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April 5, 2009
Tar Heel Sunday Q and A
Roy Williams addressed the media.DETROIT - A little less than 24 hours before they'll take the court at Ford Field for the national championship game against Michigan State, North Carolina's five starters and head coach
COACH WILLIAMS: First of all, we're having a slight disagreement up here, because if I'm doing this now, don't expect me to stay around for 30 minutes after they leave. I have more important things to do than stand around here and make fun. Give you 30 minutes, I love doing it, but there's some other things I could be doing. They'll fire him, they won't fire me. Unless they lose and they don't like it, they'll fire me.
Q. There's been a lot of talk about Michigan State being a team of destiny. They're a very good basketball team in and of itself. How do you fight against both of those?
COACH WILLIAMS: We don't fight one that you can't control, and that's what people say and think. But we're going to try to fight and compete against Michigan State's team out on the court. I said yesterday, I love what they're doing, the positive feelings they're putting across this state. I love the people of North Carolina and the positive feelings we can put across that state, too.
Q. I know you have a great respect for Tom Izzo. He just said in the game in December, if they have Suton, play perfect, they still lose by 20. Buying it?
COACH WILLIAMS: No. But Tommy can sell. Doesn't mean I have to buy.
We did, we caught them at an absolute perfect time. Again, three games down in Florida, come back here, one day, play us the next day. Didn't have (Goron) Suton. Delvon (Roe) wasn't full speed by that time. But the bottom line is, I personally don't think that that game will have much, if anything, to do with the game that we play Monday night.
Q. Fairly or unfairly, how much do you think Tyler's career will be judged to some degree on tomorrow night?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think it would be unfair if that's the only thing that people judged it on. You got to judge it on the body of work and what the young man has done. There have been some great coaches who haven't been able to get to a Final Four. There have been some great players. Did Ernie Banks ever win a World Series? There's been some big-time things out there. That's probably older than most of you guys are. I could probably come up with a more recent example.
But I don't think you can do that. I don't think it would be fair. I would have trouble agreeing or even carrying on a good conversation with anyone that would look at it that way.
Q. A lot of people are talking about that December 3rd game, that Michigan State is a lot different. How is your team different now than it was back in December?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think we're better. I think we're better defensively. We also are healthier. I think we're playing our best basketball of the year. Ty is the only one I stay concerned about health-wise.
But, you know, at this point there's only two teams left playing. All that other stuff is a bunch of hogwash. Every time I say that, Ty Lawson says, What is hogwash (smiling)? I do believe that's all it is.
Whoever plays the best on Monday night, that will determine the outcome of the game, not what happened in December. I didn't know Ty was in here, but he probably grinned when I said that.
Q. Programs have institutional memories. I'm curious how you see your role as caretaker of the Carolina program. In what ways do you see your own personality and your own beliefs reflected in this particular team?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, to be the caretaker of North Carolina's program, I'll probably sit back and reflect on that a lot more when I stop. Right now, I just feel very fortunate to be part of it, even if it's a very small part.
It's been my life for 10 years as an assistant, now six years as a head coach, and five years as a student. That was to get my Masters degree. I didn't take me five years to graduate. Let's get that straight (smiling).
But, you know, looking at the team, I think every team does have some personality of their coach. I think I'm fairly competitive, demanding. I think our players understand that part of it. And I'm hopeful they'll be that way the rest of their lives, that they can get something from me other than just basketball. I hope it's something more important than a term like 'hogwash.'
Q. Tyler, when you played them obviously last time Suton wasn't there. He's talked a lot about your game earlier today. When you look at Michigan State, you add him to the mix from when you played them last time, how does that make things a little bit different for you?
TYLER HANSBROUGH: Well, Suton I think is a guy that, you know, is capable of shooting a 15-foot jumper and is a pretty good shooter outside. So it adds a little bit different aspect than some guys down low banging all the time. I understand he goes to the boards, is a good rebounder, but you also have to contest him outside.
Q. Coach, can you reflect a little bit on your journey with Danny, his personal story, from your vantage point, to have his dad at this Final Four?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think it is a personal thing that was dealt with probably way too much when it happened, for sure for his family. Young Danny is a youngster that I love dearly, who I have probably stayed on as hard as anybody I've ever coached. I may have pushed as hard, I may have demanded as much. And yet I'm hopeful that as time goes on, he'll say that that was a pretty good distraction that kept him from thinking of other things. At the same time he'll look at it as me trying to help him be the best player that he can possibly be.
