Athens, GA (Mar 28, 2009) -The Elite Eight comes to a close tomorrow. Here is the transcript of the University of Oklahoma press conference, as provided by the NCAA.
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with the Oklahoma news conference.
As we did with North Carolina, we'll start with an opening statement
from the head coach Jeff Capel. And then we'll take questions for the
COACH JEFF CAPEL: Again, I'm really proud of our guys for of how we
played last night and for the opportunity to play such a terrific
basketball team tomorrow.
Carolina is really good. They're as good as I've seen on tape this
year, and in person. They're incredibly explosive. I was counting,
when I was looking at their roster, I think they have nine McDonald's
All Americans, four guys that scored over 1,000 points. One of them is
almost 3,000 points. Coached by a hall of famer.
They're really, really good, and it's going to be a tough challenge
for us. But, again, our guys are excited about the opportunity. And
hopefully we can play well.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and start with questions for Blake
Griffin, Taylor Griffin, Tony Crocker, Willie Warren, and Austin
Q. This is for Taylor and Austin. Can you guys think back to three
years ago when you heard that OU had hired Jeff Capel, and can you
talk about what went through your mind and how much you knew about
Jeff Capel at the time?
TAYLOR GRIFFIN: He'd actually recruited me a little bit while he was
at VCU. So I knew a little bit about him.
You know, it was a lot of unknowns at that point. I definitely
wouldn't have thought that we would have, you know, been at this level
just three years later, though.
AUSTIN JOHNSON: It was just a lot different for me. I didn't get
recruited by Coach Capel. I didn't really know much about him and the
way he runs stuff. So it was kind of tough for me when he got here.
But the point that we are now, I think it's great for our program.
Q. Taylor and Blake, could you guys talk about what it's going to
take defensively inside to try to match up inside with Carolina and
the things that they do and the personnel they have.
TAYLOR GRIFFIN: They're extremely skilled inside. I think one of the
things about them that kind of separates them is they play extremely
hard as well. And you know, that's something we're going to have to
match. And you know, just play, you know, strong defense and be smart
about what we do.
BLAKE GRIFFIN: Could you repeat the question.
Q. Blake, could you talk about the inside presence of Carolina, what
it will take to match up defensively and some of the things they do.
BLAKE GRIFFIN: Like Coach Capel said, they're a great team all over
the board. Inside, they have the national player of the year,
returning national player of the year and a supporting cast that is,
you know, just as good as anybody in the country.
So we're going to have to do a great job of really getting down and
playing well defensively and also offensively, just trying to slow
them down and get into a rhythm.
Q. Blake, we obviously asked a lot of questions to Tyler Hansbrough
moments ago about matching up with you. Your thoughts on that since
everybody's talking about last year's player of the year, and you're
probably going to be this year's player of the year. Just, it's being
highly anticipated by the fans and media. How do you look at that,
going against a guy like that?
BLAKE GRIFFIN: You know, it's exciting, but like I said last night,
it's not going to be a one on one battle by any means. It's going to
be Oklahoma versus North Carolina.
That's how we plan to play them. I'm not going to try to, you know,
break away from a team concept and try to show him up or anything like
that. I have no problem with him. He's a great player. He's been a
great player for four years now. I have a lot of respect for him.
Q. Taylor, have you seen enough of Tyler playing to kind of break
down what the matchup might be, how it might go? Also, if Blake and
Tyler kind of play each other to a standoff, where does this game get
TAYLOR GRIFFIN: You know, I think Hansbrough has been one of the
faces that you've seen over the last four years in college basketball
just as much as Durant and Beasley and those guys. We feel like
obviously he's a good player. We feel like we know what he brings to
the table. We'll do our best to stop that.
Q. Willie, as a freshman, what's it been all about for you? Has it
been what you thought it's been? Were you nervous last night?
WILLIE WARREN: I wasn't really nervous. I've been playing basketball
my whole life. Probably a little bit more fans than I've been used to,
but you just go out and do everything you've been doing for your whole
Q. Blake and Taylor, I'm just curious. I know a lot of North
Carolina fans are going to make something out of this being that Coach
Capel played for Duke. Does he talk to you guys at all about that? Or
do you guys put anything more in wanting to win this game for him
because of that rivalry?
BLAKE GRIFFIN: He just talked about, if we don't win, probably none
of us will have scholarships next year. No, he hasn't said a word
COACH JEFF CAPEL: You'd better watch stuff like that. People take
that stuff for real, man.
BLAKE GRIFFIN: No, he didn't. I mean, this isn't about that. It's
about us as Oklahoma playing well and competing with North Carolina.
That's basically all I have.
TAYLOR GRIFFIN: Like I said, it's another game. You know, yeah, it's
to go to the Final Four. It's a huge game. But we're playing another
team and another team that we're trying to beat.
