Jayhawks Meet With Media, Prepare For National Title Game With Memphis
April 7, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Coach, if we could get you to say a couple of words about having your team looking towards tomorrow.<?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>
COACH SELF: I hope we show up tomorrow better than we have today. No, they’re on their way over (smiling). You know, obviously a short night last night, but one that I’m sure our guys enjoyed every second of it. You know, I thought after watching the first game last night, I haven’t watched our game yet, but after watching the first game, watching ours live, I just thought both teams played great. We know we have a great challenge ahead of us, one that we’re certainly looking forward to.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll continue with questions.
Q. Will you practice much today?
COACH SELF: No. We’ll break a sweat and that’s it. We may shoot 10 minutes, go over a few things for 10 to 15 minutes. But it will be a very short day.
Q. Would you consider some kind of zone with these guys?
COACH SELF: We play two or three possessions of it this year, so I love zone (smiling). But certainly, you know, I think all coaches probably have it in their arsenal, so to speak. We don’t work on it as much as probably most. But, you know, without telling you what we’re gonna do, we have to be prepared to guard them in a way that gives us the best chance. But our best defense, though, is playing man-to-man, just like <?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>Memphis’ best defense is.
Q. Could you talk about Brandon’s evolution over the course of this season, him coming back from the injury, what he’s been able to do specifically the last five, six games, what he means to your team.
COACH SELF: Well, you know, he’s been our leading scorer the last half of the season. Of course, any leading scorer means so much to their team. But he’s a good rebounder and a very, very, very good defender. And when he’s aggressive and playing well, like he did yesterday, we just become a totally different offensive team because he can stretch it from anywhere and then he’s getting to where he can put a ball down and get to the rim. You know, his play has evolved this year in large part due to health, because he’s gone from being 80% to 90% to 95%, and now he’s as close to whole as he’s been. We’re very proud of that. And the timing couldn’t be better.
Q. On Brandon, what types of adjustments did he have to make given the injury? Where did he have to become better?
COACH SELF: Well, I think sometimes when you’re a fabulous athlete you rely so much on your athletic ability to get you by that maybe you’re not as sound as what you could be. Brandon’s improved fundamentally from day one. But I think since he was hurt and his body wouldn’t quite do what the brain told it to do early on, I think he’s relied more on technique, which has made him fundamentally more sound. Now that he’s got his bounce back and his explosiveness back, it just makes him a more complete basketball player.
Q. I’m sure you’re aware what Derrick Rose and CDR have been doing to opponents these last few games. Talk about how you deal with that and sort of what the concerns are, without giving anything away, how important that’s going to be in this game.
COACH SELF: Well, you know, I feel like I know ’em pretty well since I recruited ’em both, you know, couldn’t get either one of them. But, you know, they’re both fabulous athletes. Derrick has a gear that very few have, if any. And to be that big and that powerful at a young age, he can go from head of the circle to head of the circle in two bounces. We just watched an edit clip of him. He got the rebound right under the basket and laid it up in four bounces and was never full speed in the four bounces. He’s just got a different gear. He’s big enough to jump over you. Chris is shooting the ball much better from the perimeter this year, statistics show. And because of that people can now crowd him. When you crowd him, he’s very good at getting his shoulders past you. Their whole team is great at getting to the paint. We have to eliminate them getting to the paint because when they get to the paint, then that’s how they play and good things generally happen. You don’t shut ’em out. We just got to do a good job and hopefully limit their good shots and not let them get easy baskets.
Q. From the time you first got to Kansas as an assistant, maybe up till now, how much have you — then did you appreciate the fabric of basketball in that state and its appreciation for the sport? Do you have a sense of how much maybe there’s a yearning for a championship that’s been 20 years in the making?
COACH SELF: Well, you know, I think there is a yearning for it. I think when you talk about tradition and history, there’s other great programs that have it, but nobody has the inventor of the game as their first coach. There’s been fabulous players and coaches, you know, be at Kansas and be the caretakers of it while they were there. I felt it when I was a GA there. But I didn’t feel like I do now because obviously I was young and naive and didn’t know how great it was when I was there. And it was great when I was there. But I told a group when I first came back, you know, This is better than I thought it would be, and I thought it would be great. And I really mean that. It’s a great responsibility to be the head coach at Kansas. It’s a program with unbelievable pride, with terrific fans. It is a way of life. And there’s so much passion and people care so much. People correlate passion and caring to pressure. To be real candid with you, I don’t see it that way and I don’t feel it that way. I think from a fan base, I’ve said this before, we have the most realistic unrealistic fans around (smiling). Not everybody can say that coaching at a high-profile place.
Q. Could you talk about the different strengths your guards have defensively.
COACH SELF: Well, we’ll start with Russell. Russell to me is a fabulous on-the-ball defender, he also has fabulous instincts. He plays to scouting report, and he’s tough. He’s a terrific defender on the ball and off the ball. Mario has the best hands of anybody I’ve ever coached and has as good of anticipation off the ball of anybody I’ve ever been around, in large part because Russell does a good job guarding the ball. Mario is more effective when that occurs. And Mario is a good on-the-ball defender, but off the ball he’s terrific, has really strong hands. To me, Brandon is our best solid defender. Brandon doesn’t get as many steals and things, in large part because he doesn’t gamble every possession like the other two. But he’s a terrific defender, lock-down defender. Certainly he has a huge challenge ahead of him and ahead of us on Monday because they do have a particular wing that’s on a roll right now.
Q. Were you in the stands at that ’88 game, the championship game? What do you remember about the first half?
COACH SELF: That my seats were really bad and they were at the top of the building. But I was there. I was there. You know, it was a perfectly played first half. I know there’s been many stories told how Coach Brown is telling their guys, Make them play our game, let’s not run with them, make them play our game. I guess Danny kind of had a conversation with his teammates after Coach Brown had the initial conversation and told them, Hey, to heck with that, let’s run with ’em. But it was one of those games where both teams played beautifully. Then it was 50-50 at halftime. Then the second-half game, the grind-it-out game which went to Kansas’ favor. But I remember that game quite well.
Q. I assume as you just alluded to, that Brandon will spend some of the game tomorrow guarding Chris Douglas-Roberts.
COACH SELF: I’m really giving away a big secret (smiling).
Q. Talk about the difficulty of being that diverse of a defender? And, Brandon, which guard do you prefer guarding, Stephen Curry or —
COACH SELF: It’s difficult to guard any great player. Of course, Curry was the hottest player in the tournament at the time we played him. There’s no doubt about that. Brandon did a good job on him. But also Russell did a good job on him, Mario guarded him some, Sherron guarded him a little bit. We played box-and-one some. We threw multiple things at Curry. Of course, guarding to — to me, guarding Curry is different because he gets a lot of shots off the catch. Guarding Chris, he wants to catch the ball with an unused dribble, then he can go get his own shot. So being able to guard the ball with all of Memphis’ players is going to be very, very difficult and a great challenge. If we’re going to have success defensively, we have to be able to guard the ball.
Q. Memphis, both Coach Calipari and the players were saying, watching you guys, it’s very similar, almost a mirror image. Can you speak to that? Do you see similarities not only in style and ability, but attitude? They were talking about that as well, unselfishness.
