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It was a heck of a finish to say the least. We've played four games against Duke since our staff came back, and all four of them have gone down to the last minute. It's been a little wild the last two. They were able to get us three times in a row, so maybe the moon was just right. It was our chance.
I love the competitiveness of our team. We were down nine [points] inside three minutes. I told them if they'd make a total commitment to every possession on the defensive end and every possession on the offensive end that we'd have a chance still at the end. I think that's what they did.
Needless to say, we are also very fortunate. We were going to try to foul when there were 38 seconds left, yet we ended up with a loose ball. We ended up getting that and had a chance to get a timeout. We tried to make a play. We were not going to hold down to the last second. We were going to try to make something happen and then have a chance to tip it in or have a chance to extend the game if we did not score.
Raymond made a nice move, got fouled, made the free throw and then just--probably one of the most impressive things the whole game was how aggressively Raymond went after the offensive rebound on his own missed free throw. Then Marvin came up with it--that's talent, not coaching. Marvin came up with it and was able to put the ball back in the basket, made the free throw and then we were fortunate that they missed. We didn't do a great job. I wanted to limit it to just one shot.
As I talked about all year long in practice, we've worked on must-stop somebody. We say we MUST stop. We've got to get two must-stops in a row. At the timeout, that's what we talked about--we've got to stop them and finish it by getting the rebound. We gave them a second opportunity, but Sean was able to get that last one, and 26 points, 24 rebounds is a big time effort. I've had some players who have had some unbelievable efforts, and that was one of them.
I can't say enough positive things about Duke. They've had some problems this year with injuries, but those guys that stay on the court for them are 100 percent heart; I have nothing but total respect for them and the job that Mike [Krzyzewsik] does I feel very, very lucky and very fortunate to have won.
You had probably your most dramatic stomp of the game today. Do you think your team needed an injection of energy at any point?
I felt like there a couple of times I wanted to try to see if I could help them, but that means that coaches are taking credit and that is not what I'm trying to do. There is no question I was into the game. I think that was pretty evident. I did ask them for a total commitment.
Somebody told me one time that every game somebody gives in. I don't think either one of those teams gave in today, but I asked my team to not bring anything back to the locker room. In those last three minutes I promised them that we'd have a chance and we'd be there, but--I'm tired.
The tradition of cutting down the nets after the regular season--is that something you normally do, or is that something specifically for the kids who have been through so much here the last four years?
You know, I'm big on letting kids celebrate. We'll be criticized for it, but everything you do in coaching you are going to be criticized for--somebody is not going to like it and that is part of it. But I'm big on kids enjoying themselves, I'm big on kids celebrating, I'm big on kids thanking the fans. The idea of letting the kids talk to them after the game, I stole that from Coach Knight at Indiana with their players.
We were fortunate enough to win nine conference championships in 15 years at Kansas, and most of the time--we'd never try to insult anybody by doing it on the road--when we were at home we'd cut down the nets because I think it's OK in college athletics to let kids have fun. It's not an insult to anybody else. If other people don't like doing it, that's fine. And then the other part of it is those three seniors, 8-20 and I think they deserved to have some fun. Again, I know that everybody is not going to be 100 percent behind it, but that's their prerogative just like it's my prerogative.
Coach Smith told me--I've asked him several question--he said 'You are the boss." So said that we are going to cut down the dadgum nets 'cause our kids enjoyed it. College athletics has got to be about fun.
You talked about the last three minutes and the effort. Do you belive in defining moments, and if so, was that one?
I believe in luck. (Chuckle) I believe in the stars and the moon and everything aligned. I don't know who won the golf tournament today, Phil [Mickelson] or Tiger [Woods]--Tiger did?--I did get it taped. I need some enjoyment myself.
But, I don't know about a defining moment. Sometimes I think things should happen just because it is right. And I think that Jackie, Melvin, and Jawad ought to have a day like this, because not team had ever gone 8-20 around here. They were not only criticized for their athleticism and basketball ability, they were criticized for a lot of other things that happened after that.
What is it that makes someone so good on the offensive glass?
A nose for the ball, a want-to, a want to go get it. [He has] maybe the best pair of hands I've ever been around. The idea that he can get the ball three or four feet away--some players can get every rebound right on top of them, but a lot of players can't get one that is three, four, five feet away. He can. He's 6-8 is all he is, but he plays a full 6-8 all the time because his hands are so active going after it.
