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NCAA Sweet 16 Press Conference Transcript: Gonzaga (March 26, 2009)

Thursday, March 26, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 8:12 PM, under , ,

Athens, GA (Mar 26, 2009) -The Sweet 16 Teams are getting ready for their games over the next two days. Part of that preparation is sitting down with the media. Here is the transcript of the Gonzaga University press conference, as provided by the NCAA.

THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by Gonzaga student athletes Matt
Bouldin and Josh Heytvelt. As we've been doing, if you do have a
question, please raise your hand.

Q. Josh, I know since a lot's been made of the last time you guys
played, can you talk about, one, what that game meant to you at that
time in your career.

JOSH HEYTVELT: It was definitely a big game. Tyler's had a whole
bunch of hype his entire career. That was one thing that I had to go
in to that game ready to face was, you know, because he's one of the
best players in the entire country, and he's shown that over the last
four years.

That game was definitely one I had to go in with a little chip on my
shoulder knowing that he has and plays like one of the best players in
the entire country. I had to try and match that.

Q. Aside from experience, how are you guys different now than you
were that night when you played Carolina, and how are they different?

MATT BOULDIN: I think this year we're a lot deeper. Obviously, like
you said, we're much more experienced, but I think we're a lot deeper
this year.

I mean, we think we have one of the most talented teams we've had
here, and I don't know if we really felt like that the night we played
them in New York.

And they too, like you said, are obviously much more experienced.
They've developed into much better players. I mean, every one of their
guys have gotten better since the time we played them.

JOSH HEYTVELT: I agree with Matt. You know, it was one of those
things coming into that game a couple years ago where we knew we were
a pretty good team and we knew those guys were a pretty good team, and
we just had to match them up and go with it.

We had a lot less experience back then, like you said. Coming into
this year, we know they have a lot of hype, and they have a lot of
good offensive players, some shot blockers. We feel like we have grown
just as much as they have. I think we have a lot better chemistry than
we did a couple years ago.

We love each other, and we'd do anything for each other.

Q. Having said all that, do you guys feel at all like underdogs
going in and going up against the number one seed and a program like
North Carolina's?

JOSH HEYTVELT: It's kind of nice to be the underdog, you know. Most
of the season we've had the bull's eye on our back. Through our
conference and a lot of preseason games.

You know, there's a lot of hype for Carolina. The fans don't expect
anything less than a championship from those guys. And to have a
little bit of pressure off the back to come in and be able to play a
little bit looser, it's kind of a relief.

Q. There's some hyped up point guards here in this regional. How
would you rate Jeremy? Would you take him over any of the other guys?

MATT BOULDIN: Well, obviously, he's our point guard. I'd take him
over all the other ones in this region, that's for sure. Ty Lawson,
Jonny Flynn, both unbelievable point guards. We've played them both.
I've played with both of them.

Yeah, I wouldn't trade Jeremy for anybody.

JOSH HEYTVELT: I agree with Matt completely. I've gotten to know
Jeremy the last four years, and he's a great guy. He's a really great
basketball player.

You know, it's a great opportunity to play with somebody like that.

Q. Josh, if you'll let me take you back a couple of years. Wonder
now with hindsight, how you feel the university and your coach and
your teammates handled your legal problems. And at the time I mean, I
guess has your attitude toward it changed in terms of the way they
treated you and kind of took a wait and see approach?

JOSH HEYTVELT: You know, I think they did a great job initially with
the process and then throughout the entire thing.

You know, I was just happy to get the second chance to be able to
prove to the guys that nothing was going to happen from it and I
wasn't going to mess up again.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you guys.

THE MODERATOR: At this time we'll get started with Gonzaga head
coach Mark Few. Coach, if you'd like to start us off with just a few
thoughts on your preparations coming into Memphis.

COACH MARK FEW: We've had a great week. I mean, obviously, Sweet 16
week is it's nonstop excitement and then apprehension from a coaching

But our guys have practiced well this week. They're excited to get
to come to Memphis. Love the building. And, you know, the town just
embraces college basketball so much here. I think with our series with
Memphis, our guys have noticed that over the years.

Then obviously, just an opportunity to play Carolina, probably the
greatest basketball program in history of college basketball. I think
our guys have a great sense of appreciation for that too.