COACH SELF: Oh, yeah. But I think you can say that about all the teams that are here, a pretty unselfish group that’s had great years. But Memphis has done a great job of sharing the ball. They’ve got their roles very well-defined and guys have accepted their roles, just like these guys have. You know, you look at their team. They move up and down the floor very well, so do we. They have athletic big guys that can defend on the perimeter, and so do we. So there’s a lot of similarities. Now, the way they run their offense is different than the way we run it, but the philosophy’s still the same: Get the ball to the paint. And so they do it off the bounce. They do it off the pass. We do it off the bounce and pass. We just have different ways to do it. But I think there are some similarities.
Q. Brandon, a lot has been written and said that maybe you would not be here this season had you not gotten injured. Can you take us back to that moment and describe how the injury occurred and what some of your initial emotions and thoughts were right after it did.
Brandon Rush: The injury occurred when I was playing — I was working out, playing a pickup game. I wound up landing on my knee wrong and it popped. My emotions was I was just pretty upset at the time because of what I was going through with the whole NBA thing. And then it feels good to just be back with Kansas right now because I’m back with my family and we doing something special right now.
Q. We always make a big deal about a coach not having a national championship on his résumé. What about a conference, how big a deal is this for the Big 12? It’s been 12 years, still hasn’t had a men’s basketball
championship. Do you think that’s an important thing for a conference to kind of complete itself?
COACH SELF: Oh, I do. I do think that. But, you know, also if I’m not mistaken, the Big 12 has had more Final Four participants in that same period of time than any other conference. Is that right? I think that’s true. I may be off on that. I’ve been off many times. But, you know, it’s something I think that would help legitimize how excellent the play is in our league. If you watched us play, you watched Texas play, the four other teams that made the tournament this year, our league’s really good, really good. But I think nationally in order to really garner the respect that a league deserves, I think you got to cut down nets. Certainly this is a great opportunity for us, but it’s also good for our league.
Q. Coach Calipari talked about his days at Kansas, one of his jobs during the food line was to serve peas or corn. He talked about those being some of the greatest years of his life. Can you talk about your relationship with John. Talk about maybe a couple jobs you had as a grad assistant in 1986.
COACH SELF: I’ve known Cal for quite some time. I was actually a player when he was starting out coaching at Kansas. He had got the job at Pitt right before I got there as a graduate assistant. So our paths never crossed as far as working. But, you know, everybody knew Cal and liked Cal. I’m sure he did have a lot of those jobs. I think my jobs were much more meaningful than serving the peas and the corn. I was in charge of making sure we rented out the correct bowling alley on game days and numerous things like that, because if you know Coach Brown, he’s very, very, very superstitious, because if you bowl and you play well, you probably played well because you bowled on that lane, had nothing to do with Danny. So, you know, I had many responsibilities like that. You know, Cal is right in this regard. Making $4500 a year, being a grad student, all that stuff. I don’t know if I could have had more fun than what I had that grad assistant year in Lawrence.
Q. Talking about Chris Douglas-Roberts, you recruited him. He told us he didn’t actually visit Kansas. He has a colorful personality. Do you remember anything about the recruiting process, why he preferred Memphis?
COACH SELF: No, I don’t know why he preferred Memphis, other than the fact it’s a good place. It’s a place that obviously has a lot to offer. But, you know, we went up to Cass Tech, I believe it was in Detroit, I believe his junior year, if I’m not mistaken, and Coach Manning and myself went up there right when he — I believe it’s right when Norm had left, if I’m not mistaken, to go to St. John’s, and Curtis wasn’t there yet. He was in that space of time where he was on the road there for, you know, three or four months. We went up there and gave our pitch. Obviously he wasn’t very impressed or Cal did a much better job selling it than we did. But he’s a terrific talent. I do remember Chris having personality. To be honest with you, seeing him the other night, talking to him, you know, he does have personality. You can understand why his teammates think a lot of him.
Q. Have the number of personal tragedies on this team forged a bond with the players? As a coach, how do you deal with that?
COACH SELF: I don’t know how you deal with it. I don’t. You know, there has been several that’s been well-documented. Of course, Darnell has gone through more than any person his age should ever have to go through in that regard. I do hope it does help bring everybody together. I think it probably has, if you ask Darnell. I think he loves his teammates. I know his teammates, how they feel about him, how much they appreciate how he’s fought through a lot of things. But it’s been a unique experience. You know, when Darnell’s cousin and Rodrick’s brother passed on the same day after senseless shootings, you know, back in February, I think it does put things in perspective. And I’ll be real candid, I don’t think we rallied around that as a group like we should have. I think it’s one of those times that everybody just kind of was somber and didn’t really do a great job of rallying around that. And I do think since then we have rallied around each other in a very positive way. But you’d have to ask our guys.
Q. The public perception of a coach changes when he wins a national championship. Does that happen inside the profession as well? If so, how is that changed?
COACH SELF: It may happen inside the profession ’cause ultimately you’re evaluated on winning. Of course, winning big games are the most important games to win. But I don’t think that John nor myself will become a better coach, you know, between what time is tip tomorrow, I don’t even know. What time is tip? 8:20, something like that? I don’t think between 8 and 10, one of us is going to get a lot smarter. But people perceive it that way. At least I think the public perceives it that way. In the profession with the people that I talk to, I don’t buy into that. I think that you watch a team play over time, and if a team plays unselfish, they play hard, like each other, play smart, execute, that’s how coaches are judged within our profession. But certainly, you know, the flavor of the month or whatever that fans like or the media likes is the guy that’s standing in the end. I don’t think just because you’re the last one standing makes you a lot smarter. Probably pretty lucky.
Q. In recruiting, do you start with the heritage of the school? What are the other strengths that allows you to make Kansas a national program?
COACH SELF: Well, you should ask these guys. We promise them all they’re going to start and play every minute. That’s how we get guys (smiling). No, I’m joking. I think the big thing is, you know, there needs to be a fit. And in today’s time, you know, recruiting to me isn’t as much fun as it used to be because you would try to sell guys to come and play your dues. Hey, you’re a freshman, you’re playing behind a junior. By the time he’s gone, you can step in. Guys like immediate opportunity. The patience of players and players’ families, high school coaches, AAU coaches, isn’t quite the same as it was a few years ago in large part because, you know, the NBA one-and-done or two-and-done, whatever. Guys need to get in and do their thing. So opportunity is important. Kansas, national programs, there’s so much to sell. We can sell — first thing I’ll tell them, do you know knew Dr. Naismith is? Of course, I do. You know who the first coach at Kansas was? No. And you explain that. I do think that’s a great way to pique their interest. But Kansas is a great place because until you visit it, you can’t feel it. People that haven’t been there, these guys would probably agree, people that haven’t been there don’t get it because it is different. I’m sure Cal would say the same thing. It is different. There’s an underlying passion that exists that’s not totally out of whack and certainly very positive. If you can get them on campus, if you can get them on campus when the Field House is full, it’s a hard place to say no to.
Q. Do you recall when you first saw the halftime score of the Michigan State/Memphis game, what your gut reaction was to 50-20?
COACH SELF: I do remember that. Obviously, you know, they’re good. I’ve coached against Tom’s teams in the Big-10. You just don’t do that to MichiganState, especially when MichiganState’s had a week to prepare. So obviously my thinking was, That’s as impressive of a half of basketball as there’s been played, period.
