Rick Pitino Discusses the Win Over Georgia Tech

Photo: ESPN.com
Photo: ESPN.com

Opening statement

“I’m as proud of this basketball team as any game I’ve ever coached because I’ve never seen a team have so many open looks from layups to wide open shots off good ball movement and (the shots) not falling. Earlier this year we had the same thing happen and we got down and we didn’t play good defense. But these guys kept their attitude and just focused on one thing: winning the game. You know Georgia Tech is just like us. We have two better players than them, but they’re just like us. They run great stuff, but the ball doesn’t go in. They’re not a good shooting team and we’re not a good shooting team. And that’s the most frustrating thing because they do so many great things offensively and so many great things defensively, and so did we. But when the shot doesn’t go in, you struggle. But they’re a team that played Duke to the wire and had them. Notre Dame in overtime. They’re young right now and they suffer the same things we suffer and that’s ‘you have wide open shots and they don’t go down.'”

On Wayne Blackshear’s big shots

“Early in the season it would have bothered us when Wayne missed the first two free throws of the game. It always happens that way. You lose your confidence. And I really got after him at half and I said, ‘Man you were open twice and you didn’t shoot. There’s only one way to get hot in basketball and that’s to shoot.’ Terry Rozier took that to heart. He had a first half that didn’t go his way, and then he was brilliant in the second half. The guys just played awesome defense, and like most of our games, we come alive shooting the ball in the second half. It’s surprising a little bit because of the amount of pressure that we put defensively that we have those legs in the second half.”

On the team’s demeanor during the deficit

“Well I just told them that now we are a totally different basketball team; everybody’s got to play. Everybody’s got to mature and everybody’s got to play. And let me tell you at the end of the game I was going to take Chinanu out and put Anas in. And Montrezl said, ‘Don’t do it, coach.’ And I said, ‘Montrezl they’re going to foul him if we stop them.’ And he said, ‘We need his defense.’ They fouled him. I wanted to kill Trez. And then Chinanu blocks the shot that seals the game for us. So if Trez doesn’t get picked in the lottery, I’ll hire him as an assistant coach.”

On having no timeouts in the final minute

“We’re on the floor and sometimes that hurts you, but I had to waste a timeout there because our guys were flat-out exhausted from pressing. It’s not easy coming back in a slow-down game. Sometimes in a fast game you can come back, but in a slow-down game, it’s not easy. God, we’ve done it about three or four times and I’m really proud of these guys.”

On Terry Rozier’s go-ahead layup

“I wanted Rozier to bring it out, but there was no stopping him at that point because he was going. Offensively, I give our guys the green light. I get upset at them like I was really upset at Wayne for not shooting. Shoot the basketball. Like tonight we had three challenged shots at half. That’s all. Missed layups. They learned a valuable lesson in the last few games: defense is winning it for them. We are going to get better offensively. We’ve just been having so much turmoil of all of sudden someone’s back and then he’s gone, but you never get a chance to practice. Your whole game plan changes in a matter of hours without practice time. It’s a little difficult, but now we’re all set and we’ll be ready to practice.”

On ball movement

“The ball movement was great in the first half. Inside, outside, reversing, wide open, no.” (I assume the “no” means even with the movement, shots weren’t going in.)

On Chris Jones

“Regardless of if somebody does something wrong, I feel as they’re all my children. But he’s no longer on the basketball team. He’s got to now talk for himself, no different than when Chane Behanan left. It’s not up to me to comment about anything. He was dismissed from our team. He’s not coming back. We wish him best success in the game of life. But it is what it is. Nothing I can say can remedy the situation.”

On the pressure getting better

“The pressure can’t get better unless you score. You can’t press on misses. They do the same thing we try to do. They break great because they know they’re going to struggle in the halfcourt. We made a few shots and we got our pressure on. We smelled the game, that we had a shot at it.”

On so many Louisville fans being at the game

“One time a year, the churches in town get together and they’ve come sometime with 50 buses. They always pick one game a year. We didn’t know they were coming for this game, but we probably have the best group of churches that would travel with any team.”

On helping the young players get through the drama lately

“I just tell them: Our team changes. The freshmen have to play. ‘I am going to play you.’ I was so proud of Nanu’s block because that’s the type of play where he gave (UNC guard Marcus Paige) that open layup and now he blocked it. They’re very competitive people. I’ve found a major difference in Shaqquan the last five days. That’s why I started him because I wanted to reward him for having a different attitude and playing hard. I’m sure it had something to do with his dad, to be honest with you, and not me. But I think it’s great parenting, and I was real proud of the way he practiced.”

On being back in Atlanta

“It brought great memories until halftime. You know when we couldn’t make a shot. Atlanta is a great town. Obviously for me and the University of Louisville, it’s one of the most special places of any city in America. Atlanta is a very, very special place. I feel a great deal of pride, but I also feel a great deal of empathy for their coaching staff as well. Because I know what it is when you’re young and you don’t shoot the ball. It just eats you up. I’ve always said that sometimes a lack of patience is the worst thing programs can do. Sometimes you just have to be patient with young guys, because they’ll get it. I’m not telling the athletic director is the next John Wooden, but I can tell you something right now that he’s a top 15 coach in the nation. There’s no doubt. He kicked my ass one time at Dayton and made me look like I never coached.”

On handling player discipline

“I feel awful for the young man, but there are certain rules that you can run people and there are other rules where you just can’t and you just have to move on. Unfortunately we just have to move on. You don’t like to see — it’s like your children — you don’t like see anybody be hurt. But there’s also accountability and doing the right thing. He (Jones) didn’t. He’s got to now get his life together, get on with his life. There’s no way he’s coming back. It’s over. A hell of a player, but mistakes were made and sometimes in life you have to pay for those mistakes.”

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