Rick Pitino and Terry Rozier met with the media on Friday afternoon to preview the North Carolina game. Here is Pitino’s portion of the press conference, transcribed by Jeff Greer of the Courier Journal.
Pitino talks about the Tar Heels, the recent intrasquad scrimmage, Terry Rozier’s NBA draft stock, and much more.
Opening statement: I guess, when I got on the plane or the bus ride back from Boston, checked out the ACC scores, I was quite surprised. And that’s the nature of any great conference — it’s full of surprises because the bottom is very close to the top. Boston College played Virginia to the mat; they pulled away at the end. We pulled away at the end. Any great league has to have the bottom close to the top, and the teams in our league at the bottom. Georgia Tech, I believe, was winless and just blitzed Miami at Miami. So that’s the sign of any really good league. If you’re not on top of your game, you’re going to come away with an L. Carolina’s playing much better than the first time we played them. They’re on a winning streak, they’re playing with more scoring, more confidence and they’re better than the last time we faced them, so we have to be better.
On how UNC is better: They’re getting more scoring from other people.
On what has to be different this time vs. UNC: In the last two games, we built a lead and then we go back and we don’t get the stops needed to hold the lead. It happened at BC. It happened at North Carolina. We obviously are playing better offensively. They’re playing better, although we did play very well at North Carolina.
On switching emphasis back to defense: This is a team that’s not real gifted on proper fundamentals and we’ve got to work on all aspects every day. We’ve worked more on fundamentals this year than any period I can remember coaching.
On the intrasquad scrimmage: This is about our fifth scrimmage we’ve had this year with guys who don’t play. It’s just a way of getting guys minutes in a game situation when they don’t play. What I’m looking for from those guys is who can execute offensively and defensively, and you find out a lot of things because there’s no breaks and you find out who boxes out, who offensive rebounds, who sets good screens, who can execute your offenses and defenses. A lot of those guys only get about 30 percent of practice in because they’re the 13th, 14th, 15th man.
On who impressed him in the scrimmage: If you look at the teams, the Red team should have won. You’ve got Chinanu, Mangok, Shaqquan, Quentin Snider — they should have won anywhere from 10 to 15 points. Anton played very well and Jaylen and Anas got dominated on the glass. They got just pushed all over the place, but they won the game. In the end, Montrezl outcoached Chris Jones.
On drawing conclusions from the scrimmage: If you ask me who I was impressed with, I was really impressed with Anton Gill and Quentin Snider. Quentin plays at a different level than the other freshmen in all phases of the game. We all know he’s not good defensively, but he really works hard at it. Quentin has the same work ethic Terry Rozier has. The other guys aren’t close to his work ethic.
On Snider playing vs. Chris Jones everyday: It was funny because Chris was coaching with Wayne on the other team and Chris was his biggest cheerleader throughout the game because Q was playing well. So it’s great to see that. Terry and Monrtezl on one team and Chris and Wayne on the other team were coaching their asses off. I mean, every play they were coaching and it was very nice to see.
On if Jones and Rozier are trying harder to get Harrell the ball: I think the more Montrezl goes inside, the more touches he’ll get. The more he goes outside, the less touches he’ll get. I think they’re conscious of it, but Montrezl is getting double-teamed a lot so he’s finding other people. I think what makes Montrezl is rebounding, shot-blocking, running, scoring on the break, scoring in the low post, hitting mid-range jump shots. Earlier in the year, he got away from that a little bit and now he’s getting back to it.
On Anton Gill carrying good practices into games: Anton’s like (Snider). He can go in the game and be a good offensive player, but both of those guys, we take a major drop-off defensively when we put them in. Q just played a short minute (at BC) and made three major mistakes defensively. Didn’t rotate to the inside on a baseline drive, didn’t get over a screen and there was one other mistake. You have to live with that because they’re playing so hard. It’s not offensively — those two can play on offense. They’re not Chris and Terry, but you don’t lose a whole lot. You lose it at the defensive end. So I have a choice sometimes: Do I play Anton or do I play Chris at the two when I bring (Snider) into the game? If Chris is not fatigued, who would you rather go with? Who’s the best defender, who’s the better shooter, who’s the better breakdown guy? You’ve got your answer there.
On if Rozier and Jones’s minutes are sustainable: You can’t believe, you would think (Jones) couldn’t go out for six months when I take him out of the game. I say, ‘Is there something wrong with you, son?’ He says, ‘I’m not tired.’ And I say, ‘It’s not about being tired. You can’t play 40 minutes at this style. You need a rest, then you’re going right back in.’ I know he’s cursing under his breath. He hates to come out of the game and that’s a good thing to have, but what he’s got to realize is we need his legs at the end of the game. So I’m only giving him a minute blow. Now Terry doesn’t mind coming out. I mean, he’d rather play, but he needs a blow.
