“Well, as every coach has probably said we're thrilled to be here, thrilled to still be talking to you guys. That means we played well enough to get by yesterday. First part of the game we didn't play very well at all. The first part of the second half, we played exceptionally well. That was enough to give us a margin that we were able to hold out throughout the entire game.
“I thought Brice was sensational with his shot-blocking and defending the rim so many times. One could have been goaltending, but the other seven blocks were just big-time blocks. For me it was a little bit of our team finally getting enthused and playing some defense and challenging and attacking on offense for probably six, eight, ten minutes early in the second half and that was the course of the game.”
Kris Dunn from Providence made a decision to come back and keep playing his college career. Can you appreciate the pull there for the elite athlete like that who has a chance and just kind of the dynamic there? Because every one of you coaches deals with that every day at this level.
“Yeah, it's a hard decision. The kid's got to go with his heart, what he thinks is right. Everybody acts like I try to keep guys around but since 2000 -- I forget, 2004, we've had more guys leave, go early than anybody in the ACC -- more than Duke, more than Louisville, more than anybody. But every one of them has to be an individual decision.
“Kris really had to have a tough decision because he could have gone last year and could've been a first-round pick. I don't think it hurt him. He's enjoyed his life and made a decision what he wanted to do and that's the way it should be done. Brice, we didn't have people saying he was going to be a No. 1 pick, and it's helped him now and I think he's really going to be a very good No. 1 pick.
“There's no perfect rule. I don't think anybody will say LeBron or Kobe or those guys made bad decisions. You have to look at it on an individual basis to see what you want. Tyler Hansbrough loved college basketball. He was First Team All American after his freshman and could've gone. He stayed all four years, because he loved college basketball. Loved what he was doing and would trade it in right now except for payday.
“There's no perfect rule, but I think Kris really helped himself. It made him feel good and did what he wanted to do. Brice really helped himself. He didn't have that many options last year. Now he has several options, to say the least. The NBA, we can't compete with the NBA. You can't compete with that dollar, but at the same time both of them can be great experiences if you can do what you can do out of both of them.”
We asked Marcus this before about Brice: When he has a big moment, he is not reluctant at all to let everybody in the arena know. He'll yell, and it's clearly pure joy on his part. As kind of an old-school coach, though, did it ever bother you that he would do that, or you just say let the kids be kids?
“A little bit of both. Jacque Vaughn, who was an NBA coach last year, was academic All-American of the Year at Kansas, one of the greatest leaders that I've had. I said, Don't try to show that enthusiasm and make it appear you're showing up some individual on the other team, because I never wanted it to be that. And I don't think Brice has ever done that. Brice is joy. It's exhilaration. It's passion.
“I've gotten really mad at him a couple times because he's doing all of that posing and growling and all of this kind of stuff, and I want him to run back on defense. But there's no doubt in my mind it's not a harmful intent. It's who Brice is. I am old-school. So if he doesn't run back on defense -- I've taken him out before in games because he's growling and roaring and all of that kind of stuff.
“Deep down in my soul the old-school philosophy wants him to do that same thing when he gets beat and the guy dunks it on his head. I want him screaming, do all that and draw that attention to himself then. Nobody is ever going to do that. But I live with it. It's not a bad thing. I don't think he's trying to put anybody down. As long as he gets back on defense quickly enough, I'm okay with it.”
Roy, Marcus Paige represented your program so well for so long, academic All-American Arthur Ashe Award. I wonder where Dean Smith would rank him among his favorite players?
“Coach Smith said this, players are like your children. You don't have a favorite child. Players are like that in that you don't have a favorite player. Marcus has certainly set a standard that is hard for anybody to match during his four years. As coaches we're very appreciative of that. I'll use this same guy again with Tyler Hansbrough, I told our staff every day the last two years, let's be thankful we're able to coach a guy like that. That's for his toughness, his focus, his basketball ability and the kind of person he was.
“Now when talking to Marcus, I said it last year and this year, let's be thankful we're fortunate enough to coach a young man like that for his basketball, and all of those things, his academics, for his work in the community and the example he sets for our university. He's been an exemplary player, student-athlete. There's some guys I feel like I need to be paid to coach and for Marcus, I'd need to back up to the pay window, because I would coach him for nothing.
