North Carolina-LSU Quotes, March 20
March 21, 2009
NORTH CAROLINA QUOTES
AMY YAKOLA: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. You made a shot last night, and you came back down the other side of the court and could not stop smiling. It seemed like you had a lot more fun. Just talk a little about your performance and how much better that was last night?
DANNY GREEN: I wouldn't say it was a great performance, but a lot better than the past weekend. The games are more than just winning, we're having fun as well. But it's a lot easier to have fun when you're winning games. So we wanted to make it a point to work hard but also have fun as well since we're here.
Q. Did you have a chance to get a good look at what Marcus Thornton did against Butler what were your impressions?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: Yeah, I got to see some clips today. I saw a little bit of their game yesterday. Yeah, I mean, he did a very good job. Had a lot of shots of the took some tough ones and made some tough ones. He's kind of like the fire on their team. He gets them going especially offensively. You know he's going to be a big time challenge for our perimeter tomorrow.
Q. That three, I think that Heather was talking about, you hadn't hit many of those in the last couple of weeks. You've been struggling around the basket, too. The tips aren't falling, the put backs aren't falling. Any explanation for that?
DANNY GREEN: No, I would say rushing a little bit. Taking my time and finishing plays. But right now I'm putting momentum, we're trying to build momentum as a team. But our next focus is LSU and what we have to do against them. We have to stop them inside. The two big guns are Tasmin Mitchell and Marcus Thornton. And Thornton, he can put it up. He can fill it up outside. Try to challenge his size and limit him to one bad shot. And Tas, try to get him to do something different that he doesn't normally do.
Q. I wanted to ask you, last two years you came out of the ACC tournament as champions and went to the NCAA. You talked about building momentum. Can you carry that momentum over. This year you're coming out after losing the semis. Is it any difference at all? Or just totally irrelevant to what you're trying to do in the NCAA?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: Well, I feel like I think it's totally irrelevant to jump from our conference tournament to the NCAA Tournament. You know, we had a week off, and I feel like once you get into the NCAA Tournament it's where you build your momentum. That's where we wanted to start yesterday. We wanted to start yesterday building momentum and keep it running.
DANNY GREEN: I agree with Wayne. Two different tournaments. So that has nothing to do with two tournament right now. So we're building our own momentum from this tournament right now and starting something new. Last weekend was last weekend, and this is a totally different tournament. We're not playing the same teams we play in our conference.
This is, I guess, not more important, but everybody in the country, they want to win.
Q. Playing in the ACC tournament is disconnected, is there any negative the years you won it in terms of the effort and emotion you had to invest in that? If it doesn't carry over good, is there any bad carryover if you really put a lot into it?
DANNY GREEN: I don't think so. I don't think there's anything negative about winning an ACC championship. But some people may look at it as us being tired going into the NCAA's. But I don't think it has anything to do with that. I don't think it as anything negative.
Q. I wanted to get both your thoughts on getting to play in Greensboro in the first two rounds. Some might say it's unfair for teams to be able to play so on close to home. I know Coach Johnson said you kind of earned it. How do you guys look at it?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: I feel like, yeah. You work all season to be able to position yourself to have an advantage like this. I feel like it's the hard work throughout the whole season that places you in a place close to home and gets your fans close to you. It's kind of like a home-court advantage. So I feel like, yeah, we did earn it.
DANNY GREEN: I agree. I think we've been fortunate enough in the past two years to be placed close to home and close to where our school is. But I think we definitely have earned it. The last year we played really well, and this year we played really well throughout the season. Us being in Greensboro is a big advantage with our fans here. But I feel like anywhere we go we can play and we're going to have fans there regardless. But it's good to be close to home.
Q. Do you notice a difference in how you're defended individually? And if other things open up if Danny is shooting the way he normally does?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: You said the way I'm defending?
Q. The way that you're defended personally, and how many other things open up for you guys during the flow of an offensive possession when Danny is shooting as he normally does?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: Oh, yeah, did he have defensively I've been trying to follow the principles we've been doing all year long. I feel this time of the year you have to be able to stop guys and that's been our mentality.
Q. What I'm saying is you guys are on offense and Danny's shooting well and in a groove, do you notice a difference in how teams defend you and the way things open up for you guys during the normal flow?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: Oh, definitely. I feel like when Danny's hitting shots and I'm hitting shots, teams have to respect us. Opens up a lot inside for us. I don't really see a difference in the way teams are really guarding me right now as opposed to when Danny's knocking down all the shots. I feel like they still have to respect both of us.
Q. Can you you talk a little about have you seen the film of Temple defending Meeks well in the SEC Tournament, and having had some success against Redick, what are your impressions of him as a defender? Maybe having to go up against him?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: Actually I haven't gotten to see much of him. Coach emphasized how great of a defender he is. He was all defensive player in the conference, so it will be a big time challenge. I love playing against guys that get up in you and want to challenge you. I think it will be a lot of fun.
Q. You played an SEC team in the second round last year, Arkansas, a lot of people thought they'd give you some trouble, too. Is there a comparison with this LSU team and that Arkansas team?
DANNY GREEN: I mean, possibly. I think that they're two totally different teams. It's a new year, and the teams that we're playing now, I think it will be a lot tougher than we've played in the past. Like Radford we thought they were better than Mount St. Mary's. But we had to come out with the same intensity and same energy and be more focused because we knew they were going to give us a run for our money. But LSU and Arkansas they're both athletic teams. Arkansas had Sonny Weems, and LSU has guys that are long and athletic and get up and down the floor. But I think it's the difference with the guard play. They didn't have a Marcus Thornton on the team a guy that can light it up outside and be a big threat out there. So Tas on on the outside can be a big threat as well. So we have two big challenges we need to face, and we need to step up to the challenge.