Q. I don’t know how much you’ve seen of them throughout the entire season, film room or live. Does it just seem like they’ve hit a different gear, different level in this tournament?
COACH SELF: Well, I think that if you look at games 1 through 5, they’ve been the most impressive team in the tournament without question. I don’t know if they’ve hit a different gear. They were pretty good going into the tournament, too. But they are playing at an awfully high level. You know, I don’t follow Memphis as close as I do us. But so much has been made of free-throw shooting, can they make ’em down the stretch. You look at the tournament. That’s one reason why their offense to me looks so good, is because they’re scoring the ball, but they’re also getting freebies from the line, whereas before maybe they weren’t making those same shots. That’s the difference in five or six points a game. They’re a very impressive group.
Q. Darnell, can you just talk about what your teammates have meant to you, being part of this team, considering the things you have gone through, what it means to you to be here and maybe who is on your mind as you’re playing here?
DARNELL JACKSON: Well, it means a lot for my teammates to be around me because sometimes they always know like when I’m in a room, they can look at me, I’m in a bad mood or if I’m in a good mood. When all that stuff was going on, Coach Self and all these guys up here, they were helping me. Brandon’s my roommate. Even if I’m in there laying down in the bed, he’d come in there, knock on the door, You all right? Yeah. Close the door. I ask him every time, You want anything? He was, No, I was just checking on you. That means a lot to me because some guys don’t have that in their lives. A lot of guys is depending on you to step up every day. That’s what I’ve been doing, I’ve just been here for my teammates every day.
Q. Anybody you’re thinking about now?
DARNELL JACKSON: When I’m on the court? My grandma, my mom, my brother, my sister.
Q. In playing off this motto: Believe in Self, were you ever at a point where you doubted yourself, doubted whether you’d be in this seat today?
COACH SELF: No, I shouldn’t say never because I think that coaches all are confident and we want to have confidence. But when things don’t go great or go right, what do we need to do to tweak it? And we’ve tweaked, but we’ve never changed our core philosophy ’cause I think it works. I think it’s been proven over time it works. I said this earlier. Just because, you know, if we were down two and made a halfcourt shot that was luck, does that mean we run better stuff than if we’re up two and the other team makes a halfcourt shot that’s luck? I mean, sometimes things like that happen. And so much of it is – in my opinion – catching a break and still yet, you know, executing and all those things. But the biggest thing is, does your team playing as close to its ceiling as it possibly can? And if you do those things, I’m fine with whatever happens. I don’t get hung up on wins and losses during the regular season. I just want our team to play as well as it can play and get better every day. If we do those things, the wins and losses take care of themselves.
Q. The perception around the country, you alluded to this a few minutes ago, I think some people think of Kansas as this Hoosiers kind of place where if you didn’t do certain things you’d be like Coach Norman Dale, you’d be confronted in the barbershop. I’m wondering if you had to change your way of doing things and your personality to conform to that Kansas thing?
COACH SELF: No, I haven’t changed much. You know, I hope I’ve changed, at least evolved a little bit, because everybody needs to do that. But the thing about it is that, you know, it’s a misperception or whatever. I can hide in Lawrence. I don’t think these guys can hide in Lawrence. I think they go everywhere, and autograph seekers, people running up to them, Will you do this, will you do that. They are in a glass house. I think the people of Lawrence have been very respectful of my personal time, my family’s. A lot of times I go to dinner and nobody will speak to me. I’m thinking, Hey, we won three in a row. We haven’t lost three in a row. But I think people are very respectful of my personal time.
Q. I’ve heard you say a couple times over the couple weeks here that you just felt that this is this team’s time, you felt that for a while. I know you’ve had good feelings about other teams going into the tournament. Was your feeling this year any different? Was there something special about this group?
COACH SELF: Well, we played good in the tournament last year. UCLA was pretty good in the 8 game. But these guys, we’ve talked about this numerous times, we talked about this right after the Oklahoma State game, that this was our time, this was our year. We got to do our job to make sure that we put ourselves in the best position to have the best chance. But, you know, not very often do you combine talent, experience, depth, toughness, so many things. You know, teams like this, I know Cal always alluded to this also, teams like this don’t happen every year. And I’ve known that since — I’ve known that since the first day of practice.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about the challenge that Brandon has presented you over the years in terms of just being more aggressive offensively.
COACH SELF: You’re talking about strictly being aggressive, huh (smiling)? I think when Brandon came to school at Kansas, I envisioned a prolific scorer that, you know, wouldn’t guard anybody, a guy that we would have to really convince to play a certain way and change him. If anything, he’s been the exact opposite. All these guys are like this. Maybe I’m wrong, but if I am and they’re really good actors. But they get the stat sheet, and they look to see what the other team’s done before they look to see what they’ve done. And they throw on each other all the time about how he busted you for this, about how he busted you for that. Not very often do they talk about how you got yours on him or anything like that. It’s a total different mindset from a defensive aspect. So the challenge I think with Brandon is, his personality is one that he just kind of is carefree and enjoys life and having a good time. But we need him to be in attack mode all the time, I mean all the time. That’s what great scorers do. And he’s a great scorer that doesn’t score as many points as great scorers, and I think that’s in large part because he’s not looking for his shot. He’s thinking, Well, these guys are all really good players, too, we should all share it equally. Which is a good attitude to have. It’s unselfish. But for us to be as good as we can be, he’s got to get 15 to 17 shots, like he did last night.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll let the student-athletes go to the breakout rooms.
COACH SELF: Great job, guys! Lot of questions (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We’ll continue with questions for Coach Self.
Q. Earlier today Danny Manning, it was announced he was being inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, yet he did not show here to talk to any members of the media. He downplays things so much. What is his influence in your locker room with your players and why do you think it is that Danny kind of shies away from that?
COACH SELF: Well, to be honest with you, it’s Danny’s scout tomorrow, so no disrespect to the media, but we got more important things going on. But he is a very, very, very unselfish guy. For a guy that’s done what he has done, he has absolutely no ego. If I’m a parent of a recruit, and they have a chance to sit down and visit with him, he can share with them some life experiences, I don’t know, they may not pick us, but what an advantage it is to have somebody that could mentor your son or your grandson in a way because he’s taken every step that you dream to take. So guys respect him. Certainly he’s not their buddy. I mean, he’s a coach, and he gets on the guys and he’s tough. I’ve said this many times. For a great player, he’s a better teacher than what I think a lot of great players would be because it didn’t come easy to him, especially after he’s had three ACLs. So he had to learn all the shortcuts. He can relate that to our guys and they can understand it because not very many could do it as well as him when he was 100% healthy. Now he had to learn shortcuts. I think he’s a much better teacher because of that. But it’s a great honor. We’re all very proud of him. And, of course, he’s very deserving.
Q. On the surface it looks like you’ve got maybe the two most athletic teams in the country. You play very similar styles. People are saying this could look like an NBA game out there. In that way, is it nice there’s no more outside story lines like the whole Roy Williams thing leading up to this, now it’s just about the players and this game?
COACH SELF: Well, I got to be real candid with you. From our perspective, there wasn’t another story line. We never looked at it as Roy Williams playing Kansas, never once. Our players didn’t look at it that way. I didn’t look at it that way. Even though it was a story line for you guys, we did not view it that way. Like I said all along, the game’s about the players far more so than the coaches. I guess in the 48-hour period, it is nice not to deal with those type questions, but that was never a distraction or an issue for us.
