March 21, 2009
THE MODERATOR: Joining us today are student athletes Jerry Smith and Preston Knowles. Questions for the student athletes, please.
Q. This is for both of you guys, can you just talk about playing a team that kind of plays your style? Like how much did you all look forward to that last year against Tennessee and how do you look forward to tomorrow?
JERRY SMITH: I think we look forward to it a lot. We know they've got very scrappy guards and very good, big men inside and they like to turn people over just like we do. So it should be interesting. We're very, very excited about it.
PRESTON KNOWLES: They're basically like a carbon copy of us. But what we have to do, we can't fall into that run and gun match with them. We have to be the most aggressive team both offensively and defensively, so if we can do that and control the tempo and play Louisville basketball at the same time, I think we'll be all right.
Q. How much do you know about the personnel of the Siena team and how difficult is it to turn around at tournament time to get to know the personnel basically on the fly in a day?
JERRY SMITH: If you get to the Elite Eight, they're the toughest because you've got one day to prepare. We watched a lot of film on them today, we know they have a great guard play. Their point guard is tremendous. He has like a 4 to 1 assist to turnover ratio, and we know the 2 guard is very, very aggressive. It's a short amount of time, but guys really have to lock in and be focused and be ready to go come Sunday.
Q. Preston, you guys have just been decimating teams after halftime with your press. Are you guys turning it up, or is it more a case you're wearing people down?
PRESTON KNOWLES: I have to say it's a little bit of both. Because we pressure people 40 straight minutes as hard as we can, and eventually they're going to break down; even if it's their best player, they're going to break down.
So that being said, them wearing down, and when we see that we go for the kill. So we have this, okay, we can tell they're tired, you can see it in their eyes. That's really when we try to turn it up. So I have to say it's a little bit of both.
Q. Jerry, did you stay up to watch the game last night? And secondly, how much of an advantage is it for you guys the fact that they had to play a double overtime game into the morning?
JERRY SMITH: We stayed up and watched the game. A lot of the guys did. And when you say double overtime, I don't think it's much of an advantage for us, because this is the NCAA Tournament, there's a lot of emotion that goes into it. They get a day off just like we do in between. So I don't think that double overtime is going to matter at all come Sunday.
Q. Watching the game, were you surprised that with all the things Siena didn't do well that they actually won?
PRESTON KNOWLES: No, because I think they were the more aggressive team on defense. Like when you play in the NCAA Tournament, March Madness, that's what's going to win championships, is defense. Anybody can miss shots, you're not going to be there offensively every single game, you have to rely on defense pressure to win ball games. That's what they did down the stretch.
Q. Were you surprised that Siena was able to win, were you surprised that with all the trouble that Siena had with turnovers and poor shooting they still won?
JERRY SMITH: No, not at all, because like Preston said, they played a tremendous defense. And plus they didn't shoot very good percentage, I think it was 26, 27 percent, but they had 24 offensive rebounds, which is tremendous and off the charts. That's why they were able to score as much as they did and actually stay in the game and actually win it.
Q. You all went from a situation where you could possibly have been playing Ohio State, and basically in their own backyard, to now where seems like you all have a pretty good home court advantage tomorrow. How much of a difference does that make for the players? Do you all tune that out, or is that a help to you in a situation like this?
JERRY SMITH: I think it matters a lot. We definitely would have been in a hostile environment full of Ohio State fans. Seeing that Siena was able to pull it off, hopefully a lot of them will sell their tickets to Cards fans.
Q. How much do you guys tweak your press, if at all, from game to game depending upon your opponents' tendencies and so forth?
PRESTON KNOWLES: Basically depends on how they set their press up, just like some people, they just have like a one guard front. Yesterday with Morehead State, they basically had everybody in the back court. With us, what we had to do from timeout to timeout, we had to bring our 4 man up, 3 man up. It depends on like what the opponent's team press is, and we try to adjust it from timeout or on the go.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys.
Coach, if you would please, an opening statement.
COACH PITINO: It was quite a ball game last night to watch. And Siena's what we try to do when you have one day preparation is try to take a team that you play against in the Big East and say: Who does that remind you of. And this team does a lot of things defensively, like Villanova, with the way they three quarter court trap falling back to 3 2, changing their defenses, great on the break. So with one day preparation, you sort of try to remind your team this is the way Villanova did it and this is the way Siena does it. They've got outstanding talent. Their point guard is probably one of the fastest and best decision makers we will see all year. So he's a terrific basketball player.
The whole team is really good and very deserving of the victory yesterday, and certainly it will be more of a neutral site now for both of us than it would have been if Ohio State would have won.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. When you watch a game like that last night, do you find yourself wondering who is going to win?
