THE MODERATOR: We're joined now by Utah head coach, Larry Krystkowiak. Coach, if you would make an opening statement and then we'll take questions.
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: I'm Larry Krystkowiak from the university of Utah and we're excited to be here, and just rather than an opening statement when there's not a whole lot for me to discuss, just open it up for questions.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. You could have just said Coach K, right?
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: Could be confusing in this situation.
Q. I wanted to ask you about your relationship with Coach Krzyzewski, and I know it's not very deep, but you do have some relationship with him and talk about that and just the respect you have for him and being in this situation, he's obviously 6 here many times, talking about wanting to build a program like his?
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: Well, you know, short of crossing paths on the recruiting trail and I think some of the Duke players that I played with, Johnny Dawkins comes to mind as a rookie, we were rookies together at San Antonio, that kind of drives you closer, just playing with somebody who played for him. Little bit of irony in the fact that earlier this year I did a radio show, he has the Sirius XM weekly show, and I went about 20 minutes on that show with him, and that was about as far as we had gone before and had some great dialogue, talked about our Polish heritage, and he brought up some of the -- maybe a little bit of a similar situation. And certainly I'm not predicting the future that we're going to turn Utah into Duke, but he reminded me that when he first started at Duke, it wasn't all roses and went through a period of about three, four years where three were questions about what was going on there. And I actually remembered -- that was about the, oh, I don't know, '86 period, somewhere in the later '80s that ESPN was really kicking in with their broadcasts and Duke would be on the TV. I told him on the radio show there was a lot of games I flipped the channel because Duke wasn't exactly dazzling anybody back then but they managed to get on ESPN. Now it's the opposite, when they're on, it's hard for me to change the channel because I really respect what they've done. Just an awful lot of respect for him for a lot of reasons, and, you know, lot of the players, as I said, that had played for him, lot of times you do a little research and ask them questions. When players that play for a coach really respect him and speak fondly of him, I think that says a lot.
Q. I was wondering about the venue, obviously the football stadium with the curtains, a little bit different. What are you going to see as the subtleties of trying to play here and play a game here?
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: Well, I choose not to really discuss it with the team, you know, it's not something that we have to face that Duke doesn't have to face or vice versa. It's very unique. At the end of the day, you know the old cliche that it's still 10 feet off the ground and 18 inches in diameter, or whatever it is, can or cannot be a part of story line. I'm not sure. You know, I think our focus is going to be trying to figure out a way that starts with figuring out away to keep Duke from putting the ball in the basket and us making shots quite honestly is at the bottom end of the spectrum. If we don't defend this team and really focus on that, then we're not going to have much of a chance to win. So, the question with Jim Nantz asked me that question before. Mentioned some teams having difficulty shooting and that's not my concern. That's not going to be an excuse for us and probably going to be something that we don't speak a whole lot about.
Q. Discuss a little bit what was the genesis of having your team work out with the Navy Seal commander prior to this season and what effect did it have on them bringing him back before the tournament began?
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: The culture is a big buzz word for me and it is in sports as you know. Whenever a coach takes over a program, it's always we're going to establish the culture or whatever. I lot of my job as the coach of the Bucks. I had a period to reflect back on what went haywire with that and it really I think could be identified as some culture issues. I went into a little bit of a lengthy research project trying to put my finger on what culture was, and we've simplified it a little bit at Utah. And you could look at Google and there's millions of definitions of "culture." Really comes down to who are we in what kind people we are and that starts with who we recruit and coaching staff and how you interact and treat people. The second part of the culture is how we do things around here and pretty simple. It's a feeling more than it is a big user's manual and owner's manual. I felt like getting into the Navy Seals concept was to me that's the definition personally an I grew up wanting to be in the military and had some neighbors that older brothers were in the Special Forces. That was something to me a little bit like sports that I aspired to so. As you look at a Navy Seal, somebody can come up with one thing on the planet that is humanly harder than becoming a Navy Seal, somebody needs to prove that to me and show me where that is, because I can't figure out where that would be. Number one, just going through the process of becoming a Seal individually, earning the toughness mentally, physically, so forth. And then when you do become a Navy Seal, then it becomes really interesting because then you have to learn how to be on a team and do some really hard things as a team, communication and team work. To me that kind of embodies what we were talking about with our program. In year four I wanted to take our culture to another level. And I met some Navy Seals at the Under Armour event that Kevin Plank puts on every year, brings coaches in. They put me in touch with Commander McGuiness and Rick Joselin, couple guys, great commanders, leaders in the Navy Seals program. And from start to finish, I've never 6 involved with anything like it. They spent about 24 hours with our staff and had 48 hours, our team slept in the gym and woke them up in the middle of the night and put them through some rigorous things. We bought Rick -- we brought Mark McGuiness back in Portland and watched the interaction when he walked into our cafeteria and saw our players and our players jumped out of their seats, like a sibling kind of deal. I knew we did the right thing by bringing him back and coming full circle from when we started the process in September. It's very important to me, you know, and I think a lot of things that the Seals stand for we're trying to stand for. The only difference is when mistakes are made on their end, it's life or death situation. When mistakes are made in our end, ironically it is kind of a death situation this time of year because you're done. There's a little bit of a tie in, but lot of respect for him. And I know that's an awful lot, maybe the longest answer in the history of the NCAA Tournament, but there it is.
