Syracuse-Arizona State Quotes
March 21, 2009
COACH JIM BOEHEIM, JONNY FLYNN,
ARINZE ONUAKU &
LARRY WAHL: From Syracuse we welcome Jonny Flynn, Arinze Onuaku and Derek Devendorf.
Q. I know this got talked about a little bit yesterday but could you talk about how your relationship with James Harden began and how much you guys talk over the course of the year and just how much you guys maybe even mimic certain I guess at one point during the year you guys were even wearing the same shoe. Just give us the story, if you will, about how this relationship was born and how it's developed.
JONNY FLYNN: Well, playing basketball you meet so many different people. You create long lasting relationships for the rest of your life. I met James Harden I think it was my sophomore year at the Reebok ABCD Basketball Camp. We just clicked right from there, and we exchanged numbers and then it carried on. We would talk to each other and would see each our at numerous basketball tournaments over the course of the years. And then our senior year we made the McDonald's All American Game together. So we chilled and kicked it a lot. Really kept in touch.
As a matter of fact, last night we got up together and really went and got something to eat. It was really a dream relationship, but tomorrow on the court, I don't think you're going to be seeing too much of that. We're both fighting for the same goal and we're going to have to put that aside on the court.
Q. Where did you go?
JONNY FLYNN: We went to someplace on Ocean Drive. It was a nice little restaurant. We went and got something to eat and just talked about how his year was going, how our year was going, and just really reminiscing on a couple things.
Q. You're playing for a spot in the Sweet 16. How much does it add that it's against a guy there's no real history between the programs really to speak of. What's it add that you know a guy on the other side?
JONNY FLYNN: Whenever you play a friend that you're close to or someone that you equate yourself with, it makes the game even more bigger. You don't want to lose to him and have him call you up and rub it in your face how he beat you five years, 10 years, 15 years from now wherever we're playing basketball at. It makes this much game much more important to me and for him.
Q. Eric, you guys went through a little bit of a slump this season where I think you won 3 out of 10 games. You're playing well now. Is there a difference or just the competition you were playing at that point? I know you had some really tough road games and really tough go of a schedule at that point?
ERIC DEVENDORF: I just think that the Big East is a different type of animal. Obviously it's the best conference in the nation by far, in my opinion. You know, there's going to be a time during the conference play when you go through times like that. Everybody had them. Obviously you see Georgetown and Notre Dame, and nobody expected them to be in the position that they were put in.
It's just one of those slumps that we went through, and I think every Big East team maybe besides Louisville or Pittsburgh or something like that went through it. We got through it, and we're here right now, and we're happy with the position that we're in. Hopefully we can play good tomorrow and get a win.
Q. You're not playing against them tomorrow, but one of the teams that's going to be playing here is Cleveland State, and you guys obviously had some experience with them earlier this year. Can one of you guys take me back to what that was like watching that shot go through the hoop and how long it took you guys to get over that loss?
JONNY FLYNN: A lot of people talk about the shot that they hit, but you know, just for them to come into the Carrier Dome at a time when we were playing good basketball and really being a close game with us, you know, they're a good team. A lot of people look back on the shot and say it was a desperation shot, it was a lucky shot, but if you really look at the course of the game, we were the ones fighting back the whole game to stay in the game.
You saw last night Cleveland State is a well coached, well disciplined basketball team and caught Wake Forest slipping. I congratulate them on a big win that they had, and they're a team that you can't sleep on.
Q. Both these teams play zones every play of the game. You practice against it every day, so do they. How will that affect the game?
JONNY FLYNN: I think Arizona State plays a match up zone, we play a 2 3 zone. A match up zone is probably the hardest zone to play against because it looks just like a man to man zone, but they might bump a guy through and send another guy and things like that. I think Coach Boeheim is just a basketball wizard. He knows exactly the positions to put people at so they can play the best basketball and make plans for us to win. I think he prepared for us really well out there on the court, and we are well prepared, and it's on us as players now to go out there and execute as planned.
