First Round Press Conference Quotes
March 18, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the second half of our day long interview processions here. Joined by Gonzaga student athletes. Closest to me Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray and Elias Harris. Welcome to Buffalo, guys. We welcome Gonzaga, the eighth seed, 26 6 making their twelfth NCAA appearance. They'll take questions at that time.
Q. For Matt, what's the take and what's the feeling after the St. Mary's loss?
Matt Bouldin: That St. Mary's loss, it hurt pretty bad. We looked at it as an opportunity to improve on things. We struggled late in the season. It gives us a chance to respond. Something we've been really, really good at this entire year. So we look at it as a chance to respond and just get back out here.
Q. Elias, can you talk about the challenge facing Florida State when you have a team like that with that many shot blockers, big trees in the middle; how does that force you to change your game offensively?
Q. For any of you, maybe Steven first, how do these guys compare with who you guys have played, maybe the Wake Forest or Cincinnati, Michigan State type team?
Steven Gray: Those teams definitely, and then a lot with Memphis because they're so athletic and they really get out and pressure you on defense. We know they're definitely an athletic team that offensive rebounds really well. So I mean those are going to be the two we have to slow down and not let them hurry us up on offense. Make sure we block out and rebound like we did at the start of this year. So I think definitely those athletic, physical teams that we faced earlier in the year definitely remind us of Florida State.
THE MODERATOR: Matt, Elias, anything to add to that?
Matt Bouldin: I agree with Steve. Just those athletic teams. Cincinnati in terms of offensive rebounding, so they rebound the ball so well.
Q. Their defense is well known. You guys know the field goal percentages and all the stats. What are the keys offensively to attack, to be able to score against these guys for Elias and maybe Matt?
Elias Harris: Well, I think just like I said, we shouldn't change our game plan. We need to attack the basket, play hard, play together, play as a team to be successful at the end.
Matt Bouldin: I think games like this we need to execute really well. I mean, teams that really get after it defensively, you have to play hard and execute. And definitely run. We need to keep running like we have been all season. So they don't get a chance to really, you know, get in their set D's as well.
Q. Matt, maybe if there's one team in this tournament that could handle a 2,300 mile trip, it's you guys. You guys are so used to it the way your schedule has gone this year and many years. Teams in the East don't do nearly the amount of traveling as you guys do. What are the keys to having success on the road when dealing with all the travel you guys are going through all the time?
Matt Bouldin: I really think we've been better on the road this year. But I think some keys would be obviously rest. We try to rest up as much as we can, drink a lot of water. And then going with the right mind set. We go in with these games on the road. Like you said, we've been in many of them before. We just go with the right mind set. Go in there and know it's going to be a battle. Yeah, just really tough minded.
Q. Really, for Steven or Matt, the tradition, the NCAA tradition that Gonzaga has established, this being your twelfth straight appearance, there's got to be an expectation of being just more than a one and done type thing. Do you feel the pressure of that tradition? And maybe not the pressure, but the responsibility to uphold the tradition that's been established for Gonzaga?
Steven Gray: You know, you want to represent your school and the program in the best possible way. Expectations are all fine and good. People can expect you to do whatever. But it comes down to the game. As long as we go out there and play hard and, you know, it's clearly visible that you know we're giving everything that we have, you know we're going out there and not surrendering or rolling over. Just playing with that tough minded mind set that Matt talks about. Just going out there and doing the things that we're capable of doing, I don't think people can really expect any more than that. And so I think, you know, with this team, you know, that makes it pretty simple. As long as we go out there and play hard, that's all anyone can really ask from us or that we can ask from ourselves. So I don't think that there's a pressure or a responsibility past that.
Q. Just as follow up, Matt talked about how much the St. Mary's loss stung. Was that more of a factor of you guys losing that game the way you played or in part -- maybe you can't speak for Matt, but was that also part of the responsibility of upholding Gonzaga's tradition to a certain degree or was that just stinging because of the way you guys lost?
