Pitino/Coffey/McBrayer/Izzo Press Conferences -Richard: Winning is what sells your...


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Nov 5, 2008
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program more than anything.

Here is some of the coverage from the press conference. Both Coaches clearly have a lot of respect for on another, however, when Pitino was asked if it's almost easier preparing for a team you know when the short period of time, he replied: I would rather play somebody else and not know them. Lot of great nuggets from the Coaches and Players. Here are all things Press Conference related ->

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For those of you that want it all, here's the transcript:

Richard Pitino
Dupree McBrayer
Amir Coffey

Des Moines, Iowa

THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the dais our student-athletes from the University of Minnesota, Dupree McBrayer and Amir Coffey. Questions for our student-athletes?

Q. Amir, when this team was sort of at its low point late in the season, 7-10 in conference, from that point on you seem to have taken your game to a new level. Did you feel like at that point the team needed someone to lift it to get where it needed to go?
AMIR COFFEY: Not really. I just knew we had to stay the course and keep playing and, you know, we didn't really change anything. For offensive schemes or defense schemes, we just kept playing hard. Some of those games we were losing they were like 1-2 point games and we were close, but we had to overcome those losses and push through.

Q. Amir, playing Michigan State, good thing or bad thing? What do you remember about that first meeting?
AMIR COFFEY: I mean, we're going to be ready for anybody that is put up against us, so I would say it's a good thing. We're happy to play Michigan State or Bradley. The first time at their place, our offense just wasn't clicking. They had some good defense possessions on us and on the defense side we weren't rebounding very well. They had a lot of second-chance points and we were pretty bad in transition. So we're going to sharpen up on those three categories and be ready for tomorrow.

Q. Guys, the Big Ten hasn't had a match-up like this in the history of the NCAA Tournament, especially this early and since it's expanded to 64 teams. After the conference schedule, first of all how much of a grind was 20 games for you guys; and second of all, do you think it's fair that the Big Ten should be matched up this early in the tournament?
AMIR COFFEY: I mean, we don't really try to get into that. However, the NCAA Tournament does the seeds and the match-up is how they do it. We have no control over that. We just have to be ready for whoever we are matched up against. We try not to get into that.

DUPREE McBRAYER: Same thing as Amir said, we're not worried about who we playin', or like, how the seeding was. We're just ready to go out there and play hard.

Q. Dupree, Coach Pitino talks about how this team doesn't really have a pulse. Is that something that this unit takes pride in, it doesn't get rattled too easily, you're not too overly emotional?
DUPREE McBRAYER: I would say he's the one who is usually getting on us about, like, showing emotion and stuff like that. We don't get fazed and I think that really helps us because even though he gets on us and we're sitting there calm looking at him, like, with a blank face. I think that kinda helps us in the games.

Q. Amir, for you specifically in the first Michigan State match-up, was there anything they did to slow you down or was that just an off-night and what has to be different in the rematch?
AMIR COFFEY: I thought they were connected on the defensive end. They did well with the ball defense and guarding smash actions pretty well. So they were doing things like jumping to the ball and helping the helper. They just played solid that game. And I was off that night as well. So they just did a good job the first time.

Q. Amir, with a lot of ups and downs this season what have you learn about the resiliency of this group as one of the leaders of the team?
AMIR COFFEY: Just how resilient we are through the highs and lows. We have had some good points through the season and we've also had some low points. We went on a losing streak three or four games and everybody stayed confident and stayed the course. Just that, having that factor with our team really helps and I think it's one of the reasons why we got to this point.

Q. Amir, I was wondering when you guys are playing a Big Ten team obviously how is the prep different in this short turnaround? I know you only played 'em once, but it's a program you guys are familiar with versus prep for Louisville or other NCAA situations where it's a team that you don't have as much familiarity with. Can you go deeper because you are familiar or could you compare and contrast?
AMIR COFFEY: I would say on the Louisville prep we focused a little more on personnel and player tendencies because we've never played them before. With the prep like Michigan State, you can focus on what they're doing in their schemes because we already know all the players and what they like to do already. So I would say that's the biggest difference. But it's really the same, go over plays, watch film and get ready for the game.

