Kansas Makes Final Preparations for North Carolina
March 24, 2012
The Kansas Jayhawks spent Saturday afternoon talking with the media before a team practice in advance of Sunday’s NCAA Midwest Regional Championship showdown with North Carolina at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. The following is a roughly edited transcript of the press conference portion of the day, provided by ASAP Sports FastScripts.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll get started with an opening statement from coach, and then take questions for the student-athletes.
COACH SELF: I don’t know what’s really changed in last 10 hours since I saw everybody (smiling).
Obviously so excited to have the opportunity to play tomorrow against a terrific team and program that we obviously respect a tremendous amount, a coach that obviously has played a huge role in the history of Kansas basketball, and really looking forward to the challenge and having an opportunity to play for what every coach and every player dreams of in the beginning of the season, the opportunity to go to the Final Four.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Tyshawn, I was looking back through past tournaments today and in a dome you’ve never hit a 3-pointer. Is there anything to that?
Tyshawn Taylor: Don’t you cover us on a regular basis? Thanks for that.
Q. Is there anything to that? Does that type of thing get in your head at all?
Tyshawn Taylor: Honestly I haven’t noticed that so thank you for putting that in my head. I appreciate that.
I don’t know what it is, man. I don’t know what it is. I’m going to keep shooting it confidently. I feel like that they’re good when they leave my hand, and so I’m going to keep shooting it.
Q. For Travis and for Tyshawn, when the team isn’t shooting well as a team, what is the formula for success? How do you keep winning?
Travis Releford: I think that our formula is when guys on the perimeter are not making shots, it’s to pound it in down low to our big guys and see if they can get things going for us.
Tyshawn Taylor: I think that it’s on the defensive end. We got to be a tough defensive team and we got to stop other guys from scoring and we got to be great rebounders. I think that’s won us the last two games that we played because we haven’t shot the ball too good and getting stops when we needed to, big rebounds when we needed to. I think that’s kind of what helped us win these last couple games.
Q. Tyshawn, is this the best defensive team that you’ve played all year? And I just want to see if you could compare this one to the other teams that you played on defensively and what make this is one different.
Tyshawn Taylor: I don’t know if we’re better defensively. I think we might try a little bit harder defensively because we understand that it might be nights where we’re not hot offensively and where past teams, we just had so many weapons that could score from so many different spots, that if we wanted if we weren’t all the way in tune defensively, we could cover that up by making some shots. And we knew at the beginning of the year with this team that it wouldn’t be the same.
We kind of tried to hang our hats on being a good defensive team and sometimes we let that get away from us, but that’s won us some big games in the conference and in the postseason. So that’s what we got to be, we got to be great defensively.
Q. For any of you, how would you guys describe Coach Self for those of us who don’t get to see him kind of behind the scenes. What he’s like. Tyshawn, you’re smiling so…
Tyshawn Taylor: No, he’s a man. He’s the man. He’s been a great mentor to me. He’s one of the guys that he gets on you when you do something wrong, but he’s easy to talk to and he explains to you why he got on you. And he wants you to understand. So he’s a great teacher and he’s kind of funny, he thinks he’s funny, so…
Q. Could you give me an example of a kind of funny?
Tyshawn Taylor: Let me think about this. I don’t know. I don’t think I got exactly any exact jokes, but he throws some in there every now and then.
Q. Anybody else?
Thomas Robinson: He’s just a great coach and he’s not going to accept anything less than great from his players. So that method of his definitely helps us out in the long run.
Q. Tyshawn, if Kendall Marshall does play tomorrow, given his wrist situation and the brace he’ll probably be wearing, what would you try to make him do on offense to limit his game then?
Tyshawn Taylor: I don’t know. Kendall’s a great point guard. Man, he’s great for his team. I think that him just going out there is going to show a lot of guts and that. But I think I don’t really change anything I do defensively. I just try to make it hard for him to make those great passes that he makes and just try to put some pressure on him and make it tougher for him.