Q. Tony and Austin, you faced one set of problems in your perimeter
defense last night. What do you see tomorrow?
TONY CROCKER: We're just going to go out and play team defense. Try
to keep everyone out of the paint and from getting easy looks. We're
just going to do what we've been doing.
AUSTIN JOHNSON: We know they've got a great team, great guards. So
we've just got to play together out there, try to limit open looks for
them and make it tough and contested shots.
Q. Tony, when you had a shooting night like you did last night, are
you more likely to be aggressive tomorrow in the game?
TONY CROCKER: Yeah. I will. Just depends on how things are going,
what needs to be done out there. I'm going to be aggressive, yeah.
Q. To follow up on that question, with your game last night, how
well did you sleep last night knowing that you got out of a slump? Do
you wish the game were today instead of having to wait a day?
TONY CROCKER: I slept regular. I mean, it felt good to go out there
and make most of your shots, but I'm just going to go out and do the
same thing I did yesterday.
COACH JEFF CAPEL: Tony never has a problem sleeping. Trust me.
Q. Austin, going on the assumption that two great players, Blake and
Tyler, both bring their A game and play great tomorrow and kind of
cancel each other out. Where does this game get won? Where's the
AUSTIN JOHNSON: Really, to me it's just on the defensive end, who
can stop who. I think kind of the pace of the game too. Not get sped
up and let's just play our game.
Q. Blake, when you make a decision about whether to come back or
not, how much was it that you thought this team could be really good
and go as far as they have this year?
BLAKE GRIFFIN: I thought it was a big part of it. Talking to a lot
of people last year, they always talked about how, you know, college
is one of the best times of your life, and guys always remember the
times they played in college.
Just because it's so fun and you get to do things like this. So it
was a big part of it, just being able to play on a team of this
caliber and being able to contend for championships.
Q. For Taylor and Blake, do you guys feel that you're just as
physical as anyone in the nation? Do you feel, if the referees have a
slow whistle tomorrow, will that benefit you at all?
BLAKE GRIFFIN: I feel like we are physical, but at the same time, I
feel like down low we kind of play to counterattack whatever the other
guys are doing down low.
If somebody wants to be overly physical and they don't move as well,
I feel like we do a good job using our quickness. If somebody's not
overly physical and they're quick, I feel like we do a good job of
So I think it's more of a read for us. You know, if they are slow to
a lot of calls, you never know. It depends on which calls they're slow
on. So we'll see.
TAYLOR GRIFFIN: I think the biggest thing is just adapting to the
game. Every game is different. Every game's played differently. You
know, officiating differently and just like basically being able to
adapt and read what the situation is and going from there.
Q. Austin, I assume you're going to be matching up with Ty Lawson.
Just how difficult is it to deal with his speed, and does he remind
you of anybody you've seen so far this season?
AUSTIN JOHNSON: He's a great, great guard, probably the best we're
playing against this year so far. And it's not just going to be me. I
think the post help corral him and team defense.
But I'm just going to try to use my length to my advantage and stay
in front of him and try to contest shots when I can.
Q. Willie, you were recruited by everybody in the country, but one
of the things that you said at that time was that you thought, when
you chose Oklahoma, especially with Blake coming back, that you could
be in this position. How does it feel to know that's come true, that
you have a chance to go to the Final Four if you win one more game?
WILLIE WARREN: It feels great. Not everybody has this opportunity to
play on this stage. You know, relieved to know that I made the right
decision by coming to Oklahoma. And in the Elite Eight, to play
against you could easily say the number one team in the country. Them
and Louisville are both playing great right now.
Being able to have a chance to win this game and go on to the Final
Four is a great feeling.
Q. Willie, how important was it for the guards to play well last
night considering the pregame hype, OU's guards have to step up, can't
be just Blake Griffin. How important was that to hear that kind of
stuff and in a rile you up sort of sense?
WILLIE WARREN: It's very important every night. In order for Blake
to get off like he does almost he have game, it's because of our
guards. Our guards have to be able to penetrate and kick and hit open
shots to open it up to where Blake can get double teamed down there.
Q. Blake, what was Jeff saying to you a minute ago that was cracking
you up? And on top of that, can you tell me what your favorite thing
about Jeff Capel.
COACH JEFF CAPEL: He was telling me a joke that he heard. We'll just
go with that.
My favorite thing is just I mean, just his passion just combined
with, I guess you could say, his youthfulness and the way he relates
to us as players. Just because it wasn't long ago he was in our shoes.
But at the same time, he's somebody that, you know, you feel like
has, you know, a lot of years of experience under his belt the way he
knows the game and the way he carries himself and coaches.
Q. Taylor, you guys have a basketball with a bunch of writing that
you gather around during practice. Can you tell me what that's about,
as much as you can, about what it says or who writes on that thing.
