Few, Players Talk Duke

The full transcript from Saturday's press conference, featuring Gonzaga head coach Mark Few and student-athletes Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr., Byron Wesley, Przemek Karnowski, and Kyle Wiltjer, courtesy ASAP Sports.

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Gonzaga University Head Coach Mark Few, Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr., Byron Wesley, Przemek Karnowski, and Kyle Wiltjer. We'll ask Coach to make an opening statement, and we'll take questions just for the student-athletes at the start of the press conference. Coach, your opening statement.

COACH FEW: Sure. Well, we are thrilled to advance all the way to the Elite Eight and the guys are excited. Obviously the staff is excited and -- but at the same time we understand what a huge challenge it is. We're playing, you know, one of probably the most decorated programs in modern history and who have had just an excellent, excellent season as have we and looking forward to a great battle.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Gary and Kevin, everybody knows about Gonzaga's 17 NCAA tournaments in a row and shed the Cinderella image. How important is it to get to this point and how big is this for the university and what you guys have tried to accomplish?

KEVIN PANGOS: I think it's big. It was a goal of ours and one team got to the Elite Eight in the past and we wanted to be a team that got there as well, just make a statement that we're one of the top programs in the country. And it's just a great feeling to be here, but we're not satisfied. We really want to make that next step, which is the Final Four.

GARY BELL, JR.: Just what Kevin said. This is the 17th time we've been here. Making it to an Elite Eight, second time Gonzaga has done that. It's a great accomplishment. Like Kev said, we don't want to end right now. We want to make it to a Final Four and keep this run going.

THE MODERATOR: Next question.

Q. For the players, what is it going to -- you've had a chance to watch this Duke team a little bit more closely now. What is it going to take to bring it to them tomorrow?

THE MODERATOR: Kyle, start and we'll go down the row.

KYLE WILTJER: We're going to play confidently and continue to play Gonzaga basketball, playing good defense, securing the rebounds and then pushing at them offensively. We feel we're a really deep team. We want to continue to pound them down low and play inside out and just play confidently.

PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI: They're a good team, you know, they try to do some stuff around the perimeter. We have to make sure we get the ball to our guards and make sure that we execute our plays, and, you know, I think we have to take another step in rebounding and just establish ourselves down low.

BYRON WESLEY: Yeah. Like Kyle and Przemek said, continue to play confident. We know how good of a team we are and how tough we can be to guard. If we come out and play hard and be a more physical team like we've been in most of our games this year, I think we'll be fine.

GARY BELL, JR.: They basically said everything. Obviously Duke is a good team, but we're a good team, too. We're going to go out and play hard like we have this whole year.

KEVIN PANGOS: I think we got to play hard. This time of the year the teams that play the hardest that come out on top. I think that's important.

Q. I was wondering if there were any comparisons that you see between when you were here with Kentucky in 2012, Kyle, and maybe just in terms of confidence or kind of anything that you see that would be comparable?

KYLE WILTJER: I mean two great teams. We're very unselfish, both groups. This is one of the closest groups I've ever been on and that freshman year, that's what I kept saying to everyone, this is the closest team. To play on this team it's been so much fun. We've been playing with an amount of confidence like we belong as well as playing with a chip on our shoulder. And I think if we continue to do that, we can continue to make a run for the Final Four.

THE MODERATOR: Next question.

Q. Speaking to John Rudolph earlier today, Kevin, he mentioned kind of a retreat that you guys took to his place last year and it was an important moment in his estimation for this team to build that bond. Can you talk a little bit about that and any comparisons to a team on the other side of the state like the Seahawks who have the team-first mentality, not worried about individual numbers and stats.

KEVIN PANGOS: Yes. That retreat, it was something talked to coaches about. I thought it was important for -- we had so many new guys, an opportunity for us to get away from any distraction on campus or friends or girlfriends or anything and get to know each other, talk about what the season was going -- have in store for us and what our goals were. And I think it was a great opportunity and we really bonded from it and got our mindset right. And we also just talked about what it's going to take to get here, and that was just sharing the ball, no one can be too selfish and team always comes first. I think that really helped us develop into the team we are today.

Q. This is question is for Przemek. I asked Coach K to try to spell your name earlier. He kind of deferred, but I was wondering if you could try to spell Krzyzewski for us?

PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI: Like K-R-Z-Y-W-S-K-I? (Laughter).