I don’t really pay too much attention to his right hand because he’s a lefty guard anyway, so I don’t know how much of a difference it’s going to make if he’s out there. But I’m sure if he’s out there, he’s going to be able to make plays and play. He’s not going to put his-self or his team in a risk if he can’t play.
He’s a great guard, so I just got to kind of put pressure on him and make it hard for him, make it tough for him.
Q. Jeff, would you talk to me about the art of the blocked shot and your strategy and how you approach when offensive guys have the ball.
Jeff Withey: It just comes naturally to me. I played volleyball when I was younger, so I got the timing down pretty well. Last night we knew they were going to attack us inside and a lot of times they spun and didn’t really see me coming. So I was able to kind of catch them off guard.
But throughout the season, I think a lot of guys just wanted to attack us inside, so I just been fortunate to be at the right place at the right time.
Q. Could you talk about how much maybe you guys are relishing the role this year. In the Elite 8, but don’t have all the expectations you did maybe last year when you were rolling in 35-2 and blowing teams out from under the radar and you’re playing North Carolina who is the number one seed.
Tyshawn Taylor: I think that it kind of takes the pressure off us a little bit more than in the past couple years because we were expected to win every game. And so it’s a little bit different this year. Coach always use the term ‘playing with house money’ and I kind of feel like that’s the position we’re in.
So we got to enjoy this time and just go out there and have fun. I think that we have came a long way and further than a lot of people thought we would be, so this is the time to just enjoy it and have fun.
Q. Jeff, in this day and age, seven-footers don’t play much against seven-footers. What adjustments do you have to make and what’s the key in playing against Zeller?
Jeff Withey: Not too many adjustments. I’m going to try to put my hands in his face. Trying to alter his shot. He’s a great player and I’ll try and alter his shot. He can shoot the ball from 15 feet. He has a really good jump hook and so it’s going to be tough to guard him, that’s for sure.
I’m going to try to be annoying and get my hands on the ball and just try blocking it.
Q. For Thomas or Tyshawn, at what point during practice did you begin to realize that Jeff was a pretty good shot-blocker? Did either of you ever try dunk on him anymore?
Thomas Robinson: I got this one.
Two years ago I could say that Jeff’s been altering shots for years now, as I can speak, going against Cole and the Morris twins and seeing him block three lottery pick shots for couple years. What he’s doing this year, is definitely not nothing unexpected to me. So it might look easy, but dunking on him is not that easy. You might catch him once, but that’s about it.
Tyshawn Taylor: I have my experiences with him blocking my shot a bunch of times. I think it was Jeff’s first practice with us like three years ago maybe, three or four years ago, and I tried to dunk on him and he blocked the ball and me, too, and I fell down and busted my lip and everything. And I don’t think I tried again after that.
Q. For Tyshawn, curious, you said you wouldn’t change how would you attack whatever Marshall was playing a hundred percent, 90 percent, it’s not going to change anything. I’m curious how does your game change if you’re facing Stilman and how does it change if you’re facing Marshall?
Tyshawn Taylor: I really don’t know how their game changes. Ours doesn’t, though. I got to put pressure on the point guard and make it tough for them either way. Whether it’s Kendall or Stilman. Whoever is their point guard, whoever is going to play, I got to make it tough for them to get it to their bigs and got to make it hard for them to run their offense. I’m not sure if they switch up how they play or if they do things different because Kendall is not playing or if he’s playing. But our defensive principles stay the same.
Q. For any of you guys, when you hear North Carolina, what memories or what thoughts come to your mind and what’s it going to be like to play in a game that between two programs that have such history, including one team that has a coach that’s coached at both places?
Elijah Johnson: I think it’s just a fun game that you just got to be ready to have fun in. It’s an execution game, but at the same time, as coach would say, it’s a man’s game. Big players are going to step up and make big plays. They got legendary program and so do we. They got players and so do we. They got great coaches, and so do we. And it comes down to who wants it more, a grind-it-out game. And I think it comes down to that.
And I think in the process it has to be fun. And whoever is having the most fun, it will show at the end of the game.
Q. Thomas, going up against another similar front court an elite front court, what does that do for you? Does that get your juices going into a game like this?