COACH PITINO: Well, they went up in overtime and then they gave up a 3 and Ohio State comes back in the game. And then there's so much drama, but there's so much at stake for these teams that it adds to it.
You live and die like Wisconsin they actually left the last second shot to go to Wisconsin when the shot was taken. The TV went blank and they said, "Let's go to Wisconsin." Everybody said, "Did he make it or not?"
It was great drama going back and forth with both games. Although it was unbelievable, I just left Madison Square Garden, where I watched six overtime games, and just the last two weeks have been incredible from a fan standpoint just to watch.
Q. Is it any factor that they played a double overtime game, this will probably be an up tempo game, but there will be a day of rest, do you think that factors into anything?
COACH PITINO: I don't think so. You're only talking 10 more minutes. I don't think that's a factor. I think both of us will go easy today and get the work done and get prepared.
We're two up tempo teams, and obviously we're going to try to turn each other over. They play a lot more 3 2 zone. We play a lot more 2 3 zone. So it will be both teams going after each other. Both teams have good guard play, and it will be an interesting contest.
Q. Rick, is this the best pressing team you've had at Louisville and how would you rank it compared to all your college teams as a pressing team?
COACH PITINO: Yeah, it's definitely my best at Louisville. I think that it's a different type of press we're using now than some of the other presses we've used. We don't trap as much as we run and jump and change positions. But the basic premise of great back pursuit is still there.
It's certainly a very good pressing team and one that the key for us is to shoot a high percentage so we can get it on a number of times. Last night, Siena three quarter court trap gave Ohio State fits, but they shot such a low percentage in the first half that they couldn't get it on as much.
So that's the key to all pressing teams, is that you shoot a good percentage so you can get it on that many more times.
Q. I asked Samardo about playing in March Madness and being part of it for the first time, and he said every minute is something new. What's it like coaching him this year? He doesn't come from the same background as other guys do and what's he been like as a freshman?
COACH PITINO: I think the most interesting thing for me is when I visited his home in September. It's listed Montego Bay, but by the time you get to his home you realize it's really a Third World country. The poverty is absolutely something like I've not witnessed too much in person.
And it was something to realize why he's so hungry to make it when you see that up close. And so this is great for him. He spent a few years, obviously, at St. Benedicts, but he's a very hardworking, young man and he has a definite plan to help his family.
Q. He told me even the school where he played did not have a gym, they had to bus 30 minutes to a gym. Are you surprised that he just seems like such a natural at some of the things that he has to do to have picked it up in that short a period of time?
COACH PITINO: I visited where he played. It's a cement court. The baskets were not the right height and the court was uneven. And that's where he played most of his games in elementary school.
There was great discipline at the schools. Kids weren't wearing caps, but everybody would walk to school with an umbrella, which was interesting. They all had uniforms on, but they walked a great distance. And from the road, the main road going out of Montego Bay to his home would probably be only half a mile as you turn to get to his home up the road. And it took us almost a half hour with no traffic to go from the road to his home, to go a half mile. We had to go at least one or two miles per hour the entire way because that's how bumpy that road, terrain was to get to his house.
Q. Siena is a team that won in the tournament last year, and obviously scheduled a game at Pitt and at Kansas. Do you see in them a team that expects to be in a game like this and plan to make a run?
COACH PITINO: They've got terrific talent. And the good thing for Siena is most of these guys are coming back again. But they've got really outstanding abilities. Siena has now joined the ranks of Xavier and Gonzaga in terms of the types of players they're getting and the type of talent they have.
They all can go in the Big East and play for a school. Siena could go into the Big East right now and be in the middle of the pack of the Big East and hold their own with any of us, obviously indicative of who they played. So they're a very good basketball team, and they got most of their players back, so they're going to be good and that's the key.
Q. You referred to Ronald Moore before. How much did you know about him before this tournament and how much of a key is he going to be in this game tomorrow?
COACH PITINO: Well, I know of him because we talked about Kevin Willard, my ex assistant, is at Iona, and they play in that league and he was always talking about what a great play guard he was. But the whole team impresses me. They can all beat you off the bounce.
Last night, their big guy had, what, 16 and 15. They're very effective. They attack very well. Before you even can set up your press they're pushing the ball much like Connecticut up the sideline before you can set it up. They're an impressive group. They're terrific. He's as good a point guard. You take Levance Fields from Pitt, he has a very good assist turnover ratio. This young man has the same turnover ratio but he's got unbelievable speed, as well.
Q. Going back to last night, you saw a 3 point attempt made at the buzzer with the team down 3. What's your philosophy on fouling in that situation if you're on defense?
COACH PITINO: Well, I think it goes somebody asked me that question, and I lost a game fouling at Tennessee with Jamal Mashburn. We fouled. They went to the line, made the first, missed the second. Got the rebound. We fouled 3 point play. We lost the game.