THE MODERATOR: Pretty close.

Q. He skipped the Y, you skipped the Y?

KEVIN PANGOS: How close was Coach K?

Q. He basically asked me to ask you. How do you pronounce your name?

PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI: Przemek Karnowski.

Q. Karnowski. That's what he said you would say.

THE MODERATOR: Next question.

Q. This is for Kevin and Kyle. For those kids in Canada that look up to you guys now and players in March Madness making it to the Elite Eight and possibly to the Final Four, what do you tell them about their dreams of becoming collegiate basketball players like yourself?

KEVIN PANGOS: You know, I just say that, you know, it's possible in that there's kids coming out of Canada all the time now and it's not so difficult to get noticed. Coaches go up to Canada all the time and Toronto, you see so many guys coming out of the Toronto area. Just that it's not just a hockey country. I'm proud to say that. If you work hard and really set it in your sights, you're capable of becoming great basketball players.

KYLE WILTJER: Similar to what he said, but just for those kids, that if you want to make it, just working hard. I mean, any college coach is going to want to recruit a player who works hard, who is going to be coachable and just continue to work hard, and I think you'll have an opportunity to play here in the States.

Q. Kyle, growing up watching Gonzaga, what do you remember about the early tournament runs by Gonzaga and just what does it feel like to be a part of getting this far with this team, you know, now that you're here?

KYLE WILTJER: It's awesome. I've always been from the West Coast, living in Portland. I mean, the earliest memories when they made those deep runs when I was little. But I also -- I really remember watching Adam Morrison, just the pure scorer he was. It's pretty awesome to have him on our staff and be able the pick his brain sometimes, and he just had a great mental approach to the game. He's a guy I've looked up to a lot growing up. I've always shot the ball well and he used to shoot a ton. It's awesome to have a guy like that I look up to on my staff.

Q. Coach K had a lot of praise for you and Kevin and said how unique it is to have two players like you guys at the positions you play, playing together for so long. He said -- didn't look it up, but probably played over 120 games together and have won the majority of them. Can you talk about how important that is, knowing what Kevin is thinking and vice versa on the court?

GARY BELL, JR.: Experience is a big part. I feel like that's why we've been so successful. Put a lot of time into it. We always are around each other. This guy is a great leader. So, we play on the court, it's pretty much easy because we just know what each other is going to do or what spots we're going to be at. It's been an easy four years.

Q. For all of you guys, the Duke players talk about how special it is to play for Coach K. Talk about how special it is for you to play for Coach Few.

KEVIN PANGOS: It's really special. You know, when I started learning more and more about the Gonzaga program, I really started to value what he's created here and the family atmosphere and successful environment. I just really wanted to be part of it. That's why I chose here. I've been fortunate to play four years. I wouldn't trade it for the world, to be honest, and so happy we made it this far and have this opportunity in front of us.

GARY BELL, JR.: Pretty much what Kevin said, we've been here four years and he's a great basketball mind. Sometimes -- this being my last year, you get tired of hearing some stuff, but he's just making you better. He's going to push you all the time, and that's basically, you know, why I came here, too, because talking to him, he didn't just give me anything. He said I was going to have to work for it, and I did, and, you know, I'm happy I picked this school.

BYRON WESLEY: I mean, this is my first year here, but I think Coach Few has done a really good job of keeping everybody unselfish and always playing hard. This is easily the closest team I've ever been a part of. He just makes sure it's such a family environment here and everybody is just so unselfish and plays for each other, and Coach Few has a lot to do with that.

PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI: Yeah, it's very special, like Byron said, basically family environment, and for me the recruiting thing was huge and Coach Few even made a trip to talk to me. It was a huge factor for me to see how much he wants me to be in this program.

KYLE WILTJER: It's been awesome to come back and play for Gonzaga. Initially I had to turn them down out of high school, but the minute I decided to transfer, he showed the same amount of attention, and that's a huge part of the reason why I came here. I really believed I would get better here. And he's so huge on player development, and I think I wouldn't have become the player I am today without him and the staff. For me, I'm just appreciative of him getting me here and showing the attention he has.

Q. This is for Kevin. Is there more of a comfort level -- this stadium has kind of historically been poor for shooters going back to the 2011 Final Four. Now that you had that first game under your belt and practices, is there more of a comfort level and what is hard about shooting in this stadium?

