TRANSCRIPT | Rick Pitino's pre-NCAA Tournament Q & A - WDRB 41 Louisville News

TRANSCRIPT | Rick Pitino's pre-NCAA Tournament Q & A

Posted: Updated:
Associated Press photo. Associated Press photo.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino met with members of the media on Monday to talk about his team's NCAA Tournament draw, and other topics.

The Cardinals, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region, will face Jacksonville State on Friday at 2:30 p.m. in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

A transcript of what Pitino had to say:

Opening statement: Our players are fired up. We know we're going to play a very experienced team in Jacksonville State. They weren't playing great basketball early on with a new coach coming in. We're quite familiar with him; he's quite familiar with us. But they have really great shooters at the one, two and three. And their small forward, at one point this season, three-quarters of the way, was shooting better than 50 percent from the three-point line, and still shooting a great percentage, shooting 48 percent right now, and takes a lot of them. And they're very strong with a 7-footer at the five, and a two outstanding fours. So they have a deep, very talented, experienced basketball team. And we look forward to this game, as well as to heading to Indianapolis and having a bus ride instead of a flight.

On the No. 2 seed: You know, Kenny (Klein) thought it would be a two, because we were top eight in the RPI and had a No. 1 strength of schedule, kept flip-flopping back one and two, so it all depends how much weight they put on strength of schedule, and obviously it did. Oregon losing probably put us in that situation. It didn't really matter to me, to tell you the truth.

On if he was happy with the team's draw: I was worried about making the tournament early in the year. I told you this many, many times, I felt I overscheduled. We went through every team we thought could possibly win their conference, and then when Chinanu left, I said, 'We overscheduled.' This was a team with one 9-point scorer returning. And my major concern was to make the tournament. And then obviously we started playing better basketball. Then we changed our goal to top four in the ACC to get a double-bye. So obviously we're delighted with the No. 2 seed.

On the team's free-throw struggles: I think when they miss their first couple they lose a little confidence. But the good thing is with the 20-hour rule out, we've now set a free-throw record, for free-throws taken. Eleven million and something. (How many did you make?) 10.6.

On whether he's worried about free-throw shooting: I personally don't -- I think it's a problem, it's more of a problem, Jeff, with the fact that you can't sub good free-throw shooters at the end. That's more of a problem. But we've got some things in mind that we're going to do. But I do think having this entire week to prepare, we have spent a lot of time working on it. If practice indications, percentage-wise, is any indication at all, then we'll be improved.

On being ready for the tournament with so little NCAA experience: That was the other reason I made the schedule. Let's face it. We have played Duke, how many teams in the NCAA Tournament? (16 games against 14 teams) Played 16 games against tournament competition. We didn't have a loss with anybody above top 40 RPI, so we're more than ready to play, even though the lack of experience, because of the competition we've played. You know, we play in front of 22,000 people at home, we play in front of some tough road crowds, road games, so we're ready as far as that's concerned. Now, we're going to play some great competition, but we have faced great competition.

On whether the players are anxious or nervous: You'd have to ask them that question. I haven't broached that topic. I'd be guessing if I gave you an answer. I think they're excited.

On where he watched the bracket show: I watched it with our booster club, with the players, and once they announce Louisville we headed right back and got to practice, so I didn't see the bracket show. I just saw the name, 'Louisville.'

On watching last year's bracket show: Yeah, we did. Oh, last year, would be a no. No I did not watch it. I forgot last year. I've tried to forget last year.

Thoughts on the overall bracket: I think it's very tough. The interesting thing is, the way I look at all brackets going into it is you prepare for two games. You don't look anything beyond two games. I can't even tell you after that. So you put all your emphasis on that one game, then if you're lucky enough to win, you prepare for the second game. Honestly, we've all watched about 15 films of all the teams, I couldn't pick the second game. Two extremely talented teams. I have no idea who will win that game. I'm just concerned right now with beating Jacksonville State and trying to come away with a victory. But I could not pick the second game. That's two great backcourts, two teams that would cause a lot of problems for us. Now, I have seen Michigan live, I saw them twice, and they're a very good basketball team, obviously, they just won the Big Ten championship. And Oklahoma State's a good team, best offensive basketball team in the nation.

