March 19, 2009

KEVIN KLINTWORTH: Now, up in the interview room, University of California student athletes, Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher.

Q. Can both of you guys talk about the idea that you're a junior team and this is the first time you've been here, but are you thinking about how this is a building block, or is it important to get something done in this tournament?

PATRICK CHRISTOPHER: I'll start. Since we're a junior team, I think it's basically been about progression since our freshman year. We started off, you know, we had underachieving freshman year, didn't have any post-season play. From there, the next year, you know, a bit of progress. Made it to the NIT, little bit short of the NCAA Tournament, and now here we are. You know, we have a new coach. We've grown a lot I think and matured and, you know, made some steps, and here we are.

JEROME RANDLE: Well, I think a lot had to do with pride. We started off lot of people putting us under the bus, probably saying we're going to finish 8th in our league.

I think we took it a little personally and worked hard just getting here, just building our confidence a little bit and, you know, just to know that we're all juniors and probably be coming back next year, you know, now we just feel like, you know, I mean, we are a good team and we can make a run.

Q. Patrick, what I was getting at is sort of what Jerome said at the end there: Do you feel like it's enough to be here this year, or do you guys want to get something done now that you're here this year? Do you not want to look ahead at this point play for the now?

PATRICK CHRISTOPHER: Definitely playing for now. It's a competitive sport. We don't come here to lose. We come here to win as many games as possible, and I mean that's basically the bottom line.

JEROME RANDLE: We can't get complacent about being here. It's great being here on this stage, but we don't want to just lose a game and go home. I mean, we obviously want to win, and that's exactly what we're focused on right now.

Q. When Coach Montgomery shows up, you know, every coach has a different style. What was his style to like win you guys over?

JEROME RANDLE: One thing I was impressed by Coach Montgomery, I mean, he wasn't taking anything away from our game. You know, we had a lot of individual workouts and, you know, he just put everybody in a position to be successful. He didn't tell us not to shoot the ball or not to do this or not do that. He was just trying to make us, you know, better players, you know, defensively, offensively, and just being smart out there on the floor.

So, I mean, that's what he contributes to the team.

PATRICK CHRISTOPHER: I would say obviously he has a great resume as a head coach and I believe him being able to get the best out of his players regardless of who they are.

So, from day one, everything was kind of like he instilled defense in us and just telling us to take pride in defense and, you know, prior to this year, we scored the basketball very well, probably one of the highest team in the PAC-10, but we also gave up the most points.

So, if we could have played both ends of the floor, I believe we would have been successful and, you know, it's written.

Q. Can you guys talk about the difficulties in slowing down Vasquez and how much you're looking forward to stopping him?

JEROME RANDLE: Well, this is a team game. You have to play team defense. It's going to be -- they're going to play great team defense. We're not going to focus so much on him. We're going to just play basketball. I mean, he can't win a whole game by hisself, you know, he needs the rest of his teammates. He's definitely number one on our list, but we have to just contain him and just be smart out there and just play our game.

PATRICK CHRISTOPHER: Probably very crafty scorer as far as getting into the lane, and he has a variety of different ways to score the ball. So he's definitely a tough player. Like Jerome said, we're going to do our best to contain him.

KEVIN KLINTWORTH: Any more questions for the Cal student athletes? Thanks, guys.

University of California head coach, Mike Montgomery.

Q. When you get hired to do this job and you're going to get a whole set of players that are already in there and established, can you describe what your approach is to turn them into your players, to win them over?

COACH MIKE MONTGOMERY: Well, we haven't done that yet totally, but I think the approach is to get to know them, find out what they are all about, find out what their strengths and weaknesses are.

I think it's tough on kids if you just come in and you say, "Look, it's my way or the highway." I think you need to try to accommodate them a little bit and try to allow them to have some success based on what they've been able to do and try to blend and work them towards what you think is going to be successful ultimately.

The fact that these kids were willing to learn, that they were willing to listen, that they wanted to be good, they wanted to be successful made my job a lot easier, but there's been a lot of give and take.

There's things that we have to do better ultimately, but rather than just pound them into the ground, we kind of tried to take the approach, let's see about them, see where they are.

Didn't want to have preconceived notions about, you know, what people might have said about them or, oh, you can't win with him or he can't do this. Let's let them prove what they can do to me and we'll go from there.

