March 21, 2009
MODERATOR: We are joined on the dais by the Kansas State athletes, on my left, Marcus Morris, Tyshawn Taylor, Brady Morningstar.
Q. Marcus, I would imagine there's a chance you will be guarding Chris Wright tomorrow. Does he remind you of anyone you've guarded before? What are your impressions of him?
MARCUS MORRIS: Actually no, he doesn't. He's quicker on his feet than normal big guys. I think I'm going to have to slide a little more, but he's very aggressive.
So the technique I just have to use is just be aggressive with him and don't let him overpower me going to the basket.
Q. Marcus, do you think you've gotten better avoiding foul trouble? Is that a concern against a high flying athlete like him?
MARCUS MORRIS: Nah, I will still be fouling a lot, just sometimes the refs don't see it. But when they do see it, they always give it to me. Good case yesterday, I actually made a foul and they gave it to Brady. We talked about it after the game, joked about it after the game.
I think I am sliding a little better, but earlier in the season I was being too aggressive with my hands and getting too many touch fouls, but I think I am getting better at it as the season go on.
Q. Just for anybody. Did you get a chance to look at any film of Dayton? I imagine you didn't see the game live. Just what are your impressions of them?
TYSHAWN TAYLOR: We seen a little bit of film. We watched the film on them last night. They are very athletic. They have a lot of guys that drive the ball and they are aggressive on defense. Offensively they are aggressive, too.
So it's going to be a fast paced game. And it's going to be two aggressive teams playing against each other and it's going to be fun.
BRADY MORNINGSTAR: I mean, just like he said, to pick up full court every time you score the ball. And kind of like some other teams we played this year, Tennessee and whatnot, so I think that's helped us out for this opportunity. And, like you said, they're aggressive on each end of the court.
Q. Tyshawn and Marcus, how is playing in the NCAA tournament compared to what you thought it would be? What was different? What was about what you thought it would be from watching on TV all those years?
TYSHAWN TAYLOR: To me I think the only difference was just the whole process about it. Like going all the media and the traveling. I mean, once you get on the court it's basketball either way. So it wasn't anything more than what I expected basketball wise, just two teams playing against each other, which is the same thing every time you step on the court.
I think the only difference, the only thing I kind of didn't expect is the media and all the hype around everything. That was the difference for me.
MARCUS MORRIS: That was definitely one of the major things, the media. It is a lot, and you talk to a lot of people every day. But just from watching it growing up and seeing other players that went through it, now the NBA pros, it's just amazing just to be here. And just to experience it. I mean, growing up not knowing if you're going to make it to this point. And now that you're here, you just try to live it up.
Q. Do you guys feel like a little bit getting that first game out of the way, maybe the jitters and all that stuff in the NCAA tournament that that brings? Do you feel you will play a little looser maybe tomorrow?
BRADY MORNINGSTAR: Yeah, I feel coming into this game a lot of people had nerves. We are a team that's a little bit inexperienced except for maybe Sherron and maybe Cole.
But, I mean, getting the first game out of the way, it helps out a lot. And, you know, we're ready to play tomorrow.
MODERATOR: Okay, if we don't have any other questions, we'll go ahead and excuse the student athletes back to the locker room.
MARCUS MORRIS: Have a great day.
MODERATOR: We're joined on the dais by Kansas head coach, Bill Self. We will go ahead and begin taking questions for Coach.
Q. Does this team remind you of Tennessee maybe at all?
COACH SELF: A lot.
Q. And, also, the fact at how they go from defense to offense, can you talk about that a little bit?
COACH SELF: Well, they do. And the reason I say Tennessee is because we played them earlier in the year, so we're familiar with them a little bit, but athletic like that. And I think Tennessee is one of the most athletic teams in the country.
And then, you know, Coach Gregory, obviously working for Coach Izzo, I'm sure emphasized going from defense to offense, who emphasizes going from defense to offense as well as anybody in the country, I am sure that's been a point of emphasis for Dayton since the day he arrived on campus. They do a great job of that. Stopping, eliminating transition will be a big key.
And, you know, we've watched enough tape that you can actually do a good job in that, and then in three possessions they have got three dunks and the next thing you know all momentum has swung and that kind of stuff. So we have to be very good at defensive transition.
Q. Bill, have you had to do more coaching this year do you think after all the experience you lost last year?
COACH SELF: Well, I hope not. I think you coach every day. There's probably been more teaching that has been done, but coaching is different. Coaching isn't just x's and o's; coaching is getting guys to think the right things and be on the right page and getting teammates to like each other, and get them to see what you think is important is exactly what they also feel is important.
You know, you do a lot of your coaching before you ever get to the practice floor, just getting their heads right so you can be better on the court.
So I would probably say this year's been more has tested my patience more because last year we had young older guys that could definitely police each other and coach each other. While this year I have probably been more vocal than what I've had to be.
Q. You've had a couple of Kansas kids, Brady and Tyrel, play pretty important roles. And I think Travis Releford is probably on his way of doing that. Can you talk about the idea of recruiting in Kansas when you recruit nationally, when you are national program. How do you pick and choose in Kansas? And the second part of that, talk about the development of Tyrel and Brady.
COACH SELF: Well, I think that they've both improved a ton. Neither one last year although Brady red shirted, he played the year before, and Tyrel played last year, neither one would have had a chance to play a ton of minutes just because of the personnel we had, and they understand that.
But they got better by going against basically pros every day. So their development has been unbelievable. I did not anticipate them having this big of an impact their sophomore season at Kansas, so I am very pleased with that.
And, you know, there are some great advantages recruiting to a name with as much history as Kansas. You can get your foot in most doors. You can. But getting your foot in most doors does not guarantee you success at all.
