What happened in the last four minutes of the loss to Kansas?
“Things happen so fast. You think you have control, but you don’t have a lot of control. It’s a one point game, we’re coming down on a fast break or a semi-break and we turn it over and they go down and make a three and all of a sudden that’s a four point game and we come down and they block a shot and then they go down and now it’s a six point game. So, all of a sudden, now it’s a 1:29 or 1:39 or whatever it is… It is something that we tried a couple of things. At that moment… it was ‘panic city’ out there on the court and I couldn’t get them calmed down. It’s no sin, they’re 18, 19 and 20 year old kids and we made some mistakes during that point. I said, let’s run B-1 hole, so you have to throw the ball to John [Henson], so we run B-1 hole and throw the ball to ‘Z’. All right, I said let’s run B-3 for ‘Z’, remember you got to throw the ball to John, so we throw the ball to ‘Z’. I’m signaling B-3 and everybody’s got it and everybody’s shaking their heads, but it wasn’t passed down, meaning that four guys were running one play and one guy is not running that play and, yet, we had some shots.
"Then, now you got to turn it over and say it’s not all about North Carolina, because the Withey kid made two big time blocks, so that’s important too. I’ve always said that the North Carolina people think it’s always about us, just like the Kansas people think it’s always about them and the Kentucky people always think it’s about their team, but the bottom line is that Kansas made a couple of big time plays at that point too, because we got the ball to John on the right block and he turns to the middle with his left hand and all of a sudden Withey is there to block the shot.
"It was kind of ‘panic city’ at that time and that’s the one thing that Kendall [Marshall] was so good at. He orchestrates things. Ty Lawson orchestrates things and, again, that’s no cut to poor Stilman [White]. My gosh, and I’m serious, that’s one of the great stories there is in North Carolina basketball and what that kid did, I hope he’ll remember it for the rest of his life and hope everybody will remember how well he did… We leave from a timeout and I say let’s do this and this and we go out there and do exactly the opposite of that. What that means is Roy didn’t do a good enough job of coaching is what it boils down to, but it was panic a little bit and the stage of the game – it’s the stress. I’ve seen some big time players just think ‘oh my gosh, I do not want that ball.’ This is the last stage of the game; this is where you have a chance to go to the Final Four. So there’s a lot of stress involved, but it was a great great run – 32 wins, 61 wins in the last two years and two Elite 8’s and, yes, we would’ve liked to have taken that next step and nobody would’ve liked to have taken that next step more than the coach and the players.”
On the effort and resiliency of the team this year, especially in the last couple of weeks:
“It’s given some other kids the chance to step forward too and that’s the positive thing about it. James Michael [McAdoo] stepping up for John was really big for us and we would’ve liked to have both of them at full speed, there’s no question. And Stilman and ‘J-Watts’ really stepping into a difficult spot, because when we started the season when I took Kendall out, I moved Dexter Strickland back to the point, so he was our back up point guard and then Dexter goes down and we knew it was going to be a little bit of a struggle, but then when Kendall goes down and all of a sudden Stilman is put in that position right there, it’s not a enviable position, but they really did some nice things and different kids stepped up at different times.”
How much impact did not having Kendall Marshall have on the team?
“Non-North Carolina fans are going to say they’re just excuses and the North Carolina fans can make the excuses, but the bottom line is I think we were in the top 20 in fewest turnovers committed. That’s out of 336 teams and we were averaging 12 turnovers a game and we have 24 turnovers in the Ohio game and then turn around and we have some turnovers yesterday, because the guy who handled the ball 90% of the time wasn’t in there. Then Stilman and ‘J-Watts’ haven’t had the experience or the expertise or whatever to get the ball to ‘Z’. For example, in the Ohio game we kept trying to get the ball to ‘Z’, but the guy guarding Stilman would just back off of him and then get in ‘Z’s’ lap. It’s hard to throw it to a guy who’s in the middle of a sandwich.
"So it was difficult getting it to him there and then the other thing I think is Kendall had really started shooting the ball in the hole as well. It started stretching the defense and making them come guard him, so it was a big loss for us and I use the analogy and I think it’s really true. Two years ago Peyton Manning played for the Indianapolis Colts and they were a playoff team. This year Peyton Manning didn’t play for the Indianapolis Colts and it’s just one guy, but they have the first pick in the draft and that’s because they had the worst record in the NFL and they just lost one player.
