COACH DONOVAN Introduction: Well, I was really proud of our guys. Certainly Marquette is a hard team to play against. They play extremely hard. They're great at loose balls, offensive rebounds, they've got great speed and quickness.
I thought the first four minutes of the game we were back on our heels a little bit. I think the game started 7 2. I thought we settled in. I thought we had some pretty decent looks, especially in the first half, that we didn't knock down, particularly Erik Murphy did.
Then in the second half we shot a little bit better. Brad knocked down some shots. Kenny made free throws. We did a better job rebounding the basketball than maybe we did in the first half. I thought our defense was pretty good.
But like us, I thought we had good looks that we didn't knock down. And I thought Crowder and I thought Johnson Odom had some decent looks, too, that they didn't knock down. It wasn't a great shooting game for both teams.
In the first half I think they had 30 points and I think something like 26 of their 30 points or 24 of their 30 points came off second shots and offensive rebounds. We knew we had to do a better there.
I told our guys at halftime with Marquette, they certainly have had a lot of great comeback victories. They keep coming. They keep coming. I thought we did a fairly decent job there late in the game handling the press. And Kenny knocked down free throws. At different points in time different guys stepped up and made some different plays for us.
Q. You've gotten Casey to kind of be like Will, not the same, but like Will. You've gotten Murphy to rebound. You've gotten different guys to do things. In the case of Patric Young, to maybe overcome some of the mental problems or flaws that he was having early in the season. Can you tell why that's happened?
COACH DONOVAN: I think we've got really, really good kids, that when adversity hits during the course of the year, I'm not so sure that they know exactly how to handle it. And I heard Brad make this comment, he's made a comment to me, I asked him one time, what's the most difficult part for you playing in college? And he said, dealing with adversity and dealing with bad games, because I didn't have a lot of those in high school. Because he was always the best player on the floor.
And I think even for Patric, too, the grind in having to come every single day. When you're relied upon for the first time in your life by other players and coaching staff and people, there's a responsibility that comes with that. So when it doesn't go well, a lot of times they don't know how to handle it. And I think going through some of those adversities that they had to go through, it's forced them to kind of grow and mature.
And I even think with Erik, I told him at halftime, I think he was 0 for 5. I told him, I want you to shoot every time you're open. And if I see you not shooting the ball, I'm taking you out of the game. You've got a responsibility to every guy in this room that when you shoot the ball, you have to expect it to go in. If it doesn't we'll be fine. Even though he didn't shoot it, he made a couple of shots, I thought he was more aggressive.
And I think trying to push those guys into positions where they're being forced to grow up, and everybody handles it differently. A lot of times for Patric he was always the biggest and strongest in high school. He could do whatever he wanted to do. Brad was talented. Kenny Boynton, all these guys when they're coming up, were young, especially across our front line, and even Casey Prather, just the ups and downs he's gone through throughout his career, just playing really well and practice and can't translate it to the game.
I think that they're such good kids, they want to do well. I think sometimes they need some help to get through those difficult times.
Q. You guys struggled at the end of the regular season. Was that just a function of competition or was there anything you had to do to kind of get the team back on track?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I think a couple of things. I think, one, we lost Will Yeguete. We're not a deep team in the front court. I thought that hurt our team. And then we had to put some guys in his role that have never played there before. Today we played Brad Beal to power forward spot someone, he was guarding Jae Crowder. Casey Prather was playing the power forward spot. Scottie Wilbekin has played the power forward spot. Those guys have never done that before.
We had to make adjustments to put some guys in different roles. I don't want to say that we played differently, but when Patric or Erik come off the floor we feel like we're more equipped to press, where we were probably able to press more with Will and Pat in the game.
And I think calling it like it is, our last four games coming into the tournament were Vanderbilt on the road for Senior Night. Then we played Kentucky at home, who clearly has been the best team in the country from start to finish. Then we play Alabama in the SEC tournament. And then we played Kentucky in the SEC tournament. So that's four NCAA tournament teams, and two of those games are against the No. 1 overall seed in the country.