When coaches look at the best recruiting jobs out there, it's always the jobs where you have players in your backyard. I would think Dayton would be great recruiting job, I would think Ohio State would be a great recruiting job. Illinois was a great recruiting job, where you had built in players within, you know, 2 1/2, 3 hours.
So, I think, you know, we do have a good name nationally, but still yet for us to get players outside of our area, we've got to go beat somebody on their own turf and that's not the easiest thing to do usually.
So, you know, great advantages in recruiting to a program like Kansas with the history and tradition, but, also, it's not easy. You just don't show up and get it done; you've got to fight.
Q. Coach, defending champion, you're always going to have a target on your back. You had to get North Dakota, the partisan crowd. You have Dayton, another, you know, underdog coming at you. Does your team relish that role of kind of being the villain?
COACH SELF: The villain, that's kind of strong, isn't it? I think that we like the role that we have because usually when Kansas plays and it's somebody else's building, it is usually a pretty big game. But it's that way with a lot of schools across America.
And these guys don't feel like they are defending the national championship. We never talked about it with our guys because there's only really one guy that played ample minutes that really played a big part of us winning it last year. Cole would be the second, and he averaged 2.8 points per game. Nobody else contributed on the court as far as the games go.
So these are all new guys. We're not trying to defend anything; we're trying to go take what we want as opposed to defending.
So, you know, whether us winning it last year is a bigger target or not, I don't know. But by this time of the year if it has been, it certainly probably helped our toughness level because we have played in some pretty good environments this past year.
Q. Chris Wright is a high flying guy who is good at drawing fouls. And I would imagine that some of the guys who are guarding him maybe are kind of foul prone. How do you deal with that issue?
COACH SELF: We just tell them don't foul, you know. That's pretty simple. You know, not only Wright, but Little. They're great at creating contact. And they are not the only ones. They are a team that drives it hard. Dayton does as good of a job as anybody we played this year of putting the ball down and putting pressure on you defensively.
You have to do a good job of guarding the ball, but you also have to do a good job of being one pass away and maybe helping the guy guard the ball. We will certainly emphasize and try to do that. But hopefully if foul situations do occur, which you know they could, you never know, hopefully we have depth that we can put other guys out there. I mean, we go four deep with our bigs, and can play a fifth and I feel pretty good about any of those guys being in the game at any time.
Q. Bill, along those lines, can you break down Chris Wright for us?
COACH SELF: Well, I've watched enough tape, and I've watched him play in high school when he was being recruited. And I thought to myself, boy, did Dayton get a steal in this guy because he's really good.
But how many guys out there are that tall, that physically gifted from a strength standpoint and have a 40 inch vertical or close to it on top of that. At least based on what I hear, and I hear Little's is maybe even higher than that.
So very active. Puts a lot of pressure on the defense. He's one of those guys that can play so aggressive that there's always going to be contact. And I think Tom's point's correct because he puts so much pressure on you, if you're not in the proper defensive positioning, you can pick up a lot of fouls.
But on the flip side, if you are, maybe you can get a cheap one or two on him as well. But he is a fabulous player. And probably puts as much pressure on you defensively as anybody that we played this year from either posting it, rebounding it, or catching it and driving it. I mean, he's a guy that can really drive the ball.
Q. Coach, to think back in your time at Tulsa, kind of a comparable league to a degree, why, though, are Chris Wright and Charles Little A 10 and not playing in a bigger league? There has to be a flaw. Why do they trickle down to the A 10?
COACH SELF: I don't think that is a fair assessment. But let me tell you, forget Chris Wright and forget Little. I think things like that happen sometimes because maybe guys mature late. Maybe guys don't pass the eye test as much when you see them standing there. I don't think that's the case with these two. I think these two could have played anywhere.
And I don't know, I don't know their situation recruiting, but I would bet that Chris Wright committed before the summer before senior year. I would bet he did. I don't know if that's true or not. Because if he did, then when people like Kansas or somebody else goes and sees him and says oh, God, who is this guy, we want to get in on him, and the word is, well, he's already committed to Dayton.
And that's where you need to probably give more credit to the staffs at those respective schools than you do at what's wrong, because they did such a good job of evaluating at a very young age and developing a relationship. And now that these youngsters feel indebted or obligated, I am so comfortable with this place, I want to go play for these guys I don't know if that's what happened with him, but I would bet that it was something like that. And that's a credit to the staff more so than anything wrong.
When I was at Tulsa, we, you know we went to the Elite Eight and had a pretty good team and I felt like I had four guys that could play at OU or OSU. For whatever reasons they weren't recruited at that particular tomorrow and we were able to sneak in there and get them. And they did play with a chip on their shoulders, and I would bet the Dayton players do that as well.
Q. Bill, how big a deal is it this time of year to have officials in the games that maybe aren't familiar with how you guys play or how a team like Dayton plays? And how much of your in game adjustment is based on how a game is being called this time of year?
COACH SELF: I think you always have to make adjustments based on how not maybe based on how the game is being called, but based on your foul situation, or, you know, if they're calling it tight, you may want to drive it more. If they're not calling it as tight and maybe you can post stronger or have, you know play with your hands more or whatever.
But I have never gone into a game thinking, well, you know, this crew hasn't seen us or this crew hasn't seen us. I am not smart enough to figure all that stuff out. I just worry about how our team performs. And you may make adjustments on maybe in the game on if there's something that you feel like is being emphasized that particular night. But not much.
I mean, I could be wrong with some coaches, but you may do that during some timeouts or whatnot. But for the most part, I think you just play and know you're going to get a good whistle this time of year because all of the officials that are calling now are just like the teams. They are the best that our game has and certainly deserve to be calling.
