Rick Pitino Discusses Win Over Miami

Photo: Tim Haag/CardinalSportsZone.com
Photo: Tim Haag/CardinalSportsZone.com

Opening Statement

“Well I’m buying beer because we finally got 35 deflections. And we needed it. Montrezl (Harrell) got 11. We needed the deflections tonight because our defense had to win it for us. The reason we got off to such a bad start- I haven’t seen our guys do this- on every drive to the basket, including Montrezl, we were trying to lean into the guy to draw the foul, and it was taking us out of our offensive rhythm by doing that. Then, when you have a start like that, the guys start to panic and they don’t want to shoot, as Chris Jones had a wide open three. But in the second half, I said, `Let’s just play defense every possession. We will win the game. Get our deflections picked up because we had 20 at halftime, and that’s what I want to see.’

I was telling Doris (Burke) that this conference reminds me much more of the Big East than what I thought it would be with the ACC. When you think of the ACC, you think of Duke, North Carolina, and transition basketball the whole night, but it’s much more like Georgetown, Pittsburgh, and the Big East. There are a few teams that will run- Clemson, Florida State, us, Miami. We try to run, but we don’t shoot it great. It takes that type of defense to win in this conference because we knew what was at stake for Miami. You just turn on the television and that’s all they talk about- the teams that have to win this game. Miami played great defense and played a winning game. We just made some really good defensive plays down the stretch. And then Terry (Rozier), I just kept telling him, `Don’t get down. Don’t get down. You’re going to make big shots at the end, and he did.”

On Terry Rozier’s late deflection to help Louisville get the win

“When you think of deflection you think `That’s coach talk’, but just what you’re saying wins the game. Just getting a fingernail on the ball wins the game. Chris (Jones) amazed me. Chris and Montrezl both – because of how hard they had to work the whole game. Their conditioning is amazing. Chris was well-rested…”

On Montrezl Harrell’s big free throws near the end of the game

“Yeah, he hit a big three too. Now I’m going to Mass tomorrow to pray to the Lord that he makes that the one for the second half of the season.”

Confidence building win?

“I said that they need a win, but we needed a win. I knew how important this game was – we needed a win. I think what it did for us was it taught us the significance of our hands, our feet. I thought that Nanu (Chinanu Onuaku) and Mangok (Mathiang) both did a great job, when our guards got picked, of sliding, sliding, and then blocking at the end. I thought they did a great job of that. I thought we did a great job of limiting the number of three’s they could take. In the second half, we played much better offense. They (Miami) took away a lot of our options. We got some backdoor plays wide open and we missed two bunnies…which can happen when you don’t’ get off to a good start.”

On the impact of Chinanu Onuaku’s offensive rebounding in the second half

“Big. He’s really improving. His hands are getting better, he’s improving. And so is Anas (Mahmoud). So is Shaqquan (Aaron) and so is Jaylen (Johnson). They’re all improving, and you know why they get a lot better is, you don’t see it because I don’t play Jaylen, but Jaylen’s going against Montrezl Harrell every single day – and that’s great, and then Q (Quentin Snider) is going against Chris Jones every single day. So it’s very tough to guard Chris Jones, and if he can get to the point where he can stop Chris Jones, he can stop anybody. So it’s great for these kids.”

On what Shaqquan Aaron did to get playing time today

“He practiced like a Louisville basketball player. That’s all he did. He practiced. I’m sure his father and mother got after him because I had a conversation with them, and you don’t mess with those parents. I’m being serious.”

On the flagrant foul against Montrezl Harrell

“It was a good call. I watched it. Here’s the rule, they deemed it was intentional. Montrezl was falling back, then he threw it, then he hit the guy’s face.

Here’s the ironic thing about that situation. So I was fine with it. If you want to call it, just call it, stop going for four minutes, call it. I said, `you’re breaking the game up, you’re giving them two timeouts.’ Here’s the ironic thing, coach Larrañaga walked over to the officials from his bench, all the way from the other side, I’ve never seen that, and I wanted to know what it was. I said, `what is it?’ He says, `well, he wanted to let me know that the big guy has a concussion on that play.’ I said, `for what motive?’ I said to the official, `what motive do you need to know that? Oh,’ I said, `I got it now,’ and I’ll repeat something I said. I said, `wait a second, he’s back in the game.’ So I just called, this is no BS, I just called Bobby Petrino and said get ahold of that Miami doctor, because in 15 minutes, a kid went from a concussion to playing and totally healthy.

