Kansas And Virginia Commonwealth Meet With Media Saturday
March 26, 2011
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<?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>Kansas Press Conference
THE MODERATOR: We’d like to welcome the Kansas Jayhawks.
COACH SELF: Well, we’re obviously very happy to be here on Saturday and really looking forward to a great challenge tomorrow against a really good team that’s on fire right now and has kind of caught the attention of America with the way they performed and know we’ll have to play very, very well to give us the best chance to advance.
Q. Coach, could you discuss the challenges of preparing on short notice against a team that’s on fire and neither team really knows each other that well historically?
COACH SELF: I do think that’s a challenge. Certainly, you know, the tournament, the further you go it becomes more draining for your players, too. So the time that we want to put in doing scouting and everything will probably be more condensed and shorter during the season, because the guys have more responsibilities and requirements.
But they play — I don’t want to say a unique style but aggressive style, they’re very scrappy. They’ll press. They’ll play straight man, they’ll play zone. They’ve been in attack mode for their first four games of the NCAA tournament and been very successful. But I don’t think their style is such that we haven’t seen a lot of the actions that they do. Just like they’ve seen our actions, too. It will be about, you know, how well our players guard them and their players guard us.
Q. For Brady and Tyrel, just off of what your coach just said, playing a team that’s on fire that’s captured the imagination of America, it sounds similar to Davidson four years ago. Can you recollect the build up to that game and if you guys felt a lot of pressure being a favorite in that or how you handled it and how you may handle it differently this time?
Brady Morningstar: I feel like there’s pressure on every team in the NCAA tournament, there’s pressure on us, and pressure on VCU, regardless of the seedings. We know they’re playing really good right now, they’re shooting the ball real well, and they’re on a four-game winning streak against some really great teams. We’re excited to be in this position and have a game with them tomorrow.
Tyrel Reed: I agree. Davidson was different, Curry was playing really well at the time, and kind of a Cinderella team, same with VCU. But they’ve played four really good teams, and played four really good games and we’re going to have to come out and be prepared and respect our opponent like we have in the past.
Q. Bill, you may have touched on this in your last answer when you said that you’ve seen VCU’s actions. Are you referring to Missouri, that’s a comparison I’ve heard some people make, similar styles, is that accurate?
COACH SELF: When I said actions I didn’t mean styles. I meant like their ball screen mode and what they do out of that or some of their scoring plays to score is what I was talking about.
But they are more similar to Missouri than any team that I think we’ve played, threes off the top of my head. I don’t think that it’s one of those deals where they do it every possession, like Missouri can, but certainly I thought their pressure and the press has been very effective so far in the tournament. I thought it was yesterday. And they’re certainly quick enough in all five spots that they get out and really try to cause havoc.
Q. Just talk about being the No. 1 seed left in the field. Is that surprising, a burden or excitement, and sort of makes you a favorite?
COACH SELF: It’s exciting because we’re the one. But I don’t know how these guys feel. I haven’t really — I know what’s going on because obviously of all the media attention. I haven’t really spent much time studying anything but the southwest bracket. And the southwest bracket has the two remaining teams in it that’s played the best. So it’s not about seeds. It’s not about anything other than match-ups and players and certainly two teams that are playing very well at the same time, playing for high stakes. To me that’s exciting. But the No. 1 seeds that have exited the tournament so far I think is more of a statement to what can happen in college basketball than anything else. We’ve been on that end of it. And those aren’t major upsets in my opinion. When you have this many good teams and good players, things like that do happen. But we’re just worried about San Antonio, Texas, Sunday afternoon, playing VCU, and if we’re fortunate enough to advance we’ll worry about whoever we’re playing once we get there.
Q. Tyshawn, what Coach Self just said and he said it quite a bit recently, that it’s not seeds, it’s match-ups. Is that the message he gets to you guys a lot? Is that something where you guys are like, Okay, we understand now, it doesn’t matter what the number is in front of the other team.