It's a group that, I think I said last week, at this time of year, a
lot of groups just want to get done and are kind of tired of being
around each other. That's just not the case. They like each other.
They've been great day in and day out, night in and night out, with
practice, with their effort, and their team chemistry. They just want
to keep it going.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.

Q. I was going to ask you a little bit about what a lot has been
said about the game two years ago. What did the game mean to Josh at
the time in his career?

COACH MARK FEW: I think it probably reinforced to him that he could
play with anybody in the country.

You know, I mean, obviously, if you're successful against North
Carolina, with as good a job as they do, with the talent level and
their development that they have, their staff does such a phenomenal
job. And then just their preparation. For Josh to come out and play a
good game like that, I think gave him the confidence he could play
with anybody.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the point guard match up in this
game and what you all have to do to slow down Lawson.

COACH MARK FEW: Yeah, that's the one that keeps you up at night.
They've got about 77 entities that keep you up at night, but that
one's probably either 1 or 1A.

Just the speed at which he plays. I think our guards, both Jeremy
and Micah, we're going to have to get some help from our bigs. Many
people have tried that. But just trying to bottle him up, keep him in
front of us.

But then at the other end, you know, I mean, Jeremy's had a
phenomenal year, and he's playing great right now. So, you know,
they're going to have to guard Jeremy too. And obviously, Micah, the
minutes he's played when he's filled in, have been very, very
productive and have helped us tremendously, much more so than just
that last second runner which is obviously the focal point. Of what
everybody's talking about with him.

But he's had a great NCAA also.

Q. A lot of people have said this is the most interesting regional,
your game against Carolina, the most intriguing. With the star power
of Tyler and Blake both being here. Do you agree with that? Are we in
the best regional here?

COACH MARK FEW: Well, I'm biased, obviously, but, yeah, I think it's
a phenomenal regional. I mean, I think with the one, two, three, and
four seeds here. You've got two hall of fame coaches in coach Williams
and Coach Boeheim.

And then the as far power, like you mentioned with Ty and Hansbrough
and Blake and even, you know, Jeremy and the guys we have. And then
Jonny Flynn and the guys from Syracuse.

The contrasting styles, I think, makes it interesting. But there's
some great match ups all across here.

I think the one thing that's really neat and I think they alluded to
it today in the paper is just that you can feel and sense the
appreciation for college basketball here in this city. That isn't
always the case. You know, I think Spokane has it. And obviously
Spokane fits 500,000, 600,000. But having a major Metropolitan area
like this, the players understand it.

They walk around, and people are excited to have this here. It's a
great building. I would say, yeah, it probably does make it the best

Q. Your players were talking about how, they called the Memphis game
a turning point and said you worked them a lot harder in the week
after that game. What was said or done in the aftermath of that game,
and how has the team grown up in the six weeks since?

COACH MARK FEW: Good question. You know, I mean, that was a
disappointing loss. It was a disappointing effort for us.

At the time, I don't think anybody realized just how good Memphis
was. I mean, I tried to tell everybody after we played them. And sure
enough, they've turned out to be every bit as good as advertised.

But, yeah, from a coaching standpoint, you know, we didn't compete
as well as we've competed all year. Sometimes you go through a 35
game, 36 game season, you're not going to play great in every game.
But you should be able to compete.

And for whatever reason, we didn't have it that night. We were able
to challenge them on that entity more than anything, and true to their
character, they responded. You know, I don't think we've lost since
then. And we've played really good basketball since then.

So unfortunately, I wish it wouldn't have to be like that, but
sometimes you've got to get beaten down like that to kind of get back
up on your feet and brush off and make yourself a little bit better.

Q. At this point in the season, is it safe to say that conference
affiliation isn't as important as the fact that you're still playing?

COACH MARK FEW: Conference affiliation? Yeah, totally. I mean, it
just you just it's about just surviving and advancing.

I think we've had a group all year that people expected us to get
here. Everybody around the program, you know, the entire city, the
entire region. I think all the media, even national media.

So I think there's some feeling that kind of finally I think our
guys feel good that, hey, okay now we're where we're supposed to be,
and now we need to go out and continue to let this thing go.

I don't think conference or anything I think sometimes in our
conference we have to feel we have to be almost perfect or else it's a
failure. I think Memphis feels the same way. I think that's a very
dangerous trap to be in because there's a lot of good college
basketball programs out there irregardless of what conference they're

For my guys to do what they did this year and for the Memphis guys
to do what they did this year, I think is phenomenal even though
everybody expects it. And it's not easy. It's not easy when teams are
primed to storm the floor every night. You play on the road.