“I think most of the coaches, especially the older coaches, I think I got into it because I wanted to be like my high school coach. He gave me confidence and was the first person I feel like I could do something. I wanted to be like him. I didn't know anything about press conferences, shoe contracts or anything like that. But Marcus he gives all of the coaches old-school appreciation for who he is. A phenomenal young man.”
Obviously different players with different personalities need to be coached in different ways. Brice seems to respond to being coached hard. What's your strategy in kind of not letting up on him no matter kind of what --
“Well, I don't know how good the strategy is, but I haven't let up on him and I think when we first got him, I just felt like it was work ethic that would be the only thing that would change -- would prevent him from being a big-time player because he had the quick bounce, he has the good touch. He can do those kind of things. Not only quick bounce but he just bounces pretty high. And I've wanted to push him, and I've tried to do that every day I coached him.
“At times it's been okay for him. At times it's been very uncomfortable for him. At times it's been very uncomfortable for me. But at the same time I'm trying to accomplish the goal to have him be the best player he could possibly be. That's what he wants and he's handled it. Sometimes it hasn't been pleasant for him. There's no question when I make him sit there and watch tape. He makes 99 good plays and one bad one, and I spend all my time talking about the bad one. That's uncomfortable. He's accepted it. His father has been a fantastic support for him and for me, too.
“It's my high school coach who is still extremely important to me. He said that Brice has advanced further than any player than I've ever coached in his four years, and I'm not so sure he's not right. And as a coach, that's one of these corny things, but it gives you a pretty nice feeling, too.”
Roy, Brice took Kennedy a little to task on the court yesterday, and in the locker room just now, Kennedy kind of owned it. And he said that after watching the tape there's a lot of things that he saw that he can do better. How much does that help when they start policing each other? Are you confident that Kennedy has seen the light now and will bounce back tomorrow?
“I'm not confident of that. Because we're talking about 18, 19, 20, 21-year-olds, but I've never been bothered by that. I think that players have to be able to handle things that their teammates are saying, if it's true. You know, Rex Walters was a great player for me at Kansas, and I was on his rear end probably for two, three years as hard as I've been on Brice. But his dad had a great saying: If you point your finger at someone else, you have three pointing at you. We've talked about that. If you criticize somebody, you're going to push somebody, make sure you're taking care of your own business.
“Brice's play allows him to do some things. Marcus is the easiest one to tell because Marcus always gives you everything. But the respect that our guys have for Brice is pretty high and I talk to my guys all of the time. Let's be real. Be accountable. If you're not playing very well, don't act like you are. Don't act like it's the referee's fault, it's your doggone fault. Last night I got mad at everybody on the bench including all the coaches, because they were yelling at the official when we screwed it up. We missed a box-out. How can I yell at the official if we screwed it up to start with?
“Players I talk to them all of the time about being accountable. We need Kennedy to step up and play better tomorrow than he did last night.”
Coach, Marcus has been really good defensively. You spoke about that. How good is he at defending bigger guards? I know he's got 14 blocks this year. And what does it for your team leaving him out there on a 6'4", 6'5" guy?
“He's going to have to spend some of that time tomorrow on Kris Dunn and that's the challenge, that there's not many like him. Brogdon is a different animal, too. They are a little different. Marcus knows the defensive principles. He has quick feet, he has toughness. He gets where he wants to be. He sees the man, sees the ball at the same time. So he doesn't get beaten because somebody got the back of his head. So he has all of those skills and the toughness and want-to. He wants to be a good defensive player.
“Bobby Knight said, don't guard somebody like you want to be guarded. I've used that forever. Marcus does, he guards people in a way he does not like to be guarded. I think that's the toughness and competitiveness is what sets him apart.”
Did you catch the ending to the Providence-USC game last night? And what was your reaction to the final sequences? And two, the challenges PC presents to you guys even though you have the height advantage?
“Yes, I did watch the second half at the hotel, and I watched a little bit here, and when the bus was ready to leave, I got on the bus with the kids and went back. It was a wild game at the end. Southern Cal kept giving them chances and giving them chances, and Providence finally said okay, that's enough. I'm going to take it. That's the way I feel.
“Eddie is a good friend. He's a good guy. I enjoy him. He's probably the worst I've ever been involved with in a yoga class. He's the worst guy I've ever seen in my life in a yoga class. Other than that, he's a good friend and we enjoy each other. And I did enjoy the look on his wife's face last night and the little fist pump he gave at the end last night. I was watching it closely.
