Rick Pitino and his team were the center of attention during media day for the American Conference in Memphis Wednesday.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WDRB) – Louisville is the overwhelming pick to win the championship during the Cardinals' one and only trip through The American Athletic Conference. Only Rick Pitino did not pick U of L to win the title – because he was forced to vote for another team.
Pitino picked Connecticut.
Russ Smith, Pitino's senior guard, was honored as the league's best player. Chane Behanan, the Cards' junior forward, joined Smith on the first team. Montrezl Harrell was picked on the second team. Luke Hancock should have been picked for the second team, too, but Hancock did not complain about it when he appeared with Smith and Pitino during the league's Media Day at the FedEx Forum Wednesday.
Here is what people were saying about Louisville, Pitino, Smith, Hancock and the rest of the league:
RICK PITINO, when asked how this Louisville team will be different from the one that won the 2013 NCAA title: "Not a whole lot different. I think (center) Gorgui Dieng developed into a great passer, a great defender, the Big East defensive player of the year but our backcourt is just as strong, if not stronger."
PITINO, asked about the strength of his team:
"We still have a little psycho all-American, named Russ Smith, still here. I say that in a very affectionate way. I think Russ Smith is the closest thing at the collegiate level to Allen Iverson that I've seen. He's just a great, great college player. I don't think you're ever out of the game because of his abilities."
LARRY BROWN, who coached Iverson in the NBA and now leads SMU, when asked how Smith compares to Iverson:
"That's not fair to him because, Allen, there is never going to be another one like him. (Smith) plays with a reckless abandon and has this will to win that's pretty special. You don't win a national championship unless you have kids like him.
"I think it's pretty neat that he came back to school. That's not an easy decision. It speaks volumes for the kid and the relationship that he has and the respect he has for the program. He's great."
RUSS SMITH, asked what he believes NBA scouts would like to see from him during his senior season:
"They want to see me more controlled, more of a point-guard mindset. Honestly it's something that I don't really want to comment on. It kind of frustrates me because I feel like I do so many good things and I bring so much good to the table, that they want to see something that nobody else sees. But I'm working at it every day, just being more poised.
"They don't want to see the one-on-one, the one-on-three breaks, not kicking it out on breaks. Just being more unselfish."
BRUCE PEARL, ESPN analyst, when asked how he believes Pitino will motivate his team coming off a title:
"A one-day contract. He just takes it one day at a time. He's got enough bullets to contend, to repeat. He's just going to have a different team."
LUKE HANCOCK, when asked if he had read "The One-Day Contract," the book Pitino wrote with WDRB columnist Eric Crawford:
"Actually I just finished a report on it (for a business class). I liked it. I thought a lot of things in it were useful ... the front of the book says how to add value to every minute of your life. I think that's a blueprint to be not only a successful player but person."
RUSS SMITH, when asked what he will title his book:
"The One-Hour Contract."
LUKE HANCOCK, when asked about his book title:
"I guess I'll have to take, ‘The One-Minute Contract.' "
JOSH PASTNER, the Memphis coach, asked about the significance of the Memphis-Louisville rivalry:
"Everyone talks about Duke-Carolina, I think Memphis-Louisville is as intense as any rival game of any sport in the country. I mean that. I just don't think it gets the credit it deserves nationally about how intense the two fan bases are because it's two of the best fan bases in the country. It's an electrifying scene."
SETH GREENBERG, ESPN analyst, asked about Louisville's chances of repeating:
"Defensively in the backcourt, they're first in the country. How successful they are in post defending and rebounding, that will be interesting.
"I'll be interested to see how the new (defensive) rules affect them. It doesn't affect them in the half court. The question is how will it affect the pressure because if you can't be aggressive, can you speed people up? Slap-down on the ball? Lot of hand pressure? They do a lot of denial on those inbounds play. They're so aggressive on those inbounds plays."
SEAN KILPATRICK, Cincinnati's senior guard, when asked how this Louisville team will compare to the 2013 champs:
"They'll still be great with the type of defensive mentality that they do have."
SHABAZZ NAPIER, a guard from UConn's 2011 NCAA champions on the difficulty of winning back-to-back titles:
"It's always hard. We had a good team my sophomore year but we weren't able to do it. We didn't have the right team chemistry. My freshman year we had two great leaders. My sophomore year we had mainly sophomores and freshmen and nobody was really an outstanding leader."
SEAN KILPATRICK, who played with Hancock on the USA World University Games team last summer:
"Luke's not just somebody I played basketball with, he's a close friend now. He's a true leader and somebody I admire. He's somebody who's really humble. We were calling him MVP throughout the whole trials.
"He's more than somebody who can shoot threes. He's finding different ways to score. He's somebody who was actually dunking on people throughout the summer. That was impressive because I'd never seen that from Luke."
MICK CRONIN, the Cincinnati coach, when asked if Hancock had been forgotten by league coaches when picking the all-conference teams:
"I wouldn't forget about Luke. He's the reason they won it all."
LUKE HANCOCK, on his foot injury, which has kept him out of Louisville's first two scrimmages:
"I think I only spent a few hours on crutches. I didn't expect it to get out there very much. It happens. I just had a little tweak, needed a little rest. I had a long summer. This is the kind of rest I needed before a long season.
"But I feel great. I'm shooting every day. I'm working out every day. My conditioning is at a good level. I'm much farther now than I was at this point last year.
RUSS SMITH, asked if he is going to change the way he plays to please his critics:
"I do what I have to do to win. Whatever has to be done to win, that's what I do. Regardless of what others may think of me, if I feel like that's the right formula to win, that's what's going to be done. Nothing is going to change."
RICK PITINO, asked if he can achieve some of the same things that he achieved last season:
"The only thing that's realistic is to get another tattoo."