"Well, I'm relieved that we're there. But relief was probably more yesterday. I'm really getting excited. And I know our players will, too. We need to rest today. But I'm really fired up to have the opportunity.
"And I don't know all the statistics like you do on the number of No. 1s that have gone. But I know it's a first and certainly you've got four high, high level teams. Although all the teams are great once you get there. But you've got four teams that had done it basically since the beginning of November all the way through and have maintained a pretty high level of play and I can't imagine there being a more exciting scenario going in at least for the -- not only for college basketball fans but for the respective fans of each program."
Because of that, is that kind of tough for one of these teams to portray itself as an underdog this week?
"You know, it may be. I don't know. I guess we can be the underdogs since we're the fourth No. 1 seed. I guess that would be us. And Carolina would be the favorites, the overall No. 1 seed. But I really think in this situation there's not much difference between any of the teams from a performance standpoint. All the teams played differently and take pride in doing different things, but certainly you're going to have four premiere teams out there."
How big of a deal is Roy Williams at Kansas, and do you already get the sense that the fans are going to make this a big deal?
"Well, you know, it is a big deal. But I don't think it's near as big a deal because Roy's coaching against Kansas, I think it's a much bigger deal to me personally because our team is participating in it. But fans will make a big deal out of it. And I said this yesterday, when people are upset that you leave -- and I've gone through this myself and of course he went through it at a very high level -- it's a bag-handed compliment because they didn't want you to.
"I'm sure he knows that and understands that and that's the nature of the business. But, you know, at the core of all Kansas fans -- and I'm not in touch with everybody, but at the core I would think everybody's very proud of the time he spent here because he gave this place 15 years of excellence. So I don't think that -- although I think feelings were hurt initially and all those things, but I think five years is enough time for people to let a few things go. And I think that's certainly been the case here."
In the back of your mind, are you thinking that you've got to deal with five days of Roy Williams questions?
"I'll deal with anything getting there. So you could put me answering questions in a dark room with the bright light shining on me for eight hours a day and I'd still love every second of it.
"But there will be a lot of Roy questions, obviously. And I said this, usually when a coach leaves and you leave a high level place to go at a high level place, you know, five years is a pretty long time that the teams hadn't matched up or that Kansas and Illinois hasn't matched up.
"So we probably dodged some bullets in large part because the only time we were seeded together in the tournament, I think, that we obviously made an early exit. So this could have happened before now. But I do think that if it is going to happen, it's great to happen on a big stage and certainly this will be the biggest of stages."
Can you talk about leaving Illinois and the feelings involved?
"Well, I've said all along, the reason we left was not to switch teams. If that had been the case, we would have definitely stayed with the kids we knew and kids we loved and a talented group. We had that team coming back plus Charlie Villanueva committed.
"So you can imagine the talent level on that team. That was a hard thing to do. But we did it over time. And I certainly know, although Roy leaving here has garnered more national attention, me leaving Illinois was a big, big deal there. And it's an emotional time. The thing about it is you want the timing to be right on those sorts of things but the timing's never right. And it was tough. And watching that team perform at the level they performed at was not something that was unexpected.
"I expected that to happen. I really thought that that team had a chance to be special. That group of players and turned out five of those guys all played in the NBA. But it was tough watching them play because I know I could have been a part of that. But it was also rewarding knowing you brought those guys in and that they've thrived in a new system and performed very well.
"I just kept telling myself: Hey, we did it for the long run and this is the long run. We knew the first, following a guy that had as much success as Roy, we knew the first couple of years were going to be years that there would be comparisons and be tough to live up to a guy that goes to back-to-back Final Fours and wins 80 percent of his games. But, certainly, I think we've gotten past that and certainly enjoying our time here."