Q. Can you talk about the progress that -- from what you've seen that Jerome has made from last year to this year?

COACH MIKE MONTGOMERY: Well, Jerome is first and foremost a very good player. He's a very skilled player. He's got -- he really, really wants to be good. I think like most young people, if you can prove to them that you maybe have some idea of what you're talking about, that there's something there for -- that can help them, they're going to listen to you, and he's been great.

We started off with a conversation really about Brevin Knight and experiences I had with a small guard from the East that had a little bit of attitude when he started and how I understood him and how we worked through it.

He's made great progress. Some of the things that maybe he didn't do, that he was criticized for, it's maybe because he didn't know what to do, and that happens a lot to kids. They don't have all the answers. So, when we've asked him to do something, he has responded, and he can really shoot the ball and he's very quick. So he's been a real pleasant surprise.

Q. Do you see a scenario if it gets tight, he and Vasquez, they both seem to want to take over games, you might get a scenario like that?

COACH MIKE MONTGOMERY: No, I think it would be dangerous if we got in a situation like that. They're a little bit different players. I think Vasquez is a better passer. He's 6-6. He can see over people and pass over people. He can finish at the basket easier than Jerome can.

Jerome has to do what he can do. Certainly late in the games, Jerome has won a lot of games for us from shooting from it deep. But they're really totally different type of players, and I don't -- I wouldn't want to come -- I wouldn't want it to come to that. We've got other people need to be involved, and Jerome has to keep them involved.

Q. When you looked at Maryland, did it seem that you were looking at a different team in the second half of the year, the last ten, twelve games, than did you the first half?

COACH MIKE MONTGOMERY: Well, we didn't watch much the first half. I think it's pretty obvious they were getting in a situation where it was getting to the point where they needed to win some games to have a chance to play in the tournament. Gary as he would want to do in a lot of situations, got it turned, around and the kids kind of came together.

You know, in the ACC you've got a chance for some real quality wins, night in, night out. You're going to play good people.

We checked statistically the last ten games, and their numbers are way up in terms of their shooting percentages, all a that kind of stuff. It's pretty job obvious they're playing much better now.

Any other questions?

Q. As far as the different experiences, your previous college job at Stanford and this one, Cal, is make I go the move from one to the other -- you were in the middle in the pros, is it very different, is it somewhat similar?

COACH MIKE MONTGOMERY: The schools or just as time has gone on?

Q. The experience of coaching at each those programs.

COACH MIKE MONTGOMERY: No. Kids are kids, and, you know, they're obviously different schools, private, public, you name it, Palo Alto, Berkeley, all the things that you might want to compare the two schools or two institutions, but they're both great institutions academically. So there's a lot of similarities there.

You walk around campus, there's a lot of really bright kids on campus with really high aspirations for themselves, but, you know, ultimately what you have is kids that want to play basketball, and that's what we have.

So there's not that much difference. I think probably the difference, just the four years I was out and maybe when I started many, many years ago, is recruiting has changed drastically, and that continues to evolve as always. You really got to stay on top of the latest and the greatest ways to recruit.

But, no. You find kids that want to compete, want to be lead, want discipline. When you have a little success, that helps you a great deal because they're more willing to listen to you. So, no, there's not -- you know, not appreciable differences institutionally.

Q. When you were watching film, what did you make of Dave Neal and the role he kind of played in the Maryland offense?

COACH MIKE MONTGOMERY: It's what a lot of people are doing. It makes it very difficult to defend because you've got a guy that's a big enough guy to play inside and compete and board and defend your big guys, yet he's a pick-and-pop guy. He's a great shooter, you know, so now all your screens are set, usually with your bigs, and the big comes out, whatever you're going to do handle a screen, you know, and then he steps off and he's got great range, and he can shoot from three.

It's just what you're seeing a lot more in college basketball now. People seem to be getting a great deal of advantage from skilled big people as compared to just monster back-to-basket guys, and he's a good one. He shoots the ball very well, and so all of a sudden, you're trying to help on a pick and roll or be in a help side situation with a big that's stepped off. He'll make you pay for it. He's been very valuable for them.

KEVIN KLINTWORTH: Have any other questions?