“They do present some problems. I'm not sure we have a height advantage. They're 6'8", 6'9" up front, and 6'5, 6'6" in the back court. We're 6'9", 6'10" up front and 6'O in the back court. That's all relative to who you're guarding. We shoot more threes than we do. Their top eight players, everybody's made more than ten threes. We got to understand that's a problem for us. No. 0 is a heck of a match-up problem and No. 3 is a heck of a match-up problem. We got to do a good job on both of those guys and see if we have to cut down their percentage. Ask Eddie about the yoga class. He's the worst I've ever seen.”
I know you dealt with this at a previous game. The home-court advantage being 20 miles away, how much can that help you guys?
“I hope it can help us a heck of a lot more. I've never been one to die and all of that stuff to try to be home, because I think you set yourself up to go somewhere else. I don't care where we go, just let us in. Now that we're here I hope the fans are more positive, more vocal, more involved. I do think it helps on defense, helps your guys play a little harder. Sometimes it makes you go a little faster than you need to on offense, but I never had a team that I felt like would go as fast as I want them. I want our fans to be involved, be loyal, be loud and all of those type of things. If it helps, it helps.”
Were you at all surprised when they announced the game times for you guys?
“Surprised and very disappointed. Jiminy Christmas, you know… What can you say? 9:45, 9:50 for a start time. Don't we have an East, South, Midwest, West? Don't we have games out there that we can show on TV at that time? You know, it's like spitting in the wind; it's stupid because you can't do anything about it, but I despise it. I’ve got to sit in the daggum hotel room. I wake up at 6:00 in the morning, don't go to work until freakin’ 9:30 at night. Is that pretty clear?”
Coach, you were talking about with Bentil and Dunn, you have two guys that can really put up points. Is there anything different when playing an offense that has two guys that can score the guy like number one options as opposed to a team that has one, two, three, and more balance?
“ We played against some teams. Duke has Grayson and Brandon, you had to do a good job with them. Marshall is 9 out of 10 on the three-footers, hopefully you didn't give to him. This is a pretty high-level player. These guys can play in the NBA for a long time whenever they choose to do that.
“Same kind of thing. Got to try to guard them and hope they don't shoot a real high percentage, get 40 or something crazy like that. But you can't just focus on them because those other three guys, you know, shoot threes and do some effective things as well. Who was it I was watching? Providence guys, was it Villanova in the Tournament where both of them had four points at halftime? They were right there against a very good Villanova team but Villanova did a great job on those two but you do have to guard everybody.”
Kennedy and Brice, as much as any other players, are two guys who consistently talk about needing to get their intensity up. Given what they're going to be dealing with in the match-up and the way Providence's bigs play, is this as good of a test as any for the two of them in terms of how they'll stay with the guys they'll guard defensively?
“There's no question they're the two I've pushed harder all year long to get the intensity level at a high level and be more consistent with it. Providence is the kind of team that can make you step up or get out of the way. So we got to do that. I think our guys will -- I think Kennedy will play a lot better. I really do. Brice is playing at a pretty high level. I want him to continue doing that. I don't want everybody to get caught up. It's North Carolina against Providence. Somebody said Providence was 6-6 the last 12 games. Those games don't mean anything. We're playing a very good basketball game with two marquee players. The other guys are pretty darn good. We have to guard them. I think our guys will play hard.”
How in the world do you spend all day tomorrow? I know Justin was talking about I might take a few naps but then you don't want to oversleep or whatever. What is the game plan as far as you how spend the day?
“Yeah. Sleeping is not an issue with me, because I can't sleep at night much less during the day. I watch a lot of tape. If I didn't have my knee banged up, I'd do a lot of walking. Several years -- not several, 2010, Duke beat us by 936 points at their place last game of the season, and I got in the car and drove to Wrightsville Beach the next day. It was the last day of the season. I had a good friend Ted Seagroves that passed away with pancreatic cancer. He said, I'll never do that begin. I made his butt get up and walk seven times that Sunday. I got problems with my knee. So we'll have to do something else. It's a long day. I try to split it up. Go over to a shootaround, have a couple meals and try to space things out but I have no idea.”