How important was Raymond Felton down the stretch?
We don't win without him, so I guess he's really important. I think that everybody that was out there was extremely important. David Noel got a deflection, Jackie took the ball to the basket, Jawad got a big tip in, Marvin makes the last play, Raymond makes a driving layup, makes the free throw, knocks the ball loose. North Carolina won that game today; it wasn't about any individuals.
When you preach belief and the first time they actually hang in there, hang in there, something good happens, is there a tangible quantum leap that you see after that where they know they can do it because they have done it?
I think the biggest worry for me was that we hadn't ever done it. I felt like sometimes at Kansas that we were going to win just because we knew we were going to win. I really believe that. That may be what you are saying. It's like playing golf: the more birdies you make, the more you make. And I think in basketball, the more you win, the more you win. The difficult thing in college basketball is the other teams have a right to say something about the winner also, and it this league they have a big part in saying who wins.
I think it is important to win. I think the confidence that the kids get, knowing what can be accomplished and not to hang their heads. I yelled at one of the players today because he hung his head during the timeout. I said, 'Don't do that to me, because this dadgum thing is not over with. Don't you put your head down.' I think the more you win, the more you realize that you can come back, you can come back.
Looking back at the last Duke game, you almost won in Durham, but you finished the job here. Is that fortunate bounces, or has your team progressed?
I think probably a little bit of both. I'm just being honest. I thought we were going to win the game in Durham and we botched it up about as badly as you can. I felt very fortunate to be there to have a shot to win it at the end, but we botched it up. Then today, we made some plays, but I think we were fortunate. And then I think there is some determination that the guys really had to go get the basketball.
What was different, if anything, in the second half versus the second half, defending J.J. Redick?
He missed some shots. We tried to focus on him a little more. We tried to talk in terms of making it more difficult for him to get the ball. But he missed some shots. I think a key for us was the fact that we had David and Jackie both chasing him, so that's two guys chasing one. That means that they get a little rest.
He's unbelievably difficult to guard. He's always in motion, he's such a great shooter with range, he has gotten so much better over the last year putting the ball on the floor and getting people in foul trouble as well. We ran three guys at him, what's he do? He drops it down to Shelden, Shelden lays it up and we foul him. Whether or not it had anything to do with it or not, I wanted to keep those two guys chasing, chasing, chasing, and hopefully at the end he might not have as much legs as he would if you didn't make him work as hard.
How important was it to be outright ACC Champions?
I think it was important today to win today because of all of the emotion. I think we would have been able to survive. We would have continued to play. But I think it's fitting and I think it was important for them to win on Senior Day, no question.
What are the positives and the pitfalls going into the ACC and NCAA Tournaments on a high like this?
I always look at the positives. I don't know the pitfalls. Duke might be on iota more determined because maybe we were determined by one iota because we didn't win at Durham.
But I think you get more from the positive side of it. We know we are going into--hopefully for us--a three-day struggle. It's going to be very difficult. We have a lot of incentive, Duke has a lot of incentive, Wake has a lot of incentive. The ACC Tournament is a party for the fans, but it is sure not a party for the players and coaches.
What about going into the NCAA Tournament as a #1 seed if things keep going?
I'm interested in getting me a frickin' hot fudge sundae with nuts and a Coca-Cola--yeah, I said that word again. Right now--Mary Schottenheimer is a good friend who says you should enjoy every win until midnight, so let me enjoy that. I still do not know one site of the first or second round, other than Charlotte--so don't tell me. I like that line, and I want to continue using it.
What about the bad stretch of offense you had in the second half?
We had shots, too. To be honest, we didn't finish plays around the basket. They were stronger finishing plays around the basket. We were more timid, not as aggressive, and give Duke credit. Shelden blocks shots, Shavlik blocks shots. They made it difficult. They got back in and got one of Sean's as he was bringing it up. We weren't finishing plays around the basket. And at that point, I thought that was the biggest difference in the game. They were finishing plays and we were not finishing plays.
In one of the timeouts, I said 'Somebody has to have enough guts to step up and make a shot, 'cause you are playing your tail off on the defensive end, but you have got to have enough guts to step up and make a shot. We were 1-11 from the three-point line, and we can really shoot the basketball. I think give their defense some credit too.