COACH DONOVAN INTRODUCTION: Well, we're certainly excited about our game last night, being able to advance and play tomorrow against a very good Louisville team. I think these are always challenging, when you've got a day in between games to prepare.
So for us there's a lot to get ready for, a lot to prepare for. Just excited for the guys up here and the guys in the locker room to be playing tomorrow afternoon.
Q. I tried asking the players this same thing, but the defensive ball that you're playing right now clearly is superlative. Was there a come to God moment that you had late in the season or what's your explanation for the type of defense you're playing now?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I definitely think one of the things that happened was when we lost Yeguete it changed our team. Because we lost our best defensive player, all around player. He could do so many different things; he could defensive rebound, he was very good in the press, you could switch with him, he could guard four different positions. And we certainly became smaller and we became maybe not as much of an efficient rebounding team as we were maybe with him.
And I think some guys got put in different roles and different positions. And I think when you talk about Brad having to slide to the power forward spot or playing with four guards, or Scottie Wilbekin and Rosario, Boynton, and Walker, there's just things those guys have to do in those situations when we get caught having to play like that. And I think it was probably a little bit unfamiliar to them.
I also think, like those guys said, I think there was a commitment when Will went out where we collectively have got to step up as a group and get this done. It can't be just one player or a front court player getting it done. It has to be a collective job as a team. And I think they were able to see those things on film.
The one thing I would say about our team, when you address things with them and they see it on film and you can show and point to things, I think they've been really good all year long at trying to get those things corrected and having a commitment to trying to do it better. I think when Will went down, watching film, different areas we had to get better at.
Q. So much of the focus is on your relationship with Rick, mentor, protege, but could you talk about Richard, what type of coach he is, and what you've seen from him. And what he learned from you and his dad?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, it's amazing for me, I can't believe 25 years has gone by. When I hired Richard there was a picture that his mom sent. And I was playing at Providence and I was in his house and it was Richard, Michael and Christopher, his brothers, and Richard is sitting on my lap at like 3 or 4 years old. And it's just kind of ironic that I hired him.
He's a terrific coach. The one thing I respect about Richard and the one thing I respect about Coach Pitino is that Richard has had to work his way up. I don't think Richard has ever been given anything. He started off as an assistant high school coach while he was in college. He was a graduate assistant at Providence. He was at Northeastern, he was at Duquesne, then was able to go to Louisville. He's really paid his dues. But he's a terrific recruiter. He does a great job scouting.
I had a lot of trust and confidence and faith in him just because I've known him for so long. And I'm also happy, too, that he was able to go back to Louisville with his dad as an associate coach. I don't think it will be too long before people will be knocking on his door to provide him a head coaching opportunity. He's certainly, I think, more than capable and ready to handle that.
Q. What's the challenge of a quick turnaround like you're facing right now, how important is it to have good chemistry within the coaching staff for moments like this?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I think that this time you obviously, going into this game, you have one coach that handles Marquette and then you have basically coaches that split Michigan State and Louisville. So those coaches have had a chance to watch those teams play over the last four or five or six days. And really what you're trying to do in the short turnaround is get the information that's pertinent, that's important, to our guys of things that we have to do in the game.
I'm fortunate, John has been with me for a long time, Matt McCall has been with me for a long time, Norm did a great job scouting Marquette. So I think that's really important.
But what happens sometimes staff wise, when you've got one guy watching Michigan State, another guy watching Louisville, there is a disconnect in terms of they're so focused on what they're watching, because you don't know who you're going to play. We didn't find out who we were playing until right before our game. And then we'll meet and discuss what we want to try to cover in practice. Because you're really only talking about an hour and a half preparation wise here on the court, maybe film tonight, pregame meal and then you're going to come out and play. It's a quick turnaround.
Q. The thing with Rick more than just the X's and O's, what did you learn from him about the underpinnings of what you want a program to be?
COACH DONOVAN: Yeah. I mean, I think for me, I realized playing for him how important it was because I experienced it, of raising a player's self esteem. Because my self esteem was obviously very, very low when he came in there, sitting on the bench. I think my weight issues were certainly well documented. I don't know if I was as heavy as they say I was, but maybe I was.
