Coach, I know you always say you take it one game at a time, you never look ahead. That being said you look how close the standings are and these next games and how important that could be, is that at all difficult to keep that separate, looking at the big prize when you have Illinois and Michigan and Michigan State all coming up like this?
"No, it isn't any different then when we first started the Big Ten season. You go into something with prior knowledge that it's 16 games and its not as if, ok each year they're going to change the number of games we play in the league. And when you play teams sometimes it works out that the teams with the better records you play at a certain time of the year and maybe not so good, the other way around happened. If you coach long enough it all happens. Sometimes during the year you get more at home towards the end of the season, in the middle, early, it changes. You just keep preparing in practice as you did back in early January as you do in mid to late February, that doesn't change, not our preparation and not our approach."
You have had a consistent foul disparity, I think there's reasons for that. I know you've discussed this before but what's your best explanation for the fact that you shoot many more free throws than your opponent?
"Well on our defensive-end we try to teach our guys about positioning so much that sometimes….and if you're doing it often and early, what you're hoping is you're getting good habits. Sometimes you tend to foul a lot if a player or two, if they tend to get some bad habits, and we have some players who we're still working on who have some habits that we want to turn into better habits, good habits. We're constantly working on that everyday. It's the way we call practice, it's what we do I think that helps us. The players making a commitment to moving their feet and not grabbing and reaching with their arms. There are some games that after you look at the tape you go why didn't we get as physical as that other team? Maybe that hurt us. It's not very often, but rather than sometimes trying to get guys…Ok go out there and be real physical in practice, knock each other around, beat the heck out of one another and then hope that it's not called. I've never coached from that standpoint. Other than the first high school coaching job I had when we were very small but slow and we had to do a lot of things to keep the other teams from getting shots, that's probably a group that fouled more than any other group that I have ever coached. That was out of just trying to get there, and trying to teach good habits."
Bo going back to something you said before about not undue pressure on players in these situations. Can you just talk about how do you go about doing that, is it just not mentioning the ramifications of the game, not mentioning the situation at all, or what do you do…
"This is my 20th year in college…I've never said this game is for this, this game means that. Never ever, never said it. National Championship game, never said it. The semi-finals…if we win this we're in the National Championship, never said it…in the locker room. You think they don't…if you're coaching guys that don't know what they're in; you're coaching the wrong guys....Maybe with some one liners that you throw out to relax them or maybe say something. The biggest laugh last week was we're looking at some of the clips and there was a guy from Iowa that gave a real good pump fake. And you know Coach (Gary) Close was in Iowa for several years and I said something like ‘ahhh there goes another guy that went to Coach Close's pump faking school, or summer basketball camp.' For some reason all the guys broke up. If you watch our practices, Coach Close strongly encourages our players to use a pump fake, when it's needed. Its one of those you had to be there Mark (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Mark Stewart). I can see that you're not smiling but the players though it was pretty good."
Bo, Assembly Hall can be pretty wild to play in, I was watching the Michigan State game and they had everything painted orange. When you go into an environment like that do you address that or is that worrying about something you really have no control over? How do you approach preparation for going on the road to a place like this?
"I really don't say anything because I think for anybody from Michigan State, any player that walked in there and didn't see the orange then again the wrong guys are playing. There's no reason to say anything about it, there's no reason to address it, what happened between the lines and that's where we need to take care of business. So those are the things that we tend to focus on as coaches and hopefully as players, and they seem to be doing a pretty good job of that."
Bo, with Devin winning his second player of the week award, I'm wondering what are the ingredients that make Devin Harris such a special player?
"Well I've said the same things pretty much every time I'm asked about an individual like Devin who has become someone who is getting that kind of attention…He's done it within the offense, you get to the free-throw line for a reason as a point guard, he's taking care of the ball, he's taking care of business. He's taking care of his teammates, he's taking care of his academics, he's taking care of his life. So when you have student athletes that are…he's also done some things where he's visited some people that maybe needed a heck of a lot more help than any of the players, and he's done a little bit of everything. He's a complete person, his parents have done a great job and we're one small part on his time line, and we're just trying to do the right things for him and he's just trying to do the right things for the University of Wisconsin and I've always said just enjoy him. Just enjoy watching him play."
You've mentioned in the past his tremendous work ethic and I'm wondering what aspect of his game has benefited the most from that type of work ethic?
"Well if you're working hard at something…you don't want
to put a shovel into the ground, take a load of dirt out and then take that same
load of dirt and stick it back in the hole, cause you're not getting any where.
So most people are working hard, keep digging and keep finding ways to get
better. So he takes pride in his competitive level because he is a competitor,
and everything he experiences he files. I've been fortunate to have a lot of
guys like that."