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NCAA Sweet 16 Press Conference Transcript: Memphis (March 25, 2009)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 9:03 PM, under , ,

Athens, GA (Mar 25, 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 Memphis press conference, as provided by the NCAA.

THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by the student athletes from
Memphis. We will go right to questions.

Q. Antonio, can you talk about you in particular the importance of
you helping Tyreke tomorrow against the Missouri press.

ANTONIO ANDERSON: It is not just me. We contain all five guys and
the coach is getting us well prepared for that. They will play full
court pressure for 40 minutes, and we got to be prepared for that.
Tyreke knows he has help from all four guys. We knows we are not going
to go out and try to force anything.

Q. Antonio and Robert, what do you guys remember from the game
against UAB when Coach Anderson was coaching your freshman year? Do you think that will help you tomorrow?

ANTONIO ANDERSON: No. That was three years ago. He has a whole he
has a better team now. He has a whole new corps of guys. We played
them three times that year, and we were 2 1. So that benefits us as

Q. Robert or Shawn, when Coach Anderson was in here for Missouri he
said that Antonio is the unsung hero of this team. Do you believe that

ROBERT DOZIER: Yeah, I believe that. He is a guy that comes out on
our team and does everything on the court. You don't have to pep him
up, talk to him like we need you in a game. He has been that way since
he has been a freshman. He has been a leader of our team, like I said,
since our freshman year. No matter who we had here, Rodney, Shawn,
Derrick, he was the guy that people looked to to get fired up with.

SHAWN TAGGART: He is always out there to be the defensive stop. He
stops the best player on the other time. He also rebounds the ball
very well. When you need a scorer, he is a scorer, if you don't, he
don't ever complain and just goes out there and plays hard.

Q. The NCAA tournament is not just about college ball but there is a
lot of NBA scouts that come to these games evaluating talent. Is it
hard to not get caught up in the knowledge knowing there are people
watching you and evaluating you?

ANTONIO ANDERSON: No. When you play a lead program such as Missouri,
Memphis, UConn and everything like that, the scouts come to practices.
You play on TV so many times throughout the year, so you are used to
being on the national spotlight. It doesn't affect you.

This is what you live for. You never should let anything like that
affect you at all.

Q. For any of you players, what do you think of Missouri's defense?
Did they remind you at all of yourselves, maybe a smaller version?

SHAWN TAGGART: They go out there and they play hard and their full
court defense is very aggressive. Half court, they try to trap the big
man and try to get the ball out of ball handlers' hands. They play
rough and tough and they go out there and play aggressive like their
coach wants them to.

Yeah, they remind us of ourselves a lot. We try to pick up the tempo
and make teams run to change the flow of the game and have a high
scoring game. That's what they do too. It is going to be a good game

Q. So many guys coming through the Memphis program who are NBA
talents. A lot of guys who stay for only one year. Usually guys who
are that talented also have big egos. How does Coach Calipari blend so
many good players and such big egos and make it win?

ROBERT DOZIER: It just kind of starts off the court. Just guys
hanging with each other, being with each other, knowing what each
other been through, knowing each other's family members and things
like that.

I think that kind of helps, you know, free up people's ego a little
bit, rather than walking around like "I'm the man," I'm this, I'm
that. We talk to each other. We hang around each other. We do
everything together off the court. It translates on the court. We play
together, we talk amongst each other and we got each other's back at
all times. I think that kind of helps bring down that ego thing a
little bit.

Q. How do you deal with the doubt from the outside, the whispers
that, ah, who did they beat? Do you think maybe Missouri appreciates
that because this is a team that nobody figured would be here?

ANTONIO ANDERSON: You know, we never tend to worry about what people
say about us. And Missouri deserves to be here. I know they are not
worried about what other people are saying as well. They are very well
coached. They come in with their mind set that they are going to win
by themselves like they have been doing all tournament.

Neither one of us, I can't imagine we are worrying about what the
analysts are saying because they don't play the game. It is Memphis
and Missouri who is out there on the court. And that's what it all
boils down to.