And I think that belief and commitment by a coach in a player can really take a player to a different level. And I would say that my last two years playing for him I probably never envisioned in my wildest dreams that I could have that kind of career in the Big East, who was probably at best marginally recruited at that level.
So I would say that that's something that's very important to me. The one thing for me as a player going through the things that I went through is that I can relate to our guys. I can relate to sitting on the bench. I can relate to wanting to transfer. I can relate to running away from a problem and not really addressing a problem. And I think that probably I learned through him, as well as my parents, is that we all have challenges and issues, but if you confront them and you work hard at them you're going to feel a lot better. You're going to grow a lot more. And you're probably going to be able to do a better job in life of handling challenges and adversities that confront you. I think I can personally relate to them.
I think the other thing that I learned is that for me, I never really had a coach that invested on the floor, away from practice, individual instruction wise to me like that. So the one thing that gets lost, you think about the staff that I was fortunate enough to play on, Coach Pitino, Jeff Van Gundy was the graduate assistant. Herb Sendek is at Arizona State. And Stu Jackson who is working with David Stern, and Gordy Chase who was in the NBA for like 15 years.
So I was around the guys every day and the commitment they made in terms of getting you on the floor and working you out and trying to get you better was really incredible. And I think that's probably what our programs are similarly based on is player development, getting guys better, building self esteem, getting them to play together, creating chemistry, those type of things.
Q. From what you've been able to look at what is Louisville doing defensively? How would you describe what they're trying to do defensively? Sometimes they're more zone, sometimes more man. They've confused a lot of people. What are your thoughts on that?
COACH DONOVAN: I think obviously Dieng in the back is tremendous. Probably the only guy that we've played against that's been like that has been Anthony Davis, who is an incredible shot blocker. You have a great anchor in the back of their defense, which is great.
I think Kuric is a really, really smart player. And I think as the floor moves and offense moves he can see things and figure things out pretty well. They do a great job covering for each other. They rotate very well. There's times that they get caught in binds, but they kind of work their way through it and they work themselves out of it.
There's probably not a lot of stuff that they haven't seen run at them, being in the Big East and playing the schedule they've played, everybody's tried to attack it I think in a lot of different ways. But their defensive percentages from inside the line and behind the line are really remarkable, going back to the Big East tournament through now and what they've been able to do all year long.
Q. I was curious, were you any good on Wall Street?
COACH DONOVAN: No, that's why I had to get in coaching, couldn't make any money.
Q. What were you like?
COACH DONOVAN: It wasn't good. I was basically cold calling as a stockbroker. Some guy to buy some stock that I knew absolutely nothing about. And probably didn't do a very good job of selling. But it just was not for me at all.
Q. Do you ever wonder what life would have been like if you had stayed doing that?
COACH DONOVAN: I probably would have been very unhappy. The one thing that was a positive that came from that is that a lot of times when guys get out of college, when their playing is over with, it takes several years to find out what they wanted to do. I realized that that's not what I really wanted to do. That basketball is really what my passion was really into.
Q. There are a lot of coaches who don't really like going up against their friends in NCAA tournaments with so much on the line. Was there a part of you or is there a part of you that doesn't look forward to going against Rick or is it a challenge that you embrace at this point?
COACH DONOVAN: First of all, I'm very excited that they won because of my relationship with him and Richard. So it's a great accomplishment to them.
Louisville, with the way they have played in the Big East tournament and the way they've played at the NCAA tournament, is playing at a high, elite level at both ends of the floor. I think in order to get to a Final Four, to advance in this tournament every round that goes by, you're playing against better and better and better teams that are playing at a high level.
So it's a great challenge all the way around to play against a terrific team with a terrific coach. And I think in order to advance you've got to beat really, really good teams. And they're a really good team. And this will be a great challenge for our team to be able to go out there and perform well, to put ourselves in a position to try to advance. It happens to be Louisville and my relationship, I think, with coach, is well documented.