Q. LSU said that obviously they're going to try to control tempo tomorrow because of your quickness and everything. How important does that make it on you guys especially if Ty is either not going to be able to play or not 100% to keep that tempo high, keep pushing it and get transition going?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: It's always important for us to control the game and push the ball as many opportunities as we can. Wherever we get the opportunity. So I mean we're going to do that regardless. Hopefully we'll have Ty, but if not, I think Bobby did a great job yesterday of advancing the ball forward and pushing the ball ahead. We're getting great opportunities in transition.
DANNY GREEN: Definitely, pushing the ball, that's our game. We're not going to change our game because Ty's not playing. We're going to continue to push the ball. Practice paragraph like I said, we like to try to tire teams out a little bit. Normally in the past we've been a lot deeper than we are now. But I feel like we have a good bench and our bench is giving us good things now, Zeller and Ed and Larry, and Larry being more effective coming off the bench. So we're definitely going to keep pushing the ball. We're not going to change anything we do because someone's not playing.
Q. Sort of following up on the Greensboro playing here, do you guys enjoy playing at home, these home games more in the NCAA Tournament or when you're playing at a neutral site, playing in the tournament is kind of its own buzz? Is it about the same, more fun, more pressure?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: I'd say it's a lot of fun playing here in front of all your fans. But I feel like our fans follow us everywhere. Whether we're here, on The West Coast, we still have a lot of Carolina fans there.
But I feel a tournament is a tournament. It's an atmosphere that's going to be the same, it's going to be fun and challenging. And I think that's what college basketball is about. So whether we're in greens boor on owe or not, I feel like we're definitely going to have the same atmosphere.
Q. You played against Tasmin Mitchell or I'm pretty sure with Tasmin Mitchell in the McDonald's All American game. When you guys play against teams that have that type of high-level recruited talent, that type of thing. Do you feel like they're less intimidated from the minute they walk on the floor? Do you know what I'm trying to say?
DANNY GREEN: I don't think any team has intimidated us in this tournament. I don't think any team has intimidated us in any tournament we play in. I think they're out to beat us. I think every team is really hungry especially now this time of the year, this is March time and they want to win. They want to get a chance to play in the Final Four and win a National Championship. But I guess when you have recruits like that, I guess it is easier to play and not think about well they have this guy, this guy or one's better than us and we have to do this.
But Tas is a big recruit in high school, but when you get to college none of that matters. All that McDonald's stuff goes out the window. It doesn't matter who is on your team, it matters who is working hard now, who is playing hard now, who is doing one what and going to win the game. It has nothing to do with what you did in high school.
Q. The LSU players talked with a great deal of familiarity about the Boston College game at Chapel Hill, as if they've already looked at that tape maybe in getting ready to play you guys tomorrow. What did you guys take out of that based on on everything else that's happened? What did you take out of that that helped you finally wind up winning the regular season?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: I think we've been a lot more hungry since then. I feel like when we played Boston College we were a little comfortable. Our first game in the league, we kind of just cruised into it instead of being on top of each other and being hungry, I think it was. I thought we're a totally different team than we are now than then.
So, they can talk about that all they want. But I feel like we're definitely a much better team and more focused team right now than we were when we played against Boston College.
DANNY GREEN: I agree with Wayne, of course. We're definitely different now than we were then. But they may look at that tape and see some things or weaknesses that they have. And they think they can use to beat us because some of the things that Boston College ran. I'm sure they do a lot of flex and stuff like that. But I think this team has matured a lot more. We know how to play better defensively. We know what we have to do to win games. We've just got to come together and, you know, make some sacrifices, and play better defense and challenge shots and box out, do the little things, and play the flex a lot. We know they're going to try to throw that at us because they think we're not as good guarding the flex than other teams are. But I feel confident in our team that we'll be able to do what we're supposed to do.
AMY YAKOLA: Questions for Coach Williams.
COACH WILLIAMS: I don't know. Now we can go to the questions. The plan is to have him practice a little or a lot, just depends on how well it goes. That will be the first test. Then at 11:30 tonight we'll have the second test. Because by that time we'll know whether there's going to be any swelling or not. So he has to get through the first that he can do it. Get through the second without any swelling and see how he feels tomorrow. So it will be a game time decision more than likely.
Q. Would you talk about your impressions with Marcus Thornton, maybe what you saw him do yesterday?
COACH WILLIAMS: What I saw him do yesterday was scary. I followed LSU's team this year because of how much I think of Trent and the job that he's done. But if I'm reading the propaganda right, there were 7 games that he had been over 30 this year, so yesterday was 8. But it was. He can post you up, he shoots threes, drives you to the basket. Makes free throws. Gets offensive rebounds. So the impression I had from that game yesterday was scary.
Then I started really reading the material, and looking through the stat sheets of what he had done in the other games and that is probably still the best way to describe it.
Q. Usually at this time of year, freshmen are kind of tailing off a little bit. What is it about Davis that he seems to be going in the opposite direction and really starting to improve. And how important is it to you guys that this is happening now?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think he's been improving throughout the course of the whole year, and I've been very lucky that I've had some freshmen who have played great basketball in tournament time in the past.
But I think having Tyler and Deon in the starting lineup and carrying the load has allowed Ed to come along at a comfortable pace for him. We've pushed him every single day in practice. He's been good all year. He was good in Maui. But he hasn't had to carry the load. He hadn't had the major responsibility because of those other guys being there.
You'd probably have to ask him how comfortable of a freshmen year it's been for him, who knows. But I think he's worked extremely hard every day in practice, and we've encouraged him to do the things we've asked him to do, and hopefully we'll continue playing well like he has recently. Of.
