March 21, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started and take questions for the student athletes of Marquette.
Q. Maurice and Wesley, you saw yesterday probably some of the pressing that Missouri did against Cornell. You guys are going to be handling a lot of the ball handling duties at the guard position. How are you guys going to combat the press tomorrow?
WESLEY MATTHEWS: I think playing in the Big East gave us an advantage over a lot of teams we have been pressed before, we have against Louisville, who was number one ranked team in the country and we did a great job against that.
We're just going to have to do what we do. We're going to have to move the ball, be smart with it, but be aggressive at the same time. I think the reason why they cause a lot of turnovers is because people are being tentative and that's not our style of play. We got to be aggressive, but we got to be smart at the same time.
MAURICE ACKER: Yeah, just go off of Wesley, just pretty much basically being smart and aggressive. Again, we done been through like some of the toughest traps in the nation or whatever, so we got some experience with that. So basically come out and do what we do.
Q. Wesley and Lazar, if a coach came to you when they were recruiting you and said, Yeah, we want you to come and play 24 or 25 minutes a game, would you go with that coach?
WESLEY MATTHEWS: I don't know. I think that a lot more would have to go into that than just talking about minutes. How are you going to play those 24 or 25 minutes? How is the institution? How is the program? Are you winning?
I think a lot goes into choosing a program than just how many minutes you're going to play.
LAZAR HAYWARD: I go off of what Wesley said a little bit. I think also the style of the team's play. The type of character guys that are on the team also as long as the institution and the type of the coach that they have.
Q. To follow that up, obviously that's the case at Missouri. And other people have said that most high quality recruits would tend to hesitate before going into a system like that. So that's the point of the discussion. Can you address it from that point?
WESLEY MATTHEWS: In that case, Missouri, they got nine high major players. They are very active on both ends of the court, offensively and defensively. They like to move, play quick, play fast, so you're not going to be able to do that for 40 minutes. It doesn't matter who you are, you're not going to be able to do that at the highest level for 40 minutes.
So in that sense if you like that type of tempo, that type of style, that type of pace, then 25, 26 minutes is not bad at all.
Q. Wesley, talk about the state of basketball in Wisconsin? We saw Wisconsin last night. Obviously you guys are having a great season. Just having grown up in the state, what the state of basketball is like in Wisconsin .
WESLEY MATTHEWS: I think it's growing. I think that has a lot to do with the foundation that the players have set before us at both Marquette, Wisconsin, I mean, even Green Bay, UW Milwaukee, and the recruiting from the coaches. The coaches have been doing a great job getting people all over the country to come to their program, their institution and play. So I think it goes hand in hand with the players developing and the coaches expanding outside of their region.
Q. Going back to the other question, Wesley, I think you just said, if I heard you correctly, that no matter who you are, you can't play 40 minutes at Missouri's pace, but you, Jerel, Lazar each played 37, 38 and 39 minutes last game. Do you anticipate the rotations to be a little bit different against the Tigers than on Sunday?
WESLEY MATTHEWS: For us?
Q. Yeah, for you three.
WESLEY MATTHEWS: You can't be at your 100 percent best for 40 minutes. I don't know, Lazar gets tired, I get tired, Jerel gets tired. There's points where we're not at a hundred percent. And I don't know what they're doing at Missouri, if they're a hundred percent and they can do that for 40 minutes. I don't know how our rotation is going to be. We're not going to try to play at that pace. That's their style. We're going to do what we do.
If we can score quick we're going to score quick. If not, we're going to try to guard and move the ball and that's where we're at our best.
Q. Lazar, talk about playing against Lyons and Carroll tomorrow, they're forwards kind of like you that step away from the basket a little bit more. Do you feel like your game is similar to what you've seen out of them?
LAZAR HAYWARD: Definitely. They're both kind of like face up four men and they're both very, very talented, very athletic. It will be a good matchup for myself and also Dwight. And you know, we matchup pretty much in the Big East against guys like that all the time. So it's not nothing we're used to, but those two are definitely some great players.