Q. The Missouri coach is saying the biggest thing he worries about
is rebounding. Is that what he should be worried about? Is that your
guys' biggest strengths?

SHAWN TAGGART: That's just one of our biggest strengths. We got a
lot of athletic, long guys out there who go out there and try to get a
ball with two hands and very aggressive. We are very tall. Me and
Robert Dozier and Antonio Anderson, a great rebounding guard, he
should be worried about it. But there is other things he should be
worried about, too.

Q. Antonio, you're Defensive Player of the Year in your league. J.T.
Tiller is Defensive Player of the Year in the Big 12, or shared it.
You guys are two different people. He is a lot shorter. But do you
appreciate the way he plays defense and what are your thoughts on that
part of your game?

ANTONIO ANDERSON: I definitely appreciate the way he plays defense.
I can't tomorrow because I'm playing against him.

But from watching him play during the regular season, he plays
extremely hard, he is very aggressive. He likes to take the ball and
he takes pride in what he does. When you are defensive players like
myself and him, you take pride in shutting somebody down so you can
help your team win. That's just how it is.

I just thrive off my teammates, and like Tag said earlier, I'd
rather shut somebody else down and let them do all the other scoring
and I will still be happy. As long as my team wins the game, I'm
satisfied. Whatever.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.

We will conclude today's round of press conferences with Memphis'
head coach John Calipari. We will ask you for a few opening comments,
and then we will go to questions. Coach?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, we're still playing. We are wondering if we
can win one more. It has been a fabulous run. We have been to this
Sweet 16 a few times the last few years and our kids seem to be
excited about being here.

Practice was a little sloppy today. I wasn't very happy, but I think
they're in a great frame of mind. Questions?

Q. Missouri has been dealing with this thing about people saying how
in the world did they get here? And I suspect I know you have been
dealing with people that go "yeah, who did they beat?" Is it fitting
that you guys are playing with those chips on your shoulders?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, first of all, let me tell you the job that
Mike has done, what he walked into and what he is doing right now,

Now, I have coached we saw each other in the hallway out there and I
said it is going to be another boxing match. I can just see it coming,
and he laughed because we have had wars. His teams and my team. I have
watched from a distance, and then I watched them beat Kansas at home.
I happened to watch the second half of that game at my house.

I was just laughing saying he has got it going again. But he is a
terrific coach and gets his teams to play extremely hard. Very
physical, a lot of body to body, a lot of hands on the body. A lot of
whacks at the ball. But they play, they ball basically.

Q. (Question regarding Memphis playing with chip on shoulder).

COACH CALIPARI: We're a team that everybody likes to say Cal says it
is us against the world and he plays that, and if you talk to my team,
I don't do that.

But what happens is in the information age, they see everything
that's written and said about us because it's on the Internet or they
are watching TV and half the people are picking us to lose. And each
round we go, more and more people pick us to lose. Sometimes I don't
know if it is their opinion or their hope, but they more and more pick
us to lose.

And so you just kind of they see it. We all see it. And we say, we
are going it go play. My team doesn't talk a lot. We have not ever
done that. We just try to play.

Q. Talking about the effort that Missouri shows, is that something
that you as a coach can really admire because of the way you want your
guys to play? Are there similarities here?

COACH CALIPARI: This thing should be two teams going just toe to
toe, not giving inches. And one of the things I have always respected
about his teams is they play. They get after it. They feel unleashed,
and that's what I'm always trying to get my teams to be. I want them
to have more fun than anybody in this tournament. If I have done my
job and you watch my team, they are having a ball playing. They are
smiling. They're laughing. They are high fiving each other, if I have
done my job.

And that part of that is the preparation to the game to get them in
the right mind set and understand, like I have said, this is going to
be you are going to walk on the court and no one has given one inch
and we are not giving an inch, and this should be interesting.

Q. I want to go back to something you just mentioned, as you go on
in this tournament you don't know whether people think you are going
to lose or hope you are going to lose. The hope you are going to lose,
that's what I wanted to get to. Do you think really think people hope
Memphis is going to lose? And do guys get into the black hats?