Thomas Robinson: I don’t think anything else could add any more extra energy to this game. Kansas versus North Carolina should be all the energy you need right there.
So like coach told us, these are the games we come to Kansas. For and the front line, by them being similar to me and Jeff, it should be a great battle between them. They’re not going lay down and neither me or Jeff are. So it should be a good game.
Q. Tyshawn, how are you going to handle trying to improve the stretch run after the struggles last night? How are you going to approach that mentally or physically?
Tyshawn Taylor: Mentally, last night’s over. So I’m not even thinking about that anymore. We’re going to go out here and practice today and just have fun and enjoy this time. But we can’t think about the past games. We just got to move forward.
And we have been having some rough shooting nights, man, but we have still been able to win. Because we have been rebounding the ball well and playing pretty good defense. And if we get teams to do, that whether the shots fall or not, we’ll be satisfied with how we played at the end of the game.
THE MODERATOR: All right. We’ll excuse the student-athletes and take questions for coach.
Q. The fact that I guess the talent level is getting higher, competition-wise is getting higher as you go along, how stressful is it for you as a coach when you know that, like you said yesterday, you only made like two shots outside of five feet?
COACH SELF: I think it was four feet after watching the tape, but one guy was red hot. He made both of them.
I’m really not stressed about that. I’ve always been a believer that it’s a good or bad shot when it leaves your hand, not if it goes in or not. And that’s what I told the guys. And I firmly believe that we have saved them up for the most opportune time.
But the big thing is we have got to do some things offensively to run better offense, so we’re getting shots in rhythm as opposed to not getting them in rhythm. And I think that there’s some things that we could do to tighten that up. I guess it could have something to do with it, but I don’t think our guys will remember yesterday tomorrow. I think it will be a whole fresh day, a whole fresh mindset.
I think with our team, it is like 50 first dates on a pretty consistent basis, so we’ll just attack tomorrow the same way we attack every day. And those guys will be aggressive and confident going in the game.
Q. You’re either going play Kendall Marshall with one arm or one hand or you’re going to play Stilman White and Justin Watts, do you guys press and why would you not press the hell out of them tomorrow?
COACH SELF: I think that that’s a pretty good question, but the whole thing is, I think where teams really screw up, we have got probably 30 minutes to practice for North Carolina, and we’re not going to change who we are in that 30 minutes. And Tyshawn, we haven’t even talked about North Carolina yet. We got to bed last night at 3:30, so we haven’t even — I mean guys probably got down about 3:30, we didn’t have dinner until 1:30. It was a late night last night.
So we let them sleep until noon and so we haven’t even talked about North Carolina yet. So to think that we can change who we are and what we do in 24 hours or really in a 30-minute period and be confident doing it, that’s not who we are.
We’re not a team that changes a lot of things and tweaks it and be just as good doing it as we would if we just — this is who we are, this is how we play. We’ll tweak. There will be some things that we can do a little differently, but it’s not going to be a major overhaul.
Also, one reason why you may not press a lot is because your guards got to play 38 minutes. And that’s something that obviously I don’t know if that would benefit us, the last five to seven minutes knowing you got guys that have been pressing and doing those things for that period of time.
Q. Old saying goes you don’t want to follow the legend, you want to follow the guy that follows the legend. Did you have any reservations about that when you took the job at Kansas thinking back, and also I understand you didn’t change a lot of things when you first got there like a lot of coaches, new coaches do?
COACH SELF: Well, I took over a healthy program. I think a lot of times when you want to change the culture is when you take over maybe an unhealthy program. There was nothing wrong with our culture, it was great.
Coach Williams and his staff had done a remarkable job for the 15 years that they were there. Coach Brown, his staff did a remarkable job the years before that. You could go through the list of coaches and everybody’s had a pretty good run of success there.
But I don’t think that if I was concerned about trying to win as much as Roy, or be compared to that, then I don’t think I would have been the guy for the job. I really believe that I have certainly respected everything that he’s done. He’s made my job better, there’s no question about that. But I’m not nervous or scared of his success that he there.
