March 14, 2011
Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller:
On what he has learned about Memphis since the brackets were announced:
"First of all, for such a young team, Josh has done a great job to get into the tournament. Watching the development of their team, to be able to win a conference tournament is very difficult. If you put that same tournament on the opponent's home court, it's virtually impossible. They had an incredible comeback win against UTEP that allowed them to be in the tournament, and from that perspective, I can't say enough good things about the job he is doing. For such a young team to get into the tournament, it's a great compliment to Josh, and his staff in Memphis. We are familiar with his players because of their age, and we watched them on the recruiting circuit. Will Barton is explosive in his scoring, Joe Jackson is terrific in their conference tournament, probably the biggest reason they advanced to the NCAA tournament. He is outstanding, playing heavy minutes. They pose a problem with their inside. They can play their two big guys together, or sub one and bring the other in. They do a nice job of getting those guys in position to catch the ball close to the basket. They play with a lot of energy; can get up and down the court easily, like Washington. That same quickness, you can see on defense, and they play with great effort and energy on defense. You look at that twelve seed, and maybe twenty years ago, you would say that that would be a big game for those teams. I've coached against Richmond, and they are a twelve seed, and I know how good they are. I watched Utah State very closely at 30-3, and it's hard to believe they're a twelve seed. You look at Memphis, with their talent, and there really isn't a big difference between teams these days. It's going to be a great game Friday. Our preparation this week has to be really on point for us to go there and play well. We're going to have to play very well."
On Memphis' offense:
"They love to play in transition, and they have a number of different players that can score and make plays. It seems like their team plays with a lot of confidence on offense as well. Some of that is probably youthful confidence. They believe in themselves as players. It's just about balance, and if you look at their scoring they have balance, and you really don't go one direction. We really respect a number of their players that can score."
On Memphis' defense:
"Mostly man-to-man, picked up some full court and pressed, played some triangle and two in the tournament, but I think their bread is buttered by their man-to-man defense."
On what he wants his team to know about the experience of playing in the tournament:
"That's what was so great about our experience in Los Angeles, and that's why I think you really have to really approach a conference tournament with great seriousness, because you can learn some lessons. Every game you play in a conference tournament, it starts to feel and resemble more like the NCAA Tournament. The fact that we were able to play three games in three days, play our third game as an overtime game on CBS, with a lot at stake. We've learned a lot of lessons during that weekend, one of which is, I really believe that it's the best we've played in a couple of weeks. I can make the argument, that even though we weren't smart at the end of the Washington game, in the three times that we've played them, that was our own team's best overall performance. I say that because we beat them here, with the help of one of the best crowds all season long, we made at one point ten of eleven threes, and had to block a shot at the end to win the game. When you look at us at Staples Center, we missed a lot of free throws, and there were times where we maybe weren't playing at our best, but both offensively and defensively, our consistency and level of play, our job against Isaiah Thomas, even though he had a great game, I felt good about our team's effort level and they way we've played. That performance, learning, playing with that pressure, I think really prepares you for the next step, because we don't have a lot of guys who have been to the tournament, so we are relying a lot on this weekend."
On encouraging the players who have been to the tournament to talk about their experience to those who haven't:
"I don't have to, I'm sure they do it all the time. Part of a Sweet Sixteen team like they were, they know how special it is to advance to that second weekend. The other thing the tournament shows you, and it can happen to us because of the parity, is that there is no given, who you're playing, if you advance. I can see where Texas plays Memphis, where Oakland plays Memphis. I could see where we could play Oakland or Texas. The parities are just unbelievable. It takes one player to have a great game, or a team to be star struck, get off to a slow start. There are a lot of things that can happen in that forty minutes, one time on a neutral court."
On the possibility of lower-seed upsets in Arizona's pod:
"I think so. It's just the way the tournament is right now."
On watching last year when Arizona wasn't in the tournament:
"I really just focused on Xavier. That was my medicine, so to speak. When you're not in the tournament after you've been in it for a while, it's not easy. I just tried to focus on watching those players and coaches, and cheering for them. Get on their bandwagon."
