, its origins, purpose, who the
best tackler you have is?
COACH IZZO: I think the best tackler I had was a kid named Andre
But it's legendary up with us. I don't know what the big deal is. We
got beat by Ohio State. We didn't rebound very well. Mateen Cleaves
had just broke his foot three months earlier. It was probably the
first, second week in January. I told my equipment man, I said, Call
Saban, ask him if we can borrow some football gear. We're going to
learn how to hit somebody and get a rebound. My equipment man is a
marathon runner. My running mate, he came with a big cart full of
helmets, shoulder pads, jerseys. So last 20 minutes of practice he
wheeled it out. I told my guys to put it on. I was mad. We had gotten
But I had four Division I football players on that team, including
Mateen Cleaves who could have gone to Florida State, Notre Dame,
played football. Instead of them not liking it, they enjoyed it, which
made me mad, because I wanted them not to like it.
It was a lot of fun watching Mateen teach some of those 6'9" guys
how to buckle a chin strap. By the time it was over, we were all
laughing. It kind of grew from there. So now whenever we have our
little reunions, that's what everybody talks about.
So what seems brutal and cruel, really there is a mission to the
madness. It's pretty good. Nobody gets hurt that way. Some guys like G
from Bosnia, they don't know what the hell football is over there. So
it's an educational process also.
Q. Delvon, coach has talked a little bit about maybe you've run into
the freshman wall that all freshmen go through. Do you feel like you
can get your second wind for this next game? How do you feel
DELVON ROE: I look at it that you got a whole summer to relax and
get healthy and do all of that and relax. And you got to bring it out
there 40 minutes tomorrow. Forget about being tired. Doing all that,
you got to be ready to play.
If we don't come ready to play, if I don't come ready to play,
there's a good chance we don't get to go to a Final Four and
accomplish some of the goals we set out at the beginning of the year.
Q. Kalin, people look at Louisville and would maybe not want to play
against that. As a guard who likes to run, do you look forward to
playing against what they do?
KALIN LUCAS: Yes, I do look forward to playing them. It's going to
be a great game. One thing they do, pressure. So for us, the guards,
we got to be ready. It's just going to be a great game.
BILL BENNER: We will now dismiss the student athletes to the
individual breakout rooms and continue with questions for Coach Izzo.
Q. You said last night after the game you were going to go back to
the hotel and talk about Detroit maybe for the first time in depth.
Did you? What was that conversation like? How many times did Detroit
and the Final Four ever come up over the past year? Was it something
you stayed away from?
COACH IZZO: Well, to be honest with you, I just said I talked about
it at the beginning of the year and then I didn't talk about it at all
during the year. I really didn't. I mean, I'm sure it came up here or
there just because where we're located, what goes on, what's said.
But for the most part I never really addressed the team about it. I
told them that I tried to explain to them the chance of getting to a
Final Four is slim to none, and that's on the good side. You know, the
way it worked out, I knew if we ever got to this day, two nights
before, a night before our opportunity to get there, there would be
plenty of time to talk about it.
Well, I found out there's not a lot of time to talk about it because
there's other work to do. But I would have been foolish not to explain
to my guys that of all the Final Fours, of all the great players that
have played in this championship, you know, week, weeks, weekend
coming up, there are very few. I was going to have my SID go back and
look up how many programs actually got to play theirs in their home
I know last year, I think it was Texas would have had the
opportunity if they would have beat Memphis. Just didn't work out. Or
there's one of the years it was, I don't even know which one now. But
very seldom does it happen. So that even puts more significance on it
because I recruit a little bit more locally, within a three , four
hour radius for most of my players. I always preach that families
being there and community and your fan base and all that is a big part
of winning. You get to celebrate it with people that you really care
So that made it all the more significant. That's what I reminded
them last night. I said, this thing will be earned, not given, that's
for sure. I had great respect for Louisville. After seeing them last
night, I have even more respect for how they play. I think our players
That's about all that was said. Detroit, it would be great. But it's
still a tough place to get to.
Q. Last year I believe you lost in the Sweet 16, they lost in the
Elite 8. Can losses like that be good things going into the next year
in terms of revealing what the weaknesses are of your team and in
terms of any motivation to get people to work harder?
COACH IZZO: You know, I don't ever feel that losses are motivating.
If you need to lose to get motivated, you're probably a little weak.