Q. Talk about being tired sometimes during the game, what do these extra long timeouts, how do they help you and what do you guys do in those extra minutes that you have sitting there? Coaches aren't used to talking that long.
WESLEY MATTHEWS: They feel good. Just catching a breath, you know. Coach never talks to us that long in a timeout because we're a veteran group, we're a mature group. We know when we're messing up, we know when we're playing the game the right way. So he doesn't have to say too much to us.
So most of the time it's just what we see on the court, what Lazar sees, what Mo sees, what I see, what Jerel sees, what Nic sees and we just keep talking to each other and just keep getting each other going and for the most part we're just catching our breath.
Q. For any of the three of you. Your coach has been big on numbers. What are some of the numbers that he's put forth for you guys in terms of what Missouri does?
MAURICE ACKER: He's been breaking it down for us as far as like when they score in the offense like they normally score in the first 10 seconds or the second 10 seconds or whatever. So basically we got to make sure we get back in transition and matchup well, but that's when we're at our best.
Q. What's it been like to be in your shoes the last three weeks since James went out?
MAURICE ACKER: It's been tough, but at the same time I'm thankful to be in this position. Stepping into the shoes of Dominic James, he's been playing he's been having a great year or whatever. But it's been a tough transition coming from playing 12 minutes a game to playing 30 to 35 minutes a game. But every game I just got to get better each game.
Q. Maurice and Wesley, you guys were talking about having to play aggressive, but not playing at Missouri's pace. Where is that line and how do you go about doing that exactly?
WESLEY MATTHEWS: We're a great team in transition. We're great when we get stops, we can run, we can attack a press, when we can make two, play one and pass out of it. So if we have a lane, we're going. We have done that all year. And that's where we're at our best.
But if we don't have that lane, that's when they're at their best when they're scrambling from behind to try to back tip, matchup. I mean, they're a high energy defensive team. So we can't just attack it right away because after we break the press if we don't have a lane, that's when we're at when they're at their best.
So we just got to play smart because we know where they like to trap in certain spots on the court, and just and share the ball. And I think we'll be all right.
Q. Wesley, we can see Dominic James on the bench during the game. Toward the end of the game he was basically eating a towel when the points were getting close against Utah State. What's he like at timeout? Is he helping you guys, is he trying to help coach or show you what he sees from the bench?
WESLEY MATTHEWS: He's animated, he's doing all of that. He's doing everything but playing on the court for us. He's telling us what he sees, he's coaching, he's giving plays to coach, he's cheerleading. Nic's doing everything for us and we're definitely grateful for that because he could have went a completely different route about it and pouted and just been upset and felt sorry for himself. And instead he's pulling for us like he's playing.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thanks, guys. We'll have Coach Williams here shortly. We'll take questions for Coach Williams.
Q. Coach Williams, can you talk about facing Lyons and Carroll, and the similarities maybe in their games and what Lazar does for you guys?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think Lazar's a really good player. I don't know that he compares to Carroll or to Lyons. I think the combination of those two guys is really difficult to defend. I think that's why they have had the success that they have had this year is it is partly due to their style of play. But I don't think that they get enough credit for how efficient they are offensively and how good they are in the half court, rarely ever take a bad shot. They will take the first quick shot, first good shot that they can take, that may end up being quick, it may not.
But both of those guys can score with their back to the basket, both of those guys can bring it in transition, and both of those guys, no matter where they catch it, can face you up and they're really hard to guard off the bounce. So the combination of the two, maybe sometimes you see a team with one of those guys, but when you see a team with two of those guys, it makes it really hard to defend both of them.
Q. You talked about maybe the in depth preparation it took to get ready for Utah State with all their set plays and now you're facing a team that's really a contrast of that. Can you just speak to kind of the difficulty in packing all that into basically one day.
