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Transcript: Rick Pitino talks NBA Draft reaction, leadership, and gives a team update

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Here's the full transcript from yesterday's interview:

I understand you all are down in San Juan?

We are. We left around 7 this morning. Believe it or not we had to run a mile to catch our flight by about 10 seconds, but we made it.

What's your itinerary like down there?

Well tonight we'll have a coaches meeting, and then tomorrow we'll have our first practice. We have sort of -- probably I'd say five or six of our guys for the PanAm team will be part of the national team. The other guys will be joining us when the pro seasons over with. But we will have three, four, five guys that will make the national team.

Your reaction to Terry Rozier, Montrezl Harrell and where they went in the draft?

Well in speaking to the general managers and the scouts -- I had about 25 conversations with both guys. Speaking about Terry first, what they love is the fact that he went to the combine and said, "I'm playing and I'm kicking everybody's butt." They like his wingspan, but more than anything else they love his attitude. They think he's all about team, all about winning.

His athleticism is outstanding, his three-point shooting is not great, but I told them it wasn't great. I said it's a work in progress. He can shoot the mid-range shot, hits the college three-pointer, gets to the foul line, rebounds -- but they love his attitude. I spoke to Danny Ainge on two separate occasions. I didn't know where they were gonna draft. I knew he was in play at, I believe they had 28, he was in play at 27, 26, 21 -- so it was great that they loved him enough to draft him at 16.

Montrezl is another person who -- I didn't even know who his agent was. I found out after the draft that it was LeBron's agent. Never spoke with him. Terry's agent asked me to call about 15 general managers and I did. Montrezl, what they asked me about was his rebounding. I said, "his rebounding's good, why do you ask that question?" They said that they like 1 rebound every 3 minutes, and he didn't get that. I tried to tell them that he came back to work on his midrange jumper, his perimeter game, and he spent more time his junior year on the perimeter which is why his rebounding numbers weren't quite as good as well as his shot blocking numbers weren't quite as good, in their minds.

I think they made a mistake. I think he'll not only play with a chip on his shoulder, he'll play with a boulder on his shoulder. But I'll tell you the truth guys, it really doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that you get a guaranteed contract, and that you play well going into your second contract. So that's the most important thing. What happens in your first contract in terms of where you go is really irrelevant. It does mean that Terry gets $5 million over three years, and that's certainly, from what Terry was making as a college athlete as far as room, board, books and tuition, a great step upward. But both guys are going to have to prove themselves to get a second contract where some financial wealth will come into play.

Have you talked to those guys since last Thursday?

Well I texted both of them, and I did speak with Terry on the night after he went 16 -- after he jumped in the pool, I did speak with him personally. He's very excited. I told him not to brag about me too much in Boston because I'm not their favorite, so we had some laughs over that too.

Chianu Onuaku is the other guy making headlines while playing for Team USA. It seems like he's in good shape, getting after it on the glass and shooting granny free-throws.

Well I don't know about headlines. I haven't heard the positive comments that you're talking about, to be honest with you. I think they would like to see more from him, more running, more athleticism, so I'm not getting the vibe that you're getting. But Nanu is in shape, Nanu wants to win a gold medal, so I know from this point on -- I spoke to him just a short time ago and I think he'll really pick up his game from this point on.

Where are you getting your information from, Mike?

I saw Fran Fraschilla making a few comments about his motor and high energy level.

Ok. Good enough. I'll take Fran's word. I don't think he's burning it up there, but from this point on you'll see a much better basketball player.

On Mangok making the Australian national team

Nanu making it, because there a lot of young players 19 and under, didn't surprise me. Mangok making it did surprise me to be honest with you. You know we fully expected him to go down there and work hard, but we didn't expect him to make that team. So that was a good thing for him and a good thing for him to play against that type of competition. So I'm excited for him.

Any new updates from the team?

Well we practiced yesterday. You know, what am I going on 14, 15 years? I don't even know anymore I'm getting so old. How many years have I been at Louisville? Going on 15 or 14?

Going on 15, I believe. '01-'02 was your first season here, right?