So I think on the five seconds it makes sense if you're a good blockout team on the foul line. You have big bodies that block out well. We do not. We are not a real good free throw, blockout team. And Earl Clark is a guy that can get pushed underneath, as well as Samardo is okay. So if you're a good blockout team, probably it's advantageous to foul under five seconds, and I would think about it and I have thought about it. I think about it all the time.
But percentage wise, if you play it, it's in your favor. It's probably less than 15 percent the shot's going to go in if you play it correctly. But he had a good open look.
Q. Mentioned now this is one of your better pressing teams, what separates the average ones from the really good ones? What makes this group particularly special?
COACH PITINO: I think it's up front how much pressure you can give up front. Clark and Terrence Williams are very good anticipators, they know the game the pressure has to start in the back court. Andre McGee is as good as it gets with applying pressure, and once the pressure is beaten, how good is your back pursuit? That's what makes every press go.
We don't give up too many layups because of our back pursuit and our run and jump philosophy. We're pretty good about it. We don't give up many layups.
Q. Noticed in the locker room that T Will had ice on his left hand or wrist, is that the same injury or did he reinjure it? Is it a factor at all in his game?
COACH PITINO: No, he's fine today. I didn't notice anything was bothering him.
Q. Terrence Williams seems like a really unique person in addition to being a skilled basketball player. I'm wondering what type of elements does it add to the team having somebody with that type of personality? And secondly, how rare is it to have a player of his caliber who doesn't seem obsessed with scoring and isn't what he bases his game on?
COACH PITINO: He's a unique kid. When he came in the first thing I wanted to do is I didn't know him real well. We recruited him kind of late. It was an interesting story. I was sitting in Las Vegas's gym. Back then they had this thousand team thing in Vegas like they do now except it was taking place on UNLV's campus, we'd hop from gym to gym. Assistant coach just said to me, "I saw a guy with Michael Jordan athleticism." I said, "Are you kidding?" "No." He gave me his name. He was playing at 4:00, I watched him. He was awful, played terrible. I came back and said to the coach, "What Michael Jordan are you talking about?" And he said, "No, I mean his athleticism." He said, "Now look, don't get fooled. I watched him play one game, he was terrible, and next time I watched him play he was unbelievable."
I looked on the schedule. He was playing again 9:00. He blew me away. I stayed with him that week, and sent Reggie Theus out to recruit him, and his background was really interesting, because he was living with Marcus Williams, the young man's family that played at Arizona; and then the next week I'd call him, he'd be with his AD living at his home; next week I'd call him, he'd be with his high school coach. He was basically living at different places.
So the one conclusion I came early on, this young man had to be given a lot of attention and a lot of love, because he really didn't have the typical home environment that most of these kids have.
And he came in difficult to handle in terms of getting his trust, and then he just totally opened up everything, and we've been best friends ever since. And he's been a lot of fun to coach because of it. He listens. Like I always tell him: Look, you've got an opportunity every time you're in front of a reporter to do a five minute commercial on yourself and what you're all about. Or if somebody sticks a microphone, you can do a 15 second commercial.
And he's done a great job of that. Francisco Garcia did that and T Will did it, and they truly understand that every time you get in front of a microphone, every time you get in front of a reporter you can do a commercial on your personality. And if it's any good it will be a good commercial. And he has a very good personality.
Q. Does it seem almost seems like a lot of times a player like that wouldn't be the type who would want to score all the time.
COACH PITINO: I think he understands when he tries to do that he doesn't have the effect the best part about T Will, he does so many things, grabs 9 or 10 rebounds, gets 5 assists, scores 12 points. He gets 3 or 4 steals. He's always capable of pushing a triple double on a given night.
I really do feel he's going to be a terrific pro, because most college players who are average to good shooters become good to great shooters when they get in the NBA. You take a Ron Artest he was very similar to a T Will in college.
He could do all the things that T Will could do and then he became, in time, a great shooter. That's the same thing as T Will, 6 6 body who can turn around and guard somebody. He can rebound his position. He can pass and make people better. He's a freak athlete.
And his basketball ability has caught up to his athleticism.
Q. Can you talk about how this team has been in terms of policing itself? A lot of the guys are talking about players only meeting after the Western Kentucky game and they felt that is kind of what set the tone for the rest of the year. Have they been any better than some of your past teams in terms of that?
COACH PITINO: The only thing I've been preaching all along is I say: The only thing that can stop you guys from being a good basketball team is a lack of humility. I think that stops all individuals and that stops all teams. When you start thinking you're much better than you are, somebody comes and knocks you off your pedestal quick.
