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Midwest Regional Press Conference Quotes
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 03/26/2009
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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March 26, 2009

Q. Most of us try to live in the present, not worry about the past or the future. It seems to me your situation almost demands it.

COACH PENNELL: Yeah, there's no question about that. One of the things I think that's helped all of us, the players, coaches and everyone this year, is try to focus on 2008/2009 season. We're still in that, obviously. You know, if you just go about focusing on preparing for practice or preparing for a game or if you're working a kid out, whatever you're doing, you put your mind on that, then you don't need to worry about things that you can't control anyway. So that's the way we've tried to approach every day this year.

Q. All four teams in this regional have won NCAA championships or are in the running just about every year. How does it feel to be here with kind of three other blue bloods of the sport?

COACH PENNELL: It's exciting. It's a great opportunity. You know, this is actually my sixth NCAA tournament and the third time I've been in the Sweet 16. My first two years at Oklahoma State, we got there. So, you know, I at least have an idea of what to expect from the atmosphere, the crowds, everything else. But, you know, to play in this environment against these teams, it will be a real treat for our players and for our staff.

Q. Is there a team that you played this year that plays a comparable style to the full court pressure of Louisville?

COACH PENNELL: The University of Washington will play full court, man to man defense. They may not trap quite as much as Louisville does, but we have seen that. When we played Kansas at home, they extended their pressure a little bit. I think Louisville does it as well as any team in the country. So to prepare for that is difficult. I don't know we've seen a press like they're going to play against us tomorrow.

Q. Talk about depth. With the TV timeouts, I know you don't use a lot of guys, they press full court, do you expect depth to be an issue?

COACH PENNELL: Well, it certainly could be. But, you know, we've played the way we're gonna play tomorrow all year long. We've got three guys we play heavy, heavy minutes. In fact, they were three of the top five minutes played in the PAC 10 this year. They're in incredible condition. Their conditioning all year has been really good. We've been very fortunate that we've stayed injury free. And with the long timeouts, it definitely helps us. Also, when we've sensed they're a little bit tired, we get them out right before the media timeout, which many coaches do, to buy them extra time. We're going to have to ride the horses that got us here, and that's what we'll do tomorrow.

Q. If I read the media guide right, you were doing Arizona State radio last year. Did you ever see yourself coaching in the Sweet 16 a year later?

COACH PENNELL: No, I don't think anyone can plan on that. I did radio for ASU for a couple years, had had a couple opportunities to get back in coaching. They weren't exactly what I wanted. When I signed on to work at the University of Arizona, I was hoping we'd be in the Sweet 16, but I had no idea that I would be the head coach at that moment. You know, the great thing about life in general is it can change quickly, and sometimes it's for the best, a real positive. And this year it's been that for me.

Q. Your initial impressions of the facility, whether you're concerned at all about the vastness of everything out there.

COACH PENNELL: I don't think it will. It was great to get out there and shoot around. We spent our entire 50 minutes really on shooting just so we could get accustomed to it. We'll have a short practice in here again tomorrow. We should be fine. It's a beautiful facility. I commented to someone out there before, it's just incredible what they've done with it. It's a great venue. I know when the Final Four is here next year, it will get to be shown off even more. I think this is a great, great environment for basketball. I like the way they've built the stands, back up to the football stands. I think they've done a real nice job with that.

Q. There was a lot of publicity regarding your program in the year before this season started regarding coaching situation, Coach Olson. The job was offered now to the man who is your assistant coach. You were off the radar. Now you're back. You're getting some publicity regarding that. I'd like to ask you how you and your assistant have delegated the duties? Are you co head coaches? Who makes the decisions and under what circumstances?

COACH PENNELL: I make the decisions. I'm fortunate that I have someone of Mike Dunlap's experience. He was a head coach for 17 years. And I do rely on him heavily, as I do Reggie Geary and Matt Brase, my other assistants. But Mike has brought a wealth of knowledge to what we're doing. Everything is run through me and I have the ultimate decision. I also have a lot of confidence in him. My whole thing is this, I really could care less who gets the credit for what we do as long as we're successful. It matters not. I see in this business a lot of time people's egos destroy them. I always thought to myself if I had this opportunity at whatever level, as an assistant coach for 15 years, which I was, I appreciated the people I worked under, that they gave me a lot of responsibility. I thought that was important that I did the same.

Q. If this is it, if this is the only chance you ever have to be a head coach and get here, is this enough?

COACH PENNELL: Sure. Just the opportunity to walk through this journey this year is incredible. And it's helped me not only as a coach but as a person. It stretched me. It's forced me to think outside the box. It's very unconventional what we've gone through. Yet somehow we've made it work. I think the biggest thing is the line of communication we've had between our players, our staff. We're very open, we're very transparent. And when you're that way, you can truly look at it as a family. Because in families, you have arguments. In families, you have discussions. And we do the same thing. But we've always been able to put aside our personal agendas for the good of the team. And for that, you know, I'll forever be indebted because I think it's made me a better coach and a better person. If this is the only opportunity, so be it. Life goes on.

Q. Do you ever find yourself going, How the heck did this happen? COACH PENNELL: I don't think I've had the luxury of thinking about that yet. Again, there has been so much to do, trying to keep everyone on point. I'm sure maybe I will in the next few weeks, be able to reflect back.

But, you know, I really believe that things happen for a reason in life. I believe there's a purpose in life, for everyone's life. And my appointed time is to be the coach of the Arizona Wildcats. Even if that's for a brief time. So the opportunity I've had, I've tried to make the best of it and do the best for the people that are underneath me.