I was able to see that our team was making some positive strides and we were getting better. But sometimes and I say this all the time when you win, a lot of times guys never look at their faults or mistakes. And when you lose you have a tendency to magnify them.
And I thought it was important that our guys see that they were doing things better, but there were some things that were hurting us; some rebounding, you know, guys not quite understanding their role, because they're in different positions. But I think our competition and what we played against the last four games of the year I think has prepared us for the NCAA tournament.
And then also you look at the fact that we played on the road at Syracuse, we played on the road at Ohio State. And we've played a difficult schedule against some very good teams. And I think our guys have seen a lot of different things over the course of non conference and conference schedule.
Q. Tonight was another recent example of you guys not shooting particularly well from the outside but instead getting a lot of your points from penetrating into the line and getting to the basket. How has that development helped you guys in not just the NCAA tournament but the postseason in general?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, you know, we don't have, per se, an offensive dominant post player. I think Patric has gotten better and he's made good growth and he's improved. But he's not that offensive player you can just dump the ball inside and when he gets great position he's an effective scorer.
So I think you still have to put pressure on the basket, one, to get to the free throw line, and two, to get yourself some easy baskets. Because the way we can shoot the ball and space the floor, we've got to try to put the ball in the floor and get into the paint and create some help, which opens up getting fouled, finishing at the basket, and if there's a collapse we can kick out and knock down maybe open shots.
So we've got to have a paint presence. And I think Marquette is as good as anybody doing that. I know Buzz's teams really pay strict, close attention to the amount of times the ball gets in the paint. And they're an undersized team, but they put a lot of pressure on you at the basket, whether it's in transition, offensive rebounds or drives. So certain teams have got great length and great size and they can throw the ball to the box and play from there.
We're not that kind of team. Marquette is not that kind of team. So you have to find ways to manufacture points in and around the lane. The best way is by driving it down the lane and kicking it out or getting fouled or trying to finish at the rim.
Q. What are your initial thoughts or emotions about coaching against Rick with a berth in the Final Four at stake?
COACH DONOVAN: I've said this, outside of my parents, he's been the most influential person in my life. I'm very thankful for the opportunities he's provided me, as a player, as a coach. The relationship that we've shared for more than 25 years. I think when you're in this profession for me, now close to 25 years, you have situations where, whether it's former assistants like John Pelphrey and Anthony Grant who were in the SEC, Coach Pitino several years ago having to go out to Arizona State and play against Herb Sendek, those are hard games, because of such close relationship.
But I do think the game is really about the players that are playing in the game that are going to be competing on Saturday. Bus both teams have earned the right to play. And the competition part of it will never, ever get in the way with me for our relationship, ever.
Q. Earlier this evening in the same spot Rick Pitino alluded to the 25 year reunion you're going to be having with Providence. What's the most dramatic change in the tournament from when you were with Providence to right now?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I think probably that was about the time that they started moving the Final Four into domes. That kind of became a mainstay. It was one of the first times playing in New Orleans they moved it into a dome setting.
There are certainly a lot of similarities. I don't know if there's one thing that I could sit there and say this has really changed a lot different. I thought there was probably 63, 64,000 people in the dome for the game. I think the Final Four for a long, long time, probably going back to when Magic and Bird played, really started the attention to that. And it's really become a real big deal and a great event.
I think the NCAA, they do a great job, I think, running the event, doing the event, making sure that things are run first class. And I think the longer and longer you're in the profession you realize how fortunate you are. Because a lot of teams that don't even get a chance to play in this event.
I don't know that there's anything, per se that is totally different. 25 years ago when I was a player, I was worried about what time pregame meal was and if I was going to make any shots in the game.
Q. You talked a little earlier about Bradley's adjustment to the college level, what is his demeanor and personality and how does that impact his ability to adjust?