Q. Dupree, you guys played in Chicago three games. Where is the fatigue factor coming out of a long stretch of games like that back-to-back-to-back coming out and getting ready for a NCAA Tournament?
DUPREE McBRAYER: Coach gave us some time off, two days. We were able to prepare. Got good reps in. Was able to take everything game like, so there is not really any fatigue.

Q. As a team yesterday, you guys really kind of had maybe your best shooting performance of the season, particularly Gabe. Is that something that you guys sort of think about for tomorrow? Is it just totally new game, new slate?
AMIR COFFEY: I would say it's a new slate. We gotta get past the last one, who shot the ball well. But it might not be like that tomorrow, so go into the game focusing on what we need to do and hopefully we shoot the ball like that again. It would obviously help us, but if we're not we gotta find different ways to score.

DUPREE McBRAYER: Same thing he said, new slate. Hopefully we shoot the ball that well tomorrow and if we don't we have to find a way to impact the game and make points.

Q. What would you guys have in your mind about how you thought fans would travel yesterday? When the crowd really got behind you, even for that early game, what did that feel like? What are you hoping for tomorrow maybe now that there is another chance for folks to make the 3 and a half hour drive down?
AMIR COFFEY: I mean, personally to me it kinda felt like a home game, just because of the simple fact that we had so many fans there and they were loud and active the whole game. So shout out to them for making that drive for us. They gave us a lot of energy. It was a really good turnout. When we got our seeding and found out we were playing here we were very hopeful that they would come out for us and they did.

DUPREE McBRAYER: Yeah, definitely felt like a home game. The place mostly felt like a lot of Gopher fans and we're really thankful for their support and hopefully we get the same crowd tomorrow.

Q. Amir, did you ever have a conversation with Coach Pitino about increasing your minutes to the point where you were really going to be playing full games here down the stretch? And do you embrace that as part of your skill set to be able to play 40 a game?
AMIR COFFEY: I mean, he didn't really mention it to me that I was going to start playing the full game. I think it's something that he just tried out, and I think it really just goes on a game-to-game basis. So if I come out or not it's just whatever helps the team, but there was no conversation there.

First time playing for him it was tough at first, just getting my fatigue right. But after a while I kinda got used to it. After the second or third game I kinda got used to it and just gave the team what I had.

Q. Amir, being someone that grew up in Minnesota and having the chance to win an NCAA Tournament game yesterday, what does that do for you and kind of the pride of being from Minnesota?
AMIR COFFEY: It was really cool. Especially for the other guys from Minnesota on the team. You know, just being from Minnesota and having it across your chest winning an NCAA Tournament game, especially in front of all of our fans that made that drive for us. It was a special feeling.

Q. Amir, obviously your dad played for the Gophers. What was his reaction after the win and what did he say to you?
AMIR COFFEY: He was excited, obviously. I looked over at him a couple times during the game and he was yelling and on his feet. He definitely had high energy. Just told me what I could do better, gave me tips on my shot and just was excited for myself and my teammates and said to keep going.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thanks very much. Best of luck tomorrow.

Pleased to welcome Coach Richard Pitino.

RICHARD PITINO: Obviously excited for our program and our players to be able to advance in this tournament. Being here two years ago was great, and, you know, as a program you're always trying to move forward. So to be able to improve on getting to the tournament and advancing is huge. I loved the way that we played. Obviously we won, but I thought we played very, very well in every phase yesterday versus Louisville. Our guys battled and now we gotta be ready, obviously, because Michigan State, terrific, terrific team who is playing as good as any team in the country. They've got Cassius Winston who is probably one of the best point guards in the country and a lot of really good pieces around them, and obviously Coach Izzo does a terrific job. So it's going to be a tough job for us, but we're excited for the opportunity.