Q. Wright did commit as a junior. He was a kid that committed as a junior. Point guard played for Dayton now they lost the one point guard who kind of shared time and at times has been in an erratic yesterday, the kid had nine assists and one turnover.
COACH SELF: He was good.
Q. I just wanted your observations.
COACH SELF: The player that went down is a talented guy based on the little bit I've seen and certainly based on what I've heard. But yesterday's point guard play was very, very good. Got the ball into the paint, forced help. And when you're that aggressive and you have nine assists and only one turnover, that means you're making some great decisions and taking care of the ball.
And, you know, I can't speak for Brian, but I would think that his value to the team is every bit as much on the defensive end as it is the offensive end as well. So he's a good lead guard.
Q. Are you guys able to win when Sherron's off? He kind of said if I have an okay night we can win, but an off night it's awfully tough.
COACH SELF: Yeah, I think we can. You know, because if I tell you that, yeah, we are not going to win if Sherron is off, what if he is off? Am I telling the team it is over? That is not it at all. Guys have a tendency step up and make plays when other guys may not be their best that night.
I'm not buying into that theory at all. Because I do think our supporting cast around Sherron and Cole has gotten better each and every week as the season progressed, so we've won games where Sherron hadn't shot the ball well. We also have lost games where he hadn't shot the ball well.
The thing about the percentage play with us is for our main two guns to perform well, to give us the best chance. That's a percentage play.
But I would say this, also. Even though guys sometimes don't shoot the ball well, Sherron can still control the game and not score and there's not a lot of guys out there that can do that.
Q. Coach, could you just kind of update us on Appleton, his situation as far as someone said he went home for a funeral?
COACH SELF: He left for he had a very, very a family member which is also the cousin of Elijah Johnson, a young man we signed. Elijah and Tyrone grew up in the same neighborhood in Gary, Indiana. And there was a family member that was shot and killed this past week and the services were this morning. So after the game he flew home to be with his family and he'll be back here by I believe 7:30 this evening.
Q. Bill, you talked about Sherron controlling the game without scoring. How is that exactly?
COACH SELF: Well, when the ball is in his hands, he can make plays for others just as easy as he can make plays for himself. And I do think he can put great pressure on the defense, because he's good with the ball in his hands.
And even last night, even though he scored the ball extremely well yesterday obviously, but when the game is on the line last night, I mean, he also distributed the ball very well, too. And he can be a great distributor of the ball.
Q. Follow up question. Is there a risk, then, that he will try to do too much?
COACH SELF: We talked about that. There is always a risk with him in that, because that's who he is. I mean, he's a play making guy. And he wants to put himself in position to make as many plays as possible.
And we've talked about that, and I think he's got better as the season's gone on and as the supporting cast has gotten better.
Because early in the season, I felt like in his mind he put so much pressure on himself, I need to go do it for us to be successful. Now even though we are better off when he's really on, now the whole mindset, you know what? It doesn't matter who it is because I trust my guys around me enough that they can make the plays as long as I set them up. So I do think he really matured in that respect.
Q. Hi, Bill. I just heard that your response to I am not really familiar with what's going on with the team, but a family member of one of the players was shot and killed. And we're talking about the United States; we're not talking about Iraq. I came from Chicago. I think we've had 29 when I left, 29 student age kids shot and killed somehow this school year. Are we just becoming inert to that? Is this kind of bizarre we passed this up? Or is this something you have to deal with in modern society, being a basketball coach that a player might have to leave because somebody has been shot. It seems to happen an awful lot.
COACH SELF: It happens, you know, far too often. Of course once is way too much.
Last year we had two individuals who had family members that were murdered in drive bys the same week. So and this is a unique situation as well. And you know, there's when you coach, you recruit from areas or cities sometimes where there is crime, violent crime. And, certainly, you can have the most innocent of bystanders, which was the case in this particular situation, that put themselves at such a wrong place at the wrong time and totally incidental, not planned and all those things.
And so we do, I think as coaches, you know, not just basketball coaches, coaches of football or whatever sports where you recruit guys from inner cities, not just always inner cities, but predominantly so, that you have situations like this that can occur.
And it does put a perspective on everything. Because basketball is important and of course it's why we're all here and all that kind of stuff, but it is not certainly life or death, which a lot of these guys go through and we just kind of pass it by as it is not that big a thing and you know that these guys are really, really hurting inside.
Q. Bill, what is the biggest thing that Danny's given Cole since the two have been working together?
COACH SELF: Well, you know, Danny has been great with all our guys. In large part because he's done exactly what everybody dreams of doing. And, I mean, if you're a young guy and you can, you know, be tutored by a guy that's won a national championship, the number one pick in the draft, been an Olympian, the National Player of the Year. At that time he signed the richest contract ever for a rookie, to an NBA All Star to the Six Man Award winner, playing 15 years in the league, and on top of all that to be a great family guy, a great role model.
I mean, he's taken the same steps that these guys all hope to take. So when he speaks, they do listen.
The other thing about Danny that's unique is that Danny wasn't a high flying athlete. He had three ACL's after he was in the NBA. Three ACL's and still played 15 years. So he had to learn shortcuts. He wasn't as athletic as guys at that level. He had to learn shortcuts.
Sometimes the greatest players it is harder to translate into teaching because other guys can't naturally do what great players do. He's had it's easier for him to teach it because he had to learn all the shortcuts and I think he has been a huge asset in that regard.
MODERATOR: If there are no more questions, thank you, Coach, and good luck tomorrow.