On if Jones will fatigue at any point this year: Chris is not going to fatigue. Everybody else can fatigue, but Chris is not going to because he’s built so strong and our practices are much tougher than a game because of what he has to do in practice. I’d like him to play 35, but a little bit at the two guard spot as well. I’d like to rotate those three guards, and if Anton comes around … Anton’s just not shooting the ball as well as I hoped when he first came here. He had a reputation of being a shooter in high school, at least a streaky shooter. And now he’s more of an athlete, and a pretty good athlete. Drives well to the basket, runs very well, but he’s an erratic shooter. You can tell by his statistics and his free throws. I think he’s got erratic form. He’s got a little bit of a side spin, he doesn’t shoot it straight up, his arc is a little flat.
On Jones and Rozier’s relationship: These guys get along so well. You will see Chris has to break the pressure two or three times and Terry will handle it. They do that all the time, they do that on their own. If Chris is running the break or he is dogging somebody fullcourt, you will see Terry bring the ball up and Chris to go to the two and that will give him a little break. These two have a very unusual bond those two guys – they are both street-tough city kids. They have an unusual bond.
On mock drafts: The one thing I can tell you guys is being eight years in the pros, tomorrow you could start your mock draft in The Courier-Journal and it will have some credence because you have been around the game for a long time. But you will have just as much knowledge as any of these other people because you are relying on statistical data and what you get from these other people. But I can tell you from being with the Knicks and the Celtics, we never pay attention to the mock draft. We never focus on them. We only look at them because everybody except the top 2-3 picks lies, I will give you an example we are 18 and we want Mark Jackson. We will leak it out that we are interested in 6-7 guys and Mark Jackson is not one of them. We’ll even get to the point when Mark Jackson comes in for his work out we will spread it that he has a bad workout. Why? Because you don’t want to lose your guy. So, your guess would be as good as any of those guys. They are asking scouts – not GMs – who is good and you are never going to be right on the number except Jahlil Okafor is going to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. But after that you can guess that Karl Towns will be 2-3 or Stanley Johnson but after that you can’t because it’s what does a team need. Once you say what the team needs then Terry could be the sixth pick in the draft if they need a scoring point.
On Terry Rozier’s draft stock: Terry has mimicked D-Wade so much, I think sometimes he thinks he is. Terry can run the pick and roll well. The NBA is about – you really have 16 seconds to run the offense – so you have to get in the lane and you have to get paint touches, get by the guy and create. Terry is a creator with good size and he’s also a good athlete and a good defensive player. He’s a willing passer and he acts like a pro. He’s not going to cause any trouble and is never going to have a bad day at practice. So, once they start interviewing him and people talk about him I think his stock is really going to be high.
On Rozier vs. Russ Smith: He’s bigger, body wise. They don’t like 165-pound guards. The length and the things like that. Terry just has all the things the pros like. I can’t tell you how many times I tell people, ‘If we can get Terry to come back’ and I say, ‘He’s not coming back can you start looking at future recruits’ and they say, ‘Do you think he’s coming back’ and I will say I just said he wasn’t last week.
On the Yum Center rims: That’s the first I have heard of it. We will have to check it out. Some teams have come into Yum and shot the eyes out against our defense. What did Duke shoot? Kentucky shot great in the second half. It may be just tight at one end. And then what they do is go change the tightness on the other end.
On convincing his team the rims are different: I’ll point out that the other team is shooting at the same rims and a higher percentage.
On the last UNC game: It was a great college basketball game and anybody could have won it. We were in command for 38 minutes of the game and then we did some things that got us into trouble, but it was a great college game. Obviously, we’ll be looking forward to playing them at our place and hopefully we’ll be playing better at home that we have been. They are the no. 1 percentage wise offensive rebounding team in the country. If we break it down, we could say the last play was poorly played by our defense, but in essence we gave up too many offensive rebounds in that game. We have to do a much better job on the backboards. I expect Montrezl Harrell to do a much better job than he did at North Carolina, rebounding wise.
On Brice Johnson saying Harrell just needs to be blocked out to take him out of his game: If you want the ball, go block out Kenneth Faried and tell me he doesn’t get the ball. Every NBA guy tries to block him out. If you have that desire, you will get around. Pretty simple solution.
On whose idea it was to bring back the rally beards: Mine – I think when you are 62, you just get tattoos, grow beards, take your jacket off, get on motorcycles, you just do crazy things because you are going to roll a seven pretty soon.