If anything, I’m going to use that to propel us into hopefully even more success and use that to benefit us as opposed to being a detriment. So that didn’t bother me at all. Coaches may say the best scenarios take over a program where the coach was hated, where they got really good players and nobody thinks they’re any good and they got no expectations. And I did the polar opposite in all of those. So that’s not the smartest things in a lot of regards, but I would still rather win. And in order to win the best chance is to go where the best players are and certainly we have had good players.
Q. How do you balance when you’re making some bad mistakes down the stretch and trying to keep your team positive, but also trying to say, What the heck are you doing out there like in last night’s game?
COACH SELF: We didn’t have enough timeouts to say what the heck. But a couple. Ty made a couple plays, oh, and then we missed I think two front ends that would have iced it. And we did some things that were certainly not the smartest. But I’ll be honest with you, that’s not totally uncommon for our team this year. That’s kind of who we are. We’ll do some remarkably great things and we’ll do some things that you think, Wow. But the one thing that has to be the constant with our team, the common denominator has to be we have to get stops. And fortunately for us, we were able to do that last night.
Q. I heard the players reference it, for how long now have you been using the house money analogy and do you find that these guys play a little loser than some of the past teams that were expected to get to the Final Four?
COACH SELF: I had a media guy ask me the other day, Do you feel like you’re playing with house money, and I said, Yes. I’ve been using that all year long. So that just happened last week.
But I have used that analogy with the guys before. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, but I think that sometimes if you can try and take the pressure off of them — Kansas, North Carolina, hey, winning is a relief. Losing is a disaster. And sometimes you got to find joy in winning.
And a lot of times I think that we have kind of relished in the opportunity to, hey, be the team that’s chasing as opposed to being the team that’s chased all the time.
You got to be just as hungry both ways. But I like the thought of our guys thinking that we’re the hunter and that’s what we need to be obviously moving forward.
Q. When you go over North Carolina with your team, how much Marshall will you do and how much White and Watts will you do and do you think Kendall Marshall will play?
COACH SELF: I have no idea. I have no clue. Not a doctor, no idea. I know that when Roy was at Kansas, they told me that Drew Gooden had the same injury and they put a screw in and he was out about a week, if I’m not mistaken. So I think that, I would anticipate him playing. He’s a terrific guard.
And we could do some things that are a little bit different than if he was a hundred percent healthy, there’s no question about that, or attempt to do some things. But the bottom line is, we are who we are. And in our packages we could do a few things differently, do you trap ball screens, how do you guard certain things, where do you pick up, how do you take him out of certain sets, do you back off, do you play passing lanes, do you over play right, I mean there’s a lot of things that you could certainly do. But we’re going to prepare basically that we’re going to try to guard North Carolina, and regardless who was out there at the point.
Q. If you could compare this team just defensively to the other ones that you’ve had at Kansas, is it one of the best?
COACH SELF: It’s one of the better ones. It’s better than the last two teams we have had defensively. No question. It’s not as good as the championship team. I watched tape on that, I watched the North Carolina game, just this morning on how we guarded their certain actions that they run, because North Carolina has a system. So even though the personnel changes, it’s still the system that’s in place. So you can still kind of gather how you compare and enhance to Zeller how we guard that and that kind of stuff.
But I think our defensive team is good, but I can’t say that we defend like the 2008 team by any stretch. If we rebounded the ball better, I think there would be a comparison. But I don’t think we rebound the ball as well.
Q. Is there something to what Ty said about they know they can’t score?
COACH SELF: Oh, yeah, no question. That’s what made the 2008 team good, in my opinion, because we could score. I think we were averaged 82 or 83 a game. It didn’t matter. They took great pride in getting stops regardless of what the clock said. This team has to defend better. If you look at some of the worst games that we played this year, were games where we made shots early. And we certainly haven’t had an opportunity to prove that theory right in the tournament because we haven’t made any shots early. But the thing about it is, when we do, guys have a tendency to relax sometimes defensively. And with North Carolina you can’t get in a scoring contest. That’s not something that we would want to allow ourselves to do.