Q. Could you talk about the day Darnell left to go back home, how you found out. I know you’ve talked about this before, but sort of revisit when you went to his house, what transpired.
COACH SELF: Coach Jankovic calls me the night before he left and says, Hey, Darnell’s struggling, told me what he was thinking. I said, You know, let’s visit with him. So Darnell comes to my house and we sat down and we talked for an hour maybe. I don’t know the exact time. I thought it was okay. I thought it was under control. The reason he was struggling was admirable. He couldn’t come to grips with when my family’s struggling so much, why am I up here not helping them? So it was an admirable thing, but he didn’t get the best way you could help them was to help yourself. That didn’t register. He thought that was selfish. So I thought everything was okay. Then we practiced the next morning. I said, I’ll see you at practice. Obviously we get to practice and Darnell’s not there. Little did I know that he had already made arrangements when I was visiting with him the night before to take off in the middle of the night. So he went home to Oklahoma City. Then Coach Chalmers and I went to see him in Oklahoma City after we practiced that day. It was a unique situation because Shawn was there, his mother, unbelievable lady, tough, tough, great, great role model. She’s been through so much. She’s had probably 10 to 15 surgeries herself just since the fatal car accident just so she can walk and get around. She was there. Of course, Darnell’s uncle was there, Shawn’s brother. We sat down and talked and was able to air a few things out. But it wasn’t airing things out of, Hey, what’s wrong at Kansas? It’s, Hey, why do you think this? Why do you think that? Why can’t you come to grips with you’re not helping anybody by quitting. It will be a decision that you regret for the rest of your life. He asked me to come outside. I walked outside with him. Next thing you know, you know, he shared a couple things with me. Pretty good moment. Went back inside, came to the conclusion that I’ll be back tomorrow. All it did was take a little bit of time. I probably just needed to do a better job before it got to that point with him because he’s one of those guys that whenever you see him, he’d smile and say everything is fine, never would let anybody know what’s going on inside. You knew he was struggling, but I had no idea he was struggling to the point he was.
Q. Coach Calipari this morning was talking about you’re the proponent of the high-low, how you open up the court, made more room for your drivers now, and there’s more pick-and-rolls, this team has won more games than any team in the history in one year at the University of Kansas. Did you make these changes because of this team?
COACH SELF: No, no, we’ve been a high-low team. It’s worked pretty good, till Wayne’s second year. When Wayne broke his thumb, we had to try to figure out a way to play without him because we didn’t have any low post scoring, so why play through your post. We tried to figure out a way to play without him. Tim Jankovic has helped, Coach Dooley, Coach Townsend, Danny. But Tim was very helpful in this, too, when he was there. We just kept tweaking, tweaking, tweaking, trying to find modes off of ball screens that if they played us this way, this is how we attack. If they do this, try to keep defenses off balance, still not yet totally throwing away the high-low or our power game. Sometimes it looks pretty good. Sometimes it doesn’t. But I think we have a nice blend right now because the better athletes you get, you want them to be able to use their athletic ability to get in the paint. The hardest thing in my opinion to guard is the ball. If it’s so hard to guard, then we might as well take advantage of it.
Q. Can you put into words what the last week from last Sunday, beating Davidson, beating North Carolina, reaching the title game, and having your alma mater all of a sudden looking for a coach, what this whole week has been like for you?
COACH SELF: Well, there’s been two of the three that has affected me, and that’s beating Davidson, and that’s having an opportunity to play in the championship game. The third hasn’t affected me. That hasn’t been even a thought. That’s not out of disrespect. It’s because I’m not going to let that happen. My focus is here and now. But it’s an a remarkable week. It’s been the best week of my professional career. I’d like for it to become even a better nine days if we play really well tomorrow night. But it’s been everything I thought it would be. Certainly when you have a little bit of success, which our team has had, it makes you — I haven’t had a chance to reflect, but when you do reflect and you hear from your post players at Oral Roberts, you hear from your past players at Tulsa, Illinois, it’s great pride because all those guys have played a role in us having a chance to play in this game.
Q. Are there any traits you feel this team shares with the Florida team that won the last two national titles? Was there any time you held them up as an example of what they needed to do to get here?
COACH SELF: The common thread is balance, you know, unselfishness. I do think that. And people tried to compare our team to Florida’s team. I said, That’s not fair to Florida because that team won big, and we haven’t done it yet. But now we’re at the point where we’ve done it. I do think that there are some serious similarities.
Q. With Brandon and his recruitment, was there anything particularly tricky about that given what transpired with JaRon a few years earlier at Kansas?
COACH SELF: JaRon committed, then decommitted, whatever happened. Fairly well-documented. He goes to UCLA. There were certainly hard feelings between the Rush family and Kansas. There was hard feelings from the Kansas fans, the fact that here’s a local great choosing not to attend locally. Kareem went to Missouri, obviously had a great three years there. Brandon, I didn’t know it, but I was in Kansas City. I overheard a guy talking, saying that he had heard that Rush qualified. I never talked to Brandon, all that stuff. So I ran a contact’s number down, called him that day. Said, Hey, just make him tell me no to my face, get him on the phone. I call him. The kid’s great. I said, I need to talk to your mom and your grandmother. I called them. Yeah, you know, lukewarm. But after talking to him, you know, trying to convince him, Hey, let’s just see where this takes us. What does it hurt to visit? Brandon comes over, comes on an official visit like a week later, three days later. I don’t know him. He doesn’t know me. He commits. In recruiting, a lot of times you don’t get what you deserve. This is one where we got what we didn’t deserve.
Q. Would you describe your relationship with RC Buford and Gregg Popovich? Have they given you any advice through the weekend?
COACH SELF: They both said, Win. But we went over and practiced in the Spurs facility a couple of times. Had a chance to see Pop. Also had a chance to see Jacque, which was really cool when Jacque talked to our team. Unbelievable guys. Jacque is a good guy as there is. What a great ambassador he has been for our university. You know, we think the world of Pop. He’s a Hall of Famer, just a really good guy. He’s a coach’s coach. But RC is a dear friend. I mean, we go way back. He showed me around on my official visit to OklahomaState when I was visiting when he was playing there. He got me the GA job at Kansas. We were in each other’s wedding. We’ve been close ever since. He’s played a big role in my life and has helped put me in positions where I had a chance to be here today.
Q. Both you and John were fortunate to be exposed to Larry Brown at an early age in your coaching careers. What did you take out of that?
COACH SELF: Well, I thought at the time, and I still do, that he’s the brightest mind I’ve ever been around. He amazed me all the time because Donnie Walsh would come to town, Coach Newell would come to town, different people would come to town. We’d go to dinner, visit. Coach would talk about, You remember that Sixer out-of-bounds play, they ran back when they had Moses and Bobby Jones, they did this and that. Just pulling things out. Then seeing him on the bench, he was really, really good. He made the game — he was tough, but he made the game easy for the players, but he was really good at, okay, this is how we’re guarding that, it’s going to work, right here. And the thing that impressed me most about him was he was like a camera because he could see all 10 players on the court at once. So you could go up and down three times. He would say, Okay, Danny right there. You started too low. That’s why the duck-in wasn’t here. Here, you didn’t set your man up before you came off the down screen. Here, if you could have jumped the ball, you could have showed on this. He’d go through all 10 guys. He had remarkable recall in that way, could see the whole thing. But I think I see the game and I developed my philosophy from him more than anybody else because in large part when I was with him, I knew absolutely nothing, so I was like a sponge just trying to soak everything up.
