Rick Pitino Previews Duke

Photo: Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
Photo: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

Coach Pitino met with the media on Friday afternoon to preview the Duke game. The Cards will face Duke on Saturday, one week after facing North Carolina. These are regular season games for us now people. How cool is that?

Video from Howie Lindsey of CardinalSports.com. Transcript from Courier-Journal.com.

Opening statement: Well I like 12 o’clock games much better than 9 o’clock games so we’re looking forward to this. Certainly this conference is different on every given night. Any time you have a large conference, you’ll see things that you don’t expect. Certainly, you did not expect the Miami victory that way in the last 10 minutes of the game. But nonetheless Duke presents a lot of problems for us that we have got to take care of in order to get a victory.

One is the fact that Okafor and their frontcourt get as many offensive rebounds as we’ve seen. Probably in the five major conferences, he’s No. 1 in offensive rebounding. I think he gets 16.7 percent of offensive rebounds. We’ve got to do a good job. We did not do a good at North Carolina at keeping them off the glass. We’ve got to do a good job in this game.

It’s something that poses a big problem. Obviously, they’ve got one of the premier players in college basketball at the five spot. His statistics bear out that he is one of the top draft choices in this year’s NBA draft as well as being one of the top college players.

On his message to Mangok Mathiang: I didn’t have a message to him.

On target percentage for defensive rebounding: Sometimes defensive rebounding is due to your trapping and you get Chris Jones on a bigger guy. But in the North Carolina game it was just a matter of we blocked out but we didn’t pursue the basketball. Especially Montrezl and he’s got to do a better job in that area. Mangok is our best offensive rebounder, percentage wise. He ranks like 34th in the country in getting offensive rebounds. We don’t have anybody in, I think, the top 100 except for Mangok.

On Mathiang vs. Duke’s Jahlil Okafor: We don’t play the type of defense that concerns matchups because we change so much. We do so many different things defensively. It’s not that type of game.

On what Miami and NC State have done vs. Duke: What Miami ran the whole second half was just high pick-and-rolls. They just spaced the court, ran pick-and-rolls, and they have a premier point guard who beat them off the bounce. And then when Miami tried to switch, whoever Okafor was guarding, he tried to take them off the bounce. And they got away with it for that given game.

But when it comes down to it, both teams made I think 10 3s, North Carolina State as well as Miami. To beat a great team, you’ve got to make nine or 10 3s. … So that was a big factor in the game.

On Chris Jones and Terry Rozier: We’re just going to stick with our normal game plan. We’re not going to change what we do. We do run a lot of pick-and-rolls. We’re going to stick with what we do, and I know they’re going to stick with what they do. Two losses aren’t going to change them.

On Duke guard Tyus Jones and Duke’s backcourt: You can pick your poison with them. You can look at Winslow, you can look at all the guys they have having terrific years. But they shoot over 50 percent from the field. They are a great offensive rebounding team. They’re outstanding on defense.

People sometimes look to a bad game and say they gave up points. But Duke’s going to run with you and the other teams, like NC State and Miami will run up-and-down. And then certain teams won’t run up-and-down. Sometimes style of play dictates how many points you give up.

On which defense is the right defense among the ACC’s Hall of Fame coaches: Oh, our system, without question, is the best. (laughs)

I think what you have to do with every team is you really have to see where your weaknesses lie and then choreograph your defense accordingly.

Like in 2005, we had no bench and we we were small, so we played strictly 2-3 zone, a bumping zone that Jim Boeheim plays. That was the last time that we played that type of zone.

Certain coaches – like a Tony Bennett or a Coach K or Jim Boeheim – they’re going to stick with what they do. I think that Roy (Williams) will change a little bit, depending on his personnel. We change depending on our personnel, defensively. We won’t change a whole lot offensively. Roy’s still running the same things he ran at Kansas.

More on Rozier and Jones: Our two guys have had terrific years. Every backcourt has a bad game, but I think these guys have been as consistent, at both ends of the floor, as any backcourt in the nation.

Chris Jones is not only playing great basketball right now, but so much goes unnoticed about his defense because he’s a great on-ball defender.

Terry is a great rebounding guard. You don’t find too many 6-1 guards that can rebound like that. And he does it in traffic, going over big people.

So they’re having an outstanding year. I never say they’re one of the 1, 2, or 3 best backcourts in the nation because that’s a subjective thing. But I do think they’re one of premier backcourts.

On needing good guard play to win in March: You have to have three guards though, because one’s going to get in foul trouble in a given game. You’ve got to get to a third guard and that’s what we’re in the hunt for right now. When you talk about a great backcourt, I think it’s three guards.

On his relationship with Coach K: We’ve been good friends for awhile. He knows how much respect I have for him and the Duke program and we’ve been very good friends for many years. I always say that Coach K and Billy Donovan are the two poster childs for how to act as a coach. One’s a little older than the other but in their tenure, they have the total package. From coaching, teaching, recruiting, mentoring, developing assistant coaches into head coaches, how they treat their players, how they handle losses, in always giving credit to the other team. Both guys I’ve seen are in a class by themselves, so I’ve got unbelievable respect for him.

On the UNC loss vs. his UK loss to Duke in 1992: It’s nowhere near that loss. Remember, I had a player get stepped on his chest that game and nothing happened. You do that today and you’d send him off to another country if he did that, the way social media is today. He stepped on his chest during the game.

I had Montrezl Harrell ejected for throwing a phantom forearm with three guys surrounding him with their fists clenched. So it’d be a lot different.

