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    Final Four Friday Press Conference Quotes

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    UCONNHUSKIESDOTCOM

    UCONNHUSKIESDOTCOM

    April 4, 2014

    UConn Head Coach Kevin Ollie

    Q. What did you learn from guys like George Karl, Larry Brown, even Coach Calhoun, about trying to get guys to buy into a certain way of going about their business?

    COACH OLLIE: Just every day having the consistency. We look at it as you can be a pro or you can be a professional. A pro just does it in convenient times. A professional does it in inconvenient times and convenient times. You do it over and over again, and it becomes habit.

    That's what I try to put on my team each and every day, to get better at something. If we can do that, we'll get better and we'll win games and we'll win together. I learned that from George Karl. I learned that from Larry Brown, of course Larry Brown, because he's a perfectionist. He wants you to do certain things the right way, and especially the things you can control, which is your attitude and the way you show up each and every day. I learned that from him because without him I wouldn't be here.

    Q. Each coach coming into this Final Four is a unique story. I'm curious about for you, the expectations that you have dealt with in following a legend and how that compares with the expectation that is John Calipari's had with this talented historic recruiting class.

    COACH OLLIE: Yeah, I can't speak for John. I can speak for myself. Having this ability to coach this program has been great. I don't look at it like a lot of people look at it, that I'm replacing Coach Calhoun. Coach Calhoun is still beside me. He's in front of me. He's behind me. I've locked arms with coach because what he's put inside of me and his belief system in me is something I'm going to always have great gratitude about.

    Of course this is my program now, and I have to do certain things that's according to my core values, of course. But just going forward, just marching and believing in the program. I think that's what gets us through.

     

     

    But Coach Calhoun has done a great job. My story and filling his shoes, I can never fill Coach Calhoun's shoes. I can never build a program to a Top 10 program each and every year. This program has already been built. But I want us to sustain it. I want to get it to another level. That another level is not about winning championships, it's about creating great young men so they can go out there in their community after they leave the Storrs campus and be ambassadors of their family, of their name and also this great university.

    So that's what I believe in. It's a special feeling being up here and being in the Final Four. But like I said, I'm not chasing championships. I want championships to chase me. I want to do it the right way, and that's providing my student athletes with a great platform for them to succeed each and every day.

    Q. In your two years as the head coach, how much has it helped to have such a connection to UConn on your staff as well as the older players who come back and impart wisdom on your current guys?

    COACH OLLIE: Oh, it's invaluable. I can't put a price tag on it. I can go through my coaching staff, two of my coaches coached me. Glen Miller coached me my freshman year, my sophomore year when I didn't know anything. I'm just walking around as a freshman and trying to find my way, and Coach Calhoun's screaming at me and I didn't understand what he was saying, and I'm very glad Glen was there. Now he's on my staff.

    Coach Hobbs came in after Glen left and he coached me my junior and senior year. That's when I really started taking off as a point guard and really establishing myself as a basketball player and a point guard. I loved those guys to death. To see them on my staff now, and then couple that with the younger coaches that I got on my staff, two of the guys played on our 1999 National Championship team.

    So my coaching staff, I tell them they're the best in America because they young, but they're all UConn guys. They all graduated. They all got their degrees from UConn. It's a beautiful synergy that we have because we all have that common denominator that we played for UConn. We know what it takes to put that jersey on and the pride that we are playing for each and every night.

    Q. Kasey Hill didn't play the last time when you guys beat Florida in December. What sort of problems does he present in contrast to maybe Scottie Wilbekin when Kasey Hill is in the game?

    COACH OLLIE: Kasey, with his speed, his ability to make plays, Scottie does the same thing, but it gives them an opportunity, kind of like us, where we can play 2 point guards at the same time. They didn't have that option when they played us last time. I don't think I had the option of Terrence Samuel either, because he wasn't playing a lot. Now I can put three point guards out there.