TYSHAWN TAYLOR: Definitely. I think coach says that a lot to us. And it’s only eight teams left in college basketball right now. Seeds don’t really matter at this point, it’s just basically how you match-up and how you prepare for the team. And I think tomorrow we’ll be well-prepared for the team. We just finished practicing now and we kind of understand what they do. Like coach said, we’ve seen the action before. It’s nothing new to us. We’ve got to come out and be ready.
Q. Marcus and Tyrel, can you talk about the different dynamics of leadership this season as compared to last year when so much seemed to go through Sherron?
Marcus Morris: This year I feel like we have leaders in different areas. We have vocal leaders, in Brady’s case, he’s older than everybody and he’s a leader. So I think last year we all looked at Sherron. We all looked up to him. His word meant everything. He’s been in every situation all of us wanted to be in. He’s been in every situation we all want to be in. So we just try to listen to him and really pay attention to whatever he says. But we’ve got guys here now that’s looking at each other. Sometimes it’s Markieff leading and sometimes I lead. And we have three seniors leading by example every day.
Tyrel Reed: I agree with what Marcus said. I think it’s kind of been a collection of leadership this year. With Marcus and Markieff being our main guys, we look up to them a lot and they’re our vocal leaders and doing a good job on the court of getting us prepared and doing things right and getting everybody else involved in the game. With me, Brady and Mario, just being the seniors, I think we try to lead by example. We’re not going to be the most vocal guys, we’ll step in when necessary. But it’s been a collection of guys doing their job over the course of the season.
Q. Could a couple of players just to continue that discussion about the leadership, how does that translate to your play on the floor, where you guys have different guys influence the game, game by game?
Brady Morningstar: I feel like the way you practice and prepare for games is the way you play on the court. And I think if you have leadership in practice, speak up and things are going wrong, when you’re on court that’s going to translate over. The way you practice is not always the way you play, but the way you lead in practice, the way you prepare for practice, the examples you set in practice, I think that leads to the court. And that’s part of leadership and I guess how we handle it as a team. Our coaches do a great job of getting us ready and lead by example and tell us what to do. So if we just listen to them and do what we’re supposed to do, that leads on to the court.
Marcus Morris: There’s a lot of different kind of leader ships we have. And I think Kieff is really our emotional leader. When he’s pumped up and ready to go, he finds a way to get everybody the same level he is. There’s different ways other guys can lead.
Q. For any players who might remember as far back as 2006, Connecticut came up against George Mason in the Elite 8 game. Connecticut had a bunch of good players, a lot of guys probably headed to the NBA. And suddenly they were matched up against a George Mason team that they might have been surprised by and how good they were. I’m wondering how you guys guard against something like that.
Markieff Morris: I think we don’t want to overlook no team. I don’t think we have. I think we did a good job our first couple of games. We want to go into every game when we’re playing against every team respecting them, like Duke and North Carolina. VCU beat a lot of good teams so far and we don’t want to overlook no team.
Q. What would you say, Brady, was the difference in the first half in this last game compared to the first two games of the tournament?
Brady Morningstar: I think we came out with high energy and when you have a lot of energy, especially on the defensive end and when you’re playing good defense, the offense comes a little bit easier. I think coming out with some energy and just being prepared the night before and knowing what you have to do to stop the other team scoring is a huge key to our success. I think we’re doing a good job of that right now, but it needs to continue.
Q. For the Morris brothers, can you talk about your mother and how she’s helped Thomas and just the role that she’s played in him getting over what happened to him this season?
Marcus Morris: I have a great mom. I’m fortunate to have a great mom that’s been with me through my entire life as a single parent. She’s just like a family mom. She’s seen what was going on with Thomas and before his mom passed, him and my mom had a great relationship, and she was looking after Thomas while he was here and while his mom was back home, just giving him updates and things like that.
When she passed I felt as though my mom took a lead because she needed to look over him and watch him and give him the idea that he still had a mother figure still left here and just tried to keep him up high, because we know that we needed him. A guy that could lose three family members that close to him it’s definitely devastating. I don’t know if most guys would continue to play basketball or come out with the attitude he came out with every day.