Glad to not be playing against his son (Minnesota's Richard Pitino)? I don't think they would ever put me with Richard. That would be cruel. The NCAA can be cruel, but not that cruel.

Thoughts on his son coaching in the NCAA Tournament:  I'm really proud of Richard, because he got the coach of the year award, and I'm sure he's going to receive a couple of national coach of the year awards, and had the biggest turnaround in college basketball. But I'm most proud of the way he handled adversity. You know, it's one thing, he's handled success with humility. But he always kept his head high and somebody said to him, one time I remember last  year, I said, boy, you're not drawing too well. And he said, 'I don't blame the people, I wouldn't come either.' And then I said to him, 'Are you taking a lot of abuse?' And he said, 'Whatever I'm taking I deserve. We only won eight games. I deserve it.' I said, 'You've got to get Big Ten players in there. You don't have anyone honorable mention, first, second or third-team.' And he said, 'I'm working on it, Dad. Thanks for your great advice.'

On whether he watched last year: I was so dejected about somebody from my family doing something like that, I just wanted to block everything out. I didn't watch the games. I did watch the final game. Not so much, I'm good friends with Jay Wright, so I watched the final game. And a couple games, actually.

On whether he keeps up with his former assistants in the tournament: I follow religiously. I spoke to Kevin last night and he said, coach I need some advice about Virginia. I said call Notre Dame, don't call me. I did say we played a really good first half down there. We altered our style against Virginia, and I'm really proud of Kevin Keatts. He's done a phenomenal job. Kevin Willard has done an incredible job. Mick Cronin, incredible job. My son. Scotty Davenport at Bellarmine has done an incredible job. I'm really, really proud, these were all Louisville assistants that we're all very proud of. And they're not having good years, they're all having great years. So, even following Bellarmine, Scotty's teams always have played great offense, but now they're playing terrific defense for the first time, and when you have great offense combined with great defense, you're going to have a shot to win.

On changes at NCAA Tournament time: The only difference is we have more meetings and more media obligations. Outside of that, it's all the same prep. You don't want to get the players nervous by changing things. I try to relax more and let them know that is the fun time of their life. So we don't get too bent out of shape. But our team knows that we're playing a very dangerous opponent right now. Their last four games are far different than before that. They've got adjusted to what they're doing. They shoot it well and they're very powerful at the four and five spot.

On how much video of opponents he watches: Me personally? The staff's going to watch, each staff member will watch probably 10 Jacksonville State games, different games. David will have three opponents of Jacksonville State. Everybody had three games to watch, then we came back this morning and got everybody's opinion on how we think we should play them, every aspect of what they do. Now they change defenses, you know, they'll play 1-3-1, they'll play triangle and two, 2-3, 3-2, they'll pressure, they'll change a lot. They have a lot of different defenses.

On if he focuses more on late-season games or early with scouting: We focus more on the last 10 games that they play, but it's just the same way if you watched Oklahoma State the first five league games they didn't have a W. Now all of a sudden they get used to the new coach and start playing better, he makes adjustments. It's how you play at the end. I thought we had a great season. Not a good season, a great season. But I never felt at any point in time very confident that we had a great basketball team. The last 10 days, I felt really, really confident that we made great strides. We really thought we were going to win that tournament, going to New York. But obviously we fell into a team that was playing great basketball and we didn't get the job done. 

On what his team did to improve in the past 10 days: I think they were just paying attention to the defensive end of the court. And I thought we really made great strides offensively, in the half court as well as the full-court. And a lot of that has to do with the play of Mangok Mathiang and Deng Adel. Those two guys really came on in the last 10 days.

On whether he benefits from coaching against Ray Harper at Western: He's probably got a little better team than the Western teams that we faced.

On whether he'll give advice to his son: You know, Richard was with me when we went to the Final Four. I just try to be his father, I don't try to be a strategist with him at all. If I try to be a strategist with him, then I didn't train him well enough. Same thing goes with all the other guys. I don't have to give Kevin Willard or Mick Cronin or any of these guys any advice. They're all tremendous by themselves. Now if we play common opponents -- if we were fortunate enough to win, I'll speak to him about Michigan certainly. But Richard's a real sharp young man intellectually. The best thing about Richard is his humble personality. He really, really handled adversity, and now he's handled success well. And he's got a good team, and they're all coming back.