Q. You guys are used to 25, 30,000 crowds at home in the Dome, and the Garden I'm sure was kind of a raucous environment for you guys last week. Was yesterday, even though it's an NCAA Tournament, the building wasn't full, it wasn't overwhelmingly loud. Was that a disappointment at all? Was it what any of you had sort of envisioned for that NCAA Tournament environment?
ARINZE ONUAKU: I mean, it's just a different environment. Yesterday there was not really that many people there, and we're used to the 30,000 and a lot of people screaming, and that's what intimidates opponents when they come into the Dome. It was just a little bit different. I mean, we was able to get through it.
Q. Eric, given the fact that Arizona State is out west, they weren't on ESPN much this year, prior to the last 24 hours had you seen them much at all?
ERIC DEVENDORF: I mean, I think everybody watches everybody in college basketball. We know what they're capable of doing, and obviously they wouldn't be here if they weren't a good team. But I've seen them through the course of the season a couple times, and I definitely know about James Harden and what type of player he is.
You know, we're just preparing to have a battle out there, like the Big East or something like that. We know Arizona State is a very capable team and they're a well coached team, so we've got to go out there tomorrow and play our hearts out.
Q. Jonny just called Coach Boeheim a basketball wizard. What makes him that way? Not just X's and O's, what makes him a basketball wizard just to the guys?
ERIC DEVENDORF: I mean, it speaks for itself, his résumé. He's a Hall of Fame coach, and you know, it's just the little things that you try to pick up from practice when he's talking. You know, really when it sinks in and you think about it a little bit, you're really like, wow, that's some stuff you really can take from him. He is a basketball wizard. Jonny said it.
Q. Apart from the X's and O's what makes him a basketball wizard?
JONNY FLYNN: Well, he's so intelligent. Just to be able to make in game adjustments the way Coach Boeheim does, a lot of coaches can't do that, only the great coaches can, be in the heat of the moment and make great in game adjustments to put us in position, if we're down, if we're trying to stop another team from making a run to put us in a position to win the game. He does that the best. I haven't played for any other coaches in college, but he's a Hall of Fame coach and that speaks for itself.
Q. Probably hasn't a day gone by ever since you won that six overtime game against Connecticut that people haven't talked about that. In the grand scheme of things, do you think people are making more of that game than it really is, or do you really feel that that was some kind of turning point for the program and really allowed to you go into the Tournament on a roll?
JONNY FLYNN: Well, I think that definitely was a turning point for ourselves. If you look at it from the outside, it was a historic game, six overtimes in the Big East Tournament, Madison Square Garden, the biggest stage in the world. That's history in itself.
Speaking for the team's sake, we really bonded. We really came together as a team, and you seen it. If a guy fell on the floor, you had the whole team running over. Seton Hall, even though it was bad, a little scuffle, everybody on the team was running over, people had to be held off the bench to keep from coming on the court. I think we gained a lot of team camaraderie from playing in that Big East Tournament, and that's really going to help us in the NCAAs.
Q. Have you ever played man to man one possession during a game, and what does he say when you ask him?
ERIC DEVENDORF: Jonny does it every day.
Q. And what's his response?
JONNY FLYNN: "I've been doing this for 33 years."
Q. Arinze, Jeff Pendergraph talked yesterday about the challenges of playing you guys as a team with your size and with you and Rick being able to come at you from both sides rebounding. Just your opinion on Jeff and the challenges that he'll present as a center tomorrow?
ARINZE ONUAKU: I seen him play a couple times this year and we also saw him play yesterday. As you can see, he's a great player. I mean, he posts down low and he scores around the rim. I mean, his field goal percentage is high just like mine. I mean, it's going to be a tough battle tomorrow.
Q. Jonny, you mentioned going to dinner last night. Was it just the two of you or were there other guys there, too?
JONNY FLYNN: At first it was me, Paul Harris and Scoop Jardine. He had called me up. I told him we was probably going to South Beach and I seen him after the game and told him what we was going to do. He came with two of his teammates and it was just fun just to interact a little bit off the court. He's way on the west coast, I'm on the east coast so we really don't get to see each other like that. We're real good friends, and this relationship is going to carry on forever.