But I cannot imagine any young man handling a situation any better than Danny Green handled what was happening with his family. At the same time, I cannot imagine any father having any more love for his son, being concerned in wanting to be here.
Big Danny is going to be the happiest person in the crowd. He was on Saturday and he will be on Monday. The only way he can be any happier is if his son played his tail off and we won.
It's a marvelous family. Shoot, I've been hard on Danny at times. I can't imagine any youngster handling it any better than he did.
Q. There's a perception of Michigan State that they've gotten here with more grit and will than talent. The talent they have on that team, is that something people overlook? Delvon Roe is somebody you recruited. Tyler, when you look at this team, can you talk about their talent from a physical standpoint.
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, they are talented, there's no question. But playing hard is a talent, as well. People that describe Michigan State's team like that, that's the way people describe Tyler. They say, Well, he just works hard. Well, duh. That's okay to do that, too.
I think Tyler Hansbrough is extremely talented. I think this Michigan State is extremely talented. They bring their lunch pails when they come. They work at it.
TYLER HANSBROUGH: They're definitely talented. They have the Big-10 Player of the Year, defensive Player of the Year. They have very good guys, and they also, when you combine that with people who work hard, I think it's a good combination. It's what makes them tough.
Q. Coach, you have a lot of experience with teams that were expected to win. Can you talk about the difficulties of that championship or "bust" in some people's mind? A lot of you returned for this moment. Address those two things.
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, there has been a target on our back. People I think got a little carried away when they're talking about undefeated teams, these kind of things that I don't think will happen in college basketball any more.
The kids every day have come to practice and tried to improve, have kept a great attitude, or we wouldn't be here. I have had -- in '97 I guess we were ranked No. 1 pre-season. 2005, maybe Sports Illustrated picked us No. 1.
But I'd much rather have a target on my back than be the team that nobody thinks is going to be any good, because sometimes you guys are right. To me, I like having really good teams.
The best thing about this team is, we have kids with great character. We have some characters, too (smiling). But this is a team with great character. They've handled all the people's other ideas okay because they've ignored it and tried to please their teammates and their coaches.
TY LAWSON: It feels good to get back to this position or get to the championship because this is what we worked all year for and also the off-season, our motivation from last year. I mean, it feels real good to get back here. Hopefully we can go out and I take care of things on Monday.
Q. Coach, the longer you stay in this profession, do you find the various demands that are placed on you in coaching, are you less tolerant of them? Are you finding them more exhaustive? Is more being required of you as college athletics goes bigger time?
COACH WILLIAMS: There's no question, your demands for your time are more, there's more of them, more exhaustive, as you use that terminology. The time of the day that I spend on coaching gets less and less and less. The time you spend with the alumni, with fund-raising, with the media, with recruiting, with whatever, gets bigger and bigger.
That part of it, I think, ran Coach (Dean) Smith out of it. I think if it hadn't been for that, he would have stayed in the game a few years longer. He tried to tell me to not let it run me out. There are so many more demands now than there were, definitely than there were 21 years ago when I became a head coach.
Q. Ty and Wayne, you've played in some pretty hostile environments before. Tomorrow night, there are going to be 70,000 people, most of them wearing green. Are you prepared for that? Is it going to make a difference? How many times has coached reminded you to just put December's game out of your memory or has he had to do that?
TY LAWSON: We played in a lot of hostile environments throughout the season and the regular season. We went to Nevada. We played Duke. I don't think it's going to be a big issue playing in front of probably most of Michigan State's crowd on Monday.
So I think we're ready for it. We prepared throughout the season and things like that.
WAYNE ELLINGTON: Yeah, we've played in a lot of different environments, tough atmosphere. It's something that we're well prepared for. We played well on the road all year long. It won't be anything new to us.
Q. Has he had to tell you about putting the December game out of your mind?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: He hasn't really even had to talk much about that because we already know that they're a different-looking team. We caught 'em at a time where they weren't fresh at all, they had some injuries. So they're a totally different team than when we played them in December.
