March 12, 2011
An Interview With:
COACH CALHOUN: Well, suffice it to say it was a very special night for us and obviously a tremendous week for us.
In 1990, couple years after I came to UConn, we were fortunate to have a terrific team and won a Big East championship back to back, that sounds so nice, against Syracuse and Georgetown and that was one of the most emotional experiences I've had in any Big East play. This ranks with that, when you get a group of kids, and we've had a group of good kids in the last few years, Final 4, all that kind of stuff.
This group has been resilient, they come off a loss and they're not happy but they're willing to work hard and get better every day. I'll be honest when I was looking at the handbook that John and everybody sends out about the tournament play and I looked at, if we don't get and we play until Tuesday to get to Saturday to get to Saturday we're going to have to play four in a row and you know they're going to be good and what these kids having through this week is it's been as moving for me as anything I can possibly think of. I when we asked them whatever we asked them to do, they did. We had a couple of stumbles during the year but we came in as a good basketball team 29 9. I think we're leaving feeling different about ourselves, they should, knowing the history of college basketball, as I've been told all day it kind of gave you a feeling that it wouldn't happen but it did happen. We played a terrific team and I know you're not supposed to do this but I voted for Rick Pitino as Coach Of The Year. I think he did as good of a job as anything and I still think he does a terrific job. They kept pressure on us and one of the last time outs I called, it was a usual to get an extended time out to get them as much rest as we could, but their heart took over, the determination to win and the skill level and I couldn't be more proud of 'em.
Q. Coach can you talk about the two plays that Jeremy made in the end first the basket and then when he tipped the inbounds play to change the possession?
COACH CALHOUN: He really I lost the last two nights. He's big time Kemba kept saying, you know what? He's big time, he's played big time in big time games and doesn't get much better for us here unless you get to a national level. But in our neighborhood, the Big East which I've been a part of for 25 years and a part of it even before that in many ways. He showed up in the toughest conference in America against four ranked teams in a row and was just absolutely the guy that another guy that Kemba had other partners who did great things for him but Jeremy stepped up and once again I've always believed he's going to be a special player. I still believe he's going to be a special player but in these last few games he has been special.
Q. Coach talk about how this positions you for the NCAA Tournament.
COACH CALHOUN: I haven't read the stat sheet. That's how up on that I am right now. I'm caught up on the emotion of what happened here.
Once again as long as we're in the tournament and we get a reasonable seed, you know, hopefully we take a day off and be ready to play.
I can't do all those kinds of things. I think we showed in the past four days particularly that we're a pretty good basketball team and I think during the season we had significant wins also but I think in the past four days clearly and to show the grit we had, I assume we will be placed well but at this point in time, and I've always felt this well, when we've been sent West, two of those times we've won national championships and I don't care where we get sent but I'm being looking forward to taking these guys to a national tournament.
Q. Kemba, when you got fouled Rick Pitino yelled to the officials "he's not Michael Jordan" at any point in the five day stretch did you feel like a player that great, like it was out of your own body, the way you were playing?
KEMBA WALKER: No, this is what I worked for the whole summer. This is who my whole team worked for, and the hard work is paying off. If the refs called it, it's a foul, that's the way I looked at it. I'm not Michael Jordan, I'm Kemba Walker, that's it.
Q. Kemba you talked about how you have this motor and everything like that. At times during the game it looked like you were running out of gas. How sort of on empty were you and how did you get to the finish line?
KEMBA WALKER: Now that the tournament is over I can tell you that I was definitely tired. With about 2 minutes left I was I was gassed, but, you know, I just wanted to win this game so bad that you know my heart took over and I was able Coach, he drove a play, I was able to execute it. I got Peyton was playing great but he slipped up and I was able to get in and I drew the big man up and Jeremy was smart enough to cut and I got him the ball and he made the big basket for us.
Q. Coach now that Kemba admitted he was tired when he got the second foul with 8 minutes left, did you consider letting him play?
COACH CALHOUN: No. We were on the plus side. We were in the plus side. It was a long game. The only consideration was the five games, five days and would we have enough to come back in the second half. It did cross my mind that if we need him, but the other guys held the fort enough. We went in 6, came out and gave up 8 straight in the second half, but my point being I wanted him to keep playing because then we would feel tired when we sat down and that's why we came out of locker room the second half but I always remember Emeka Okafor had a tremendous game against Duke in the semifinals in 2004 was beckoning me and I lied like crazy, you will be going back in in 2 minutes, 4 minutes and the lie turned out to be a lie and he played the second half and scored 19 points and I had enough confidence in Kemba that I knew he would get us someplace and I had confidence in his teammates that they could carry the burden without him.
Q. Jeremy, Kemba, talk about what it means, five games, five days, Big East championship.
JEREMY LAMB: For me being able to play MSG, having fun with my teammates, out there competing, we all went through it together. It feels good to come out on top. It feels good that everybody trusts each other and we have some tough games. There were times when people probably thought we were going to lose or stuff like that but we didn't get that get to us. We kept playing hard and we was able to get wins.
KEMBA WALKER: For me it's special because I'm home, playing in front of the greatest fans in the world, my family, my friends and, it's I can't words can't describe it, honestly.
Q. Kemba after everything you within the through all week and in this particular game when Mike Marra goes to the line how big is the knot in your stomach?
KEMBA WALKER: I was so mad at myself because Coach he said "stay down" and I'm telling everybody "stay down" and I'm the one that jumped. I was mad at myself but we were fortunate enough for him to miss that free throw. When he missed, I thanked God because I knew he had something planned for us and I was just happy we was able to come out with this win.
