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Part I (6:15)
Part II (13:54)
“We’re ecstatic. It is one of the greatest feelings as a coach -- the look on your guys’ face when they accomplish something, especially when it was difficult and needless to say against Villanova and again today, against Wisconsin. It was very difficult and I'm extremely proud of our seniors, and the three juniors up here for going through some rather difficult times and being able to focus today and at halftime, it wasn’t the most pleasant locker room we’ve had and I was pretty animated and they listened to what I said and not necessarily the manner in which I said it. And came out and Wisconsin scores the first five points, and they didn’t put their head down. They kept playing. And these guys right here, after they had gone on their run, we went on a 14-0 run and the toughness kicked in and we made plays down the stretch. Besides that, let’s let these youngsters talk.”
Coach, could I get to you answer the same question that Sean did. You came back to North Carolina presumably to get the program back to the Final Four. What does it mean to get your alma mater there?
“Well, it’s special. There is no question about that. But, I tell you folks, I loved my 15 years at Kansas. I loved the feeling that I had those four times there. It’s only different because it was so emotional to leave Kansas to start with. And it was so emotional what the kids had gone through at North Carolina. So it had been a really difficult situation. Last year, I’ve gone on record saying it was the most difficult year I’ve had in coaching. There were just so many emotions tearing all the time. The players, trying to get them to understand the name on the front of the shirt as opposed to the name on the back, and all of those little things. But, tonight when I sit back and think about it a little more, it might be something special just because I did go to school at North Carolina. But I tell you, University of Kansas gave me a chance, and so they’ll never be anything negative crossing my lips or brain about that any place is more special. But I did go to school at North Carolina. My wife went to school there, my son went to school there, my daughter went to school there. I grew up at North Carolina, my high school coach who was the most influential person to me -- my mother was my hero -- but my high school coach was the most influential person and he wanted me to go to North Carolina, and it is special.”
Roy, are you happy that you got two tough games here? There were a lot of people that thought you might not have, and is that a good thing that you got two very tough games?
“I expected it. Somebody said, 'David almost beat Goliath' the other night. Once you get to the Sweet 16 there’s no David, no Goliaths, period. Everybody is really, really good. And so I didn’t look at that part of it. I did look that we had some very difficult games during the stretch of our regular season and lose the three-pointer to Georgia Tech in the second day of the ACC, so I felt like we had close games, and I did not think that we would panic, because we hadn’t had close games but I’ll agree with you that, sitting back as a coach, you like to see the kids step up and make plays and make free throws because you know the games are going to be close and that this gives you more confidence to do that again the next time.”
Coach, obviously the seniors are ecstatic because of what they’ve gone through to get to the Final Four. Is there any parallel to the ‘91 team because they had gone through probation, and just how much it meant. Can you draw -- I know it is sort of different but -- is there a similar feeling because of what they went through?
“It was another year removed from any problems, and that made it different right there. Mark Randall, Mike Maddux, I was trying to think, you know, they may have been the only guys that had been there for the championship at Kansas. But I think it’s different. I think at that point, they won the national championship, and the coach left and went to the NBA for a lot of money. There were no hard feelings. It was difficult that first year because of the probation that we couldn’t go back to the tournament even if they had chosen us to. But, I don’t think that there are many similarities. I think this, and the other thing you have to understand is this group of kids rightly, wrongly, whatever, had been -- there had been negative things said about them about 'player involvement' or all of those kinds of things. So it had been more difficult for these kids than it was at Kansas.”
Can you describe your emotions when you hugged Jackie and Jawad and talk about the reward they got today, part of the reward they may end up getting later?
“You know, I’m pretty emotional. And that was a special feeling. Those kids went through a lot. Those kids went through something that no one at North Carolina had ever done. And I saw that from a distance. And then when I got there, I saw what kind of kids they were, and it’s special for everybody. It’s special for me and my assistants, our families. But it’s really special for those three kids, and I’ll just leave it at that.”
Coach, you shot 53-percent, took care of the ball, made your free throws, out-rebounded them yet they were in it until the end. What does it say about Wisconsin?
“They are a big time basketball team. They made threes. We talked about how we hoped we didn’t give them extra points on the field goals but allowed them to make as many threes. They only made seven 3-pointers in their last two games but they made 11 today. They made seven in the first half and I thought that one thing we felt like we needed to do was try to get there to guard them - and I don’t know that we ever did that. I think we had three defensive stops in a row at the end and that was the only time in the game that we ever stopped them. I said yesterday if I didn’t coach at the fast pace that I love, I would like to coach and play the way Bo does. Share the ball and move it around until they get the right guys shooting the ball from the right spot. And again, I’m extremely impressed with Wisconsin, and everything that they did this year. And the way they played us today.”