Q. Coach, Jim Calhoun said last night he thinks Michigan State is playing perhaps better because they're playing with a cause, the City of Detroit, the economic thing. Do you have to make sure you talk to your players that this is a North Carolina basketball team playing against Michigan State, you're not playing to keep Detroit down? Tyler, can you answer that from your perspective, that it's a basketball game and you're not playing up against the City of Detroit?
COACH WILLIAMS: You know if we're playing against the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan, they out number us. We don't have as good a chance at that one.
But the other thing is you guys have to understand, we left here last night at 12:45. We went back, we had a nice little snack and some ice cream and the kids went to bed. I saw them this morning at 11:00 for 30 minutes. We haven't exactly exhausted the state of the nation's economy in the last 18 hours.
So for us, we're playing Michigan State. I do realize they have a cause. Well, we also have a cause. We want to win a national championship, period, the end. And if you would tell me that if Michigan State wins, it's gonna satisfy the nation's economy, then I'd say, Hell, let's stay poor for a little while longer.
I don't think that's gonna happen. So if all the workers of America come down and start guarding my butt on the bench, then I'll start being concerned about it.
TYLER HANSBROUGH: Kind of like coach said (smiling), you know, I'm not looking at it as anything else but us playing Michigan State. All that other stuff is nothing that I'm paying attention to.
Q. Coach, Tyler, Danny, when you recruited these guys four years ago, you didn't know where the journey was going to take you. When you started this year you didn't know. Now you know you have one more practice, one more game. Talk about that.
COACH WILLIAMS: You know, I tell the kids all the time, Snap your fingers and that's how quickly your four years will pass. When they're freshmen, these guys, Danny and Tyler particularly, they look at me and say, Yeah. Right now they would understand it. Right now they agree with it.
You know, I'm corny, there's no question about it. I'm emotional. This senior class has been really, really important to me. These guys came in after the championship year. We didn't have a lot coming back. They competed from the first day. You know, you can't say which child you love the best because you don't ever think in those terms. That's the way it is with players.
The classes that I've recruited in 21 years, this is one of those that is special. Tyler to keep coming back, his work ethic, focus. Bobby, through the stress fracture, the foot, the ACL. Marcus, the trouble he's had this year. Cope, who every day has tried to help us, been such a comic relief off the court, a generally good person. For Danny Green to go through the things that he's done and be a sub, giving us great help, being a starter, doing the things.
I do realize that today is gonna be the final practice. You know, in some ways that's hard. But I'm gonna remember the great times. I mean, these guys, I think, think they tied Quentin for the most wins for a four-year class in North Carolina history of 122 games, 123. I'm going to look back on all those good times. It's going to be sad for me, but I'm corny.
TYLER HANSBROUGH: Yeah, it's definitely gone by quick. You know, I'm glad we're ending it the right way instead of, you know, my last practice being last week or something like that. I'm just glad we're going out on the right note.
You know, it does go by quicker than you would think. I'm glad we're all pretty close, not just the seniors. So, you know, when I leave, I'll still feel a connection with the program. So it's a good way to, you know, kind of see myself going out.
DANNY GREEN: Yeah, I'm definitely happy to be in this position. I don't think it's hit me yet that it's my last practice or my last game. That's because of how focused that we have been, and coach has had us. We're focused coming in to breakfast, shot fake, stay down, just remember the principles defensively.
I mean, for me to be in this position, the biggest game of my college career, the biggest game of the NCAA season, it just means a lot. Hopefully we can end it the right way.
Q. Ty, how much treatment are you still having to get? It looks like you're a lot closer to where you were before the injury, at least the last few games.
TY LAWSON: Yeah, we're still doing the same thing as of treatment. Still icing it. I'm still getting in the pool, wrapping my toe, getting taped and things like that. I mean, I'm just still doing the same thing we've been doing since I hurt it.
Yeah, I feel a lot better. I feel I'm almost a hundred percent. Yesterday, I actually felt like I was running to the most of my speed yesterday. So I feel like I'm almost a hundred percent.
Q. Wayne and Tyler, you guys ran onto the court, Tom Izzo is giving his postgame speech, the crowd is going crazy. What is the building like to you? It's the stadium seating from last time. Floor raised a little bit. How do you like the stadium?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: Yeah, I mean, I like it. To us as basketball players, it's a basketball court. You know, you don't really pay much attention to other things. You're so focused on the game that you don't really see what's going on around you.
