Q. Terrence, in the NBA they talk about a rookie wall. Is there a freshman wall in terms of you sort of hit the wall in college basketball, and if so, have you had to fight through that?
Terrence Jones: I'm not too sure about the NBA wall or anything like that. You know right now it's just a tough part of the season and every team is fighting to survive and keep their season continuing going. Right now that's the most difficult time since everyone is fighting for survival.
Q. For Brandon, the shot you hit last night, how many times have you watched it since, and what kind of reaction have you heard from other people about it?
Brandon Knight: I've only seen the shot just once, and people were just happy I hit the shot, relieved that I hit it, family members and stuff like that, just happy to see the last shot go in.
Q. Terrence, Darius seems to have really elevated his game as of late. Can you talk about the boost he's giving you going down the stretch and especially yesterday in the tournament?
TERRENCE JONES: Yeah, a lot of experienced guys on our team really have stepped up late in the season, just getting more comfortable and everything meshing together. The chemistry is better. It's just giving us more weapons, and Darius right now is just playing well. And he saved us yesterday just keeping us in the game scoring 15 points in the first half when no one else really had it going. It's just been great to have. He's saved us a lot of games in the SEC tournament, too. He's just helping us out as a team.
Q. Doron, I was just wondering, I know when you were going through your recruiting process last year, it was coming down to Kentucky and West Virginia, and I was just kind of wondering what similarities or any kind of good stories about how Cal recruited you as opposed to how Coach Huggins recruited you, if there was any differences or similarities, and what was it like being recruited by both guys?
Doron Lamb: West Virginia recruited me, but they wasn't in my top five. Coach Cal recruited me hard, wanted me to be a shooting guard in the system dribble-drive offense, and I liked his coaching staff and the fans really. That's why I came here.
Q. You obviously want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season. Looking at what you did in the SEC tournament and advancing, do you feel like right now you're really starting to come together or do you feel like your best basketball might even be ahead of you?
BRANDON KNIGHT: Yeah, we definitely feel good about that. And like you said, our team is really starting to mesh right now, and guys are really starting to play better together. So we're really looking forward to the next couple of games, and we're really happy to see how our team is playing right now.
Q. Terrence, did you expect it to be that way just because there are so many contributors on this team, you're all freshman? Did you expect it would take until this point in the season for you guys to really come together and see what your team is capable of?
TERRENCE JONES: Yeah, I didn't know exactly when it would come together, but I feel it's came together weeks before now. We've been under like a seven-game win streak. And I think in those seven games, we've had team wins and everybody contributed and everyone stepped up. It wasn't just us three or the three older guys. Everyone had a big part and a big play to make an impact on the game.
Q. Doron, you made mentioned of the offense. We hear a lot about the dribble-drive offense. Can you just kind of explain to those of us who don't see it all the time what it means, what it is?
DORON LAMB: Well, dribble-drive offense is if the man can't guard you, go by him and create for other players but we do a lot of hand-offs now because we play better doing hand-offs, getting guys in the post like Terrence and Darius in the post, but we do a lot of hand-offs now.
Q. I'd love for all three of you guys to answer this, but did you watch the game last year between West Virginia and Kentucky? And how excited are you for the opportunity to maybe give your fans of experience of beating them which they didn't get to experience last year?
TERRENCE JONES: Well, I can tell you that all three of us were watching it together at the McDonald's All-American game. Right after the practice the game was on, and we all three were right there in front of the screen watching it. We seen the whole game and how they struggled to shoot the ball and to get them out of the zone by shooting the ball, and that's what we seen at the game.
BRANDON KNIGHT: At the McDonald's game we were able to watch it all together like bits and pieces of it because we kept switching back and forth to other games. We definitely saw how the team last year struggled to shoot the basketball and how West Virginia basically made every shot. It was kind of tough to watch that.
DORON LAMB: Just like they said, we watched it together, but I only saw the ending because I was playing video games and stuff. But we saw how they were struggling shooting jump shots and they were 0 for 20 from the three-point line. But we hope tomorrow we'll be better than they did last year.
Q. Brandon, I'd ask you a similar question that I asked Doron about the offense. Is that why he said basically it allows you to go past guys that can't guard you, is that why it's so attractive to guys like you?
BRANDON KNIGHT: Yeah, you think that's one of the reasons why it's attractive. It's kind of like if you feel like you have a guy that can't guard you, you just kind of go by him. And if someone steps up to help, you kick to the next guy and he has an advantage now because the guy is going to be running out of him and he can drive it. So it's kind of just a driving machine, I guess. He's a guy that can drive a basketball and try to create for other players on the team.
