TRANSCRIPT | PItino talks about Northern Iowa -- and a lot more - WDRB 41 Louisville News

TRANSCRIPT | PItino talks about Northern Iowa -- and a lot more

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WDRB photo by Eric Crawford. WDRB photo by Eric Crawford.
SEATTLE (WDRB) — I walked into University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino's news conference for Sunday's NCAA Tournament game against Northern Iowa late, and wondered if I'd missed an announcement that Pitino had been named new commissioner of the NCAA.

As often happens when Pitino is in front of a varied media audience, the conversation turns to the state of college basketball — and more.

Pitino talked about Northern Iowa, and much more, as you'll read in this transcript from ASAP Sports. To read a full version of the transcript, with additional interview quotes from Terry Rozier, click here.

OPENING STATEMENT: After watching the game on film, it was a very exciting game and our players made a lot of intelligent plays down the stretch offensively as well as defensively. We are quite familiar with Northern Iowa. We played them a few years back, our championship team. We were, in Atlantis, we were life and death to win it. So I'm quite familiar with their style of play. This team that we will face reminds me so much of Virginia and who we have played twice. Their defense reminds me of them, their offense reminds me of them. They have six players that shoot better than 40 percent from the three-point line. They have a great inside attack. Just a wonderfully coached basketball team that I think is very deserving of their ranking.

Q. You touched on it with Virginia and defense, but there's been a lot of talk the last couple weeks about college basketball not being entertaining enough and not enough scoring and such. Northern Iowa and Louisville -- maybe some people will cringe, but isn't there a little bit of beauty in the defense?

PITINO:
You know, I don't think it's -- I think people get a little carried away with this because if you look at March Madness the way it is, the games are very, very exciting. When you see great -- the worst basketball to possibly watch and I refuse to watch it, is high school all star games and AAU basketball games where scouts aren't there and NBA all star games. It's terrible to watch. Because no defense is being played, everybody's just trying to throw lob dunks. So I think there's a lot of excitement in what you're seeing right now because defense is big part of the game. The fans stand up and get into great defense. So I think people are getting carried away with that. Now do I believe we can do some things to stop chucking cutters and certainly lower the shot clock to 30 seconds. But I think that especially March Madness, it's very exciting.

Q. I think yesterday at the end of the game you might have said on TV that this wasn't a great team but you made it through. At this point does not being a great team preclude you from making -- from having a great season, making a deep run?

PITINO:
Did I say that we're not a great team?

Q. I don't know. I read that you did, so I wanted to make sure?

PITINO:
What I said all along is we're not as good as we have been the last three years. But that being said, we have had the most wins in college basketball for a total in the three year period. We have had three 30-win seasons. So we're not as good as that level but we're still a pretty good basketball team. We're not deep and we have had a lot of adversity and we have a lot of young players. But we're still good. It wouldn't surprise me if we made a Final Four run. It wouldn't surprise me if we got knocked out early. So, it's -- we're good enough to win, but we're also -- we're not an overpowering basketball team like we have been the past three years.

Q. You obviously had a lot of success throughout your career in the NCAA Tournament. But is there a loss that maybe years later still kind of eats at you, still sticks with you?

PITINO:
Well, I don't hate Christian Laettner. (Laughter.) Okay. So I didn't watch that well-documented program that they did. But that probably sticks out. I would say we had Arizona beat for a back to back championship and one of my favorite players of all time Nazr Mohammed missed seven free throws in overtime and I haven't spoken to him since that -- no, I'm only kidding -- Nazr is a close friend. But those two games stick out because I had an option and I didn't take the option the doctor cleared Derek Anderson to play and he wanted to play, he practiced two unbelievable days and I made the decision not to play him. So, that probably sticks out because Derek Miles who is working I think in college basketball right now had an unbelievable game. Derek would have checked him and Miles wouldn't have scored. Make sure you tell him that. (Laughter.) No, he had a great game and he was the difference maker in that game. So those two probably stick out the most.

Q. First of all, how is Chinanu doing after taking a nasty fall yesterday and second part of that is were you so encouraged by Mangok's play that he's kind of your guy right now at center?

PITINO:
Chinanu was fine a couple of minutes later after that. I'm not sure whether we're going to go with Mangok or go with Montrezl at five and probably somebody else at four. I'm not sure right now.

Q. I ask this because Ben Jacobson's a North Dakota native. Your thoughts on Jacobson and what he's done with the Northern Iowa program.