Roy, when Raymond had to go to the bench in the first half, there were couple of possessions where Rashad misfired a couple of times and got tied up, was he forcing things there and if that’s fair to say, could you juxtapose that with the play?
“I jumped him a bit when I took him out in the first half and early in the second half jumped him pretty hard again. And he is so much more mature than even he was last year, much less than what everybody tells me he was before. But what you saw was a mature basketball player who took again what I said, and I told him that’s over with but you have to start playing. And because there were two huge defensive errors and three in the second half. But, looking back on it, everybody says that was really smart. You know, if we don’t come back, all you guys can say how dumb I was taking Raymond out for three minutes and 14 seconds because he had two fouls. I didn’t want to get him his third one. His ankle was bothering him yesterday at practice. I’m weighing the foul trouble and wanting him to rest a bit. So the smart coach takes them out and they go on an 11-0 run in the half. But I did think that it was important for everybody to play better than we did the last few minutes of the first half because we didn’t guard, we went one-on-one, we turned it over and you can’t win games doing that.”
Coach, you’ve got a lot of upperclassmen, some of them are prospects but you have them buying into their roles in the team. Do you see this coming back more into vogue in college basketball, and are we going to see this type of team more in the Final Four now?
“I think you will see it but I think you saw it last year with the Detroit Pistons in the NBA as well. And I think that that’s something that you can talk about, and our team has been discussed as having all of this talent. And it makes no difference because there are other very talented teams. If you don’t play together as a team, share the basketball, play it on the defensive end of the floor and try to cover up for each other, you are not going to win. You can pick any five players that you want in the NBA or college or anything, and if have five other guys that play together as a team, I’ll beat you and I’ll beat you a lot because that’s just the nature of the game. But I do really, not me, I’m not going to the five, maybe sure you understand that., but I think that the five that play together is the ones that are going to do it and I think that our team, we only had two turnovers in the second half. We talked about not turning the ball over and getting shots. We talked about helping each other defensively. And I think that you look down for us to, throughout the course of the season, we’re number one in the nation in assists and that really helps.”
Roy, it looked like you might have been a little woosy near the end of the game. Is that true or what happened?
“No, it started when I was in Babe Ruth league in baseball. I pitch one game and catch the next. And a lot of times I would get up quickly and things blackout a little bit. I’ve been checked more than any human in the world. At Kansas, they sneaked me in after a night in the Emergency Room, did a couple of tests and I don’t know that they were that concerned about me, I think the doctors were worried that I was going to croak on their watch. You know, and they would get them in trouble. But I’ve been doing that since I was 13 years old and I usually try to find something to hold on to or I go down. I told Mike Krzyzewski when we played that happens to me, I’m just a little more athletic than he is I and I don’t fall. [Laughter ] I didn’t really tell him that but I wish I had. He did fall very gracefully though when he fell.”
Roy, North Carolina is in the Final Four, Illinois is there having its best season ever, Louisville, Michigan State or Kentucky. Can you address the quality of the field in St. Louis?
“Illinois I know has been the best team in the country all year long and I don’t think there has been any question about that they’ve played fantastic basketball on both ends of the court. They had one of one of most phenomenal comebacks. My high school coach called me and told me, ‘You might want to watch this,’ I stopped watching the Wisconsin tape and turned it over and watched the last three minutes. And it was an unbelievable win and sometimes you think a team is destined and maybe that’s them. But, for us, we’re ecstatic about being there, Louisville was sensational. They were down somebody said 17, 20. Or somebody said West Virginia made 17 or 18 3’s. And they were down 20 and came back, you know. Rick has won the national championship. I love their team, I was the most stunned person in the world when they were a four-seed and I’m not saying anything bad about the tournament committee but I thought down the stretch they played sensational basketball. They won the regular season, won the conference tournament. I fell sorry for Washington because having that 1-4 match-up was going to be really difficult for them. So the guys that are already there with Illinois and Louisville, they are playing great basketball. Duke and Kentucky, Kentucky and Michigan State, you have two guys that have already won national championships with those teams played great basketball and we feel very fortunate to be there.”
Raymond, 51 seconds left in game, you got fouled very hard. It looked like in the face, and you brought an elbow up. Sean came over to you, and initially kind of brushed him away. What did he say to you to settle you down?
“Sean was telling me to calm down, don’t worry about it, keep your head in the game and concentrate and knock down the free throws.”
Wisconsin went on a 16-0 run and you answered back. Tell me how it was and how you did it.
“We kept our poise the whole game. The team is going to make their run, especially good runs. They’re going to make their runs. They’re going to hit shots, but we have to keep our poise and we have to hit shots and make plays, and make our run too.”