Q. Going on the premise that with each day you stay off an injury or don't play with it, it gets a little bit better. And the fact that Bobby and Larry have done pretty good jobs so far since Ty's been out, is there a temptation to even if he's available to play tomorrow to try to make it through tomorrow's game without using him so that if you do need it you can put him in. But if you don't you'll have him more healthy and rested for the next round?
COACH WILLIAMS: No, huh-uh. And try to take this in the right way. There was some thought process against Radford. A 1 seed against a 16 seed because we're more gifted. That doesn't mean we're going to win the game. But we were more gifted and there was some thought process at that point.
I've never, ever been in an NCAA Tournament that I didn't think every round after that first round was going to go down to the wire. So trying to be sort of like sand bagging in golf. I mean, you throw a few strokes here and there, and when you get ready to play somebody, your game's not there.
The fear for me is number one, that we have to play well tomorrow or it doesn't make no difference how Ty's toe feels. If I'm at Wilmington at Wrightsville Beach, I don't give a darn about Ty's toe at that point.
So for us it is not a consideration. It was a consideration during the ACC tournament. There is no question about that. And again, please put it the right way so it doesn't sound like I was overlooking Radford, but we were more gifted than them. So there was some thought process at that point but not now.
Q. You gave me the local reference, so I'll take it?
COACH WILLIAMS: Okay.
Q. Danny didn't have a great shooting game by any means yesterday. But he hit the three and did score 15 points. You've seen kids go through slumps many times. Do you get the sense maybe he's starting to come out of it or on the brink of coming out of it?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think so of the I think he did the things that he needed to do yesterday and that is get to the backboards and help us there, and make other plays and not be concerned about whether his jumpshot was going in. I think that's the easiest way to work out of something in basketball is realize you can do a lot of other things to help you help your team more.
Q. Can you talk about two things, you know, teams that have had success against your team this year have been able to get penetration at the point, but needs to stop that against LSU. Talk about the challenge that Chris Johnson, probably LSU's only tall defender in the back, the advantage he has as a big, tall lean guy that can get up and down the court?
COACH WILLIAMS: He does have the build that enables him to block shots from a distance. He can take the contact and his arms are so long and he has such good timing he can still block the shots.
It helps their team because if they gamble a little bit and get out of place and the guy takes it to the basket, they know they have him back there to block some shots. And he does have the ability to run the floor and get involved. The best part, took two outside shots yesterday and made both of them trying to do things that he can't do.
The first question is we as every other team in the country gets hurt by dribble penetration. And the games that we have lost we've been hurt by badly. So that is a concern for us against a team that has two or three guys that can put the ball on the floor and take it to the basket.
Q. In '05 you're able to bring Marvin along slowly and that worked out well. Are there any similarities with Ed this year? Did you learn anything with dealing with that circumstance in '05 that's helped you?
COACH WILLIAMS: I've been around a long time. I've had a couple of those scenarios in the '90s, also. But they're completely different players. Marvin was a perimeter player in a big guy's body that had the versatility to play the three spot or four spot, at times even played the five spot for us. Gave us instant offense off the bench. Eddie is more defensively rebounding, blocking shots kind of player. Both of them wonderful kids who want to be coached and enjoy being on the big time team and don't feel like they've got to get 35 shots a game.
Q. I might be getting the figure wrong. I think you said Ty told you he'd have to tell you to be 90% to play against Duke. Is that the figure tomorrow or would you accept something a little lower? Is?
COACH WILLIAMS: You know, if I say that he'll hear it and say it even if it's not true. So it doesn't make any difference.
It's a little different now because I've got the information to go by of practice today. You know, at that point everybody thought it was just going to be one of these 24-hour things. When we had pregame meal, I didn't think he was going to play the day of the Duke game, but he went the arena, went to the Smith center and starts moving up and down.
Said it felt good, trainer said he looked good, and that was it. But I think today I'll have more concrete evidence or at least being able to see it with my own eyes a little bit more.
Q. Not I know talking about Ty specifically, but when you consider every team that's either won a national title or played for one in the past few years has had a pro point guard, Derek Rose, Mario Chalmers, Mike Connolly, Toryn Green, am I overanalyzing it or is it important to reach if you're going to go that far to have a pro point guard?
COACH WILLIAMS: It's important to have a really, really good, I don't know if it's -- Derrick Phelps at North Carolina won it in '93, and I don't know that Derrick ever played in the NBA. I've had Adonis Jordan took us to two Final Fours and never played in the NBA. So I would agree with the whole idea but I wouldn't put the pro thing in there. I'd say you've got to be really good. And if you have a really good point guard, you have a better chance, yeah.
Q. You guys really appear to have a physical advantage in the post with Hansbrough being as big and strong as he is, and Johnson being so rail thin. Are we making too big a deal of that or do you feel that's the case?
COACH WILLIAMS: I still think it's North Carolina against LSU. Never Nervous Purvis before you were born, probably, he took Louisville, and he got out on the court and beat your rear end. So I don't know I'd say the physical part of it. If you you want me to make it, I would say you are overanalyzing it. We had Brandon Wright a couple of years ago that, you know, he makes the post player Johnson youngster look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. So it depends on can you play or not play? And he can play. And Tasmin gives him a load inside and they've got some guys off the bench that can do some things, too.
Q. Coaches like to say that crowds don't win games, but North Carolina is 26-1 playing postseason in the state of North Carolina. That's statistically more than a coincidence. So how does it help you be close to home?
COACH WILLIAMS: Every one of those teams were really good, and that's the best thing. Of course it has to help, but I do really understand. I was sitting on the bench with the one, okay, on black Sunday. So don't tell me the freaking building wins the game, penn's players beat our players. I was sitting on the bench at Kansas where everybody said if they just win two games they'll go to the Final Four because they're going to Kemper Arena. Well, Virginia beat our tails.