On Pastner's efforts to keep talent in Memphis:
"That's the identity of Memphis. It always has been. Larry Finch, Penny Hardaway, great teams forever. Memphis is one of the great cities in our country that produces talent. Josh is very smart in thinking that way, and looks to me to be doing an excellent job as well. It's never easy to follow someone like John Callapari, who is so dynamic in his approach. He's done a really, really, terrific job, and I wish we weren't playing him because of what he means to Arizona, but that's the game we're playing, and we're going to be ready. We see each other on the recruiting trail. I don't know Josh very well, but I've gotten to know him a little bit more when he was at Memphis as an assistant coach. He's been great to me, like all the former players have been, and anything we have asked, like advice, he has always been accessible, as has Jack Murphey. I know those two love Arizona, just because of all the things they have done to help us."
On comparing Arizona's youth to Memphis':
"They're younger than us. I haven't really talked a lot about our team being young, just because it's the way of college basketball. You look at Kentucky as a number four seed, and look at their lineup. You look at North Carolina, and you start adding up. Very few teams are fortunate enough to have that junior and senior leadership. That's what makes Duke so exceptional, because they have that talent, and some of their best players are in their fourth year. Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler are almost throwbacks these days in college basketball. We are both relying on younger players to play, but we've relied on those same players the entire year. Right now, with as much experience our sophomore class has, I look at those guys as veterans in college basketball. That experience last year and this year, there are very few groups of players in the last sixty games that have played as those five guys we call our sophomores."
On influencing the growth of younger players in Tucson:
"It's something that obviously, I would love to do. You're handicapped in doing it because of the NCAA rules, and there's only so much you can do to get things jump-started. I think number one is to have a quality program for the young people to watch and grow up around, which has been in place here for a long time. Just to encourage the younger coaches in youth basketball as much as we can. There's some good to the NCAA rules, and there are some you wish you could change. Sometimes you wish you could impact grassroots basketball in a more significant way. It's hard to justify that and say you're not gaining an advantage. It's odd that we don't see many major recruits from Tucson. I have three sons of my own, so I'm probably more in tune with the youth basketball scene, and it's really untapped. The more young kids that play, the better overall talent will develop. I think our quest is to get more kids playing, have more quality venues, and more organized leagues and tournaments. The more kids that play, the better that they get."
On Derrick Williams' initial plans to commit to Memphis:
"I'm glad he made the decision that he did. Derrick, one of his greatest strengths is that he is a humble, unassuming kid. I think for him, wherever he is going to visit, he is going to be impressed. That's just who he is as a person. I'm glad his family allowed him to compare. For Derrick to play in the Pac-10, being from California, being from a program that has produced so many great players, and players from the same area as him made a lot of sense, especially when you consider the role he had right away here. I think he made a great decision for a lot of reasons. I had a lot of confidence in recruiting Derrick."
On local recruiting back at Xavier:
"Pittsburgh is a bizarre city when it comes to developing basketball talent. Football talent is amazing, but basketball talent, there's probably more hockey players in western Pennsylvania than football, and that's one of the great jobs maybe ever in college basketball, what Jamie Dixon has done, and Ben Howland started because they don't rely on western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh for their work. You could count on both hands the number of big time players that played at Pitt in the last ten or fifteen years, during their best run ever, that is from that area. The difference if, what they rely on, if you go an hour flight, you're dealing with New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, D.C., and New Jersey, and they've really recruited those areas very hard. When you look at distance from southern California, the state of Arizona, parts of Texas. To me, Pitt and Arizona share in that."
On recruiting in Cincinnati:
"The state of Ohio, right now, you have Aaron Craft, starting point guard, William Bueford, starting, and Jared Sullinger. I don't think Thad's gotten out of a car to get any of his guys. He walked to get two or three of them. I really mean that. When we went to the Elite Eight at Xavier, four of the five starters were from southwest Ohio. You look at that area, and the state of Ohio, it probably has the greatest strength of that conference. It's amazing."
