Saturday, March 27, 2010

Regional final Q&A

HOUSTON _ Quotes from Duke and Baylor coaches and players from Saturday’s interview sessions in advance the NCAA South Regional championship game, which will be played at 5:05 p.m. Sunday in Reliant Stadium.

Q. What is it about this group that has made it so receptive to coaching? When you tell it to do something, these guys do it. And how does that rate? Have you had a lot of groups like that or is this unique?

KRZYZEWSKI: No, we've had a lot of groups. I think it starts with trust from the time they were freshmen. What was told to them and what they told us was the truth. We've been together for a long time, and we not only like one another, but we respect one another and we trust one another.So you can say things in a moment that you might not say to other people in the manner in which you would say it, whether it be in anger, in joy, whatever. You can express your emotions right away with them. We have those type of relationships. We have a great relationship. The staff, the players, the managers, everybody.But we've had that on a lot of our teams. We've had it on our teams the last few years. It's just that we're a little bit better this year and a little bit older.I think in order to be a consistent winner, it has to start with trust.

Q. You've obviously been a part of an enormous number of these tournaments and we've seen a lot of upsets this year. Are we at a point where a team like Butler could actually win this thing?

KRZYZEWSKI: Oh, yeah. A lot of it has to do with match-ups. The basketball gods don't give you seven games and best out of seven. You know, I hate to say this about you all in the audience, but every once in a while you have a bad day. I know you see us when we have our bad days and write about them. That's cool. But everybody has bad days.In our tournament, one kid can have a bad day, and it can affect if he's the key kid on your team or key in your defense, another team that's maybe a little less talented, and that's where the talent differential is, it's not here anymore, it's here. There are still some teams more talented than others. But all you need is one thing to go wrong and you're out.One of my best friends, Jim Boeheim, you know, his team -- I'm not sure every kid on that team played to the best -- not because they didn't want to, but Butler played better. So Butler's got a chance to win.I think different teams have a chance to win right now unless you get that super team that has guys sticking together who are pro caliber, pro caliber for a while. It will be like this from now on, which I don't think is bad. It's pretty darn interesting (laughing). But it's tougher to maintain high level.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about the defensive philosophy that you teach that never waivers? And then what you might have tinkered with to fit the personnel of this team?
KRZYZEWSKI: Well, we always change our defense to fit the personnel that we have. I think that just, you know, is what you should do. But it starts with playing man-to-man defense, and team man-to-man where you have zone principles.I like man-to-man because you can pinpoint responsibility, and you can defend -- you can defend all types of offense. You can adjust accordingly. I don't know if you can do that completely in zone.I don't like open looks. I hate open looks. Obviously when someone hits a three, you hate that. I hate an open look. I can't stand if a team does that, because that means a team can beat you. You're just lucky if somebody misses an open look.For me, teaching man-to-man defense gives our staff more of an opportunity to eliminate open looks. Then for this team in particular, we're not a team that can extend as much, but we're a team that can rebound, so we don't give up many second shots. We don't force as many turnovers, but we don't give up as many second shots, and we block a few more shots or alter shots because of length.A key thing for our team is what Lance and Brian do when they're in. They're really good talkers, not to the other team. But when you can have an inside voice talking on defense, it really galvanizes you. It galvanized this team. It brings you together.In the past, Laettner did that, Brand, Boozer, Battier. Some of our best defensive teams were as a result of guys being able to talk well inside. And both those kids really do a good job of that.

Q. With the zone defense they run, is there anything you guys are going to be keying on in order to try to gain an advantage on it?
KRZYZEWSKI: Well, you have to be careful that when you think you have an open shot, you may not have it because of their length and athleticism. So I think being ready to shoot is huge. Then you have -- it may look like you have a larger window than you actually do when you get the ball. You've got to be ready to shoot the ball when you get it.I think it's a defense that forces you to really rely on a team attacking it. Not like a man-to-man. Like last night some of the things we did were as a result of Nolan and Jon attacking on their own, which we do after one ball screen or whatever. You can't do that against the zone. It's got to be more of a coordinated effort. So we're anxious to go through a few things that we want to try against it when we go out on the court in a few minutes.