TAYLOR GRIFFIN: That's just kind of a team thing that we got going
on right now. That's about it.
Q. Willie, last year at this time you were in high school and most
of the North Carolina players were in the Final Four. How do you
overcome that edge they obviously have of the experience of already
being where you're trying to go?
WILLIE WARREN: By just listening to other players who have been in
the tournament, such as A.J., Crock, these guys, the rest of these
guys up here who were in the tournament last year.
You know, you just have to be able to take in what they say and be
able to play with them, not just drift off and try to do everything by
Q. Tony, how do you follow up the shooting output of the last game,
and have you visualized big shots versus North Carolina?
TONY CROCKER: Just keep taking the open shots. Of course you always
visualize, daydream about making big shots in big games. Yeah, I've
done that. And just taking the open shots as I get them.
Q. Blake, Tyler says he doesn't watch much Tyler Hansbrough doesn't
watch much college basketball and hasn't really seen you play very
much. Do you watch much college basketball, and have you seen Tyler
play a lot?
BLAKE GRIFFIN: I watch a lot of college basketball, and I've seen
him play a lot since his freshman year. I've seen him play a lot of
games every season. So yeah.
Q. Austin and Taylor, there's a lot to be said obviously for you
guys getting here where you wanted to be, but how fun has this season
been for you? I mean, realizing some goals. You're not there yet
obviously, but did you expect this at this time of the season? Can you
kind of see this program developing under coach, and how much
enjoyment are you having at this time of the year right now?
TAYLOR GRIFFIN: I definitely expected this. You know, coming even
from as early as last spring, just knowing who we were having coming
in and finding out that Blake was coming back. You know, and knowing
how hard the guys were working in the off season. You know, I knew
that we could be in this place right now.
You know, I felt that anything less than this, it would be a
disappointing season. So we're here, but we're not done.
AUSTIN JOHNSON: Practically the same thing. The way our guys worked
this summer, I thought coming into it, we have the players, and the
way we were working, you know we were going to have a good season.
We've had our ups and downs this year, but I think we fought through
them, and we're starting to play a lot better than we were earlier
Q. Taylor and Blake, what life lessons has your father taught you
guys as relates to or that you can carry over as it pertains to
respecting and appreciating the game and as it pertains to being good
TAYLOR GRIFFIN: As a coach, my dad is very into, you know, creating
well rounded players, you know, not just for us, but every guy that he
You know, just being able to do everything well on the court. And
part of that, part of something that comes with that is just working
hard. He's one of the hardest workers I've ever seen. You know, when
you have that example growing up your whole life, it's hard not to
BLAKE GRIFFIN: Like he said, the importance that he really drilled
into us, the importance of being a well rounded player, but at the
same time, being a player that makes your teammates better, which
comes along with being a well rounded player, being able to pass and
do all those things, read the floor well. You know, screen and get
people open and stuff like that.
You know, he's definitely a big reason for, I guess, the way Taylor
and I play.
Q. Blake, one, you say you've watched Tyler. What do you like about
his game? And, two, Deon Thompson called Taylor one of the most
underrated big men in the country? Do you feel that about him? And if
BLAKE GRIFFIN: About Tyler's game, you know, just his, I guess,
tenacity, the way he doesn't stop playing hard and he doesn't stop
until he's either made it or he's gotten fouled, which happens a lot.
And just he seems like he never gives up and he's always ready to
go. And just also the consistency he's played with over four years. I
don't know how many he's averaged over his career, but obviously if
he's the ACC leading scorer, he's done a great job.
And then the second question, I do feel like he's one of the most
underrated post players in the country. Just because, you know, for us
he's one of the guys that just does whatever we need at the time. You
know, he's had games where he scored 20. He's had games where he's had
5 points and 10 rebounds, 4 blocks. He's had games where he's had 5
steals, stuff like that. He kind of finds a way to do the little
things, the things that need to get done that sometimes nobody else
Q. Taylor, last night you guys beat a coach who was going for his
800th win. Tomorrow you're going against a hall of fame coach, who's
already in the hall of fame. Last week a columnist wrote your coach
can't coach. How gratifying and motivating is it for you to keep
beating these coaches and proving people wrong?
TAYLOR GRIFFIN: You know, I think I can speak for everybody up here.
We love proving people wrong. You know, it kind of just fuels you more
when people tell you you can't do something. I think that's true with
every aspect of life, you know. Nobody wants to hear they can't do
something. You know, that's even more motivation to be able to say, I
told you so kind of thing.
Q. Blake, knowing that Hansbrough can get to the line frequently and
seems to know how to get fouled, does that hinder your defensive
status in any way? Xs and Os or mind game with you, or do you just
play the way you need to play or have played throughout?