Wisconsin went on a 16-0 run and you answered back. Tell me how it was and how you did it.
“For me personally, I just try not to pay attention to the score. I just try to play every possession. Coach always says ‘do your best every possession.’ The first half we were not good defensively. I think that towards the end of the game, we got really solid defensively, made them take some tough shots, rebounded the ball and we closed the game out.”
Did you think it would be harder or easier or about the same to get a lot of looks against Wisconsin as against other opponents?
“Especially coming from the Big Ten, I thought it would be a lot harder, because growing up in and watching the Big Ten, I know they do a lot of banging. They run the slow pass plays and have a lot of big guys. Mike Wilkinson is a great player. Rashad told me before the game ‘there is no way he’ll be able to guard you, he’s too little.’ I just tried to use that as motivation to get deep in the paint. Raymond got me good lucks. Rashad got me good looks. Coach said we have to try to get Mike out of the game because he’s good and he’s a tough matchup for me. I think him having to play defense and banging the post didn’t allow him to be fully energized for offense. We all know how good he is offensively.”
Could you talk about what it means to get the program back to the Final Four? It seemed as though there was a lot of jubilation on the floor there the end.
“It is an unbelievable feeling. I had to take a step back and I went over to the side and just sat. It just didn’t seem real. Last night I couldn’t sleep. Coach told us today, and in the pre-game meal, ‘don’t think about what is going to happen at the end, and how you’re going to feel if we win, because we still have to go and play.” That’s all I thought about last night, the emotions going over and hugging Coach and hugging Raymond and Rashad. That’s what we talked about when we got here is helping this program come back to the top. The emotions are indescribable. You have to experience it for yourself, but it’s an unbelievable feeling and I just can’t describe it. I can’t put it into words.”
If you had a hard time sleeping, how much did you sleep, and given your workload today, how tired are you?
“We had a late night snack -- probably got out about 11:30. I got to the room, talked to my roommate. I got in bed probably around 12:30, and he went right to sleep. Normally we sleep with the tv on, and I cut it right off. I couldn’t go to sleep until at least 2:15. I was staring at the sky, tossing and turning. I don’t know why, I’ve never been nervous for games and it was just the spotlight and a chance to go to Final Four. I have a lot of energy right now so I’m not too tired right now.”
Sean, I was talking before the game to one of your teammates and he said they were kind of getting on you before, is that what kind of motivated you at the start? You scored eight of the team’s first 10 points -- what was going through your mind at that point?
“That was a bit of motivation, especially at the pre-game meal. The guys were talking about Mike Wilkinson made a tough move against N.C. State and practically broke the guy’s ankle. They said ‘Sean, you might go down tonight and we’ll try to pick up the load.’ I had a different motivation. One was, my dad going to the Final Four, my brother playing on the team that went to the Final Four. I wanted to do that. Coach Robinson has been wearing this awful t-shirt from Kansas when they went to the Final Four, and I told him before the game, ‘if we win, I get to rip it up.’ That was my main motivation.”
You talked a lot about how important Raymond is to this team. Was that illustrated? Do you think both times he was out for a couple of minute stretches when Wisconsin made the runs and when he came back in things seemed to stabilize pretty well?
“I don’t like Raymond when he does that to us, but he’s our floor general, our leader. Everything really goes through him when we’re on the court. He gives you motivation. When he’s out there and he’s doing the things that he does best, we’re clicking on all cylinders. When he’s not out there, we have guys and Melvin is a guy that can come off the bench and fill the hole. Nobody can really replace Raymond Felton, but at the same time, he gives us that same motivation that Raymond does, and he can get the job done with the best of them. We really praised Melvin for getting in there as a senior and really handling the pressure.”
Wisconsin went on a 16-0 run and you answered back. Tell me how it was and how you did it.
“Everything Raymond just said. This is from the 32, to the 16 to the 8. You know it only gets tougher, and teams get smarter, they break down film a lot more. They really scouted us pretty good. When they went on the run, we went on ours. We were a very good offensive team so it is very hard to stop us from scoring when we have threats on the court.”
Can you talk about a couple of blocked shots that you had in the last couple of minutes?
“Coach always told me I needed to pick up my defense especially when we’re playing against great guards. Coach Hollady, one of the assistants, really looked at me and told me that they were going to come right at me. A player can take that as an insult when he thinks that he’s pretty good defender and I just took that as a lot of constructive criticism and took it as motivation, and went out there. I knew they were going to come at me, with the three point shooter and I took it as a defensive sign to shut them down. I feel like I’m good enough defensively to guard anybody. I just blocked the shots and have been at the right place at the right time.”