But I know that both teams are going to go out there and play their hearts out for 40 minutes. And I think that's exciting that I think if you would have asked Coach Pitino there's only one way that you can play in the Elite 8 or whatever is and you've got to play against Billy, you take it, because you don't know. Because we've all been knocked out of this tournament early, we've all lost games early. And there's nothing like getting a chance to move on and advance. I feel fortunate that our team can be playing in this game against such a great team.
Q. What, if anything, do you want your guys to take from being on that stage in the Elite 8 last season carrying over into this game?
COACH DONOVAN: You know, I think the biggest thing is sometimes those plays that happen in a game, you've got to make plays, you've got to do some of those things, loose balls, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, getting on the floor, a lot of those things have a huge impact on the game. I want our guys to understand that last year is over with, too. Last year has nothing to do with this game. It's a different year. It's a different team. It's a different opponent. It's a different set of circumstances and we're not getting last year back. Last year is over and done with now.
For some of our guys being here it's a great tribute to them with really an entirely different team, different personnel, that these guys could get back to this point again.
Q. Two unrelated questions. One, 1987 NCAA tournament, first one with the three point shot. Does Providence get to the Final Four without the three point shot? Number two, had you seen the movie "Wall Street" before you took the job on Wall Street?
COACH DONOVAN: I don't remember that far back. I don't know about the movie "Wall Street." I can't remember. What year did it come out?
COACH DONOVAN: I probably would have seen it, maybe. Certainly I didn't want to go down that path.
You know, I think what happened in '87, looking back on it, was Coach Pitino was so ahead of the curve because of his NBA experience, being in the NBA with the Knicks, so he really understood the dynamics of the three point line, how to defend it, how to take advantage of it. I just remember there was such a strong movement of coaches opposing it, it's going to ruin the game. It's a terrible shot. Don't shoot that shot.
And Coach Pitino may have been the first person that said, the worst shot you can take is with your heels on the three point line or your foot on the three point line, it's a long two point shot. And I think he changed the way people looked at the three point line.
And there's no question, I think that was a huge part of our team getting to where we got to and beating some of the teams that we beat, because clearly Alabama, when we played them I think in the Elite 8, they had Derek McGee. Really, really talented. Even playing Syracuse, we lost to them in the Final Four. But we played against some really, really good teams that we needed to use the three point line in order to win. Even playing Georgetown to go to the Final Four with Reggie Williams.
So it definitely was something that we needed to have happen for us to get where we got to.
Q. I think given your druthers, you and Louisville both kind of like to get it up and down, do you have a feel for what you're going to see tomorrow?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I think both teams are going to take advantage of running. Both teams are going to do that. I think what ends up happening is when your defense gets back and it gets set, I think good defensive teams make you go deep into the shot clock. If you're giving up shots really early in the shot clock, chances are the game will go up and down a lot quicker.
But because the way Louisville has played defense we've gotten better. When you get teams to force to go deep into the clock, it really cuts down maybe on the number of points they're going to be scoring in the game.
Q. You guys have had quite a gap since your last game, like 7 years since the home and home. Do you think there will be future home and homes or was that kind of uncomfortable, even though it's a mid December game, is that preferable to not go against Coach Pitino?
COACH DONOVAN: The one thing that happens is now with the SEC Big East challenge, that game is almost sometimes kind of set who you're playing. And I think with some of our non conference things that we've played we haven't had a chance to do that again. I'm not opposed to doing that again.
I think playing against Louisville, playing against Ohio State, Syracuse, I think they prepare you for the end of the year. But who knows, next year we could end up playing each other in the Big East SEC challenge. But I think with that game, whoever it may be, you're also looking at some other games that we've had here lately to fill obligations with.
Q. You have some great guards on your team. Can you talk about Peyton Siva and what you see in him?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I think he's really grown. He's improved. He's gotten better. I think the one thing that really makes him a special player is he has another gear athletically on the floor. He's got great speed. I wouldn't say he's an overly tall guard, but he's physically strong.
But I think where he's different than most guards in the country is he's got incredible bounce off the floor, where he can get into traffic and into the lane and does a great job finishing around the rim. When he gets in the paint he's a devastating player, because it opens up things for Smith, Kuric. You've got Dieng rolling to the basket and his ability to finish at the basket.