Q. I don’t know if there are new offenses. A lot has been made of Memphis’ offense. I’d like you to describe it. To me it looks like the old Celtics weave. He calls it Princeton on steroids. How would you describe it?
COACH SELF: I’m studying it. But there is a definite — some serious thought that’s gone into this, in driving straight lines, getting the ball to certain areas of the floor which, you know, creates certain penetrate-and-pitch opportunities, angles to drive it. They’re great at creating isolations off of what they do. It’s really good and it’s even better if you got really good players, which most offenses are. So, you know, Memphis’ offense, they can run what we do and look good at it. But I think John has done a great job of utilizing his personnel by implementing this and tweaking it to fit their personnel, where they’re taking advantage of the skill set of all their players. It’s one in which you have to guard the ball.
Q. You have the luxury of using four guys against a guy like Tyler Hansbrough. Now you’re facing less conventional kind of a player in Dorsey. How does that equation change when you’re going against a guy known as a rebounder, not so much a scorer?
COACH SELF: I don’t think it changes that much. Even though he doesn’t score the ball like Tyler does, he still is a fabulous player. He’s a terrific athlete. He can hurt you in many, many ways, primarily by being a presence, whether it be scoring the ball, rebounding, defensive presence. I don’t think that we change much as far as a game plan on Joey. We may not trap as much. We may trap. But, I mean, there could be a chance we don’t trap as much or whatever, because in large part, can we trap and get back to the other guys that are maybe playing the other big spot? Our four big guys, I know playing against him, it’s a luxury to have that many because he can certainly create foul problems for you.
Q. Could you talk just a little bit about what your ORU experience played to where you are right now? Did you always think back then you would be here someday?
COACH SELF: Well, not when we were losing 18 in a row. I didn’t think I’d have a job the next year. But, yeah, ORU, that was my first head job, head coaching job. It was as much fun as I’ve had as a head coach. I loved it. And we were bad early. We just gradually got better. You know, we started with 15 my first and second year, and ended with seven, and ended with eight the next year. So I lost 15 guys that quit. It wasn’t them, you know, unhappy. They quit before the season was over. Just to kind of grind it and learn to fight through it, have a lot of responsibilities has probably helped me later on. It was a fabulous experience. But that team got really good. Those players that struggled really early got really good late. We ended up winning 31 of our last 38 there, had huge wins against Arkansas, Tulsa, Oklahoma State. I felt when we got it going a little bit there, I said, If we can have success here, we’ll be able to win most anywhere. Certainly, fortunately that’s played out to be true.
Q. Apparently Lawrence had quite a celebration last night on Massachusetts Avenue. The Riverwalk was pretty crazy last night, too. Did you get a sense of what that victory meant to Kansas fans? Any special moments for you before you went to bed last night, any phone calls?
COACH SELF: I got several phone calls and many texts, those sorts of things. But not really. We didn’t celebrate last night. I mean, it was a great win and I was happy for our guys. But by the time we got back to the hotel, I had a little get-together. My wife had a little get-together in our suite for all the people that came to San Antonio that I wouldn’t get to see. So basically I get back, I walk into my suite, there’s 40 people there. I can say hello to everybody, give ’em a hug, then I can be out in 20 minutes. So that was probably the highlight of the night. That way I was able to touch everybody in one setting as opposed to everybody coming around at different times and really not wanting to focus on that. But there wasn’t much celebrating last night.
Q. You listed Larry as one of your influences.
COACH SELF: Big influence.
Q. Going back, just in terms of being indoctrinated into the game, love of the game, how much of an influence was your dad? Do you retain any of him in your coaching?
COACH SELF: Well, I hope I have a lot of him in me, whether it be coaching or whatever. But, you know, I do think, Coach Brown, I’ve been tutored — I mean, I’ve been trained by two NBA head coaches in Leonard and Coach Brown. Should be two Hall of Fame coaches in Coach Sutton and Coach Brown. And all three of them have been National Coach of the Year. I mean, who can say those have been the three guys that have mentored a guy? So I’ve been blessed by all. But of all the influences I’ve had, there’s no question, none of them compare to my father. It’s not from the X’s and O’s. And we spent a lot of time in the driveway, those sorts of things. Primarily just from, you know, the way you communicate, the way you treat people, because communication is as important in coaching as any play that you can diagram. I thought he was unbelievable at handling people. I thought he was unbelievable at handling problems. I saw him handle many with the job he had. That was something I learned watching him all the way through.
Q. He was an official?
COACH SELF: No. He was head of officials. He was head of the State Activities Association, State High School Athletic Association.
Q. When the OklahomaState position opened, how concerned were you that it would be a distraction and what have you done to keep it from becoming one?
COACH SELF: I haven’t been concerned about it being a distraction. It’s doesn’t register with our players. To be real candid, it hasn’t registered with me. We’ve had a lot of people that’s put in a lot of time and effort to get to this point. Our players have worked their tails off. There’s no way I’m going to let anything like that distract me right now. No way.
Q. Memphis, talk about their free throws all year. They’re making them right now. Might be because Rose and Douglas-Roberts are shooting most all of them. Are you cognizant of keeping those two guys off the line tomorrow?
COACH SELF: Well, you know, we like to keep everybody off the line, as evidenced by us only fouling 13 times the first half yesterday (smiling). But, yeah, we have to do a good job of playing defense, not giving Memphis free points. Obviously those two combined to go 20 and 23 yesterday, and they were the only two that shot ’em, is that right? So, you know, you don’t want to put the other guys on the line. But certainly those are two that you really play defense with your head and feet, not put yourself in positions where you’re reaching and giving ’em free points.
Q. What does it say about Coach Calipari to do what he did at UMass, have that high, then have a little dip in his career, bounce back, resurrect his career and Memphis at the same time, do it at a place like Memphis, that wasn’t KU, Duke, or North Carolina?
COACH SELF: If you know Cal very well, he can sell. I mean, can he really sell. He’s selling right now to somebody (laughter). But, you know, he did a fabulous job at UMass. And you say the career dipped. You know, he rolled the dice and went to the NBA. It wasn’t like they didn’t win. You know, college guys going to the NBA, there’s not too many of them going to coach the Spurs or the Lakers when they’re loaded. They’re getting maybe jobs that maybe the talent level’s not quite the same as those. That would be a hard gig. But, you know, Cal’s good. The one thing that can be lost I think a little bit is because he is flamboyant and he’s a terrific recruiter, a salesman. He can really coach. Anybody that’s played for him knows he can really coach.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about within the confines of your offense the lob and why it’s been so effective for you, what these guys see.
COACH SELF: It’s also a huge part of Memphis’ offense. You know, when you look at us, I don’t know how many lobs we caught this year, I don’t know how many Memphis has caught, I can’t imagine there’s many teams that caught as much as us two. People think they just have really good players, they’re throwing lobs, there’s nothing to it. Memphis’ offense is designed, and ours is tried to be designed, to put defenders in positions where they have to make decisions. And if they help, then certain things are open. If they don’t help, certain things are open. We do a decent job with throwing it and getting it – not as good as what I think we could, but Memphis does a fabulous job with it, as well. But there is a thought process when the ball’s here that this is where you need to be to put yourself in different positions. We love throwing the ball up because we think it’s an easy play to convert if you have good athletes. A lot easier play sometimes than throwing the ball to the post and having the guy score over you. That’s one reason why I’m a huge fan of the dunk, which a lot of purests aren’t, but it’s momentum plays, it’s plays that change the momentum, it’s plays that give your teams confident, it’s plays that get your crowd into the game more. All of those things have an effect on energy level. I do think those type plays gives your team confidence and energy.
