This season had its ups and downs, but there were some real promising moments. What is the state of North Carolina basketball now?
It has no choice but to get better. We've got a lot of great young guys coming back next year and we've got great guys coming in. So this program has nothing to do but to get better. We're not going to have any seniors next year, other than the walk-ons, but it's just a chance for us to build and get better this summer. We played together and got 19 wins, so the sky's the limit for us next year.
Can you talk about defending (260-pound) Mike Sweetney tonight?
He's a load. He's one of the smoothest big guys I've played against. He has the type of game where he can shoot, pass and dribble. He's a triple threat guy and he made a lot of great passes out of the post tonight that led to great shots.
Their length seemed to cause real problems for you guys …
Definitely – they got a lot of tipouts and a lot of tip rebounds and things like that. And they got a lot of deflections as well, a lot of passes we threw tonight that usually get through didn't get through because they're so long. But that happens every once in a while when you're playing a team like Georgetown – a long, great defensive team.
What do you try to do against a big guy like Sweetney?
Try and keep him off the blocks. But as good as he is, he can work off the block – it doesn't matter where he is. He made a lot of big shots for them tonight and a lot of great passes to get them great shots. So, all you can do is take your hat off to them.
After the buzzer goes off, you're disappointed, but are you immediately looking towards next season?
Some disappointment, because you don't want to end your season with a loss. But only three teams get to win their last game – the NCAA champ, the NIT champ and the NIT consolation champ. So you've got a lot of things running through your head but at the same time it's like let's get ready for next year.
You talked earlier this season how you thanked Coach Doherty for believing in you, can you talk about how he developed this season?
I think he developed tremendously. At the beginning of the year a lot of people talked about his inexperience in coaching and things like that, but he showed a lot of poise throughout the season and even in our ups and downs he did the best that he could do to get us over the hump. And for him to turn this program around from 8-20 to 19 and whatever we are, you've got to take your hat off to him because he did his job and he did his job real well.
Do you expect him to be the head coach here next season?
I'm not sure. I'm not sure. I leave that up to the athletic director and all those other guys who make those decisions.
Could you describe what the relationship among you guys and how it's developed?
It's been great. At the beginning of the year I didn't know any of these guys other than Rashad – I played with Rashad in AAU a little bit. But now that I've been around these guys … all these guys are my brothers. Raymond is probably my best friend. It's been good – we've had our ups and downs, but we fought it off and we've been together through it all.
On how Johnson, and in particular Holmes, had trouble taking off their uniforms after the game-
Ahh, man. Jon, he's a class guy. He's been here longer than everybody, as long as Will, this is their last year, and to put on that jersey is all love. And once you put it on and realize this is the last time you're ever going to wear it, and it's going to be hard. You don't want to end it on a loss, like tonight. But I'm sure Jon (and Will) will look back on the great four years they had at Carolina.
On where things are now with this team-
I think we're on the right track. We've just got to put this behind us and move forward as a team – as a unit – and get better.
Can you speak to the team unity a bit? You all seem like such a tight group …
That's very accurate. We could have fell apart earlier in the year when Sean got hurt and adversity started to hit us, but we seemed to stick it out and play together.
What do you think this team learned from this season, looking ahead to next year?
That together we can do anything. One of our key players went down and we stuck it out. I think we accomplished a lot more than people thought we would accomplish this year. … I think we're going to be fine. This offseason we're going to work hard and get back on track.
So you're already focusing on next season?
For me personally, yeah. This is the past, I'm ready to get back into the gym as soon as possible. I'll be in here shooting or something to get ready for next year.
Do you expect Coach Doherty to be your coach next season?
Yeah, I don't see why not. We've been through some tough times, but we made it through.
On his future at Carolina-
I plan on being here for the next three years. My future here, I think I'm going be here. There's a lot of questions my dad needs coach Doherty to answer and that's between them. I don't what type of questions. But he's (dad) got a lot of things on his mind, and he and coach Doherty are going have a talk. When, I don't know, but sometime in the near future.
On if he thinks coach Doherty is going to be back next year
(Pause… shrug) I think so (pause again), I really do think so.
On the importance to his father for another big man to be at UNC next season
Oh yeah. He (dad) really wants me to be a four-man. But for me it doesn't really matter.
On Will Johnson and Jonathan Holmes having a hard time taking off their uniforms tonight
That's why you come here, to wear that jersey on. There's a lot of pride when you put that jersey on: the former coaches, the former players, the fans, this building, banners, it's more than just a jersey, more than just a name. It has a certain quality to it. You come to Carolina for the excellence, what it stands for. In four years, I hope my four years are great and hope (like Holmes) it takes a long time for me to take my jersey off too.