We know that it seats a lot of people and it's a huge crowd. At the same time we're so focused on the game, we're losing ourselves in the game that we don't pay much attention to that.
TYLER HANSBROUGH: Yeah, the floor being raised is a little awkward. We don't really sit in the stands, so we don't really know about the seating out there. So we don't really look at that. We just play on the court.
I think from that you just treat it like any other game. It's still the same. Court's just a little raised.
Q. Danny, how difficult is it going to be to get the thought out of your mind, the memory, that you have beaten this team by 35 points in this building? It's one thing to say it, but how difficult will it be?
DANNY GREEN: Not that difficult, to me anyway. I don't think it's difficult for these guys either. That game happened so long ago. This is a totally different team that we're playing against. It's the last game of the year. So I don't see us being too overconfident or looking past anybody or anything, 'cause there's nothing to look forward to after this. This is it.
We know this is a new team, a better team. They're a lot tougher. They've been through a lot more. We played them so long ago, we kind of just put that in the past. That was an old game.
So we're going to treat this as a new game and try and come just as focused and leave everything out on the floor.
Q. I know it's only been 13, 14 hours since you beat Villanova, but from the time you woke up this morning, have you had any chance to let yourself envision what it's like to win the national title tomorrow night?
DANNY GREEN: No, I haven't really envisioned it yet because we haven't done it yet.
Of course, when you're a kid, you envision you're playing on the biggest stages, winning the biggest games. But right now I'm just so focused on playing the game and doing good to help my team that I haven't really envisioned the celebration, 'cause we haven't won anything yet. We haven't won it yet. No need to think about the celebration yet.
But I'm sure when it does happen, it will be really nice.
TYLER HANSBROUGH: Yeah, like Danny said, you know, it's hard not to envision it. But I've thought about what it would mean to win a national championship. That's part of the reason why I came to Carolina. Also I think, you know, just like Danny said, I'm not trying to think too hard about it because I still want to stay focused on this game and try to do my part on this team to help us win.
Q. Ty and Deon, when you walk on the court, do you take a second to look around, kind of let the atmosphere soak in and grasp the whole scene?
TY LAWSON: Yeah, probably when we go out to warm up, things like that, just look around, you see everybody out there. That's why I'm probably going to take my time to just envision and see how it's gonna be, just look around in the crowd.
I probably have dreamt about winning a national championship since I was little, even playing like on my Fisher Price court, counting down from five, me hitting the game-winner. I've been waiting for this (smiling). I've been thinking about it a lot. So I'm ready for it.
DEON THOMPSON: Definitely when you walk out there, it's hard not to notice, see all the people, the crowd. You definitely do take note and sit back and be like, Wow, look at what you accomplished. Me coming from Torrance, California, one of the biggest stages, college basketball is big. You definitely have to enjoy it. Once the ball is tipped, you still got to play your heart out.
Q. Talk about how confident this team is right now. Do you feel the team is playing its best basketball of the season right now? Are you peaking at the right time?
TY LAWSON: Yeah, I think we're peaking at the right time. Early in the year, we was playing together, but I think we was lacking a little bit in defense. Right now we're playing real well in defense, rotating, helping each other out. We're talking. I feel like right now we are peaking at the right moment. No better time than the NCAA tournament and the championship.
TYLER HANSBROUGH: Yeah, I think we're playing well right now. But, you know, also we're not playing perfect. So, yeah, I think our confidence is high, but still we want to continue to play good.
COACH WILLIAMS: I was going to ask Deon what he thought when his head coach signaled zone for the first time since the Maryland game at Maryland.
Q. Delvon Roe was saying that he was extremely close to coming to North Carolina, but for whatever reason didn't. Can you talk about maybe how close you thought you were to getting him and maybe how disappointed it might have been that you didn't.
COACH WILLIAMS: There's no question I thought we were gonna get him. I was very disappointed. But I've been doing this for 21 years. I've been disappointed a lot of times. But Delvon was a youngster I really enjoyed as a youngster. Went to Cleveland. Saw him play a lot. Had a lot of conversations with him. It was extremely disappointing.
He's my kind of guy. I think he's really, really, really gifted young man, but a better person than he is basketball player.
