Coaches' Quotes - Louisville

ALBUQUERQUE - There's a palpable current of excitement rippling through the Land of Enchantment, as the Louisville Cardinals and Washington Huskies square off Thursday in a Sweet 16 matchup that is arguably the best one in the land. Both Rick Pitino and Lorenzo Romar fielded questions Wednesday about the game and their chances.

Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar:
Opening Statement: We're very excited to be here, to be in a situation like this. There are 16 teams in the entire country that could be crowned the best in a week and a half. It's an opportunity where a lot of players go through their four years and they never get to experience something like this. It's quite a privilege to be here and we're going to do our best to try to make the best of it.

On altitude: I think that if you get here, walk off a plane and go play a game, it's a factor. But I think at times it's overrated. We played at Wyoming last year and there's a sign there that reads, '7100 feet above sea level, how's your oxygen?' And right away you see guys start to look around and think, 'I don't know, how is it?' I think it's more mental than anything. I think there's a little something to it, but I can remember playing as a professional in places like Denver and it would hit you right away, you knew there was something different going on, but it shouldn't hold you back from getting after it.

On using Louisville's program as a role model: I don't think there's any question that they have a tradition as being one of the top programs in America. It started a long time ago when Denny Crum became the head coach. Over the years they have been consistent with winning and what you have today is a special program. It's very hard to get there. Programs have dabbled in it from time to time but haven't had sustained success. They are one that has.

On his team still having a chip on their shoulder: For our guys, probably. I'm sure the perception is still, 'Isn't that cute that Washington is in the Sweet 16?', but ever since we went 0-5 in conference last season it seems like every game has been in doubt. With this group it's been a little different when they are favored because it hasn't happened all that much. I'm sure we'll maintain the same approach.

On his experiences with UCLA in the NCAA tournament: Preparation is so important and I learned so much as an assistant working under Jim Harrick. There were things that Coach Harrick did that, frankly if I had been in charge we would have blown it. We didn't use our legs when we didn't have to, it was important to get that rest. The things you do in terms of preparation in times like this that is so important. It's one-and-done now, so everything has to be clicking. The mindset has to be right, so it goes beyond just the X's and O's. The X's and O's are in place. We are what we are and Louisville is what they are. Sure adjustments will be made, but managing your team now is just as important.

On the ESPN experience: It was a bit awkward in the beginning but now it's become almost normal. They've done a good job of respecting our privacy. I was a little hesitant to do it, but now it's been fine.

On his expectations when he first took the UW job: I didn't know how long it would take. I knew we had a nucleus to get something going, but we had to create a winning culture and mindset, and that didn't just mean what the score was at the end of a game. We had to do things in a professional way, off the court and in the classroom - how you hold yourself and how you conduct yourself - and we're still working on it. Our guys had a passion to win and so far it's worked out for us.

On Ellis Myles: He's a man now. He's always been a good basketball player, but now he's got over 100 assists for Louisville. They depend on him, and Coach Pitino and his staff have done a marvelous job with Ellis. In the past his strengths would also be his weaknesses. He was stubborn that was going to do things his way, but that made him good on the floor. Now he's totally bought into the team concept. He totally sells out for that team. He's come a long ways. He's a rock. It's good to see that for Ellis, because he's a good person.

On where he fits with other coaches in the regional, like Pitino and Bob Knight: I don't fit in there. Those guys are Hall-of-Famers, those guys are legends. One thing I've never done is, I've never felt like it was me against another coach, it's always the school I'm coaching against their school.

On Nate Robinson: What you'll see is a smaller guy that does phenomenal things athleticially. He plays with great enthusiasm. You see a guy day in and day out that will rip out your heart because he's such an incredible competitor. He has no idea what size he is. I've never seen Nate Robinson intimidated by anybody. When he was a freshman on the football team they played at the Big House at Michigan. It's their first game and he's back for the kickoff. They kicked it in the endzone where they had to down the ball, and as the Michigan guys approached Nate, you could see he was so frustrated that he couldn't hit somebody. He just does not get intimidated. The bigger the event, the bigger he comes with it.

On using scouting network to get a jump start on scouting this late in the tournament: I think coaches do that all the time. You try to do research, but there is quite a network of coaches across the country and coaches exchange information. That's no secret.

On Rick Pitino and Will Conroy's reaction to watching him on television: Will is a lot like how I am when I was a player. He respects, studies and has an admiration for their game. And not that I like to compare coaches, but Lute Olson is pretty good. And there's Mike Montgomery too. We don't take it to a point where we think about playing against a Hall of Fame coach. What we do is have a healthy respect for our opponent.


Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino:
On playing Washington: It bodes well for a team that plays very hard at the defensive end and is a veteran team on offense. So we are really excited and very passionate about what we are doing right now. We realize we are playing a great team in Washington and it is pretty much what you get in the Sweet 16 anyway."

On the timetable to get Louisville back to prominence: You hope that your first graduating class is the turnaround year for your program. We were very lucky because we won right away, we had a terrific point guard in Reece Gaines who helped us win right away and we had success for the next two years as well and got in to the tournament but we ween't a great basketball team as far as sending guys into the NBA. The only guys we were putting into the NBA were the guys who weren't showing up, guys from high school and junior colleges. So this is the first year we had a veteran team. Larry O'Bannon was our first recruit, so this is prety much the kind of team we hpoed for. It doesn't always work that way but it has in this scenario.

On one concern for Washington: Well, it's really not a single concern. They are like us - they shoot the ball well and they are one of the top rebounding teams in the Pac-10. They are clearly an explosive offensive basketball team that you can't key on one person. If you do, two of three other gys burn you, so you have to play great team defense. So it's not just one concern, it's about seven nor eight major concerns for us, and we have got to be ready for all of those.

On altitude playing a factor: I don't really think it's a factor. I think the Olympic people do all the research. They say there's no factor unless you're here for 21 days. You're not going to get acclimated. Everybody is in the same boat. The only thing that is different is you must dehydrate your players more than you would elsewhere.

On Louisville's tradition: I think that tradition takes years to develop. I think as you look at the Louisville program to get one coach to stay there for 30 years it's truly astonishing. Denny Crum had many offers to go to the NBA, but he chose just to stay in Louisville. When you look at the attendance figures each year in college basketball, Kentucky and Louisville are always in the top-five. I think the last few years we are the number-one revenue-producing basketball program in the country according to Business Weekly. Kentucky was like, six. There are no professional sports in the state of Kentucky. Basketball is what everyone eats, sleeps and drinks all day long. So it's quite special. That special environment is in our school right now.

On Francisco Garcia and why he's a great player: His willingness to make other people better. Everyone was asking, 'Why isn't he shooting the ball more?' He felt that he had to get other people involved offensively and he would pass up his own shots to get them shots. And he would always say come tournament time, I know what's going to happen. So right now, we've got to get the confidence of everybody going. There are very few basketball players that do what he's capable of.

On teams mentally changing as they go deep into the tournament: I think everybody's team is different and every coach is different. My view of it is that this is a time to have fun. The toughest game for me personally is the first one. I think that's where all the pressure lies. I think that's where the players are tight no matter what you try and do for them. They're all uptight and then the second game you're much looser but the only thing you're hoping for at that point is to win the two and get to the Sweet 16. But you never really visualize the Final Four now when you get to the Sweet 16. You realize that if you win that next game you're one game away from the Final Four. For the first time you can really visualize getting to the Final Four so it's time to have fun. The players can showcase their skills and play without any type of stress and I think that our team is ready to do that.


Dawgman.com Top Stories