Maybe that does show that. So that would be a good point.
I'm not sure I, as a coach, ever felt a tougher loss than standing
up on that podium last year when you're on those raised floors and
you're down 30 at halftime, there's no place to hide. And I think our
players felt that. I think Memphis played extremely well that night,
and we played extremely poorly.
At the same time when you get this deep into the tournament, there's
just so many things that can happen. I don't think, unless you're one
of those teams that brings everybody back, kind of like we did in
2000, where '99 we got beat by Duke, and that was our battle cry
because we had most of the players back. This year we lost a couple of
key players. So I don't know if I looked at it the same way.
I think every time you play you can learn something. I know I've
learned something from my NCAA tournament rounds. Maybe the best thing
I try to teach my guys is it's one and done, every play matters. I
listened to Bill Self last night. For the last two weeks I've seen
more missed free throws hurt a team, hurt Purdue the other night. I
mean, believe it or not, in our walk through yesterday, three
different times we had free throw cut outs. If anybody would have
watched that, they would have said, What the hell is he doing? Sure
enough, when Durrell missed the free throw, got the rebound, it might
have been the difference in the game.
That's what is so hard. Delvon said it. During the year, losing a
game is a big deal, but it's not one and done time. So if you can get
anything out of the tournament as the years go on, as a player, as a
coach, you just realize you better turn over every stone because it's
probably going to be a close game most of the time, and one thing can
really make a difference.
Q. Raymar's minutes have gone down in every game since the Big 10
tournament. How much can you get out of him right now? Last year you
went through something with him where his attitude was down, got his
mom involved. Right now is he struggling as much mentally as
COACH IZZO: You know, I think he has been struggling a little bit
mentally. I think going into the first, second week of January, he was
one of the better players in the Big 10. I think the illness took a
lot out of him from a lot of ways. One was a confidence way. It's
something Ray has to get better at. Sometimes he's his own worst
enemy. I think the way I coach, we could think is the coach on him too
hard. The only too hard on Ray is Ray. He hasn't adjusted to figuring
out that he can get of get himself lower than somebody else can get
He is a very good player. I still maintain that. I said yesterday or
the day before, I don't know if we could win without him playing well.
Well he didn't and we won. I still don't feel any different today.
When you look at a guy like Williams, who I think Raymar could at
least be a good matchup for, we need Ray. Ray gives us that
flexibility. Even at the end of the game, we could put him in there at
the four spot and switch four people and do different things
I think the mark of great NCAA teams in general, at least the
success we've had, is when you have versatile players and versatile
teams. Raymar gives us the best versatility because of his ability to
guard three or four different people and play two or three different
positions. He's a great kid. He's a good student. He's smart. He's got
to find himself a little bit. We've got to help him do that. A couple
of those games, in fairness to him, he was in foul trouble big time
early and didn't play for 15, 16 minutes. That, too, can have some
kind of a factor in this whole deal.
Q. You said earlier the matchups are everything this time of year.
You were going to play the No. 1 seed no matter what. Do you feel you
might be playing the best team in the country right now?
COACH IZZO: Well, if you look at their last three game stats, what
they're shooting from the three point line, 45%, what they're shooting
from the field, over 50%, the number of athletes they have and the
different weapons, I think you can give a good argument.
I have not seen UConn up close and personal. I saw Pittsburgh last
year with a similar team. I think those are great teams. Villanova.
Oklahoma I have not seen in person.
But in studying Louisville, I think they're deserving of their No.
1, No. 1 seed. They're well coached. They've got depth. They've got
versatility. They've got that rotation of those guards that's almost
down to a science. They've got a little bit of youth.
But, you know, one thing about this team, there's a lot of juniors
and seniors that are key personnel that I think can lead a couple of
those freshmen that are subs.
Yeah, I think they're definitely worthy of at least one or two of
the best teams in the country. Right now, the way they're playing,
it's probably the best team in the country.
Q. Back to Raymar. Are you concerned with the nose?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, just because I don't know what's gonna happen. I
don't know how it will be when we put the mask on him. I don't know
how he'll adjust to that. I don't think anybody does. To have to
adjust to it in one day is kind of an issue.
But what we got to get out of Ray, he's got to give us what he can
give us. It might affect his shooting, I don't know. It shouldn't
affect his defense, his rebounding, his ability to guard people. He's
a very good passer and he's smart enough to know how to get into seams
against their pressure and against their zone.
