March 24, 2003
There has been a lot of talk about how exhausted the players were after Saturday's game. Will that be a factor on Thursday?
That game has nothing to do with Thursday. That game was Saturday night. I can't think of a better thing to be than exhausted at the end of a game. You're playing at that altitude...I think it shows you just what kind of condition they are in. So that, in my opinion, has nothing to do with a game played on Thursday other than I'm really pleased that they are in that kind of condition. I'm pleased that Luke Walton is at the point now where he can play that many minutes.
Does Notre Dame play like any team you've faced this season?
Probably a little bit like California in terms of having really good perimeter players, great shooters. Their game is a push it up the court, the first look you get at a shot, you're going to take. They're a little different from Cal in that their point guard is one of their primary scorers...maybe a bit like Oregon. They look for the three. That's a big part of what they do. Their inside is solid. If you try to help out from a lot of different places, you are really going to get hurt on the perimeter, but they have people inside you have to be concerned with. They will move Miller from a three to a four, which could create problems like playing (California's Amit) Tamir or (Oregon's) Luke Jackson, because Miller can shoot it from three, he can put it down and create off the dribble as well.
Chris Thomas is probably most like (Oregon's) Luke Ridnour as far as point guards in our conference...very quick with the ball and has a quick trigger.
What are your thoughts on the West Regional with some of the biggest names in college basketball?
It is, but when you take a look at the other regions, it's amazing how things work out. I don't see many soft touches anywhere. It's obvious to begin with that there were a lot of big name schools in the West , but then you look at the other regions and you're seeing outstanding teams at each of those sites as well.
To have Roy (Williams) and Coach K (Krzyzewski) meeting in a Sweet 16 game, that's one that you could look at as a national championship game in any other year. Duke seems to be getting better and with each outing and we know how good Kansas has been. They are an outstanding basketball team. If you take a look at it, either one of those two could very easily be in a national championship game.
You mentioned Walton's playing time, but how about each of the other starters playing at least 40 minutes Saturday?
The primary reason I brought up Luke is that he has been so restricted during the course of the season in terms of the amount of time we've been able to play him in games and use him in practice situations. And for him to be able to do what he did for the length of time he did it is a testament to the type of competitor that he is.
I said before that you can look at Jason (Gardner) and Channing (Frye) and say that they can go forever, but I was pleased that Ricky (Anderson) and Salim (Stoudamire) could go as hard as they went for as long as they did.
Does the rotation off the bench shrink in the postseason?
It shrinks for everyone now because the timeouts are two minutes and 15 seconds. That's the kind of time you would sit them down, let them get some water and relax. Well, that's happening a number of times during the game. Every team is going to have some time decreasing for guys on the bench because you are going to go with the best experience and the best combinations.
What are the next two days like practice-wise?
We'll do what we've been doing for a while now, where we'll use Monday and Tuesday instead of getting Sunday and Monday off. If you do that, you are closer to Thursday. I'd much rather do what we've been doing is to use Monday and Tuesday as prep days and use Wednesday as a shootaround day so that we are fresh on Thursday.
Today is a coverage day on Notre Dame and any adjustments we need to make to be effective. So a lot is centered around them (Notre Dame) today. Tomorrow will be more on our stuff and a review of Notre Dame.
Are you and the kids caught up in this like so many of the fans?
Oh yes, there is no question. When we schedule tapes at night, we'll do it so it's between (other) games. It's a good way for the kids to pass the time. It's not a case of where the staff is all tied up in it because we're generally tied up with tapes and that kind of thing. Saturday morning I woke up at four o'clock and got a good opportunity to look at what I already knew. But that was a whole lot better of lying in bed not being able to sleep. The coaches' time is spent a whole lot more with the opponents' games, but as far as the players are concerned, the players are big fans.
Has the tournament surprised you so far?
The one thing that struck me is that there are no four seeds left in the tournament. Two of the two seeds are gone. When you look at a couple of the game situations yesterday, I don't think that anyone would have thought that Florida would be out of it at this point, or Louisville would be out. I don't think a lot of people would have thought Illinois would be out, but that's the way it goes every year. That's why it's called March Madness I guess.
You have a one game season. If you play well enough, you get another opportunity at another one-game season. At this points, there are very few teams that have not been stretched to the limit at this point. The two exceptions are probably Pitt and Kentucky. A lot of games have come down, as ours did, to a last-second shot.
Does Notre Dame play a lot like the Delaware team you faced in 1999?
They play a lot like that. Mike worked under Coach Krzyzewski for a long time, so you see a lot of the Duke things in what they do, but you saw a lot of the Duke things in that Delaware team as well.
How do you stay so calm on the sidelines in such difficult games?