Q. Coach, what have you seen differently from Michigan State in the paint with Tillman obviously replacing Ward as far as their go-to guy inside?
RICHARD PITINO: Ward is still a factor. They've got a lot of depth. Unfortunately, they've dealt with some injuries. But they're still going to be who Michigan State is. The bigs are going to run court, duck you in early, pound the glass. They're relentless, you know. They're physically relentless and that's been the consistent theme with that team every single year that we've played them. So there is not a whole lot of drop-off.

Q. Obviously this is a unique situation having Michigan State in the second round. Is it actually a benefit for you just having the short turnaround time and being able to prep for the game because you know their team so well already?
RICHARD PITINO: I would rather place somebody else and not know them. I guess from a prep standpoint it's easier, but just because we know who they are, obviously we know they're very, very good. I'm not sure it's an advantage, necessarily, but from a short prep time, these guys know what Michigan State is all about. We got a lot of respect for how they do things. It's important to get rest. When you play a physical game like we played yesterday it's important to get rest. But watching the film and putting together a game plan on the court as well as in the film room is important.

Q. What's the difference in your team between now and the one we saw in East Lansing in February.
RICHARD PITINO: That was not a very good team at the time. We were struggling, allowing them to get out on the break. Cassius was very good. McQuaid was very good. Nick Ward really hurt us down low. Curry went down with calf issues. Playing at Michigan State is very, very hard. But we've got some confidence going now, beat Purdue twice in ten days. They're a terrific team, went in and beat a surging Penn State team and beat a Louisville team yesterday. So probably a confidence factor, feeling those wins, tasting them, offensively we played well and defensively did a lot of good things.

So I think more than anything playing in the middle of the Big Ten versus the NCAA Tournament, probably mentally these guys are more locked in and feeling great about where they are and also understanding the challenges that lie ahead.

Q. Richard this will be your 24th game against a Big Ten opponent, same with Michigan State. I'm curious with the 20-game schedule and the way the brackets fell out, do you think it was fair or just, I know you guys can only do what the Committee gives you. But should the Big Ten have been matched up this early and also with a chance to have a 25th game if Maryland gets through for one of you guys?
RICHARD PITINO: You're not going to hear me complain. I don't care who we play. You're never going to hear me complain about that. We're going to play who is in front of us. Michigan State is a terrific team. In order to go to a Sweet 16 you're never going to play easy games. We take what we get. We're excited to be in this tournament and obviously excited about an opportunity to go play for the Sweet 16.

Q. Kenny Goins have been a player for Michigan State who has been a pivotal role player all year. He's struggled as of late, but how do you game plan for a guy who has been in so many different roles throughout the years?
RICHARD PITINO: Testament to him that he's gotten so much better. Works his butt off. Obviously his story is great, can shoot the ball, last night didn't shoot as well. But he's a much better shooter than that. The things they will put you in, run pick and pops, run ball screens, dive him, lift the 4 man up. So you've got to be ready to guard him. And a three-point shot that's part of their offense and they're going to rebound it. For him he's very versatile, tough, and he has the ability to stretch the defense. So it's a tough match-up for us.

Q. Given the extended run in the Big Ten tournament this is looking at the fifth game in a really short period of time. How comfortable are you energy-wise with where your guys are at and what have you done to keep them fresh with this unique situation?
RICHARD PITINO: Yeah, I mean, obviously with Matz who is going through the concussion protocol and Jordan Murphy who had back spasms yesterday and guys playing major minutes. Amir Coffey didn't come out. Dupree played a lot. Rest is important. As a coach, you've got to make sure that whatever you do with your team benefits the team not necessarily you as a coach. Coaches sometimes like to make themselves feel better on the practice court where it may not always be beneficial for them. So with one day off, you gotta get rest. It's very, very important to keep them off their feet and make sure they are getting rehab and all those things and also understand what the game plan is.