Q. Terrence, a two-parter. Have teams changed the way they've played you as the season has progressed? I noticed last night you were coughing. How are you feeling today?
TERRENCE JONES: Today is one of the best days I've had. The trainer has really been taking care of me.
Yeah, teams played all of us different, I'd say, just depending on what the coaching staff sees in their scouting. I've been double-teamed or in the post or just leave your man and come if I'm driving. But we've got other guys that have been making plays and really been trying to make teams pay for just focusing in on a couple guys.
Q. Brandon, you shot the ball eight times yesterday. That's obviously not a career high for you. How do you balance in your mind getting other guys involved, running the offense, but also being mindful that you are one of the biggest weapons offensively?
BRANDON KNIGHT: Just knowing when to attack and when not to attack. At the beginning of the game yesterday, guys around me were knocking down shots. A lot of guys were finishing. Darius was on a roll. So at that point in the game, I didn't really have to shoot the ball a lot. We were doing just fine. So in the beginning of the game, I wanted to start the game off by facilitating getting guys involved, getting my teammates going so they could be better prepared down the road to make shots and make big-time plays.
Q. Could you talk about Darius Miller and the lift he's given you?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, he's been really good. These last two and a half, three weeks he's been as good as anybody. I told him at the beginning of the year, my vision for him was to be the best player in our league, and I don't know if he believed me, but I didn't change. And he showed signs of it different games, but there was no consistency. Then he'd go one game and get no points and two rebounds, and now the last two weeks he has performed. If we had 12, 13, 14 big shots like Brandon made, half of them have been made by Darius, big three, big free throws, big lay-up, he's made half of them. So he's really turned around, and I'm proud of him.
Q. A lot has been made about your friendship with Huggins --
COACH CALIPARI: I can't stand Bob Huggins.
Q. He said the same thing. Why do you think you guys get along, competitive people?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, we're from the same neck of the woods. I remember him when he was at Walsh College. I remember him even before that when he'd come to the Pitt fieldhouse in the old day. No one got booed like Bob. I'm not even sure he was allowed in Duquesne's building because he screamed at B.B. Flenory very hard one game if I remember right.
Joe Fryz, who was a teammate of mine, ended up going to West Virginia and was a teammate of Bob's. So I followed West Virginia closely because of Joe.
You know, and I've just followed his career. I can remember him at Walsh when he was getting it done, and I can remember him at camps going up to him. I was still a counselor, and talking to him. And our paths have crossed, and obviously we've stayed friends, and in this profession that's not easy.
Q. On a similar line, Bob said that not winning a national championship in some cases or in his case, it's just a matter of luck, or in his case a lack of luck, I guess. My question is: Is it really that simple? Does it really come down to that? Is that how thin the line is?
COACH CALIPARI: You know, it's funny, I just saw Tyus Edney make that shot against Missouri and UCLA won that national title. Kentucky won it when Tubby's team went to overtime and two bounces of the ball, one bounce of the ball, they don't get to play Utah. So there is some of that. Some of it is just you've got enough players and they're talented and they're veteran. But luck plays a part of all of it. I don't think -- some of it is the luck of the draw; who are you with, who are you playing against, and how are they playing.
I would imagine there have been teams that have not won the national championship because they played the national champion and they were the second best team. I can remember we played Kentucky. At that time they didn't seed the tournament this way. That's basically why they changed it, because we played in the semifinals.
That should have been the last game. And we played a team with nine or ten NBA players on it. I mean, I had a good team, now. Marcus Camby, Edgar Padilla, Carmelo Travieso, Donta Bright, Dana Dingle, Tyrone Weeks. Do you want me to keep going and I'll name them all? But I had a terrific team. And that's part of it.
And I think, again, where you're coaching, there are guys -- Jim Larranaga gets to a Final Four at Mason. Well, he won the national title. Won the national title. I mean, come on. There are guys who have not won it or have been to Final Fours that I think are Hall of Fame coaches. Gene Keady comes to mind. You know, John Chaney is in the Hall of Fame. So it's where you're coaching and all those things play a part, too.
Q. I was just kind of wondering with the relationship you and Bob have, does it put any kind of extra spin on it when you guys recruit against each other? For instance, like Devon a couple years ago, Doron this last year? Obviously you guys are close, but this is kind of a different spin.
COACH CALIPARI: I don't take recruiting personal. If the families decide that they want to play for another coach, whether it's Bob or anybody else, I move on. I don't take a whole lot of transfers. So when kids call and say I made a mistake, I'd like to come, I never take them. You get the first round and that's it because we've moved on to other guys. I've never yelled at a coach or a player for not coming with me, and I wish you luck and hope you do well unless we play you and I hope we smash you if we play you.
