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Rick Pitino talks senior night and 'dramatically changing' his system

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The almost eerie comparisons between this team and the 2011-12 Cardinals continued on Friday with Rick Pitino announcing a "dramatic change" to his team's system late in the season. You might remember three years ago when Pitino stated that "significant changes have been made" in between the final two games of the regular season. So, I guess, nobody should freakout if the Cards get held below 50 points and lose by 9.

Here's the full transcript of the presser, which you can view here.

Opening Satement

Well, we always say the season went by fast, but this year seems faster than most. The first year in the ACC has been a fun experience, although I'm not sure playing Virginia is fun. Just did a TV show and they always have the three keys to the game, and the first key for us was shut down the airport and make sure they don't get in.

But they're a remarkable team because they not only play great defense, but they let the shot clock go down a little bit, unless they're down and then they'll shoot the ball quick, and they make shots with the clock running down better than anybody in college basketball. So we have a lot of respect for them. We did a very good job in the second half, we did a very poor job in the first half.

I was extremely disappointed in our performance against Notre Dame, not physically, but mentally. Because what we wanted to do against Notre Dame was make sure that we moved the basketball, got paint touches, so we'd have a chance to offensive rebound. And we did that in the first 8-10 minutes of the game, and then in the second half -- the one thing we did not want to do was shoot threes on the break, and in two crucial moments, Quentin took one on the left and Terry took one on the right. Terry was wide open and he said, "coach I'm wide open," and I said, "yes, but the way to beat Notre Dame is to have a chance to offensive rebound, because they're playing four guards." I said you're playing into their hands, they're better in that type of game.

And in those crucial moments, it gets away from us, the game. Then they make their free throws and we don't. Ballgame over. I was disappointed in our -- and the reason I bring that up is, against Virginia, we said stay away from the one-on-one play, because they're great at defending one-on-one. In the first half we went one-on-one, the second half we did not, and we wound up losing the game because we gave up second shots at the end of the game.

It's been a unique year in the ACC. I enjoyed it much more than I actually thought I would. I really like the conference a great deal and what they stand for. Enjoyed playing on the road, enjoyed getting to see different places, and this will be a great challenge for us going into senior night. You like to win on senior night, but we're going against a team that's 28-1. They haven't lost too many games, so we'll see what happens.

On the loss of Justin Anderson for Virginia

You know, a team like Virginia's really not a whole lot different without him, because their system is what they're all about. They have a defensive and offensive culture, so somebody else steps up. They're a team with almost every player back going into next year. So it's really their system more than anything else.

I will say this about us: I've made up my mind, I've thrown up my hands, and even though it's late in the year, I'm dramatically changing our system. And I've only got a couple of days to do it going into the tournament.

When Chris Jones left, a big part of our defense left. Our matchup zone the last four years has confused people, confused them on what to run, how to execute, how to handle the changes. This team, with Chris out, just doesn't play it well, because it's based on communication, it's based on knowing the other team's offense, it's based on when you change on the fly, and this team just doesn't grasp it. So we're going to go away from it and do what coaches call "dumb it down" quite a bit going into the tournament. So we're gonna change dramatically with what we're going to do, and I think it will help us in the long run.

Why would you announce that?

Well it's not going to make a difference in this game, because they're not going to know what we're going to do, because I'm going to tell you what we're going to do. But we're going to change. This is one team that doesn't care what you -- they ran their man offense against us last time, so it's not going to change dramatically for them.

Now if I told you we were playing a 1-3-1, it would really matter.

On Syracuse

Well you don't like to see any friend have tough times. But I know Jim, he's a pretty tough guy and he'll get through it.

Some people -- I said to my son, boy Syracuse got hit hard. He texted back, "well Jay Bilas doesn't think so." I didn't answer him because I had a TV show to do. But I don't know what Jay said. What did he say? Do any of you know?


Well I think any time a coach is taken away from his team for nine games, and any time you vacate 108 games, that's significant to me. So I don't know what he meant by that.

You know I feel bad for Jim, obviously. He'll get through it. He's going to miss some games and some games are going to be vacated. I don't know exactly, because the NCAA didn't come out with their findings altogether -- but hopefully it'll make Syracuse stronger and better in the long run.

On the NCAA investigating so many schools for academic issues

Here's what I really think. I think this has all been going on for years, but here's what happens: you're in a different generation right now. The secretary of state has a personal email on a government server, and everything -- everything is caught today. So this has been going on, except everything gets caught.

If one of your players goes to a party, it's gonna be tweeted out that he's at that party, so he better act correctly. And I'm not talking about the Chris Jones situation, I'm talking about anything. Today, everything is caught publicly. You'd better do the right things because everything's gonna be reported on. You're not gonna get away with anything, because all the haters in the world are gonna make sure you do things the right way.