March 21, 2009
An interview with:
MODERATOR: We are joined on the dais by the University of Dayton student athletes on my left, Charles Little, Marcus Johnson and Chris Wright.
Q. This is for all three of you guys. Could you guys talk a little bit about, do you like kind of being the bracket buster underdog that can get in here and kind of shake things up?
CHRIS WRIGHT: I mean, I always like when, you know, people kind of underestimate you or put you at a lower seed. Sometimes you deserve it, but we don't really pay attention to that. We just go out there and we do what we have to do and we play our game.
MARCUS JOHNSON: Yeah, basically just to piggyback on him. I mean, we don't consider ourselves the underdog. In the world maybe, but we know what we need to do, you know, to win games. You know, we have a really special team this year, and, I mean, we just have proven it, you know, last night's game and maybe tomorrow.
CHARLES LITTLE: Yeah, we never feel like we're an underdog going into any game. We feel like we can play with anybody. You know, so America might think that we're killing brackets and we have no chance. But we think we can go out there and play with anybody.
Q. This question is for Chris Wright. I heard or read that you didn't know much about Dayton growing up but it was very close to your home. So how did they get you?
CHRIS WRIGHT: My uncle went to the University of Dayton in '72, but I never considered going to Dayton. When people asked me if I was going to Dayton, I'd say I look at them like, man, get out of here. Why would I be going to Dayton. Especially just being home.
And when you are young growing up you always say you want to get away from home or you can't wait to get out of the house. Just being recruited and stuff, and actually going over on campus, you know, me meeting B.G. and the coaches and the people on campus, it was totally different than what I thought. And once I went over there, I knew that I was probably going to be ending up going there.
Q. How is it different?
CHRIS WRIGHT: It was completely different because I never went where I live it is a river that divides Dayton kind of is the east side, west side, and I always stayed on the west side and you go over across the river it is totally different. And going over there and meeting people and stuff like that, it is really different. And I liked it over there.
Q. Chris, I'm told that you committed your junior year to Dayton. After you committed, what big name schools were recruiting you? And what big name schools up to that point in addition to Dayton?
CHRIS WRIGHT: Well, I had pretty much narrowed it down to either Texas or Michigan State, Xavier or Michigan. But, I mean, they was always recruit meeting still. And all the way up until the night that I was going to make my commitment the next day. I was talking to Tommy Amaker and he pretty much knew that I would end up going to Dayton.
I mean, I really didn't, you know committing to Dayton, I really didn't consider any other schools after I knew I was going to be going to Dayton, because it was pretty much all the visits and stuff, after a while they started to be the same.
And it was like just going to the football games and stuff like that and coming into Dayton, it was just basically a dream come true to just being at Dayton and having my family come and watch me play. That was just big for me, having my family around. And I knew I was going to go to Dayton even up to the night that I talked to Tom Amaker.
Q. This is for Marcus and Charles. Once were you recruited and you committed to Dayton, do you feel a little bit like you see the other teams get higher profile and you feel like maybe you can play at that level? Is there a little chip to maybe show that you can be that caliber of player once you get to a U.D.?
CHARLES LITTLE: Yeah, I'd say so, but at the same time like I know, you know, we could have we got offers from some of the SEC schools and Big Ten schools and we played against those guys in AU. So it is not an intimidation factor because we played them and know what we are capable of and know that we can play with them.
MARCUS JOHNSON: To piggyback on what Charles said. You can have any good players in any league. So, I mean, those bigger schools, I mean, it really doesn't matter, you know. Just being at Dayton, you know, anything can happen. You can build a program.
Q. Marcus, Sherron Collins is saying in the locker room when he has an off night he doesn't really know if Kansas can win the game. What is the key to getting him out of his game? Not just shooting but the other things he does so well?
MARCUS JOHNSON: You know, just keeping the guy in front of him, you know. Playing our man to man defense, our pressuring him, and standing on his toes and guarding the ball with all five guys, being in the shallow triangle and stuff like that, kind of help him get out of his game hopefully.
Q. I'm just wondering, guys, you were on cloud nine yesterday after the win. What were your feelings and emotions this morning as you woke up and realized you had won an NCAA game?
MARCUS JOHNSON: I mean, after the game, you know, you feel real good, just to get that out of the way. And you know, especially over a Big East school. You know, a lot of guys thought we were the underdogs going in and didn't have us winning and stuff like that. But it felt pretty good to prove the world wrong. And just waking up this morning, you know, it's just another day to play. So we just really had to focus on Kansas the next game.
CHRIS WRIGHT: I mean, you know it is good to win a game in the NCAA tournament because you won yourself into another 40 minutes.
But, you know, I also believe that you just have to move on. I mean, we won yesterday and we were considered the underdogs. It was good for our program and, you know, good for our team. But if you still worried about the West Virginia game and what you did, then, I mean, a lot of things can happen in the Kansas game where you're still focused on the West Virginia game and you don't want that to happen.
So when I woke up this morning I was ready for Kansas.
CHARLES LITTLE: I think when we woke up we were already excited about what happened yesterday, but at the same time, you know, we have to start focusing on the task at hand.
I think everybody, I think the whole team, we know we got one, let's see if we can get two. And after that, let's see if we can get three. Keep building on what we did yesterday. It is just exciting to be part of the team right now.
Q. For all three of you guys. Just what do you think of when you think of Kansas basketball? I mean, not this year's team, just in general. I don't know if you have certain impressions.
CHRIS WRIGHT: One thing I always remember that I know Wilt Chamberlain went there. And it is a program based on tradition and a lot of history. They won some championships, a lot of championships. I am happy, I am honored just to be playing this game today and thank God we get an opportunity to go out and compete with a Kansas.