Q. Given the history of Gonzaga's program before Coach Monson got
there and the fact that you had a few opportunities to maybe leave and
coach in the more power conferences, what is it about Gonzaga that's
kept you there?

COACH MARK FEW: There's a lot. I mean, Gonzaga's done an incredible
job of making the program, the situation, the actual job better. I
mean, they've made it into a national job. I mean, we've had the same
president, same athletic director the entire time I've been there.

I've been able to keep my staff relatively intact. The entire time
I've been there. Which is huge. I mean, you can't put enough of an
emphasis on that.

They've grown the product, grown the program, and we just haven't
stood pat.

I think the entire school and even the community deserves a lot of
credit because it's a great place to have a basketball program. A lot
of interest, a lot of great fans. You know, with how we schedule and
how we operate and how we travel, how we recruit, it's as good as, you
know, everybody with the exception of probably the top, you know, 10
or 15 in the country.

Q. When a coach receives a call like you did a couple of years ago
that a player's in trouble, you have to make a lot of quick decisions
about what's in the best interest of the player, of the team, of the
university. How difficult is that? And given the fact that you guys
kind of moved quickly and then took a wait and see approach with him
to let him decide, or to let you decide whether to reinstate him, with
two years of hindsight, did you guys act appropriately?

COACH MARK FEW: Yeah. I think we did. I think the old cooler heads
will prevail.

You know, the immediate thoughts are just, at least with me, was
anger. But then again, Father Spitzer was phenomenal throughout the
whole process, my athletic director was. It was a no brainer. I mean,
with what we had to do immediately.

But the most convincing and compelling part of it for me was to
watch how it played out over the next couple of months, with how Josh
changed, how he grew as a person.

How the biggest thing that I was most concerned with and anybody
that's ever been on a team, I think, can relate to this was when were
his teammates ready to accept him back? Because I think there was some
hurt there. I mean, we were rolling right along. I think we were
playing for a league championship that next day.

And so, you know, once I felt that they had fully accepted him back
and he had shown remorse and, you know, done so much in the community
and academically, I mean, it turned out to be a great decision.

Like I said earlier, it's one of the neatest things I've seen evolve
probably the whole time I've been coaching. I mean, he's graduated
now. He's working on his master's. He's going to play somewhere for
some money, and he's just so much more engaged in conversation when
you have him in the office. Very enjoyable to talk with.

Q. Because you have so much in common with the Memphis program, do
you think you're going to have Memphis fans on your side this weekend?
And secondly, if the Tigers play the way they did at your place, would
you consider them a favorite to win the national title this year?

COACH MARK FEW: Well, it would be a novel concept to have the
Memphis fans pulling for us with what we've had here in the past. This
crowd has been unbelievable. In a good way. I mean, this has been as
loud an arena as we've played in, especially if you think back to when
Adam dang near incited a mob riot when he got into it with Shawne
Williams the one time.

That would be great. I hope they relate to us. They're tremendous
fans, and it would be great to have that kind of support because I
know, obviously, Carolina travels so well.

I think Memphis, I don't know if they're the favorite. I think the
way they played in Spokane in a very, very difficult environment and
the way they've played these last two months, I mean, they've played
as good as anybody out there. So I could very easily see them, you
know, advance into the final four and playing for a national

Q. Coach, earlier this week, Coach Williams shared with us his
comments about the respect he has for you and the job you've done at
Gonzaga and also about your friendship. Would you give us your
comments about that.

COACH MARK FEW: He's been a phenomenal mentor for me. I mean, he
probably doesn't even realize it.

When I took over as head coach, we emulated his transition
basketball, his secondary break, his approach offensively and in a lot
of cases defensively.

I mean, his footprint, handprint, everything is all over our
program. He's always just been so open and welcome and, you know,
allowed me in when I was just first or second year, to pick his brain
a little bit.

Whether we're on the road recruiting or on a Nike coaches trip, he's
just been phenomenal. I think he's as class act as there is out there
in college basketball. Obviously, like a Hall of Fame coach.

I guess the greatest compliment I can pay him is we've dang near
copied a large percentage of our program on what he's done in both
Kansas and Carolina. So I certainly enjoy his friendship.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

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