Q. How do you prepare your upperclassmen? You know they want to get to the Final Four so badly. Part of the preparation for tomorrow is not allowing the moment to overwhelm them. How do you handle that with them?
KRZYZEWSKI: I think you're so absorbed. One is having a game that we got out of here at midnight. We're a little bit tired right now, but we'll be fine for game time. We told them right after the game that they needed to be very selfish during these next 36, 40 hours in how they take care of themselves, who they talk to. Not using energy for other things, whether it be their buddies. I told Nolan not to play my game during this time period and wait till Monday or on the trip back if we win (smiling).Just to try to focus on this moment. Not focus on the Final Four, but focus on this. Which is what, you know, they've kind of done that all year. They've been able to go on to the next thing, and I think our conference exacts that from you in the schedule that we play. We play a hell of a schedule. And our conference is a great conference, so you better be ready to play right away.So this is more like that Thursday-Saturday turnaround sometimes you get in the ACC. So we've had an opportunity to do that a couple times.

Q. What is the pressure like coaching the Olympic games compared to coaching in an NCAA Tournament?
KRZYZEWSKI: I'd say the Olympics is much greater. It's your country. Although a lot of people say Duke has won, so you're -- you've got to win a certain level to do it. When you think about it, you don't always have the best team in the country or the most talent. But for the U.S., we are going to have the most talent. But just the talent differential and the game has come closer. And the game is different internationally.But there is much more pressure. Though we have the resources to do it. Again, getting back to one of the first questions -- developing trust with those guys was huge. Like you're in Denver. We have a great relationship with Carmelo and Chauncey. I mean, those guys are good friends. And as much as they're part of the Nuggets, they would tell you that they're part of the US Team, too. They take pride in that. But there is more pressure at the world platform, so to speak.

Q. You said you were surprised at how good of an offensive player Baylor big man Ekpe Udoh was. What exactly about his game surprised you?
KRZYZEWSKI: Well, yeah, I knew Udoh from -- Tommy coached him. He recruited him at Michigan. Actually when he was transferring we tried to get involved with him because he's a good student, great kid. At Michigan, and I don't watch a lot of basketball over the country, but a little bit. I knew that he was a double figure scorer and rebounder and blocking shots. I knew he was really good. But I figured he scored off of offensive rebounds and stuff inside.Then now that you study him, I mean, he can hit 15, 17 feet. He's pretty automatic. And with the ball, he can spin. It's not just one move. He can make a multiple move. He's very good. He's one of the better players in the country, I think. I can see why he's rated so high with the NBA.

Q. You hit a three-pointer early in the second half. How much did you need that shot? How much did that kind of help you springboard through the rest of the second half that you had yesterday?
SCHEYER: It was fine. We just needed to get rolling as a team. I thought in the first half we weren't in a great flow offensively, so Nolan hit me with that pass. We just needed to get something started. Offensively we weren't in a great rhythm, so that's the biggest thing for our team.

Q. What do you see when you look at Baylor's guards? What kind of things jump out at you?SCHEYER: Both of them are really great three-point shooters. They can create off the dribble. So with guys like that, it's not like they're one-dimensional where they just do one thing. So it's important when we're guarding those guys just to make them work for everything. You're not going to shut guys out like that, they're great players.So just try to make them work for everything you can and try to make them put the ball on the floor and have a hand in their face and try not to foul them.But they're great players, so you can't take away everything.

Q. What is the key to attacking their zone and to make sure that you don't get too reliant on the perimeter shots that you're probably going to get from that?
SCHEYER: I would say we need to be patient. You know, we can't just pass the ball around the perimeter and make one pass and shoot it right away. We need to go inside and out. You know, you get better looks when you go inside and then out. We can have some great looks inside with our bigs.So I think the main key against the zone is to be patient.
KYLE SINGLER: Just going off what Jon said, I think the main thing is to be poised. Just take what they give us. You know, we'll try to penetrate their zone as best as we can, and I mean, we'll take outside shots and then, you know, we'll crash the boards.