Q. Could you expand upon what the players said about the court. I know they say they put the fans aside, 70,000 people aren't there. Is it that easy or is the stadium a little bit overwhelming?
COACH WILLIAMS: You know, to me it's not nuclear science. We're coaching basketball, we're playing basketball. I go out on the court last night, we've been here in December, did the same thing. In December it wasn't full. Last night, I looked up, trying to figure out where is the guy with the worst seat in the house? Wonder what he's thinking right now. I said Okay, then looked around, that was it.
I mean, you're focused on your task. It is enormous. 72, 456 last night was great. It is unusual. I do not like the raised floor as a coach. I do not like it at all. If I ever turn into an architect, I would not build a gym like that. If I'm a head coach or athletic director, I will never have a building built like that. It's just not comfortable as a coach.
Is it better for fans? I don't know. But I'm not a fan, I'm a coach. That is extremely uncomfortable to me personally. Everything else I love about the whole thing.
Q. Is it the players? Are you worried for their safety with the raised court or the fact you don't like standing three feet above the bench?
COACH WILLIAMS: I don't like the safety. When we played Michigan State here before, we had a guy go off the court, one of Michigan State's players, I don't know if it was Raymar or who, but that scared me. That kind of thing. I almost fell off the stupid court. That scared me. Some of those kind of things.
But as a coach, it is not comfortable 'cause when you're sitting down, and I like to sit on the bench more than I like a kneel in front or stand. I like to have my assistant coaches give me input. I like to talk to the players.
But you cannot see down below that court. It's better now, I think, than it was when we were here. I think they've raised the benches a little bit. But it is really difficult to see the far corner over there and see what's going on sitting in that seat.
Q. A lot of people thought it was going to be easy, you getting here for the national championship. Clearly that was not the case. What would you say was the hardest part?
COACH WILLIAMS: Getting people to understand if you thought it was easy, you don't know what you're talk about. It's college basketball. There hasn't been an undefeated team since '76, and there have been some really, really good teams. I think this year there were eight or 10 teams or 12, I haven't studied it, that could be playing Monday night.
I'm extremely proud of my team for being here and for handling all the things they did. It's been a very difficult year for me as a coach. There's no question about that. The injury situation, worrying about hurting Tyler, worrying about hurting Ty, Marcus coming back, not coming back, Will's suspension, Tyler Zeller's broken wrist. It's been a hard year for me as a coach.
But I was serious. We played zone last night for the first game we played since Maryland, so you just throw some things out and hope it sticks. This team has really done a good job of making the things I throw out stick.
Q. A couple times you've taken over other people's players and make them your own. How different would this be to win a championship with a roster full of your own players?
COACH WILLIAMS: No different whatsoever. Absolutely none. When Sean May stands up here four years ago and says his dream would be to be the first person to hug Coach Williams if we won a national championship, doesn't get any better than that, and that was my team.
So it would be zero difference to me.
Q. Michigan State runs a ton of offensive sets. How many of those do you talk about with the players? How do you prepare defensively against a team like that?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, you said 'tons.' My assistant this morning in the scouting report said 90. A lot either way you look at it. What you try to do is talk to your team in terms of principles and the philosophy they have. You can't get them to know 90 plays. We give our team a two-page scouting report. I have some good friends in coaching that give teams 15 or 20, but we give them a two-page scouting report, and then try to rely on our principles, our defensive principles being able to help us with those.
Q. Your team has been through a Final Four, ACC tournaments. Experience has been something they've always had on their side. This is one of the first times I can remember they're going to have something completely different in the sense they've never played for a national championship before. Is that something that experience in the past is experience enough, not that big a deal once you've played in a Final Four?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, the good thing is neither team has played for a national championship, so I think it's the same for both. But I think when you get to this stage, you will grab onto anything that you think might be a positive and try to promote that. Anything that you think is a negative, like playing against the state of Michigan, you ignore that as much as you can, and go from there.
Again, now, maybe Tommy does it differently. I did not watch as a coach; I watched as a fan, because I'm a fan of Tom Izzo. I did not watch a Michigan State tape until last night. I focused all of my energy on Villanova. Now, one of my assistant coaches had Villanova, one had Connecticut, one had Michigan State. So they spent some time.
But, I mean, we're talking about, again, it's 12:45 when we get back last night. It's a cram course, as much as you can do. But what it is, is we've got to play against them on Monday and hopefully we'll play better.