Markieff Morris: She’s definitely a great person. She’s the team mom. Whenever anybody in the team needs covering, she’s there for them. And I felt like she felt she was obligated to take over the role of being there for Thomas, and she’s just a great person.
Q. There’s a theory that the regional final is maybe the most pressurized game in the NCAA tournament, just because you’re one step from the Final Four. If you win you at least got to the Final Four. With your experience, do you think that is a theory that holds any water?
COACH SELF: I think it holds a lot of water. We’ve had a chance to play in all the games. We started out 0-4 in the Elite 8. The whole makeup of the marketing of the tournament is, Road to the Final Four. And so even though it doesn’t crown a champion, it does, in people’s minds, the way it’s set up, that is the goal, is to get there. So it’s almost like it is winning a championship to get there and then you play a separate championship once you get there. It’s a great game. It’s a game with pressure and all those things. No reason to run from it. It definitely exists. The big key is playing loose and that kind of stuff. I’ve had teams that actually played pretty loose and lost. And I’ve had teams that played tight — one team that played tight and won. But it is a game that the reality sets in. It’s so close to obtaining it. So if you’re not successful, which we haven’t been four times, it is a devastating thing, because if you got to the Sweet 16 you got to the second round. If you lose in the second game, at least you won a game. If you lose in the first round, at least we’re in the tournament. But this is one that obviously means a lot to so many.
Q. Just going on the same question, I remember the look on your face in 2008 at the end of the game when you won, the incredible relief. I’m wondering if it might be different this time having gotten past that barrier once?
COACH SELF: Yeah, I think so. You know, as much as I said relax, as much as I said enjoy the moment, as much as I said, hey, we’re going to enjoy every second of this, you earned the right to enjoy it. As much as I said we’re in attack mode it was still a little different feel that game, especially when you’re playing a team such as VCU, you know, that Davidson, as you put it, I think caught the imagination of America, and deservedly so.
But our guys, if you told me before the game we would have won by two, everyone would have sold out for that. Some people thought we didn’t play well. They’re good. It’s not always teams playing poorly, it’s other teams that just play better.
But I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, and I’m going to do everything I possibly can to see that our players enjoy it and are looking forward to it, too.
Q. Coach, is the memory of last year’s Northern Iowa game made it any easier to keep the kids focused when you’re playing double digit seeds in the tournament?
COACH SELF: Yeah, Northern Iowa wasn’t a double-digit seed. Yeah, I think the reminders that have occurred, whether it be directly or indirectly that these guys receive was last year’s 33-3 season wasn’t a great season, you know, because of that last game. And, you know, I’m a big believer of this, also, it’s hard to have a great season unless you play well in the postseason. I get that. But those guys have been reminded of that in some way, shape or form all year long. And I think it’s been motivation during the offseason. It’s been very positive. We don’t want to dwell on the negative. If they’re motivated by that and more focused because of that, that may mean that we could spin something positive out of something negative that happened last year. And that’s what this game is all about, is taking the negative and learning from it and becoming better because of it. Hopefully we’ve done that.
Q. What have been the challenges for you in coaching Tyshawn since he arrived in Lawrence and how far — that smile kind of says it all — and how far has he come?
COACH SELF: I think that Tyshawn has come a long ways. I love coaching Tyshawn. He’s one of those guys that he can make day-to-day practices and things interesting from time to time, but it’s not from a lack of effort. It’s not from lack of caring. It’s not from lack of trying. Sometimes he just gets careless and sometimes he finds a way to get in his own way. But I’m really proud of him.
The thing I’m proud of him about is because he has mature. He’s matured off the court which translates to on the court. He really cares and he’s really trying. He’s emotional. And one of his greatest traits is that he’s emotional. But sometimes when things don’t go well he’s too emotional. But I love coaching him and I love having him as our point guard, and certainly I thought he handled this last situation very well when we benched him. He’s responded and played maybe as good of ball as he’s played since he’s been here. He’s growing up, and he’s doing it right before our eyes. And when he’s good, which I believe he’s been good a lot lately, he can put pressure on both ends, like no one else in our program can.