Q. Coach Pitino is 35 11 in NCAA tournament games. You're about to coach your third. What is it going to be like to match wits against him?

COACH PENNELL: I'm undefeated. Better record. No, I'm kidding (laughter). You know what, when I was at Ole Miss, we went against Coach Pitino's teams at Kentucky. I know how good a coach he is. I know what he stands for in the college basketball world. You know, this didn't come down to me versus Rick Pitino. It's our team against Louisville's team. There are no secrets anymore. They do what they do very well. What we have to do is counter that. And if we can, we'll be victorious. If we can't, they'll win. That's the thrill of the great many. Once that ball gets tipped off, it's another basketball game that everyone's trying to win.

Q. What is the single most difficult thing about their press in getting the ball up court?

COACH PENNELL: I think it's that it's so relentless. They have so many guys they can put in there. They really get into the basketball and make it difficult. Then once those guys get tired, they put in a new wave. And they can just keep coming at you, coming at you. The thing you have to be careful about, you can handle it for a little while, then all of a sudden they hit you with one of those big runs. That's, to me, what makes them so dangerous. All the games that we have watched, there's that one moment in the game where they've been able to really explode. And that's the key. You try to keep that from happening. It's easier said than done.

Q. Could you also talk a little bit about the zone that they play in halfcourt. They kind of make it a point to pressure. Seems like it's more ball pressure than typical zone.

COACH PENNELL: It's a little bit like what we try to do. You really try to get into the ball, you kind of spread it a little bit, get in the passing lanes a little bit more. They're trying to obviously speed you up, try to make you make quick decisions. I think the key to attacking it is having a good idea where you want to go with the ball and then having a patience about you. To me, what makes Louisville so good is they can get you sped up. A lot times you might not even take a bad shot, but it's a quick shot. To me that's the beauty of their press, is that it's very offensive. It's not just a defense to try to stop you; they're trying to speed you up and make you play maybe out of control a little bit. Same thing with their zone. BILL BENNER: Thank you, coach.

COACH PENNELL: Thank you.

BILL BENNER: We're joined by Arizona student athletes. We'll open it up for questions.

Q. Chase, your coach said you guys spent most of your time out there in this practice on shooting, trying to get used to the arena, the size of it. You think you're going to have a problem with that or do you feel pretty comfortable out there?

Chase Budinger: I hope we don't have any problems. You know, today in shooting I thought we did a good job at making baskets. It is different for us because of the backdrop and the arena is so big. It's just something new to us. But, like I said, I thought we did a good job at shooting today.

Q. Nic, from what you've seen on film, can you talk about what their pressure looks like. The other teams you played, Washington, Kansas, do you feel it's comparable or is this different?

Nic Wise: You know, their press is a little different. Washington, you know, we handled their press pretty well. It's just the fact that they have so many guards that they rotate in and out, so their energy never drops off. Other teams that we played, they've pressed, but they don't have many subs or backups that can create that energy the whole game. And that's what they have.

Q. Jordan, statistically it looked like defensively you guys played some of your best ball last weekend. I'm wondering what the change was, either philosophically or in execution?

Jordan Hill: Basically, you know, we just try to attack our opponent first, you know, be the aggressor. We try to help each other out on rotations, try to get to our man as soon as possible once they catch the ball. Ball pressure has been a hundred percent from us. We just got to, you know, try to make it 110%, just try to get in the face of our opponent, let them pass the ball, we just keep rotating. Other than that, we've been doing a heck of a job doing what we have to do on the defensive end. Just got to continue it.

Nic Wise: We just been, like Jordan said, being the aggressor first. We've been using our adrenaline in the first couple minutes to press other teams, set the tone for our defense for the whole game in the first couple minutes of the game. That's been key for us.

Q. You didn't steamroll into the tournament the end of the season, things weren't going so well for you. Here it is a week or so later and you're in the Sweet 16. What happened in terms of your attitude or focus and the way you have prepared for the games?

Chase Budinger: With the last two games, I thought that we just used the energy that we had from making it into the tournament. You know, once we saw our names go up on the board, we were energized as a team. I thought we just brought that into the games and just used that. I thought our intensity was as best as we ever had it this year.

Jordan Hill: Yeah, I mean, we all felt that we belonged into the tournament. But it was up to the NCAA committee. Once we got the chance to get into the tournament, we got this opportunity, we just made the best of it and tried to go back to where we was before, and that's to be the best team that we possibly can, 'cause that's how we feel. So we just got to go out there and take it one step at a time, you know, just go out there and have fun, play basketball, do the things that we know we can do, we've been known to do.

Q. Do you feel at all that maybe earlier in the season you were underachieving? Did you always feel like you had the potential to make a run like this?

Nic Wise: Yeah, we did. But we really didn't find ourselves into mid season, after that Houston game. We kind of pushed the tempo on the offensive end, started creating more havoc on the defensive end. We kind of found ourselves in that Houston game, went on a 7 0 stretch where we beat some big time teams. That's where we knew. We were trying to find ourselves in the beginning of the season, trying a lot of different things. We knew we had the talent to do it, but we just had to find, you know, that scheme that best fits our style.

Chase Budinger: I mean, like Nic was saying, we were trying to find ourselves, and the coaches did a good job at kind of, you know, letting us loose towards the middle of the season, letting us start playing our game a little more. Once we did that, I thought we started playing better as a team. You know, I think we found ourselves then. And after that we knew we could play with anybody. BILL BENNER: Gentlemen, thank you.

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