I believe so. So I'm going on 15 years now. I will tell you this: in 15 years, I've never seen a group of young men of this character before, collectively, the guys that are there now. And led by Trey. He's doing an unbelievable job of leading.

The quality of character is what sticks out most. I'm not blown away with their athleticism. I'm not blown away with their abilities. I'm blown away with their attitudes and their character, their willingness to learn. It's been the best I've seen since I've been at Louisville. And that bodes very well for us, because, like I told you before, getting this 5th year seniors, this was gonna be a rebuilding year.

Now, you guys are aware of the changes in the schedule, correct?

Which changes specifically, coach?

The double games.

I'm not sure that we are aware. What can you tell us about that?

Well, I'm not sure that I'm supposed to announce this, but I'm going to anyway. Because I thought it was available for public consumption, but apparently since you're not aware of it, Mike, and Eric -- who's much more in tune than you are -- I'm going to tell you a little bit about it.

It's been proposed, not finalized, that we don't have the same double games anymore. So we will not play North Carolina twice, but we will get North Carolina at home. We will play Duke twice, which I know our fans like to see -- not that they don't like to see North Carolina twice. We will not play Miami twice, we will go down there this year and play them. We will pick up Georgia Tech, who is much improved, they've got just about everybody back from last year's team and they picked up a couple other guys. We'll play them twice, which helps us in recruiting as well as -- we like going down to Atlanta, Atlanta's a very special place in all of our hearts, obviously. We will play Pitt twice again. And then we still Virginia twice.

It still sounds like that away schedule is still going to be loaded.

Well that doesn't change. We do pick up Duke at home, which is good. But look, Eric, I don't know if you know this, but we play early in the season we go to the Barclays Center and play Saint Louis, then we play Michigan State at Michigan State, arguably Michigan State and Wisconsin are the two toughest places to play in the Big Ten, then we play at Kentucky. We get into our league schedule and we will be at Duke, at Virginia, at Pittsburgh, at Miami, at North Carolina State; and that will be a bear, there's no question about it. For a team that lost 90-95% of its scoring, it's going to be very, very difficult. And obviously I left out a few "ats" that are going to be very difficult as well.

So what we look at it differently than last year when we were trying to get that bye -- be one of the top four teams and get the bye. And by the way we're also at Notre Dame, I forgot to mention them. So it's a little different. We looked at it last year and said we had to win four or five road games to get that top four spot. Now this year we've got to pitch a shutout at home in order to be a top four team in the conference. So that's what you've got to look at.

How much do you expect those 5th year transfers to help with such a difficult road schedule?

Well here's what -- and for the fans listening, I'll say this: out of all the ex-athletes in any sport, Eric has probably been our biggest supporter. On the road or at home, he's always there. He comes into the locker rooms, and he's just a great guy and a great supporter for us.

I will say this about the two 5th-year seniors: I haven't seen Damion compete yet, but I've seen Trey Lewis compete. He's got great leadership qualities, very ultra-positive guy, and he can score. So we need scoring. He can score, pass, and he's highly motivated because he's never played in an NCAA Tournament. So that's why he chose Louisville. He wants to compete in an NCAA Tournament, at the highest level and against the best competition.

The same thing's true of Damion Lee. He brings us scoring, but he's never played in an NCAA Tournament. He was I believe, and Mike correct me if I'm wrong, the fourth leading scorer in the nation by average last year.

I believe that's correct.

So, you know, those two guys bring us what we need: experience, great attitude, great leadership qualities, and they can score. Because that's what we lose, we lose that scoring ability.

Now, Quentin Snider is going to be a much improved player. He improved dramatically once he got down to 173 pounds. He took off about 10 pounds, and his quickness is so much better, his defense is so much better. So we like what we see with him.

We've got a very special freshman class. Now I get accused sometimes of being too positive, so I'm not going to do that anymore, because the fans don't want to hear positive. They want to hear cynicism and negativity. So I won't go that route, but I also don't want to put too much of a glow on them. But I will say that I'm really, really impressed with our freshman class.

Ray Spalding, man, he's really, really good. He's 6'10, can block shots with both hands, runs as well as any freshman I've ever had. Now where he has to get better is he has to improve his shot. He has his left hand on top of his ball, too much space on the palm of his hand. So we're gonna work on that. But in terms of athleticism, this young man is as good as it gets.