CHARLES LITTLE: I mean, I know when Kansas comes to my mind, you know, Dr. James Naismith, he coached there didn't he coach there? Or he played there. He was associated with them, so the founder of the game, you know, to come from Kansas is just big. So they had the first step on it and it's big and it's huge. And the Paul Pierces and the Jacque Vaughns and all of those, those were my favorite teams growing up in the '90s. I am just excited to play Kansas.
MARCUS JOHNSON: The defending national champions. It's just exciting to you know play these guys, I mean, they don't have the same team that they had last year, but, I mean, they still have a great team. So it's just exciting to be able to play against them.
Q. Chris, you mentioned your uncle and how he played there. I would imagine that he wanted you to go to Dayton and before you changed course and decided it was for you, you said you were like no way. What were conversations with him like when you would respond that way?
CHRIS WRIGHT: I mean, he would never like tell me where I should go. He always would tell me I have to do it for myself. And he never really told me stories about when he went there, except when he played at the arena and how the fans were to him, even after he played and how they still, you know, show him love and show him support.
But he never really ever told me that I should go to Dayton. It was a decision I had to make because I have to be there for four years. And he said I couldn't do it for him or do it for my mother, it had to be something I did for myself.
Q. What about once you decided, was he happy or relieved?
CHRIS WRIGHT: I know he wanted me to go there, but he never told me. Sometimes just talking to him, he never actually said, You should go to Dayton because I did this or I did this there. But once I made my commitment, I think he was over there crying. I believe so.
Q. Chris, you always talk about staying hungry. Can you be too hungry for a game like this?
CHRIS WRIGHT: I mean, you can be overexcited, but you can never be too hungry for a game. You can be overexcited to the point where you go out there and actually forget what you are supposed to be doing.
But as far as being too hungry, I mean, being too hungry is watching extra film or getting extra shots or get extra free throws. You can never be too hungry for anything.
Q. Kind of along the similar lines. Is there a temptation that you guys are fighting, getting the first win in 19 years, of not being satisfied going into this game and drawing the national champs?
CHARLES LITTLE: No, I think all of us want more. So it was great to get the one win, the first one in 20 years. But I think overall we just want to get one. I think now what we got the first one out of the way it is just now let's get two. Like I said earlier, we are still hungry.
MARCUS JOHNSON: We are never satisfied. Coach tells us after the game last night when we were eating, you know, one game's not enough. That game was over with and we got plenty more to come if we play how we are supposed to and play Dayton basketball.
Q. Chris, I was wondering when you got that break away dunk, was there just a split second there like what crossed your mind? Did you think like what were you going to do or it just happened? Oh, man I don't want to screw this up.
CHRIS WRIGHT: It is funny because when I was in high school and playing AAU my favorite dunk on the fast break I would do like a windmill or something. Before every game even in the A 10 tournament if I get a fast break or something my cousin would always text me before the game and say du nu nu, du nu nu, that's what the text message would say.
And when I got on the bus I would read the text and he said, You soft, man. Because I didn't windmill, because that's all he wanted to see me do. We call it the LeBron, and that was kind of like a salute to LeBron, especially being from Ohio. And that's what he said. He said, You are soft, that ain't what I wanted to see.
Q. Marcus, you kind of touched on it. What was B.G. like afterwards? Did he enjoy it for a little bit? Because I know he is kind of an all business coach when it has to be that way. What was he like with you guys last night?
MARCUS JOHNSON: In the locker room you mean or just last night? I mean, he was excited, you know. You know, after the game he spoke to us, told us, you know, it was a good job that we did. And, you know, he was excited for that time being.
But after that, it was back to business. You know it was straight to Kansas.
CHARLES LITTLE: That's how it was. I think in the locker room he was caught up in the moment and he was really excited and I think he was really proud of us. But once we got back to the hotel, the next time I saw him he was all straight faced, back to business, talking about Kansas.
Q. How did he show it in the locker room?
CHARLES LITTLE: He smiles a lot more than he used to.
MARCUS JOHNSON: He like paces around the locker room and walks back and forth. And says, you know, I don't know what to say.
CHARLES LITTLE: He puts his hand on his nose.
MARCUS JOHNSON: Yeah, puts his hand on his nose.
Q. Charles, and for the record, Naismith was the coach, the only losing coach in Kansas history.
CHARLES LITTLE: Thanks.
Q. You guys are known as a great dunking team. And Cole Aldrich had eight dunks by himself yesterday. Are you guys even impressed with that number?
CHARLES LITTLE: Yeah. I mean, eight dunks, it's 16 points is more what is more important to me than just the dunks. His dunks are lot more powerful because he is a lot more bigger than us. But eight dunks is still eight dunks. I hope me and Marcus and Chris can get eight dunks tomorrow. It is a lot of dunks. I didn't know he had that many.
MARCUS JOHNSON: That is very impressive, you know. We tend to get eight dunks
CHARLES LITTLE: I think the school record is ten.
MARCUS JOHNSON: That's three. Just one person doing it, it's pretty special.
Q. Chris, I guess what was it about Coach Gregory that impressed you when he was recruiting?
CHRIS WRIGHT: The first thing B.G. actually told me when I actually talked to him and came on campus, he said, First of all, I will tell you you're not that good right now. And that was like the first time anybody ever said you are not that good because you are so used to people saying you can do this, you can do that.
And he told me exactly what I need to work on and he gave me a list of the things that I need to work on. Just perimeter shooting and separation dribble and stuff I never heard of ever in my life. And not knowing that I was going to Dayton that day, but I actually put that on my door and every day I woke up I would go out and look at my door and before I leave I would make sure I check it off. And that is what I was going to work on for that day.