Q. You mentioned recruiting. Do you find that in the four years that you were gone, do you think that your ability to recruit has somewhat diminished because you were away from it, or do you think that your ability to recruit has somewhat improved because now kids are attracted to a guy who has been an NBA coach?

COACH MIKE MONTGOMERY: I think there there's some attraction to the NBA. I'm not going to tell them any different. There are people -- you take -- oh, yeah, that's right, whatever people want to think. We're going to get you there.

Recruiting is -- I've been doing that a long time. Recruiting has always been a little bit of figuring out the latest way to get an edge, whatever that might be.

The four years you're away, there's been a lot of progress in getting the edge. You kind of have to get reacclimated to how people are finding kids, how they're getting contacts with kids, how kids are getting to campus, all those kinds of things, and that's really the biggest challenge.

You know, it always seemed common sense or logic said to me that you went into a kid's home, you talk to the family said, "Look, we've got this level of education, we play in this conference, you're going to play here, do this." And that was it. That's just not recruiting.

There's a lot of early contact, how long have you been there, what kind of relationship developed, who you develop the relationships with, what that relationship is with the kid. That stuff just changes daily.

Q. Coach, this is probably just a media-type angle question, but did you notice when the brackets came out that kind of the irony with Coach Bozeman being here -- I know you guys are in separate regions and all that -- but the fact that he was a former Cal coach and kind of you guys are in the same city for this regional?

COACH MIKE MONTGOMERY: You know, I suppose that to some people there would be some irony there. To me, it couldn't be less of an issue or deal or anything else. I coached against Todd, obviously, years ago and had a good relationship with Todd.

He got caught in an unfortunate situation and had I been at the -- at Cal at the time, there probably would have been some feelings one way or the other, but I didn't really have any because I wasn't there and didn't know all of the circumstances.

I think from a humanistic standpoint I'm happy to see he's rebounded and got back in and now able to get his team to a tournament and -- but as far as the angle that he was at Cal, no, there's not much there.

Q. With the strong backcourts that these two teams have, do you expect an up-tempo game tomorrow?

COACH MIKE MONTGOMERY: I think both coaches would like to get out and get the stuff that comes off of break, if you can. I don't want them to have it. I don't want Vasquez in the open court any more than I can prevent it from happening. It also means that if they're in the open court, we probably missed shots.

So obviously both are comfortable in the open court because of the skill sets. Neither team have back to basket, pound them out, grind them out type teams. Both are probably comfortable in the open court. We get a lot of good slots in the open court if we can get it. It means -- for either team it means defending, boarding out, letting and running.

I don't think you're going see that because I would say typically in the NCAA things slow down a little bit, possessions become more valued. You become a little more conservative what you try to do as time goes on, but I know from my perspective I would sure like to get some numbers off the break, and I'm sure Gary feels the same way.

Q. Mike, can you talk about Omondi? Is he going to be ready, or do you have any idea?

COACH MIKE MONTGOMERY: He's not ready today. Didn't practice. He's missed all week. We're keeping our fingers tweaked.

Q. Talk about the notion that you're a junior team but you're here now and this isn't about next year, it's about taking advantage of this moment even though you have the chance perhaps to come back a year from now.

COACH MIKE MONTGOMERY: You don't ever take anything for granted. You know, this is a tough business. Teams in the NCAA that have juniors, a lot of times don't have seniors, if memory serves me correctly. I hope that's not the case for anybody. I think kids should stay for all four years and get their degrees, but you don't look forward to anything -- this is an opportunity for these kids.

They've earned it, played hard. It's a reward for a job well done, but you also can't come into the tournament -- this is the first time for these kids. So, you know, how they're going to react, you don't know. You don't want them to come in with the idea that hey, this is just the icing on the cake. This is the cake. That is what you play for in college basketball.

We've got to have the right mindset to have a chance to win. We're going to approach it -- my approach is going to be that, look, you know, we take it -- the longer you play well, if you play as well as you can, you're going to have a chance to win. Doesn't guarantee you anything.

I think when you get -- I'd say six, six and above, your seed, I think your teams are, you know -- five and 12, there's probably a little bit of an advantage. I think six, 11, seven, ten, you know, obviously eight, nine, it's pretty much somebody's judgement. They're all pretty good teams. You're going to play a team that's pretty comparable to yourself. You're going to have to play your best game. You don't really know where kids' minds are.