On Minnesota's games against Michigan: Yeah, they beat them at home in overtime, then they lost to them in the Big Ten. I don't know of any team that would've beaten Michigan the last two games that they played. Oh, my God. That's the interesting thing about the pros as well as college. There's such a premium on shooting the basketball, moreso than the big center, than everybody, when you look at these teams, like I watched Iowa State play against Oklahoma State, and the way they shoot the ball is incredible. And that's the biggest change. The rules have changed. What's changed college basketball is that we're all, including myself, because of the change in the rules, all recruiting more offensive basketball players than defensive-minded basketball players. Everybody's going after guys who can shoot the ball.

On whether opponent three-point shooting scares him: It scares me about Jacksonville State, Oklahoma State, Michigan. They all shoot the ball awesome at multiple positions. Their 7-foot center is an awesome basketball player. Their power forward goes 250, and their center goes 245. Anas has constant migraines. He really does. He missed practice this morning because of it. He was probably watching film of their center. Usually when he gets a big guy to go against he gets migraines. . . . And Anas' defense gives me migraines.

On Jacksonville State coach Ray Harper: Ray's a terrific coach, every step along the way. I've got great respect for Ray. Great guy, terrific coach. Plays a lot of different defenses, and his first year he has this team in the NCAA. Got Western into the NCAA, as well. So many programs, you see so many programs today are in such a rush because of March Madness that they lose patience and they hire someone and it sets the program back 3-4 years again. Sometimes patience is a virtue. I just look at our coaches. Richard last year. Mick Cronin about six or seven years ago, they were all over him, and now he has one of the premier programs in the nation. Four years ago they were all over Kevin Willard, now he got Big East coach of the year last year, and now he has them in the hunt again. It takes time to build a culture and build a program. Today is, when you've got a president Tweeting out policy, everybody's looking at the moment.

On the play of his centers: We're getting it. Five spot is not a weakness of ours. We're getting it. That's one of the reasons why I think we made rapid improvement in the last 10 days, because of the five spot. We've got two really, really good five men. Three, I'll include Matz. Matz may have to play in this game because they are very tough in the low post.

On Donovan Mitchell in the Duke loss: Donovan took bad shots in that game. He was trying to show everybody he's a great shooter rather than being a great basketball player. I said, you've already proven that you're a great shooter, son. You've got to play the game of basketball and let the game come to you. That's the most impressive thing walking away from Duke about Kennard. You hear, when you're watching Duke on TV, they did an awesome job on Kennard, he was only 2-for-4 and they kept the ball away from him. They didn't keep the ball away from him, that was Kennard. He lets the game, if you notice, he always has great second halves, he lets the game come, gets everybody involved, takes the shots if they're there, if they're not there he just passes the ball, creates movement, he's just a very cerebral basketball player that lets the game come to him. I told Donovan, that's what makes the game special, he lets the game come, he's not trying to score 16 points in the first two minutes, and that's what Donovan did the other night.

On playing against Duke's zone: I think it's just taking uncontested shots. We only two six challenged shots in the last game. Everybody said, well, Duke's zone hurt us. We're four percentage points higher playing against zone than we are man, and we had wide open shots. When do you see Quentin Snider shoot an airball? Donovan had two, Deng had one, Quentin had two wide open shots. They just missed. And sometimes the zone works because you miss. It happens that way. But I think that the missed free throws got into our head a little bit too.

On whether it helps having played in the arena already this season: I would think so. You know, because I spent eight years in the pros, the one thing you find out, statistically speaking, is that you never practice, like, if I was the Knick coach or Celtic coach,  you never practice where you play. So you go into these arenas and you never shoot around and it never affects your percentage. It's not an advantage or a disadvantage at all. If we're lucky enough to get to Sunday, we'll probably have a lot of fans rooting against us.