    So it's a different game. That was four months ago. We're a different team. I'm a different coach. Billy Donovan's definitely got better understanding his team and what it takes for his team to win. So it's going to be a whole different game. But Kasey Hill is a wonderful player.

    Now they got Chris Walker back in the rotation, which they didn't have before. It's going to be a challenge for us. We have to play our A game. I've been telling the guys we don't have a B or C game. We just got an A game and that's what we got to bring each and every night when you step out on the floor and play in the NCAA tournament.

    Q. Talk about Shabazz and his experience here and how that's going to help him. Then also how he can impart some wisdom on some of the younger guys, since he's been here before?

    COACH OLLIE: He's doing that. We call it, 'under the waterline,' a lot of things that a lot of people don't see. He gets those guys together. The big word that we use in our program is ownership. He's taken ownership of his team, and every player that puts that UConn jersey on has taken ownership.

    I can coach, but them guys coach me. They own the court. I listen to their advice a lot of times and we can make adjustments, and that's the ownership that we have. Where a guy can challenge his teammates and no one takes it personal. We're trying to get better as a group.

    I've seen them grow in that area of ownership throughout the year, and it's at the peak right now. Where I can come in, and Shabazz is already doing drills, already out there with the fellows. I'm like, Man!

    I call him my unpaid coach, and that's for a reason, because he has a coaching mentality. Me and him think the same. He knows when to get on guys, but then he knows when to back off of guys, too. I think that's the evolution of him as a leader. He's getting better and better each and every day. I couldn't think of another point guard that I really give the keys to and let drive the bus, because he does it wonderfully for me and my program.

    Phillip Nolan, Sophomore, Forward

    On the team's free-throw shooting drills ...
    "Probably five times during a practice, we have to make at least 17 free throws in a minute or you will have to run. Even after practice, we all shoot free throws. Literally, if you walk into a practice, you will see someone shooting free throws. It's part of his (UConn Coach Kevin Ollie's) game plan. Literally, we just do it, just to do it. Ever since the first day of practice, we have done it at least four-to-five times, sometimes even more. I know it is working. Whatever the goal they are trying to teach us, we are definitely learning."

    On Niels Giffey's beard ...
    "Personally, I feel he should cut it, but we are winning. Literally, the whole team said, `If we win the championship, we all want you to cut it.' I don't think he will cut it. That's his style and we will go with that."

    DeAndre Daniels, Junior, Forward

    On Florida having not lost since 23 days before Christmas ...
    "They are high right now. They are playing great basketball. They are sharing the basketball. They are all playing hard. They haven't lost since then. It will be really tough. We feel great, because we will follow our game plan that our coaching staff has for us. We are going to go out there and play hard. I feel like nobody is playing harder than us right now. We are just out there having fun and not playing for ourselves, but playing for each other." On why he has been able to step up his game in NCAA Tournament play ...

    "Just playing even harder, having fun and not thinking about the game. Just letting it come to me easily. As I said, everybody on our team is playing great basketball at the right time of the year. We are just mainly having fun and going out there and playing UConn basketball."

    Niels Giffey, Senior, Guard/Forward

    On elevating his defense in the NCAA Tournament ...
    "That's (defense) one of the things that our program is all about and I realized my freshman year early. When it comes to these tournaments, you can run your plays and you can scout the opponent, but, it really comes down to toughness on defense. You have to lock down on their best guy. It's not really about watching tape many times before. It's really about the hustle of the game and the intensity. That's something you can bring every day. For example, my shot wasn't falling in our last game, but I could still influence the game in other ways. We always find our way through defense, toughness and rebounding."

    On international play preparing him for the NCAA Tournament...
    "The intensity of the game and the competition level, because I played against the best guys in Europe every summer since I was 16 years old. It gives you a second season after you club team, so it gives you another way to play at a high level." On being the last team to beat Florida..

    "It definitely gives you the confidence to know that you can beat this team. But it has been a while, and both teams have developed different characteristics throughout the tournament and the last part of the season. It's going to be a whole different game, so we look forward to that game in a confident way. We'll definitely approach it in a different way. We're not going to approach this like this is a team we've already beat. It's just a Final Four game for us."