And, you know, what was really different about him, he never really always talked about the NBA, the NBA. Some schools when they text me or I would talk to them they would say, I can't wait to be your coach and me and you and the NBA grooming and stuff. And to me it sounded like they were selling me a dream because I wasn't even done with high school yet and I haven't even started my junior year and you're talking about the NBA already. I am not even ready for the NBA mentally, physically or anything like that.
And B.G. was always talking about making me a better player and a better person before anything else because, I mean, that's the most important. Because the ball is not going to bounce forever, so he always talked about character building things.
And that was really special about him, that he just come to me and tell me the truth right offhand and something I never heard before, especially when dealing with basketball.
Q. This is more Marcus. You played with LeBron James in high school? Is that right?
MARCUS JOHNSON: Yes.
Q. Have you heard from him?
MARCUS JOHNSON: Yeah. Actually, you know, Selection Sunday we were texting each other and he told me, you know, good luck in the tournament. You know, and he wishes our team well.
Q. You haven't heard from him since the win?
MARCUS JOHNSON: No.
MODERATOR: Okay, guys. Thank you very much. We will excuse the University of Dayton student athletes to the locker room.
Joined on the dais by University of Dayton head coach, Brian Gregory. We will begin taking questions for coach.
Q. Coach, the players said that they really don't feel like an underdog regardless of who they're playing. Do you play that up when you're playing a seed that is higher than you? Or is that just the mentality of the team, they can beat anyone?
COACH GREGORY: It is more mentalities. Obviously we have been fortunate to play some real quality teams in our non conference schedule over the last couple of years, have had pretty good success. I think it goes back a little bit to when each of these players were in high school, too. They had the opportunity to go to some, you know, perceived bigger name type schools and perceived bigger conferences but decided that the University of Dayton and what we were doing was the best fit for them.
So I don't think there's ever a we can't get it done because of the name on the jersey type attitude among our guys. And there's a little bit of an edge with us with that as well, but it's just, you know, we keep talking to our guys whoever plays best during those 40 minutes and plays the hardest and compete the mosts usually wins. And it's proven true for our team this year.
Q. Do you ever play up the bracket buster role so far this year?
COACH GREGORY: No, no. We've never approached things like that at all. Like, okay, we're the underdog or Cinderella story, none of that.
Like I said, it's different because these three guys that were up here could have went just about anywhere that they wanted to, and that's why we have been successful. Because we have been able to show guys that at the University of Dayton, and in our program, it's not the biggest school that recruits you, the ultimate goal in the recruiting process is find the best fit for you. Not the biggest fit, the best fit.
And, you know, hey, a lot of guys don't look at it like that and they make their decision based on other things. We've been fortunate over the last four years to get guys that could have gone just about anywhere or almost anywhere, could have played in a lot of different conferences, but our program had the best fit for them: academically, socially, basketball wise, opportunity to play right away, whatever the case might be.
So I don't need to play that up, because I don't think they've ever looked at themselves that way.
Q. Hi, Brian. Do you think that maybe 20 years ago there was a stigma, though, that A 10 guys or guys in that league, there was something wrong? And I talked to Bill about this, that they had to trickle down to your league and that they were a step slower, an inch short? And now that's kind of been you guys are kind of evening the score a little bit. That and also do you feel like you're carrying a torch for the A 10 to a degree here?
COACH GREGORY: I will hit the question on the conference presently right now, because I think that's a big one. You know, people talk about, you know, our ability yesterday to, you know, not crack or whatever the term was that was thrown around.
We have been through a lot of those situations over the last few months. Our league is really, really good. And the quality team and the different venues that we have to play in does get you battle tested. I mean, we were 11 5. Is that right? 11 5 in the league, you know. And lost some tough games on the road and played pretty well at home, but had to pull some games out.
So the league, you know, you look at the success that Xavier has had, I think you go down over the last 10 years, we've had four, five teams made the Elite Eight from our team. Rhode Island did, obviously UMass did, Temple has, St. Joe's has. You just go down.
Ours is a basketball league. Every school in our league has kind of built their athletic national reputation based on their men's basketball program. It is a great basketball league.
And so sometimes it's under the radar unfortunately. And every win somebody from our league gets in the tournament only helps us. So, you know, I think that's important.
On the other end, there is, you know, maybe everybody might have one flaw that maybe that's why they didn't go to another school. But, as I said, you know, it may be a BCS type school. But right now, if you look at our league and you look at the league over the last 10 years, the quality of players that have come from there, there's so many guys out there that maybe they were under recruited, but a David West, Jameer Nelson.
You are talking two NBA All Stars that come from our league. You go through the NBA rosters, there are A 10 players all over the place, probably outside any BCS league more so than any league in the country. So Players of the Year, you go down the list. Jameer Nelson, Marcus Camby, Lamar Odom. All different players. You know, our league is pretty good.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Phil Odlum and he has helped out a little bit, what he has done and helping you out a little bit.
COACH GREGORY: My relationship, my friendship with Phil started when I was a GA at Michigan State and he was still the head coach at Waverly, you know, running the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, their clinic and so forth. And working for Jud, that the high school coaches were so important to our program and having a good relationship.
But our friendship has grown even more since that point obviously. Where when I was young and didn't make any money, he kind of took care of me. Now it's the other way around. He's retired, now I have to take care of him.
But he's a great friend and a guy that will tell it to you straight. You know, he's not going to sugarcoat anything. If he thinks you're doing something wrong, he'll tell you.
But his friendship with me has been so important just because of how many years it's gone back. And just the type of guy he is. Obviously he is a Hall of Fame coach, too, so he was a great coach. He's great friends with Jud, great friends with Coach Izzo, and so it's good to have him around.
