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NCAA Sweet 16 Press Conference Transcript: Louisville (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 University of Louisville press conference, as provided by the NCAA.

BILL BENNER: We're joined by Louisville student athletes. We'll open
it up for questions.

Q. Terrence, you seem to have this gregarious personality when
you're on the floor. Have you always been that way? Why do you think
that's the case?

TERRENCE WILLIAMS: I always been that way. I think it's a case
'cause a lot of people take basketball too serious. Even though it's a
serious game, you want to win, but you can still smile while playing
hard, by trying to win the game.

So I want to be a rare guy that smiles all the time. There's a
couple of us in the country still. With you I just like smiling,
having fun.

It's me, DeJuan Blair, Johnny Flynn smiles a lot. Those are the guys
with the good smiles (smiling).

Q. You're playing a team that by most accounts slipped into the
tournament with their record. I know you've seen film that shows how
good they are. What motivational techniques has Coach Pitino used to
get you beyond their record to take a look at the team and how to
prepare for them?

ANDRE McGEE: He doesn't really have to motivate us. We watch film.
We can understand, you know, who's good players and who aren't good
players. If you watch Arizona, you can tell they're loaded with
talent. They have three potential pros on their team, great guys that
know their roles. We don't really look at their record.

They're in the Sweet 16, just as we are, and 14 other teams. They're
here for a reason. They showed that by the way they've been playing in
the tournament.

BILL BENNER: Terrence, do you care to respond?

TERRENCE WILLIAMS: No. Andre took my answer (laughter).

Q. You both made big free throws in this last game. A lot has been
talked about struggling from the line. How much has that been a
discussion among players? What's been done over the last day or two to
work on free throws?

TERRENCE WILLIAMS: It's not really been a discussion from the
players, 'cause we don't really know. But when Coach P write it on the
board, you're shooting this percent the last five games, shooting this
percent the last five games. You're like, Wow! We can end up losing
because of free throws.

Our last couple days in practice wise, we've been shooting a lot of
free throws, everybody. Usually some people get to go shower early.
Now he makes everybody shoot free throws for like 20 minutes, then you
got to make like 15 in a row before you can leave.

We know that it may come down to free throws and we just got to be
prepared to step to the line and make them.

ANDRE McGEE: Like he said, really numbers don't lie. If you look at
our numbers from the free throw line, it's pretty poor. So guys
understand that, look at how much emphasis is put on it, especially
the last NCAA tournament, being put on Memphis as far as everyone
saying one of the main reasons they lost was due to free throws.

So with such a small thing, that can really be changed through
repetition. Guys got to really look at the importance of it,
especially take a lot of time out, we take a lot of time after
practice, guys come in, make a certain amount in a row, try to make a
certain percentage out of a hundred. It's about everyone taking their
time. We press so hard in the game, so intense, that time spent on the
free throw line, those are gimme shots, so they are valuable.

Q. Do you expect anything different the way Arizona might attack
your press, what your impressions are of their personnel?

TERRENCE WILLIAMS: We know they're a great team. On paper they're
one of the most talented teams you see in this tournament and in the
country. You know, with three future pros on the team.

As far as attacking our press, last game against Siena, that point
guard, I think, did the best job against our press, only two
turnovers, 10 assists. He played at his own pace the whole game.

So this game we know they have a great point guard in Nic Wise. All
we can try to do is try to slow him down, hopefully turn them over.
They play like a carbon copy of us as far as pressing zone, man to

He'll be more comfortable against our press because he goes against
it probably every day in practice.

Q. I was in their locker room, and they said they do press and plan
to press you the whole game. Do you prefer to go against a team that
presses you or do you like it better when they don't press?

ANDRE McGEE: You know, like they said, they also press and we press.
The great thing about it is like going against each other in practice.
It's really nothing to adjust to because, you know, when you're a
pressing team, you have to press each other in practice to get used to
it. It will just be like another day of practice. That's the fortunate
thing about it. We go against it every day, as do they.

Q. Terrence talked about Nic Wise. Can you speak about him, how he
handles the ball, may be able to handle pressure in terms of pace and
stuff like that.

ANDRE McGEE: Yeah, being in the Big East, we don't really get to
catch a lot of west coast games, PAC 10 games. What I've seen from
film, he's a great player. His change of speeds, he is a guy with
different gears, a great ball handler, great vision guy, and also a
great scorer. I think he's averaging somewhere between 22 and 23
points in this tournament. He's one of those guys that can do it all
for them. He's the heart of their team. He gets everyone going. So we
must slow him down, which is going to be a difficult task. But it
wouldn't be the first time. We've been playing against great guards
all through the Big East and all year.