You can put any number on there you want, but I still feel like you've got to play. I've never seen a building beat me yet. Never seen the crowd win the game for me yet. It's got to be the players playing the game. You know what that is.
But you could convince me it was more important if all those North Carolina teams weren't very good. Most of the time those North Carolina teams were going to win wherever. I mean, one of those years I think we played -- well, I'm too old for that. But we played Utah in Utah. You know, the building didn't beat us, North Carolina's players beat Utah's players. It was during that time period. It was the year after black Sunday.
So it is something that helps. You can put any value on it you want to. But the building doesn't beat you, it's the players.
Q. You spoke fondly of Coach Johnson. Noticed a couple days ago you exchanged a warm greeting with him. Do y'all have a specific history on or is it just a normal coaching channels?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think guys who are reprobate sort of socialize more with other reprobates. And Trent fills that category, I guess that means I do, too.
No, I've been around him a lot in the summers, some of the trips, some of the recruiting. You know, knew when he worked with Mike Montgomery, and Mike's a good friend. You sort of gravitate to somebody that is as low as you are in life, so Trent and I get pretty close. We over married, I can tell you. Especially him.
Q. Wanted to check your memory, you took the Kansas team to LSU and beat Shaq?
COACH WILLIAMS: Building didn't beat us down there, did it.
Q. The low scoring game at the meadowlands when you were a North Carolina assistant against LSU. If you remember anything about those two?
COACH WILLIAMS: I remember going to play LSU in Baton Rouge. And playing them down there in about 85. Of course I remember '84 when John Tudor tried to block Kenny Smith's shot ask broke his wrist when we were 17-0. But to play the game at Baton Rouge when we played with Shaq and Stanley Roberts and Chris Jackson. The thing I remember about that one is their starting lineup a few years later signed contracts worth $69 million, and our starting lineup signed a contract worth $210,000.
But I've always enjoyed LSU as a school. It's been one of my favorite schools from Billy Cannon on on back. And I know that probably doesn't mean anything to anybody in here, but he was the first professional football player that I really saw and said God, this guy's really good. So following that part of it.
I think we had some great games. You know, they made a tremendous run to the Final Four in '81, I guess, when they were probably the -- I'd hate to guess -- 6 or 7 seed.
Q. That was '86 you're talking about they were the lowest seed?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think they're still the lowest seed to ever make it to the Final Four. Weren't they in the Final Four in '81. But they were in the other bracket, we played Virginia, and they played Indiana. Is that more memory than you wanted?
Q. That was good.
COACH WILLIAMS: Okay.
Q. On obviously a building can't win you a game neither can a floor. But a year ago you're at the RBC with all those decals. It became quite the joke among the players in the program after the year. Now you walk on out and you're one of these sites that doesn't have one of those decals everywhere. When you walked out there, how pleased were you with that?
COACH WILLIAMS: I heard about it several weeks ago. A reporter called and asked for a response, so I gave him a response. But the coolest thing was that last year I told one of the girls that was working with the NCAA, I said, if I look on TV and watch a football game and they show me where the first down line is, you know, and those players don't see it, why can't we super impose any logo we want to on this. But be sure to do one thing, don't tell them it was my idea because they are not going to take the idea of a coach.
So I think it was you guys, media, TV people. It was a very unsafe thing. There's no question. I mean, they did some clips on it with guys slipping and sliding around. It was a lawsuit waiting to happen.
So I congratulate the NCAA for doing as many things as they can to get rid of it. And I'm glad that we were involved in it, because I do think that it was a lawsuit waiting to happen. Or even more importantly, it was an injury waiting to happen.
But it wasn't old Roy that did it, but it certainly got a lot of attention. So I was happy to do it.
Q. I have a Ty question that I don't think is about his toe. Can you talk about his ability to play under control at such a high rate of speed, and what the team lacks when he's not in there?
COACH WILLIAMS: You know, I've been a college coach 31 years, 21 years as a Head Coach. I've never had a player that can accelerate at that speed. Everybody can accelerate, but there's not a lot of difference in some guy's accelerations are just jogging. He can get it from 0 to whatever, as fast as anybody I've seen with the ball. He can run past people dribbling it when they're running. He puts tremendous pressure on the other team's defense to make sure they get back.
That, in itself, takes them off the offensive boards a little bit because you have to be worried about sprinting back so you're not going to send people to the offensive boards. So it's a great weapon. It's been part of our philosophy for a long time. It's just that he does it better than anybody I've ever coached.
Q. With a team loaded with All Americans and the tradition, how do you keep everyone happy?
COACH WILLIAMS: We have really good kids. I know that's probably not the kind of material you want to on answer that question. We really do have good kids. When we recruit them we tell them we're going to try to get other really good players with you. It's not we're recruiting and you you're going to play 35 minutes a game.
Today is practice number 83, and tomorrow's game, what are we? 29-4. So it's 33. So we've had 33 games and 83 practices. I tell the kids all the time you get better in practice and have more opportunities to get better there than you do in games anyway.
When we recruit we tell them we're going to try to get really good players around you. You're going to be challenged every day. If you really want to be the best player you can be, you should accept that challenge. The other thing is that we feel like we've got a chance every year to be one of those teams that's sitting up here, and we try to promote that with the kids, too.
Q. What are your memories of leading and apprehensions of taking such a step forward. I know you decided you wanted to be a college coach. Working with Coach Smith was the ideal scenario for you. What about apprehension or self-confidence, were you convinced you were ready to do that?
COACH WILLIAMS: I was apprehensive. I think I've been that way in every move I've ever made. I was apprehensive. I got out there and I'm thinking what am I doing? I don't have enough money to feed my family. I had some really good kids that a couple of years later played for the state championship. So it was some apprehension there.
I don't know that it was ever a confidence thing. As every coach you always have doubts at certain points. But I've been pretty confident throughout my entire life that I could get kids to play together, and I could get them to play pretty hard.
Going to Carolina was a big time security blanket named Dean Smith. I thought even if I screw it up he's still going to help me out. I had apprehension when I left and went to Kansas as a Head Coach. Almost backed out of it during the meeting with the committee the night they offered me the job and I accepted. Needless to say I had well-publicized apprehension a couple of times about coming back.
So that's my nature. But I love to coach in high school. I loved every bit of it except one thing, I wanted to spend my entire day devoted towards a basketball program. And I felt like I cheated all those guys and girls that I had in health and physical education because that wasn't the biggest thing to me. I had to struggle with that.
We certified everybody in the American Red Cross standard first aid course that came to the school, so I felt like I helped them with something. But that's about it.
Q. Given that Ty could be just a game time decision, or will you just simply proceed with Bobby being the starter to avoid the uncertainty there?
COACH WILLIAMS: I maybe not understand you right, let me answer you this way. If Ty can go, he's probably going to start. Because he deserved that through 30 games. I have to remember what our record is. Through 30 games. Generally in my mind I've always thought that an injury shouldn't take somebody out of the starting lineup.
And if he can go, my guess is he would be better starting as opposed to sitting over there on the bench and letting it stiffen up after the warm-up. Is that where you were aiming?
COACH WILLIAMS: That's pretty good for me then (smiling).
Q. Tyler said that J.J. called him last night and congratulated him on breaking the record. I just wanted your thoughts on that. It seemed like a pretty classy thing to do?
COACH WILLIAMS: I hadn't heard about it. We met for breakfast and went over the clips and personnel. I'm sure I said hello to him, but that's all I said to him.
I think it is something that doesn't surprise me. J.J. his senior year was a year we really had a great run. I was fortunate to be involved in some "Coach of the Year" deals and Final Four, and we ended up attending two or three breakfasts or brunches and meetings together because he was the Player of the Year. I got to know him more that time than I had other than competing against him.
But I always had a great deal of respect for him and his own work ethic. I think that's probably what he appreciates with Tyler.
But, no, I'll ask him about it later. But I do think that's really nice. That is the kind of thing that you have in college athletics.
But I'll say this to you, I haven't told anybody this, and I don't think he'll mind either, but the guy with the worst golf swing in the world, big Charles. When Tyler Hansbrough broke the North Carolina record, I got a phone call from my office from Charles saying good luck, and tell Tyler congratulations. So there are some good people out there. That's good for J.J., too.
End of FastScripts
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Could you talk about your role as the defensive stopper, and what that means for this team? And also, the fact that you're a Final Four guy, and what that can do for these guys?
GARRETT TEMPLE: Well, first of al, a lot of people on this team, everybody has their role and understands what their role is. My role is to, you know, play great defense, guard whoever Coach puts me on. Most likely the toughest scorer on the other team or their best three-point shooter on the other team. I've had to have that role for the last three or four years now. I take it to heart. I try to do the best I can defending whoever coach puts me on. Find out what their tendencies are, you know, and defense is a really big part of my game. That's probably the best thing I bring to the table in terms of basketball.
In terms of the Final Four, I mean, that was three years ago, so I don't know if it has that big of a deal with this team, because it's a whole new team. The nucleus is, besides me and Tasmin, everybody else is new that's getting a lot of minutes.
But me and Tasmin can pass down some things from that year, in terms of patience, making every possession count. Understanding how important it is to not take anything for granted when you're on this run, and to cherish the moment.
Other than that, the basketball game's going to be played how it's played.
Q. How much different of a team is is Carolina without Lawson, than it is with him, and has it been difficult to prepare for them yesterday and today not knowing whether he's going to play or be effective or not?
TASMIN MITCHELL: Like Coach Roy Williams said, you can't replace a Ty Lawson. He's the head of their offense. He makes everything go. But preparing for him? We prepare for him just like he's going to play. We're not taking nothing for granted. We're going to prepare for him like he's going to come out there and lead the team.
So it hasn't been that difficult, but, like I said, you can't replace him so we're just going to prepare like he's playing.
MARCUS THORNTON: Like Tasmin said, Ty law a big part to their offense and what they're trying to do. But they have Bobby Frasor and their guard Larry Drew that comes off the bench and does a great job, too.
So if he plays, or if he doesn't play, it's going to be the same thing, because what they bring to the table is similar to him, but he just does it in a variety of ways. So we're just going to prepare the best we can, and try to get ready for tomorrow.
GARRETT TEMPLE: Like they said, Ty, the main thing that he does that the other guards don't do as much, he's averaging 6.5 assists. I think the other two combined are averaging 2.5, 3. He pushes the ball well because of his speed. I don't think they can match his speed.
But when they get in the half court offense, you know, they pretty much do the same thing. You know, Ty can break off on the dribble a little better than the other two can. But, you know, they're a team, their offense. A lot of guys score in double figures. So the main thing is probably transition.
Q. If you watched the North Carolina game yesterday, then you know that this won't be necessarily a neutral site game. Is it fair that you are going to be a decided underdog to the fans? I don't know if it's fair. It's fair, they got the 1 seed. I mean, they were playing great the whole year. They've earned that 1 seed. Just so happened that there was games played in Greensboro this year. Of course, if a 1 seed is going to play somewhere, they're probably going to play close to their home.
We knew it was going to be like this when we found out what bracket we were in. We're just happy to get past the first game. We know we've got a big game ahead of us. It's going to be like a road game. But we're looking at it as they've got to come and play ball just like we've got to come and play ball. The fans can't win the game. So we're just ready for whatever?
MARCUS THORNTON: It's basically a home game for them. What we have to do is try to block out all the hoopla that's going on in the stands while the game's going on, and focus on us. It's like a road game to us, so we'll just try to come in, take them out of the game early and try to get it done.
TASMIN MITCHELL: To piggyback on my teammates, like I said, you know, it's going to be like a home game for them, but I all of that stays within the four lines. The fans play a major part in every team's success, but they don't have to play. So like they said it's going to be another road game for us. And we're going to go out and play like it's our last.
Q. Few years ago you knocked out -- you played really good defense on Reddick as you guys knocked Duke out of the NCAA Tournament. Number one, does that seem like forever ago? Number 2, what do you remember about that game?
GARRETT TEMPLE: I mean, yeah that's a pretty good while ago. Three years. People still tell me about it still to this day, ask me about it and remind me. But the thing I remember is just the atmosphere of the Sweet 16 going into that game, being the underdog, similar to what we are now. Going on to play the top seed in the tournament at that stage.
You know, it was just a great atmosphere. We just soaked it all up and came in playing with nothing to lose. Expecting to win and play great and we were able to get that win. I feel like this team is going to come out tomorrow and do the same thing.
Q. Would you talk about your team's style and then contrast that to what you've seen of North Carolina, and how y'all differ or are similar when you try to run with them and that sort of thing?
GARRETT TEMPLE: Our team's style, well, we've won a variety of games in different ways. We can play slow, you know, we can play Washington, and I think we beat them by like 6. The games in the 50's, always scored up to 85, 80, 85 points. In terms of North Carolina, they run a lot. And they love to score in the first ten seconds of the shot clock. They have a lot of bodies coming in and out. Our team isn't nearly as deep as theirs.
So I think to our advantage would be to slow the game down a little bit. Not try to run with them. Take open shots if we have them. You know, take the transition. Don't be scared of transition at all, but be smart in terms of transition. If the numbers aren't there, then slow it down and try to cut them up offensively. So that's the main thing.
Q. Can you talk about the match-ups like Garrett, will you be matching up with Ellington? And when Carolina's lost games this year it's mainly been because the opposing team has good penetration from the point of attack at the guard position. How much have you gone over there trying to get at their defense by getting past the first line of defense by Bo Spencer or something like that?
TASMIN MITCHELL: Well, the point of attack will break down any team. Like you said, the team that they lost to this year has done that. So that's, you know what I'm saying, that's the smart thing for us to do is to do what they did to win. So we're going to go out here with our game plan and we're just going to attack. We're going to attack them and play good defense.
MARCUS THORNTON: Like Tasmin said, we watched the Boston College game a lot when they played them at North Carolina, and the guard Tyrese Rice he got in the lane at will, and that kind of disturbed them a little bit. As y'all know Boston College got that win.
So it will be very important for us as guards on the perimeter to try to get in the lane and make something happen, and try to get the big men in foul trouble as well as the perimeter.
GARRETT TEMPLE: Boston College did a great job. In terms of the match-ups, we don't exactly know yet. I might be guarding Ellington, Marcus might be guarding him. But because they're so -- what's the word -- they have so many people that can score, Hansbrough, Thompson inside, all three guards are scoring over 13, 14 points a game. It's really going to be a team defensive effort.
But, yeah, we did see Tyrese Rice break them down at North Carolina, and that was a big part of them winning the game. We have to do that as well. As well as just run our offense and execute and make them guard us for however long they need to.
Q. Just to kind of piggyback on on the question about Duke a couple years ago. Just talk about going into that game as the big underdog like you would be going into this one, and the mentality of playing a team traditionally a power like North Carolina or Duke? But going into that game, what was your mindset? You all were young then, but to be seniors now and juniors and to go into this game, what do you remember back then going into that one?
TASMIN MITCHELL: Well, we remember we were just in the locker room all together. Like give it all we've got. All we got. We're all we got. You know. Everybody was against us and stuff like that. But we weren't worried about. We were like we're all we got, so we went out there with the mind frame like okay, they put their shoes on just like us. We're going to go out here and play ball and see who comes out with the victory in the end, and it was us. But that's how we're going to approach this game. We're coming out to play ball, play LSU basketball.
GARRETT TEMPLE: We didn't have anything to lose, just like this game. We understood the ball was going to have to be thrown up and we were going to have to start playing. We really believed that we had a chance to win the game. Being the underdog is a good thing. Nobody is pushing to win, the team might not be up for you as much, a lot of positives go with that.
But we really prepare for the team real well. Duke, we had a whole week to prepare. This team is a little different, we only have a day, really, to prepare for them. But we're getting their tendencies, understanding what they do. What they like to do, what they don't like to do. Just go on out there with the mindset of winning. It's another game. Like you said, they put their clothes on just like we do. And they have been beaten before. They're not invincible, so just go out there and play.
Q. I'd like for each of you to take a minute to give me the reason you think you guys have had an outstanding season, and for the program it's been a remarkable turn around. I know that Coach Johnson, when he came in, said he wasn't going to demand anything of you, but he was going to ask you to do some stuff. Would each of you tell me why the regular season championship, why you were able to win it? Why you're here today? What is the reason you were so successful this year?
GARRETT TEMPLE: I think, yeah, you're right on with that. He said that from the start, he wasn't going to demand anything, he was just going to ask us to do stuff. Because we have so many seniors, the seniors really have to buy into what he was talking about. He came in and showed us right off the bat that he was about business, the first day he met with us.