Q. Staying on defense, when you were at Oklahoma State, how often did you talk to Henry Iba? How much access did you have to him?
COACH SELF: When I was a player there, I saw Mr. Iba quite often. And then when Coach Sutton came back, Mr. Iba came to practice all the time. All the time. And he always wanted to talk offense though. He always was trying to figure out the offense that you run against anything. A team trying one two, your 1-3-1s, your 2-3s, your man, pressure, soft, switch, this is what we do. This is who we are. This is what we run.
And at 84, 85 years old, he was still trying to figure it out, which I thought was so cool, because he knew more ball than anybody. And that just tells you what in-exact science our sport is in coaching it. I had an opportunity, but certainly working for Coach Sutton, I think gave me an opportunity indirectly to learn Mr. Iba’s principles or philosophies because Coach Sutton followed them to a T.
Q. Looking at the records that two schools have only played nine times, is there any interest in playing them a little more often or is seeing them in the NCAA tournament, is that enough?
COACH SELF: No, I think it would be a great game for us. I don’t know if Roy would agree with that. To me it’s — you know, the hardest games to play are sometimes where the other team you’re playing has extra incentive for whatever reason, and you don’t have that extra incentive. I think those are hard games. I understand why we don’t, if we don’t. But I certainly think that it would be a great, great series. Kentucky and North Carolina play.
And I guess we’re the second, third winningest program of all time, and I think it would be unbelievably good if we could play. Certainly neither place has a hard time selling out, but we could certainly raise the price of season tickets a couple bucks.
Q. Do you think at all that regular season accomplishments get overly diminished by what happens in March, specifically you win eight straight elite titles, and is that appreciated maybe as much as it should be compared to what happens after that?
COACH SELF: No, it’s not appreciated as much. When we went to Illinois a few years ago, I believe Illinois won the Big-10 in ’84. Before that, it was in the ’60s. And when we won it back-to-back years, it was a huge deal. Huge. I mean, coming back from Minnesota, you got four thousand people waiting for you at the airport. Both years. It was a big deal.
Hey, we win eight in a row here, we get a T-shirt. And if we’re lucky, we get a hat. You know, it’s something that I think is kind of good. I mean it’s kind of expected, which is okay. I think that’s good and that’s cool, but I do think with the emphasis so much on the NCAA tournament and all that, I think what the tournament has done and its publicity has put you in a situation. Nobody can take away a conference champion of being a good season. It’s a good season. I don’t care what anybody says, media, whatever. It’s a good season. But you can’t have a great year unless you play well in March.
Q. Coach, looking back at all the programs you’ve taken this far to the Elite 8, but besides having talented players, what have been the common elements in the formula for you?
COACH SELF: I would say for the most part we have been associated with teams that guard. I really believe that. I think in the nine years we have been there, we have been in the Top-10 in field goal percentage defense eight times, something like that. It’s a pretty high number. Also usually you don’t get this far unless your teams like each other. And that sounds pretty trite, but that is true. And I don’t think you get this far unless your team really cares. You find some way to stub your toe in some way, shape, or form, and even the most talented teams can do that.
So I think those are three things that are intangibles that are all pretty important as far as advancing in the tournament.
Q. Can you talk about what goes through your mind when Thomas Robinson gets a rebound and takes the ball up the court by himself and oftentimes turns the ball over because he has so much energy. Do you lose your breath a little bit or what would you prefer he do in that situation as the coach?
COACH SELF: Pass. No lobs either. Thomas is a unique guy. When we had a kid named Russell Robinson, I don’t know if you remember Russell, Russell was going to shoot one crappy shot a game, and they could come in the first minute or the last minute. He was going to shoot one and it may not hit rim. And I got to the point with him, okay, that’s his one. That’s his one. I’ve got to the point with Thomas that’s his four or five, but…
But that’s kind of who he is. And one of the great things about him is that he’s aggressive. One of the bad things about him is that he’s aggressive sometimes. And he doesn’t always understand time scoring momentum, but yesterday he made two awful plays in transition, and one of them in the second half. Oh, my gosh.