Q. I know you were just asked about their zone, but Baylor's been very effective guarding the perimeter and also preventing the ball inside. What do you see from them in terms of their quickness to the perimeter and getting to the guys once they've had the ball that's made them effective? How do you combat that?
SCHEYER: I think their length has a lot to do with it too. They're a real tall team. When you have that much length on the floor they can cover a lot of ground. And they play really good zone.I just think it's important for us to really work at it today and see what's there. I don't know all the answers. I think we need to figure it out today. But I think their length has a lot to do with it, and the way they play their zone, they do a really good job.

Q. Is one of the challenges the fact that you're going, after going up against a Purdue, really tough man-to-man defense, that now you're going to be playing a different kind of defensive style, even though they're still going to get after it, the fact that you're going from a man-to-man team to playing a zone team? Is that a big challenge?
SMITH: It is a challenge. Like Coach said, it's a quick turnaround, and now we have to adjust. We're going to use our team on the court to get to the next play. Really start learning and getting ready to attack the zone.

Q. With Baylor wingman LaceDarius Dunn, do you guys want him taking jump shots? Is there any other way that you try to contain him?
SMITH: No. A player like that, he shoots a lot of threes, but he also can go to the rack. So a player of his caliber can score in so many ways.Our focus is just going to be to check him. Just stay with him, defend him, try to run him off the three, knowing that we have help inside. Just play great team defense on him.

Q. On Thursday you said you didn't mind playing the role of the bad guy. It kind of gets you going. Tomorrow in here it's probably going to be pretty decidedly a Baylor crowd. What do you expect from the atmosphere and being the bad guy, how much is that going to charge you guys up?
THOMAS: Well, the atmosphere is going to be hectic. They're a home state team. We've won in hostile environments, and it's not going to change our game plan not one bit. With our guys, we have a confident group. And we're not going to allow sways of momentum to actually throw us away from our game plan.We have no problem being those guys coming in and trying to take something away from, I guess, what's supposed to actually happen. They have everything behind them, but us sticking together is going to be key in this game. Not one person is going to be able to do it by themselves. So us sticking together and just playing like there's no tomorrow in a hostile environment. I mean, we have nothing to lose, we're going to go for it.

Q. How much has the tag team with Mason and Miles Plumlee that you guys have now, has that helped you and Lance inside? Has it really kept you fresh to have these 14- and 15-rebound games?
ZOUBEK: Yeah, it's been great being able to rotate with those guys and knowing that there's not going to be a drop-off when they come in. I think they provide something a little bit different as well, a little more athleticism and blocking some shots. So they give the other team a little more look, a different look. Rotating in with them, we can just play till exhaustion, go get a break, then come back in, so you're a lot more fresh when you come in and a lot more aggressive on the boards and on defense.

Q. You have talked about Duke being one of the examples of what you'd like this program to be based on, the academics and small schools and all of that. Just talk about getting to the point now from what seemed like an unrealistic opportunity and vision when you took over seven years ago, to here you are facing the same team you looked at as an example.
DREW: I think the first thing with that comes consistency, and the fact that this is our third straight 20-win season, and our third straight postseason. Last year having postseason success, making it to the championship game of the NIT. I think those are all building blocks and things that have put us in motion to become one of those talked about programs and one of those programs people consider one of the top in the nation.I think a big key to that, besides the players and their characters, is the academic success as well. Because if you're not graduating players, we're Top 10 in the country in APR for a four-year rolling average, if it you're not graduating players and being successful academically, you're not keeping them around long enough to be successful.So as long as we keep getting players with leadership like these, we'll be in good shape.

