"Congratulations to Miami, it continues to be a phenomenal year for them. They won the regular season, and then validated it by winning a conference tournament as well and it's just a great, great year. But down there they have four guys in double figures. They're really a big time basketball team. Shane Larkin is hard to handle out top, he's phenomenal, he really is. He's probably the most effective player in our league. He just does so much to help their team and puts pressure on the other team. He plays hard defensively.
"Everybody knows their roles, they take what role they have and they do a great job with it. Trey McKinney Jones and Rion Brown getting 32 between them… It's guys you talk about, it's Miami's guys you talk about, you talk about Larkin and then you talk about Durand Scott, and you should. And you talk about Kadji and Gamble and you should, and those guys stepped up for them big today and 12-for-22 from 3 point line it's just hard to handle, but again congratulations to them. It's a phenomenal year and I thought the way Larkin played today he was the best player in the league.
"Everybody on their team did when they were supposed to do. And guys I got no problem with my team, I got nothing to complain about with my team today. I'm really proud of my team. I'm not talking about the entire year, I'm talking about today. Unbelievably proud of what they have accomplished and how far they have come when everybody was abandoning ship earlier. I'm really proud of my team, and the way they played today. We had a mix up on an out of bounds defense and they don't have to make the three from the corner, but they made the three from the corner and we came down and the next possession, P.J. shot, came all the way down and all the way back out. My team was aggressive, attentive, and yes we made a couple of mistakes, but that's the fame of basketball. I feel very lucky to be the coach of my team. "
Attention turns so quickly to the brackets but you
seemed emotional about this today, am I right? That it seems like
it's an emotional thing for you?
"Well, it is, there is no question about that.. Ninety percent of the people in this room abandoned ship; 95 percent of our fans did. Nobody knows how hard these kids have worked and you get right here and you would like them to be rewarded even more. Un, it is a weird day. I told my guys I didn't ever want to walk in there and say okay, guys, it's over with, we'll see the selection show on TV at 6pm because I want guys to hurt and learn from it. So if we get an opportunity again it will be even more important to them.
"But it's always important to me, you don't get that many chances to be a tournament champion of the ACC. As each game goes by it's closer and closer to the season being over with and that's hard to do, too."
Coach, the way your team played in the last month,
wasn't it deeper than just the lineup change?
"I think the lineup change is something that just happened. Talks too much about coaching. Every one of my players got better and that was the biggest deal. Each individual got better in what we were trying to get them to do and that was the bigger story to me than the lineup change. Yes, we did that because we thought it would give us a better chance to win but, Marcus is better now than he was in December, James Michael is better than he was in December, Reggie, Dexter, you can go on down the line, P.J., and the credit should be given to those kids who really worked extremely hard to get better."
They don't give trophies for it but do you feel a sense
of satisfaction? They were right there at the end."
"I get satisfaction in my team improving, and it was anybody's ballgame. I don't watch the score that much but it was anybody's ballgame with five minutes to play. Again, you have to congratulate them. Dan's question was a good question but it's not just what did North Carolina fail to do. That other team has a say in the game, too and you have to congratulate them. Shane Larkin is a pro. Whenever he decides to do it and that's not a sly way of me trying to get him to leave by any means, I wish he would catch a 24-hour cold when they play us, but he's a phenomenal player, you got to give him credit. You've got to give Gamble credit. The first half of the game he kept setting screens, setting screens, and then all the sudden the second half he found some openings in the slit, and they got the ball to them, and got offensive rebounds for baskets, so you have to congratulate their team but I'm proud of how my team got better, I'm proud of those kids."
Coach, Coach Larranaga three decades ago was
an assistant in this league, on the losing end of a couple of title
games. You've known him for a long time, but he's taken a
different course to get to this day. What can you tell us about
him that is different and unique what's interesting about his
story of his age, coming into this league and winning a title in
his second year?
"Jimmy has done a fantastic job. Those kids have bought into what Jimmy wanted to do, and they're experienced and they're talented. They could have resisted but they bought into what he wants to do, and I think that's the true sign of a coach that can get players to buy in for a common goal.
"That's the most significant thread, you know. Whether a different path to get here or not, you know, I'm sure Jimmy had some opportunities from Western Kentucky, George Mason. He might have been able to leave earlier, but he was happy where he was. When he was an assistant, I was a calendar salesman at that time. They let me come and sit on the bench and practice every day, but I was a dog gone calendar salesman. I don't think anybody went the same path I did. You have to congratulate him. He's a very intelligent man. He cares about the kids, it's not just about the number of points and the rebounds. He's the kind of coach that you would want your son to play for, and that's a big of a complement as another coach can give."
Coach, you mentioned the people who, as you
put it, "abandoned ship" or gave up on this team. Was there
a moment or a day or a week that you saw something or had a
message that got this ship, in your sense, righted?
"Not really. You know, being a basketball player at North Carolina is wonderful, but it's also very tough because the expectations never change. We had four guys drafted in the top-17 picks and everybody thought we were supposed to be better this year than we were last year, so that's a good thing but it's a tough thing. I don't know that I would say I'll give you two times, okay, and I don't know which one is more important or even if they are. We're 0-2 and we play at Florida State and we competed our rear ends off and all of the sudden we made a couple of plays down the stretch and we win. That was huge for us, told us we had a chance. Then I think the other time was after the game when we played Miami and Duke back to back and everybody is going to say it was the lineup but it was the kids. It really was.
"They accepted when we were trying to get them to do and tried to play more intelligence and with a greater sense of urgency and we go on a streak there but I would say both of those times would be the ones that I would pick."