PITINO:
Well, because I watched him coach in -- when you get ready to play an opponent, you watch about seven, eight films on them. Because he comes across as a non-self promoter and a very humble man, indicative of the way you would like to see a coach. As you watch his team play, you realize he's one of the best coaches in our game. I said that three years ago, three years or two years ago, three years ago. I say it once again. His teams are a lot of fun to watch. They're good at all phases of the game, they pass well, cut well, they shoot well, they defend well, they have great schemes. So, he's one of the, for the media nationally, he's probably not as -- he's not as well known as the Coach Ks and Boeheims and those type of guys of the world. But he is as good as there is in our game. He's a great coach. Tremendous coach. A very humble man.

Q. We were talking a couple days ago about Chris having to leave and how people had to step into the breach and how the guards, younger guards, have done that. But to switch gears slightly, it seems as though Chris's situation was what it was. But the topic of sexual assault on campuses especially involving athletes, is a big one. Obama talks about it. I think the NCAA for the tournament has partnered with the Its On Us campaign. So it's clearly out there whether or not it's Chris or not, etcetera. I'm just wondering, as a coach, is that a conversation you have with your players?

PITINO:
You know, I would say 10 years ago I would speak about drugs once a week to the team. And now I speak about women once a week to the team. Not even going to the extreme of sexual assault, but just on how to treat women. And just getting them to understand what the world is today. And getting the one slight mistake can cost you forever. Those mistakes are unforgivable. Let's take a situation where a young man, may be innocent, but it's already out there whether he's innocent or not, he's scarred for life. So it's something that players must be aware of today and you know, you just -- I listen to all types of music and just the lyrics on certain music is offensive to women. And it's something that really needs to be addressed at all levels.

Q. You spoke pretty eloquently yesterday about Wayne. As he winds down his career, what do you see as his legacy? Tomorrow he could get to a thousand points and academic All-American, etcetera.

PITINO:
You know, I guess I don't -- I'm around you guys all the time, but I never hear you criticize Wayne. So when I hear things like that, I'm not sure who is criticizing. It's obviously probably some fans who call in or write in, whatever that is. But all of you who have covered Wayne understand what a gentleman he is, understand how humble he is, understand that -- Wayne decided when he came here that he's going to fit into whatever the coaches asked him to do. Now we have asked him this year, look, we want you to drive more, paint touch more and that's just in the last two months. We don't want you just spotting up. We want you rebounding more, paint touching more, getting to the free-throw line. He's done all of that. He's had a terrific year. So, I guess he came out with such a great reputation of high school. But what they don't realize is, he was a lot bigger than everybody in high school but couldn't go -- couldn't dribble with his left hand, wasn't a great ball handler. And he's improved a great deal. He just was physical, very physical in high school and scored a lot of points because of his physicality. Now he's developed a very good game putting it on the floor. Mid-range game as well as three-point shot as well as getting to the rim as indicated yesterday. So, he's a young man that has been part of three 30-win seasons, a National Championship, two Final Fours, three conference championships. I don't know how many people can win more than him. And now he just had a great game yesterday and when we needed him, when our two best players weren't scoring much.

Q. You mentioned the Virginia comparison earlier. The second game obviously, Mangok's shot was the only difference between you guys. But what -- looking back on that game, what did you guys do that you liked that put you in position to win that game?

PITINO:
Well, if you're not as good defensively as say Northern Iowa. If you're not as good as they are defensively, and you don't take away things -- because they can hurt you so many different ways. They have got great speed in the back court. When they substitute they don't lose a single thing. They're very deep. Their power forward is at great shooter. Their center can step out and shoot as well as put it on the ground. So they do all so many different things. And Virginia does the same thing. They trap the post like Virginia, they double the post just like him. They blitz pick and rolls just like Virginia. So, they're just very similar in their styles and their coaches are very similar. Tony Bennett is very similar to the Northern Iowa coach. They're both very humble personalities, tremendous coaches, and they're just very similar in so many different ways. I don't know if they even know each other, but they're very similar.

Q. Do you and your staff have to verbally reinforce the fact that you're playing Northern Iowa? Do the kids take them lightly sometimes? Directional schools don't resonate with some of the major schools. I'm wondering if you have to verbally reinforce who they're playing?