That game meant the Final Four. This game meant a conference game. It was disappointing because we played really well in that game, executed really well, but you have to give them credit.

Are you over that game? Yes. (Editor’s note: I think this question was about the Laettner game in ’92, not the UNC game.)

How long did it take? Just 24 hours. I watched the film of the game. It was a great college basketball game, great atmosphere. Really disappointed the way we defended the last play but really, really happy with the we passed the ball up the court to get not only an open look but an open follow.

On scoring in basketball: Last year (scoring) went up for a small period of time. The Tony Bennetts of the world are ruining college basketball. You know how much I respect him as a coach. I think he’s absolutely brilliant, and so was his dad. I said that last week.

Here’s what we have done to the game. First and foremost, there’s a lack of great shooters anymore. We don’t concentrate enough on shooting and passing. Including myself, we get so tied into stopping the other team’s offense; we take away everything. Because of the technology today it helps you immensely stop the other team’s offenses. So where we have to get better, because the dimensions of the court have not expanded, we have to take the same type of meticulous preparation at the offensive end, and how can we score against these great defenses? I’ve watched Virginia a number of times and they don’t give you an open shot; no matter what you run they won’t give you an open look. And then when you do get an open look it’s contested at the end. So that’s where great shooting comes in.

You look at why N.C. State and Miami played so well, they (each) made 10 threes. When you look at Ole Miss almost beating Kentucky, it was guys shooting NBA threes and making them. There’s a lack of great shooting and passing today. I’m in search of great shooters right now for next year. We were talking the other day about Wayne Blackshear’s shot; he’s taking 800 of those shots a week. We work very hard on shooting, but there are very few guys that I go see at the high school level that are great shooters. There are some. Certainly, Booker at Kentucky is a great shooter and as many guys as you can get like that, regardless of what they do defensively because you can teach them how to play defense. If you can get a collection of guys like that you can beat anybody on a given night.

The game in all reality, there’s nothing better than watching a Virginia-type defense, and their offense is up this year tremendously. Dick Vitale was telling me today about a game, I think it was Michigan State-Duke maybe, that was 17-16 at halftime, When you see that score at halftime. . .I was on the committee to try and get more scoring in the NBA. When I was with the Knicks we averaged 116.8 points per game and there was only one team in the league not scoring 100. By the time I went back to the pros, there was only one team breaking 100 and they thought that calling more fouls was the answer and they were right. So it went on for a period of time, scoring was up.

On shortening the shot clock: It would only help Virginia. Tony thinks it would hurt them, but it would only help Virginia to go to 30 seconds because their defense would be that much better. There are two things we need to change. One is in the backcourt you don’t get a new 10 seconds when a guy calls timeout, that’s absurd. And the other thing that’s absurd is the 35 second (clock). I mean, the women have been playing with 30 seconds for quite some time. I think we can adjust to it.

On his team’s passing and shooting: Very average. (they would need to) Be reincarnated to become great shooters because nobody works at it more than we do in terms of volume of shots. I think we have good scorers, but we don’t have the knock-down shooter. Chris Jones is probably our best open shooter, but it’s tough getting him to take open shots, he likes people on him. That’s the number one thing we’re looking for in recruiting. I went to a Final Four with a very average-size team in 2005, but they could shoot. Larry O’Bannon, Taquan Dean and Francisco Garcia could shoot the basketball.

On the buzz about Louisville-Duke: I think it will be the best crowd in the history of the Yum Center. I thought Ohio State would be. It was, contrary to some of your opinions. There won’t be 4,000 Duke Blue Devil shirts in the arena surrounding the court taking pictures of their players during warmups. There’ll be about 100, and that’s more than enough. So it will be the best crowd in the short tenure of the Yum Center. It’ll be exciting because you have the premier coach in college basketball coming in, you have one of the premier programs in college basketball, we’re new to the ACC, we’re always going to see Duke. So it’s a great late-morning game and I’m excited to get Duke in here to see what we can do against their size, as well as their quickness.

Did you want to be the coach whose team stood in the way of Coach K winning his 1,000th game? No, I’m very happy. Sad to see Mike lose, but very happy that I wouldn’t be part of a trivia question.

On U of L’s uniforms: I like them a lot. I think it’s great we’re honoring that team. The uniforms look great, the players love them, the dunking Cardinal is big-time, everything about it. It’s really going to be a special day because it’s new to all of us. North Carolina, Duke, the teams of the ACC. We’re used to Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame and this year you have about five teams that could win a national championship in the ACC and a lot of other teams that could pull major upsets in the tournament.

Is Duke going through a midseason slump? Maybe for Duke, but I wouldn’t say they’re going through a losing streak, two games. When you’re 14-2, which we are, and they are ranked 4th. I think we’re all trying to do the same things. We’re all trying to get into March a much better basketball team with a decent seed. So that’s our goal. Sometimes you can look at a schedule and see where your bumps in the road are going to occur. At least I could in the Big East. I don’t think I could do it now because I don’t know the league well enough. Obviously, when you look at the schedule and you’re playing North Carolina twice, Virginia twice and Miami twice, you realize the ACC says the one thing we’re going to do with all newcomers is give them the shaft.

On Montrezl Harrell’s practice competition hurting him vs. good teams, and if U of L changed its practice matchups to help him prep for Duke: He didn’t have a good game against North Carolina. I think Montrezl just has to realize the defense, when you play against North Carolina, Kentucky, they’ve got guys that are physically very long and then they’re gonna come after you more than we come after him in practice. So we’ve been doing a better job in practice going after him more to get him ready for what he has to face.

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