I know they love to compete. I know when the ball goes, they'll try to find a way to do some things.

Q. Now you're going to hear the real New York question. Not as coach of Cal but as a guy who is very involved in the college basketball scene, there -- are you curious to see what the Big East can do now that it's been lauded with these 3 seeds and these seven teams?

COACH MIKE MONTGOMERY: Big East. Are they Division I? (Laughter) I guess that means yes. You know, the Big East is a heck of a basketball conference{.} A lot of those guys in that league, {coaches} are friends of mine.

I hope they lose every game. I don't really have a feeling one way or the other. I don't get too caught up in all that stuff. Everything that happens at this time of year is magnified, as you know, and it's kind of funny to watch.

It's amusing to go watch a little bit. I always think back to the five months that every one of these teams has been put in up to this time when nobody really knew what they were doing on the floor and how much hard work and effort has gone into getting here.

The Big East was obviously very strong. We didn't play a Big East school this year and, you know, they have a certain style, and it's become very much a basketball conference and its major cities and get obviously major coverage, both print and electronic.

So obviously with three No. 1's, you know, you're interested, I supposed to play on your angle here a little bit to see if all three seeds can make it to the end, which, you know, odds would say no and if they don't, more power to them, and the committee really hit it right.

Any other questions for Coach Montgomery? Thank you, Coach.

 

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MARYLAND QUOTES

KEVIN KLINTWORTH: Now, up in the interview room, the University of Maryland. Student athletes, Greivis Vasquez, Dave Neal, and Landon Milbourne.

Q. Dave, I'll start with you. Tendency, maybe expectations from around the country, the so-called experts might be a little bit lower than in years past for this program. Is it cool with you if teams around country, people around the country, underestimate Maryland this time around. Are you ready to defy those expectations?

DAVE NEAL: Yeah. I mean, being the underdog, people maybe have a chance of overlooking you. Kind of being a ten seed, people don't talk about the ten seed being a great team. I know how well we're playing the game right now. We're playing extremely well.

We've won some big games coming down the stretch. If you want to overlook us, that's fine. If they do that, that gives us a great chance to make a run here in the NCAA Tournament.

LANDON MILBOURNE: I don't really have a problem with it, personally. I think our team really likes that. You know, I think we've been against a lot of adversity throughout the whole season, and we've done a pretty good job of proving people wrong and showing up for big games. It's just another stepping stone and another way to prove everybody wrong.

Q. This year has been kind of a rollercoaster, I guess, a lot of the criticism, I guess here and there for Coach and that kind thing, Greivis. How satisfying is it to kind have the validation of being here at the NCAA Tournament?

GREIVIS VASQUEZ: We're really happy. We're not satisfied. We made it to the tournament. We definitely are going to try to make a run and win games. So, I mean, we just only thinking about California because I think we've got a great chance to win the game, but we also know that those guys have -- are pretty good. It's going to be hard for us, but just like I say, I'm happy to make it, but I just want to make a run. I want to go to a Sweet 16 or something so I can never forget about this year.

Q. How has the season been because some criticism here and there of Coach and kind of been an interesting year, to say the least. How have you guys dealt with it from the lows to the highs and everything in between?

GREIVIS VASQUEZ: We have a great group of guys on this team. I think our team is my family. We feel like family. We're all brothers and all care about each other and yes, we did, we went through a lot of whole season, but we were tough, and then we won some big games at the end, and that shows -- that shows everybody how tough we are and how much we care about each other. I think our team is about, you know, winning and playing hard and then just giving the best effort.

Q. To talk more specifically about that, there was a reference made to Coach getting some grief in the middle of the season wherever it was from. You guys had a very close relationship with him, and I know each one of you thinks the world of Gary. Did it blow you away in a way that there was talk about Gary and, you know, his role in fitness and job stability and that sort of thing?

DAVE NEAL: I mean, as a team it made us extremely upset. Coach Williams had a great deal of success at the University of Maryland. Since I've been here ,we've made it to the NCAA Tournament two times in the last four years, and I mean that's tough. That's a great thing.

Lot of teams don't make that four-year span at all. The fact that we're back here for the second time in my career, I think is awesome, and with what Coach Williams did with this team this year, coming in this year, people didn't think we were going to win more than 13, 14 games. The fact we won 20 games and beat Wake Forest, UNC, shows how great Coach Williams can be as a coach.