Q. Coach Calipari kept on referring to Joey Dorsey as his son. Do you have any athletes on your team that you have that type of relationship with, and who and why?
COACH SELF: I don’t want to — I’m not gonna say yes to that. But I will tell you that I think that we have a group of guys that I feel very connected to in a big way. Sometimes players come from different backgrounds and different situations and maybe don’t have the parental support and things like that where you need to be more of that. Sometimes the parental support is unbelievable and you’re just — I don’t know, you’re just a relative, so to speak, but you never replace mother or father. So I think I do have a really good relationship with our guys. But I would — even if I — I would never talk about that publicly, to be honest with you.
Q. You’ve spoken about some of the tragedies that have befallen some of the kids. Specifically with Sasha, can you relay a conversation maybe that you’ve had with him over the course of your relationship after he comes from Russia, the death of his father?
COACH SELF: Well, probably not specifically because Sasha really hasn’t shared much about, you know, his father’s death with me personally ’cause I haven’t really asked him. People have told me what happened. If he wants to talk about it, we’ll talk about it. But Sasha and I have a great relationship. I’m really happy and proud of him, of really the man he’s become. You think about it. 10th grade, never played ball, single-parent mother, no other siblings. Father has mysteriously died or been murdered, they never found out exactly what happened. Mom is concerned for his safety. She loves him so much to send him away, basically for three years without seeing him because with the Visas, how those things work, you can’t go back when you want to, because there’s a chance he’d end up in the military. It is a great story. But the thing that amazes me about it is his mother was gonna be by herself and she loved him so much to send him away. And now they’ve reunited. I think it’s just an unbelievable story.
Q. Cole’s first half line, I think, six points, six boards, three blocks. When you were getting him into the lineup very early this season, did you envision needing him as much as you needed him and did he exceed your expectations?
COACH SELF: We think Cole is going to be great. You know, I’m not going to lie to you. That’s a pretty big stage and he came in, and for a period of time he was the best performer in the game. So we thought he was just continually getting better and better and better. Our fans have seen it from day one. He’s had some games where he’s played four minutes and some games where he’s played 17, like last night. Last night we needed him to play that many minutes. He played great. But the thing that really impressed me about him is that he went after balls. I mean, the first rebound he got over Hansbrough, when he got fouled, if I’m not mistaken, the offensive rebound to me gave him great confidence and also gave our team confidence because that was a great, great play.
Q. Can you elaborate a little bit with your dad, how much of that was by example about communication and how much of it was talked about how these things are important?
COACH SELF: No, it was more by example. It’s tough to have a job where nobody ever says, Thank you. Of course, you guys have ’em (smiling). But, you know, he was in a situation where all he ever dealt with was problems. The only way that you can deal with problems is to be straight with people. You can’t tell somebody something to kind of pacify him, We’ll worry about that later, I’ve got him off my back, because it always came back to him in the job he had. I always enjoyed watching him from afar dealing with problems. I also enjoyed watching him enjoy dealing with problems. That’s one thing as a coach, you know, coaches complain all the time about, I’ve got to deal with this, I’ve got to deal with this, we don’t need distraction. Deep down at the core, coaches like fixing things, too. So that was something that I probably learned from him was, you know, how to fix things, how to make positives out of negatives.
Q. Going into this tournament a lot of attention was paid to star freshmen, would they go straight to the NBA. Is that to the point where college basketball has evolved or, like your team, is there still a place for seniors and senior leadership at the elite programs?
COACH SELF: Oh, yeah, there’s still a place. But you look at our team, our most talented guys, you know, on paper aren’t seniors. We’ve got Russell and Darnell and Sasha. They’re not our leading scorers. The elite programs that recruit really well, they’re going to have to make some decisions recruiting. Do they want to recruit one-and-done guys? I would say based on my personal opinion, although I think the rule is bad, I wish it was two years, but based on my personal opinion, there’s been some unbelievable freshmen that have performed at an unbelievably high level and also have been great for our game. And obviously we’re going to see one tomorrow night, because he’s a fabulous, fabulous young man.
Q. With what you went through with the two first-round losses, how that sort of changed the perception of your program, what do you think about the idea that fans or media or whoever, maybe even sometimes the people inside the program, how maybe they need to be a little bit more patient about the way things develop to where you can get to a level where you are now?
COACH SELF: Well, that’s one thing that’s been frustrating to me, to be real candid with you, is we lost in the first round two years in a row, and the second year we lost in the first round, our fans would have sold out big time just for getting in the tournament. We’re 10-6. We’re starting three freshmen and two sophomores. Those guys flip it and really turn it on late. In the fans’ mind, it was a disastrous season, winning the Big 12 tournament and losing in the first round. In my mind, I’m thinking, we’re starting three freshmen, two sophomores, if we can just get in the tournament, let alone win the league, and the tournament. I think coaches see it differently than fans do. The biggest disappointment I’ve had is the first team that lost in the first round. But that was not the best team we’ve had. That was a team that was tired and beat and hurt. But nobody cares. You know, you still got to perform. But the perception to me is unbelievable. You look at wins. You look at championships. You look at whatever. You lose in the first round, and all of a sudden it’s a disaster. You win one game in a tournament, lose in the second round, all of a sudden, Well, it wasn’t that bad. To me that’s ridiculous. But that’s the way it is. The tournament has become that. If you have better players, you shouldn’t lose that often. We’ve been really blessed to have really good players, have won at a high level. I don’t think our program has dipped in the least. If you follow us closely, we’ve won just about as much or — I don’t want to say more, but we’ve won just about as much as any coach won at Kansas. But those two first-round losses definitely put a negative stigma to us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
Kansas Breakout Room Quotes . Sunday, April 6
Darrell Arthur, Sophomore, Forward
Your team seemed so relaxed last night. Was it just another game for your guys?
“We were so excited for this game. Everybody has been wanting to play North Carolina since November. Everybody just came out hyped up for the game and just came out relaxed and ready for the game. All our stuff was working at the beginning of the game and then in the second half we kind of got brain-dead and let a lot of stuff go and made some turnovers, but at the end we kind of sealed the game.”
Did you surprise yourselves (with your performance last night)? You came out a bit tight against Davidson in your last game.
“Davidson game we were just so nervous. We were just trying to make the Final Four, so before the game coach (Self) just told us to let off our shackles and I thought that we did a great job of coming out with energy.”
Talk about the matchup inside with Dorsey.
“Dorsey is a big-time banger inside, kind of like Tyler (Hansbrough) is. He loves to go to the offensive and defensive glass. He’s not as skilled as Tyler is offensively, but he gets the job done defensively and he loves to attack the rim. So it’s going to be a challenge against him. You have to take it to those guys offensively and get them in foul trouble. On the defensive end we have to wall up on them and make sure he doesn’t get too many touches in the pain. He’s a great player, great defensive player, likes to bang down low. He likes to get inside position. So our focus defensively will be to keep him out of the paint and limit his paint touches. Defensively we just need to keep him off the glass.”