COACH WILLIAMS: I think it's the same struggle that the other 32 coaches are probably dealing with on Saturday and Sunday in the second round games. I think that you have to depend a lot on your assistants that have been assigned that since selection Sunday. Both of our guys have done a great job with that in preparation for Missouri and I think that we have been accountable for the last 26 hours in regards to our preparation for Missouri. And it's still a long time until game time. So we have got to continue to work.
But you're right, I think that it's a delicate balance and a fine line to determine how much to expound upon your next opponent and how much you have to spend on what it is that you know you have to do as a coach in order to have a chance for success against that opponent. So I think it's a combination of the two, but I don't think that there's any way, if you were to be honest, that you can get around the fact that it is difficult and in a short turnaround, to prepare for a team as talented as Missouri is.
Q. Coach, a bunch of the clips that we read about you the words "career suicide" keep coming up. And so I guess what I was wondering is when you decided to leave New Orleans, did you think you were committing career suicide? And also, realistically, how long did you think it would take to get to the point where you're at right now in the tournament coaching a team?
COACH WILLIAMS: I'm sure there was a lot of documentation out there about a lot of different things as it relates to my career. I don't know that I've ever said since I left New Orleans that I felt like it was career suicide. The writer of the article may have said that, and they're obviously entitled to their opinion. But I have never, if you research my career path, and you figure out where I started and where I am today, there's no way that you could potentially possibly in your wildest dreams project that I would be sitting here in this position.
I've always had the same response. And in any of those articles that you've read if they quoted me, the thing that I've always said is it's only by God's grace that I've had an opportunity to be the head coach at Marquette. But I also tell you this, it was only by God's grace that when I was 21 I had an opportunity to make $400 a month as an assistant at the University of Texas at Arlington. And I mean this without my ego speaking, I'm just as grateful that I had chance to be an assistant at UTA as I am to be the head coach at Marquette. And that's because I believe it's all been in God's plan.
And for me to sit up here and think that I had the world figured out and that I was going to leave New Orleans after being a head coach at 33 and then nine and a half months later be the head coach at a Big East program, in the best league in the country, and then 346 days later to be able to answer this question from you, that would be way too much of me to think that I'm smart enough to figure that out.
I've just been blessed from start to finish. I don't know when it will end, but I think life is very fragile and I think this business is really hard to get any job, much less a good job. So I'm extremely thankful just to be where I'm at.
Q. Coach Williams, if you could talk a little bit about how difficult of a job that Maurice Acker has to have to go from playing so few minutes to really running a team and replacing an integral part of your team like Dominic was?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think it's a difficult adjustment no matter what. I think like I said two days ago, the timing of the injury is probably as critical as anything else because there was only 10 days left in the regular season. So for you to go from a situation where you were only playing spot minutes to having to play minutes that were absolutely critical for us just to have a chance not to get blown out of the gym, I think Mo's been accountable in every sort of way, every day since Nic has been hurt.
But the thing that I would say is the same thing that I tell those guys when we start individual workouts in the fall, if you want to be at Marquette, I want to coach you. If you don't want to be at Marquette, I don't want to coach you. But if you are here, I'm going to coach you. So whether you're a good player or bad player or a role player or a starter, I'm going to coach you the same way. And I think that I've coached Mo the same way when he was playing 7 minutes as I've coached him since he's played such a larger role since Nic has been hurt. And I think that he's responded every day in a much better way and I think that as he's responded better, it's allowed our team to respond better.
Q. Is Louisville the team that you would say most closely resembles Missouri in terms of the depth they're trapping and pressing style defensively?
COACH WILLIAMS: We talked about that last night, trying to think about who we have played that we can comparatively speak to as we introduce Missouri to our team. I don't know that there are two teams diametrically opposed more so in the country than Utah State to Missouri. And there was no team to compare Utah State to. But we had five days to prepare for them, so we had enough time to explain it all to them.