He's a little bit of a different kind of athlete for his size that you don't really see a lot of guys that size that can get in the lane and do the things that he can do.
Q. Any idea how to fix the scoring is down, attendance down, rating is down, any ideas?
COACH DONOVAN: In a tournament?
Q. Overall in college basketball.
COACH DONOVAN: I think a couple of things would stand out to me. One, the amount of games now that are on TV, you know, where people can sit at home and do that.
I think probably the cost. I think you look at a lot of schools that are trying to upgrade facilities, making financial investments into their programs. What ends up happening sometimes is season ticket prices go up with that. And I think now probably today to take a family of four to a college basketball game is probably totally different than it was 10, 15 years ago. And in this economy for a lot of people it's really, really hard to justify doing that, especially if the game is even on TV. But there's so much more access now to follow teams, who you're rooting for. And I think economically it's gotten very, very difficult to do that now.
That would be two of the things that would stand out to me.
Q. How about the scoring?
COACH DONOVAN: Being down? You know, I think one of the things that's happened is the NBA looked at that for themselves because the games became so physical. And it's amazing, you talk to coaches up at the NBA, they think the college game is more physical than the NBA game.
The lane obviously is closer, there's more physical contact. Again, defenses are better. Teams are having to go deeper into the shot clock. Teams are having to make tougher shots than maybe what they had to make previously. I think ref'ing in today's game is very, very difficult to keep that balance where you're not breaking flow, but it's not turning into a rugby scrum a lot of times. But I think that is a large reason for scores being down, as well.
Q. From the tape you've seen of Louisville's defense, how have they done such a good job of defending the three in a zone, being in a match up, but still in the zone defending the three?
COACH DONOVAN: Really, you have four players that are covering the perimeter. Dieng is obviously up at the basket and he's a great presence there. So they really do a great job of moving and trading people off. If there's not somebody in the area, they move and match up with somebody that's maybe outside their area. Cutter go through, they're able to trade off. They're really guarding the three point line with four players, with the way they move around and the way they try to match up. And they're terrific at it.
Like I said earlier, there's probably not a lot of movement that they haven't seen from a lot of different teams. They've been able to see a lot of different movement.
Q. Yeguete and then Louisville also has had injuries, as well. Both of you guys get to this point. A team's ability, a coach's ability to overcome injuries to get to the Elite 8, is that overstated or is there a real amount of pressure and methodology that you and other coaches go through? Can you speak to how you've been able to do that, particularly late in the season, and also Rick, as well, to get to this point, to overcome some hindrances with both your teams?
COACH DONOVAN: First, I think the injury part of it is part of the game. There are injuries that teams can't overcome. There are those kind of injuries, where really, you can totally change the complexion of your team, it becomes very difficult to overcome.
Will Yeguete was not a great scorer for us, but he was a great defender, he was a great rebounder, and got a lot of deflections, and could play four different people. Those kind of things you try to get your team to make up for.
But if you take certain guys off certain teams, the complexion of that team would change a whole lot. The complexion of our team has changed, but we've overcome some of that.
Getting your guys to understand the things that you have to overcome, and sometimes injuries are difficult. But we all face them and deal with them in the course of a long season. And the reality of it is the guy is not coming back. Like Will Yeguete is not coming back. So we better deal with it when it happened and figure out how to deal with it and move forward and get better with the injury. And try to get your guys into the mindset of as a coach, the kind of vision you want your team to play.
Q. You're a take one game at a time guy. Did you even notice Louisville in the same side as you? Do you believe that the NCAA when they're setting this up does set up these things that could happen, the chance to go back to New Orleans?
COACH DONOVAN: I think based on the seeding I don't think they thought Louisville and us would ever be together. They were probably looking at Missouri in this game. That's what makes the NCAA tournament great.
I knew early on that we were in the same region with them. But to get to this point, three games seems like an eternity in a lot of ways. It seems like we played Virginia a month ago. It seems like we played Norfolk State three weeks ago. Days of going from one game to the next, being away, travel, days can become long.