Q. Did Arizona recruit both of you and did you consider going there?

TERRENCE WILLIAMS: I was close to going there. I considered there.
But my whole main thing, the reason why I didn't go to Arizona, I
didn't know how long Lute Olson would continue to coach. That was my
main thing of why I didn't go there.

ANDRE McGEE: I wasn't recruited by them as much. You know, over the
years, Lute Olson already had so many great guards. I wouldn't say
they were the big dog in the West Coast. It was a couple schools in
the L.A. area that were pretty good at that time. They always had the
rivalry game against Arizona State.

But Arizona I always thought was a great school, with a great
tradition, legendary coach. So definitely I watched them a lot.

Q. Last year and this year is Coach Pitino's approach any different
this second week of the NCAA tournament than it was the first week?

ANDRE McGEE: No, I think he approaches it the same. This isn't
something new for him. He's been around the block a couple times. If
you ask him, he's probably giving the same speeches he did 10, 15
years ago, it's just a different color jersey and different players.

He has the same formula for winning, the same expectations for hard
work. We just try to follow everything he tells us.

TERRENCE WILLIAMS: I agree with Andre.

BILL BENNER: Coach Pitino's approach from last year to this year,
first round to the regionals.

TERRENCE WILLIAMS: He does everything a hundred percent hard,
whether it's October or whether it's now. It's the same. It's just the
practice may get shortened by 15 minutes, a little lighter, but it's
more pressing and he's more aggressive.

But it's the same in terms of winning and the same time of elements
of keys to winning, all stay the same.

BILL BENNER: Thank you, gentlemen.

We are joined by University of Louisville Coach Rick Pitino. We'll
take questions for Coach Pitino.

Q. I believe this is your 47th NCAA game you've coached in. This is
Russ Pennell's third. Can you talk about how you think he's done this
year, being the new coach in this scenario.

COACH PITINO: Well, I really honestly don't believe it has anything
to do with coaching at this point, whether you're coaching for 50
years or you're coaching for five years, the players are going to
determine who wins and loses. Obviously the coaching staff at Arizona
has done a fabulous job getting their team to not only the NCAA
tournament but to perform so well in the first two games.

Q. May not have anything to do with coaching, but what do you
attribute your 8 0 record at this level to?

COACH PITINO: Well, I don't think it has anything to do with the
Sweet 16. We've just played real good basketball in the month of
March. It takes a while to build any brand certainly.

At Kentucky in the second year, you have to have goals that
sometimes not only are unrealistic, but when you're rebuilding, you've
got to give them something to play for in terms of winning. Our goal
that year was to win the conference. We couldn't play in the NCAA
tournament. We wanted to win the SEC.

So every year we just try to make our goals very lofty. Now
obviously once you get into the NCAA, that's a dream for every player
to perform on the national stage and play well. We're risk takers this
time of year. We have a lot of fun with it. And I think those are all
variables to making a team successful in March.

Q. All four teams here have won NCAA championships or are contenders
for it just about every year. How does it feel to be in a regional
that's kind of filled with the blue bloods of the sport?

COACH PITINO: I'm used to the blue bloods (laughter).

You know, I think it's great. Everybody likes to see once in a while
a Cinderella come in, a mid major play well, a George Mason, someone
like that. You never know how it's going to shake out.

Right now the 16 best teams in the country are left. The 16 teams
with probably the most physical talent. In this region certainly it
doesn't get any better in terms of talent than Arizona, Kansas and
Michigan State and us. We all have a lot of talented athletes who
perform well under pressure.

Q. You press but they also press. Can you compare their press and
how they use it as opposed to how you do it?

COACH PITINO: It's almost identical. It's the closest I've ever seen
two teams in the type of pressure they apply. Even our zone and their
zone, plays it like a 1 1 3, gets after it, treats more like man to
man than a zone. They do one thing different: they bring their center
out to the corner sometimes.

But it's almost identical of what we're trying to accomplish. They
have a lightning quick point guard, who is playing fabulous
basketball. Great with his hands. Great in the open court. Shoots it
terrific. He causes a lot of havoc on defense. Very good shot blocker
in the back.