On the recruiting situation at Arizona:
"I was aware of it, to me one of the answers I got is that there are so many players in the state of California, and the history of Arizona compared to having someone like Derrick wanting to stay on the west coast, you can make that your recruiting grounds, like the state of Ohio is to schools in that area. It's also in the Midwest. Ohio State, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, and Cincinnati have all won a national championship, and they are all within a two and a half, three hour drive. That's not even counting Purdue, or Xavier of recent. I think it's been that way for a long time."
On defense winning games:
"Our numbers weren't great in the Pac-10 Tournament. Sometimes that happens. Three games in three days, you can play really good offense, but the numbers don't always reveal like they so in an eighteen game season. I really feel confident saying that we played with great energy on defense. Derrick in particular did. Some of the baskets that were made were made by really good players. Two of the three games we played are against NCAA tournament teams, and you can play really good defense and they still make a shot. I like our disposition and our effort and concentration on defense a great deal, and I think it was much improved from the previous four games we played, leading to the conference tournament. That's why, for us, it's to keep on that tack, because you can not win trading baskets from this point on. You really have to be stingy. We're not a big team so you have to be hard playing on defense. The biggest thing for us is to be the same. There is a reason that we are 27-7 right now. We're almost sitting here talking about 28-6. We would be foolish to change what has gotten us to this point. The pace that we play at, and the way we do things, our best chance to advance is to do those things very well. We gave up 16 second shots against Washington. If you look at part of why we are a good team, we do a very good job defensive rebounding. This week, we have to really work on that to be good on Friday. We defend the three point shot as well as any team in the country, but we didn't do that against Washington, and that hurt us badly. Those are the types of things we are really looking at. To me it's about sharpening those things."
On the way Memphis forces turnovers:
"We want to take care of the ball, and that's something we've done well recently. We did that really well in LA. That's one of the reasons we were in the championship game. If you look at our turnovers, they're consistently down, and that is a good thing."
On Memphis's late-game rally against UTEP:
"That was an unbelievable comeback, with four or five minutes to go, I found myself stopping the tape and saying `are you sure they won?'. They were down more than ten points, and that's very hard to do. Especially against a well-coached, quality team like UTEP."
On tempering the spotlight for the players:
"I thought we handled it much better, and we are much more focused on how important it is to be ready when we went to the Pac-10 Tournament. Our guys have no class this week, we're on spring break. They're very focused on trying to advance. Sometimes it's that three games in three days in that environment that's really spectacular. I find myself looking at that tournament and hope that it keeps going and gets better as it gets older. To play at the Staples Center, in LA, the hotel is right across the street, and there are very few setups for conference tournaments that are better than that. All of that really gave us a taste of what's to come."
On what you tell the guys about the tournament:
"I want them to enjoy it, the police escort, the open practice. You're sitting behind that podium that you've seen as a kid if you haven't been in it before, and now here you are. It's just about what college basketball is all about. This two, three, four week period of time, part of it is to enjoy it, and part of it also is to know how quickly it disappears. We are balancing those two things."
On the practice schedule since the players do not have class:
"We try to take two days off. You play three games in three days, you would be foolish to try to do too much. Today is not completely off. We'll get together, but we'll really start back tomorrow and Wednesday, and leave on Wednesday after practice. On Thursday, we'll have practice, and Friday a game. Part of it has to be a freshness of our team wanting to keep playing. If you put yourself in a team like UConn's shoes, five games in five days, it's about getting that team ready to go and excited to keep playing, and ours is no different."
On Kyle Fogg:
"I am very confident to say that by Friday afternoon he should be significantly better than he was this last weekend in LA. Watching those three games now that we've gotten back, we really missed Kyle. We missed his intelligence on defense, and I think if you look in the Oregon series at home, Kyle might have played the best all season against those two teams. It would have been nice to have him at full strength. He wasn't clearly at full strength. The good news is I think he will be back at full strength for our first game. I think he would start against as long as he could resume practicing and it looks like he is headed towards a hundred percent, and that's probably what we'll do. That's the best team we can put on the court."
Recollections of Coach Pastner
"He's just an intense guy. You could ask Derrick the same thing, he was recruited by Josh Pastner as well. He is very passionate about the game and there's not much to what he does, but what he does works, and we look forward to the match up in the tournament."