COACH CALIPARI: I don't know. All I know is we have been higher
seeds in the past. We were always the first No. 1 that would lose. We
were always the first No. 2 that would lose. And so you say that like,
you know, why would they think that?

A lot of it comes back to what they say, well, their league. In the
last four years, we've played over four years, one of the best five
nonconference schedules every year over the last four years. So we
always do it the same way.

Our seniors have won more games playing the best nonconference
schedule in the country over the last four years, the most games in
the history of the NCAA. All four seniors on this team, one has
another year of eligibility. All four will graduate in May on time in
four years. In May that will give us 19 of 22 players graduated who
stayed through their senior year.

But they are also competing on that court. When I say that, 19 of
22, people say there is no way. Well, why? Why? Because we're at
Memphis? No, there is a way because that's the truth. Those are the

I'm proud of these guys, they've overcome a lot. They overcame my
coaching early in the year where I didn't have Tyreke at point guard
and no one really said anything. Tyreke didn't say anything. They
trust me enough to say "you'll figure it out, get us in the right
spots." But we got a great group.

Q. ( Question regarding coaching style).

COACH CALIPARI: I don't think that's the case. I haven't heard that.
But maybe somebody says that, but I don't think that's the case. When
you are graduating your kids and kids are doing what they are supposed
to, so...

Q. Can you talk about Missouri's strengths, Mike Anderson's teams
strengths. What do you have to do to get a win? Obviously you have to
match their intensity.

COACH CALIPARI: We are going to have to make shots. I think we're
going to have to be physical and play through bumps and grinds and
play that way. And then the biggest thing is, we have to be who we are
and play our best.

If that's not good enough, then we've had a heck of a year.

Q. At UMass, way back then, you played Nolan's I think '95 team,
beat them in the opener Tip Off Classic

COACH CALIPARI: They went on to win a national title that year

Q. (Indiscernible) to UCLA. You beat the defending national

COACH CALIPARI: I think they won it the year that we beat them.

Q. Anyway, just talk about you can see the influence of Nolan and
Mike and the way they press. Is it unconventional the way they press?

COACH CALIPARI: It is kind of random. They come at you there is
random times so you can't say this is exactly what they are going to
do and not do. They are pretty random. But they play hard. They play
physical. They keep coming.

They play a lot of people. The team that you talked about we played
in '94 '95, they played ten guys and all ten, I would think, nine out
of the ten had a chance at at least a cup of coffee in the NBA. They
were, like, ridiculous how many players they had and they were good.
That was the Corliss Williamson team.

Mike is doing it the same way. He has terrific players. He is
playing a lot of people, and they are coming right after you.

Q. Your old friend and rival Jim Calhoun was in here earlier. He
made a Chip Hilton reference from the Clair Bee novels. I don't know
if you know who Chip Hilton is


Q. Chip Hilton was kind of the adolescent book star of

COACH CALIPARI: I know Clair Bee wrote the basketball books. But I
don't know the stories.

Q. Okay. It is kind of for the love of the game. Do you see that
spirit alive in this tournament?

COACH CALIPARI: Say it again.

Q. The idea of Chip Hilton was for the love of the game and doing
things the right way and learning lessons through sports.


Q. Do you see that alive in this tournament?

COACH CALIPARI: One of the things we are all trying to do is giving
kids an opportunity, creating life skills. In my case, I'm trying to
get my kids to change all the time.

I'm talking to them about the mental image they have of themselves,
which is created a lot by how they grew up, where they went to
schools, how their family was, the socioeconomic background. So we are
trying to do things to get kids to have success not only in
basketball, off the court.

That's why we have a graduation rate of 19 of 22 kids going through
our program. That's why all four seniors on this team here will
graduate, which is doing it the right way, which will graduate in May.
And I think that all of the coaches that I know have their kids at
heart. I really believe that.

Q. Regarding where your team was what it did last year, is this a
pitfall type of time now where any kind of let up


Q. You are looking too far in the future even now?

COACH CALIPARI: No. The one thing this team has done, which is
really interesting is that they've created their own identity in the
face of a team that won 38 games, which is the most in the history of
the NCAA.