It's just different today, because everything is reported on. Every action is reported. This has been going on for years, except you're not gonna get away with it anymore. There might has been academic misconduct going back a long time, but it's going to be reported on now.

Look, I think you would all agree: I think Roy Williams is one of the more ethical people I've met since I've been in coaching, and there's academic problems at the school where nobody would ever think there would be academic problems, and that's North Carolina. You've gotta make sure everything's done the right way. We make a big deal here -- I tell our academic guy all the time, "you make sure that when they get tutored that the players do all the work, 100 percent. You make sure they're being tutored and they're (the tutors) not doing any work at all." You know because we get tutored around the clock here, and it's very important that the players do the academic work. Anthony is, I think, the best in the business because he understands that. You've just gotta be careful with every single thing you do today.

Are you more of that because of this climate?

I wouldn't say that. I'm just more aware of little things that you may take for granted, that makes common sense that tutors don't do the work for anybody. You just stay on top of that more so than you ever have.

I'm a big political buff, and I don't know why anybody would want to run for political office in this country. I really don't understand it. You don't get paid anything. I don't know why anyone would seriously run for office. You know I get a kick out of Chris Christie because of the way he stands up there. I don't understand why he's trying to put himself through that. He's gonna gain a hundred pounds if they keep abusing him with that, and he looks great now.

I think it's an ego thing

You think so? Power? Yeah, I'd rather not have an ego than run for office.

On the defense still being ranked so highly

I've never had 16, 18 deflections in a game in my 40 years of coaching. I've never had such inactivity.

I told the players after the game, 'I'm gonna make these changes because I wanna help you stop thinking out there." Obviously if you're thinking and not reacting, you're not gonna get a lot of deflections. So I said, "I'm gonna help you." But I told them, "this earth is going to shake if you don't start getting your 35 deflections." So I'm gonna help you in one sense, but I expect the job to be done because of what we need to get. I haven't been happy with it. I like the effort of the team, they're really a good group of guys.

If you asked me what I'm happy with this year, I'm really happy with the record. Because if you watch us practice, I would never say we're gonna have this record. So I'm really ecstatic about where we are right now, but on the other hand, because we have six freshmen, and  -- like I said to Matz today -- and you don't see it because I don't put him in games, but this young man's going to be a terrific basketball player. He can run well, he's got long arms, he can jump out of the gym, and he's developing really, really nicely. But I said to him, I met with all the players today, I said, "Matz, something's bothering me about you. You don't get things right away. Is it because of the language? You know, it's a second language to you." He said, "it's more the terminology that you all use. I've never heard that before." So I said, "why don't you stop and ask us?" He said, I'm a little embarrassed about that." I said, "don't be embarrassed about it."

But sometimes you don't realize with foreign players -- you take it for granted. And we have two that are going to be outstanding at it. And then you've got a young man like Jaylen Jonhnson, who I also think -- like right now you all see that Anas and Q and sometimes Shaqquan are playing the best of the freshmen, well actually, if you looked at practice, Jaylen and Matz have made the most improvement of the freshmen.

So they're all going to be very, very good, but they're all somewhat timid freshmen. So that's been our struggle this year, because we have six timid freshmen mixed in with guys like Montrezl. It's not the greatest mixture. It's combustible in a sense because you're taking about a guy that has the patience of -- he has no patience at all, he has no patience for that type of behavior at all.

On playing so many good offenses in the ACC

I'm not sure they're better than the top Big East teams we played, Eric, you'd have to look at that. I think when you're playing against Virginia, you're probably right. They're so well-schooled and so well-disciplined at moving the ball, and Notre Dame is as well.

But we've played against some of the best teams in the country and gotten 35 or 40 deflections. We averaged 36 deflections, or around there for the championship year. And in the Final Four year we averaged like 32, 33. This is the lowest I've had since I've been here. And, part of the reason maybe the scoring's coming down, maybe the possessions are coming down. You know, that's the next hurdle for college basketball right now: how do we get more scoring in this game?

What's your deflection average this year?

We're probably around 26, 25, which is the lowest since I've been a coach.

On Wayne Blackshear

He is playing terrific basketball, and more so in practice than even in the games, but the games count, obviously, much more than practice.

Wayne's one of the nicest young men -- I put him in the class of Peyton and Gorgui -- that I've ever coached. He's nice to everybody, he never has a bad day, he's a gentleman at all times, he's been a true credit to coach.

These two players, Montrezl and Wayne, are the last remnants of a championship team. So it's over, there's nobody left from the championship team after this year. So we're gonna miss these guys. They're part of three straight conference tournament championships, and multiple league championships, and the most wins in college basketball in the last three years. So two pretty special guys to our program.

Somebody asked me why, if Terry's going to leave how come we don't recognize him. We don't recognize sophomores. We do make an exception for a junior. So that's one of the reasons why.

But Wayne's a special, special young man. You wish every athlete could have his personality and the way he treats people.