PITINO:
I can tell you that the Louisville media will start with questions like this to our people. How do you feel about being an underdog going into this game? And our players say we don't follow that. That will be their answer. We don't follow that type of stuff. Our players, from film right now, are very, very full of respect for Northern Iowa. They realize that this is one of -- now we played Duke, we played Virginia twice, we played Kentucky, we played Indiana, Ohio State, we have played some outstanding teams. This team is as good as any team we have played this year with maybe the exception of Kentucky. So, our players know that. They're ranked ninth and 11th in the country, so they're higher ranked than us. You may not be a household name 20 years ago, but you are today.

Q. Couple days ago you're on the Dan Patrick show, made some remarks about one and done, so obviously, we know your opinion. Feel free to reiterate but not necessary, necessarily. I guess my question is, when this comes up, coaches always give their opinion and then say, I'll do whatever they tell me to do, it's out of my hands. I guess what I'm wondering is, why is it out of your guys' hands and should it be? You guys are the ones that actually deal with the players most closely. I'm wondering what your opinion is on that.

PITINO:
Well, it's in the hands of the NBA and the Players Union. They really determine it. What we want -- we obviously have a committee set up to try to make recommendations, but it's really not in our hands. It's in the Commissioner's hands as well as the Players Union. And agents have a lot to say with Players Union. I would think that the Players Union would go for high school kids. I'm very much in favor of high school kids going pro. I had six young men commit to me out of high school that didn't go to college, that went to the pros. I'm very much for that. Because they didn't want college. They wanted to go to the NBA. And if they decide to go to the D league, that's fine with them. But the six, seven month education, online classes second semester. I don't know what that does for a young person. Is it the next best thing for college basketball? Probably, yes. It's better than for some people to have one and done. I don't believe that. Now, I'm different than probably the coach of Kentucky, who is having so much success with that. But I just believe I would rather let them go out of high school or go to college for two or three years. Let them go right out of high school. It shouldn't be different in other sports. If a young man wants to go to the pros and does everything -- college is not for everybody. So if a kid doesn't want to go to college, let him go into the pros. Let him go into the D-League and if someone does want to go to college let them go. We're still going to have great basketball teams.

Q. We were reminded recently here by a great basketball saying that it takes no talent to criticize. However, I'm wondering, are we at or near the time in big time college sports where big time college sports needs to separate from the NCAA and professionalize in word as well as deed?

PITINO:
You know, actually, if you asked me that question four, five years ago I would have said yes. But I think the NCAA is making a lot of concessions to make it better for the athletes. So the trouble they're having is they don't know what to do with women's soccer or women's lacrosse or men's baseball, where income is not generated. How do you do it? How do you separate it? A lot of times we all agree that players should be compensated. So I think somebody's got to come out with, okay, are we just going to say, income-producing sports? So, I guess we have got to be very specific where we want that. If we want compensation -- now I'm one that believes that a player should be able to sell his autograph. And it shouldn't be like, maybe at Louisville, an autograph because we have a big following, could go for 10, $15,000. It has to be an autograph signing where it's 25 dollars an autograph, whatever it may be. But what Johnny Manziel did or somebody else, I think that should be allowed. Because that's -- he built his brand, he built his name, he should be able to sell it, in my estimation. But I don't know how you get around all that other stuff when you break away from the NCAA, how do you decide. Maybe Iowa's great in wrestling, maybe -- I know Connecticut women's basketball is income producing. So how do you separate that would be my question to all of that. But I think the NCAA's made some very good concessions to make it better. I think the NCAA president right now is doing a fabulous job of making change, even though he gets a lot of criticism. But I think he's doing -- he's very progressive in making changes.

Q. Among power five conference schools particularly, there's such a fine line between having a successful season and a disappointing season.

PITINO:
I'm sorry, where are you? Oh, thank you. I'm sorry.

Q. Sometimes it's injury, sometimes it's something like an unbalanced schedule and seeing your son coach a couple of times, this year I think they had three out of their first four games were on road, they go in the hole, they're trying to climb out, didn't quite work out. What was your message to him after this season where they had the talent, they just were about there, but things just kept slipping as the season progressed?