Q. Can you just contrast, like I asked the players to contrast, the leadership on this team with last year’s leadership. Seemed like you had one central figure, and do you have a preference?
COACH SELF: When we won it in ’08, who was our go to guy? That was the question that everybody asked. And when everybody asked me who our leaders were, I really didn’t know. Russell did by example, Sasha did by example. And Darnell did it his own way. We had a pretty good collection of guys. Last year I think that — this isn’t negative toward Sherron, everything ran through one guy. Looking back now, I like it the way it is now. I like it being spread out. I like it being balanced. I like guys holding each other accountable in a way — like Sherron tried to hold everybody accountable. But maybe there wasn’t anybody to hold him accountable as much. Not that he needed it totally, but everybody needs it from time to time.
And I really like how these guys do it with each other. They coach each other in practice. They get on each other and they applaud each other and they jack around and have fun off the court. But I think it’s more a collection of — and maybe it’s because the twins are so unselfish on the court, but it’s more a collection of we than me. And last year Sherron was the guy. I made him out to be that way. And I think this is much more effective this year.
Q. The A-teams that are still playing, it’s been a long season going back to the middle of October. But for you the uniqueness of this season with having what happened to Thomas and Danny’s father passing away and Josh comes in as the savior, and he’s in and out. This team has a lot of moving parts all season. Has it been one of the more unique situations you’ve gone through as a coach?
COACH SELF: I think so. But it hasn’t been bad because if anything it’s made us better because with the moving parts it’s made other guys step up. You know, one thing about our team is that with the exception of maybe the twins we played without them all and it didn’t matter who was playing, we still found a way to win. So I think a lot of times personally you can evaluate your self-worth to a group higher than sometimes what it really is. And so no matter who wasn’t with us or no matter what was going on, whoever was in there stepped in and filled the void and did it nicely. And I think if anything, that kept guys thinking team and really understanding that we could have something special and understanding that if they didn’t do it the way that we wanted it done, then they didn’t have to be out there as much. So I think in some way the moving parts allowed us to become a team and also probably allowed us to develop depth and also probably, you know, a little bit of, I need to do what I need to do and what I’m told to do, because if I don’t, then they don’t have to play me.
Q. Coach, I don’t know how much tape you’ve seen, but just your impressions of Bradford Burgess, particularly the way he played against Purdue and last night against FloridaState?
COACH SELF: He’s certainly on a roll. What was he last night, 6-7 from three? He’s a hard match-up because, you know, they’ll start him on the perimeter and although he’s going to play on the perimeter, they’ll do things to get the big guys on him and he can stretch it. I’m impressed with their entire team. We haven’t even talked about — we talked about some players, but we haven’t talked about the coach. And Shaka has done — everybody will say this, but it’s remarkable the job he’s done in the short amount of time he’s been there. I know it was left in good hands, but he’s taken it to a whole new level.
Part of coaching is getting your guys to play with confidence. And he’s, from the appearance to me, has the entire team playing with an abundance of confidence and certainly none more than the guy we’re talking about, because he’s on a roll right now.
Q. Considering what Thomas has been through, what does it say about him that he’s been able to maintain the focus to have games like he did last night. What’s the ceiling for him, what’s the future hold for him?
COACH SELF: I think as a man, the future, his ceiling is off the charts. A few guys combine the toughness and the caring, compassion, the heart, the will that he does. You stop and think about it, you know, two grandparents and of course love of his life, his mother, how he found out about it, and now we’re asking him to think about basketball. Basketball has been a good outlet for him and his teammates have been incredible for him. But he’s a remarkable young man. I said this several times, we knew he was a great kid when we recruited him. We knew he was a great kid when we were coaching him. But after going through this, he’s far more than being a great kid, he’s a guy that has been — coaches teach players, they say, he’s a guy that’s taught the coaches. And I don’t know if coaches get a chance to work with guys like this every day very often.
Q. You got the championship and you’ve got the crazy winning percentage, obviously you’re bulletproof, as well you should be. But what is it like, like Shaka is now, the flavor of the month in Tulsa? And then several years later Kansas a couple of first rounds or whatever, it was a struggle. What was that roller coaster like to go from everybody thinks you’re up here, and maybe you’re not up there for a couple of months or something?