Q. Do you remember the moment when you decided to become a coach? What were the two or three influences that led to that?
COACH WILLIAMS: Mine was very easy. It was after my ninth grade year in high school. Some of my buddies were juniors. They were taking U.S. history under our basketball coach Buddy Baldwin. After the season was over, they came to me and told me he had talked about the next year's team, that I was only going to be a sophomore, but he thought I was going to be a really good player. It was the first time I could ever really remember having that feeling.
So I started working extremely hard to be the best player I could be. To this day, he's still a tremendous influence on me. He's the reason I got into coaching.
That summer after my ninth grade year, I knew I was going to be a coach, and I've never thought about doing anything else. And it is because of Buddy Baldwin. This is the seventh Final Four that I've been to as a coach, and I've got him with me all seven.
He's got some bad qualities, too. He's the first person to ever get me on a golf course, first person to get me to enjoy shooting craps. He's got some bad qualities, too, but he's been extremely important to me.
Q. Michigan State has made their living on the backboards. Given what Villanova did last night, especially on the offensive glass, is that probably the biggest key in the game tomorrow night?
COACH WILLIAMS: It is to me. I don't know if it's gonna be the key because you have to wait till the game's played. But it is my biggest concern, there's no question. They just killed UConn on the backboards last night. I watched about 12 minutes of the game looking up, looking at my scouting report, because there was a TV in the coach's room back here. I'd watch a couple plays, then go back to reading the scouting report. Every time I looked up, they're getting an offensive rebound. The announcer started saying, that's 14, 15, 16.
So it is a huge concern, but it's a concern any time you play Tommy's teams. I think if you pick 21 years as head coach, I would say we're the leading scoring team in the country in those 21 years. Well, I think in Tommy's year as a head coach, the best rebounding team in college basketball during those years. It's something we've had to face against them in the past.
Q. Carolina is the only team in the last 50 years with a winning record on the road. You're going to face the ultimate road game tomorrow night. Can you talk about the tradition that your familiar with of Carolina winning on the road and why you think they've been such a good road team?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, what I think about that is I like playing on the road. I really honestly do. I like going to some other place and having my team so focused that we can shut the crowd up.
Now, this will be the maximum test, because you're talking about 70,000 people, or a little less than that. But at Kansas, for 15 years, we were the only team that had a winning record on the road in 15 years, and ours was really, really good.
We've had a pretty doggone good record in the six years I've been back at Carolina. Part of that is because of that philosophy. The biggest part is because we're pretty talented.
That's what we're gonna have Monday night. We're still gonna have very talented players, we're still gonna have a coach that believes that we can win.
Q. Tom Izzo teams do really well in the second game of an NCAA tournament weekend. Is there something about Michigan State with Izzo that makes them tough to prepare for in a short situation?
COACH WILLIAMS: Gosh, I hadn't thought of that, hadn't looked at that. Please take this the right way. I don't think Tommy's teams are that difficult to prepare for. You got to play your butt off. You got to defend your butt off. You've got to be able to handle a physical style of people going to the backboard. You've got to be able to handle stopping their break. If they don't run the break, they're gonna make you guard 'em for 20 to 25 seconds till they get the shot that they want.
He doesn't run any triple reverse, hike the ball over somebody's head, the score keepers massage it and throw it back in. It's not any trickery. It's not an unusual defense. It's not John Beilein at Michigan where you have to get ready for the 1-3-1. It's not like John Chaney at Temple, when you get ready for the matchup zone.
The biggest compliment I could say is I wish my teams would defend and rebound like Tom Izzo's teams. I mean that sincerely. That's not coach speak, trying to flatter anybody. But I do honestly believe it's not trickery. With Tommy, it's bring-your-lunch-pail-work kind of game.
Q. A lot has been made of Coach Izzo over these two games against very talented teams, underplaying the talent of his players. He said you can't win on grit alone. Talk about the talent of their players in combination with the way he likes to play.
COACH WILLIAMS: Again, I'll say they're talented. And I think the work ethic, the focus, the determination, I think that's a good talent, too. He's not Lou Holtz by any means. He's not saying "woe is me" kind of thing, because Tommy does realize he has gifted guys. We would have loved a couple of those kids. I'd love to have them on our team.