And we've just been preaching that stay humble and hungry. Stay humble and hungry. Keep learning, keep preparing. Anybody can beat you on a given night. When we lost to Notre Dame by 33 points, the thing I tried to tell them is, and just gave them the five classic examples of the Arizona Cardinals getting killed by the Patriots, and we were out there at that time and everybody said it's going to be one and done with the Cardinals, then went to the Super Bowl. Or Villanova losing to West Virginia by 25 points. It's just one game.
I said just give the other team credit. Notre Dame was great. We weren't. Let's go back to work and not be overly concerned. It was like that last night at halftime. I said: You're not playing bad. Morehead's playing terrific. We'll have a run, stay with the game plan and we'll have our run.
The team never panicked and they never got full of themselves. And that's been one of the keys.
Q. When you compare the class or the players in last year's tournament, seemed like it was a really high, elite level, first round draft picks, and this year a little down. How would you rate the caliber of this year's class? If you do think it's down, does that kind of open up this tournament at all?
COACH PITINO: I think you've got a lot of great players in the tournament. Blake Griffin, we played against him last year and the difference between last year and this year, one year, that's why you stay in college.
Last year we stopped Blake Griffin. I don't think we could stop him like we did last year. He's improved so much. Has improved so much. Dante Cunningham has improved so much. College really helps these guys.
I don't mean to speak out of school here when I say it because I want to say it without knocking anybody. I heard last night that B.J. Mullens was going to go pro. Be the worst move the young man could ever make, because he's going to be a terrific pro. But sitting on an NBA bench during the course of the season you're trying to get ready. If you're an NBA coach you're not worried about that 10th, 11th 12th man in developing him, you're worried about winning and surviving as a coach. That young man doesn't improve like Dante Green of Syracuse. You want to stay in school and become the best player you can be so when you go to the pros you're ready for it.
Anybody can make a roster, and then you want to go the right way. And like a Blake Griffin went the right way and Hasheem Thabeet went the right way. With Dante Green, I thought it would benefit him tremendously to be on that Syracuse team this year and really improve. I'm not knocking the guys when I say that. You have to do good decisions for your life span of becoming a good pro. When I sat there with T Will last year and he said: Coach, I'm thinking about going pro," I said, "T Will, I think I'd love it, but I don't think it's in your best interests. I think you need to stay one more year. You need to let that great class move on, and you'll have a great senior." He got up. I said, "Where are you going?" He said, "That's what I'm going to do." I said, "No discussion, no debate?" He said, "No, that's what I'm going to do." I hope that young man, for his sake, because B.J. Mullens, I hope he listens to his coach because some guys are ready and some guys would really benefit by just and the thing like Antoine Walker and Walter McCarty and Mercer all say: The greatest moments they have is those years they wish they could have done one more year of college.
Ron's with me now traveling around seeing if he wants to be a coach. He's saying: Boy, this is so great, brings back so many great memories, and you only get such a short period of time in college. Enjoy it while you can.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
THE MODERATOR: Joining us are student athletes Ryan Rossiter, Kenny Hasbrouck, Ronald Moore. Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Kenny and anyone else who wants to answer it: How surprised would you have been if at the start of the season someone said to you you would not be sitting here today having won an NCAA first round game?
KENNY HASBROUCK: How surprised I would be? I mean, it would have been a shock, like this was our goal from the beginning. We never wanted to overlook the MAC Conference because the Conference we had last year, we wanted to get back and get further than we did last year, so somebody said that to me I would have been like I'm pretty sure we're going to get back to this point.
RYAN ROSSITER: I agree with Kenny. This has been our goal all season. It's something we worked towards. The MAC Conference is a great conference, but we were very confident in those games and we knew we'd be back here at the end of the year.
Q. You guys played a pretty good schedule against Oklahoma State and you went to Pitt in December, went to Kansas in January, was that Coach's idea or did you encourage him to put some more teams like that on the schedule, and how frustrating is it to know you get to play those teams but it's always on the road?
RONALD MOORE: When Coach recruited us he told us he was going to make the strength of schedule, that was the teams we wanted to play, and I think he definitely got us prepared for coming into an environment like last night where we're here in Ohio and there's a lot of Ohio State fans. So it's something we weren't not really used to.
KENNY HASBROUCK: We really didn't have an influence what teams we played. He said from the start that he was going to challenge us and he's going to put together a schedule he thinks we can handle. And it was a good thing they was on the road because we're not going to have any home games on the NCAA Tournament. Getting us used to that environment and that type of fans and atmosphere I think it's helped us in this tournament so far.
Q. Ronald, what was your night and day like, text messages, and how many times did you see yourself on sports center and all that?