He was excited when he saw that both us and Michigan State were down here together. He lives down in Florida now, so he flew up for the weekend. And, you know, he felt really good about both of us winning yesterday.
Q. Brian, you were a little emotional yesterday talking about Coach Heathcote and Coach Izzo maybe watching your game.
COACH GREGORY: Yep.
Q. Have you heard from them since? What did they say to you?
COACH GREGORY: Yeah, I talked to Coach Izzo probably three times yesterday. The last one was at 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. with both him and Jud in the film room at the Michigan State hotel watching the film. Talked a little bit about us and our game and a little bit about Kansas, because Michigan State has played Kansas. And just, you know, how great it is that we're all at this site together.
And Jud was happy that he gets to watch two games on Sunday instead of just one. So it meant a lot to have him here. And, you know, to have coaches over here, too. Those guys have been have meant the world to me and I wouldn't be sitting up here if it wasn't for those two guys.
Q. Coach, can you talk about your biggest challenge with Kansas now?
COACH GREGORY: You know, when you look at them, offensively in the open court they're as good as anybody in the country. Obviously with Collins, with the ball in his hands so much. But I think if you just stopped there, you would be doing that team and that offensive transition game they play an injustice or disservice because they have so many weapons.
Their bigs can really run the court. Their wings get out wide. And if you focus on getting back to the middle of the court, they're going to be knocking down threes the whole game. They just have every weapon covered when it comes to having a great transition team.
Obviously we are a team that likes to push the ball up the court as well, but limited at times. They have no limitations. They can beat you every single way.
It was interesting, we showed film and all we had to do is take one game to show all of the different things that they can beat you on in transition. Because they do it in every single game. You didn't have to take one from the Baylor game and one from the Nebraska game and one from the Texas game. You could just take one game and find the 10 things they do great in transition and show those clips. Because if you took the next game, you would be able to see those 10 things again in the next game because they are so efficient in the open court.
So our transition defense will be very, very important.
Q. I'm wondering while you're coaching in the heat of the game and you're pacing and thinking, and when Wright gets the break away dunk, do you have a second there where you think you know what's coming? And, secondly, do you appreciate or know the game is going, this is just more?
COACH GREGORY: I always make sure we've worked if you can believe it, the thing I look at is how he lands. We work on how he lands. When he was younger he always landed on his heels and it put the pressure on his feet and now he has done a better job of that.
But I just make sure that ball goes through the hoop because I know at this time every two points is important.
Does it help us? Yeah, there's no question about it. I know it's only two points, but whenever one of our guys makes a play like that, it gives us a little extra boost. There is no doubt about it.
And I've seen Chris play a long, long time. So I've seen just about every dunk that he has in his arsenal. And in some of the AAU games that's all they do, so he gets a lot of them.
Q. Coach, we're going to talk about this transition game a lot. It's probably true this will come down to a couple of possessions in the half court. And did you think that you had more success half court against West Virginia than you probably anticipated going in? You hurt them in the half court backdoor a couple of times and away from the, you know screening away from the ball. Will it come down to a half court game in spurts, do you think, against Kansas?
COACH GREGORY: Well, I think I'm hoping at times it does. Because, you know, that's obviously one of their greatest strengths is the transition game. So we're going to have to try to get them where we can play some half court defense on them.
Usually at this time of year that's what it does come down to. Execution in the half court. And we did some good things yesterday in that, there is no question about it. Our guys, some of those that were put in, as I said yesterday, specifically for that game against West Virginia because of their pressure and their denial and so forth. And when you don't get to work on those in the live game situation, you are never quite sure how they are going to work out.
Our guys did a great job of doing that. I thought, you know, our guys' concentration on those things was really, really big. And the key was just to make the play, not to try to do anything spectacular with some of that stuff. And I thought it worked out pretty well.
You know, Kansas, you can talk about their transition, but the one thing you have got to remember in the half court, at the point and at the 5 spot, they got guys that can get you a basket, you know, anytime or at least give you a high percentage shot.
Obviously Collins is one of the best if not the best point guards in the country. And the 5 man has really made strides, you know what I mean, and has scored a lot of points on a lot of quality defenders in the Big 12. So that helps them in the half court.
And, as I said, if you don't if you just left it there, you would be doing that team a disservice because those other players are playing extremely well. And you've got to you can't give them anything. They are young, but they have really improved during the year. You can see that Coach has done a great job with their development as a team.
Q. Coach, historically Kurt's had his biggest games and bigger challenges as far as like individual matchups go. What allows him to step up to the challenge and do you guys ever find yourself giving him an extra talking up to before those games?
COACH GREGORY: You mean when we are playing someone, another post player that's really good?
Q. Yeah, like Nivens and Blair.
COACH GREGORY: Yeah. I said one of the key plays in yesterday's game, it was a two or three point game and we needed a stop and a rebound. And they were attacking the glass. And Kurt got a rebound among three West Virginia players that was as big a rebound and as good a rebound as I have seen in a long, long time and that's why he started every game since he's been here. He makes those plays.
When we play against other quality centers, does he get a little more jacked up? Yeah, there is no question about it. Any competitive kid would do that. And he has played well in those games. He's going to have to play extremely well for us tomorrow. He is not the type of kid that you need to give a little extra motivation to or whatever the case may be.
We call him the professional. He knows what he needs to get done. And he will be well prepared. He will watch extra film and do all the things that he always does. And go out there, and, you know, he plays a physical game and plays extremely hard, and he's had good success against quality players like, as you said, the Nivens and the Blairs and so forth.