BLAKE GRIFFIN: Just play the way I need to play. Play the way we
talk about. You know, in the scouting report and all that.
I'm not going to he does find a way to get to the line, but I don't
want to back off and just let him get points because that happens.
You know, we're going to play tough team defense and try to
collectively stop them.
Q. Austin, as a senior, North Carolina has a spectacular assist to
turnover ratio. How important is your poise tomorrow as a senior, and
how important is each possession?
AUSTIN JOHNSON: It's very important, I think. Turnovers is kind of
what fuels them. It will speed the game up and get them easy baskets.
They're great in transition. So turnovers will just get open shots for
them or easy baskets for them.
I mean, I think it's a very important part of the game tomorrow.
Q. Blake, Roy kind of complained about the amount of cookies back
there? Did they have your favorite kind of cookie back there? What
kind is that? Secondly, I know you've grown up watching a lot of
basketball. Finally being in the position to play UNC on this kind of
stage, talk about realizing that kind of dream.
BLAKE GRIFFIN: I don't know if they had my favorite one. I just
grabbed the first one I saw.
Oh, yeah, being on the stage is just, you know, like I said before,
it's what everybody works for. It's what we work for over the summer,
over the preseason, all throughout the season. The hours the players
put in and the hours that our coaches put in is, I mean, it's why you
know, it's the biggest stage, and this is where we want to be. It's
definitely a great feeling and part of a dream come true.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with coaches for head coach Jeff
Q. Jeff, you had talked earlier in the year about how Austin wasn't
necessarily the most natural of point guards. Can you talk about his
development in that role this season and during your while you've been
there watching him at Oklahoma.
COACH JEFF CAPEL: He's had a really good year this year. And in the
past, when he's played well, we've won. I think one of the things that
helps is that he has better players around him this year. So it makes
it a little bit takes a little bit of pressure off of him.
But he's not your traditional he's not the traditional sense of a
point guard where he's a guy that's going to break you down. He's not
like a Flynn or a Lawson, one of those guys. He's a guy that gets you
into your stuff, doesn't really or hadn't really made a lot of
And when he's knocking down open shots, then he gives you a
different weapon. And he's done that for the most part of this season.
Defensively, he's usually been pretty good for us because of his
length. He's able to bother people's shots. You don't really realize
how long he is until he's out there on you.
And then again, this year I've always measured really, really great
point guards by winning. And I'm not saying A.J. is great. I think
great is overused in sports, but I think he's been very good this
year, and he's been a catalyst for his team winning 30 games. So I
think he's grown. He's matured, and he's gotten better each year.
Q. How often do people still approach you, talk to you about the
shot you made against Carolina way back?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: You know, it happens a few times a week, maybe.
Not as much out in Oklahoma. You know, when I go back and visit family
in North Carolina, you know, it's mentioned. As the first Duke North
Carolina game is getting ready to happen in basketball, I start to
hear about it a little bit more then. Maybe not as frequently out in
Q. You talked about point guards, traditional point guards, Lawson
fits that mold. Without overusing the word great, how close is he to
that and how fast is he the fastest you've seen with the ball?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: Ty Lawson is a great college point guard. I don't
know how that will translate to the pros, but especially when he's
doing now this year, and especially when he's been healthy over the
past few months.
That North Carolina team maybe does not get past LSU if he doesn't
play, especially how good he was in the second half. You know, he was
tremendous last night.
Their program is known for having very, very good point guards. He's
following right in line with the tradition of that.
And as far as speed, it's tough to gauge speed on tape. Yesterday
was the first time I'd ever seen him play live. And he's really,
really fast. I think Flynn is fast. We had a kid in our league last
year, D.J. Augustine, who was pretty fast. Sherron Collins is pretty
fast. How does he measure up against those guys, I'm not sure. But he
is really, really fast with the ball.
Q. Jeff, how did you wind up choosing Duke over Carolina? Do you
have any recollection, if at all, of being recruited by Roy out in
COACH JEFF CAPEL: You know, I grew up a Carolina fan. I always tell
my mom, my mom and dad when I was younger, that when I grow up, I'm
going to Carolina. The posters I had in my room as a young child were
Probably one of my favorites, there was a picture of Michael Jordan
shooting a jump shot against NC State. It was picture perfect form,
his legs were spread out, and it had the tradition continues. I just
thought that was incredible.
Carolina was the first ACC school to start recruiting me, and it was
the summer going into my tenth grade year. When I was in tenth grade,
I was actually in Chapel Hill. I went to quite a few games. When I was
younger, my father was a high school coach. I used to always go with
my dad to Coach Smith's clinic.
When I was younger, I used to go to a lot of games. My father would
take me up to Carmichael and watch a lot of games. I was there when
Kenny Smith broke his wrist against LSU. I was a Carolina fan. I
thought that was where I was going to go until I met Coach K.