On seeing Memphis as the Cats' first opponent:
"It was very ironic, and it's a very small world to see Josh Pastner on that sideline, actually playing against him when three years ago, that guy was my coach."
On Pastner's role on the staff in 2007-08:
"He didn't really have much of a role. I know he was in charge of the big guys, but that was when Kevin O'Neill was here, and K.O. kind of took over the reins of the program. The assistant coaches were just there for us personally. They would talk to us and keep us afloat. He is probably the reason I came here, and he was probably the reason Derrick was considering Memphis. He just does not stop with the texting and the calling, when it's legal NCAA time. Josh is just a great guy."
On his commitment:
"I committed to Josh. He was my caretaker, and he's the reason why I came here. Lute, of course, played a factor. To have the opportunity to play under him, which actually fell through, but Josh was always there. He was at every game, every AAU tournament, super persistent."
On this being the last NCAA Tournament in his career:
"I just put it out of my head. We have been playing very good basketball down the stretch, even through we didn't finish out in LA. We have another opportunity to start a new season right now, and see what we can do in this tournament, make a run. It's just really exciting to be a part of March Madness once again. Last year, we were down, and this year we are up and ready for the challenge."
On explaining the experience to the younger players:
"I don't have to say anything. Coach Miller has the guys sold on everything. He's talked about the police escorts, going from A to B; everything is just top of the line, playing at the best arenas that they have to offer. It's just a great experience for everybody. Even though I've been there before, me and Tree (Alex Jacobson), and Fogg, the older guys are still excited to go back to the tournament, so I know the young guys are really hyped."
On unexpected events of the previous tournaments:
"The Sweet Sixteen year was ridiculous. First off we were in Miami, so that was a nice change of pace for all of us. We were winning, which was great, and then we went to Indianapolis, and Lucas Oil Stadium, I think it was, was amazing. There were flat-screens everywhere, retractable everything; it was just top of the line. It was amazing actually. Hopefully we get back there again."
On the Arizona/Memphis match up:
"I see a fast-paced game. A ton of up and down. It's going to be great. I couldn't ask for a better first round match up. Like Derrick said, they fit our style of play. We like to push the tempo, we like to pick up early on defense, and hopefully the entire game is like that. It may not be pretty, or it may be a great game and all the shots go down. Either way, we just want to execute and prepare and do what we can to get to the second round."
On seeing anything familiar from Coach Pastner:
"I think that he let's his players play. He recruits guys who he thinks will be able to benefit from his style the most. Once the ball goes up, they just go out there and play the game. That's the way Josh coaches."
On his role in his final season:
"It hasn't been a big thing for me, coming off the bench. It's more about the team. Of course you worry about yourself individually, but I think the importance of our team is something that's kept us afloat during the entire season. When one of us is down, none of us have a problem with talking to each other, or having a meeting amongst the players. That's some of the things we've done this year, and I think they're things that have been vital to our success."
On not starting in his senior season:
"I don't think it's about starting. I think it's about playing the game. If someone sees that you can play, if someone sees that you are on a great team, which I am, I think everything else will fall into place. Right now it's about getting wins."
"The Sweet Sixteen year, we had a lot of older guys, and our younger guys were forced to mature because we had to play a lot of minutes, like thirty-five a game. It was just different. This year our chemistry is really good. I won't say it's perfect, because every team has their issues, but in our case, I think we all just have common goals in mind, and that's to get back to the show and show people what we can do together."
On Pastner's recruiting:
"Like Jamelle said, he's a great guy, and he is one of the reasons why I was considering Memphis. I had a great time on my visit, and honestly, it came down to here and there. He is a great coach, and Coach Miller is a great coach here. Either way, I knew it would have been great. He was very aggressive, but that's just his personality, his style. If he wants a player, he is going to do everything he can, legally, to get them. He is just a great guy, all around."
On Pastner voting for Williams for national player of the year
"I didn't know that, but when I see him, I'll have to thank him. He's a great guy, and I respect him a lot for noticing. Even before I was getting nationally recruited, he noticed my style of play and my talent, so I respect him a lot."