Q. Regarding the no-cuss rule, what is your strongest language? What word do you say when you're really blanked off?
DREW: I think we all mess up at times, so let's put that out there. And the reason we do a no-cussing policy is simple. We know we have a lot of kids and people that come around us, and the right thing to do is not have that type of language. We don't want a 7-year-old coming to our practice and going home and telling mom and dad something they picked up. So we try to be good role models, good examples.When you mess up, you've got push-ups. So you can probably tell the strongest guys on the team, they cuss the most -- no, just kidding. Anyway, that's one thing we try to do to be good role models.

Q. Are there any special origins to this zone? Looking at it last night for the first time, it seemed to remind me of the point zone that Dean Smith developed at North Carolina. Is there any similarity there?
DREW: One thing about basketball, there is really no new inventions. Everything has been around, it's just recycled and kind of personnel-driven. You always put tweaks according to who you're playing.So I think you can go back to UNLV and Tark's days, something like that. So, again, we adjust our zone every game to the team we're facing.So it might look one way one night and it looks completely different the next night.

Q. Obviously your greatest coaching mentor is your dad. But also do you try to take any characteristics from watching a coach like Krzyzewski?
DREW: Oh, absolutely. The best coaches are the ones that learn from everybody else, that way you can learn from their successes and failures rather than experiencing it all yourself. And Coach K's been phenomenal as far as being a great teacher and leader for all the coaches out there and the coaches across not only the United States, but the world.

Q. The first three years, what was the one low point, the one crystallized day or moment that you looked around and said: What have I gotten myself into? When was it? Do you remember anything in particular?
DREW: The good thing is it's like a businessman opening a restaurant or starting a new business. You're so busy you really don't hit that point. And I was blessed to have a staff that worked extremely hard. Because head coaches are only as good as your staff, and staff are only as good as your players. So we've put the nose to the grindstone, and worked as hard as we could every day, and let God take care of the rest.

Q. What do you feel like are some of Duke's strengths? Do you see any similarities with them on your team?
COACH DREW: Well, yes, any team that is still alive has not only quality players, but they can hurt you a variety of ways. Very good defensively. Really pressure. They've got great size, we have good size. They rebound it well. We rebound it. We've been in the top 10, top 12 most of the year in rebounding margin. Then they have guards who can play. And if you don't have good guards, you're probably not around and probably didn't get in the tournament. And they have guards with experience, and we have guards with experience.So to us, two good teams going at it, and we're hoping we have a great fan backing for the state of Texas, the Big 12 in Baylor.

Q. Why did you take the Baylor job at the time you did? What kinds of things did you see? And if you'd also talk about what influence did Butler have on your coaching career?
DREW: First of all, whenever you do anything you pray about it, and I felt led to come down here. I saw Baylor as attractive because of the great leadership and vision they had for the school. The fact that it has a niche. It's the only private school in the Big 12. Largest Baptist school in the nation. Great facilities. So saw a lot of opportunity for growth.Then as far as Butler when you're around people like Coach Collier, Coach Jay John, Coach Thad Matta , you learn a lot from those guys.

Q. A lot of times when players talk, coaches cringe. But I see you quite a bit as your players were talking nodding your head quite a bit. Talk about the people that you have, and the combination of the players that you have and how that has built the success?
DREW: Well, I think a lot of programs have good players. Coaches try to obviously have not only good players, but high-character kids that do the right thing off the court. We've just been extremely blessed to have great people a part of this program. Part of the reason why we've been able to attract other good players is because when they come and visit and spend time, that is the best thing that we can sell to our school is spend time with our players and see what they're like. We've been very blessed to have quality young men that are going to be successful in life besides just basketball.The maturity, and the answers, the way in which they carry themselves, there is a reason we've been successful this year, and it's because of them.