But hopefully that will be something that usually when he does that, he’ll respond in a very favorable way. So we correct him all the time on certain things, we punish him for certain things, and he’s not doing it on purpose. He just gets fired up. But I would much rather coach a guy like that than a guy that’s not.
Q. When Roy Williams left, there was such bitterness outside the walls of the program. Has that subsided any and what is he thought of within the walls of the basketball program now?
COACH SELF: That’s one thing that I think that, I don’t have a great feel for outside the walls, I’ll be real honest with you. I think that anybody that basically said that they had so much dislike or whatever for Coach Williams because he left, I think all that, all he should ever take in that as it was a back-handed compliment. If they didn’t care for him so much why would they care if he left?
The other thing, kind of upset me because that made me feel like they must really want him here a lot more than they want me here, which they did. It took a few years to try to balance that out.
Inside the walls, there was never any animosity, nothing like that. He and his staff did a remarkable job there. Won a lot of games and conducted themselves in a very favorable way. And the foundation was set even, though I think the foundation was set also before Roy got there, too. I think winning a National Championship helps set it also, but just did a remarkable job and we were the beneficiaries of taking over a healthy program.
But there’s some things that he’s done academically, some things like that that were so enforced, I think kind of set a mindset within the department, that we have been able to take it and run with it. We’re graduating all our guys, our APR is a thousand the last six years in a row. I mean there’s a lot of good things going on, which I think means as much to having a program as winning games do. And when he was there, he built the program.
Q. How much are you enjoying winning like this? Beyond the stress it might be putting on your heart, but shooting’s a disaster, you’ve had as many turnovers as assists?
COACH SELF: It’s hard to get assists though if you never make a shot. I mean we really pass it good.
Q. But you’re talking about grit. You’re talking about toughness. You’re talking about finding a way. How satisfying is that?
COACH SELF: You know what, the last two games we played were Big-10 games when I was at Illinois. I’ve always thought at Kansas, my mindset was the first one to 70 always wins. Always. Either road or home, if I’m at Kansas, if a team, if I’m the first one to 70, we should win. Now doesn’t mean we always do, but we should if you take enough pride defensively.
Now it’s the first one to 60. But still yet we were the second leading scoring team I think in our league. I know we can score better than what we have. We just got to find a way to manufacture some easy baskets so guys get confidence. One thing I think, and those that have played know this, guys think that they get confidence by making hard shots. It’s unbelievable to me, you’re 0-for and then you want to take guarded shots. Why don’t you make a layup and then all of a sudden you think you can’t be stopped, even though it’s an uncontested layup or get to the free throw line or something.
I think so many times kids think about it totally opposite the way they should. They want to force something to happen as opposed to let things come to them. But I don’t think our shot selection’s been that poor. I just think we haven’t shot the ball well. But I get great pride in that, because to me, to me when you make shots, you should win. And when you don’t, you got to kind of find a way to grit it out. And I take pride in gritting those games out.
Q. Over the years, lot’s have been made about how hard it is to replace a great coach. You’re still being asked about it. But is it any harder when you’re replacing such a big personality and did you have to say to yourself, Listen, I’m just going to be me?
COACH SELF: Well I’ve got a lot of personality too.
Q. Did that come out wrong?
COACH SELF: No, no. No, it really doesn’t. This is what my father told me, I called dad and we have gone over this before, I called dad and I said, I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I can take that job. Roy won so much. He’s loved there, and all that stuff, blah, blah, blah, blah.
He said, You know what, you’re right. You’re exactly right.
And I said, So you don’t think I should take it?
And he told me, No, I think if you’re scared to follow him, you’re right, I don’t think you should take it.
And basically told me I was soft, which is a good call, because I was being soft.
And the bottom line is, Hey, Roy Williams, Ted Owens, Dick Harp, Phog Allen, Larry Brown, doesn’t make any difference, the head coach at Kansas is going to win. And so I just really believed that following a guy like that, I think could have been hard, but I tried to make it as easy as possible because I was never intimidated by his success.