I think the discipline factor was the biggest thing. When he disciplined us, he earned our respect, we earned his respect. From then on we just started believing in what he said, and it's been working for us.
MARCUS THORNTON: The main thing was we bought into the system. We knew -- we didn't know what he was coming in to do, but as time went on we understood what he was bringing to the table. As seniors, it's our last go round, and we weren't trying to mess anything up. So we came together as a team and we bought into what he was trying to do.
The main reason was nobody had their own agendas and personal goals. It was all team goals. That's the main reason we're here today.
TASMIN MITCHELL: To piggyback on what these guys said, we just bought into the system from day one. You know, we just came out. Like he said, he asked us, and we told him we'll do it. So it's all about the team chemistry. He brought the team chemistry together. That's what wins games, chemistry.
Q. Tyler Hansbrough, obviously, is a unique player. How have you guys talked to Chris, or what is the mood in the locker room with Chris and what he's going to have to do tomorrow to do whatever he can to slow him down?
TASMIN MITCHELL: Well, like you say, Tyler Hansbrough is a unique player. But like I said, we're just going to go out there and play defense like we try to do every game. We're not going to try nothing special on them. We're just going to help them. Just team defense. Team defense is going to win this game.
I'm always going to say, he puts his clothes on just like we do. You know, we're just going to go out there and play defense.
MARCUS THORNTON: I don't think we should tell Chris anything. If he can't get up for this game, he doesn't need to be playing basketball, period (laughing). You know, like you said, Tyler Hansbrough is one of the greatest players in the conference today. If Chris can't step up to the plate like he needs to, he doesn't need to be playing. But I have faith in him. He stepped up big yesterday. He was a big part of our team yesterday, and I feel he'll do it again tomorrow.
Q. You touched on Carolina's depth a little bit earlier. What can you guys do to combat that? They obviously go much deeper than you all do. And is it something that you're aware of out there? How do you combat their depth?
GARRETT TEMPLE: I mean the only way to combat depth is to have depth of your own, to be honest. But basically rest. We've got to get a lot of rest. During the game that is another reason we might try to slow the game down a little bit. Maybe stay on the offensive side a little more, little longer than usual just so they won't be able to run out on us. We can slow the game down. That's the only way to combat depth without depth of your own. So hopefully we can slow the game down.
Q. To any of you, you've talked about how this is going to be a road game atmosphere. You lost to Utah and Alabama back-to-back early in the season. After that y'all played pretty well on the road. What did you learn from that early season experience, and how confident are you when you go to opposing campuses now?
GARRETT TEMPLE: We learned that fans can be a big part of the game. After Alabama, we came out and also understood that they can play the game. We learned how to block that out. We had a couple of road wins and at Rupp. They're a hostile crowd over there. We just learned if we stay together we believe in what we can do as a team, then anything can happen.
Q. Do you think you're going to guard Hansbrough a little bit, too, like you did Ogilvie and Howard? And Tas, and Garrett, you think fewer people think y'all are going to win this game? Some people were picking you to beat Duke a couple years ago?
TASMIN MITCHELL: I don't know what Coach will allow us to do. He's going to give Chris the benefit of the doubt. He'll give Chris a chance. If things don't go right he'll probably put me on him. But coach never really puts me on on post player that's really like scoring, because he thinks about situations and stuff like that. But I wouldn't mind guarding him. It really wouldn't matter to me.
But, a lot of people did have us beat. A few people had us beating Duke, but a lot of people had us losing to them, too. So it doesn't matter, it was all about us.
GARRETT TEMPLE: Like he said, it's all about us. People did have us beating Duke more so than North Carolina. But those people are not putting on LSU uniforms, so it really doesn't matter what they think.
THE MODERATOR: We have LSU Head Coach Trent Johnson.
COACH JOHNSON: Well, excited to still be playing. Going into the year, there are three things that we really thought we needed to improve on to be a pretty good basketball team to compete at a high level. One of them was transition defense. Another was rebounding and taking care of the ball.
So we took 52 shots versus Butler, Carolina took 44 at the half. So I think our transition defense is going to be tested really good come Saturday evening.
Q. Tyler Hansbrough is a very unique player. What kind of challenges does he provide to you? Is there anybody in SEC play that kind of compares to the offensive skills he brings to the table?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, I think there is a comparison. The kid at Kentucky, Patterson is strong and really physical. But Tyler reminds me of a guy when I was an assistant coach at Stanford by the name of Mark Massey. What I mean by that is he's relentless. His effort is there for 40 minutes. He's a special player. But they have a lot of other special basketball players on that team.
For us, we need to make him work for everything he gets. We need to make sure we concentrate and get him a man, to half down, and cover down off the post and don't give him good angles to the basket. If we do, he can really dominate the game.
Q. You talked about transition defense, how much does it affect their ability to get out and push tempo, depending on whether Lawson is playing or not? And has it affected or made it a little more difficult to prepare for them not knowing what his status is?
COACH JOHNSON: No, we're preparing like he's going to play. In terms of our team and our defensive transition, we played against some extremely quick teams in our league. This is my first year through the SEC. And one of the things that I was thoroughly impressed with is the quickness from 1 through 12 on the roster. There's a lot of teams in our league that play extremely fast.
So I think it's a situation where with our basketball team where there is nothing that we're not prepared for. There's nothing we haven't seen. Obviously, Carolina poses a lot of problems because of their skill level and talent level. But Bobby Frasor, the Drew kid, they're more than capable.
Q. Chris, obviously, is accustomed to playing folks bigger than he from a weight standpoint. How at 210 pounds has he compensated for that and become a defensive presence in the post for you folks?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, Chris does a good job of using his length. Also, there's a balance. You go from Chris Johnson to bring in Quinton Thornton off the bench who is physical, and about 6' 9.5, 240. So Chris is who he is. Offensively I need to do a better job of putting him in situations so he can make the guys who are going at him, he can go at them on offensively off the bounce or even in the post.