Q. Going back to Cleveland State for a moment, Cedric Jackson is sort of an underrated point guard. How good of a player is he?
JONNY FLYNN: He's definitely a good player. I believe he transferred from St. John's to Cleveland State, so he played in the best conference in all the land. He's definitely able to play at a high level all the time, and one thing about him is he's an active defender. He's a guy you can't just dribble out in front of him, you can't make a lot of careless mistakes because he's going to capitalize and jump right on it. His offense has really come off as of late. You saw in the championship game he really took over the game for their conference against Butler. You seen that last night versus Wake Forest. So when he's out rolling and playing well, the sky is the limit for Cleveland State.
LARRY WAHL: Thank you very much, guys.
Questions for Coach Boeheim?
Q. I was just wondering as a connoisseur of zone defenses what you think of Herb's zone and what strikes you about it.
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: Well, it's a match up. Villanova won the National Championship with a match up a number of years ago. Not a lot of teams play it. Joe Mullaney probably started it at Providence that I remember back in the east, and Rollie used it obviously to pretty good results.
It's a good defense. It's a difficult defense to play against. It's a difficult defense to coach. Not many people try it. A few people do. Arizona State plays it the best of anybody right now in college basketball. It's a good defense, a real good defense.
Q. Is it a little bit easier for you to prepare for today because while you don't play the match up, you obviously have played zone for 30 something years?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: It's a different attack against it. You really have to attack it differently than you would a man to man or a zone. Again, there aren't many match ups. We've seen a couple match ups this year but not very good. So it's a little different defense. But we'll try to figure something out to try tomorrow.
Q. When a match up is being played well, what's going on in it? What makes a good match up?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: You know, I'm going to do a clinic in about two months. You can come to that and I'll try to explain it to you (laughing).
You cover us every day, have I ever talked about what we're going to do against anybody?
Q. How are you feeling today? And how is the team feeling with the flu?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I'm good. I'm good. We're all good and ready to go.
Q. I know it wouldn't be tomorrow, but eventually here you're closing in on 800. It's a long time obviously and a lot of wins. Can you just ruminate a little bit on that?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: You know, we're looking for our second win in this tournament tomorrow, and we're focused on that. That's all we're really focused on right now. Those other things, if we ever get there, we'll talk about them, I guess, for about two minutes, and then we'll go on.
Q. I don't know if you were in the wings when Jonny called you a basketball wizard. What do you make of that?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: He's called me some other things this year, too (laughter).
Q. Why do you think he said that?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I think you have to take things with a grain of salt that young guys say. To him that probably means I'm old, kind of.
Q. As an opposing coach when a player like James Harden has the kind of game he did yesterday, do you think he's probably not going to have two poor games in a row?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I never think a player is going to have a bad game against us. He's a tremendous player. We expect him to have a good game.
Q. You guys played Cleveland State earlier this year. What jumped out at you about them, and they made a name for themselves now?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: They're a tremendous defensive team. Gary is a tremendous defensive coach. I had a lot of battles with him when he was at Rutgers. He's a tremendous coach, and they've got veteran guys that have played together. They've learned their system.
I knew in the first two Butler games that they could have won both of them. We saw one of them on tape, and they had a chance to win both of them.
I was talking to Lynn, a Committee person out there, it's the real dilemma that the Committee has, if Cleveland State had lost to Butler, they wouldn't be in this tournament. It's unfortunate, because obviously as they proved, they're a good team. It's just that it's hard to get those last teams and figure out who should be in and who shouldn't. When you see them play, like we did, up close, and it wasn't that we played we didn't play one of our best games against them, but we played okay, and they were still able to come in and beat us.
So I just think they're a really good defensive team. They've got guys that can score, they've got veteran guys, and I didn't see the game against Wake Forest, so I don't know what happened or what transpired. But we were kind of watching the score ticker, and they seemed to be in control the whole game.
But they're a very, very good basketball team.