I think it showed a lot of people that Coach Williams, even though people were talking bad about him, he's not going to quit. He's going to work hard. He loves the University of Maryland and wants to see a team like us be as successful as we are this year, and he's worked hard. He never quit. He just -- we had his back through the whole entire season. I think we showed him that we loved Coach Williams, because some of the times in the papers they really got him pretty bad. We would come out the next night and play extremely hard and win a game people didn't think we were going to win. We showed it the way we played the next night when we were upset. I just think Coach Williams, we just -- we love him to death. They're nights he won't sleep for three nights in a row because he's watching so much game tape because he wants to win the game. We used that as motivation just to show how great of a coach Coach Williams really is.

KEVIN KLINTWORTH: Anyone else for the Maryland student athletes? Okay, guys. Thank you.

Coach Gary Williams, the University of Maryland. Coach, a quick opening statement and we'll have Q's and A's.

COACH GARY WILLIAMS: Well, I think our team worked really hard to get here to the tournament. Probably a couple weeks ago, we weren't in there. We appreciate the fact that we're playing in the NCAA and, you know, it's great to be here, and we've played some of our best basketball down the stretch to get here, and hopefully we can continue to play well.

So, we're looking forward to this and certainly playing a good team in Cal. I've known Mike Montgomery for awhile. He does a great job wherever he's been as a coach. They're playing very well right now, also.

Q. Coach, you and Greivis Vasquez seem to have a pretty unique relationship. You guys sort of share a personality and have kind of a good bond. Could you just talk about what kind guy he is and kind of the relationship you two have?

COACH GARY WILLIAMS: I admire what he's done. He came here from Venezuela and basically had to learn how to speak English as he progressed as a basketball player. The thing about Greivis, he wants to win about everything else, and that's how I've always been as a coach. Winning is the most important thing. And he'll sacrifice; in other words, he'll rebound, play defense, handle the ball, in addition to his scoring, if that's what makes us a better basketball team, gives us a better chance to win. He's always had that. You get a couple guys on your team like that, then you're going to keep getting better, you're going to keep improving as a team and he really had quite a bit of determination this year for us to make the NCAA Tournament. It was a big goal of his, and I think that can cheer through to the rest of the team.

Q. Gary, I'm wondering if you always saw him blossom into a guy that can contribute as much as he is right now?

COACH GARY WILLIAMS: I didn't know. Dave had a great hight school career, but he was hurt every year. He had a shoulder problem three straight years. I think he had three different operations. And this year he's been healthy. So I really think this is more the true Dave Neal than our fans have got to see in his first three years because he wasn't really in the kind of basketball shape that you need to be.

Now he's showing just how good he can be, and he's really played well for us. He's given us an inside game that's pretty strong, that knows how to get position, and he's a {good} shooter. He can shoot the ball.

Q. As your lone senior, can you talk about how you maybe leaned on him or how he's helped you communicate with the rest of the players?

COACH GARY WILLIAMS: Yeah. I think Dave knows me pretty well and he's willing to take some heat at practice for the benefit of the team. In other words, I can get on Dave and doesn't really bother Dave. He's ready to go, and it gets the other guys' attentions, and I think that's helped us. Plus I really respect Dave because a lot of guys, you know, they could have just taken it easy this senior year, because he's been hurt the first three years but he dedicated himself to being a player this year for us and we really needed him. We're not a real big team. We don't have a great deal of size, so Dave has been very important for us.

Q. You've had kind of an interesting year, I guess to put it one way. You've taken some grievance publicly as far as your recruiting approach. Have you had to evolve that approach just over the last seven, eight years to kind of keep up with the way this game changes?

COACH GARY WILLIAMS: I just -- we've been to the NCAA Tournament 13 out of 16 years. So, I mean, the recruiting thing, you know, if you judge recruiting on names is one thing but you should judge recruiting on wins, who wins.

I think people lose that nowadays sometimes with all the attention recruiting gets. The idea is still to win. The idea is to get to the NCAA Tournament. As I've said, we've been here 13 out of 16 years. Either I'm a hell of a coach or we're pretty good recruiters.

KEVIN KLINTWORTH: Any other questions for Coach?

Thank you, Coach Williams.

COACH GARY WILLIAMS: Thank you.