When you start talking about Missouri, obviously with the short turnaround, the best team we could come up with was Louisville. Missouri's got nine high major players, they play ten guys, nine of them are all going to have a chance to play for money at some point in their career. And I think that within how they play it is somewhat similar to Missouri or excuse me, to Louisville. But Louisville would press different sorts of presses and then typically speaking would go back to a zone. And then when the ball, when you were in the half court and they were in the zone, when the ball went to the post, then they became man. So you could potentially within one possession go against three types of defenses.
Missouri is typically some sort of pressure and they rotate what they do, but typically speaking they go back to man, albeit they switch a lot of different screens. So but, yes, to compare I think it's mostly to Louisville other than anybody else.
Q. How did being an assistant under Dale Layer help you become a head coach and what's it like having the roles reversed with him now?
COACH WILLIAMS: If he wasn't the best human being I ever known in my life, I think it would probably be a struggle for the roles to be reversed. There's been absolutely no friction in the transition or the role reversal. I think the best thing that I learned from Coach Layer in the four years that I worked for him is how to be accountable as a man and how to be the husband and father that God intends for me to be.
And I think from a coaching perspective, the thing that I probably learned best from him is I thought that in game decisions he was as good as any that I had been around up until that point in my career.
I thought he made slight adjustments during the game that always gave our teams chances for success because he has a keen eye for how we can make subtle adjustments that will benefit our team in a great way. And I think that's probably what I learned from him from a coaching perspective most. But the thing that had the largest impact on my life is what he taught me as a person.
Q. Do you recall how far back your fascination with numbers and precision goes and do you sort of understand where it comes from?
COACH WILLIAMS: Yeah, I really I mean this in a genuine way, I haven't meant for my association with numbers to spark such a storm from the Boise media. And I also understand that I started that on my own. So I'll continue to handle it until such time as we leave Boise.
But the thing that I would say is I probably am not as completely consumed with numbers as you think. But I do believe that numbers always tell a story. And it's easy to skew numbers to make them tell the story that you want it to say.
But I don't know that I necessarily know when it started. I am a precise person. And I am a precise person in our profession. So it probably has created some of the obsessive compulsiveness that I have with it. But everybody around me pretty much understands it, so they kind of leave me alone and I try not to inflict it completely on them.
Q. There aren't a whole lot of teams out there that run a full court press all the time. Kind of seems like the ones that do make a name for themselves and are fairly successful at it. Do you think there's a reason that more teams don't do that?
COACH WILLIAMS: That's a really good question. I think in order to play the way that Missouri plays you have to have really good players and you have to have a lot of them. And you know, like I said earlier, I think they have nine high major players. And the way they play they can run guys at you in a myriad of ways, their maneuverability within their personnel is really, really strong. And then within how they play it only enhances their personnel, because of how many possessions they have in a game.
While other teams don't do it or more teams don't do it, why that is, I'm not sure what the right answer would be to that.
Q. Coach Williams, can you talk about the state of basketball in Wisconsin? Seems to have become a basketball hotbed and if you think playing in the Big East has helped Marquette separate.
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, obviously I wasn't employed at Marquette prior to their inclusion into the Big East, but I would say that the Big East is, in my opinion, the best league in the country. So any time you can separate yourself with the best, whether that be with a league or a coach or players, I think that always benefits your institution and benefits your program.
The one thing that I would say about Wisconsin high school basketball is there's really, really, really, really, really, really good coaches that spend a lot of time studying the game, the coaching clinics, and in Wisconsin are well attended. Coaches from all across the state come to practices and I'm sure they go to Coach Ryan's practices, Coach Jeter's practices at UWM.
So I think per capita as far as the number of Division I institutions in the state as it relates to the size, when you look at as the state's programs from a high school perspective have continued to get better, I think it just helps everybody. It helps the four year schools, not necessarily Division I, UW Platteville was ranked either in the top 3 in Division III all year long and so I think there's a lot of good basketball in the state that's players and coaches.
