Preston Knowles, Jerry Smith and Rick Pitino talk Siena

Oh what I would give to have been at this press conference.

Below are some selected portions, but you can read the full transcript here.


Q.  This is for both of you guys, can you just talk about playing a team that kind of plays your style?  Like how much did you all look forward to that last year against Tennessee and how do you look forward to tomorrow?
 
JERRY SMITH:  I think we look forward to it a lot.  We know they've got very scrappy guards and very good, big men inside and they like to turn people over just like we do.  So it should be interesting.  We're very, very excited about it.
 
PRESTON KNOWLES:  They're basically like a carbon copy of us.  But what we have to do, we can't fall into that run and gun match with them.  We have to be the most aggressive team both offensively and defensively, so if we can do that and control the tempo and play Louisville basketball at the same time, I think we'll be all right.


Q.  How much do you know about the personnel of the Siena team and how difficult is it to turn around at tournament time to get to know the personnel basically on the fly in a day?
 
JERRY SMITH:  If you get to the Elite Eight, they're the toughest because you've got one day to prepare.  We watched a lot of film on them today, we know they have a great guard play.  Their point guard is tremendous.  He has like a 4 to 1 assist to turnover ratio, and we know the 2 guard is very, very aggressive.  It's a short amount of time, but guys really have to lock in and be focused and be ready to go come Sunday.


Q.  Preston, you guys have just been decimating teams after halftime with your press.  Are you guys turning it up, or is it more a case you're wearing people down?
 
PRESTON KNOWLES:  I have to say it's a little bit of both.  Because we pressure people 40 straight minutes as hard as we can, and eventually they're going to break down; even if it's their best player, they're going to break down.
 
So that being said, them wearing down, and when we see that we go for the kill.  So we have this, okay, we can tell they're tired, you can see it in their eyes.  That's really when we try to turn it up.  So I have to say it's a little bit of both.


Q.  Jerry, did you stay up to watch the game last night?  And secondly, how much of an advantage is it for you guys the fact that they had to play a double overtime game into the morning?
 
JERRY SMITH:  We stayed up and watched the game.  A lot of the guys did.  And when you say double overtime, I don't think it's much of an advantage for us, because this is the NCAA Tournament, there's a lot of emotion that goes into it.  They get a day off just like we do in between.  So I don't think that double overtime is going to matter at all come Sunday.


Q.  Watching the game, were you surprised that with all the things Siena didn't do well that they actually won?
 
PRESTON KNOWLES:  No, because I think they were the more aggressive team on defense.  Like when you play in the NCAA Tournament, March Madness, that's what's going to win championships, is defense.  Anybody can miss shots, you're not going to be there offensively every single game, you have to rely on defense pressure to win ball games.  That's what they did down the stretch.


Q.  Were you surprised that Siena was able to win, were you surprised that with all the trouble that Siena had with turnovers and poor shooting they still won?
 
JERRY SMITH:  No, not at all, because like Preston said, they played a tremendous defense.  And plus they didn't shoot very good percentage, I think it was 26, 27 percent, but they had 24 offensive rebounds, which is tremendous and off the charts.  That's why they were able to score as much as they did and actually stay in the game and actually win it.


COACH PITINO:  It was quite a ball game last night to watch.  And Siena's...what we try to do when you have one day preparation is try to take a team that you play against in the Big East and say:  Who does that remind you of.  And this team does a lot of things defensively, like Villanova, with the way they three quarter court trap falling back to 3 2, changing their defenses, great on the break.  So with one day preparation, you sort of try to remind your team this is the way Villanova did it and this is the way Siena does it.  They've got outstanding talent.  Their point guard is probably one of the fastest and best decision makers we will see all year.  So he's a terrific basketball player.
 
The whole team is really good and very deserving of the victory yesterday, and certainly it will be more of a neutral site now for both of us than it would have been if Ohio State would have won.

Q.  Is it any factor that they played a double overtime game, this will probably be an up tempo game, but there will be a day of rest, do you think that factors into anything?
 