Donovan Mitchell, I've always been bullish on him. Very, very high on him. He's working on getting arc on his jump shot, getting a lot better. Really, really high on him.

Deng Adel has to cut down on his nervousness, he's a little nervous right now. But outside of that, he can flat out play the game. Our best defensive player right now on the team. And when you can say that about a freshman -- I've never in my life ... maybe Preston Knowles I said that about, but I've never seen a freshman play the type of defense that he plays. And he can score, and he runs the floor very well.

On Trey Lewis emerging as a leader already this summer

You know sometimes -- and this is going to sound crazy to you guys, but you'll know -- especially to you Eric, being an athlete, you'll know exactly what I mean. Some of our guys have had good leadership qualities in the past, but then they fall in love. And what does that mean? That means 50-60% of the time when they fall in love, they're not hanging out with the guys, and they're not leading the team.

So the one thing is, we don't have Trey for very long. Whether he even has a girlfriend or not, I don't even know, but he's hanging out with our guys. He tells them come on we're going to the movies tonight, we're going to coach Balado's house to hang out, we're going to coach Johnson's house to hang out, now we're going to the gym to work out. He takes them and leads them.

Like Peyton Siva, for instance, his senior year he was a great leader, and when he was on the court he was tremendous. But after the court was over you didn't see Peyton because he had Patience telling him come on over here, we're going to hang out together.

Yeah, and off the court is when, in any sport, a leader is going to be able to get the most out of your guys

Yeah and I'm really excited about Damion Lee's leadership abilities. I know Mangok has great leadership abilities as well, so when he and Damion get in it's going to be great. I believe Damion gets in July 5.

And one of the big things for me this year, Eric, was hiring coach Willard back, Ralph Willard, whose last job was with the Oklahoma City Thunder. I needed somebody who, when I'm away coaching this national team, to make sure our individual instruction is run exactly the way I want it. Coach Johnson and him will do a fantastic job of that while we're away, they won't miss a beat. They're also going to coach our guys when they play against Puerto Rico. And that's really important that they try and beat Puerto Rico each night because the competition is going to be great there. It's going to be just what we need to set us up to play the type of schedule we're going to gace.

So while you're away coach Willard will have the mic and run the show?

He will, and coach Johnson will as well. Kenny is known for being a recruiter -- Kenny Johnson, you know, he has an interesting background. He was not a basketball coach by trade or a basketball player by trade. Kenny majored in biology, I believe, and became a biochemist. His background is more the academic world and the chemistry/biology world than it was basketball. But then he became an AAU coach, and he's as bright a young person as I've been around. He really understands the makeup of the players, and can teach the game, he can flat out teach the game. We already knew was a great recruiter, we saw that at Indiana, and he's doing a fantastic job for us now in both recruiting and teaching.

Are you still looking to use that last available scholarship to add a player for 2015-16?

No, we're really not. We've decided right now that we're going to hold pat. After individual instructions and what we've seen, we don't want to take away some playing time right now with a transfer or a junior college player. We really don't want to do that right now, we want to really hold pat and make sure that these freshmen get a lot of playing time this year.

On his reaction to Bo Ryan announcing this will be his last season

I was just glad to see that it wasn't for health reasons. That was my major concern. Bo has been a great coach at all ranks of the collegiate level. I'm just happy that he can retire and go on and have a healthy retirement. I don't like to see when coaches don't get to have a healthy retirement.

You know, Myron Medcalf, someone sent me a piece he wrote. And it was so well-written. I really appreciate when something is well-written. And it was so true. He talked about how sometimes when coaches retire they get on the jumbotron and then slowly just fade away from the picture forever. And it's really true, that's what happens to old coaches exactly: they get on the jumbotron a few times, they get invited back for a few games, and then you don't hear too much from them. But that's okay because we've had our chance to be in the spotlight for a long time, and it's time for the younger, newer coaches -- the Sean Millers of the world -- to take over and be in the spotlight.

Thanks so much for the time as always, coach

Thanks, guys, Next time we get together, I'll visit with you in maybe a couple of weeks and fill you in on what's going on.