Q. Kyle Singler of Duke, 6'8" guy, can go out on the perimeter. Is he an X factor that you're really going to have to watch as far as where he can find spots in the zone. And have you played anybody this year that's that tall?
DREW: I don't know if he's an X factor. He's probably an A, B, C, D, E, F, G factor. But I think, again, the Big 12 prepares you for anything you're going to face. Quite a few players in the Big 12. If you take a Damion James, similar size, athleticism, can go inside, outside. Singler is one of the best players in the nation for a reason. He's tremendous.But the good thing at least with the Big 12, you have somebody you can compare him to or give your players a feel for what they might be able to do or be similar to doing.So he's been playing great basketball, and he's a great player.

Q. Can you talk about when Baylor offered you the job, did your dad or anybody else you sought advice for say you don't really have to leave. You can stay and maybe wait for another program because this one had so many things on the horizon as far as violations and punishments. When you got there to Baylor, what was the environment like? Was it doom and gloom? What was the mood like after everything that happened?
DREW: First of all, you always consult people you trust and respect. When I tell him I felt led to go there and we looked at everything, everyone was very supportive.As far as Baylor, it is the oldest school in the state of Texas. When you spend any time on the campus, as you would with most of the schools in the state of Texas, people are great. Very outgoing, very warm. And for us it wasn't a situation where it was doom and gloom. But shoot, we had every student on the campus excited. Not only could they play on the team, but they had a chance to get minutes. So everybody was pretty fired up (laughing).

Q. Tweety, your signing with Baylor seemed to launch this whole revival of Baylor basketball. Can you go back to the recruiting process a little bit and tell us who did you pick Baylor over and what did Drew tell you, the one thing that he told you that made the difference?
CARTER: Well, I really -- there were guys before me: Aaron Bruce, Tim Bush, Curtis Jerrells, Kevin Dugat, Kevin Rogers, Mark Shepherd, all those guys came before me and really set the tone for this program.You know, when I committed I really didn't get recruited by anybody else, really. I got recruited by other teams, but it wasn't as serious as Baylor. When I committed, I knew this is where I wanted to be. I didn't take any other visits. I did not talk to any other coaches. So I knew Baylor was the place that I wanted to be and play for a program like this.

Q. You were the highest scoring player in U.S. history. What was the knock on you?
DREW: I think we just recruited him before everyone else did.
CARTER: That's what it was. That's what it was.

Q. Can you talk about the confidence level of this team, and I guess playing a team like Duke, it's probably the kind of team you pictured to try to get to the Final Four. The team you pictured you had to beat?
CARTER: Well, gaining confidence, we've been having that all through the season. It started in the summer, and it just carried over towards the season. But like Lace and Ekpe just said, a great team, a well-coached team. They're going to come ready to play. So we've got to come out and with the same intensity that we had last night, but better. You know, we just have to prepare for them, you know, really know what they like to do and try to take away what they like to do.

Q. If you guys beat Duke to go to the Final Four, does that mean this program -- I don't want to say is back -- but it's arrived, and it's all been in the past, the legacy is restored and you guys are where you've been trying to get to?
CARTER: It will be great to win tomorrow and go to the Final Four. But we didn't prepare as much as we prepared for this season to just make it to the Final Four. We know we've got to continue to take one game at a time. But our goal is to win a National Championship, and that's something we set in the summer, and something we're striving for.You know, a win tomorrow is just a step closer to, you know, receiving our goal, and that is getting to the Final Four and hopefully just getting a National Championship. But we've got to take one game at a time and just focus on Duke right now.

Q. You guys obviously have gotten here by beating three double-digit seeds. Now you get to face a top-seeded Duke team. It's a team with similarities as far as the programs, small schools, private schools, academic excellence. Talk about the challenge of facing Duke and just a chance to prove yourself and show yourself against a team like that.
DUNN: Well, great team, first of all. Going up against a great team. Well coached, great coaching. And we're just looking forward to coming out and having a good game tomorrow and just preparing for these guys like we prepare for everybody else.We know they're a great team, and we're going to have to come out and play for 40 minutes, and I think we're willing to do that.

Caulton Tudor