PITINO:
Well he pretty much had the same record close to as he did the first year. I gave him a lecture, which he doesn't always agree with me, I said, Richard, I don't know why you haven't had for two years an all-conference player first second or third team in the Big Ten. So I'm not sure why you're putting so much pressure on yourself thinking you should be in the tournament. I said, we had two all ACC second team players this year. You don't have one on the third team. So why aren't you like the rest of us in this world that have to build the right way by recruiting guys who can make all Big Ten. So, if you went to Minnesota, thinking this is a quick turn around, the school probably has only been in nine NCAA tournaments if they got released of a few, in the history of the school. So that's what I tried to do, build him up a little bit but to get him to understand that it really is -- you're only as good as your players and if you don't have a first second or third team all Big Ten, you're probably not going to compete. Same thing in the Big East, same thing in the SEC. There are some teams that can surprise you and have teams get great runs, win close games. When I was at Providence I'll never forget this as long as I live, I lost six, six games within two seconds. My first year. And I said to the guys back then, because I was a day dream err, you just wait until next year, we're going to win all these close games. And the following year we won seven with one second to go on the clock. So, it does turn. But we started getting all Big East players, Billy the kid became a first team all Big East player. And you know we lost one game where Walter the ball was thrown to Walter Berry, we had a foul to give and he dropped the ball as we went to foul him and as he picked it up he just threw it from about 15 feet above the top of the key and they called the foul on the shot. And that's okay, I said, no problem, he's a 58, 59 percent free throw shooter. He makes them both and we lose in overtime. So, you remember all those tough losses, but then the following year it comes back. Once you get better players, you win those games. So, there are a lot of teams and I talked with the Louisville media today and I said to them, you watch, everybody's second guessing UCLA, they're going to go to the Sweet 16. And sure enough, it happens every year, the one team that everybody picks out doesn't belong, goes to the Sweet 16. So that's what makes this thing so great. It's you really can't -- with the exception of a Kentucky or a Wisconsin this year or maybe even a Duke, very, very tough to say who is going to advance. You don't know. That's what makes it so much fun.

Q. You talked about the NCAA and some of the reforms that are being made. There's a proposal now about rolling back the decision deadline on underclassmen and a possible draft camp. I don't know if I heard your views on that. Could you express them?

PITINO:
I don't know how a young man could, with the rules that's presently under, I don't know how a young man can make a goodie six. Because in the NBA, they don't start working you out until May and June. So, right now, what do we have until April 26 right now is the date? So let's take Terry Rozier. He's going pro. And he's middle to late first round possible. Maybe a second round. But he doesn't know. So, what you have to do is we'll contact the league, and they have a committee set up that brings us back information. And the information they bring up, they will give me 18 different opinions of the committee and they will say, some will say late first round, some will say early second, some will say mid to -- and it will give a range. But they don't know whether the teams are interested or not. The only way you truly find out is by the kids working out with the team. So if I was still with the Celtics or the Knicks, I would bring the guys in and then I will determine whether we want to draft them by that work out. And they're not going to work out right now. So there's no guarantees. So for Terry it's going to be a very difficult decision for him. Now I do think he's going. I said that all along. But it's going to be a difficult decision to him because he's not going to know, where Montrezl Harrell, he knows he's going and he knows he's going to be a first round pick and so what they're doing now is great, I wish they would have done it for this year.

Q. Obviously been a couple of tweaks to the block charge rules offensive foul rules, still controversial. Is there any way to fix it? Is there a final fix for block charge situations?

PITINO:
No, I think it's pretty good now. You know, the one thing about officiating and you see it in the NFL you see some calls in the NFL that affect the game, the one thing I say about officiating, I've officiated at basketball camps for like 25 years, and you have to coach two games you have to officiate two games when you work basketball camps at a young age and you know how difficult it is. What I always try to tell the officials is, be more like NBA officials, I say stay away from the coaches, don't talk to the coaches, put the ball down, walk across the other way. Can you imagine if you're in work or you're in the studio right now at ESPN and you had the producer in your ear and he'll talk to you once in a while, but can you imagine if he was screaming at you every single second while you're trying to read that tele prompter. What it would be like. And that's what some of these coaches do to these referees and how can they concentrate on the game? So, I've always been a big believer that the referees should have very little dialog with coaches during the game. They must be ignored, concentrate on ref reasoning the game, don't let anybody get into your head, concentrate on that. And the charge block, unless it's -- unless the game is on the line in a call, it's a tough call to make. Now if the guy is stationed, he's there -- like I think it's much worse when the offensive player comes down, he's on the fast break, and just plows into the guy and he gives him two fouls. And now you got some 48-year-old 50-year-old running down, who is not in great shape, trying to catch up to the likes of a John Wall on the break and then he comes out with that, "and one", and he didn't even see the play. So, you know, it's tough sometimes. Refereeing is very difficult. We're probably going to go to four referees because of the conditioning. No, I'm only joking. (Laughter.) Thank you.

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