Thanks to the on-site Sports Information staff and
ASAP Sports for much of the material.
Texas, very, very good basketball team. Probably as good of a team as we have played all year. They made a series of runs, and I thought we responded, and then I thought we got caught up in the emotion of the game there when it was 52-51, and next thing I know, I turn around and it was 58-51. But they made shots we didn't. Thought it could have been tight at the half but didn't work out that way.
Like I said, they are a very, very good basketball team, and this is a really special group. I told them immediately afterwards, one of the things going into this year, one of our goals was to establish ourselves, and for them to establish themselves as one of the best basketball teams in Stanford history. When you look at what this group has accomplished in one of the best leagues in the country and for these guys to have matured last year going into this year; and for the seniors to go through the coaching change and be receptive to the coaching and our staff, I thought it was exceptional.
Q. I know it's probably a little early, but how would you sum up this season?
Well, very good. I mean, again, being around these guys every day and seeing how much they give of themselves, and they give to the program, seeing how hard they worked to improve, and then being in a league that top to bottom that's probably the toughest Conference in the Pac 10 Conference in a long, long time, to get to this point, it's not hard for me to reflect right away. And like I said, like I told them in the locker room, when they take a long step back and take a look at this, they will feel good about what they accomplished.
Yes, we had goals to be Pac-10 Champions during the season; yes, we had a goal to be conference champions; and yes they had a goal to get to the Final Four, and the thing about it, they believed, and they worked their tails off to put themselves in that position to where they just came up just a step short in all three of them.
Q. Can you talk about the way Texas defended especially Pittman, against Brook?
They didn't do anything against Brook that we haven't seen all year long.
The key turning point for us was against a team the caliber of Texas, offensively, and as good as they are defensively, when you have open shots, you have to knock them down. And I thought we had some good looks, three or four five looks in the first half that didn't go down for us.
In the second half, when they made two runs and we responded, and we got it to where it's 52-51 and they went man and got up after us and we tried to do too much. I thought there was three or four possessions where Mitch tried to do too much and got too deep; and Brook, and again, that's what highly competitive players do.
I have so much respect for Texas as a basketball team and the thing that's most impressive to me as I saw on tape, they really defend you. We didn't get beat on loose balls as much as we did tonight. Rebound-wise it was even, but it felt like every key rebound they got, and we felt like that was the biggest difference, as opposed to what was going on with Brook.
Q. Everybody was mentioning there have been a lot of runs and you guys had a lot of answers, each time you got up, they came back and made a run. Anything different after they got out front, why you think you guys didn't have another run in you or didn't close the gap like you had so many times already tonight?
Yeah, for as hard as it is for me to say, they are better. They are better. They have got an exceptional -- they have got three, four guys who are pretty good basketball players, and it would be easy for me to sit up here and say, well, we ran out of gas or didn't do this or didn't do that. We have done what we've done all year long. We competed and came up short because they were better at crucial times.
Q. You had trouble finding someone to knock down the open outside shot; can you talk about Landry's play tonight?
I don't know if it's one of the best games of his career. I just thought he was aggressive and he played and he relaxed and he had fun. So again, he played a good game and did a good job and I'm excited for Landry, because he's a guy into next year that's going to have a huge role on this basketball team.
Q. Last year at this time, you said you were going to sit down with Brook and talk about what his future is going to be; is that discussion going to take place this year, and if this is his last game, what is his legacy with Stanford?
Well, again, at the appropriate time – that's the furthest thing from my mind. Yes, I will sit down and talk, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out this is probably his last game in a Stanford uniform. And his legacy at Stanford in my mind is he's one of the better post players we've had. And his growth, and he's had a lot of growth and it will continue, but it's been impressive. The sky is the limit for Brook, but as he knows and everybody else knows that's been around this basketball program and this team, his work habits and those things are the only thing that's going to stop him from being special regardless of where he plays.
Q. Do you feel like there's a chance Robin won't be back next year?
You know, I don't know that. And who is coming back is not a concern to me right now. My concern and my thoughts is that this is a team with four seniors that played exceptionally well and this is a team that's pretty down right now. Taj Finger, Kenny Brown, Fred Washington, Peter Prowitt, those are where my thoughts are right now.
He was happy to answer the question on Brook, but deflected this
Q. You just mentioned that Taj and Fred have been the heart and soul of the team since you've take every over as head coach. Can you speak about them playing their last games?