So he does a very good job of altering shots. He does a very good job of working to the best of his ability.
Q. Could you talk about the leadership role that Garrett brings? And also, he said a few minutes earlier, he didn't find it particularly important that he is a Final Four guy. Just as a coach whether that means anything to you to have a couple of those guys?
COACH JOHNSON: I think it means a lot from the standpoint of Garrett is probably from every aspect of being a human being, socially, academically, athletically, he's special. You know kids use that term loosely about being real. Garrett Temple is real. There's not a phoney or false bone in his body. So his leadership on and off the floor is very genuine. It's been very good for us. It's been very good for me.
Tasmin Mitchell is not as vocal as Garrett is at times, but he leads by example. So having those two guys who have been through their share of the wars, in terms of being to the Final Four, been through some ups and downs, some wins, some losses. There's no question that's helped this basketball team. There's no question it's helped us as a staff.
Q. You're a voracious consumer of game tape, as you watch tape on UNC, has any team given you as much to think about or consider as the Tar Heels have given how much depth and how many different things they have going offensively?
COACH JOHNSON: Yeah, Butler. They're all the same to me (laughing). No, honestly, again, there's a challenge in front of us. Nobody respects what Carolina basketball is about and what Coach Williams has done with this basketball team more than me. But I've always been one to consume myself and concern myself with our strengths and our weaknesses and how we can attack if we can attack our next opponent. So I try to keep myself in a position where I'm on on an even keel, and it is competition. For us going into Saturday much like it was coming into Butler's basketball game or before that it was Mississippi State. It is a game that's going to be decided on the floor. We need to compete at a high level and do the best we can. If we're good enough we'll be successful. If we're not, we won't.
Q. Garrett Temple was talking a moment ago he said the best way to combat their depth is, because you guys won't have as much, is to play an on opposite style. Which is to slow the ball down like Butler tried to do yesterday. Do you think that's the best way to approach this Carolina team that loves to run up and down the court and score with 15 seconds to go on the shot clock? Maybe slow it down? Or do you stick with what you've done?
COACH JOHNSON: No, we're going to come out tomorrow, and we're going to run like hell (smiling). We're going to try to do the things we've done all year, honestly. The thing I like about our group is we've shown at Tennessee against good teams and skilled teams and talented and well-coached teams. To understand that if we get caught up stepping out of our character and our box we're going to struggle.
So obviously, Saturday if we do a good job once we're in the half court getting the ball to people in certain situations to score, and we have to sprint back defensively to try to keep it in front of us. So we're going to try to do those kind of things and that's what we've been successful with all year long. But we haven't played Carolina all year long.
Q. What is the biggest upset you've been involved with as a coach or assistant coach or maybe player that you won?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, I'd have to go back to my sophomore B-team I coached when I got my first coaching job. We were 1-19, and we beat a team by the name of Capitol High. That might have been the biggest one. Because I didn't think we were going to win. That was my first coaching job. True story. I'm just telling the truth.
Q. Anything in the NCAA Tournament?
COACH JOHNSON: No, no, no.
Q. Your players said that they immediately bought into your philosophy and that you came in and you showed right away that you meant business. How did you do that without demanding and just by asking?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, again, they're good kids who are good people and good players. For me, trust is a two-way street. I've never been contrary to what people believe. I'm not some big old tough guy. I think you've got to earn their respect, and they've got to earn mine.
There are some talented players and we had some good leadership. All I've ever asked is we stay the course, I think we'll have a chance to be successful if we do three things. That's pretty much been it. We had to clean up some things academically, and we're not there where we need to be. There were some bad habits and all those kind of things.
But kids have a tendency to follow, if you're consistent, whatever your behavior may be, whatever your leader your staff in terms of that. So they have a tendency to say, okay, well, gosh, that's how he is. He doesn't sleep, he doesn't talk much, this is what he does. He's a grinder, so that's what we've been doing. We've been grinding.
Q. You touched on it a little bit in the answer to that question. We can probably have a long conversation about this, but in the time allotted, was there similarities to the playing you started with in Nevada, what you did at Stanford, and now what you're doing at LSU? Or were there any differences in the three assignments?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, yeah, there were differences because the Nevada situation was really rock bottom, and the cupboard was bare so to speak. Stanford had a basketball tradition and a lot of winning and those guys were familiar for me. And everybody knows what was here at LSU.
But the three common denominators were Kirk Snyder who was a WAC player in year 04. Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez. Brook Lopez was the runner-up to the Pac-10 Player of the Year last year, and then Marcus Thornton. So the bottom line is players. The bottom line is players. It's not Trent Johnson, believe me. Because we were running the same stuff we were now when we were 9-20 my first year in Nevada and it didn't work. So you better have some guys that can make baskets and make plays.
Q. Is it fair that North Carolina has such a home-court advantage in a tournament that's supposed to be a neutral site?
COACH JOHNSON: Yeah, they've earned it. They've been one of the most dominant teams in college basketball throughout the year, so I think they need to be rewarded.
Again, again, good teams, good players, regardless where they play, who they play, when they play, they're capable of playing and competing. There will be 20 thousand plus people here I guess cheering for Carolina. We'll have our faithful, but that's not going to be the difference in the game. The difference in the game is going to be Ellington and Hansbrough and how we offset this or that. So the players are going to decide the game.
Again, I said it earlier, our guys have been in Lexington, and Kentucky travels well, Arkansas, those are tough places to play. So on and so forth, so we've been to our share of tough venues.
End of FastScripts