"That’s the impact that Kendall has, but, as I said, in 10 years from now, it’s going to say in the record book that in 2012 North Carolina lost to Kansas. Not going to have an asterix that says that Kendall was out, John was hurt, Reggie [Bullock] was hurt. That’s not what it’s going to be, so what we tried to do was get our team to focus on whoever’s out there we got to play to the best of our abilities, but it was tough without Kendall and the way we play, you’ve heard me say all the time that I’ve got to have a second point guard that gets some time, because you cannot have scenario the way we play where you have an inexperienced point guard out there, but it’s what we had and, again, John’s injury, he never got back close to the level he was. It was a little bit of those kind of things, again, that anybody but Carolina fans can call them excuses, so it’s what it’s going to be.”
How does the process play out for the guys who may be considering going to play at the next level?
“Well, it’s a scenario that always changes and it’s different from each and every year, but this week I will bring in… John and Kendall and Harrison [Barnes], try to see everybody this week, but I’ll bring those guys in and just see what they’re thinking and then I’ll start my calls around to the NBA teams and get as much information as I can and try to at least get the process started this week, but I would think that some decisions would come quicker than others. Last year I guess it was John and ‘Z’ decided much quicker than Harrison did and who knows. I think it all depends on what those kids say to me and what their parents feel and going from there, but I don’t think it will be long drawn out and I think, as you said on the break, I think it’s only two to three weeks before they have to make up their mind anyways.”
Why do you think Harrison Barnes struggled down the stretch, particularly without Kendall Marshall?
“Well, I think our whole team struggled without Kendall, not just Harrison. We struggled in the Ohio game, but, again, one thing that we have to understand, the other team has something to do with how everybody plays and I think that one of the things Kansas did, they put their best defender on Harrison. I think they feel like Releford is their best defender and that’s the guy that covered Harrison. They stayed away from playing our big guys outside and anytime Harrison got the ball they tried to clog any driving lanes that he had. I think he would be the first to tell you he would’ve liked to have made more shots and, yet, you have to give the defense credit and difference in our style of play when we changed the point guard that is not a threat from the outside or is not a threat to score himself.”
What is the best way to attack a triangle and two defense?
“Two ways. One, don’t say anything to them and I’m being very serious. Coach Smith used to say don’t tell them they’re running a triangle and two or a box and one, just keep moving and everything will be okay. I went to Kansas as the head coach, we were playing Colorado in the second half and Kevin Pritchard, who later became the general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers, is my point guard. He comes over and says ‘Coach, are they running a triangle and two?’ I say, ‘yeah shut up and don’t tell anybody else’ and if you go look at Kansas basketball history, the highest field goal percentage we ever shot for a half was the second half of the Colorado game and four out of the five guys on the court didn’t even know what defense they were playing.
"In our philosophy we need to move past the screen and move ourselves intelligently and move the ball intelligently… during the course of the game we thought they had changed defenses twice and really no more than that and the other time they played very very effective man-to-man defense. We really pride ourselves in trying to guard people and trying to hold people under 40% [shooting] and I think at the end of the year, I think we were 39.4% is what teams shot against us and Kansas was sixth in the country at 37.8% or something, so they’re really a good defense team regardless of what team and they had the big fella inside that made two big blocks in the last three minutes of the game.”
Do you have plans for homecoming games for any guys on the team next year?
“Next year, we’re having a homecoming for Roy in Maui. That’s where I’m going to be one of these days. But our schedule, I think we have only two games left to make decisions on, but I’m drawing a blank. I know we go play Texas at Texas. I know we stop and play Long Beach State in Long Beach on the way to Maui, but I don’t think we have any other players ‘home games’ scheduled.”
What does your schedule look like in the next few weeks and months?
“I’m going to try and sleep at night. We’ll see if that’ll happen. They changed the rules back to what we had several years ago, so April we have two weekends that are recruiting periods, so we’ll be on the road recruiting during that time. We’ll have some other days, as I said, I’ll go out later this week. You don’t recruit during the Final Four and the next week we’ll be able to get back out a little bit. Recruiting is – you’re always aware of that and what’s going on, so we’ll be doing that and trying to get everybody’s plans about what they’re going to do, where they’re going to be doing it and all this as soon as spring semesters over with. It’s a pretty hectic time.
"May is the only time that as a college coach you can really catch your breath, so if you don’t catch your breath in May you’re done and last year I did the absolute worse job I’ve ever done in my life during my life in May, because I said yes to too many things and so I’ve really tried to protect May a little bit more this year. So for me, I hope I can protect May and get there with my grandsons and play around with them a little bit and tee it up and win a few dollars from some of the guys that I associate with. Some of the sorriest individuals on the face of the earth, but that’s what I’ll be trying to get done in May.”
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