Q. Quick follow-up because a couple of your players out there said your reaction to that win over Missouri at home, they saw it later on TV, some of them saw it live, and a couple of them said, I really saw him at that moment like I knew him. I knew what kind of coach he was, but at that moment, it was like they really got you. Did any of them say anything to you and what was kind of going through your mind at that time?
COACH SELF: I think they said no curfew, right, coach? That was about it.
That was just an emotional game because there was so much pent up frustration on a lot of different fronts for a lot of different reasons. To have a team come from 19 down midway through the second half against a team that was a Top-5 team in the country, I thought was pretty remarkable for our kids.
And it’s probably the best basketball regular season game that I’ll ever be a part of. And not just this year, but maybe the rest of my life. And those kids, too.
So that was probably more the emotional thing of it. But I think our guys know me pretty well. I’m a fairly emotional guy. If I can say it, I can get it off my chest. I don’t carry around frustration or anything unless I can’t say it, and then I do. But if I can say it, I can get it off my chest, and our guys have kind of learned to take me for what I am.
Q. You worked your way, progressed up the ladder, took the Kansas job. Roy was kind of dropped in there with no head coaching experience. Why do you think this job didn’t swallow him up?
COACH SELF: These are questions for Roy. These are not questions for me. I don’t know. I think that the one thing about it is, I think the job can swallow you up. But he’s also been working for a guy that probably handled stress, handled his players, developed a program, had a system better than maybe anybody that’s ever coached college basketball, and learned from him every day. To hear how Coach Brown talks about Coach Smith yesterday when we’re sitting around visiting is remarkable.
So I mean he was prepared, he just didn’t have the opportunity. Hey, being an assistant coach at North Carolina would probably prepare you about as much as being a head coach at Oral Roberts, because you’re dealing with a total different faction of things going on around you.
So I would think that he was. I guess I get so amused sometimes that people say he doesn’t have head coaching experience, but he’s studied next to Dean Smith for how many years? But that right there is experience. So I think he was probably more ready than what any assistant coach could possible be just because of his personal experiences.
Q. With Zeller, what traits do you think he has that makes him so effective and also is there a particular moment that stands out at all that impresses you the most in your study of him so far?
COACH SELF: I think the thing that he does as well as any big man in the country is he runs and he runs every possession. And Kendall is so good at pitching the ball ahead if he runs, if he runs 25 possessions in a game, he’ll get him six points just off of his effort running. That’s a huge challenge. And’s big man, too. He’s big. And he’s hard to get around and he’s got touch and can he certainly score over his left shoulder as well as anybody in the country.
We got to know his family a little bit from recruiting his older brother hard and coming up empty, but he’s just a handful. He’s a terrific college player that will translate to being a very good pro, I’m sure.
Q. Awhile ago you just talked about first one to 70 used to win, now first one to 60?
COACH SELF: In the tournament. In the tournament for us, yeah.
Q. But I wanted to ask you, is this kind of nitty gritty basketball, is this good basketball? How would you describe what people are watching right now?
COACH SELF: Are you talking about just with us?
Q. Yeah. Well, just around the tournament it seems like. Michigan State scores 48 or something every night?
COACH SELF: Yeah, you know, I don’t know. I think the best ball for a fan to watch is probably 102 to 90. Kentucky and Indiana. If I was sitting home watching TV, I would rather watch teams do that. I know if we try to score a hundred points against Kentucky, or against North Carolina, then we won’t like the outcome. I’ve always thought that you play the style that gives you the best chance to win, period.
I think every football team does it, every basketball team does it, every baseball team does it, and sometimes it’s not the most artistic. But sometimes your personnel doesn’t give you the best chance to be artistic in some ways. So from a coaching standpoint, I think it’s pretty good ball when you advance.
And I do think this: If I’m a fan, I wouldn’t get hung up as much. I mean if I’m a fan that’s not biased and I’m just watching games, I wouldn’t get hung up as much of whether the ball goes in the hole or not. I get hung up on are they doing things to get the shots that that coach probably wants them to get, and for the most part we’re doing that.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports…