Q&A with Coach Larranaga

Read on to see what Miami's head coach is saying the night before his team takes on Illinois in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

Q. You just mentioned that they shoot a lot of threes. How does this affect your big guys having to close out? There are going to be times when they're not going to be able to pack it into the lane, they're going to have to do a little bit more than just play rebound defense?
COACH LARRANAGA: Yeah, I think it's very challenging any time you play a team like Illinois that shoots a lot of threes. It puts a lot of pressure on your defense.

You have got to be aware of who the 3 point shooters are, whether you're a guard or a big guy, it takes a team effort to defend those kinds of shots. Our guards are very well aware of how good those players are for Illinois. And our big guys are very well aware of their big guys. So we feel like we'll be well prepared, we have got one more session tomorrow to review.

Q. What do you take from Illinois when you watch a game like they had yesterday when they the weird ebbs and flows of the game they had?
COACH LARRANAGA: Well I think the first thing is the confidence they show in their 3 point shooting ability. Because it's very easy for a 3 point shooter to get discourages if he misses a couple and quits shooting.

But I believe their confidence kept them shooting the ball and eventually they went back and hit a number of key 3 pointers. And I think that when you are committed to that style, it gives your players a lot of freedom and you've got to play great defense for the entire game, because at any time you let up, they could drain four or five threes in a row.

Q. Can you talk about the chemistry and relationship that Larkin and Scott have really developed, where it was and how it's reached this point.
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, the first thing is they're both point guards. Durand Scott, until Shane came, was really the starting point guard. And last year we played those two guys a lot together because we felt like they were a great combination, because one of the things that's a little bit rare is they both are very committed to playing great defense. They're both highly competitive at the defensive end of the floor, they both made the all ACC first team all defense and Durand Scott was defensive Player of the Year.

I think that they have tremendous respect for each other because of the effort they put at the defensive end of the floor. But they're also very skilled offensive players. They both can play the one, they both can play the two, they both handle the ball very well, they both drive very well, they both can shoot the three, and they're both big time free throw makers. So the combination of having Shane and Durand in the back court is a luxury that I think few coaches have. And we're very, very lucky to have both of them.

Q. Obviously you have a senior group that's hooking forward to the opportunity that they have got right now, but you look at Illinois, that's not a team that looks like they're going to be intimidated of your number two seed considering the teams they beat in Gonzaga and Indiana previously.
COACH LARRANAGA: Well I wouldn't think anybody's intimidated by anybody you play. You won your way into this tournament and you won a lot of games prior to the one you're going play tomorrow. So I would believe we both have mutual respect for each other and know that we know they have got a lot of very good players and we feel like we have got a lot of very good players and a good team as well.

Q. Several of your players talked about how when you came in you made it clear that you weren't going to try to change the culture, but you also tried to assimilate yourself a little bit and get to know them each individually. Can you just talk about your approach when you came in, what you tried to do and basically how you've kind of gotten it turned around to what seems so quickly.
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, we began the very first meeting, I told the players about a book I read many many years ago, called the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. And how important it is to develop the right habits if you want to be successful.

And if we develop those right habits as a basketball team, we would enjoy more success than they could possible imagine.

And I wrote those seven habits on the board, explained to them what they meant, and how they should embrace it. And as we begin practice each year, we begin with an expression that's in the book, it's called, well the book is written by Dr. Stephen Covey, and the quote is, begin with the end in mind.

And what we were telling our players is, before you can be truly successful, you got to dream it. You got to visualize it. You got see yourself being successful. You got to know what it takes. You got to know what sacrifices you have to make.

But then every day in practice you got to live that dream. You got to prepare yourself knowing that, hey, tomorrow in order for to us play great, we got to prepare very well today.

They embraced that philosophy and that attitude and we have been two years in the making.

Q. In 2006 obviously you had that great tournament run with George Mason. John Groce at Ohio also became fairly known for taking a smaller program deep into the tournament. How much does that experience help now that you're at a bigger program?
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, I think that experience, good or bad, is something you can look back on to help you make future decisions. So things that we did poorly, we try to avoid. Things that we did well in the past, we try to repeat.

We try to explain to the players why we're doing this. And we do that through a series of stories. So we have told our Miami players a lot of stories about things we have done that worked, things that we did that didn't work so well, and why we avoid doing certain things and why we repeat certain things over and over again.

So I think that experience is very important.

Q. Illinois has a lot more fans in town than anyone else, quite a few more, it seems. And I've spoken to a lot of Minnesota fans who are all going to get behind Illinois as well. Is that a Big 10 type thing?
COACH LARRANAGA: Tell them I said thanks. I got a brother who lives in Minnesota, will that help? (Laughter.)

Q. So the question is, does this have the feel maybe like a road game for you guys? Will you talk to the players about that at all and do you play any differently on the road?
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, last week in the ACC tournament we played in Greensboro, North Carolina in the semi finals we played North Carolina State. And I don't know how many seats are in the Greensboro Coliseum, but it was a sea of red and like a pinch of orange. And then the next day we played at North Carolina. There was a sea of Carolina blue, and a pinch of orange. What I would say is the same thing I tell the players all the time, it's not who we play, it's not where we play, it's how we play.

And whether we're at home or on the road, we got to play well. We'll have to play well tomorrow night if we want to move on. I think fans can be a tremendous help, but I think that the most important thing is we have had success on the road. We won those games in the ACC tournament. We're not going to be uncomfortable in any environment.

Q. You mentioned earlier when you had the fire drill and the players went out and just how they reacted and they talked about that in the locker room as well, the close knit group that you have, the bond that they have, how much has that played into the success that they have had this season?
COACH LARRANAGA: I think it's huge. We refer to it as chemistry, bonding, I think it's very important that you like your teammates. That you get along with them on and off the court. It makes it easier to get along with them on the court if you're good friends off the court. Because you trust each other. And trust is a major factor in being successful.

I think these guys have developed that trust over a period of time and I also think it's great to have great leadership. We have that in our senior class and we also have that in a young man like Shane Larkin.

Q. You talked about how your players reacted to the delay, how did you do? I know sometimes coaches get a little uptight the day before a game. How did you handle that break that you guys had?
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, I told the players before the tournament began that I was going to have more fun than any other head coach and I wanted them to have more fun than any other team. Nothing was going to bother me. There would be no complaining, whatever happens, happens. We'll control the things we can control and not worry about the things we can't.

So I looked at that as, okay, our guys are out there having a good time with each other, we'll get back to work as soon as we get cleared to go back into the arena.

Q. Following up on an earlier question that you said, have you ever noticed a similar thing with the ACC teams and fans where they kind of back each other like the Big 10 does? In previous tournaments?
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, I think that all leagues have a tremendous loyalty to each other. And you like to see your league do well. It's about earning respect and we're very, very proud of being members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. We think we have got the best basketball league in the country and I'm sure there are a lot of other leagues, including the Big 10 that think they have the best. So when we're watching an ACC team play against another outside opponent, we cheer for the ACC team as well.

Q. I know you played Florida Gulf Coast early on, what were your thoughts about what they did last night?
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, we played Florida Gulf Coast in November and after the game everybody was appalled that an Atlantic Coast Conference team would lose to a Florida Gulf Coast team. And first thing I told them is, hey, they played great, they had the largest crowd in school history, they have got a very good team, we didn't play that well that night.

So watching them play yesterday was not a surprise to us, we know they're very, very capable. They're a team that flies under the radar screen because they're not on TV as much as other programs. But they got, they have a lot of good players.

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