So we’re sending a plane down to hire that doctor, get him out for football. We will never have a concussion ever again because he was back three or four minutes later, but he walked over to tell me he had a concussion, and he was back in the game. So we’re going to get to the bottom of this, what this doctor does. I told those doctors in there your jobs are in jeopardy.”

More on the play

“Yeah, the officials, it’s a tough call, because now they’re interpreting whether Montrezl meant… you know it’s tough and they’re talking about it, talking about it. I thought he was losing his balance and he tried to throw it off and he hit his head by mistake, but I’ll live with it because he hit him in his face, and then I said okay, he’s got a concussion, now you’ve got to live with it. And he came back in the game.”

On coach Larrañaga implying there’s an unwritten rule that you don’t throw the ball at an opposing player’s face 

“I agree with that. I really don’t think, you’ve got to ask Montrezl. I don’t think he was trying to do it. You do try to bang it off the guy’s legs, but I think if he wasn’t losing his balance. But he did it. It’s a flagrant foul and so on.”

On Wayne Blackshear

“I just keep telling Wayne more and more, `drive to the basket, drive to the basket, you’ll have big nights when you drive to the basket.’ And he’s doing a better job of that. I think he’s having a very good year. I base it not only on the games, but practice. He’s playing really good basketball. I think Montrezl, Chris (Jones) and Terry (Rozier)… what we learned tonight was Terry, against North Carolina State, Terry and Chris let their offense completely take them out of their defense. And they learned a valuable lesson that helped us win tonight because we kept playing defense, and I think the team really grew tonight and understand the significance of deflections and defense and rebounding, because we did a great job of rebounding the basketball in the second half.”

On Chris Jones

“In conference play, I think he’s playing great. I think Montrezl (Harrell) and Chris have been our best players in conference play. It’s really amazing what he can do in dogging the basketball. Sometimes he tries to cop a blow on the weak side and what happens is his man cuts backdoor and he loses him. But, they’re a team that runs a lot of high pick-and-rolls and it’s not easy to defend. I had a couple players a while ago that were a problem, and I didn’t like coaching them. The reason I didn’t like coaching them was not the problems that they brought me, but because they didn’t work hard. I can deal with a lot of problems. We’ll try to correct them and try to get them to own up and be a Louisville man. What I don’t like, is when somebody doesn’t work hard at their game.

Chris works hard at his game. All the time. That’s why I appreciate him. Is it fun to coach him? Not like Russ Smith – there’s not a lot of laughter coaching him. You appreciate how hard he works, so you give him some latitude when things don’t go well and he comes out of the game. He came out of the game tonight, and actually didn’t pout for the first time, which was awesome. He just sat down, I said `You ready to go in?’ and he said `Yes.’ Now we took the next step.”

On having just one day to prepare for their next game, (at Georgia Tech on Monday)

“Yeah, and Georgia Tech is the type of team that can beat anybody on a given night if you don’t get them in an up-tempo situation. You look at Florida State, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Miami in this game, us.. It’s grind-`em-out games where you’ve got to get it. But they played today too, so it’s no big deal.”

Why were there more deflections in this game?

“We talked about it so much, I think they don’t want to hear that word again. They really don’t. That was my whole pre-game speech about that. If a coach told me that after eight years in the NBA and 29 years, I’ve been doing this now for 40 years keeping the deflection chart, since Boston University, and with 100 NBA games. If a coach tells me that if you get 35 and you don’t give up an abnormal number of threes, you’re going to win 95 percent of your games, how can you not get that? How can you not get that? Now, Luke Hancock wasn’t the quickest guy in the world, but Peyton (Siva) and Russ (Smith) averaged anywhere from eight to 11. I think they’ll get it tonight. It’s really important because it’s a barometer for how much pressure you’re putting on the ball, it leads to steals, it leads to run-outs and break situations.”

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