The NCAA has said they don't do that. Maybe they'll look at those kind of match ups and those kind of things. I don't know if they do or don't. I think sometimes maybe those first or second match up games are things that they may look at, but how much they do, I don't know. I think they're trying to seed it fairly based on how you played during the season.
Q. We heard Rick's account of it, what's your account of the first day you guys met. He said you walked in and said, I'm out of here?
COACH DONOVAN: I did say that. Actually, when I met with him first he said, I heard you are wanting to transfer and I said I am. Coach said he made some phone calls and didn't want to hurt my feelings. He never told me that. But I had kind of searched around a little bit myself and I didn't have very many feelers, so he's probably not too far off base.
He just didn't promise me anything. Said that if I would listen to him and work hard that it would be the greatest two years experience of my life. And he was right. And I was committed to it and worked hard and tried to get better. And he gave me and provided me a great opportunity to play.
But I think it was a great lesson to me that I share even with our guys that go through difficulties. For a guy like Casey Prather playing the way he did against Virginia, his perseverance was great. Because a lot of times when guys are not playing and they're young and immature, they have a tendency to look at all of the other things on the periphery that have nothing to do with why they're not playing. And until you start to look internally, start to take responsibility and take onus for yourself, it's really hard to get better.
I don't know, unless you're really self reflective, I don't think you can ever reach your fullest potential. I think the people that are the most self reflective and there's a balance between self reflective and beating yourself up.
But I felt I could do it. He told the team, start with a clean slate. I didn't know how good our team was going to be. But I had to address my issues. I had to address what I needed to do. And I made a commitment to do that and it was great.
Q. In a team meeting, in a huddle, have you ever caught yourself and say, wow, I sound like Coach Pitino right now?
COACH DONOVAN: I don't know. The one thing that I think that I've learned is, even being around Coach Pitino, there's only one Coach Pitino. There's only one him. And I've always felt like I need to be myself.
Certainly basketball wise, passion, philosophy, I think we share a lot of those things. But I think if I felt like I was just trying to be him I wouldn't feel comfortable. I just wouldn't feel comfortable and probably wouldn't do a great job coaching. He is so unique and so special, as a person and as a coach, that there's only one of him. There's only one of him.
And I think a lot of times when coaches look to other coaches and try to be other coaches, when really they may be blessed with a lot of different strengths and talents and ability, and they need to address their team how they feel comfortable. But I think philosophy wise we share an enormous amount of similarities.
Q. Your friendship, did you reach out to him during the problem he had a couple of seasons ago, and did that whole thing change him?
COACH DONOVAN: We had spoken about it, but you'd probably have to ask him, Rick. It was a hard thing. I felt bad. It wasn't like he and I got into detail about it. My phone call was more like I'm thinking about you, more than anything else.
Q. Does he seem different to you now on the other side of it?
COACH DONOVAN: You know, to me he's always the same. He really is. He's always the same with me. It's great when I see him, spend time with him. He's been great to my family, to my parents. Obviously playing and having Richard on my staff, it was a different kind of dynamic. So he's always been the same with me. And how much he's changed from that, he's probably the best guy to ask on that.
Q. One of the things that maybe helps Gorgui Dieng is the surprise element, guys say he can't get from there to here to block my shot. Having faced Anthony Davis three times, does that give you a better idea what they're up against?
COACH DONOVAN: There's no question. That's what makes Davis, in my opinion, so great is exactly what you said. There are plays you think you can get shots off around the basket and you realize you can't. And it takes time to adjust to that.
Michigan State is obviously a huge basketball team physically. He blocked seven shots last night. Our guys have at least gone through some of that with Anthony Davis. And we've got to be smart. Doesn't mean you can't do anything at the basket, but if you're going in there and he's got angles and position to jump up there and really alter the shot, it's probably not a really good decision, because he, like I said earlier, really anchors the back of that defense. And he understands what shots to chase and go after and what shots not to chase.
Q. How much of an impact could it be now that Richard is with their staff, was with you, now there, how much of an impact could that be?