Q. What makes James Harden such a tough player? Is he sort of like a Tarrance Williams who can do a little bit of everything?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: Well, I saw him a few times this year, and I don't have much of a life, I watch late night TV, I watch PAC 10 games. He's a good shooter. He's a guy that can score. He gets in the lane. He's very strong, very patient player. He's just a really good offensive player, and he's got a very solid game.
Q. Jonny and James have both talked about it, that they have a friendship that goes back a few years. You've been doing this for a while obviously. When kids from opposing teams know each other and are close and go to dinner and that sort of thing, does it add anything on the court do you think for them? And should it in a way?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I don't think so. I was with the Olympic guys this summer, and they went out to dinner every night, and I saw Dwyane Wade I think LeBron knocked Dwyane on his butt one game this year. When they go out to play, if anything they may play harder against each other because they want to win more.
But we had those guys all summer, and they were the best friends. It made it so much fun, they were great guys to be around and they got along so well. But when they play, when they come back, they have a lot of pride and they want to win. And that's the way it is with kids. They all know each other, they all play against each other all the way through high school, the AAU tournaments all summer long and camps and stuff. So they all know each other. But when they go to play, they want to win.
Q. You and Herb know each other pretty well, and when you heard Arizona State was going to hire him what were your thoughts?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I thought somebody was pretty stupid and I thought somebody was pretty smart. I'm not going to mention which one. Herb is a good friend of mine. We're on a couple of committees together actually. I've known Herb for a long time, going back to days when he was living in his car up in Providence working 14 hours a day for some crazy coach.
He's a great basketball coach. Got a great feel for the game. He's a lot smarter than all of us, and he's just a good guy. He's a real good guy.
But you know, when the game starts, it doesn't matter. I'm only worried about the guys on the court, not worried about who's on the other end coaching. And if we were playing, I think I could handle him even at my age (laughter).
Q. Would you post him up?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I wouldn't have to.
Q. I know McMillan spent the summer with you guys in Beijing, and I just was curious your impressions of him and did he have any interaction with you and kind of pick your brain at all?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: You mean his father?
Q. No, I know he was there with you, as well.
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I actually didn't even have any time to talk to him at all when we were over there. I'm sure Nate is going to be rooting against me tomorrow.
LARRY WAHL: Thank you.
March 21, 2009
An interview with:
COACH HERB SENDEK,
DEREK GLASSER &
LARRY WAHL: Arizona State Sun Devils, we have Jeff Pendergraph, Derek Glasser and James Harden. Questions for the Sun Devils?
Q. James, can you talk about your relationship with Jonny Flynn? He was saying you guys have known each other for a long time and went out to dinner last night.
JAMES HARDEN: Well, me and a couple of my teammates went to South Beach just to hang out and we saw a couple of him and his teammates there. We just hung out, relaxed for a little bit, checked out the scene.
Q. How far back do you two go?
JAMES HARDEN: Just a couple years, just from being at different camps throughout the summer and just hanging out, that kind of friendship.
Q. James, does it add anything there's not a whole ton of history between the programs to speak of. Does it add anything that you know a guy on this stage playing for these kind of stakes, a spot in the Sweet 16?
JAMES HARDEN: No. It's just a friendship. On the court it's different. I'm sure he feels the same. He wants to win just as much as I do. Off the court it's a friendship, but obviously on the court we both want to win.
Q. I remember on Selection Sunday you talked about this is the biggest stage you have, but you have to approach it just like any other game. I know it's hindsight, but looking back do you think that approach served you well against Temple and will probably also serve you well against Syracuse tomorrow?
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: I think it helped us a little bit. We didn't entirely approach it like another game, we put a little emphasis on it. I think if we approached it like some regular game we would have come out a little flat. But guys had the right mix of things going for them, and I think that's why we came out really well against Temple and I think that will help us again on Sunday, no game jitters or first time jitters. That's all kind of out the window.
Q. You've faced some big guys before, probably not as many on one team like Syracuse. Talk about the challenge you've got tomorrow.