COACH SELF: Well, I think it was longer than a couple of months, but I’m not sure I’m back up where Shaka is now. But it is an exciting time. It’s an exciting time and what’s most exciting is doing something in a program where they’ve never done anything to this level before. We had the opportunity to do that in Tulsa and of course he’s having the opportunity to do that with VCU. It is exciting, those sorts of things. And the coaching life is definitely one where there’s definitely peaks and valleys. And what you want to do is minimize those valleys as much as possible. If you don’t go through hard times and if you don’t lose big games and if you don’t have people talking about you then you really haven’t coached. Call it like it is. That’s the nature of our business. There’s numerous examples out there how guys got smarter because a guy made a bad shot or whatever. And that didn’t have anything to do with the job you do, but that’s the reality in which we live because of the American way. And that’s to win. So I’ve experienced it all.
Not too many guys have lost 18 games in a row and won a National Championship. Matter of fact, that probably, I’m definitely probably the first in that deal. And I wouldn’t trade those losses for anything now because I think that is all part of the process of getting where you want to go. And Shaka, you said — you used the term flavor of the month, I didn’t, you did. He’s not that. He’s going to be around a long time, doing very, very well.
Q. I wanted to ask a little bit about the decision to redshirt Brady back in 2008 and how he handled not being out on the floor in game situations, and how that’s made you a better team this year, because this will be his 5th season.
COACH SELF: If we didn’t have Brady we wouldn’t be here, bottom line. He’s been our best perimeter defender for three years and our best post feeder for all three years and very, very smart. But the decision to redshirt him was not difficult. And he was on a team where he wouldn’t have played. And his parents, that was part of the deal when we recruited him, they wanted us to redshirt him. I think their goal was to have him be the oldest student in college athletics. We knew that and his body — he was a late bloomer, and his body hadn’t really matured to the point it has now. But it was a smart move, but one that we had planned before we even recruited him.
Q. Following up on the last question a little bit, when you look at a guy like Shaka and you think about your early times, is there some envy for what he goes through, or do you think to yourself, welcome to the big time here, and put on the seatbelt, here you go?
COACH SELF: No, I hadn’t thought about it that much. But I will say this, his life is going to become much — crazier is not the right word, but in our profession he’s going to live in the fast lane more going forward, because the expectations are going to change, and your recruiting base changes — not your base, but the opportunity maybe to recruit a different guy, so to speak. Although they’ve done an unbelievable job with the guys they’ve recruited.
But everything is relative. Everything is relative. Now that’s the standard. When that’s the standard then you automatically put pressure on yourself and pressure on people around you, hey, we’ve got to do this or we need to go do this, which is the way it should be.
It is a fun, exciting time, but certainly the reality sets in that the more you taste it the more you like it and that makes you very hungry as a coach.
Q. Sort of along the same lines, going back to your younger days in coaching, could you offer some perspective on how the influences of the coaches that you coached for earlier in your career and played for or influenced the way you see basketball and the way basketball should be coached?
COACH SELF: Yeah, I’ve stolen from everybody and I’ve learned from everybody. I played for a great high school coach, Mike de la Garza in Edmond. And I played for a college coach, Paul Hanson at Oklahoma State, and as soon as I got into coaching I called him and apologized for ever second guessing him because now I know why, because I got it and I didn’t get it before. But he was a terrific coach to play for. And then my three college coaches, I mean, Larry Brown, Leonard Hamilton and Eddie Sutton. You’ve got arguably as good a basketball mind as there’s ever been. You have a guy that’s been known as good a recruiter as our game has known plus a guy that has won at very high levels, evident with him being here, and he’s been head coach of the NBA franchise and national coach of the year. And Eddie Sutton, who should be in the Hall of Fame himself, and is already in the college Hall of Fame. I don’t know if there’s been a guy that’s had the opportunity to learn from three guys that you can steal as much stuff as I have from them and have it all be sound and all be a staple of what we do today, even though I was with them 20 plus some years ago.
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