On 7 Cardinal players making the ACC All-Academic team

Well it's just the ACC isn't as tough as the Big East academically. (laughs)

On Louisville's academic perception

You know I'll say this about Louisville: Louisville is a strong state university. Lotta good state universities. Some majors are tougher than others, you know if you're a business major here it's very tough, no question about it. But I can only speak on basketball: our academic guy, Anthony, is the reason that we are this way. He is an ex-football player, and he is -- I'm Mary Poppins compared to him. He is a tough, tough guy. I mean he will speak to these guys like nothing I've ever heard. I blush with his language it's so bad. He really is tough. He's really tough on these guys academically. If they are not in study hall the right way, doing their job, it's like the world's coming to an end with him. So he is a tough, tough, son of a gun, and that's why we get the results we get. Because he believes in discipline. Like, he's crushed right now that Chris Jones will not graduate. He's crushed about that. It's bothering him.

When was the last time you distributed a spoonful of sugar to your players?

A spoonful of sugar? Sugar's bad for you, Tim.

It's from Mary Poppins

(Laughs) I know -- not very often.

I'm sure you saw Kevin Keatts won CAA Coach of the Year

That's great, I hadn't seen that.

Were you surprised?

Not after playing him. But he was picked - after speaking with him in summer time, he just kept saying, "what do you do? We're picked dead last, we have nobody who can score the basketball." I didn't know if he was setting me up for playing us, but then I looked at his stats and the fact that he was picked dead last, and now he's in a four-way tie for first.

But Keatts is a unique individual. Not only is he a very good coach, not only is he a very good recruiter and evaluator, but he's a positive individual. And he's got a -- we talked about him taking that job, and I said do you feel you can recruit? I think every job is a great job. I felt that way about Boston University, even though they hadn't had a winning season in 15 years, I felt that they could recruit as well as anybody at the top of their conference. I told Kevin the same thing. In your conference, you can recruit as well as anybody at the top, and that's what makes a great job. What makes a bad job is if you can't recruit to the teams at the top. So he's done a great job, and he's got four guys sitting out right now that are four starters into next season. So he's got a real good future.

Will he be on the schedule next year?

He's coming in for the Minardi Classic. The Minardi Classic is a tournament next year. It's a 4-team event, so he's coming in.

On Oregon State starting 5 walk-ons Thursday night

Why'd they do that?

They didn't have any seniors and it was a way to reward the walk-ons

I'm not going to try it against Virginia. I'm sure that's fine. There's a lot of interesting things happening in college basketball right now. It's at the point in the season right now where everybody wants to start playing well, and I'm hoping we can. We had three really good games, and then all the sudden we -- I don't know what's with us at home, I just can't figure it out. I just think we try too hard and we want to please so many people. On the road, all we try to do is stick to the game plan. Just stick to the game plan. And then when we get at home -- I don't know what to expect for the senior night. I just don't know what to expect.

How do you view this game?

I think it has a number of different things. Obviously we've been trying all year to get in the top four and get the double bye. If you look at what goes on if we lose, North Carolina has everything in their favor to get the four if it goes to that. If we win, we're in. Regardless of whether North Carolina wins. From that standpoint, it's very big.

From a seeding standpoint, it's very big. If we had to be seeded today we'd be a four trending to a five off a loss. If we win, we're a four trending to a three. Our goal is to win the tournament. So it's a very, very important basketball game.

We want to play extremely well, because if you put in a 1-3-1 zone this late in the season, you better be ready for that. No, it's a very important game. We want to play well.

Like I say with Quentin Snider, he right now is thrown into something he's not ready for, but he'll do a very good job for us. We just gotta make sure the rest of the guys cover for him defensively. It's like putting a young quarterback out there and the offensive line doesn't block. You know, we gotta make sure we cover for him, because he can be an asset for us.

On Terry Rozier's slump

You know, he took five challenged shots. He's playing really hard. I talked to him, I said Terry you're being your own worst enemy, and I showed him why. I said not very many people can make the shots you're taking: off-balance shots where he's kicking his leg. I said, you're putting yourself in a box to have a bad night. And he just totally stepped up.

Most players will give you an excuse, and then when they watch it, they'll half admit to it. He said you're 100 percent right, I'll correct it. And then on the break, he said coach I was wide open and you always get on me if I don't shoot when I'm wide open. And I said, I totally understand that., but I told you on the break, drive to the basket, don't shoot threes in this game, because you can offensive rebound against Notre Dame. Now against Virginia, if you have an open look, by all means take it. So he understands.

He's a very, like Montrezl, a very intelligent kid. He admits to when he's not playing well. He's a pro. He had an unbelievable practice yesterday. Totally upset that he didn't play well in that game. He's got a lot of pride in what he does, a lot of pride in the team. He'll take ownership for having a bad game.