So, you know, you're asking me a question that I can't give you a
real answer just because we haven't even practiced with it on yet. In
fact, they're just getting it. I haven't even seen him with it on yet
But it's broke and it's broke pretty good. It wasn't a hairline. I
guess it's broke.
Q. The forwards, Clark and Williams, how tough of a matchup is that
for you? Can you recall two players that you've had to deal with?
COACH IZZO: You know, I think last year against Memphis, it seemed
like every player they put on the floor, we had to deal with that.
They were that way. And we didn't play so well.
But I think we're more ready and more equipped for things like that.
I think we have, with Delvon, some athletic ability. Draymond Green
has shown a good ability to guard people. With Ray, hopefully being
able to play, he gives us that versatility to guard either one of
those guys somewhat, even though one's a little bigger. I think he
still has the strength and the ability to do that.
I think we're more equipped this year. We have some bigger guards in
Durrell and Chris. We can do some switching and different things. But,
you know, it's really a moot point until you play them, try to figure
out who they are, what they are. As I said, it is hard to simulate
Q. I was wondering if you and Rick have battled over any of the same
players recruiting wise over the years? You're able to be successful
with kind of completely different styles.
COACH IZZO: I looked at Rick's roster. It's kind of all over the
country. With his New York background and the fact that I think
Louisville always has had a lot of players from New Jersey, we don't
get into that area. We did battle over one guy one time and both of us
lost. It was Chris Webber. So that was about the only time I think for
the most part.
But, you know, he's done a great job recruiting the kids he gets.
He's got some very talented players. Doesn't get into Michigan a lot.
I don't necessarily get into the areas he recruits a lot. But I'm sure
it will happen again somewhere, and right now it hasn't.
Q. With one Big 10 team left, I want to say four in the Big East,
isn't that a fair gauge of the strength of the conferences or is it
more of a function of bracketing and seeds and matchups?
COACH IZZO: No, no, no, no. I think in general the Big East has
earned its mettle. They did all year. I don't think there's any
question that UConn, Louisville and Pitt were superior teams. I give a
lot of credit to Syracuse. And Villanova, I love the job Jay has done
at Villanova. It's kind of fun to watch his kids play, the way they
But when you look at some of these other leagues, if somebody has a
couple teams out, how do I say this without starting controversy, my
favorite subject? You know, we've been in four Final Fours in 10
years. Three of them we've had two Big 10 teams in it. I didn't hear
anybody saying how great the Big 10 was. Case closed.
Q. The size of this game tomorrow, chance to go to Detroit, playing
maybe the best team in the country, how do you deal with that with
your team, appreciate it but not get overwhelmed by it?
COACH IZZO: That's a lot better question. No insult intended.
You know, it will be the biggest game that I've probably ever played
in just because of what you just said. For a guy like me who just
loves the state, I've lived there all my life, to have that
opportunity to play there is special. You know, I'm no different than
a player. It's special. But at the same time I understand how hard it
I don't think I'm going to be feeling that pressure. I might be
feeling that disappointment if we don't get there. But I'm not going
to sleep tonight worrying about Detroit. I'm going to sleep tonight
worrying about Terrence Williams. In other words, I'm not going to
But I think it's nothing I'm going to hide. You know, I'm not going
to sit there and say it's just another game, because it's not. It's
not just another Elite 8 game, because I've been in a few of those.
It's not. There's probably been bigger ones because if you don't get
through one, you don't get to a Final Four. But this one is special
because of the ultimate goal and the ultimate prize.
Q. You said Tuesday in East Lansing when we were talking about the
progression of Draymond that you didn't know how much time he might
see on the court because so many guys have been stepping up. Has he
almost commanded more playing time through this tournament?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, I like that. He has almost demanded more. And he's
done it in a good way. He's done it with his work, not with his mouth.
He hasn't complained about it. He's just worked his way into the
playing group. He's worked his way into the front of the playing
group. He's done it with he's got some toughness to him. He competes.
But he's a very smart player. I mean, he surprised me, if you want the
truth. You look at him, and, as I said, we were thinking about
redshirting him at the beginning of the year. Boy, am I glad we
Q. As a friend of Tubby Smith's for many years, he had the Kentucky
job, you beat Kentucky in regional finals a couple times. That job
itself, how good is that job right now? You know what he has to deal
with the fan base, the outside stuff you have to deal with. How do you
look at it as a fellow coach?