COACH DONOVAN: I think it will be somewhat of an impact. But I think our team is a little bit different than it was a year ago. We had Parsons and Macklin, Tyus. Philosophy wise there's going to be some things that Richard already knows. But I think the guys are going to have to go out and play and execute and do what they need to do.
Certainly Richard is very familiar with our personnel. He was on our staff, coached a lot of those guys. How much of an impact that's going to make, I don't know. I think our guys have to go out and play and perform. So it's really hard to say.
Q. How many of your current players did Richard recruit or help recruit?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, that incoming freshman class with Prather and Larson, Patric Young, he was on the staff with those guys before he left. He was on the staff with Brad Beal. So Casey, Patric, Cody, Scottie, Will Yeguete, he was around for a lot of those guys. And he was a part of helping recruit a lot of those guys.
Q. Can you talk about the importance of Brad and Casey's ability to shot block off the weak side with kind of Pat and Murph trying to avoid foul trouble?
COACH DONOVAN: Casey has really good athleticism. And sometimes when he's out of a play he can bring himself back in. I wouldn't classify Brad or him shot blockers. It's not something we need to do. Erik actually has been fairly decent at blocking shots when he's got good position.
But those blocks that those guys get were probably more based on their own individual talent and athleticism.
Q. Coach Pitino has referred to one of his players, Russ Smith, even at times this year, uncontrollable. When you watch him with all that he can do, what do you see when you're scouting a player like that?
COACH DONOVAN: I'm not sure who
Q. Russ Smith, when you see him, it's spur of the moment, he comes, he does incredible things, it's all over the place. When you scout him what do you see out of Russ Smith?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, you see a very talented player that's very aggressive, appears to have great confidence in himself. I think that's one of Coach Pitino's things, that he always does, he instills confidence. When you're instilling confidence there's always a balance of good shot/bad shot, good pass/bad pass, good decision/bad decision. Those are always evolving when you're coaching a guy. But he's certainly a guy that's capable of getting 20, 25 points any given game.
Q. I know there's this reputation, you and Rick love to push the ball and shoot 3's. What's the importance of being able to adapt to your players? I know over the past you either have been times when you've thrown some of that out the window instead of trying to impose your will on everything?
COACH DONOVAN: I think you have to make adjustments and changes to your personnel. I think what I do and what we do offensively is totally different than what I did with Noah, Horford and Brewer. What I did with those guys was different than what I did with Bonner and David Lee. What I am doing now is different than what I did with Macklin, Tyus and Parsons. You have to adjust to your personnel. You can play out of concepts and do different things. But you have to constantly keep trying to evolve based on your personnel. To become difficult to guard and hard to guard you want to be able to do that.
Q. Two part question. Buzz said you're going to the Hall of Fame for sure and you would coach ten more years after that. I'd like to hear your reaction to that. What did Pitino yell at you when you were a player, what was he on you the most?
COACH DONOVAN: That one is easy. He would tell Delray Brooks and I that we were the best impersonators with a sieve with our defense at the top of the zone at Providence. That everything went by us and through us.
That's obviously kind of Buzz to say. I don't know any of that stuff. I love coaching. I love our team. I love the game. If something like that ever happened it would be a tremendous accomplishment. I'd be very grateful and certainly thrilled by it. But I think Buzz was obviously being very kind. I appreciate his comments.
Q. What would it take to get you to quit?
COACH DONOVAN: For me to quit? I think when I didn't enjoy it. When I didn't enjoy coming to practice. Didn't enjoy the struggle, the grind, those kind of things. I think if the passion starts to go. I think as time goes on, doing this now nearly 25 years, you learn, you grow. I'm different today than I was 20 years ago or 15 or 10.
But I still love the game. I still love going on the court. I still really love the game of basketball. And I think if I ever got to a point where that passion kind of left me, I think I'm the kind of person that would say, you know what, it's time for me to take a break, move on, take on something else. Because I'd have a hard time, knowing the way I was in the past, sitting in that chair, having to look myself in the mirror and knowing I'm just kind of faking this right now and I really don't have that fire. And I think once that maybe starts to go you'll probably realize it's time to move on.