COACH DONOVAN: Brad is really unique. He's a great, great kid. Actually he's a much, much better kid than a player. If that gives you any idea what it's like coaching him. I had a hard time with him early in the year because I think when you come out of high school you automatically, as decorated as he was, there is this expectation, not only for himself, but people around him, who know him and watched him play and think that he's just going to step on this stage and just be this star. And he struggled shooting the ball early in November and December. He didn't handle it well. At times he could get a little moody and get a little pouty and just didn't know how to handle it. I think he realized when he wasn't shooting the ball well that there was other parts of his game that he could step up and impact the game. With his rebounding, his driving, his assists. He's a total chemistry guy. And I've been around a lot of really, really good players, that they can make it all about themselves. He has a great respect for the returning players. He doesn't want to step on anybody's toes. He's aware of where his place is on the team. He never, ever is disrespectful to players. He's got a great awareness as a young kid of what team chemistry is all about. And I would say he's a great facilitator of team chemistry. And he's really very, very unique in that way. He's got a great presence and a confidence in himself, but it's not an arrogance and an over the top, where he actually views himself as being better than somebody else. And if anything, I think our guys with him coming in, you can't do anything else but love him because of the way he handles and conducts himself.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the bench and what contributions and energy it's given you in this tournament?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I thought we were going to need to use our bench, especially in this game, because I think if you look at the last two games that Marquette has played, Crowder, Johnson Odom, those guys are in the high 30 minute. Crowder was in a little bit of foul trouble, so those guys didn't play their normal minutes.
But they play so hard and play with such great energy, that I knew our guys had to utilize our bench. I thought we got good minutes from Casey and Scottie. I thought in the first half Mike gave us very, very good minutes. We were able to rest Patric and Murphy some. That was encouraging that we could rely on them.
There's been different points in time in this tournament that someone different on the bench has maybe stepped up. Casey against Virginia stepped up and played well. I thought Scottie has had some really, really good moments for us, as well. Mike here today had some good moments.
I think with the injury to Will Yeguete, with their roles all being in flux, so to speak, I think those guys have kind of settled into understanding what they need to do.
Q. What does it mean to get back to the Elite 8 with a different group of guys filling different roles and three different starters?
COACH DONOVAN: It's hard. It's really hard. It's hard just to get into the tournament. And I think our team is totally different than it was a year ago. We were such a long, big, experienced team with Macklin and Tyus, and Parsons all being seniors. Then we had Erving Walker, a junior, and we had some good, young guys that came off the bench that played spot minutes and Patric and Scottie.
But we're a lot younger and a lot different and play a lot different than we did a year ago. I think it's a great compliment to those guys and how hard they've worked, the schedule that we've played, them wanting to learn and grow and get better. I'm very proud and very happy that we've been able to move on this far in the tournament.
Q. What are you going to do at this reunion, what are you looking forward to?
COACH DONOVAN: What reunion?
Q. The 25 year.
COACH DONOVAN: When are we doing that?
Q. Supposed to be in Miami.
COACH DONOVAN: Oh, yeah, okay. That was kind of up in the air, there. I don't know. So you must have spoke to Coach then.
Q. He was just talking about it and saying he was looking forward to it.
COACH DONOVAN: You know what happened was I thought we were having it tomorrow or something.
Coach had called and one of the best moments I had was I was in my house, this was probably whenever Louisville played Providence on the road there. And they honored the team. And I got a phone call from a 606 number, which is a Kentucky number. Came up unknown, but the number was there. So I answered the phone. And I hear Billy. I said, yeah. He says, Delray Brooks. I hadn't spoken to Delray in a couple of years. And the whole team was there in Providence and they were out at dinner. And I spoke to every guy on the team that night. And they were going over to meet Coach, have some dinner.
And I had spoken to Coach before it and he had mentioned that he wanted to do something to get all of us together, maybe down in Miami, because he has a place there. And he talked about trying to do that in May. So for me, there's a lot of them I still keep in touch with.
It's hard to believe 25 years has gone by. But there's a bond that gets created when you play with guys. And for me that was a fun night, even though I couldn't be there. But just to listen to those guys tell me what happened the day of the game, and Coach had them in the locker room. It was great. At some time whenever Coach decides he wants to do it, we'll all get together and it will be great to spend some time together.