    Shabazz Napier, Senior, Guard

    On UConn's defensive prowess in the NCAA Tournament...
    "We understand that we have to be mentally there on the defensive end. Shots may not fall for us offensively, but if we hang our hats on the defensive end, we have something to fall back on. We understand that we have to be more in depth with our understanding of who we are guarding. We have to stick together and communicate. Lately, we have been communicating much better on defense, and I think that is one of the main reason why our defense has been much better."

    On Florida's Defense...
    "Florida's defense is good because they communicate as well. I remember playing against them, and they did a heck of a job of stopping our penetration and limiting our big guys' touches, especially DeAndre [Daniels]. They communicate so well with each other. Patrick Young, their big guy, [Casey] Prather, Chris Walker, [Dorian Finney] Smith. They have some long and athletic guys that can disrupt a lot of shots and disrupt passes. When you have that as well as communication, you have a great defensive team. We are going to have to do our job of swinging the ball around as much as we can and try to be disruptive. It's going to be tough. They have won 30 games straight, and when you have that confidence you understand how to win because you've been in the situation before."

    On returning to UConn for his senior season...
    "I had a decision to make. I sat down with my family and my mother reminded me of the promise I made [to get my college degree]. The biggest thing I can do is show her that I'm going to keep my promise. She's been with me through all my life, and she had many excuses to give up, but, she didn't. She kept pushing and believing in her children. I feel like I set a promise that I had to keep, and that's the biggest thing she always did with us - she kept her promises. I have no regrets on coming back. This is a special thing when you get your degree. Getting a degree at a four-year university is special. That's something that no one can take from you. When that day comes when I walk the stage at Gampel Pavilion it's going to be a tremendous feeling to see my mother and give her a hug."

    On touring AT&T Stadium in January...
    "[Coach Kevin Ollie] did it to motivate us. I think that is the biggest reason. The second reason, everyone knows that Coach Ollie is a Dallas Cowboys fan. It was definitely a motivational thing. He wanted us to feel the atmosphere even though there was no one there besides us. Looking around at the empty seats and envisioning there was people there rooting you on. We realized once we got on the bus and talking with each other that we could do this if we work hard." Ryan Boatright, Junior, Guard

    On the NBA...
    "It's a lifetime dream to go to the NBA, so when I came to college that was goal, and it still is my goal to get to the NBA. But you've got to understand that patience is a virtue. There are a lot of kids that try to make the jump too early, and a lot of times it doesn't work out for them. They end up stuck in Europe or in the D-League, and once you get to those places it can be really tough to get back to the NBA. If you want to go to the NBA the best place to make the jump is from college. I'm just trying to become the best player I can be."

    On Touring AT&T Stadium in January...
    "We were excited about coming here because it's called the "Billion Dollar Play Pen" and the "Biggest Arena in the World", so we were excited. And we knew that coach was bringing us here to lift our spirits. We were coming off three bad games - terrible games, actually - so, we knew that we had to get back on track pull everybody back together and this was going to be the start of it."

    Ryan Boatright, Junior, Guard

    On the NBA...
    "It's a lifetime dream to go to the NBA, so when I came to college that was goal, and it still is my goal to get to the NBA. But you've got to understand that patience is a virtue. There are a lot of kids that try to make the jump too early, and a lot of times it doesn't work out for them. They end up stuck in Europe or in the D-League, and once you get to those places it can be really tough to get back to the NBA. If you want to go to the NBA the best place to make the jump is from college. I'm just trying to become the best player I can be."

    On Touring AT&T Stadium in January
    "We were excited about coming here because it's called the "Billion Dollar Play Pen" and the "Biggest Arena in the World", so we were excited. And we knew that coach was bringing us here to lift our spirits. We were coming off three bad games - terrible games, actually - so, we knew that we had to get back on track pull everybody back together and this was going to be the start of it."

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