RONALD MOORE: I had a lot of text messages, Facebook, a lot of friend requests and stuff like that. (Laughter) and I'm happy that a lot of people congratulated me and I don't want people to think it was just me that won the game. It was my teammates as well and the coaches, and I'm really happy that we made it to the second round again for the second year in a row.
Q. Obviously you've got quite a challenge tomorrow. Can you talk about the challenge facing Louisville's press?
RONALD MOORE: They definitely play a very aggressive press and I definitely think we faced a lot of teams that like to press, and definitely think you really can't try to handle the press, it's really about attacking it. We want to go and really get the ball up the floor, get the ball in quick so they can't get set up in their press.
Q. Ryan, you had the tough early schedule, but they were all losses. Was there ever a point where you guys thought, geez, we bit off too much we could chew or might work against us in the long run?
RYAN ROSSITER: I don't think so. The experience was valuable. We were in those games. There was just really one game that we weren't able to sustain. And to be honest, I think it motivated us more because we were sick with being able to hang with these teams and not get over the hump, and I think last night that really helped us, and the motivation helped us keep pushing hard on it.
Q. Kenny, what attracted you to Siena? Because I think you were Coach's first recruit and you didn't have this assembly of talent at that time, and was it some non basketball things? What drew you to the school?
KENNY HASBROUCK: First and foremost it was the coaching staff, the experience he had, the fact that he's won a championship on every team he's been to.
The Times Union Center used to be called the Pepsi Arena was a great gym to play in. One of the biggest gyms any major team can play in, and the Siena community seemed like a nice place to be around, completely opposite from the DC area, and it just felt like I can be comfortable and be myself there.
Q. You guys have pretty much five guys who play 29, 30 minutes or more. They're going to play a lot more guys, they're going to be throwing the press at you. Why won't the depth be a factor in this game? Why do you guys feel like it won't be?
RONALD MOORE: I definitely think it will be a factor. With so many different guys that can play, they really don't drop off. A guy comes in off the bench and we're mainly having five core guys that play the majority of the time for us, it definitely will be tiring withstanding fresh guys coming out of the game. I think we're well rested from last night and we'll continue to take it easy today and we'll be prepared for tomorrow's game.
Q. Ryan, you obviously put on weight from last season, but what else would you attribute your development to this season compared to your freshman year?
RYAN ROSSITER: I think more confidence, just going out there and being able to play through my mistakes. Coach McCaffery, maybe last year I had a shorter leash, but this year he trusts me more, and if I make a mistake I don't have to look at the bench and see if I'm coming out or not. So I think it's the confidence that the coaching staff have, and my teammates are always commenting just keep playing, if I miss a shot don't get a rebound, just keep playing hard. It's great knowing they're behind me and so it helps a lot.
Q. You guys are all East Coast guys. They're the champions of the Big East Tournament on national TV a couple times a week. I'm sure you've watched them play. Did you ever think watching them play: We'd like a crack at those guys?
KENNY HASBROUCK: I wouldn't always go against the best players in the country. Terrence Williams is a great player. Earl Clark. I always would have loved to play against them. I never thought we had a chance to. So I'm really excited to go against NBA caliber players like this, and I think it's just going to be a fun, exciting game.
RONALD MOORE: Same thing as Kenny said. Having seen some of these guys play AU and to where they're at now they've definitely become great players, and Louisville was a great program, and the coach who has really had great talent since he's been there. So just to play against him as a coach and the players, as well, definitely is going to be exciting.
Q. Kenny, I was curious, when you dissed the president's bracket on national TV, do you hear from the Secret Service (Laughter)?
KENNY HASBROUCK: No. He's going to send his guys after me. I didn't diss him, I was disappointed. I'm a DC native and I was disappointed he didn't pick one of his guys. I never dissed him.
Q. Ronald, piggybacking off the depth question, do you feel like, do you have to pace yourself at all in this game? Like they've had a lot of success in the second half because they've kind of worn guys down. So is there any sense that you need to save yourself for late in the game?
RONALD MOORE: No, not at all. There's no time for saving. We're here in the NCAA Tournament second round, we're here to play basketball and leave it all out on the floor. I definitely think our conditioning start preseason to now is definitely incredible. So I definitely think we'll definitely be able to run the whole game.
Q. Do any of you have offers to play at a Big East school? Did you dream of playing at any specific Big East schools?
KENNY HASBROUCK: I dreamed to play for Georgetown. I always loved Georgetown where I grew up. Still tried to get to Georgetown when I was in high school. They offered me a half scholarship, but I thought I was better than that and so I moved on and went to Siena.
RONALD MOORE: I never really had any never really had big time looks. I was always the little guy and these Big East schools they like bigger guards. So I guess tomorrow night try to prove them wrong.