Q. What does it mean getting the M.V.P. award for the tournament, Kemba?
KEMBA WALKER: It's special, to get the M.V.P., the greatest arena in the world. Knowing a lot of great players in this league and for me to come out on top, me and my teammates, it's great.
Q. Kemba, what did you say to your mother when you saw her after the game?
KEMBA WALKER: I told her I love her, her and my father because a lot of people are not fortunate enough to have both of their parents and I am. I'm one of them people and I'm thankful for that and every game, front row and you guys could see, my mom was always on camera on ESPN and stuff, I'm thankful for both my parents.
Q. Being that you are from the Bronx, went to Rice High School, how special is it to win it here in Madison Square Garden? Do you have lots of fan support? Seemed like it was a UConn home game?
KEMBA WALKER: Yeah, as soon as the game started I told my teammates it's a home game for us, because it seemed like it was all UConn. There was a little bit of Louisville but it seemed like it was all UConn. It's special, like I said, words can't explain it.
THE MODERATOR: UConn thank you.
An Interview With:
COACH PITINO: It was a hard fought game and Connecticut deserves a lot of credit. It's not easy to win five games in a row. We beat ourselves a little bit down the stretch. We couldn't even miss a free throw the right way. But proud of our guys who held the season and now we have to get ready for the postseason. You know, Cincinnati, Marquette, the conference USA teams who have come over. Anytime you get to the finals you're going to play a road game and that's the breaks if you face St. John's, Syracuse, Connecticut, any of those teams.
We fought hard and almost came up with a victory.
Q. Rick, you mentioned you couldn't miss a free throw right, I assume that the player was supposed to miss the third one
COACH PITINO: Yeah.
Q. Were you surprised that it didn't seem like they were as fatigued as maybe other teams that you would have played?
COACH PITINO: I said in the pregame show we expected they wouldn't be fatigued because they kids play I think it's insanity. They play three games in one day in the summertime in one day and they go back the next day and play three games again. These kids are used to it.
You know, they're a good basketball team. They get a chance to rest a little bit because they hold it in the hands of one guy and they have an opportunity to rest at time and that's where their assists are low, and with all the timeouts it's not as excruciating as you may think.
Q. A dozen steals and 16 turnovers, that's the most you've had in a while. Is that their defense or
COACH PITINO: They would reach from behind and strip us. We did a good job of beating them but we didn't cross over with the ball and we had three turnovers that way.
Q. Coach, when Kemba started to get in foul trouble did you feel that your team would have been able to take more advantage than it did?
COACH PITINO: Not really. They played without them before. We did cut it to 6 and we were pleased but obviously it was the tale of two halves. The first half we didn't play great defense and the second half we played great defense and shot to win the game but turned it over. .
Q. How goofed a situation is it that Mike had to deal with when you're down 3 and you have those free throws?
COACH PITINO: That doesn't bother me to tell you the truth. None of that stuff ever bothers me, missed shots. What bothers me is the fact that he didn't block out five times during the game, we didn't get a boxed sideline out of bounds play. What bothers me is we were had to run a specific play and I had to waste a time out because he was about ready to travel.
Those things we can control and that bothers me. Missed shots never bother me. We made mistakes down the stretch but in an action packed game, you're going to make mistakes and hopefully we learned for the NCAA. These guys got beat by a better team tonight. We've beat 'em twice and it wasn't two overtimes, it was one overtime. I don't know why ESPN kept saying that. But they're a heck of a team they deserve a lot of credit.
Q. The performance you guys have had is so solid, is there a seeding
COACH PITINO: I don't care. I'm more concerned about the fact that we didn't run an out of bounds play right and I can't control those things. I'm amazed at how much time e spend to try and guess what seed you are what amazes me is it doesn't matter what anybody says but we continue not to wait. Like the biggest thing in the world is the Academy Awards, the Oscars, and there is not 10% of the talk of who is going to win the Academy Awards, is where you are going to be seeded, who is in or who's out and there must be interest, more than likely we're going to be a 4 seed, if we won tonight a 3 seed. But they're going to take in the full body of work and we've beaten Connecticut twice, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, we've beat West Virginia even our losses we beat Notre Dame, we had a loss at Notre Dame, at West Virginia at the buzzer, at Georgetown at the buzzer, and even tonight we have to give every ounce of perspiration we have in us to stay in certain games because we are small.
We're proud of that and we have great wins but more than likely we would be a 4 seed. I would rather go to a decent place than anything else, rather than a seed, like Hawaii (Chuckles.)
Q. Rick, how was that out of bounds play supposed to work?
COACH PITINO: We didn't get in it and we didn't screen. The interesting thing is I told the guys I once lost a similar situation and I warned them in practice that if you don't get into your box and screen you in your box, you're going to lose a crucial game and it happened to us in the biggest game we've played. We still had to make the shot and they still have a chance to make their shot so you don't know if that was the cause of it. It taught us a valuable lesson and we must have gone over it 15 times in practice and we don't do it and I said guys everybody is going to pick up your defense on the side, and Peyton never waited for the screens and we got burned on it and all of those things help you unless it's the last game of the season, last game then it doesn't help at all because they're going forget it.
It's been a wonderful year, it's been great playing in the finals, thank you all for the coverage. I hope the RPI puts this in as a road effort to help us a little bit with our RPI ranking and maybe we'll bring a few more fans next time. Good job, Kyle. (Chuckles.)