Going back to 2008 in here, how much do you enjoy seeing this particular building filled with your fans?
“I know people may not believe it, but I never even had that thought, I was just over here trying to coach our team. We did have a lot of fans and played very well for two days but I never thought about the building belonging to somebody else while I came over here. I even came over here one day and did a speaking engagement. So I lived through that, too.”
Roy, how much is statistical analysis changed most recently, and how much do you use it now in your game planning?
“There's no question it's a boatload of information. It's a ton of information out there that you can get about anything. We use it a little, probably less than 90 percent of the other guys -- 90 percent of the other coaching staffs probably use it more. I think the younger you are, the more you use it to -- I do like to look at some of the information. A lot of it I don't even look at it all, but where you're scoring, how you're scoring, how you're defending, I'm one of the guys that even reads those releases from the ACC office about where everybody in the league stands up, who's the best shooting team, who's the worst shooting team, who has the most assists, most rebounds, rebound margins. I still do that. I've done that forever. I probably do that more than any analytics.”
Last night, FGCU, a lot of people are talking about -- because they performed particularly well last night -- a lot of people are talking about this may be the kind of team that -- Seth Davis says last night, not predicting this, but if a 16 is ever going to beat a 1, might be a team kind of like this one. What are your thoughts on FGCU and as a No. 1 playing a 16?
“My thoughts on them, I was very impressed last night. One of my assistant coaches had already been scouting them, and had seen four, five, six of their games. Last night was the first time I'd seen them. Generally speaking, I think the size and athleticism that they have, you usually don't see on a 16 seed. I know the history of a few years ago, when Andy was coaching down there and how well they played and what they did.
“There's always the expectation that a 1 can lose to a 16 and I think we probably came as close to anybody a long time ago. I think it was 2002 when I was coaching in Kansas when we played Holy Cross and Kirk Hinrich got hurt during the game. With four minutes to go in the game nobody knows who is going to win. I can assure you at that moment that I wasn't thinking, 'God, we have to be careful or we're going to lose to a 16 seed.' I was thinking how in the Dickens we can get it turned around and play better. That's the thought process.
“Coach Smith had a great saying many, many years ago. He said, the other team, they offered scholarships, too. Because we played Brooklyn College one time, and their guys were asking our guys for autographs during warm-ups. I thought that was a little bit over the edge. For me, I don't ever concern myself where that other team is seeded, where we're seeded. We're fortunate to have been at a couple Final Fours. We've gone as 4 seed, gone as 3 seed and probably a couple others, too.”
When we first spoke beginning of the season, Coach, every time you talk about this team, you just get a little emotional. Talk about how much this team means to you. You said this is the most criticized but you love this team and you are probably one of the best ones you ever coached. How much does this team mean to you?
“I sort of put two of them together. Because I think it's the most criticized, least appreciated really good team I've ever had. I do think they are a really good team and we've gotten better and better as this team has gone along. The situation over the last three years has been really difficult for our university, our athletic department and basketball program. These kids believed in us, trusted us and did what we asked them to do. Somebody like Marcus Paige, who is the perfect example of a student-athlete. Joel James is going to be one of the great stories in college athletics, and Brice Johnson, who I've pushed and pushed and pushed and killed and screamed and yelled at and everything else you could possibly do to get him to be better. And how he's just blossomed right here. All of it made for a fantastic group to be working with.
And they're fun every day at practice. Sometimes coaches get upset and I do. There's no question about that. I really have to think. I don't think I brought them back at midnight or have done any weird things I've done with other teams in the past. When they messed it up, they understand it and say, 'yes, I messed it up' and don't start pointing fingers at each other. So that part has been fun. I think the adversity, for somebody like Marcus to play an entire season last year hurt the entire year, and the year before blossoming before everybody as a sophomore, and the year before that he thought he was coming in to back up Kendall Marshall. So when you look at it as a four-year project, this is a special group and a group I've really enjoyed all of the time. And when they played really well, I enjoyed it even more, like the last several days has been really fun.”
Coach, I asked Brice when he was in here about how bad he was defensively when he came to school and he and Marcus both started laughing.
“(Laughing) That's three for three.”
Can you walk through how much better he's gotten and where he is today as a defensive player.
“Some other coach said this, I did not think about it but when we started talking about defense, he thought it was that fence that goes around your yard kind of thing. He's gone from that area. He's really a good shot blocker. He's a fantastic defensive rebounder and at times he's okay as a defender. Other types he loses his concentration, doesn't get out on the screen on the ball as effectively and consistently as we want. He's got a habit as a rebounder of going to get the basketball. That's a good habit. But I'm one of those guys that thinks you can do that and maybe get a few more if you go box-out first. But he's come leaps and bounds as a defensive player.
“His freshman year, I don't think he ever graded out positive on the defensive end of the floor. And he's still not one of our best graders because you get so much credit for doing every little thing. But Brice is an instinctive player. If you factor in how important defensive rebounding is, and factor in how important it is protecting the goal, that's where you see the value in Brice as a defensive player. You don't see the value in Brice as a defensive player in a lot of other areas, because that's just not who he is.
“I ask him, 1 being barely alive and 10 being Tyler Hansbrough in effort, his freshman year, I said, where do you think you are? He said about a 4. I told him he was a 2. In his sophomore year he was a 5. Now he's gotten to a 6. He would say he's a 7 or 8, but if you look at me knowing I probably wouldn't agree with it.”
Marcus said the other night, I think you were up there, Isaiah never leaves his hotel room when on the road. Did anybody try to get him to see D.C. during the day or will you at some point or would you just leave him alone at this point?
“It seems to be working quite well, so why would I want to change that. The most upset I've ever seen the young man in my life, I don't think he was late but was almost late to a pregame meal in Nassau. His roommate had been outside in the sunshine or in the pool or beside the pool and all of a sudden you hear this pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. Because Isaiah is running down the hallway trying to get there. He had been asleep. That's who he is.
“He doesn't need to get out very much. He enjoys his rest. He's a funny kid. He's got a wonderful sense of humor but on the road, I think he's very comfortable in his own skin and doing what he wants to do, and that's usually get as much rest as he can. I would guess he may be the best sleeper on the team. So maybe that's high on his list. I'll have to ask the team and see what they think, but I would guess he'd be right up there.”
Coach, how entertaining has it been to have Theo on your team? I know he likes to talk and is there a nice way to say, Theo, just stop talking?
“No. I just say, "Shut up." I don't know if that's the nicest way. Theo, he's a character. He's a guy that I really enjoy. He's funny as he can possibly be. If you ever really want to laugh, just get him to pretend he's me or some of the other people, because he can do that very well and he can screw it up so badly. And it's everybody -- it's jokingly everybody's fault in the world but his. You know, and he'll run up beside me and shoot one from the half court line and fall down. "Coach, you fouled me. I'm going to the free-throw line." He makes no sense whatsoever.
“As I said before, I don't have to congratulate Theo for doing something right, because he's already congratulated himself. He's one of the true characters on the team. And he can do about anybody. I have seen him do me on the sidelines in practice. And a couple of the other guys during the game. So, it is a lot of fun. I forget which game it is but very recently, he's doing this (raising arms), which I always don't like, trying to get the crowd to cheer, get louder. And you see him slow down and he looks and the guy he's supposed to be guarding is 45 feet away from him, and he doesn't realize that. And they thought the guy scores. So we've shown that quite a few times on TV. We won the game so we got a lot of laughs out of it.”