RYAN ROSSITER: Same with Ronald. I never had too many big looks. I don't know, apparently these Big East schools, like guys with muscle, I don't know what they're thinking (Laughter) but it's definitely it's great, though, having my choice at Siena and I have a lot of fun with these guys.
Q. What was the team's expectations coming into the tournament, and has that changed at all with the victory last night?
RONALD MOORE: No, it hasn't changed at all. Our goal coming in here was definitely to get back to what we did last year or to do even better, and you really can't look ahead at all. You've got to definitely take one game at a time. We're happy with our accomplishment last night, and as great as it is we want to celebrate it, we have to put it behind us, because we've only got one day prep for Louisville and they're definitely a great team and we're definitely looking at trying to win this game tomorrow.
Q. Kenny or Ryan, Ronald's not the best 3 point percentage shooter in the country or even on the team, how much faith, though, did you have in him to make those shots last night?
KENNY HASBROUCK: I've got a lot of faith in him making those type of shots. We see it all the time during summer and in practice he makes a lot of big shots. He's never afraid to take a shot if somebody leaves him open. When he's going to take it I believe it's a good shot every time he shoots it. It just happened to go in. So I feel great about it.
Q. Ryan, do you or any of your fellow front court members have any fun stories to tell about getting passes in the face or other places where you weren't expecting from young Mr. Moore?
RYAN ROSSITER: Yeah, definitely early in my career I'd be running a pass, might just hit me in the back or hit me in the arms when I'm not looking, but now at this point we know when we're running the court we have to be ready for Ron's passes. He might not be looking at you, the ball will be coming 90 miles per hour at you. You have got to have your hand up and ready. He's a great point guard to play with because if you're open you're getting the ball.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.
Coach, an opening statement, please.
COACH McCAFFERY: Obviously we are very excited to be here at this particular time. I thought the way we played last night was as, I think, rewarding an effort as I've ever had in terms of effort and concentration and competitiveness.
Obviously we'll need every bit of that tomorrow to play a team the caliber of Louisville. Obviously we were pretty tired after last night, got home really late, but today we've spent a lot of time resting and in the training room, getting ready, and have had some time to watch some film and prepare for the No. 1 seed.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Two part question: First, how much do you think last night's win was linked to your non conference schedule? And, two, Coach Pitino earlier said he believes you've taken Siena to the level of Xavier and Gonzaga in terms of the talent level and the achievements at Siena. Do you see yourself in that group yet?
COACH McCAFFERY: I definitely think our non conference schedule helped us tremendously last night. It would have been easy for us to rattle in the first half, didn't seem like we could make a basket. We got the ball to the rim eight times, came up empty.
In the second half, we fell behind by 11 at one point and the crowd was really into the game. But we never rattled, because we had put our team in similar situations against teams of that caliber already and had performed well.
And every game that we played was an intense, competitive game. And we won a great deal of those. So we prepared our team to be in close games and win close games.
With regard to the second part of your question, I appreciate Coach's comments, and I think honestly our goal is to be a Gonzaga or a Xavier. We have made steps in that direction, but I don't think we have accomplished as much over the same length of time.
You're talking about programs that are over 10 years, and in Xavier's case almost 15 years, where they've been successful in their conferences.
We have had patches of success, and I think the challenge for us is to continue what we have going right now. We're on our way. I feel like back to back NCAA bids is terrific. I think our team coming back next year will be very, very good. I think our recruiting has reflected our recent success, and our hope is to continue that path and have people like Coach Pitino continue to say those kinds of things about our program, because obviously there are very few people in this profession who have his level of credibility.
Q. You scheduled Pitt I think in December on the road at Kansas in January. Did you do those for the money or also for the chance to get in the position like this where you could win one more game in the tournament?
COACH McCAFFERY: We scheduled those games for a multitude of reasons. Money's one. There's no question about that. We took our team to Italy this summer, and we needed some money to pay for that trip.
We wanted to put this team on television, and in order to get on television you have to play people. Subsequent to us signing the contract for the Pitt game, ESPN picked that game up, it was a nationally televised game. We expected the Kansas game to be on TV at some point. It was a ESPN full court package game. So it was a nationally televised game.
We wanted to put this team on television. We felt they were worthy of that level of exposure. And then with an experienced team coming back, we wanted to challenge them by playing the top teams in the country obviously in hopes that we would be in a situation like this.
But even before this I think what it does is it prepares you for conference play. I think we were a better team in our conference by virtue of going through what we went through during our non conference portion of our schedule.
That helped us win a championship. And then subsequently here we sit in the second round, I think, and we look back at the road to get here was made a lot easier because of who we played.
Q. Ron Moore referred to himself in his recruiting process as the kind of guard that the Big East teams don't look at, they're looking at more big guards. Is he in fact a prototypical kind of guard that the teams at the next level does recruit regularly?