KEVIN PANGOS: You know, I didn't even really think twice about what was difficult. I didn't really notice. Shots weren't falling. As shooters you keep putting shots up. If it's a good team shot, you don't think twice, just let it go. That's what we're going to do. I feel more comfortable in the past is what I always say and a new day tomorrow. I haven't missed a shot yet as of tomorrow, so it's a new day.

KYLE WILTJER: I mean, if the hoops are 10 feet, I feel like it's -- you have the same chance of making the shot. So, as a shooter you just -- like he said, you got to keep shooting them. Might have had a little off day the first day, but the more you're out of place and the more shots you get up, the better you get. So, we're going to continue to shoot open, good team shots, and hopefully they'll start falling for us.

THE MODERATOR: Anything else for the student-athletes? Okay, gentlemen, we're going to let you go. Questions for Coach Few.

Q. Curious, what's the origin of the handstand after the games?

COACH FEW: Not really an origin and again just something that was born out of a need for our guys to celebrate wins. I think Duke goes through this at the highest level. We certainly go through it out on the West Coast. Where we are, you're expected to win every game and through that sometimes it just felt like it was becoming a job, and I mean it's probably seven, eight years ago, just spontaneously happened when we were getting those guys to celebrate and always kind of went in that direction when -- after big wins or we feel are big wins or we feel that they need to feel they're big wins.

Q. Coach, Coach K seemed to have a ton of respect for you and I know you have a ton of respect for him. Could you just talk about what he's done for college basketball and what you think of him as a person and as a basketball coach?

COACH FEW: Well, I put him right up there on the same platform as John Wooden. You know, I look at what he's been able to do in the modern era and he's done it with such class, you know, and grace and he's been so successful, but yet, you know, he's done it with a humble spirit and he's been a tremendous leader, not only for Duke but for all of us young coaches that are coming and probably the highest compliment I could pay him is literally everything we've tried to do at Gonzaga, we always ask, "What did Duke do here?" And that stems from, you know, things as trivial as facilities, of going really, really nice but not gaudy and extravagant, but doing it classy and nice to, you know, the amount of time and energy and effort put into our student-athletes, whether it's having our own specific academic coordinator, whether it's having our own specific, you know, branches of the medical staff, chiropractor, massage, nutrition, things like that, we always go to, "What's Duke doing here?" because there's -- in my opinion lot of people doing it on a really extravagant level and ones that are doing it, you know, really solid, practical but classy. And that's what we've always tried to do. And whenever we're trying to grow our product or grow our program or do anything, you know, we look at Duke, and I think that's the highest compliment. The other thing, again, just so selfless with his time. I don't know where or how he creates all this energy. It's amazing that he can -- he -- he goes so deep with the Duke teams and flip right around immediately and be involved with the players of USA Basketball. It's incredible. And yet through it all, the guy just does it with the ultimate class. When you do meet him or come across him or talk to him or on his radio show, show he makes you feel special. I think that's a really gift, too.

Q. Coach, you mentioned emulating Duke, but I'm curious about whether you studied and know much about Seattle Seahawks' coaching staff and the amount of work they do, this think-out-of-the-box and get the team together on the same page, doing it sort of a different way than other teams do in that sport? Can you talk a little bit about that in your approach.

COACH FEW: I have. I followed that a lot. Obviously we're huge Seahawks fans and I followed Coach Carroll all the way back when he was at USC. He does a great job, I think, with communication. He does a phenomenal job with making it fun for the players and the players feeling relaxed but yet extremely confident and always the aggressor. And I think that's, you know, something I've sat back and really watched. We kind of stole whatever -- I think they were calling it "Competition Tuesday" or whatever from them. The name escapes me. We go live and hard. Ours was Monday or we go our top five against our second five, whereas pretty much the rest of the week we're always kind of running against the scout team. Those are our most competitive practices and been really good for us this year of kind of pushing us to get better. And, I mean, that's totally borrowed from the Seahawks. Then the guy we love, the guy we respect and look up to especially at Gonzaga, he would have been a great Zag, is Russell Wilson. He's a classy, classy winner, and I know Kevin really looks up to him, and certainly I have the tremendous amount of respect for him and how he does his business, how he handles himself.