So to me, all this stuff about talent, no talent, work ethic, no work ethic, you're just a hard-working group, whatever, it's probably overplayed. The fact of the matter is, it makes no difference. If I have 27 McDonald's All-Americans, somebody else has zero, makes no difference. You got to play.
Last year we played Duke at our place and we had three McDonald's All-Americans, and they had eight. Everybody acted like they were the underdog. I mean, so it depends on how you play on game day.
Q. The label for this team has been offense for two years, all offense. This tournament has been all defense. How did you get them to use your method? How did you get them to use the Coca-Cola and drink it?
COACH WILLIAMS: Each and every day we've emphasized it in practice. We have kids that understand it better now than they did when they started, understand it better now than they did at the start of last year, how important it can be. Now, I think -- I'm not a very good teacher. Sometimes it takes longer for certain teams to buy into it. But I think this team has bought into it so much more down the stretch this year.
Even early when I was disappointed with us defensively, we had some big-time defensive stops that made a difference in winning or losing games for us. But just trying to get them to focus on it all the time has been something I've had to push a great deal. But they've done a nice job of it.
Q. I heard you put the 'period' after saying the cause you're playing for is winning a national championship. What about Tyler coming back, your seniors? I recall you being really disappointed for some seniors that didn't win it in a previous line of employment.
COACH WILLIAMS: I don't know when you came in, I can't remember if it was this session or one of the other ones, but to me, my cause - again I'm corny - is I want this team to win for the character of this senior class and what they've meant to Roy Williams. I almost made a dumb, dumb mistake, I guess it was, '99, 2000. I even went home one night and told my wife, Maybe I've got to try that pro stuff.
I've been very fortunate. I've been offered several opportunities with the NBA. I was so discouraged with recruiting that I just said, I just can't do this anymore. Then along came Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden, three great kids, great players, great families, that showed us you could do it the right way. It was so much fun, it gave me hope. It lasted and it's still lasting.
The second deal is this year's senior class. After Sean and Raymond and Rashad and Marvin all left, and this year's senior class was the nucleus, even though they were freshmen, they were fantastic every day in practice, I mean every day. I've loved them for that. I've loved them for Bobby, the stress fracture condition on the foot, the ACL on the knee, how he's worked so hard and his shot's gone south. Yet you see him last night chase down five offensive rebounds. He missed a layup because he doesn't jump over -- more than a couple sheets of paper. That character is extremely important to me.
Tyler coming back and passing up what people would say would be the money because he loves college basketball. People say that's not the reason. That is the reason. The kid told me last year when he made the decision to stay, I've been miserable for the last two weeks. I'm the happiest now I've ever been in my life. Wouldn't even walk out of the weight room to go up to the office to write out a statement. He said, Coach, you just write something down and tell them I said it. He didn't want to leave the weight room to go do that. So just the most focused kid.
And Danny with the personal stuff that he's put up with. Marcus not being able to play now. There's no question that the biggest sadness I will have is if this team loses, and it will be for those five kids. The biggest exhilaration feeling I've ever had will be if we win it for those five kids.
Q. After last night's game, Coach Calhoun said watching Michigan State on tape, they were different against Louisville, a No. 1 seed, they were different against his team, a No. 1 seed. They're facing a third No. 1 seed. I believe only one other team has beaten three No. 1's.
COACH WILLIAMS: Arizona '97. I was one of the 1's (laughter).
Q. What do you see? Why are they so different looking now?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, for us, they're different from when we played them because they're healthy, okay? But you go back and look, where were they ranked in the pre-season? Does anybody know?
Q. No. 6.
COACH WILLIAMS: Top 10. I mean, they're not exactly Charlie's doughnut team. They're pretty damn good. So to me, they've gotten healthy, they're playing their best basketball at the end of the year. You don't find many national championship-caliber teams playing in this game Monday night that's not playing their best basketball.
But, you know, this is not a cut towards Tommy by any means, but he hasn't taken five of you guys and got you in the game Monday night. He's taken a team that was pretty doggone good to start with and got them here.
Q. If you were granted one do-over from your coaching career, what would you do differently?
COACH WILLIAMS: The list is a lot more than one, I can tell you that (smiling).