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: It's probably the biggest challenge I've had all year. It's not like one goes out and another one comes in. It's like two go out and three more come in. It's going to be just like a constant big guys banging against each other and wrestling. It's going to be like a big wrestling match. They're big guys, their post defense is really good, too. It's going to be kind of a war down there in the post.
Q. Jeff, do you think it's possible that Derek might lead the country in getting elbowed in the face?
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: Oh, man, maybe. Elbows to the face, fouls that don't get called but he's always on the floor somehow, concussions maybe, boos, all that stuff, all those stats that nobody really keeps track of. I bet Derek is probably leading all of them.
Q. That segues nicely into what I was going to ask: Derek, why is that? Have you been able to put a finger or an ice pack on the root of why these things happen to you it seems to often?
DEREK GLASSER: Well, I think the elbows are because I'm so short that I'm at elbow height, so I think that might be the reason for those. You know, I just try and bring a certain level of toughness to our team and dive on the floor, just make hustle plays for the team, and sometimes that just leads to knocking into people sometimes and getting booed or getting put on the floor. I don't know.
Q. In all seriousness, so much has been written and said about the way that you got to Arizona State and the circumstances surrounding ultimately your decision to end up there. Have you had any time to sort of stop and appreciate the position that you're in, especially right now being one win away from the Sweet 16 and just what a long, strange trip it's kind of been for you?
DEREK GLASSER: Not really. I haven't really had time to step off the pedal, at least this year. Maybe after the season is over I'll have some time to think about it. But right now just focus on what's in front of us, and right now it's Syracuse.
Q. For any of you guys: Just what your impressions are of Syracuse's own defense, if it's similar to what Arizona has done or anybody else you've played this year.
DEREK GLASSER: In a way it's similar to what Arizona does. You know, they don't have conventional zone, they do little things that are different than any other team that we've played that's played zone. But we're going to have to execute the game plan for us to win. Coach Sendek is going to game plan together along with other coaches to create open shots for us, and we're just going to have to step up and knock them down.
Q. Jeff, you'll be going on tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. Arizona time. You're playing a traditional power in Syracuse. Have you thought about how much this game can mean to this program if you guys can get to the Sweet 16?
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: I think for me it would mean the most out of anything that any team has done in a long time. That's getting to the Sweet 16, for any team is a big deal. I mean, especially for us, what our program has been through, and how much better we've gotten the last couple years. I think that would be kind of just another layer of icing on the cake for this year. It would mean a lot.
Q. For any of the guys: Does the fact that you all play a 3 2 match up give you any kind of advantage when you're getting ready to face Syracuse's 2 3?
DEREK GLASSER: I don't think there's an advantage for us. We both play zone, so if you look at it, probably the transition games will be hurt a little bit for both of us, because we're a pretty good transition defensive team, and we get back and set up in our zone. But I don't think there's an advantage for either team. You know, we both shoot the ball really well, and it's just going to come down to which team can make more plays.
Q. Coach Boeheim earlier was saying that you guys play maybe the best match up in the country and he's a pretty good authority on zone defenses. Would you have thought a couple years ago when Coach put this in out of desperation maybe that you'd be doing it so well? And also, walk me through, was it really difficult the first couple of practices when you were trying to put in the zone that he had never even coached before, right?
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: Definitely. I mean, it does mean a lot coming from Coach Boeheim because he is kind of the authority on zones. I mean, when we first had our first practice I think my sophomore year, we spent a good two weeks breaking down how this defense works. Coach had it down for every position, wherever the ball is at, where everybody should be. At first it took a while because my freshman year we played man and played man all in high school. Everyone that came in played man in high school. You don't really play zone. Coach emphasizes that it's not really a zone defense. We have man principles and you've got to play defense like you're playing man. It wasn't that hard for guys to adjust and get used to it.
Q. For any of you guys: You're playing at 9:00 Arizona time tomorrow. I'm sure you haven't played basketball at that time. Is there any concern about that early start time?