The first time I had a conversation with coach face to face is when
I started to change a little bit and when I thought that that's the
man I want to play for. It wasn't anything against my final two
schools were Duke and North Carolina. Really what it came down to was
playing for Coach K. I wanted to play with Grant Hill. But then also,
as a freshman, I thought it was more of an opportunity for me to play
early. You know, Duke would be losing Thomas Hill and Bobby Hurley.
While North Carolina would be returning Phelps and Donald Williams.
And I thought it was more of an opportunity for me to go in as a
freshman and earn playing time. So that's kind of was maybe the
deciding factor. Towards the end.
And what was the second part?
Q. Were you ever recruited by Roy?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: You know what, Coach Williams called my father,
and my dad was a college coach by then at Fayetteville State
University. And he asked this is according to my dad. So he asked my
dad, you know, he wanted the chance to recruit me and wanted to be
involved. And my father told him who it was basically down to, it was
down to Duke and North Carolina. And my dad told me that Coach
Williams said he wouldn't recruit me then because of Carolina.
And he said he told him, you know, he has two really good schools,
one great one and another really good one.
Q. Given everything you just finished saying, is there some poetry
to the fact that your first major coaching break through will have to
come through North Carolina?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: Not really because I don't look at it as my first
major coaching breakthrough. When you're hired at 27 years old, that's
a major break through as a head coach, especially with only two years
You know, guiding a team in the second year to an NCAA tournament at
VCU, you don't appreciate how much pressure it is at those mid major
schools on a conference tournament. We went into a conference
tournament 21 and whatever we were that year, but knowing that we had
to win it. That was probably the most pressure that I felt as a coach.
But it's exciting. You know, I told someone on my staff, one of our
GAs, in January, that eventually we're going to play North Carolina,
and it's going to happen I didn't know if it would happen in the Final
Four, to get to the Final Four, or for a championship, but I just had
a feeling that, you know, some way we were going to end up playing
We're excited about it. They have a lot of I have a lot of respect,
so much respect for that program. I grew up in that state. I know all
about the history and the tradition. I have friends that played there.
I have a brother that played there. So I have a lot of respect for
them. And they're incredible. They're the best team we will have
played all year long, and I haven't even played them yet.
But I don't really want to watch a lot of tape on them because you
try to find weaknesses, and I really don't see any, especially with
them offensively. It will be a challenge, but we'll be ready for them.
Q. Jeff, earlier this year you said your personality is one that you
don't like to let people down. I wonder, how does that affect your
emotions going into this game? Is it different than when you went into
it as a player?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: Everything is different from a player. You know,
when I was a player, I had the mindset of a player. You know, I was
also 18, 19, 20, 21 years old then. I'm 34 now. So I like to think
that I've grown and become a little bit more mature and can handle
As far as letting people down, that's something I don't like to do,
but it's something that, that's life. You let people down. People
aren't going to be happy with you all the time, and that's fine.
One of the great quotes I think Bill Cosby said it. If you want to I
don't know the sure way to success, but the sure way to failure is
trying to please everyone. That's true.
So we try to get our team prepared. We're going to come out and try
to play as hard as we possibly can tomorrow, and hopefully that leads
to a victory. If it doesn't, then I don't look at our season as being
a failure. I think we've had a heck of a season so far, and we want to
keep playing. We think we're capable of getting past these guys, but
we know it's going to take almost a perfect game from us for that to
Q. Jeff, in your assessment, how bad a shape was the program in when
you came in? Then how big a hit was it when you lost most of that
recruiting class? And then finally, how important was it that you at
least kept Tony from that class?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: You know, when I took the job, I knew a little bit
about some of the NCAA stuff. I didn't know a lot about it. Whether I
was naive or what, I didn't ask a lot of questions about it. I don't
think it would have made a difference on my decision in coming to the
University of Oklahoma.
When I got there, I guess I kind of found out the extent of it. I
remember when I took the job and the very next day I did some
individual workouts and had A.J. in a walking boot. Had another guy in
a walking boot. So I only had like six guys to work out. And I didn't
think the talent level was anywhere near what it needed to be.
So we were well, I guess not we. I was leaning heavily on getting
those guys getting the recruits. When that didn't happen, obviously,
it was a big blow. But you have to go out and you have to recruit.
That's a major part of what we do. You have to go out and get players.
We were very fortunate that the NCAA didn't add any more sanctions.
They accepted the self imposed penalties that made it somewhat tough
in recruiting. Because we had a restriction on the number of days we
can be out. We had restriction on phone calls. So we had some of those
things that we had to deal with.
