What’s the recovery process for a season ending like that?
“You could ask me before I die, because I’m sure that I won’t be recovered then, either. That’s very dramatic, but I don’t think you ever get over it. I really don’t. Last week, I was recruiting and one day I was in Pennsylvania. People were saying that was the greatest championship game ever. I said, ‘No, I thought 2005 and 2009 was a lot better.’ Then they’d say, I did have this question, ‘How did you go from such an emotional high of Marcus (Paige) making that shot to 4.7 seconds later, somebody else makes one?’ And I said, ‘Well, I didn’t have to, because I reacted immediately when we made the shot.’ My gosh, what a tough shot. But then, I started coaching, so I never really got that high, because I knew we still had to defend.
“But, the low, that’s about as low as you can be. And unfortunately, it was even a little harder than 2003, because there, I think we were down 18 and we cut it down to three and had the last two shots of the game to tie, but only one of them was really a good shot and Hakim Warrick came out of nowhere to block it. But we were down one 3 and that would have just tied the game up. We still had to make the shot. This one is even more difficult, and you know, Marcus made such a tremendous play that we were just talking, that might have even surpassed Michael (Jordan) or at least it was in the ballpark as the greatest shot in North Carolina basketball history.”
Have the new NCAA/NBA Draft rules changed how you will handle that process?
“Oh yeah. I’ve met yesterday, today and tomorrow with our players. There will be some of those players where I’m not asking them to give me a definitive answer now, I want a definitive answer next week, but I think that some of our guys will try to go to the combine, will declare and not hire an agent, and see how they play in the combine, and I have no problem with that. If I were the father of some of our players, I’d get them to do the same thing. We’re not going to have a release today that says ‘Joe Blow’s going,’ and then tomorrow, [another player], and then the next day Henry’s going and anything like that. When we get through with all the interviews, we’ll make one announcement.”
Why would a player not take advantage of that new rule?
“I’d probably agree. I don’t see any reason, unless you play two minutes a game, I don’t think it’s necessary to do that, but if you’re a good college player, why would you not? I can remember some guys who, in the old day’s they’d have a senior event, I even coached it for the NBA one year down in Orlando in ’91 or ’92. They brought all the seniors in and had four college coaches who coached for four days. We won the thing. I remember one year, there was a guy that nobody thought would even be drafted. I’m not going to give you the name, but he ended up being drafted the top half of the draft and made a lot of money because he made every daggum shot for three days and they forgot about four years.”
Assuming Joel Berry comes back, does his play from this past season change the amount of responsibility you’d want to give him next year?
“One of my things I’m going to talk to him about today is that when it gets to the meeting that I have, which is not this one, where we talk about the three things I want you to work on, today I’m going to tell him, ‘I want you to think about these things a lot, because before we have that other meeting, I want to hear yours first.’ I am going to challenge him in a couple of areas that might surprise him, but I want to see what he has to say when we get it. I was really pleased with Joel’s year. I think I said he was our most consistent player, and I think he was. Somebody could go look at records and stats and probably have a different thought and disagree with me, but for my opinion, the way I felt, I thought he was our most consistent player and really took a giant step forward.”
I know the loss is still fresh, but big picture-wise, how would you best describe this entire season?
“That’s another thing I usually try to think about during the summer when I’m on a plane and try to say what I want to do better the next year. I love this team. I love this team. When I look back on it, I’ll think of that. I’ll also think about, and I may have said this at a press conference, not where I was talking about a green room or dictating questions you guys were asking—In fact, I was sort of insulted on one of those questions about how I dictate, because we leave most of my press conferences so much because they’ve deteriorated because we’re laughing and stuff—You know, this team, they will talk for the rest of their lives about making it to the Final Four in 2016.
“I still talk about us making the Final Four in ’81. The Kansas guys, the old guys that come back, talk about making the Final Four in ’71 and ’74. My teams at Kansas talk about the ’91 Final Four team and the ’93 Final Four team, 2003, 2003, we didn’t win any of those, so there will be some satisfaction, because in conversations, I think I’ve had seven players in so far, I’d say, ‘I was truthful to you when I said every step, it gets more fun. More exciting. More fun. More exciting.’ And every one of them said, ‘You know coach, this is the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball.’ I haven’t had all of them. Maybe they’ll come in and say, ‘Gosh, three more weeks of you was more than I could stand.’ You know, that kind of thing, but I think they’ll look back on it that way, and I’ll look back on it that it was really something.”