JAMES HARDEN: Yeah, it's really early in the morning, but it's whoever can wake up and be ready to play. You know, early game is no excuse. It's the NCAA Tournament. It doesn't matter what time you're playing. Both teams want to win, so you have to wake up, get up early, get a good breakfast and just be ready to go.
Q. This is for any of the three of you guys: When you talk about the match up zone it confuses the heck out of people. Do you ever find yourselves confused at points when you're out there? I know it can be complicated?
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: Sometimes we'll get a little confused but we kind of correct it by just going out there and playing hard, and eventually everything ends up correcting itself. Guys will be out of position a lot and people will be guarding people they're not supposed to or our big man will be guarding somebody at the top. Some things turn into scramble modes and you've got to play as hard as you can and eventually things will balance out. It's confusing, but as long as we play hard, it'll end up working itself out.
Q. Derek, how important will it be to try to keep Jonny Flynn out of the lane because he creates so many shots when he gets inside for his teammates?
DEREK GLASSER: To try to keep him out of the paint, that's going to be one of our big focuses. He makes their team go. Jamelle and I are going to have a tough task up top trying to keep him out of the lane, because that's the main focus.
Q. Jeff, there might have been a sense at the start of the year that this team was you and James and a bunch of other guys, fairly or unfairly. Not to put you on the spot, but Derek's emergence as a scorer, the things he can do, the things he did yesterday, how much easier does that make the load on you two guys especially?
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: I think it makes things a lot easier because I mean, it gives a defense another person to key on instead of like how they've been lately with just James. They've got a guy following him around everywhere. Derek is hitting open shots. You can't just keep letting him hit open shots and the next thing you know he's got 40 points. If you don't guard him, he's capable of doing something like that if people don't play him.
It helps, especially because he's your point guard, too. He always has the ball in his hands. And the defenders aren't always backing off of him. Post entries or entries to James it makes things a lot easier because he becomes a threat and it just opens up the court so much more.
JAMES HARDEN: I think Jeff played well yesterday, even when I have a bad game or something like that, it's always good for guys like Derek to step up. He can shoot the ball really well. Earlier in the season he was hesitant on shooting the ball, but later in the season he's beginning to shoot the ball, and he's been playing well.
Q. Jeff, there seems to be some debate whether when you get in the Tournament whether you root for everybody else in your conference to keep winning or whether you root against maybe your rival, who also happens to be here. Did you guys watch the Arizona game last night, and do you pull for each other because you're the west coast teams out here? Or is there still a little rivalry there?
JEFF PENDERGRAPH: We kind of watched some of it. There was so many games we kept flipping back and forth between all of them. But when we got a chance, I feel like it's the PAC 10 against everybody else right now. The rivalries are kind of being shadowed by this big old thing that's called the Tournament. We're rooting for everybody, and I would think they would root for us, too, but when next year comes it's back to the PAC 10 season and all that stuff is going out the window.
LARRY WAHL: We'll expect coach Herb Sendek momentarily.
We'll open it up for questions from Coach Sendek.
Q. I'm just wondering what was the genesis of your match up zone and what you think is the best thing you guys do with that?
COACH HERB SENDEK: I'd never really coached zone before. We had employed it a few times through the years, mainly in desperation hoping the other team would miss, and we could get the rebound. But our first team at Arizona State found itself in a situation where we had to do something to try to be somewhat competitive, and so we just started trying to figure something out and really didn't have any idea what we were doing. And over time it has just evolved, and now it's something that we've decided to stick with and play. But really it was born out of necessity and just an attempt to try to be competitive as possible our first year.
Q. Did you study it from somewhere else?
COACH HERB SENDEK: It was really something that we kind of put together on the fly. I'm sure there's nothing new or unique that we do that hasn't been done somewhere in basketball, so I don't want to make it seem like we had this revolutionary idea that nobody has tried or done before. But really just within our own offices, with that first group, we just tried to put them in a position to be successful, and even over the last couple years it's continued to evolve and change. We're still trying to figure it out as we go a little bit.