Went to the final game, had a lead with two minutes to go, Coach
blew it, and they lose the game. But, you know, I told the team as we
went forward, we are staying in the moment. Today's practice, today's
shoot around, we will worry about tomorrow tomorrow. I want them to go
out and have dinners together, because I told them, this is winding
down. You will not be with these guys again. This team will not be
together after whenever it ends. So they are going out to dinner
tonight together. We are not staying in the hotel.

I want them to enjoy the experience. I want them to stay in the
moment. They are not thinking about last year. If they do, I want it
to be positive. That's why when the game ended people asked me why why
did you approach it the way you did? Because they gave us everything
they had. We got a steal with 16 seconds to go. We got an offensive
rebound on a missed free throw with ten seconds to go. That doesn't
sound like a team that had stopped playing. We just the ball bounced
here, this missed that, a timeout you could have called, foul earlier,
don't foul earlier, do this, but they fought. That's why I could live
with that game.

Again, I also said I never feel this is about me. It is about these
kids. If it was about me, I would have slit my wrists. It is not about
me. Again, I don't treat this like life or death because if you do,
you die a lot. This is another game. We are treating this game coming
up like we treat Tulsa, UTEP, Houston, UAB, Tulane, no different than
Tennessee, Gonzaga, Syracuse, Georgetown, Xavier, all the same. We are
treating this game the same.

Q. Can you just talk about DeMarre Carroll, what you have seen of
him on film, the type of play player he is?

COACH CALIPARI: He is a ferocious, relentless, has a body language
that I love, just a bubbly "here I come." And if he misses a play, he
has amnesia. Next? Which is how I try to get my kids to play. You miss
a shot, you miss a layup, have amnesia, next play. And he does it. He
is terrific.

Q. I like the idea of creating your own identity, living in the
moment, taking your own road. I would assume you have preached all
those things. And it is hard for you to forget how it ended last year.
But when did you see that, hey, these guys were creating their own
identity? Was it first day of practice? Christmas? Midconference?

COACH CALIPARI: It was when I put Tyreke at point guard. And if you
wonder why didn't I do it earlier and I was just with Bill Frieder I
said have you ever had your leading scorer be your point guard? And he
said no. Do you ever want your leading scorer as a freshman to be your
point guard too? So I did everything I could to make sure he was not
our point guard. Tyreke never said one word to me. When we put him at
point, it was obvious to everybody that I should have been fired. What
are you doing? And I said to Tyreke, "why didn't you say something to
me?" He said, "because I came here to play for you. Whatever you told
me to do is what I was going to do." So that's where you wanted me to

I tried to put him in Chris Douglas's hole. I wanted him to be Chris
Douglas Roberts. But he is not. He is Tyreke Evans. At that point,
they became comfortable. And from that comfort, they began to grow as
a team and get better. And so, you know, as that happened, you started
seeing it.

Again, I'm big on win streaks. I think win streaks are important
because it builds a sense of invincibility. It doesn't have to be as
many as we have now. But you always want to get in a season where you
win 10 or 12 or 14 straight. Why? Because in this tournament it is
about going on a run and playing well over a period of time and
playing poorly and figuring out how to win anyway. It is important.

And our teams historically have had runs in the year. Some of them
early. Some of them late. Some of them to finish the season. This one
happens to be to finish the season.

Q. If you had to encapsulate what your defensive philosophy is, and
obviously your team has followed it very well this year and the past
years, what couple of sentences would you boil it down to?

COACH CALIPARI: Old school. As much as our dribble drive motion is
the hip thing now, it is old school defense. You guard your man. If
you can't guard, you can't play here. You got to guard your guy.

And then the rest of us try to help like heck. And so every drill we
do and we do drills from the beginning of the year to the end mark
that we're always guarding the ball. You got to guard the ball. If you
can't guard the ball, it doesn't matter what kind of defense you play.

And then from there, you are just trying to really in a nutshell,
really trying to help one another, talk to one another, cover for each
other and then you have to take pride in it. You just got to go out
and say "we are going to be a great defensive team." And historically,
as you know, you have seen my teams at UMass and here at Memphis, we
have been pretty good defensively.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
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