Would you be surprised if you play man-to-man against Memphis?
“Not at all. It depends on what coach wants and how many paint touches we give up. Then we’d probably switch to the zone. We have to do what we have to do to win, whether that’s playing man-to-man or zone.”
Coach was talking about the teams being a mirror image of each other. How do you see that?
“They play similar to us. They like to get the ball to the paint, get the ball to the rim. They try to play inside and out with their guards, just try to penetrate and kick the ball out. They like to play one-on-one ball and play as a team.”
You came out with a lot of energy in your game against North Carolina. Are you worried about coming out with a lot of energy in the national title game?
“No we’re going to come out with energy. We’re just going to come out playing as hard as we can with a high level of energy, like we did in our last game. We can play an up-pace game and a slow-paced game. We just have to come out with our a-game. It’s going to be a fun game to play in.”
Did you know that this could be a championship year?
“We knew that this could be the team to do it. We have depth, we have talent, we have leadership. We are just high spirited. The loss last year against UCLA just pushed us over the edge. We worked really hard over the off season to get to this point.”
How important a factor is balance on the team with several guys who average, seven, eight, nine points per game and can go off at any time?
“Balance is key for this team. We have a lot of players who can come off the bench at any time. We have guys who can go off at any time. It just hurts the defense that we play against. You can’t worry about one person, you have to worry about every guy on the floor.”
Mario Chalmers, Junior, Guard
On Memphis junior Chris Douglas-Roberts …
“CDR does have an old-school game. It is very effective for him. He can shoot the three and is a great all-around player. He is a laid-back guy away from the court and all business when he gets on the court. I first met CDR my eighth grade year at a USA Basketball camp.”
How was playing basketball in Alaska?
“There is a deception that Alaska has a lack of great players. Alaska had some good players that just did not get the opportunity to play outside of the state. I took every opportunity to play outside of Alaska. I wanted to play against the best competition.”
How hard was it to develop team balance on scoring?
“It was hard to develop at first. We had two McDonald’s All-Americans and everyone was used to scoring and being the star. Coach (Bill) Self broke us down. He told us that we would not get very far if we did not work together.”
On Derrick Rose …
“We have played against some of the best guards in the country. He is a big guard. You have to keep him in front of you.”
Could the game come to the KU defense vs. Memphis offense?
“They have two key players that we have to lock in on and three players that can contribute for them. We will have to be active on defense and turn defense into points for our offense. The style of play will not be hard for us. We practice it every day.”
Describe playing in the National Championship game?
“I saw my first Final Four in San Antonio when I was a kid. I remember wanting to play in this game. It will be a great feeling to play for the National Championship in the same place I saw my first Final Four.”
Darnell Jackson, Senior, Forward
On discussing his personal tragedies with teammates and coaches …
“I didn’t want anybody to worry about anything and I didn’t want to have any distractions for my teammates or for anybody else. It was hard for me and I was going to give all of this up to go home to help and I know that would have been the right decision for me, but I’m glad that people in my family stepped up and started helping my mom and me.”
On his mother being here to watch him play …
“I haven’t seen my Mom yet since she came down here, but she called me last night and she cried for 15 minutes straight and I didn’t understand a word she said. I feel happy. I feel blessed that she’s here because she could have went that day too when I seen her in the hospital, but she told me that she kept fighting because she didn’t want to leave my brother, sister and me out here alone and I’m thankful. I’m thankful to have her here today with me.”
On teammate and best friend, Rodrick Stewart …
“You could say that Rod and me are like brothers. I’m like his half twin that he doesn’t have in his life. Ever since Rod came to Kansas, we’ve just clicked from day one. We’ve always been there for each other, like when one of us doesn’t have money to pay the cell phone bill, we’ll loan each other money for something like and we don’t even have to pay each other back. It’s like brotherhood, we’ve been doing it for so long.”
On his teammates …
“They play a big role in my life. It’s like having a whole bunch of brothers I never had before.”
On the meeting the team had at the restaurant …
“Well we had that meeting because we felt like guys weren’t on the same page for us to get to where we are today. The main thing we said was that somebody needs to bring something to the table everyday. It doesn’t matter if it’s talking, practicing hard or pushing other guys and if somebody’s slacking you get in their butt and make them go hard and that’s what we’ve been doing. (What was the result?) Great, we’re playing for the National Championship tomorrow.”
On Cole Aldrich …
“The way Cole played yesterday is the way he plays in practice. He plays like that almost every day. He’s always contesting shots and he’s a great rebounder. He’s going to be a great player for this program.”
On Joey Dorsey of Memphis …
“On the scouting report it says that he’s 6’9″, 265 (lbs.) so he’s a big load. Just watching him play and how active he is around the basket. He’s strong with the ball and every time he gets a chance, he’s finishing and getting three point plays.”
On team depth …
“Well they (Memphis) have depth too so it’s just going to depend on how guys play tomorrow. It’s going to come down to the last possession and when it comes time for guys to step up and make big plays both teams are going to step up.”
On who the team ring leader is …
“The ring leader is Darrell (Arthur). That guy plays so much. It’s so fun when everyone is around. We just have a lot of fun being around each other. If you don’t have that it would just be bad chemistry.”
On the team’s looseness …
“Since we got here Coach told us to relax, have fun and don’t worry about anything. We went through the hard part to get here and now we’ve made it to the Final Four. There no pressure on anybody. He told us `you’ve got to promise me that you’ll go out there and play with a smile’. And that’s what we did yesterday was we went out there and had fun.”
Russell Robinson, Senior, Guard
On playing Memphis …
“It is going to be two great teams out there and the best thing is that it is going to be players making plays as opposed to guarding plays. It is going to be a tough challenge but one I am ready to face.”
On Coach Self getting here and having a chance to win …
“I think it is a great relief to get here especially after what Kansas has been through the last five years. We have prepared for this all year long and this has been one of our goals. Now here we are just one game away from that accomplishment. We are just living in the moment and want to go out there and play the way we know how.”
On being from New York and why he picked Kansas …
“I knew about their tradition and I was really big on that. Then when Coach Self called me, it just made me want to go there even more. Just going out there and seeing how much the fans appreciate basketball made me want to be part of it all. It was too good of a deal to pass up. It was a tough adjustment for me but I have grown as a person not just a basketball player and I am glad I made the decision to go to Kansas.”
On the unselfish play by all the players …
“We all know that we have to make sacrifices and some give up scoring, while others give up something else for the sake of the team. It pays off for us.”
On their relaxed feeling going into the game tomorrow night …
“We have prepared all year for this. Our goal is to be national champions. We have looked forward to this position all year and we are just ready to go out there and play.”
On defending Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose …
“It is just another game. We have been playing tough guards all year but this will definitely be our toughest match-up in the biggest game. We just have to take the approach we have taken all year. We just need to go out there and play good defensively as a team.”
On the athleticism of Memphis …
“They are a really good team and it will be a great match-up. The two teams are very athletic and both teams have great inside and guard players. It will be a fun game to play in and a fun game to watch. We have been looking forward to this all year and I am looking forward to playing them tomorrow night.”