On the post-USC recruitment:
"I had two weeks to decide where I wanted to go. I got to Memphis on a Sunday, and was recruited Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I think. I came home, and went to Arizona on Friday. The first week was spent on recruiting visits, and the last week was canceling out the pros and cons, the distance factor. I had one week to decide where I wanted to go."
On the Memphis team:
"I know they have really highly recruited freshmen, and they have played a lot of minutes this year. I've just seen them play, and they have a good big man in the middle. I know they have great players, and it's going to be a good match up. We have a similar style of play, they like to run and gun and set up the offense later. I'm not saying we do that, but we do it to a certain extent. It's going to be a good match up."
More on being recruited by Memphis:
"I liked the arena they played in, where the Grizzlies play. It's a quality arena, and not many people can say that they in an NBA arena. That was one of the big things right there, and they get more fans than the Grizzlies get. I think it's pretty incredible there. Their fan base is great, just like ours. They're a big basketball school. I had a good relationship with the players when I went there too, not just because of the recruiting trip. It just comes down to choosing one school over another, and if you have a good relationship with the team, and if they accept you, the coaching staff as well."
On the distance from home not being a factor:
"The distance wasn't a factor. It doesn't matter to me in basketball. If it's a good school, it's a good school and you should go there. It doesn't matter where it is. It might be kind of lonely at the beginning, but you get used to it. You have to move away from home eventually."
On the decision:
"I was very close to deciding when I went out there. I was going to commit on my visit, actually, but I just didn't. I knew I had one more visit left. Coach Miller was recruiting me really hard, and I wanted to respect that and take that visit. It's closer to home, and while distance doesn't have to do with my decision, this is one of the best basketball schools on the west coast, so I wanted to give it a shot."
On the five seed in the Tournament:
"There are a couple teams I thought were seeded too high, and a couple teams that were seed too low, and a couple that didn't get in that should have, like Colorado. They had a lot of top 25 wins and they play in the Big 12 conference. I think the five seed it good. It doesn't matter if you're a five, a sixteen, a four, you have to play everybody. It doesn't matter if you're Ohio State, or a smaller school. At first, we thought we were a four seed, when they announced the `Wildcats....of Kentucky'. It surprised us a bit, but a five seed is good."
On Coach Miller's advice on the mental process of playing in the tournament:
"Just, before the games, there's obviously going to be a whole bunch of media, and even after the game. If you're in the winner's circle there is going to be media, cameras, everywhere. He's just trying to explain to us that situation, and trying to keep our head level, don't get too cocky and just say in focus. Don't let the media get to your head."
On the possible stress of the media coverage:
"I don't look into all the All-American races. If I just keep playing as well as my team keeps playing, then we are all going to get what we want out of the end of it. Individual stats will come later. When we get that ring, that's all that matters at the end of the day."
On the upcoming tournament:
"It's really exciting. Like Jamelle said, we didn't make it last year, the first time in a long time. This is my first experience, and I know it's going to be amazing. I'm just excited to play a different team in a different conference. I'm tired of playing the same teams over and over. I know every play, every scouting report. This gives other teams just a couple days to scout us, which is a good thing. I'm just really excited to play the new teams."
On scouting Memphis:
"We are going to watch film today, but we've seen them enough on ESPN, to see how they play."
On his name going up in the McKale Center Ring of Honor:
"I didn't know my name was going to be up there, but to have my name go up in the arena is an honor. Not sure when it's going to go up, but whenever that say comes, it's going to be an honor. Just to have my name up there with all the other greats that played here. I can't really speak too much about the individual stuff, but I'm just trying to win. It's a new season now. We have six games to win."
Thoughts on the other teams in the pod and the location:
"It's no big deal. If you're a number one seed, or close to a number one seed, you're going to play close to home, like Ohio State got the number one seed and are playing in Cleveland. It's a big advantage to the team that's closer. Texas has a big fan base. Every team that plays in the tournament is going to be ready. The crowd has a big impact on it, but you can't focus on that too much. I know we have a big fan base too, and that they are going to be there as well. We just have to come out and execute."