Q. Is there anything that you saw any moment during the season, I mean, you guys on the verge of the first Final Four for the program and you have to beat a brand name of college basketball to get there, is there any moment that you saw that lets you know that these guys, your team, is ready to handle the moment of it all like they won't be overwhelmed by this moment?

COACH FEW: Yes. I think there's been several times. Dating back to -- I don't know if it's legal to talk about this, we scrimmaged Texas and functioned very, very well against some extremely high, high level athleticism, especially around the rim, and from that point on to, you know, how we played against SMU, how we played in The Garden in the NIT, anybody who was at the game at Arizona, I think when we walked out of that building and we were in the locker room and everybody was so visibly upset with losing that game, it was a game we felt we probably should have won, knowing how good Arizona is and how well coached they are, I think that was probably a pretty big moment with like, hey, we can do this.

Q. Coach, obviously the teams were affected. What do you think about the configuration of the court here that affected players and their shooting and maybe what can be done, maybe the NCAA can do at other venues to make things a little more conducive?

COACH FEW: I'm not convinced that that's the case. I know last night -- look, we were a great shooting team. We've had off nights. We've had off practices. Kevin has missed shots. Wilch has missed shots. Gary has missed shots. Essentially it corrects itself. Statistically I know it goes back to the Butler/UCONN game. Maybe those guys weren't very good shooters. I don't know. I watched our guys in our public practice, we shot around here yesterday, the day of the game, and shot the heck out of it. Shot it fine today in practice. So, could have had a lot to do with defense, some could have had a lot to do with nerves of playing in a Regional Semifinal, and, you know, we're going to go into it and shoot it with confidence like we always do tomorrow night.

Q. Coach, Coach Krzyzewski, I asked him about obviously you guys have only met twice in all these years. He mentioned distance is a big issues as far as non-conference games. Having only played twice, would you like to try to find more opportunities to play Duke outside of avenues like this?

COACH FEW: Yeah, only because we try to schedule as hard as possible and we really want to schedule the best and then also we have so much respect for that program and how they do it and how they operate and the type of guys they get in there. We enjoy playing -- I enjoy playing those type of games, you know, against people that you really, really respect. We played them twice in The Garden, you know, one game came down to last minute or so. Wasn't a particularly well-played game, but it was one of those, and then the other one I think they beat us by 60, you know. Felt like it. So, they got a lot of people that want to -- if you interviewed every coach in Division I, they would probably want Duke on the schedule. We kind of have to deal with that on a smaller deal regionally and somewhat nationally with guys always wanting to schedule us. I'm sure we'll do something again. At least I sense they feel the same way about us as we feel about them, and he's usually great about setting stuff up like that.

Q. The other question I had for you, you mentioned a moment ago your guys have done things to show they're ready for a moment like this. With the consistency that your program has had getting in 17 straight NCAA tournaments but to get to this point and nothing happens tomorrow, takes away from what you've done, but how big is this moment or could it be for this program?

COACH FEW: This moment is big for this team. This team wants -- they're hungry to get to a Final Four and to keep playing. And I think rather than looking at it on a macro level, we're looking on a micro level. Whatever happens with how it affects the school and city and region is fine. We want to kind of selfishly do it for ourselves and, you know, we think and feel like we've earned it and that we definitely earned a chance to be here. The cool thing about the game tomorrow is it's about two teams that have just literally had sustained excellence throughout this entire season. It's not somebody that got hot in a conference tournament and won a couple games and did this, then advanced through the bracket somehow. It's two teams that have been great basically since November. So, we know it's a huge challenge but we feel like we belong here and feel like we're capable of moving on if we play but we'll have to play great. There's no way we're going to get out of this thing if we don't play great.

Q. Coach, Duke has played these last couple months playing Justise at the 4. With your imposing front line, do you see that as an advantage for you going against that type of play?

COACH FEW: We have to see that as an advantage and make it as much as of an advantage as we can. We faced a lot of teams that went small against us this year and had varying degrees of success, depending on how you look at it. I think that will be a big key to the game tomorrow is who is gaining the advantage, you know, but, at the same time, you know, you don't want to go too far from what got you here. And, you know, our power and our physicality on the inside is a huge part of who we are, even though I think Kevin and Wilch get a lot of credit for how well they shoot it, but in the end what makes us a national caliber squad is just how big we are and how physical we are. And we got to do our best to accentuate that tomorrow.


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