But one of the major things was we were able to get Blake. And Blake
committed maybe about a month and a half to two months after I took
the job. It was at that moment that I started to think about being in
this position where we are right now because maybe a lot of people
nationally, as far as the recruiting guys, didn't look at Blake like I
saw him. I think they thought he was good but not like I knew he could
When we got him, that kind of made me sleep a little bit better or
feel a little bit better about the direction in which we were going.
That first year was a challenge, you know, for all of us. You know,
for the players for the returning guys because it was different. They
had been used to a certain way. They had been recruited by Coach
Samson and his staff. Transition is hard for everyone. It was tough
for me because I was used to a certain thing. I was used to the way
guys worked. We had kind of created a culture in the program at VCU
while I was there. And I knew I had my best team coming back at VCU.
But really the culture was created on work and the older guys
teaching the younger guys. And when I got there, you had older guys
that really hadn't played. You had a lot of guys that really had not
As far as Crock, you know, it's I remember I did four home visits. I
took the job on a Tuesday. We were in a period where we couldn't go
out. That next Monday was my first day out, and I only had five days
to go out. I did four home visits in one day. The last one was
supposed to be at 8:00 in San Antonio with Tony Crocker and his
I went and saw Keith Clark that morning. I went and saw Damian James
second at his high school. I went and saw Jeremy Mayfield third. And
didn't get to San Antonio until about 11:15. Pulled up at Crock's
house at 11:45 p.m..
As and as we were getting out of the car, me and my assistant, Tony
Crocker is pulling up. He has a ball under his arm and has his shirt
off. He had just gotten back from playing. We went in and met for
about 45 minutes to an hour. He was one of the ones he and Keith Clark
were the two guys that said from the beginning that they all of them
said from the beginning they were staying, but, you know, Crock stuck
That's why there's a special bond that I have with him because he
endured all of this stuff with us.
Q. What would be your explanation for the differences between the
way you coach players, the way you treat players, and the way you were
handled at Duke by Coach K?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: Well, some similarities. I love playing for Coach.
I think most of the guys that played for him love playing for him.
You know, Coach is the best motivator I've ever been around. And I
felt like we were always prepared. And he had all of us ready to
really run through a wall for him. So I've tried to take some of the
things that I learned from him, from playing for him, and put them
into what I do.
But also at the same time, I have to be who I am. I'm not Coach K.
I'm not my dad. I'm me. So I have to have my own personality of who I
am. It's actually one of the best pieces of advice that I got when I
became a head coach at 27. Coach told me that. My dad told me that.
And it's something that I've tried to do.
It may be completely different from everyone. I remember my first
recruiting trip when I was an assistant, I never went on the road. My
first recruiting trip, I remember I was out. I don't like to tuck my
shirt in. Maybe that's something that young guys. I don't like, unless
I'm wearing a suit or something, I don't like tucking my shirt in.
And a coach actually in my league came up to me and said, "Hey,
you're a head coach now. You have to tuck your shirt in." And I said,
"Well, I thought head coaches get to do what they want to do."
So I have my way of doing things. It may not be what a 50 year old
guy or 55 or 45 year old guy does. And I think the thing that concerns
me and matters to me most is, number one, what my athletic director
thinks, as long as he's happy. What my administration at OU thinks, as
long as they're happy. And what our players and the kids we're
recruiting think. That's the only thing that matters to me.
Q. Jeff, as a coach, how vital are situational adjustments in a game
like this? Secondly, if you had your preferred mode to victory, if you
will, would you rely on offense or defense?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: What was the first part again? I'm sorry.
Q. How important in a game like this, or how vital are situational
COACH JEFF CAPEL: I think, when you get to this tournament, you have
to be able to make adjustments on the fly. Whether it's during a time
out, during the half. You know, just throughout the game, you have to
be able to make adjustments.
You don't have a lot of preparation time, especially if you're
fortunate enough to advance to a second game. Which we have this
weekend. We've advanced to a second game.
And so you have to be able to make adjustments. You know, I try to
coach off of feel. You get a feel. Like, for instance, last night we
came in, and we said all week long this is how we're going to defend
ball screens with Jonny Flynn. Throughout the game, we switched it up.
We kept changing it up.
The thing I didn't want to do, I didn't want to give him a steady
diet of the same thing. I just think he's too good, and he'll start to
pick it apart. I think it's very important to be able to make
As far as tomorrow, you know, it's kind of pick your poison with
them. You know, you say defense, but I don't no one stopped them all
year. They're going to score. The thing we have to do is, as best we
can, is try to control tempo. We can't play at their pace. No one can.
No one in college basketball with play at the pace that North Carolina
Now, we still want to take opportunities because we like to run as
well, but we have to be smart. We have to try to control the tempo and
shorten the game a little bit. We're not going to take the air out of
it. We're not going to hold it for 30 seconds and things like that.
We're going to be who we are.