Steven Gray: I think it was more stinging in how we lost that game. It was a close game up until the nine minute mark or something. And then as a team we just pretty much just crumbled. And so I think that's what stung more, is the fact we didn't finish the game out playing hard and playing like we had been the majority of the year.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for our student athletes from Gonzaga? Thanks for your time. Good luck. Coach Mark Few joins us now. His number eighth seeded Gonzaga, 26 6. Twelfth consecutive NCAA appearances. Happy to have you here. Go ahead and make an opening statement.
COACH FEW: We're happy to be here. I speak for my players and staff and all of Gonzaga. It's a thrill to be involved in the NCAA tournament again for the twelfth consecutive year. And I just think of all the neat things we've been able to accomplish at Gonzaga, that's probably the thing we're most proud of. It's the greatest sporting event in the world. And to be involved in it again, and out here in Buffalo is a very big deal, and especially for this group that we started the year with.
This is probably the least experienced group of guys we've ever embarked on a season with. They've really grown a lot during the course of this year and developed a lot, and it's something we're very proud of and obviously want to keep playing our best basketball and keep this thing going.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open up to questions.
Q. As much as your team and players are happy to be here, some of your players expressed a lot of disappointment after that St. Mary's game. Steven Gray, I think, said, "we crumbled." There's just a lot of they're stung. Is it good to be motivated in that sense, to know what you did wrong? Not good to come off a loss like that, but I guess they're not happy.
COACH FEW: Yeah, I mean, I've been around here the last ten days. I don't sense that. No, I mean, you're going to be motivated to play in the NCAA tournament no matter what. I don't care if you came off a loss, a win, a buzzer beater, a forfeit. You're going to be very, very motivated to play in the NCAA tournament. So I don't really think anything that happened prior to this might have it might have helped for the first couple of days of practice. We have had a little bit of time off. That's probably the extent of that.
Q. A dozen straight years in the tournament is obviously a great accomplishment. How much has that made your job easier? And can you compare what it is now to what it was then?
COACH FEW: I mean, it's changed. Just look at the enrollment of our school. Prior to our first appearance 12 years ago, I think we had an enrollment of about 2,800. Now it's over 7,000. You know, there's a lot of things. We built a brand new arena. We've made steps every year. The school, the leadership of the school, from the president, the board of trustees to the athletic director, Mike Roth, down to myself, it's been a very cohesive unit that kind of understands that if you can invest in your basketball program, that it can kind of be a big giant window or door for a bunch of people to see into your university and can go from there. So a lot of changes since then. A lot of things still the same.
Q. Coach, there's a great deal of interest in your team. You have four Canadians on your roster. I'm curious, what's happening in Canada that's making it such an attractive place to recruit talent? There's 75 players from Canada; what's going on that makes Canada an attractive place to look for talent?
COACH FEW: I think there's a lot good players. They're playing a lot more basketball. Playing a lot of basketball early. You know, I think there's a lot of good coaches up there that are helping these guys play basketball early and develop them. There aren't many secrets now in Division I or especially with all the AAU things and international competitions going on. So there's a good player somewhere, you know, all of us Division I coaches are going to find out about it and go up there and it's and it's such an easy adjustment, I think, for a Canadian player to come to the States and play, a lot of good players.
Q. Obviously their defense is what they've kind of prided themselves on. What do you want to see from your guys offensively to be able to attack them? And is it important to stick to what you've done this year or do you have to alter a lot of things?
COACH FEW: No, we're not going to alter -- you are who you are this time of year. We've been pretty, pretty darn effective all season on the offensive end. It might not have been pretty or aesthetically pleasing but at the end of the day we've been pretty efficient with our numbers. It's going to be hard. It's going to be hard to consistently generate baskets against this type of defense, big, long, athletic, physical they are. I think that's a big key to the game. But I think we've got to get stops on the offensive end to try to get our break going. And then also do a good job on both the defensive glass to get a break going and also the offensive glass to get some easy baskets there.
Q. Mark, you came 2,300 miles to this sub regional. That's not anything new for your program with the schedule you play. Eastern teams, we cover road trips, it's a hop and a skip. You guys do these kind of things a lot. How do you get your guys in the mindset to make these long trips and really thrive on them and do well?