COACH IZZO: Well, I love Tubby Smith. I think he's one of the best
coaches in the entire country. Maybe even a better person. You know,
he's great. And he's been a great addition to our league. I'm really
thrilled that he's in our league. He did a great job this year.
But, you know, I mean, I think he went through, you know, winning 30
games. I guess what I feel worst about is I do feel I'm a good friend,
and yet two of those Elite 8s we beat him in games that we just as
well could have lost. You know, we got lucky in both of them. The
first one, they had I think a 21 4 lead. We came back. The second one,
it was that triple overtime game. All I remember is Ashley Judd
yelling the three, three, three was good. That was the only time I
didn't like her in my whole life.
But it's a tough job because it's demanding, and expectations are
high. Yet I really look at all these jobs that I don't know if there's
any job that can put more pressure on a person than he puts on himself
if he's really good and he's really competitive and he's really in
I don't know, you know. I feel pressure at Michigan State, you know,
to maintain or even grow from what we've done. At the same level,
probably not. If you haven't been there, it's hard to say.
I did not like what happened to Tubby Smith, you know, personally.
But I don't know everything that happened either. I wasn't there. I
just know that I'm happy he's at Minnesota, happy he's in the Big 10,
and sad that now we got to play against each other two, three times a
year. It's harder to keep our friendship (laughter).
Q. A few minutes ago you were talking about the experience of the
tournament, how you learned to turn over every stone. You're 13 2 on
the second day of weekends in this tournament. What do you attribute
that to? Is that style? Fatigue of other teams? Preparation? Do you do
anything different with that one day turnaround?
COACH IZZO: I think that's where my assistants, I think that's why
I've had so many guys that have moved on. My assistants know the
system. As crazy as this sounds, I've had some of the greatest video
guys and managers known to mankind. You know, I lost one in Kevin
Polga , who did an incredible job over a seven , eight year
period. Jordan Ott has done a great job for me over a period. It's
kind of those guys that shrink that 30 games down into 10 or 15 minute
segments that we can watch before breakfast, after breakfast. With Tom
Crane, my good friend and head coach at Indiana, we developed what we
thought was best for us how we'd handle these one day preps.
I also have to give some credit to my football buddies. I think they
do a great job with film. I just stole like everybody else. I stole
from everybody I could learn from.
But a long time ago, Tom and myself and Mike Garland, we kind of
came up with how we're going to do it. We had some success with it the
first couple years. We maintained the same system with different
personnel. I think my assistants, my video guys, my managers deserve
more credit. And the players. You don't do it without good players,
and good players that will trust you and will listen. My players, I
think I got them fooled. Think they think I can get them through these
games when there's records like that. As I always say, the players
play the game.
Q. What were Goran's limitations when he arrived as a player? Is he
close or has he arrived to meeting his potential?
COACH IZZO: You know, G was from Bosnia. He came over. I don't know
how many exact years. He was here all of his high school years. I'd
say he was a little softer, not quite as muscularly developed. But he
was very skilled. He was very skilled back then, too.
I think what he had to gain was some strength, some toughness and
some passion for the game. I think each year he's developed that. I
thought last year, the second half of the year, he was starting to
fall in love with the game. That might be surprising, but there's a
lot of players that don't really love the game. When I say 'love it,'
I mean they live, eat and sleep it. He's made some progress in that
area. As he makes more progress, I mean, I still think he can play at
another level, I really do.
He rebounds well for a guy who can't jump. He shoots it pretty well
for a guy who has been injured. Worked on it all summer. Really had
developed a good shooting, touched up the three point range. Lost a
little bit of that when he went through his injury. But I think if he
keeps working on his game, keeps developing physically, he's got a
Q. You said a little softer, not quite as muscularly developed.
Compared to somebody else on the team?
COACH IZZO: Compared to two things. What I think he needed to be and
should be and what I think he is now. He has changed his body and his
body fat, all the things that an athlete should do if he's really
making progress. He spent some time in the weight room. He's not
Adonis yet, but he's making some progress.
BILL BENNER: Questions for Coach Izzo.
COACH IZZO: I think we're wearing them down, what Louisville plans
to do to us (laughter).
BILL BENNER: Thank you, coach.
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