With Bob or anybody, I try real hard not to take this stuff personal, move on to the next young man who really wants to play for us or me personally.
Q. Can you clear up a little bit of the legend here? Coach Huggins insists he knows the story better because, A, he was there, and two, he was the one dying, but can you clear up the ambulance-nephew story?
COACH CALIPARI: He was out cold, and he tells you he remembers everything? He was out. He knew something was wrong. He sat down on the curb at the Pittsburgh airport, and the ambulance comes up, and it's my cousin. And he goes and figures out who it is, and we're going to have to get my cousin because you know Bob does embellish. And he said, you know, "I'm Coach Calipari's cousin and I'm here, you're going to be fine." And that's when Bob said, "Oh, my gosh, I'm not making it."
But that was the scary thing. Let me just tell you. I can't remember where I was, but I flew back to Pittsburgh because I heard about it because it was scary. You know, because he's such a big, tough guy, which he's a teddy bear, I mean, he's not, but he comes across like he wants to fight -- no, he does want to fight everybody, but he comes across -- but reality is here's a guy, June was there, family was there, and he had the paddles, you know. And he's one of those guys that now he takes care of himself, he's doing what he's supposed to, and it was just scary for us and him and anybody that's a friend or a friend of his family.
But his story is my cousin hasn't beaten you yet so you've got to live. Is that what it is?
Q. We hear a lot about your offense. Could you describe what it is, and both your players said the offense sort of is part of what attracted them. Why do top players want to play in that offense? COACH CALIPARI: There was the motion offense where they double bounce the ball. We talk about Coach Rupp and his former players, Mike Pratt, who travels with us and does radio, said that all he wanted to hear was squeaking feet, and that ball was not to hit the floor.
Well, you know, it's kind of evolved now. Now guys are more athletic, they can get by you, they can put it on the floor. You get to the foul line more.
The reason I went to the dribble-drive motion was points per possession. I think your efficiency is better because you're trying to get lay-ups or open threes, you're trying to get to the foul line. You're not going to have a whole lot of assists, but you're not going to have a whole lot of turnovers, either, so your efficiency is better.
Kids like to see it. They look at it and say, he lets them play. Well, there's organization to what we're doing. It's not just, here, go do your thing. Obviously when they watch it on TV, they may think it.
The other side of it is you've got to be in great condition. You've got to be tough because when you drive, they're not just letting you drive. You're going to get bumped, jammed. Can you going to keep going or do you spin away and shoot fade-aways. What it does is it unleashes players. They feel good that they can drive left to right. There's no -- you can drive wherever you want and we'll play off of you.
This year we're running dribble-drive, but we're doing it different because we need guys to have a little bit of space so you're doing some hand-offs, some back-cuts and different. We're doing pick-and-rolls more than I have in the past. I never wanted to bring a guy to Derrick Rose, and now I see him in the NBA and I probably should have brought a guy to Derrick Rose. But we didn't do it with Tyreke and we didn't do it with John Wall. They were so fast and long and active, they didn't need another defender. In college, if you brought two defenders to the ball, they were going to stay with the best player and then you were going to pass the ball to a player that's not quite as good, so I just kept the guys away.
This team we're kind of bringing them together to create for both guys. So there's things we're doing different, but the concept is we want to beat you on the dribble.
Q. You spent time in New Jersey obviously. Did it pleasantly surprise you to see that Newark had evolved to the point over time that it could host an event like a Regional?
COACH CALIPARI: I spent time in New Jersey? They fired me; what are you talking about? Quality time? I don't know.
Yeah, Newark, you know, you have to be a fan of a city that's gone through what Newark has gone through, yet there are people behind the scenes that are very wealthy, very charitable that are doing everything they can to help rebuild that city. And I'm not going to mention names because some of them do everything they can to keep their names out of the paper, but there are people behind the scenes that have invested millions and millions and millions to try to say how do we get this back, how do we help these young people in this city. That arena, I mean, it's -- what they're trying to do and how they're trying to do it, yeah, it's a great story, it's a great American story.
Q. Just one more question on you and Coach Huggins. You two guys, the one thing you have in common, you both built programs out of nothing. But on the other hand, very few people are neutral when it comes to you two guys. No Switzerlands. They love you; they hate you. Some people say we love this guy and other people say we don't like the way they do things. Are you kind of kindred spirits with Bob that way?