COACH FEW: We start early in the season. We -- second game of the year we flew to East Lansing and put our guys in a pretty tough environment there at the Breslin Center against a very good Michigan State team. I knew right then and there we were going to learn a lot about ourselves. These guys battled and battled down to the last possession. We ended up losing. But I think it really helped us. Whether it's flying to Maui or flying to Memphis or flying to Madison Square Garden, you know, we try to play in a lot of these games. The reason I do it is to help prepare us for the NCAA tournament.
Q. In following up on the recruiting question, you stayed among the nation's top programs without recruiting some of the nation's top high school players. What's your recruiting philosophy? And how do you find the Gonzaga players, so to speak?
COACH FEW: I mean, I think evaluating is a huge, huge part of recruiting. A lot of times in the evaluation process, maybe there's better players out there, or players that can develop into great college players that weren't on those lists that you mentioned that were evaluated by other people other than college coaches that put them on that list in the first place.
I think evaluation is key. I think finding the right fit that fits into how you want to play, and then I'm very, very big. Our staff is very big on player development. I think once you get to a school, we try to make them better, and try to tap out their potential as best we can while they're with us.
Q. You hear coaches a lot say from smaller conferences that when they get good, it's harder to get better teams to play them. How are you able to get these top teams on your schedule year in and year out?
COACH FEW: I just think we've proven out over the years, you know, and so it's been pretty, especially the last five or six years, it's been very easy to schedule and do whatever we need to do in that area. TV has been great to us. All the major tournaments have been great. So it's easy. The problem I have is sometimes we overdo it and play too many of these tough ones, to be quite honest with you, when we need to probably mix in a couple of easy ones at home.
Q. Coach -- I'm sure your expectations probably haven't changed since you've gotten there, been there, but have you noticed how have you noticed that expectations outside the program from the public, from the fans and you touched on TV, how they've changed in regards to Gonzaga?
COACH FEW: It's changed drastically. It used to be -- and again, I'm speaking from that perspective, not from mine and our programs to us it's still a very, very big deal to win our league championship. And I think to a lot of people they expect that. And it's kind of ho hum. And it's kind of to us, as I said earlier, it's a thrill to be involved in the NCAA tournament.
People that follow us, the fans, and things like that, I think they're upset with an eighth seed. And so that's where the expectations are. But that's fine. I think that's not such a bad thing. As long as you don't let it affect your player's mind set or burden them in any way with any kind of pressure. It's better than the alternative which is apathy. We have great interest in our program nationwide. Obviously if they have those kind of expectations, those can be a good thing in some ways.
Q. Just as a follow up, you touched on it, I mean, people are wondering why you're the eighth seed. Yet how do you deal with the pressures now of being an eighth seed? And still facing the outside expectations where people want you to go to the Sweet 16 or the Elite Eight this year. I'm sure they are your expectations. You know what -- maybe you know what I'm saying.
COACH FEW: Yeah. I keep it pretty simple in my life. I don't really deal with anybody else other than my family and close friends. I'm not a big computer guy. I really don't delve into that world. Like everybody is finding out this morning or early this afternoon, no matter what game you play in this tournament, it's going to be a hard one and a tough one. If you're not ready to go and if you're not playing your best basketball, you're probably putting yourself in position to get beat. Seedings, location, all that stuff gets thrown out the window and your team has to play. We've been in this thing long enough. We understand that and our players understand it.
Q. You were asked more generally about Canadians before. How about your four specifically? How have they progressed this year?
COACH FEW: Very well. Very well. I think Robert Sacre has had -- made a huge jump from where he was at as a freshman through his red shirt year where he was injured last year. He's really, really had a fine year for us this year. You know, losing Manny hurts us. Manny was really coming on and doing a great job pursuing the basketball. And knocking down shots. And Kelly, Kelly has had some very good minutes for us, played in important minutes for us. And Bol Kong has played good minutes for us. Hit big shots and made great plays throughout the year.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
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