Q. Have you been back to Houston since your NBA days and do any games in Houston as a coach or player stick out in your mind, any particular memories in Houston?
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: Not specifically. It was a rookie year when I was playing in San Antonio. You know, it was -- I think I was a part of a Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, double double. The only way I can be part of that is to have him block my shots. We drove by the church which used to be where we played, if I'm not mistaken, that changed a little bit from the outside, just drove by that on the freeway. But other than that, I really haven't 6 back.
Q. Speaking of having 6 back, are you guys planning to do with anything with the Houston culture? And on the separate side, have you been able to look at Duke tape and what do you think of Justise Winslow?
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: Three questions there. Culture-wise Houston? Not so much. It's pretty packed in to a lot of film and rest and game plan type of things, so we're not going to get out and about a whole lot here. I've watched an awful lot of tape starting Sunday when we found out that Duke had beat San Diego State. We started to break down tape. It wasn't new like the Stephen F. Austin game was where you could see them on T.V. We watched plenty of Duke games as it was throughout the course of the year. Unbelievably high-powered team. Gets up and down the floor. Transition wise, great post player, great three-point shooting. Unbelievable draw and kick type of team. If all else fails, they're a really good offensive rebounding team. There's a lot of things on the bulletin board that need to be stressed. That's making the assumption you can score every once in awhile to keep up with them. Winslow is a big key for them. I think maybe his second half of the season things have changed a little bit. Certainly the last eight games I believe that he's 6 starting and posing a threat as an undersized four man, really athletic, you know, supremely talented guy like a lot of guys on Duke's roster are.
Q. I was going to ask you about the scheduling you did this year and you beefed it up a little bit to help with the NCAA selections and also to help your players get used to this. Are you seeing returns now playing Georgia, the attitude you see them with preparing for Duke, are you seeing a return on that beefed-up schedule?
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: Well, I've made reference to that quite a few times, the schedule, because you know, Georgia, for example, I brought up the San Diego State game that we played, the Kansas game. There's 6 some teams with similar M.O's and styles that you'd like to believe. It's a little bit of a daunting task when you get to the NCAA Tournament and it's really the first time you've seen some teams. We do have some teams in our league that present the same problems, but we played in front of 22,000 in Kansas and BYU and San Diego State kicking off the season. So you'd like the think maybe this is a little bit -- you're a little bit less awe struck maybe with the environment. And certainly the talent level on the floor, I think is good to have some of those experiences against some high caliber teams. I watched the Wichita State/Kansas game to go to the Sweet 16. We played both of those teams. Obviously San Diego State and now Duke. So the last game I watched Sunday. To be in that neighborhood, playing some of those teams, and I think being able to compete is a big step for our program.
Q. You know, does it change your practice the atmosphere of the practice to kind of have sort of that big name program like Duke that always seems to have a target on their back, and also just as a sort of related, do you anticipate maybe some neutral fans pulling their weight behind Utah tomorrow during the game?
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: Well, to answer the second part with the -- it's the kind of March Madness, the underdog situation. I mentioned that to our team. You have to do something to get some people's attention. Same thing happened in the previous game when we were in Portland, you know, you've got Arizona playing a game before us. You'd like to think maybe your league can rally behind each other. We had a bunch of Arizona fans that sat behind our bench when we were playing Georgetown and kind of have that initial five, ten minute, the moment of truth, is this going to be competitive, are you giving them a reason to stick around and cheer. I think the longer that you can stay alive and keep the game close, the more that becomes a story line potentially. We've got another PAC-12 team in UCLA that will be playing before us and a Western -- West Coast team in Gonzaga. So, there's a possibility with that. I think getting -- getting our players's attention when you play somebody of Duke's caliber is a lot of the reason that I scheduled such difficult preseason schedule. We had six weeks of practice before you really get into some games and San Diego State was our second game of the season and, you know, I think it's important that you capture -- you know that you're going to maybe be an underdog in some of those games and you're on edge and trying to really maximize your performance on the court. And same thing went in the second part of our preseason when you got Kansas and Wichita State and those teams. So this -- again, this isn't completely new to us because you've had some of those experiences. I think that's probably favorable that you're not creating something for the first time. I know our kids are mentally dialed in and they know that we've got to be pretty darn good to make this a game.