Yeah, excuse me [tears up], you know, college athletics is about student athlete, and being selfless, always wanting to take care of your teammates, always want to be a good example for your program and your school and for your team and being an extension of your coach. And very few coaches will get up here and say points and rebounds aren't important; but to me, guys like Taj, guys like Fred, this is what this is about. And it's hard, because you know, for me, that's where I get the sole satisfaction out of seeing guys that compete every day and are willing to sacrifice everything they have for the good of the team.
We always talk about the five A's: Having an attitude, a positive attitude; being aggressive; understanding angles offensively and defensively; being aggressive, and then the most important thing and the last one is being accountable to your team and to yourself. That's what Fred Washington and Taj Finger and Kenny Brown and Peter Prowitt are about.
No one had the heart to tell him he repeated an A.
Well, I really thought it was really a terrific team win. Not only the job that the five guys that have been there doing it all year for us, but the minutes that our bench gave us by coming in, putting our bodies on their inside post players, because we know how good they are and how hard they are to defend; but the minutes that you look at our bench gave us by just physically going out and trying to stay attached to them with our bodies when they had the ball, especially in the low post I thought was really important. And then obviously, at the end, these guys do what they have done for us all year on the offensive end, made the plays they needed to make.
Q. You held them without a field goal for over nine minutes. During that stretch, can you talk about what you did differently to really shut them down?
Well, coming in, we had talked about a number of different things that we wanted to do. You know, we have used some different zones. From this time of year, obviously you can look at a lot of tape and get a lot of information, and we had a plan not to back off – I mean to, back off certain guys and really try to help.
The biggest thing we talked about really and truly was we knew we could not keep them from catching the ball in the post, we knew that going in, so we tried it to get the ball off the block a little bit and when we went in there, we wanted to get to the low side, just inches, to try to take away the baseline turn. And they are so good, they are going to score some of those and they are too big and it really affected us early in the game, was the second shot.
Up to this point, we had been looking over to make blocks and be aggressive and the biggest adjustment we made is saying we are going to stay home on the back side and finally – and sometimes coaches get in the players way, and with that last time-out, we said, "Hey, look, we'll do what's got us here." We weren't doing what we felt like we needed to do on the defensive ends and we were a little, whatever, and we finally said, we're going to get aggressive. Don't care if you catch it, we are going to go make plays and rebound it. That's the biggest thing we said we had to do on that end.
And a big part what have we tried to do offensively was run, push tempo, hoping that in the last few minutes was that would help us on the defensive end, making their post guys come out and handle ball screens and make them have to worry about transition and we just hoped in the last eight minutes, with our bench leaning on them a little bit, we could break it open. Some good things happened when we got back to being aggressive.
And Justin mentioned it with our ball pressure and getting over to help and doing those things. You.
Q. Can you talk about the combination of bigs you used on the Lopez twins tonight?
Again, we tried to play post defense the best we could, and he's very hard to defend. He's long and he does a tremendous job of getting the ball above his head and keeping it there and getting off the ground with it. They do a very good job -- not a very good job, a great job of knowing what they are looking for.
We felt like ball pressure was really important coming into the game. We felt like if you just allowed him to set outside, because they will throw it from 25 feet, and I'm not sure how much we got out of it. But we just – that's what we do and we didn't want to – early in the game we weren't pressuring the ball the way we probably have up to this point.
Again I think a big part what we did to help us in the end was our offense because we really wanted to run. We really wanted to get them into multiple ball screens, and they are random and we wanted to really get both of them up there and open up the basket so we could get some dribble penetration, and they do a great job of blocking shots and altering shots and thinking we could get second chance opportunities. And what happened in the end is probably as much a reflection of our offense and pushing the base as anything we did defensively.
Q. Wonder if you can talk about the lift that you got from D.J. tonight. Seemed like he was really into it.
Well, he's been great all year. You know, D.J., A.J., those guys, when we needed something to happen, both of those guys would make some plays. But it amazes me sometimes that people don't ever want to talk about Justin Mason. Look at his line tonight, between our point guards tonight, they ended up with 13 assists and four turnovers. D.J. is terrific. All year long, he's a guy that when we give it to him, we know he's going to make something happen. But there's so many other things out there that's happening for him to do that, and the screens, when you step up there, the fact that people know that Connor actually can make a 3-point shot; the concern about Damion James and A.J. Abrams. We started out the year staying our post game is going to be spreading the floor, letting him go in there and do some things and letting him by our post guy by driving it, drawing somebody, kicking it, or driving it, getting on the glass and somebody coming to get a second shot.