COACH PITINO:  I don't think so.  You're only talking 10 more minutes.  I don't think that's a factor.  I think both of us will go easy today and get the work done and get prepared.
 
We're two up tempo teams, and obviously we're going to try to turn each other over.  They play a lot more 3 2 zone.  We play a lot more 2 3 zone.  So it will be both teams going after each other.  Both teams have good guard play, and it will be an interesting contest.


Q.  Rick, is this the best pressing team you've had at Louisville and how would you rank it compared to all your college teams as a pressing team?
 
COACH PITINO:  Yeah, it's definitely my best at Louisville.  I think that it's a different type of press we're using now than some of the other presses we've used.  We don't trap as much as we run and jump and change positions.  But the basic premise of great back pursuit is still there.
 
It's certainly a very good pressing team and one that    the key for us is to shoot a high percentage so we can get it on a number of times.  Last night, Siena three quarter court trap gave Ohio State fits, but they shot such a low percentage in the first half that they couldn't get it on as much.

 So that's the key to all pressing teams, is that you shoot a good percentage so you can get it on that many more times.


Q.  Siena is a team that won in the tournament last year, and obviously scheduled a game at Pitt and at Kansas.  Do you see in them a team that expects to be in a game like this and plan to make a run?
 
COACH PITINO:  They've got terrific talent.  And the good thing for Siena is most of these guys are coming back again.  But they've got really outstanding abilities.  Siena has now joined the ranks of Xavier and Gonzaga in terms of the types of players they're getting and the type of talent they have.
 
They all can go in the Big East and play for a school.  Siena could go into the Big East right now and be in the middle of the pack of the Big East and hold their own with any of us, obviously indicative of who they played.  So they're a very good basketball team, and they got most of their players back, so they're going to be good and that's the key.

Q.  Terrence Williams seems like a really unique person in addition to being a skilled basketball player.  I'm wondering what type of elements does it add to the team having somebody with that type of personality?  And secondly, how rare is it to have a player of his caliber who doesn't seem obsessed with scoring and isn't what he bases his game on?
 
COACH PITINO:  He's a unique kid.  When he came in the first thing I wanted to do is    I didn't know him real well.  We recruited him kind of late.  It was an interesting story.  I was sitting in Las Vegas's gym.  Back then they had this thousand team thing in Vegas like they do now except it was taking place on UNLV's campus, we'd hop from gym to gym.  Assistant coach just said to me, "I saw a guy with Michael Jordan athleticism."  I said, "Are you kidding?"  "No."  He gave me his name.  He was playing at 4:00, I watched him.  He was awful, played terrible.  I came back and said to the coach, "What Michael Jordan are you talking about?"  And he said, "No, I mean his athleticism."  He said, "Now look, don't get fooled.  I watched him play one game, he was terrible, and next time I watched him play he was unbelievable."
 
I looked on the schedule.  He was playing again 9:00.  He blew me away.  I stayed with him that week, and sent Reggie Theus out to recruit him, and his background was really interesting, because he was living with Marcus Williams, the young man's family that played at Arizona; and then the next week I'd call him, he'd be with his AD living at his home; next week I'd call him, he'd be with his high school coach.  He was basically living at different places.
 
So the one conclusion I came early on, this young man had to be given a lot of attention and a lot of love, because he really didn't have the typical home environment that most of these kids have.
 
And he came in difficult to handle in terms of getting his trust, and then he just totally opened up everything, and we've been best friends ever since.  And he's been a lot of fun to coach because of it.  He listens.  Like I always tell him:  Look, you've got an opportunity every time you're in front of a reporter to do a five minute commercial on yourself and what you're all about.  Or if somebody sticks a microphone, you can do a 15 second commercial.
 
And he's done a great job of that.  Francisco Garcia did that and T Will did it, and they truly understand that every time you get in front of a microphone, every time you get in front of a reporter you can do a commercial on your personality.  And if it's any good it will be a good commercial.  And he has a very good personality.

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