Q. Richard, watching your team since you played Michigan State earlier in the season, you guys have evolved. You're not the same team. I'm curious how has Michigan State evolved or have they stayed the course?
RICHARD PITINO: They're always pretty good. You know, I mean, they've been pretty consistent since I've coached against them. They've got the certain pillars or the way they want to play. They don't deviate from them a whole lot. Cassius is so rock solid with everything that he does. Nick Ward on and off with injuries. Those younger guys are getting better. Henry is an X factor for them on the glass. They've been good for a long time. Coach Izzo is one of the best for a reason. They are a good basketball team and they beat Michigan three times and Michigan is a really, really good team.

Q. Coaches yesterday found some spotlight for heated interaction with Aaron Henry. What's your take on how that unfolded from watching the video of it? Could you comment on what your reaction to basically the national reaction has been? There has been some negative and positive, but there has been a lot of it, regardless. What's your take on that?
RICHARD PITINO: I can tell you this, I'm not surprised that there is outrage. There is outrage with everything that goes on with everything that any of us do, so that's not a surprise. As for Coach Izzo, I've coached against him for six years and I've never seen a group of players that play harder, respect and love more than Coach Izzo. He's going to be hard on them, but every single player when he talks to them, arm around them. He's tough on them. He should be tough on them. He's in the Hall of Fame, and I didn't see too much of all of that. But I know his players love playing for him. I was at Michigan State when they had the National Championship team with Magic Johnson and all those guys that came back, and I don't know how many missed that. That's a testament to Coach Izzo. Those players are lucky to play for him. Every time I coach against him I learn something from him, so I have 1000% respect for him more than any other coach I've ever faced.

Q. Richard, just being from in the locker room now and on Wednesday seems like your team has a good camaraderie off the court. In your opinion, how does that translate on the court and do you put much stock in the whole team chemistry thing?
RICHARD PITINO: It's important from a chemistry standpoint to have off the court a respect level for each other as human beings and obviously as teammates. It's important but you've got to develop that on the court, too. That's just as important as being friends, hanging out together. There's got to be a chemistry on the court in the heat of the battle, when adversity hits being able to talk to each other, being able to push each other, being able to address something on the court the right way talking to each other and you're probably going to do. You're going to be better at that if you like each other and respect each other. Winning helps that, having good kids like we do also helps that as well.

Q. Richard, certainly Izzo is not going to let Gabe take open looks. What is the counter to how you expect Michigan State to defend him?
RICHARD PITINO: You know, Louisville has got a terrific defense and offensively I thought we executed very well. We rebounded the ball well. It all starts with us with our defense. If we can defend we can rebound and it allows us to get out on the break. That's been kind of the ingredient for us all year. When we've been good we've been able to defend. It's all about execution. We're all going to know everything that we're doing this time of year. It's just a matter of how hard do you cut, how hard do you screen, how well do you move the ball and share it?

Q. Richard, the last seven games are arguably the best stretch of Amir's career. Looking at the big picture how have you seen him develop the last three years to get to where he is now?
RICHARD PITINO: Just been a normal, natural progression. Everybody is in a rush to skip steps. For Amir he was An All-freshman player in the Big Ten. Played the most minutes in the league for a team that was a 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and last year he was playing well and unfortunately he had season-ending surgery. He's healthy and he's reliable and what he's attacking the right way he's tough to keep in front and tough when he's getting to the basket. He's played a lot of games forty minutes. That's hard to do. He's quietly a fierce, fierce competitor.

Q. Coach, you spoke about Gabe's professionalism and work ethic. How have you tried to use that as an example for other guys or has it inherently rubbed on off on them?
RICHARD PITINO: There is no better peer pressure than seeing somebody like Gabe when you break for practice and you can either go to the locker room, the training room, you can shoot half court shots, mess around with your teammates or Gabe Kalscheur will go straight to the corner and do a shooting routine, doesn't matter. He did it today. Doesn't matter where we are, when we're playing, what game we played the night before, that does not affect him. When he shoots free throws and he does his free throw shooting routine. Every free throw he points up to the sky for whatever reason. He does that when he is practicing. He is methodical in his approach and you see what he did last night. I would hope that would motivate our guys. It would motivate me.