Q. Two hard hitting questions here: One, Boeheim said he could take you on the court. Your reaction there. And also he suggested early in your coaching career you were living in a car.
COACH HERB SENDEK: Well, if he can take me one on one, that's really not saying a lot (laughter). I mean, that's not like he went out on a limb and made some outlandish claim. I didn't exactly have a stellar career at Carnegie Mellon. However, just taking a look at it and sizing it up, I don't know that I wouldn't have a chance against him at this point.
I didn't live in a car, but I did live in a very humble looking dormitory at Providence when I started. In fact, I didn't have a car my first year, I walked. I would have liked to have had a car to live in.
Q. Is your biggest concern tomorrow just keeping Syracuse's front line off the boards?
COACH HERB SENDEK: You know, we have a lot of concerns. I don't know if they can single that out as our biggest. That's certainly among them. They're an awesome rebounding team. But I really think they're in the mix of teams from the beginning who people who could legitimately point to and say hey, they're a contender for the National Championship. Their talent quotient is tremendous, and it would really be an oversimplification for us to say, boy, biggest concern, only concern, we've got to focus on this. We're going to have to play an great all around game, a balanced game, and it's difficult to just limit ourselves to one thing.
Q. If I could take you back to the match up, when you first employed it, I can imagine you never thought it would become what it's become and that you would stick with it for this long?
COACH HERB SENDEK: That's right. We thought it was a stopgap, something we thought we had to do that year to keep games as close as we could just to be different. We didn't feel like we could match up with anybody and guard them man to man. We thought it was stopgap, that it would be a one and done, over with, done with type of thing, and by our second year we'd hopefully be going back to play man to man because it was what we knew and it was what we'd always coach.
Q. I know you said you kind of put things together on the fly. Can you take me through what that process was actually like for you.
COACH HERB SENDEK: I mean, it was just a process of learning what we could do to make it better. When other teams showed what they were going to do to try to attack it, it forced us to rethink things, and that continues to this day. One great thing about our game is there's never a finished product. Your personnel is always changing and the other team's personnel is always changing. So there's always new variables that are introduced as you play the next game. So you're always trying to make things better.
Q. Have you ever coached a player that seems to get beat up as much as Derek does on almost a night in, night out basis?
COACH HERB SENDEK: He has taken some shots this year, there's no question about it. I don't know if I could rank him, but I know where you're going. You've seen us play all our games, and he's taken a licking, there's no question about it.
Q. What does that say about his toughness?
COACH HERB SENDEK: He's a tough guy, and not just physically. He's a mentally strong young man. He, I think, really has demonstrated that exceptionally well down the home stretch of this season.
Q. Two things if I may: First, to follow up on the last question, I guess he's had a bad tailbone issue for a few days, when he goes down in a heap and is back up on the court a minute later, does that give the other four guys on the court a real boost seeing that every time he gets hit, he pops back up?
COACH HERB SENDEK: I think all those kinds of things can be contagious. If you're a leader and show a measure of toughness and have grit, that can have a real positive influence on your team.
Q. And the second going back to the zone if I may: When you first went to it, was one of the concerns about it was that a lot of players it doesn't seem like it's always taught well at the high school/AAU level, that a lot of coaches have said players can be lazy in it. Was that a big concern? And how crucial is your transition D in that in getting back to set up the zone? How vital is that just to start it?
COACH HERB SENDEK: I don't think man or zone has anything to do with it. I've seen teams, including our own, be lazy playing man to man. You can be lazy playing anything if you want, or you can play whatever defense you choose well. I don't see that as being unique to zone.
I know on a number of occasions through the years our team has played man to man and I've been upset with our effort and energy level from time to time.
Q. Your club was able to knock off Arizona three times. Any advice to Cleveland State on how they can beat them?
COACH HERB SENDEK: I don't have any advice. Right now we're focused on Syracuse. We had some hard fought games with Arizona. I think our players would be the first to tell you that those games could have gone either way. They were competitive games. Two of them came down to the last possession, I believe.