COACH McCAFFERY: You know, it's interesting. He was a guard that nobody looked at. I can tell you it was interesting for us because we were not recruiting that position in the summer. As you know, a lot of recruiting is done in the summer, in July. And we didn't go on the road that summer looking for a point guard.
When the season began, it became evident that we needed a point guard. I got an e mail from his coach, who I know, Jim Donofrio from Plymouth Whitemarsh High School outside of Philly, and he said: I've got this really good player and nobody's recruiting him. He did not have a scholarship offer.
It just goes to show you that recruiting is not an exact science. And I obviously know everybody in Philly and talked to a number of people whom I respect and they raved about him. They said this kid can really play. But they used to call him Little Ronald because he's not a big guy.
And I went down to see him play and literally told his coach on the spot I want him. I offered him a scholarship, and he visited shortly thereafter and committed shortly thereafter. And it was as easy a recruiting situation as you would ever want. And I haven't done the math in my head but in three years we've won well over 60 games with him and two championships and been in the conference championship three times.
So you look at his track record. Whatever team he's on wins. His high school teams won. You go back before that. I know his family, every team he's on wins games. And a lot of coaches on that last possession, Turner makes the go ahead bucket and they're going to call timeout and try to set something up. There's nothing that I could set up that would put us in position to win than to inbound the ball to Ronald Moore and let what happens happen and he won the game for us, and he's done that on numerous occasions.
Q. You had three players up here a few minutes ago talking about either getting no recruiting interest from the Big East, or in Kenny's case very marginal. How much do you think that motivates players individually going into a game tomorrow against obviously the Big East champion and the No. 1 seed?
COACH McCAFFERY: I don't know if it would be specific to tomorrow's game. I think it's something that has motivated them in the summer, in the offseason, in the weight room, to become the kind of player that they thought they could be and be successful at the level to which they were recruited.
So I think in some way they're constantly trying to prove that they were good enough. And I think they've clearly done that.
Q. This point guard that nobody wanted, how much faith do you have that he can handle probably the best press in the country tomorrow?
COACH McCAFFERY: Well, I have a lot of faith he'll be able to handle that. But I think the critical thing, when you're playing Louisville, if you rely on one person to break that pressure, I think you'd be sadly mistaken.
It's got to be a collective effort, especially when they swarm you and they bring four up, whether it's 2 2 1 or man to man or 1 2 1 whatever, it all looks the same. It's hellacious pressure on the ball, anticipation on the next pass, up toward the ball, long armed athletes. So for us to be successful against Louisville, we're going to need Ronald, Kenny and Edwin and Alexander Franklin, in particular, 1 through 4 to handle the ball, and Ryan Rossiter to come up and make some plays as well, and anybody that comes into the game.
I'm going to have to go to my bench more because I didn't go to my bench much last night, and they're going to be coming after us for 40 minutes. So I'm going to have to utilize my bench intelligently. So when we go to the bench those guys are going to have to come and meet the ball and make plays.
And I think the key is you've got to play north and south. You play east and west and they gotcha.
Q. Kenny mentioned he had a half scholarship offer from Georgetown. I know he was your first recruit.
COACH McCAFFERY: I didn't think they gave half scholarships.
Q. I didn't either. Did you sweat that out that you could lose a kid to Georgetown, and secondly, he's your first recruit? How important has he been to building the foundation of what you've accomplished?
COACH McCAFFERY: He was important in so many ways. Initially, when I got to Siena, we were I wouldn't say dire straits, but the program was in disarray. Players were leaving. The recruits that had signed didn't want to come. The first couple of players we brought to campus all said no.
Mike Haddix blew his Achilles tendon out. We were in a numbers problem. We didn't have a lot of star quality players, and we needed one to say yes. And that was really, really important. We needed a boost for the program.
And what he did the first year, being rookie of the year, he gave us that fifth starter. We had four other starters. We were probably the small test team in Division I because he played small forward for us at 6 3. We had a 5 10 shooting guard and a 6 1 point guard and 6 4 power forward, and a 6 6 center who was recruited to play, too. And we won 15 games, we would not have won 15 games without him. What we ended up doing was being able to parlay that level of success into another great recruiting class. But I think the key for us with Kenny was you can look at his numbers and his accomplishments, which are phenomenal. Obviously at some point his number will be retired.
But what he also did was he became our No. 1 recruiter. And a lot of times the coach gets all the credit in recruiting. I like to think my staff and I do a good job, but the most important thing in recruiting is your players. They have to recruit the next wave, and he has done a phenomenal job of that.