Who we are is pretty good, and it's led us to 30 wins this year. But
at the same time, you have to know who you're playing.
I used the analogy with our guys this morning. I'm a huge boxing
fan. It's like when Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman. He couldn't go
out there and slug with Foreman. He had to find a tactical way. I
don't know if it's going to be effective, but we're going to try to do
The thing that makes them so special, North Carolina, is they can
beat you anyway. They can beat you their way. They can slow it down
and grind it out because they have so, so many weapons. That's what
poses such a great challenge for everyone that's played them.
Q. Following up on the question before the last one, who has been a
bigger influence, coaching influence on you? Coach K or your dad? And
the second part of the question is Jason was wearing an OU shirt
yesterday back there and cheering like crazy for you guys. Is he going
to be wearing the same color shirt tomorrow, or is he going to change
over to blue?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: My dad has had a bigger influence on my life.
That's the guy I've always wanted to be like. I was very fortunate
that my hero was always at home. I wasn't one of these guys or one of
these kids that grew up without a father. I didn't have to look to TV
to say, I want to be like this guy. I always wanted to be like my dad.
Still do to this day.
So he's had a bigger influence on my life. Now, coach's influence
has been incredible on me. As far as which one I don't really know. I
don't know if any of them have greatly influenced my style of
coaching. It's just me. I've taken a little bit from everyone that I
As far as my brother, he's going to have on a red shirt tomorrow. It
will be a red OU shirt, and he'll be cheering for us, which he should.
I know a lot of Carolina people may not like that, but he was my
brother before he was a Tar Heel. And he'll always be my little
brother. He'll be cheering hard for us tomorrow.
Q. Jeff, it seems the national TV people are not giving you much of
a chance tomorrow. Do you use that to meat evaluate your team, or do
you just ignore it?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: I don't really pay that much attention to it.
Doesn't really matter. They didn't give us a chance to beat Syracuse.
I think Digger Phelps was the only one that picked us.
Q. A lot of us, a lot of fans are really excited about seeing last
year's national player of the year against this year's. Can you
understand that and appreciate that? Do you look forward to seeing
those guys on the same court?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: No question, absolutely. When I was a freshman, I
had an opportunity to play in this game, regional final, and it was so
much anticipation. Grant Hill versus Glenn Robinson. And, you know,
you have the two guys that were arguably the two best players in the
country that year along with Jason Kidd. But those two were kind of
the leading front runners for national player of the year and had been
the two best players all year. Purdue was number one seed, and we were
number two seed.
I understand that. As a fan of basketball, I understand that. I have
so much respect for Tyler and for what he's done. And really with
these two guys, with Tyler and Blake, you have everything that's right
about college basketball with these two kids.
Tyler staying in school for four years and breaking every record at
North Carolina and in the ACC. And then Blake, you know, turning down
the money last year and coming back. Both of them have been great
ambassadors for college basketball. They do things the right way. They
play the game the right way.
You know, it would be they'll be matched up against each other at
times tomorrow. You know, it should be exciting. But, again, like
Blake said, it's not going to be a matchup of just Tyler and Blake.
It's going to be North Carolina against Oklahoma.
Q. For what it's worth, 50 year olds don't like to tuck in their
shirts either. The '94 game against Purdue, what do you recall
specifically from that game, and do you remember a certain behind the
back pass that you threw to Tony Wang?
Q. You know what, it was maybe the best game I played in college. I
had a really good NCAA tournament that year as a freshman.
You know, I remember I thought coach divided a great game plan
against Glenn Robinson. The thing I remembered the most is we had
beaten Marquette, and Purdue beat Kansas in the second game. I
remember walking out of the locker room after all the media stuff,
being up here and showering and things like that. There was maybe
about ten minutes left in the second half. And we watched the rest of
the second half.
I mean, Glenn Robinson had 30 in the first half. I think they were
up 25, and he finished with 40. I remember thinking, right when we
walked out, we were sitting right under the basket, and Glenn Robinson
dunked on Greg Ostertag.
I remember thinking at the end of the half, how are we going to
guard this guy? He was averaging like 32. He was like a man among
boys. We actually did a really, really good job. Coach divided a great
game plan, and we executed it.
I remember Grant being in foul trouble. Grant picked up his fourth
foul with nine minutes to go in the second half of that game. We
probably played four minutes, five minutes of maybe some of the best
basketball we played without him. Him in the game. And when he came
back, we were able to extend the lead while he was out. And him being
the best player, and I thought the best player in the country, he
closed the game out for us.
I remember, when you guys were asking Willie questions, I remember
being up here the day before that game. And I remember how I was
nervous. I was excited, but it was a nervous excitement. And really
anxious. You know, for me, it was also a little bit more personal
because the Final Four was in North Carolina that year. So if we won,
we got a chance to go back and play in the Final Four two hours, two
and a half hours from where I grew up. It was really an exciting time.