On how all the adversity this year has motivated this team …
“We have used all the adversities as motivation. It seems like our success has been helping out a lot of people’s lives, not only the players but the families of the players, so we just try to leave it all on the court each and every time. It seems like when we do that, good things happen for everyone.”
On getting Brandon Rush back from injury …
“When he came back coach called a meeting and said that our team just got better. It seemed like our team went into a different gear and into a positive direction. Once we had Brandon back, we just wanted to keep him in a good mood and keep a smile on his face. We knew this would help with his recovery process.”
On his role on the team …
“I just do what is best for the team. You just have to go out there and play the game. The main thing is to get the “W” and that is what we have been able to do thus far in the tournament. We have one more ahead of us and we just need to leave it all on the court.
On what they have to do defensively …
“We have to contain the two guards and not let them get going. We need to force them into tough shots and make them work for everything. If we do that, we will be successful. It is going to take a team effort and we just need to go out and play with a lot of energy. We will need to have our best defensive performance.”
On Cole Aldrich’s play in the tournament …
“He has been playing good up until now, so I was not surprised at his play last night. We just need to keep him going and I am sure there will be someone else to step-up on Monday night. I am just ready to go out there and see who will be.”
On the lack of time they have to prepare for Memphis after a tough North Carolina game …
“I believe it is enough time. I am happy playing Memphis because they don’t run a lot of plays, so it will just be a matter of defending their players and not the plays. It is easier to prepare for a game like that. It is going to come down to the toughness factor and who wants it more.”
On how they need to conserve their energy between now and tomorrow …
“We just need to stay loose and get plenty of rest. Everyone is pumped up and we just have to make sure we don’t get too pumped up. We just need to relax and do what we have done all year. We have to play our game and believe in ourselves.”
Brandon Rush, Junior, Guard
On what his rehab was like and if he thought about winning a National Championship during rehab …
“I definitely thought about it the whole time. That’s what kept pushing me in the rehab room, working harder and harder each day. My rehab days were pretty simple. I worked on getting my muscles back in shape and just getting my muscles back.”
On how the game will shape up …
“I think it’ll come down to who makes the key stop at the end. We’re both great on the offensive end, but we’ve got a defensive edge to us because we like to pressure a lot, and they like to contain a little bit. It’s going to be to the one who gets the key stops at the end.”
On what his two brothers told him …
“They haven’t been here yet, so I’ve got the edge on them. I talked to JaRon last night and gave him an earful about how I got here first and stuff like that, but they really haven’t given me any experience points at all on what to do tomorrow. They’ve supported me. Kareem’s going to miss his game. He’s going to get fined for missing his game tomorrow to come down here.”
On defending Chris Douglas-Roberts …
“I love being in that role, just trying to limit one of the star players. That’s my whole goal tomorrow. I know he’s probably going to get his points, but I’m going to try and make him work for them because I think he’s going to be a tough match up.”
On how to stay relaxed for the championship game …
“I just know what type of game this is. This is the biggest game I’ve probably ever played in right now, so just coming in more focused and more relaxed than I’ve ever been knowing it’s going to be a long game. It’s going to be an up and down tempo game, and there’s going to be so many possessions that you can mess up on one play and make it up on the other end.”
On this year’s Kansas team playing its last game together …
“We’ve definitely thought about that a lot because it’s the last time everyone will be on the court together with the same group of guys. It’s been so much fun this whole year playing with the five seniors. We definitely want to leave out of here with something on our shoulders with the championship.”
Cole Aldrich, Freshman, Center
What kind of challenge are you going to get on Monday?
“They are good, real good. They only have one loss this season and they are going to push you. Derrick Rose is unbelievable and Joey Dorsey is going to grab every rebound out there. It is not going to be an easy task.”
What kind of game can fans expect to see?
“It is definitely going to be a fun game. We both like to get up and down and it will be a high octane game.”
What is this like being a freshman at the Final Four?
“It is a dream come true, just being a freshman and getting to be a part of this. It is incredible. When you are a little kid you always think about playing on the biggest stage. In high school you think about the state tournament games and now it is the NCAA’s and the National Championship game.”
Do you feel like this is your time to win the National Championship?
“We really feel like it is. These seniors have put a lot of time into this program. They have worked so hard over the last three or four years. They bleed Kansas basketball. For us young guys, we are just trying to make it happen for them.”
Sherron Collins, Sophomore, Guard
On relationship with Derrick Rose …
“We don’t know each other. We are both from Chicago. We know of each other. We played in high school, but that is it.”
What impresses you the most about Derrick Rose’s game …
“Quick and strong and his ability to leap.”
On the game Monday night and its guard play …
“I think we take pride in guarding. We have talked about that and guarding as a whole team.”
On the dust settling from semifinal game …
“It has settled. We enjoyed it last night. We didn’t enjoy it too much. We are still not satisfied. We are going to come out tomorrow and hopefully get a win.”
On late game start and waiting …
“I don’t think it is going to be tough. We know it is going to come. The tough thing will be waiting tomorrow, but today (Sunday), just getting through today. It is a long day, just staying off our feet and getting our legs back under us.”
On the stars being talked about a lot …
“They are going to be talking about their (Memphis) two stars, but they have more than just two people that are able to do things. They’ve got a well-balanced team. They have people on the bench, but so do we. I think it will be a war out there.”
On what a National Championship would mean …
“It would be a great achievement. Not just for me, but for my teammates and coaches. The coaching staff who has been working hard, I think that they deserve it.”
On there being pressure from the community, school, state – or is it for us and the coaches …
“It is for the community as well. We don’t look at it like that. We don’t get to much into it. I think the pressure was over with the Elite 8, so now we just have to go out and play.”
On the athletes on both teams making the game an up and down game …
“We like to run. We are not going to change our game, and I’m pretty sure they’re not going to change theirs. We are going to try and run and get things done.”
Do you think they are the only team that can match you athlete for athlete …
“There are a lot of teams that match-up with us, we just do what we do, and that is how we come out on top.”
On the Rush/Rose matchup …
“It starts with (Brandon) Rush, but it’s a whole team effort. It won’t be a one-on-one. We are going to help each other out. That is how we do it. It will be a team effort.”
On change of lifestyle going from Chicago to Lawrence …
“It hasn’t been too much of an adjustment. I thought it was going to be harder than what it was, but it was pretty easy. I think what drew me was the tradition, the crowd, the fans, especially the coaching staff, and Julian Wright had a good part in that being from Chicago. That’s what probably drew me here.”
Sasha Kaun, Senior, Center
Do you see this turning into a physical game?
“I think it will be. They are a big team and are so athletic that we are going to have to match what they do on the floor. We know they are going to play hard and play tough and we are going to have to as well.”
Do you think about this being the last game for a lot of the guys on this team?
“Not many people get to go into a game knowing it will be the last one they play. We have that opportunity and that is special. We have the chance to go out there and make the most of it. We get to give it all we have got, because there is no tomorrow.”
Is there more pressure knowing this is the national championship game?
“I don’t think there is going to be any more pressure. We are a veteran team and we are good about staying pretty focused. Everybody knows what they are doing and we are really excited to get out there and play.”
After expending a lot of energy last night, are you worried about how you will feel tomorrow?
“Last night was hard, no doubt about that, but I’m not worried. We are going to relax today to get ready for this. That is the nice thing about knowing it’s the last game. There is no excuse to hold anything back.”