Q. Coach, the players are talking about that for at least a little while you got to enjoy the victory, you as a coach. I know you talked a long time about that being a big step, winning in the NCAA tournament. I wondered what that was like, how long you let yourself enjoy it and when did you flip into wow, we're playing Kansas mode.
COACH GREGORY: You have to enjoy it. And we did. We enjoyed it and not in a celebratory type way, but more in with the guys, you know, in terms of their accomplishment and what they've done.
It is unfortunate at times that, and we've talked about it before, in terms of this process that we've gone through, in terms of our program and doing the things we want to do in building a program, winning used to be kind of the last step, and we won. We had won 49 games over the last two years.
But in this day and age you do have to do some other things now, and one of them is is advance in the NCAA tournament. Or have great success in another post season tournament or whatever the case might be.
And so that was a big step for us. And so we were excited about that. As I said, it was great for our school, great for the program, great for this team. A tremendous reward for the work that our guys have done.
Especially when you think about a week ago, being one of only four non BCS schools to make the school with an at large bid. You start to think of how close you were to maybe not even getting in and how hard it is to get in now, and then to turn around and have that success.
But it wasn't much later than that that we met as a staff and started going over stuff on Kansas. What we did well against West Virginia, what could we use from that game into the next game? We gave the guys most of the night off and just watched some film and did some stuff, but, you know, it was back to work. We had a pretty good game plan going into the week of what we needed to get done for Saturday, a prep day like today.
Q. Chris Wright mentioned when you were recruiting him, or maybe it was when he first arrived, you told him all the things he had to get better at. Is that part of the psychology of coaching? Or was he really needed a lot of work when he first came?
COACH GREGORY: They all need a lot of work and the great ones understand that and are willing to listen to that. We always tell guys I tell them in the recruiting process I'm going to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. And to those guys that that appeals to, then I'm that type of coach. I mean, if you don't want to hear that, then I wouldn't be a good guy to play for, just like Coach Izzo wouldn't be a good guy to play for, and probably every coach that came up here to the.
Good players see what they and do what they want to do. And Chris Wright is one of those guys. And we have a lot of those guys and that's why we have been successful.
But we put down 11 things that he needed to get a lot better at, that he needed to work on, and I think he kind of looked back and said, you know, everybody else is telling me how great I am, and these guys are telling me if I want to become great this is what I need to do. You know, kind of a risky thing to do, but, you know, in recruiting you have got to figure out what will appeal to a kid and what will really cut through all the other crap, you know, so to speak.
And that's exactly what he was looking for. He wanted to get better. He knew that he had some deficiencies. He knew he had a great talent, but he knew being where he was wasn't he wanted more.
And so it worked.
Q. That was my question, but let me follow up, then. What kinds of things were on that list? And where is he at with the list at this point?
COACH GREGORY: He couldn't dunk when I recruited him, so obviously he has listened extremely well.
Now, you know, his ball skills was the main one. Very fortunate in my career as an assistant to be able to coach some great players. But one thing is, with guys that are great athletes, everybody always tells them you have got to make jump shots. If you could only shoot, if you could only shoot I am sure through your travels everybody has heard that.
One thing is, most of those guys aren't great with the basketball. Their ball skills aren't very good. Now, every move they make off the dribble, if it is not a dunk, it is a pull up jump shot or some type of shot. If you were not good with the ball it is hard to shoot something you don't have a good handle of.
That is one thing we worked on. He has gotten much better with the basketball. Even one of the dunks yesterday he caught the ball on the break and crossed over on the move and was able to finish the play.
A couple of years ago he was just not able to make those plays. And to his credit, he spent the time. With the NCAA rules you can't work year round with the guys. The guys have to put in the time and guys have to want to get better and he has done that. He is a very hard working kid. And the ball skills was one and the shooting. He knew he needed to start developing the jump shot. He hit a big 3 for us in the first half yesterday and shot the ball well for us from the mid range game that a lot of kids don't have anymore.
Practice habits, just really competing every day in practice. Sometimes the great players coming in don't have the best practice habits and I think he's gotten really much better at that. Off the top of my head those are some three big ones that he has really worked on and focused on.
As I said, not a lot of guys will want to hear that stuff, you know. And I think one of the reasons that we've made this step as a program is I have guys that come to Dayton understand that they are going to get coached every day. And if they want to get better, it is a good place for them.
Q. Just in terms of credibility, what did it do for you guys to have someone of Chris's caliber even before he played a college game say yes and stick with that yes to come to Dayton?
COACH GREGORY: Stick with it is a good one. Because nowadays, you know.
It was big. Obviously one of the things when I got the job, I said we may not get everyone, but the best players in the area, we need to be able to be in on and recruit. The great Dayton teams of the past that have built this tradition up always had local players playing for them. Jim Paxson. You just go down the list. Donald Smith. I mean, you just keep going down, and Donnie May, everybody.
And we needed to do that. And that didn't mean we were going to get everyone. But when Chris did commit, and then when he kind of blew up and said, hey, listen, everything I am looking for as a player, as a student, as a person, is at the University of Dayton, why do I need to go anywhere else if I can get it all here and have my family and friends be part of my success. And when tough times come, they will be here for me as well, I can do that right here. That did send a big message out there.
And I think it's obviously helped our recruiting, because we have been able to parlay that into more local recruits and so forth.
We aren't the perfect fit for every one of those guys. But if you're looking for, you know, a high quality education with a great basketball program, with a great tradition, where you can get better at, play great teams, advance in the NCAA tournament now, then we do have that. And he stood up and said this is what I want. I can get it at Dayton. And it doesn't matter what everybody else says, we're going to figure out a way to get it done, and he's done that.
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you, Coach. I appreciate the time.