COACH CALIPARI: Look, you guys either put a black hat on some of us and you put a white hat on some of us and I'm not going to be able to fight it. I just do my job, take care of kids, Bob does the same, graduate our kids wherever we've been. We've helped them reach their dreams and develop habits that have helped them later on in life. They've all stayed in touch.
I mean, at the end of the day, 50 years from now, what we've accomplished, Bob and myself, it's there, and when there's no emotion to it, you look at what we've done in the communities we've been, with the athletes we've had, the graduation rates we've had, what we've done on those college campuses, what we've done to give back, and people will judge us that way. Right now I'm just trying to win another ballgame. Can we win one more? That's all I'm worried about.
Q. Your high school baseball coach will be there tomorrow. What did he mean to your life?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, he was one of the Italian coaches, Ray Buzetti, Bill Sacco, Skip Tatalla, Mark Capuano, Jim -- we had all Italian. I got into coaching because I was Italian and I thought all Italians coached. That's what I thought. But he still plays softball now. He just went into the Hall of Fame for softball. They put ten a year in across this country. He and my dad played softball together. My dad is here with me, too. It's just great seeing him. I mean, I ended up playing basketball. I played baseball and he coached me, and then I stopped playing all the other sports and just played basketball, but I was his bat boy when I was in third grade, and I used to go on the team bus. You know, then I went with Bill Sacco, I was the ball boy as a third grader. I had the clip-on ties and so forth. That's where I got started. I wanted to be a teacher and a coach because I looked up to my coaches and my teachers.
I never thought about college basketball until I went to college, and I thought, geez, maybe I'll do that. I went to college, did that, and I said, maybe I'll do the pro thing. And then I got fired, so I'm back doing the college thing.
Q. Sort of a multi-part question, but this is obviously not your first time coaching a team that's full of young players, but your team is really starting to play its best basketball maybe in the last three or four weeks. Is that something you expect to happen when you have a young roster like that? And how are they different from December and January at this point?
COACH CALIPARI: We're an inexperienced team. My veteran players did not -- they weren't the significant guys of a year ago. They've taken on new roles. This team has changed because DeAndre, Darius and Josh have challenged the rest of us and they've elevated themselves. The freshmen have been on a steady climb. They've been on that steady climb.
I've had other young teams -- really we gear everything toward this time of year, and we're just playing to play our best. If that's not good enough, if you hit a bad day, the one and done thing, but we just want to make sure we're doing everything that they're fresh mentally, they're fresh physically, and we're in the greatest frame of mind this time a year. That's what we're trying to do. Historically my teams have been fairly good in March.
Q. What are you not getting from Stacey Poole that has kept him chained to the bench for most of this year? What is it that he has to work on to get himself on the floor?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, he and Jon Hood both haven't played a whole lot. Jon deserves the first opportunity because he's played better and played better in practice and done more. But the greatest lesson for he and Jon, Darius Miller, Josh Harrellson, if you're going to do the same things over and over again and expect a different result, that's the definition of insanity. What Josh has done and what Darius has done is they have changed their bodies, they have changed their skills, they have changed their mentalities, which has changed the result and what they've done. And Josh didn't play but, I'd say, 35 minutes, but someone told me today 88 minutes last year. That's all he played. And he came back, he's in the best shape of his life. He trains 30 to 40 minutes before every practice, then he practices. We have guys that are the last ones to walk out to practice and then not the last ones to leave. Those are the habits that must change if the result is going to change. And so -- but I love him. He's a great kid, and he's been a great teammate. He's done all those things.
We've been in so many close games. I mean, we've lost six league games by how many points, 18? And they've all been like nail-biters, and now when you don't play a guy here's what happens to you as a coach. You haven't played a guy for a while and all of a sudden you want to put him in and there's a close game and you're like do I really want to do that to him? If he costs us the game, what do I do to him? So then you get on a run where you're not up enough and you're not comfortable. But he's a good kid and he's a terrific player.
Q. Can you speak to the season long development of Eloy and how far he's come from point A to point B?
COACH CALIPARI: Really gotten better. The one thing I haven't done is played he and Josh together, and I wish I would have more because the way Eloy is playing right now, he and Josh both deserve more minutes. Josh, I can't take away his minutes, but Eloy deserves more minutes. And if I was comfortable enough playing them both together, he would be getting more minutes. He went into last game and really helped us. He went in the Florida game and really helped us. He went in the Tennessee game and really helped us. So he's done -- he's really done good, and I'm proud of him. He's another one that hasn't gotten the minutes. Part of the reason is the guys you're playing behind are pretty good. But he's done well.