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Rick Pitino Talks Cleveland State Game, 700th Victory

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Video available here

Opening Statement

Well, it was not a pretty game. What I basically told them at halftime was, "look guys, you're pouting to the officials about being fouled, and you're using that as an excuse." It not only looks bad, but that's the way Virginia and Pittsburgh are going to play. We watched them play Kentucky last year, and with about three minutes left in the game, they had a good chance of winning. And then the year before they almost beat Vandy. We knew how they play against great teams. He's done a fabulous job with that for a long time.

I told them that what was going to win this game wasn't their jump shot, it was offensive rebounds and free-throws and playing the best defense of their life. I told them they weren't going to win it with offense. It's not Savannah State. But then they thought, "well, Savannah State beat them." Wrong type of game. It was gonna be all about defense. As bad as we were offensively in most phases of the game, we were very good on defense. Very good.

We thought going into that game that that's one of the best point guards in the nation that we'll see. He's got size, he gets in the lane, and he makes his free-throws.

One of the reasons we're not as good from the foul line as we should be is that we're playing too many minutes. Guys are just tired. There's not a whole lot I can do about it, because guys aren't ready to play. We're winning by focusing on scouting reports and little things. Our bench is just not ready yet. Hopefully Shaqquan will be ready soon and we'll get another break there.

But as bad as we've been shooting and been shooting from the line, if you look at the way our opponents are shooting, you'll understand what we're going up against. Because we usually win that battle at the foul line with the exception of a couple teams a year. But we'll get better at it. There's no excuse for Terry not to be a great foul shooter, there's no excuse for Chris not to be a great foul shooter. If Montrezl Harrell can work his butt off to become a good shooter, the other guys can too. It's just a lot of hard work.

The problem is, we try to shoot free-throws in practice like it's a game situation--we probably shoot more free-throws than any other team in the country. But you're rested, you're not tired. Yeah you can make 80 out of 100, but when you're pressing and you're running and then you get to the line, conditioning is a factor. We've got to develop our bench. Just small breaks, before timeouts. Right now we don't have that because of a few reasons. Mangok was hurt tonight so Nanu was exhausted, and Anas isn't ready to play yet.

But this was a good grinding win. We needed it before Thanksgiving. You saw Butler beat North Carolina. You can lose these types of games, all the time. But we won it, and we did it with defense. Our offense is going to be fine. We'll get it going.

We're going to have to get ready for Ohio State, because they're gong to play a zone just like that team did tonight.

On Chinanu Onuaku

He's playing well. He's got to get it to where he doesn't get tired and has to come out of the game. But he's good, he's agile, and he knows how to play. We told him before the game that he couldn't bring the ball down against this team, because they get four or five steals like that.

On Chris Jones

Chris Jones just had to understand the game a little bit and what's there. I tried to tell him about how when Bernard King was the highest scorer in the NBA and I was coaching the Knicks, he used to come to me before every game and ask where he could score from. Chris doesn't understand that defenses will give you certain things and not give you other things. He just has to grasp that, and he'll get it.

On if lack of ball security hurt his team

No. Unfortunately in today's culture we rarely speak the truth. It was Cleveland State. People don't want to give them credit because they lost to Savannah State. Cleveland State was brilliant tonight. You have to give them the credit. They made us look bad. They didn't make us miss the free-throws, but they made us look bad with a great guard performance. But as bad as they made us look offensively, they shot 25 percent. Our defense and rebounding was good. You've gotta win ugly sometimes when you're working on things. We've got a lot of new people. We often want to blame this guy or that guy, but they were great. We were bad because they were great.

On 700 wins

You know, I hope I'm as lucky getting to 800. I remember it as it was yesterday, Tom handing me a picture of 600. I know time flies by when you get old, but they won the most games in the history of Louisville. It happened so quick, from 6 to 7. I just hope I'm as blessed getting from 7 to 8. I doubt that could ever happen, but I'd love to see it happen, because that means you're winning. I don't think there's much significance personally for me, but the significance you take away is that senior glass and how many games they won. I was the beneficiary of that today.

Could you have imagined this when you got into coaching?

No, because I always wanted to be a pro coach. When you grow up in New York, you don't want to be a college coach. Growing up my dream was to be a pro coach, so I never really thought about it too much.

Do you take any joy in defensive games like that?

When it's played well, I do. Obviously tonight they needed me as much as I needed them, because we were exhausted tonight. I had to keep encouraging Nanu because he was exhausted. I had to keep telling all the guys not to worry about the missed shots because they needed to win with defense. If you want to get back there again, there's gonna be one NCAA game where the offense isn't there and you're gonna have to win with defense. I just kept repeating that to them.

How would you rate the defense?

We couldn't wear them out because we didn't make enough shots to press them. All we were trying to do was wear out that young man enough so that he couldn't have the type of second half he had in the first. He was brilliant, we knew he would be.

We're playing excellent defense right now, but it's fool's gold in this regard: you can't play our style of defense without having a deep bench. I'm hoping we're going to get some good news to help us with that soon. He's not going to be the answer, but he can pass, he's 6'7. Mangok helps, he gives Nanu a good break. And I'm very bullish on Anas and Matz, because I've seen it all, I've seen the Nazr Mohammeds, the Gorguis, I've seen them all. They get better and better, but those guys aren't going to be ready this year. But we need Shaqquan, and we need Anton. He's a better shooter than that. He's pressing. He doesn't shoot airballs and miss free-throws, he's better than that.

We need those guys to do what Trent Gilbert does. I come in to work early in the morning, and my goal in life is to beat Trent Gilbert into work. And I haven't beat him yet. If I get there at 6:15, he's there at 6. That kid lives in the gym. If our guys would do what he does--and he knows he's not going to play. He knows he's not getting in, and he lives in that gym. I'm really, really impressed with that young man.

On whether Shaqquan will be ready to help out the offense if he's cleared.

He'll be ready by the time conference play rolls around. We lost our two best scores, Luke Hancock and Russ Smith. We're replacing those guys with guys who are average to good shooters, when they were good to great. So it's going to take time to develop that. We've got to win with defense while our offense is still coming around.

I told Montrezl that if he stayed on the perimeter we weren't going to win the game. We needed offensive rebounds to win the game, and he did it, he did a good job.

On his first career win at Hawaii

I had six guys. I was 23 at the time. I gave them a curfew, and these guys were all 23 or 24. I had to knock on the doors, and not one guy was in their room. So I was worried about my future at Hawaii with that team.

It's been a great run. The thing I'm most proud of about this run besides the players I've coached is that I've been able to keep passion for the game and love for the game. I think I love the game more today than I did in my 20s or 30s, and I think personally, that's the thing I take away most. I've coached great guys everywhere I've been and made so many great memories, and I hope I can go for a long time. Thank you and happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.