Q. When Wesley was up here he basically said it's not possible to play your best at Missouri's pace for 40 minutes. How important is it not to get sucked into playing Missouri's pace and given that you have so many guys that play so many minutes do you have to manage substitutions differently in this game?
COACH WILLIAMS: I don't know that I I think that the guys will probably play the same minutes that they have been playing combined. I may sub them at different times for shorter periods of time. But I agree with what Wesley had to say. I think if you try to play the way that Missouri wants to you play, Missouri will win. And I really don't think that necessarily about their style of play, but you can't completely play their style and negate your style. Whatever that style may be.
That's not necessarily Marquette. When they played Xavier earlier in the year at A & M, at Kansas State, at Nebraska, you know, those teams didn't completely sell out to playing their style. And I think when you play a style, similar to the earlier question, when you play a style like that, and you just say, hey, this is what we'll just do what you do, you're probably not going to have success.
Q. It seems like since Dominic got hurt he's really kept an active role with your team. How might he help your guards deal with Missouri's pressure tomorrow?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, I think that he's helped us in a lot of different ways. He's very intuitive as a player, but I think that he's even, he has even more wisdom as a person, despite his age.
He's been through a lot in his career. But he's also been through a lot in his personal life. And I think that he's continued to progress into the player that we always hoped and dreamed that he would be. And I think that he's continued to along that same path as a person. And I think that the combination of those two have helped us not only in games, but in practices as well.
Their pressure is unlike any other that we faced although it's somewhat comparable to Louisville, but they just keep coming at you and they keep coming at you. So as best he can, he'll help us as much as he can.
Q. A follow up about Maurice. He said that when he had to take over and you guys had the four game skid, he didn't say, well, it was, who you played, you were playing four of the best teams in the country, he said that he felt it was on him and that because he was the new guy in there. How did you manage that? That can crush a young player.
COACH WILLIAMS: I managed it the same way I manage him and the other 11 guys on our team every day. It wasn't him. It was me.
It's always on me. When we win it's because they're really good players. And when we lose it's because I haven't figured out the perfect way to give them a chance for success.
So despite who we were playing or where we were playing, injury is a part of sport. And I think that the reason that Mo would answer the question the way that he did is that shows his character and how much he cares about his teammates and how much he cares about our program.
Q. I'm curious about your scheduling policy as far as non conference goes. Obviously with the Big East you're going to play a number of ranked teams that will help you in RPI and stuff, what's your philosophy on filling out the non conference games on your schedule? Do you have who do you play home and homes with, what do you try to do?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think your schedule should always reflect the personnel and the classifications of the team that you're currently coaching. What I would say is this: You need to play a schedule that best prepares you to give you a chance to have success in your league. And that's my response whether I'm coaching in the Big East or if I was coaching in the South League Conference. Your preconference schedule should prepare you for what your conference schedule is going to bring you and hopefully within your preparedness to play in conference that that will trend towards you having a chance to play in post season play.
So obviously we play Wisconsin home and away every year, over the last several years we have played in exempt events because of how the NCAA has changed the ruling on when and where you can play an exempt event. So we'll continue along that path and then the rest of the games that we play need to prepare our team and the complexion of our team to play in the Big East.
Q. Coach Williams, I was wondering how you manage these longer timeouts. Seems like some guys have Leonard Hamilton last night sent his team out and then realized that he had about another 20 seconds and pulled them back. How have you managed the longer timeouts?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well I've had 92 people remind me in a positive way that the timeouts were longer. That's probably been the best help that I've had.
The other thing is I always try to get a drink of water now before I go talk to my team because I know that my voice is going to give out during the longest TV timeouts ever.
I never coached in the NCAA tournament, so I'm not going to gripe about the length of the timeout. And being that we were short in size and short as it relates to depth, it's probably a benefit to us more so than anything else.
THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you, coach.
COACH WILLIAMS: Thank you.
Q. Does your philosophy change at all with as your program gets better? When you first maybe took over at Missouri did you have the same philosophy or now are you trying to schedule better games to get better seeds and that kind of thing?