Q. I think it's safe to say anybody watching this tournament knows about Duke's Coach K. Like each of the players to kind of tell us what we should know about your Coach K.
JORDAN LOVERIDGE: Just a fun guy to be around. Really energetic. Great Coach, great guy off the floor. You know, he just tells you how it is. He's not beating around the bush and he just -- he's just a great guy to be around.
THE MODERATOR: Brandon.
BRANDON TAYLOR: He's a great guy to be around, like Jordan said. And he's a great teacher on and off the court. He has great spirit about him.
THE MODERATOR: Delon.
DELON WRIGHT: Yeah, everything they said. Just a good guy and a player's coach.
Q. So you look at many of Duking top players, Okafor, Winslow, Jones, they're all freshmen. Do you think maybe be upper classmen and going through the experience of building a program and facing some adversity gives you guys any kind of edge in this game or do you look at that way?
THE MODERATOR: Delon, why don't you start.
DELON WRIGHT: I don't know. They're good players. I don't think that's an advantage. They've 6 playing -- they've 6 pretty there the whole year. So their experience in all aspects, that's not much of an advantage.
BRANDON TAYLOR: You know, whether freshmen, we're all at this level and all that sophomore, freshman kind of goes out the window. Just two teams going head to head, and no matter what grade you really are, you know you're at a position where you can go out there and make opportunities. It's all about making mistakes. The ones who is going to limit their mistakes goes further.
JORDAN LOVERIDGE: I think they've 6 playing at this level, you know, since they started their freshman year. They played on the big stage at Duke and then also, you know, they're likely to be NBA guys. They're playing at the highest level.
Q. I'm curious what you guys think of this venue? It's unlike anything you've guys have played in. Sweet 16, big venue, what your thoughts are.
THE MODERATOR: Brandon, go first.
BRANDON TAYLOR: It's just an amazing feeling. I never 6 a part of anything like this. I don't think any of our teammates have 6 a part of anything like this, and even in shoot around and seeing how big this arena is and it just doesn't seem real. It doesn't seem real, but it's definitely a great opportunity to do something special for this program and our team, you know.
THE MODERATOR: Jordan.
JORDAN LOVERIDGE: Just a lot of fun to be here and to have our -- everyone behind us and just to put our program out there and to still be playing basketball at this time of the year.
THE MODERATOR: Delon.
DELON WRIGHT: Amazing feeling to be on this stage, you know, playing in front of all these fans. Can't wait to get out there.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else for the student-athletes?
Q. Jordan, I just want to ask, this opportunity to play Duke, we all know where Duke is and what they've done, their tradition and power, clearly that's what Utah would like to be. Talk about this opportunity to kind of take a positive step towards starting to do something like that.
JORDAN LOVERIDGE: Yeah. We wanted to be in the post season to play teams like Duke and Georgetown teams we don't usually get to play. It's a great opportunity to put our program out there and to see -- to show and, you know, just help for the future and for the present.
Q. Either one of you guys can take this. Your Coach has a strong voice and he seems to be kind of straightforward. I know he loosens up at some time. Can you guys describe his personality? Is it what we see when he's talking to us or is he a different person in the locker room and in the practices with you?
DELON WRIGHT: Yeah, he's a tough coach. I guess he's not really like that all the time. If we mess up, he gets on us. Most of the time he's pretty laid back and let's us be ourself.
BRANDON TAYLOR: Definitely he let's us be ourselves around him, and just when we get on the court it's business, you know, and he's going to do each and everything in his power to be serious and stern, and on the court he's not really the laid-back type and, you know, he's -- he'll get up on you. He'll make sure you understand the concept before moving on to anything else. Off the court he's laid back, laid back and he'll joke with us and say, you know, jokes and stuff like that. He's kind of laid back off the court.
JORDAN LOVERIDGE: Yeah. You know, when we're in the gym and things like this, you know, he has the times where he's serious, but I think he has a good balance of, you know, messing with us and joking around, not being too serious all the time, but when it's game time, you know, he has his game face on and there's no more jokes.
Full transcript courtesy ASAP Sports.