Q. James was telling us he went to dinner last night with his buddy at Syracuse. Is that something that you encourage, don't encourage, the friendship with him and Flynn? Is that good for the game? I mean, these guys are 2,500 miles away and they get to see each other this week.
COACH HERB SENDEK: Yeah, you know, I'm not in the business of trying to dictate our players' friendships. I mean, they have good judgment, and I trust them to pick their friends wisely.
The truth of the matter is, you know, all these guys, or many of these guys, know each other. They get to know each other in high school. They play together during the summer. They play against each other. They keep in touch. I mean, I think that summer circuit that extends into the spring, as well, has brought the basketball world closer as much as anything for the kids, not further apart.
Q. You preached that you want to prepare for this game like any other game regardless of the national stage. Hindsight is 20/20, but are you very proud of how the team did carry itself for, again, a squad that really doesn't have experience on this stage?
COACH HERB SENDEK: Yeah, I thought our guys did a good job of keeping their poise and composure and made a number of plays that we needed to down the stretch to actually hang on and win the game. We withstood a couple of hard tempo runs and didn't come unraveled, and so I was pleased.
Q. When you look at the turnaround that your program has made over the past couple of years, and you look at I guess one of the centerpieces would probably be Jeff. What has he actually meant from when you first got here and had to kind of maybe even re recruit him to really use him as a cornerstone?
COACH HERB SENDEK: Well, he has been a cornerstone. He's been a great ambassador for our university and our basketball program, and obviously he's been a terrific talent on the court. You know, on the court I don't know where we would be without him because he's meant so much to us. But he's also done it in such a great way that he's represented the program and the university with great honor and class. He's gone out of his way to touch so many people in the community, and he does it as a matter of ordinary life. You know, he doesn't need a big stage to do it, but just as he goes through one day and into the next, you know, he just really cares about people and he touches people in really good ways.
Q. (No microphone).
COACH HERB SENDEK: Well, it's very beneficial. We've definitely profited from his presence. I mean, he's a great player and a tremendous person.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Jim Boeheim and just what you see in him that's made him so successful for this many years.
COACH HERB SENDEK: Yeah. I mean, obviously he's one of the game's all time great coaches. I mean, he's truly a Hall of Fame coach. He's a good person, and he always struck me as he'd be like a really good guy for your son to play for. You know, he's a good guy, and would treat him the right way, would care about him the right way. I just get the sense watching from a distance through the years that his rapport with his players has been really good.
And now at this stage of his career, I know how involved he is for the betterment of the game. He gives of himself and his time to improve the game, to make things better. He doesn't have to do that. I mean, I don't know that he personally gets anything in return from that, other than he really cares, and so I really respect that about him a lot.
Q. I know your primary focus is, of course, Syracuse tomorrow, but this time of year these questions are inevitable: Western Kentucky wins for the second straight year, Siena for the second straight year, Cleveland State last night. Can you talk about the overall health of the college game, and if these are the things that perpetuate that this is still a very special time of year for kids, for coaches, for schools?
COACH HERB SENDEK: Absolutely. There's so much balance in college basketball, it's so competitive, and the nature of our sport leads to those kinds of occasions. It's certainly not a new thing. We've been witnessing those kinds of games for many years. That's why "March Madness" is such an appropriate name for this time of year.
Q. I think the PAC 10 was 5 1 through the first two days. Were you surprised by the outcomes there? It seemed like maybe across the country people were a little more down on them than it showed?
COACH HERB SENDEK: The PAC 10 was really good this year. I've been saying that to anybody who would listen. And even some who wouldn't. I've just been proclaiming that with great conviction. Our league this year was outstanding.
I know the other leagues are, as well. I don't have any great need right now to try to handicap or compare conferences; all I can tell you firsthand, playing against the teams in our league, that it was really good. Does 5 1 in the first round prove it? Not necessarily. Like I said from the beginning, sometimes if you'd replay all the games the next day, half of them would have the opposite outcome. I mean, but it was a really good league. All you've got to do is watch our teams play, and you'd probably come to that conclusion on your own.
LARRY WAHL: Thank you.
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