Q. Just fishing here, if there's no foundation we can move on. You're a Philly guy. Gonzaga and Xavier have been mentioned, but a school that comes to mind, a small school such as yourself, even smaller, though, is St. Joseph's, is there any way you're modeling anything you do or any concept you have about what Siena can be on St. Joseph's?
COACH McCAFFERY: I think that's a fair comparison. The unique side of where we are right now, we are still in what is traditionally a one bid league. We've gotten two bids one time, to my knowledge. The Atlantic 10 will get three, four, two. Gonzaga, the same situation. Gonzaga has gotten themselves to the point they'll be in no matter what. And Xavier is in the Atlantic 10, as well.
So I think it's great to compare us. I think to go along with what you said, a great test this year would have been had we lost to Niagara in the championship game, 25 wins, regular season championship, nonconference strength of schedule of 1, would we have gotten in as an at large team and then maybe beat an Ohio State or somebody like that.
Now you're more like the Gonzagas and the Xaviers. As great as Xavier is, and they're one of the arguably, one of the top 15 teams in the country, and I don't know the answer to this, you may know better than I but how many times have they actually won the Atlantic 10 tournament championship? I don't know. For us to get here we have to win the tournament championship. So everything has to be right for three days in March. Your key personnel have to be healthy. And you have to be playing on all cylinders at that particular time. So going back to some of the original questions, that's why how we challenge ourselves throughout the course of the year is so critical to our ability to be sitting here right now.
Q. Are those games with Pitt and Kansas, are they one game deals where you go there, there's never a thought of a return?
COACH McCAFFERY: They're guaranteed games. No return. Money games.
Q. For next year you'll have to find a couple of other teams that you'll go play one time on the road?
COACH McCAFFERY: Correct.
Q. Do you ever ask like any try and ask the BCS type league teams to come play you? You have a nice facility.
COACH McCAFFERY: We do. They're not coming. (Laughter). I should qualify it a little bit. The only chance we have is if there's a player locally that they want to bring home. Stanford, two years ago, brought Taj Finger back, he was about an hour away. They had to decide whether they play us or play St. Johns, and it's in between.
Maybe Penn State would come to bring Talor Battle home or bring Brad Sheehan back, so that's pretty much it. They're not going to come play us, typically.
It's just not in their best interests. And I sort of get it. So I don't ask my assistants to make 100 phone calls a day to see if anybody would come play us.
Q. Along those lines, only four as you know, four non BCS schools got at large bids this year. Do you find that kind of troubling for the future of the game in terms of the margin of error is so small for the 300 or whatever it is schools that aren't among the six conferences?
COACH McCAFFERY: I look at it like this: The committee has made it clear what you need to do to be considered. And I think by virtue of us being a 9 seed, we would have gotten in. So we kind of did what they told us to do.
The knock would have been we played all those top teams and we didn't beat any of them. We came close, lost by seven at Kansas, things of that nature. But we did win a good number of our games. We played the top teams in a lot of other mid major leagues, Buffalo, Cornell, Holy Cross, Saint Joe's, we beat all those teams.
So I think what has earned this tournament such national respect and recognition and a love affair with college basketball fans is teams like ours having some success. And it not being just for the teams from the high major conferences.
But at the same time you look at how they have sort of quantified everything, everything's numerical. What's your RPI? What's your record against top 25 RPI, against top 50 RPI.
So when they crunch the numbers, you're in, you're out. So if you want to be in, it's not complicated. We can crunch the same numbers that they can crunch. I'm a graduate of the Wharton School. If you want in schedule accordingly and you got a shot, it puts a lot of pressure on you.
When we sat down and looked at our schedule prior to this season, I have to tell you we put it together on our own. We don't have anybody to blame. But there was a little trepidation when you look down on paper and you see not only who we had to play but nine games in 21 days at some point, because you have to play people kind of when they want to play you if they're paying you.
And we wanted to play in the Old Spice Classic because we wanted three games on ESPN but then we had to play Loyola on the same road trip. We were gone for 12 days and that was an absolutely critical win. We wanted to beat Tennessee. We had to beat Loyola and that wasn't easy.
So I think that's kind of a long winded answer to your response, but I think I covered pretty much everything.
Q. Is there already a sense of accomplishment from you, your staff, your players after last night's victory?
COACH McCAFFERY: Tremendous sense of accomplishment. You know, there was a sense of accomplishment when we won the regular season championship. There was a greater sense of accomplishment when we won the tournament championship and got in. But to be able to come to Ohio and beat Ohio State university and come back and do it in double overtime, we feel really good about what we've done. And the exposure we've gotten.
But at the same time we don't want to be satisfied. We recognize the challenge that exists tomorrow. None greater this year.
But I think when you talk about sense of satisfaction, you can look at that when you're at your banquet. Not today.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.