Q. Obviously we know yesterday Jordan is going to play regardless, but how is he doing healthwise; and Matz, if he doesn't play what do you like from the guys off the bench?
RICHARD PITINO: Matz is going through the concussion protocol, so it's day-by-day there. We don't really know. Jordan has improved. He was struggling, laboring through that second half. We got a lot of treatment for him. We didn't go full-go today in practice by any means, but we held him out. But I would anticipate knowing the way I know Jordan I would be very surprised if he doesn't play.

Q. When you first started recruiting Gabe Kalscheur what were a few things that stood out about him?
RICHARD PITINO: The ability to hit shots. I know he played on a really good AAU team and he would have games where he would hit five, six threes. I did see kind of like that business-like approach, which I really liked. He's a good person, cares about being a good person, cares about winning.

Those are guys that the more I'm in the Big Ten you win with guys like that. Guys that are smart players, take this thing seriously, not afraid of contact, not afraid to guard the best player. I mean, it's kind of amazing because he didn't have a lot of high, major offers. But he was a guy that we identified with, we didn't care about rankings or anything like that and we wanted him. He's been a great player, had a really good freshman year.

Q. Coach, you talk about how even keeled this team is. You have used the phrase that they didn't have a pulse?
RICHARD PITINO: Did I say that?

Q. I think so. And guys like Amir are competitive. Do you think that even keel approach is a form of competitiveness and how do you see it play out?
RICHARD PITINO: I think it's a strength. I do think when you're in the Big Ten and you're playing 20 league games and you're in, like we talked about, all the outrage in today's world you can't get too high or too low. You really can't, because it's going to happen. There is no running from that part of it in our profession today, especially with social media. So you need to be able to, if you lose two or three in a row in the Big Ten you just gotta move on. You've got to learn from every single game that you play in. Guys have had nights where they haven't hit shots and they've stayed the course. You have to do that. It's a long, long season.

We're playing our best basketball now and I think a lot of that has to do with kinda the mentality of the team. They really don't get too high. They really don't get too low.

Q. Just how do you see your bigs, whether it's Daniel and Jordan or whoever else off the bench matching up against Xavier Tillman, Ward and Goins?
RICHARD PITINO: It's not easy. They're big, strong, physical, and you try to game plan for it, but when you don't have that on your roster it's hard to see. So obviously playing against them opens our eyes a little bit. But there is not a lot of front courts with that size and that physicality and as relentless as they are. We're going to have to do a great job on those guys. That's extremely important when you're playing Michigan State.

Q. Coach, winning an NCAA Tournament game hasn't happened much in the last 20 years. What does that do for the program moving forward and obviously having kids on the team from Minnesota having big moments like Gabe and Daniel and Amir?
RICHARD PITINO: Yeah, when you are building a program, winning, facilities, all that stuff is great, but at the end of the day winning is what sells your program more than anything. From a recruiting standpoint when you see a guy like Gabe Kalscheur and Daniel and Amir and Jarvis and Michael, those are five kids playing in a NCAA Tournament game and helping us win and advance, that sells more than anything else. Their families are in the stands, and, you know, they're excited about it. You see an arena that's filled with Gopher fans. That's what playing college basketball is all about. You see these players are getting better and getting that exposure. That's a dream come true. To hear Gabe Kalscheur I get chills and I'm not just saying that, but to hear Kevin Harlan calling that, that's special even for me. Winning helps and you need to be able to capitalize off that success and continue to get good recruiting classes.

Q. Did you do anything to commemorate the win or do you have any well wishes that you would like to speak of?
RICHARD PITINO: I went to dinner. Is that something? I went to dinner with my wife and my brother. No, other than that, just move on. It's a great win, you know? It's a great win. But in this tournament, it's like anything else, I told our team you got to the tournament which is a goal. Are you just happy to be here or would you like to make some noise? Obviously they showed the ability to do that versus a really good Louisville team. Now you've got your one game away from a Sweet 16. You've got to beat a really, really good Michigan State team. So, no, I didn't do anything besides get a bite to eat and watch film and try to find our guys a way to beat a really, really good Michigan State team.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
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