Defensively we're very similar. Offensively we're probably

Q. At this point in the year, how much film are you personally
watching and how much is your assistants coaching?

COACH PITINO: I think we're all watching. What happens is I'll
concentrate on the first opponent and then the other guys, whoever has
that scout, is concentrating on the second opponent. Then I start
catching up with the team we're playing. Then they'll go ahead and
they'll go to the next game. We're all watching obviously a lot of

Today you have more film than anybody else. It's a great tool. You
know each other very well. You don't know each other as well when you
play on Friday and the Sunday game. The assistants will know it better
than me when you have that one day preparation.

Q. Arizona is a team that kind of fell off the radar nationally
because they lost some games, but they're playing well now. What have
you seen watching film?

COACH PITINO: I think it takes time for any adjustments. And they
had, obviously, a coaching change, started to play differently,
different concepts put in. So it just takes time for the team to get
cohesive, even though they're a veteran ballclub in some areas. They
peaked at the right time. They have outstanding talent. Three of their
young men, certainly you can't forget Horne, any of their young
players. They're as good as anybody in the country in terms of being
draft picks.

Outstanding point guard. Outstanding five men. Budinger, seems like
he's been around college basketball for a long, long time because he's
been so brilliant. They have outstanding talent. We know that. Now
they understand what their coaches are teaching them concept wise
offensively and defensively. They're a very dangerous opponent.

But to be honest with you, as I look at the other 15 teams in the
Sweet 16, I think everybody would have the same comment about the
people they're playing.

Q. Not specifically related to the reports about Connecticut, but
could you talk about the general landscape of recruiting right now
with texting, agents, things like that. Is it something that the NCAA
is going to have to get their arms around?

COACH PITINO: Well, texting is now illegal. It wasn't back then. The
NCAA is sort of like the IRS, it's sort of like the border patrol.
They're undermanned but they do a good job of stopping the problems.
They have to police ourselves. They come in in terms of when there's a
problem, and they do a great job of investigating the problem. But
there's too many outside influences that infiltrate our game that we
as coaches have to stop. There's too many runners. There's too many
people that are working for agents that we don't know about. You can't
describe them. You don't know who they are. They're face less people.
We've seen it obviously before this. We've seen other situations on
the West Coast.

We have to do a much better job of policing ourselves to make sure
nobody infiltrates one's program. It means too much to us personally,
professionally for the university, for the towns to let this happen.
I'm not talking about Connecticut, as you're stating.

The NCAA does a great job, but they're just undermanned and we have
to do a better job institution wise of making sure that no one
infiltrates our programs. And it's tough to do, by the way. It's
really difficult.

Q. Ever since November, Arizona has heard your name in connection
with this job. Do you have any interest at all in Arizona?

COACH PITINO: To be honest with you, I'm glad that I'm not living on
the West Coast because I haven't heard any of that. I heard a little
bit more about Boston University wanting me back where I started. But
I'm hoping they settle for my son (laughter).

Q. The last time you faced Arizona at this type of stage, you faced
a guard named Mike Bibby as a freshman. You talked about Nic Wise. Can you talk about him again, what he does in handling pressure.

COACH PITINO: He's really great to watch. He's obviously on a great
run, shooting the ball extremely well. One of the best pick and roll
guys in splitting the pick and roll I've seen this year on tape. He's
also lightning quick, great defensive hands. I really appreciate his
game, watching it. I don't know if I'll appreciate playing against it.

But the Arizona team back then when we played them in '97 was a far
different basketball team than this one, and we were a far different
basketball team. We were a very young team back then. They were a team
that had to be three No. 1's to win that championship. It was quite a

Q. Sorry to put you on the spot, but you didn't really answer that
question about interest in Arizona. What would your answer be?

COACH PITINO: I wouldn't answer any question about any other job
because it would be disrespectful to the University of Louisville. You
know, any time you hear a player stand up here and say, I'm not going
pro, I'm coming back, he's gone. Any time a coach says he's not
interested in a job, he's dead interested in a job.

So, you know, I don't mislead you. All I can tell you is for eight
years I've given every ounce I've had to the University of Louisville.
I will continue to do that. I can poke fun and make all the jokes in
the world, but there's no truth. Anybody today can go on a message
board. Anybody today can put anything out there they want truth or
untruth. All I can tell you is that I've lived and died with
Louisville for eight years. I've heard it about Kentucky and Billy G.