Oh, gosh. You know, the big games you always go back and look at, I should have done this, I could have done that. Last year, for example, when I left the locker room before the Kansas game, I thought we were going to play great. I was 180 degrees away from that.
In 1990, in the NCAA tournament, second game against UCLA, I would have called a timeout instead of rushing the ball down the floor because I knew that they were probably gonna double-team Kevin Pritchard, and not let him get the ball inbounds, and they did. We threw it to Richie Calloway and we didn't get the kind of shot I wanted. I can remember a thousand of those.
I've been pretty lucky. I've made some decisions that have worked out okay. The biggest thing to me is having good kids. I know that sounds corny, it doesn't excite anybody, but having kids that I enjoy. There's been only one or two instances in my life that I took a player as a part of our team that I wasn't sure of, and that would be the only thing that I would change over. And I feel very fortunate 'cause there's only been a couple of those.
Q. You talked about you gave your team a two-page scouting report, not 10 or 15 like other coaches. How about video? Do you show your kids Michigan State personnel or focus on yourself? I believe you wanted Delvon Roe. Who was the other player that is on Michigan State's team?
COACH WILLIAMS: I'm not trying to belittle any other coach that does a lot, I'm just not comfortable. Coach Smith, we always prepared ourselves and weren't very concerned about other teams. We give our guys a two-page scouting report. We go over personnel for eight minutes. We have an eight-minute clip session. We have an April-minute session out on the court, the first eight minutes of practice today, and that is it.
Tonight when we get together for our late-night snack, we'll show the eight-minute clips again. When we meet for pregame tomorrow, we'll show the eight-minute clips again. That's basically it.
I think, again, we teach by principles. That's what I've been comfortable with. That's what I enjoy doing.
I loved Raymar. I love Lucas. Delvon is the only one we recruited really hard. The other ones either made their decision early or they said something that made me mad, and that was that they weren't interested in us (laughter).
We called on Green. I didn't know anything about Suton. But with Lucas and Raymar and Delvon, I would have loved to have recruited Walton because I just think he's sensational. But he had either already decided or I didn't know anything about him.
Q. When you get to the finals, you hear a lot about the coaching matchups. How would you describe the similarities and differences?
COACH WILLIAMS: He doesn't play as much golf as I play. That's probably the biggest difference. I really enjoy Tommy. We've had some great conversations in the past. A couple years ago at the Final Four, we tried to even get together and have dinner. We weren't able to get it done. But I've been with him on many trips. We've sat and visited on many trips, sat together in a lot of gymnasiums around the country, watched a lot of kids play. He has been someone I've really genuinely joyed.
I like a lot of coaches. There's some guys that don't like me and I probably don't like some of them. Tom Izzo is one of that group (sic). At the start of the season, I send a lot of guys Good luck this year, and Tom is one I send something to every year.
We both believe in man-to-man defense. Again, we went zone last night for about five minutes just to try to stay out of foul trouble. We had not played one possession of zone since the Maryland game at Maryland. We both believe truly in the man-to-man defense. We believe in a balanced offense, not one guy getting 35. We love hard-nosed leaders, like point guards that I've had in the past, point guards that he's had in the past.
When they won the championship, you can't have a tougher personality than Mateen was. So I think we believe in a lot of the same things.
Q. This is a really broad question, but you've had the opportunity to see a lot of programs around the country. There's a lot of teams this year in this tournament that are back every year. There's others that we'll see every five, six years. I'm looking at Arizona State. How do those programs get over the hump, the ones you've seen that leap to coming back every year?
COACH WILLIAMS: You know, my goal for my team every year is for our team to be in the mix that people can talk about that has a chance to win the whole thing. Every year there's 20 teams, 15, you pick a number, that really has a chance to win a national championship. And my dream is for my team to be one of those every year.
To get over that hump, to get to that level, is extremely hard. I've been fortunate because Kansas, when I got there, yeah, we had some problems, but it has a pretty good tradition and history. North Carolina, when I came back, yeah, we'd had some problems, but tradition and history is pretty doggone good.
One thing that sticks out, other programs jumping to that level, is a program like Jim Calhoun at Connecticut, who it wasn't a great program before he got there. He worked so hard, is so good. Other programs get lucky and have somebody growing up in their state that's a big-time, big-time player that takes them to a level, and he attracts other people, they attract other people, they attract other people.
I do believe it is very difficult.