Q. Coach, do you remember that experience? Your team doesn't have
it. Do you share anything with them about that? Secondly, have you
talked with Coach K since last night?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: I don't really share much about that kind of
stuff. This is their time. That was my time. It's different. It's a
completely different time now, man. '94 and 2000. These kids are so
These kids have played in a lot of big games, whether it's high
school national TV games or AAU. They match these kids up for these
made for TV games. They've experienced a lot of stuff.
That's why you hear Willie Warren or you hear Tyreke Evans, those
kids. These moments like this, those kids don't back away from that or
are not nervous. When you're an elite player now, it's different from
when we were freshmen or seniors in high school.
I did talk to Coach. He called me and congratulated me last night
and left a voicemail. I returned his call this morning. He was just
congratulating me and just be who you are and go after it.
Q. Jeff, you've already talked a little bit about North Carolina's
offensive prowess with the point totals and things. They're unique in
that their big man goes outside quite a bit and does some things.
Could you talk about defensively how difficult it is going to be to
match up with some of the things and some of the switches you're going
to have to do?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: They have pros at every position, and then they
bring pros off the bench. And so it's you know, there's no weakness.
Sometimes you have a team where they don't shoot the ball as well.
They're great in transition. They're great in half court offense. They
can shoot the ball from behind the arc. They can beat you inside.
They're a very good passing team. They have size. They have depth. I
mean, there's no weakness.
You have to play defense as best as you can and try to contest
shots, and then you hope they miss them. So it's that's what makes
them really, really difficult to defend. They do a great job of
controlling tempo, getting the game kind of going like they want to up
and down the floor, and we have to be really careful not to get in
that kind of game with them.
Q. Coach, before this tournament began, you admitted that you're an
East Coast basketball snob and trying to change your impressions about
basketball in the Midwest. With that being said, do you find yourself
campaigning for Oklahoma basketball, so to speak. Do you let the 30
wins do the talking for you? How much would a win over North Carolina
enhance your campaign?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: I would never refer to myself as a snob with
anything. So I never said that. I said that coming from the East
Coast, there was you don't really think about basketball out here in
the Midwest. You think of it more as football. You look at Kansas as a
basketball school, but that's about it.
You know what, what people think about us or what they write about
us, that doesn't really matter. We've won 30 games. We've had a really
good year. We're in the Elite Eight. We have a kid that may be the
national player of the year, may be the number one pick. We have a kid
that was a freshman all American. We have two McDonald's All Americans
coming in next year. I think we've done enough to kind of deal with
that stuff. We're just going to play the game, and hopefully we can go
out and play really well tomorrow and win.
If that happens, then that will speak for itself.
Q. Jeff, how big a challenge is the quick turnaround? And also,
because of that, can you tap into your connections at Duke to get some
help about Carolina?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: The quick turnaround is tough, you know, but we
dealt with that last weekend. We came out, and I thought the second
game we played really well against Michigan. You know, it is what it
is. That's tournament play. So you have to be prepared for it. We've
done it once this year earlier with the NIT tip off, when we played
UAB, had a day in between for Thanksgiving, and came back the next
afternoon and played a really good Purdue team and won in overtime.
So I don't think fatigue will be a factor at all. In tomorrow's
game. We were really smart. I thought about what we did today on the
floor, no contact, not really much movement, just walking through some
things. Hopefully that's enough.
And watching a lot of tape and talking to our guys. You know, again,
I talk to coach, but not about North Carolina. He just called to
encourage me and to wish me good luck. But we didn't get into North
Q. Your staff won't get into it with his assistants?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: No. Those guys at Duke don't violate the thing you
have in the ACC, or most conferences have that. Maybe some other
schools will do that, but those guys at Duke aren't going to do that.
Q. Coach, from the journey that you've had from VCU to here, how do
you enjoy this moment? Can you enjoy this moment? And, two, how does
it feel to still be the best dressed coach in college basketball with
the shirt tucked out?
COACH JEFF CAPEL: You know, I enjoy it. One of the things I try to
talk to our guys about all the time is really enjoying the journey.
Every season is a journey.
To try to enjoy every step of the way. You know, this year has been
great. I mean, we've had some ups. We've had some downs. We've had
some in between. This has been a really fun group to coach.
Hopefully, we have a lot more obviously, we have another day, but
hopefully we have another week for this team to be together.
You know, I think we've done something really special already. But
we have a chance to make it even more special. And so that's what
we're looking forward to. It's an honor to be in the final eight. It's
an honor to be at this stage. And it means that you've done something
really good pop.
For us, you look at our whole body of work, and we've been that way
all year long. I'm really proud of these guys. We'll see what happens
As far as the best dressed, my shirt is tucked out now. It's not in
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
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