But he's been great all year. He's as good as any basketball player out there, and the minutes he's played – tonight is the least amount of minutes, I would say he's played, since January, the start of January Conference-play, because he's been averaging 39 minutes a game throughout the conference-play but we did want to get him out tonight and we said he's going to have to push tempo early and he did that.
Q. Did the setup prevent you guys from communicating at all with your assistants? I saw them earlier tugging on your pant legs.
We can't hear. It was different, it was. As the crowd got going, I felt like I'm screaming; I can't hear you, I can't hear you.
That's probably the biggest difference in the game is where it probably affects the bench being down below and the coaching, because you know, I have a great staff and I really count on those guys. We were talking and I know one time I turned around and said, I can't hear you. They all were trying to relay the message and I yelled back and I said, I can't hear you. That was probably the one big thing from it.
Q. What were they trying to tell you?
Yeah, we were talking about substitutions. That was at the point in time where Connor picked up a third foul or Damion and we were talking about what we wanted to get done right there. That's what was going on right there at that point in time.
Q. When D.J. made the steal and went coast to coast, you yelled, "Yeah, baby" there was a fist-pump there, did you sense that that was a key moment? That's an uncharacteristic emotion from you at that point.
I thought it was, because they were making a push right there and we felt at that point in time we had to – I thought Trent did a great job, too, and his guys made some hustle plays and at that point in time, obviously the emotions there are for a lot of people. When your players make the effort and come up with it and it pays big dividends, yeah, we all got excited. At that point in time we needed a play like that. And it goes back to talking about D.J. and Justin, at times those people come up with plays that people don't talk about. But that was a huge play at that point in time.
Q. You've been talking a lot about A.J. and a lot about D.J. and Justin. But what about Pittman's numbers? In just ten minutes of play, seemed like he did an incredible job on the boards.
I thought he was great in terms of making his weight a factor. I told him, I don't know if I would ever say that to you up to this point, but tonight your weight was a factor.
I think when a guy leans on you and keeps doing what he did, and he was able to get deep post-up, and we told him, get it deep and try to catch it underneath the rim. You know, he was able to put some fouls on him.
I thought he was huge. I thought the minutes – Clint Chapman was really good tonight. [Wangmene] was really good. Gary Johnson, too. All those guys, those minutes that those guys gave us is a big part of the reason why we were able to win tonight and just being able to go in. It's hard when a guy is leaning on you consistently. We felt like if we could keep a body on them and not elevate quite as much during the course of the game, we felt like it would be like throwing body punches in boxing; you just try to wear them down that way.
Q. Could you talk more about Dexter's contribution, particularly defensively, because Brook had hurt you for 30 minutes there and he shut him down at the end.
We took him out because he asked to come out. You could tell he was a factor. Our team was so excited because of the fact we knew what he's done at his time in Texas and with how hard he's worked to lose the weight he's lost, and with that, coming to practice, doing everything he can, it's just really – you're excited when a guy has a night like this where he's able to do it. But Dexter is important, he has great hands and is very athletic, and he's a guy that when he can give us what he gave us tonight, it obviously adds to what we do.
And throughout the game, because of Dexter and some of those guys, we're able to change. We can go from a team that can open the floor up or go from a post presence, which we didn't have early in the year. Those post guys, I'm happy for them because they are young and they continue to work, and we obviously needed them tonight and they came through for us.
Q. Can you just give your general impressions of Brook Lopez and did you figure if nobody else hurt you badly, you would be okay?
You know what, as we were talking as a staff about Stanford, I said it's almost like what I remember as a kid growing up with the Green Bay Packers and that sweep they ran; you knew it was coming but there is just not a whole lot you can do with it.
Again, Trent does a great job coaching this team. They play high-percentage, fundamental basketball. He's got great hands. He catches it. You get the wrong angle with him, he really can destroy you because he's just got great presence in terms of how he works the post, the pivot area.
Then again, their perimeter players know what they are looking for. You look at them and say, well, they don't do a lot of movement or this or that; they are as hard as any team we have had to guard up to this point because of the fact they know exactly what they are looking for, and they get to it.
Barnes added that the staff spent as much time
scouting Mitch Johnson as anyone.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!