On who he likes overall in the tournament: I really haven't looked at the big picture, Russ (Smith). I can't tell you even the other regions. We're just so tuned into our bracket that I don't even know who's playing in the other brackets.

On whether he's glad not to be in a dome: We play at Syracuse and it doesn't bother us. If you're a good shooter, you're going to shoot well in a dome or you're going to shoot well in a smaller arena. If you've got guys who don't shoot the ball well, same thing. I'm sure Iowa State would shoot it in any facility in the nation.

On the improved play of Deng Adel the past couple of weeks: We had a lengthy conversation about a week ago and he was disappointed in the type of season he was having, and I told him what I felt, and we had a long talk about it. And I said maybe you better make it a new season. The best thing about is you can just start fresh. What I basically told him is that all you guys are putting way to emphasis on scoring and not enough on being a great player. I said I'm shocked that you don't lead our team in steals. You only had seven steals in conference play. I'm shocked that Donovan has more steals than you. I'm shocked that you're not the second-leading rebounder on the team. I've always envisioned you as somebody who can drive, shoot, pass and play great defense. But you're just focused on becoming a scorer, and if that's the case you'll never reach your potential. We had a nice conversation, and I'm hoping he's taken it to heart about just becoming an outstanding basketball player in all phases of the game.

On whether too much focus on offense is a common problem among players: That was the great thing about coaching Terry Rozier and the championship team -- they were all just focused in on, it wasn't about scoring, it was about winning and doing everything. Even Luke Hancock, wasn't the quickest guy, but was a great steal guy, anticipated well, and a great passer. And I look at a great basketball player as somebody who can make the pass, get in the paint and score, get in the paint and pass, throw lob passes, a lot of things that Quentin Snider does on offense. Now, he's going to have to pick up his defense in the first round. He's going to have to pick it up with the guards he's facing. He's playing against outstanding guards. (Jacksonville State guard Malcolm) Drumwright is a really big-time scorer.

On Quentin Snider's offense: He's as good as it gets offensively. The guy he's going to guard shoots a lot of threes, is an excellent foul shooter, they have scoring people at the one, twos and threes. And sometimes you hope for weakness at the four and fives, but they're not weak at the four and five. They're strong at the four and five as well.

On officiating: I think our frontcourt is playing really good basketball. You think of it this way: Q and Donovan, and I know why -- we had some phantom calls in that game, but there are phantom calls all over basketball. I don't know if you noticed with (Joel) Barry, the North Carolina (Duke) game, he wasn't within three feet of the guy, and they called the foul -- Q on the fast break, Donovan on the second block. What happens is, on the fast break, when you're like us, and you don't have strength in the backcourt numbers-wise, because of the situation we're in, and you're putting those guys to the bench, it's a major factor in the game. So if I question -- a lot of people say that's why we want to go to six fouls. No, no, we need to not make phantom calls. Phantom calls happen a lot on the break. Referees hustle to get down, and he sees the guy go in and doesn't see the contact because he's trailing the play and wants to get that and-one motion, and that puts  your players to the bench. But that being said, two of our key guys were on the bench in that basketball game, and they didn't play a good game, and we still had a great shot at winning that game, because our frontcourt played so well. So that's a good thing.

On different playing and officiating styles in different conferences: Yeah, we do, but it's not just us. We've had our share of poorly officiated games, but I'm sure Roy would say the same thing, if you looked, I'm sure Mike and everybody would say the same thing. And you have to cut a break with the officials because they're trying to referee a different game now. I will say this, when I watched Minnesota play against Michigan State, that didn't look like the new rules to me, both ways. And when was watching Big 12 basketball it didn't look like ACC basketball. They're still refereeing the game different by conference. When I watched Seton Hall play Villanova, that was an old-fashioned Big East slugfest. Great game, one of the best games I've watched all year.

On how he expects NCAA games to be called: Well, the NCAA will be under the jurisdiction of the head of officiating, and it'll be a blanket policy of this is how it's going to be officiated.

  • Sign Up for the WDRB Sports Newsletter

    * denotes required fields

    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
  • Sign Up for WDRB's Sports Newsletter

    * denotes required fields

    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 WDRB. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.