The only job I can be honest with you, the only job I've thought
about for a 24 higher period since I've been at the University of
Louisville was Providence college last year. I sat down, the athletic
director at the University of Louisville is one of my closest friends.
I sat down with him, I said, Because of the personal things I went
through at Providence, I wanted to sit down and talk with them about
the job to see if I did want to come back because of personal reasons
that were very deep to me. I sat down with them, talked to them bit,
and realized Louisville was the place for me. Outside of that, for
eight years, I haven't thought about any job except the University of
Louisville, and that's answering you the honest way.

Q. Your initial impressions of venue, with the vastness of it, is it
going to affect the shooting tomorrow night?

COACH PITINO: I haven't been out there yet. I think it does affect
the shooting by all teams playing in domes. So I think you've got to
understand that it takes time to get used to it. It's very important
that you take high percentage shots, that you create good ball
movement, good player movement. We are two transition teams. Arizona
is great when they get in the open court. They finish really well.
They pass really well. They run the lanes well. So do we.

So hopefully we can get high percentage shots. I'm hoping we don't
have to rely on just jump shooting to win the game. But we are two
teams that rely on trapping zones. Those type of defenses don't give a
lot of good looks, so you're going to have to react well under
pressure, off the bounce as well as with the pass.

Q. Last year Memphis had to answer questions about free throw
shooting all through the tournament. It ended up hurting them a little
bit. I guess now you're the team that carries the mantle who have the
lowest percentage of the 16 teams left. Can you address that?

COACH PITINO: Well, it is a weakness of ours. We work very hard at
improving it. It hasn't been a factor yet. It was a factor down the
stretch for Memphis. It could be for us. We're going to have to stand
up and make them certainly when it happens.

But there's nothing we can do in terms of dwelling on the negative.
We're going to dwell on the positive of what we do well. If free throw
shooting comes into play, listen, free throw shooting is a big part.
We lost to Arizona in '97. One of the closest young men in my life
Nazr Mohammed and I haven't talked to him since then. I'm only kidding
(laughter). So I know what it is to miss free throws. It is part of
the game. It's a big part of the game.

I was watching a game, Creighton/Kentucky the other night. The young
man had two free throws. That was it. They could have iced the game.
Missed them. I remember a game that Providence would have never made
the Final Four in '87 if the young man from Austin Peay didn't miss
those free throws. I remember carrying him out crying. I remember
beating Washington when Darius Washington for the conference USA
championship when he missed three, I believe with the game on the
line. It happened us to in '97. It happens to everybody. It is a
weakness you must overcome. That doesn't mean we can't make it in the
stretch. Statistics don't always hold true in that area.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about Jordan Hill and his development?
He seems like he's somebody who has gotten better in increments.

COACH PITINO: Well, he's a very interesting basketball player. He's
obviously picked very high on all the draft charts, if he does decide
to go. He is a young man that just has gone the right way. Coaches
have done a terrific job in helping him develop his skills. And he's a
terrific turnaround jump shooter. Goes very well off his left
shoulder. He draws charges, he blocks shots, he does them both. He's
very long. He's a very talented young man and he's going to keep on
getting better and keep improving. He's one of the better big men we
will face this year. And we have faced some outstanding ones, playing
in the Big East.

Q. Can you talk about Samardo Samuels. When you recruited him, you
went to Jamaica. What were your impressions of where he's from and how that factors into his personality?

COACH PITINO: Samardo has improved personally as the year has gone
on. He started out as a low post basketball player who played below
the rim. The biggest task we had to convince him at the collegiate
level he could no longer play laterally when he goes up. We had to
correct that bad habit he had. The second thing he had to start doing
is rebound the basketball. He was a very poor rebounder in high
school. He's become an average to good rebounder, so not where we need
him to be. But he has improved all phases of the game as the season
has gone on. He's a terrific low post basketball player. He has a
strong desire to win.

Going to Jamaica, I've been to Jamaica before. I visited Kingston
when I was coaching Patrick Ewing with the Knicks. His address was
Montego Bay, so you think it's not going to be too bad compared to
Kingston. Once you get out of the resort area and get to the
farmlands, it's a third world country. The poverty is something to
behold. He grew up in a very difficult environment with no indoor
gymnasiums. We visited his playground where he started playing. Uneven
concrete. The baskets were not 10 feet. One was, the other was lower.
Incredible poverty.

He came here, attended St. Benedicts, learned a lot about basketball
from Danny Hurley, outstanding coach there. Danny did a great job in
developing him. Now you understand why he's so hungry to make it in
this game, because of where he's from and trying to help his family.

It was a good eye awakening for me in understanding what he's all
about. He's been terrific to coach.

BILL BENNER: Thank you, coach.

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