I don't know. Inside it's no different with any of us. My philosophy has always been that if the kids are going to maintain their poise and composure on the court, then they shouldn't see a raving maniac on the sidelines. On the other hand, if the kids are used to seeing that, then it's probably isn't a distraction to them. You just have to be yourself and, regardless of what's going on inside, you need to make sure the player aren't looking at someone who is caught up in the excitement or panicking.
Even at the end of a game?
Well, I was happy to see that (by Gonzaga's Blake Stepp) shot not fall. (laughter)
What does returning to Orange County mean, especially with your history of high school coaching there?
It's such a familiar area because we lived in Orange County for 12 years and I coached on the high school level for seven years. It's a very comfortable feeling for me, much more than at other sites. When you get to the hotel, the only thing that is familiar when I take my long stress control walks is at least I know I won't get lost. (laughter)
Loara High School is in the Anaheim School District and is very close to the Pond. We opened the school with no seniors. We had just sophomore and juniors at the time. Anaheim has junior highs. There were no freshmen. We had their first-ever varsity championship there. Then Marina High School a mile or so from the house with ninth graders and three gyms instead of one, so I made the move, which was not easy move to make when all of the kids were returning the next year.
The Big East has been impressive so far...
During the course of the year, they probably didn't get the credit that some of the others did. Everyone was talking about the Southeastern Conference or the ACC, but a number of teams have been very impressive.
The NCAA Tournament is always about survival. How happy were you to see your younger players survive Saturday?
For the seniors, it's really, really special for them because if it's a sophomore there is always next year. This threesome (Rick Anderson, Jason Gardner, Luke Walton) has been so tight through the whole time that they've been playing here, so it's really special to them.
The other thing that really was obvious was how into the game everybody on the bench was, including Chris Dunn, who couldn't go into the game. If you look back at the tapes, he was really, really involved. It was interesting to see who the first guys were that got to Walton at the end of the game, too. I think it was two freshmen there first.
I think that's what a program is about. Everyone focuses and really comes together and that pays dividends in years to come. Theses freshmen and sophomores see what these three seniors have meant to the program and what thy have meant to the guys that they have provided leadership to. I've always said that in starting a program, that if you start with good people that will continue in that way. We can go back to our first group here and you see guys like Pete Williams and John Edgar, who practically live right next to each other and are very close friends, that kind of leadership paid dividends to Steve Kerr, who was a freshman on that team. That kind of attitude toward team has really carried on through the program. When you look at this year, three years ago, or 10 years ago, you still see the same kind of presence. What happened on Saturday will be something that motivates the younger guys.
Senior Rick Anderson:
On the four teams remaining in the West Region:
"That would be a good Final Four right there. I don't know how to say it, but it's going to be a big challenge for us. We've always wanted big games and Notre Dame is going to be a big game."
On any potential advantages by being the closest of the four schools to Anaheim:
"You have to be mentally prepared wherever you are. We lost to Stanford here on our home floor-our only Pac-10 loss. We have lots of fans there, but it all comes down to your mental preparation."
On playing at the Pond of Anaheim:
"I love shooting there. It's a great shooting arena. I think we'll come out with the same fire. The game could be in Maine, but it's how we come prepared for the game."
On Notre Dame's toughness and physical play:
"They're a physical team, every Big East team is physical. We have to come out and play tough or we're going to get beat."
On the double-overtime game against Gonzaga:
"That's a good learning experience, but it's over now. We have to put it behind us and look ahead."
Senior Jason Gardner:
"When the ball slipped out of one of my teammates' hands and into (Gonzaga guard Blake) Stepp's hands, that was one of the longest three or four seconds of my four years here."
"It was a point in time where we knew our season could be over, so it was a decision where Coach Olson stuck with the guys on the floor.
"I hit some threes and it felt good. And we did get the win versus Vermont. The confidence is back. I think the NCAA Tournament is one of the biggest things to watch on TV all year long and it only goes on for a couple weeks."
On the matchup against fellow Indianapolis native Chris Thomas:
"It's going to be fun a lot of fun. My whole family is going to be there, I'm sure he's going to have a lot of family there. I never looked at him like a rival. It was more like our schools were rivals. I think it's going to be an up-tempo transition game."
"People say you live and die by the three. So hopefully we can not let them get a lot of open looks and keep a hand in their face."
Sophomore Channing Frye:
"It was tiring with the way they put their bodies on you, and the way they play. In the second overtime, I really couldn't feel my body."
On whether the players get involved in March Madness as fans and watch many games:
"Definitely. One of the great games we watched was the Maryland game. After UNC Wilmington hit those free throws and (Maryland's) Drew Nicholas netted that shot off the wrong foot, fading away from NBA three-point range, we were in amazement. With all the games, it's exciting to watch."