Rick Pitino’s Post Game Comments After the Virginia Game

Photo: YouTube.com
Photo: YouTube.com

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Opening statement

I think we messed up defensively on that last play by running into the screen but our guys did so many good things tonight. I’m really happy we won. It would’ve been a really difficult loss because we got our 35 deflections, we were eight for eleven on the break, we moved the basketball, and their focus on the scouting report was outstanding. I was so happy Mangok made that shot because it was a big lift for our basketball team after playing real well. What we tried to do, obviously we didn’t have a lot of time to, was run a lot of motion. We were hoping that Terry could get in the lane, look down low to Montrezl if he couldn’t turn the corner. Mangok was the 64th option.

But I will say this: Mangok has gone in the gym every night for the last two months. Nobody would play him, not this shot, but nobody would play him in the zone when he would catch the ball right below the foul line, everybody would just back off. I said to him, when he kept driving and turning the ball over, “if you cant make a 14 shot son, you cant play college basketball at the University of Louisville.” So he went in with a couple managers and he worked the past two months. Now he hasn’t taken that shot, but it’s fitting after putting two months and about 1,000 shots. That shot was good from the moment it left his hands. I’m real happy for him because he put in the work.

What went through his mind when Mangok shot it?

He had to shoot it. Just like Montrezl had to shoot it at that point. We didn’t have a whole lot of options. We wanted Terry to get in there, Montrezl, one of those guys to shoot it. Wayne wasn’t having a good night, certainly we didn’t want Q to shoot it, so we had to get Terry to try and either get the shot or duck in to Montrezl.

On forcing Virginia into 13 turnovers

Well, we got our 35 deflections. When you play 59-57 and you have 19 deflections at halftime, you’re going to not only have the lead, but you’re going to be good on the break. We were 8-for-11 on the break. So when you get 35 deflections with a 59-57 game, you’re playing good defense.

What this win does for the team heading into the postseason

Well we wanted to get this double-bye, and obviously we beat a great team tonight, a well-disciplined, well-coached basketball team. We wanted to do it just by not caring about stats. It was a much prettier game than I anticipated. Both teams were moving the ball well. The first half of the other game, we telegraphed everything we were running. They knew we were going to run a pick-and-roll because we never created movement. Tonight we went across, we went back, we created ball movement, we had reversal. That’s why Q got so many good looks and made so many nice plays. I thought he played really good tonight because he didn’t get beat that much defensively. He took a quantum leap tonight in what we want him to do.

On the defensive gameplan

We have a very complex system defensively where we have three different presses and we go man, zone, ball goes to certain spots we go back to man, ball goes back out we go back to zone. All we were doing is confusing our own guys. We were okay with Chris (Jones). Once Q had to go in there, it’s too many changes for a freshman to have to come in and play that many minutes. I took out the film of the T-Will (Terrence Willliams) Era, and I showed them exactly what I wanted them to do defensively in this situation. We messed up a few times, but what happens with the way we’re playing it is, the forwards have to play the high post. When guard bumps the forward, he doesn’t go low. Wayne, if you remember, played the low post, the center came up and played the high post, Wayne tried to front him and they got over the top. That’s why you don’t do that unless you have Syracuse-type wings.

On simplifying the defense 

I just think that guys like Quentin and some of the young guys, they have to think too much. It was very easy for the veterans. They love confusing the opponent. They love the fact that the shot clock is winding down and they don’t know what to run. These guys, when we lost Chris, they were just not capable of doing that. A lot of coaches call it dumbing it down. It’s not dumbing it down, it’s just limiting, just giving a few defensive options so they don’t have to think, they can just react. That’s why we got our deflections. One of the reasons why we haven’t been getting our deflections is guys are thinking too much rather than just playing aggressive basketball.

On Virginia turning the ball over after Mangok’s shot

You can still lose a game, and I told our guys, “We’re going to get this deflection, and we’re going to get the steal, we are not letting them get a shot off.” I remember that one other time in my life.

Thoughts on going into the ACC tournament

I’m just thinking about having a beer right now. That’s my only thought process. I’m going out, and I want a beer. I’m not thinking about the future. It’s a one day contract.

How big the double-bye is

It has been a goal, and Hubie Brown told me when I was a young coach with him, sometimes I don’t think you guys realize how good a season this is. What happens, and I totally understand, is you’ve got a school up the street that’s having a phenomenal year, and you all want us to be undefeated like them. I told you going into the season that we’re not as good as the last three years. And I just based it on practice, I wasn’t trying to play it down, but I said we could be very successful. And what Hubie said is “Just care about one thing: getting the team to reach its potential.” And this team has reached its potential, because they’ve gotten better. They’ve tried hard the entire time. They’ve played very well on the road. They got 24 victories. They got a top 4 seed. They’ve handled adversity with grace, and that’s all we wanted.

So I’ve been overly pleased with our record. And now, playing at Florida State, playing at Georgia Tech, playing tonight, now we did not play well against Notre Dame, because we did not stick to the game plan, but the last three out of four we did. So I’m real proud of them, the guys have reached their potential. They’re developing into a team like the last few years. Now, can we make a run? All depends on the matchups. If we get a team like Notre Dame, we don’t match up well with them, but Notre Dame is a little bit different than most teams, they play four guards.

What Hubie Brown told him

He said just concern yourself with reaching the team’s potential. Don’t worry about number of wins, don’t worry about what anyone thinks. Just get the team to reach its potential, that’s all you do as a coaching staff. If you feel the team reach its potential, then come playoff time, you’re going to have a nice run. If you don’t feel you’re reaching your potential, like in the beginning of the year I didn’t think we were very good, because every day in practice on defense, guys are getting to the rim all the time. So in the last two weeks that hasn’t happened.

On Tony Bennett’s comment on the great KFC Yum! Center atmosphere

His place and our place are the two best in the ACC in terms of the aesthetics and the facility. We have the best arena in college or pro basketball. And the most amazing thing to me as I look back on this, because I really didn’t think we’d ever come to fruition because there was a major recession going on. It was still built, on-time, under budget, with 35 percent minority working non-union. So it was kind of an incredible thing, incredible feat for our town. And we just had a, tonight was an unbelievable crowd and I was blow away with 21,000 people with that type of weather the other night (against Notre Dame).

Did getting the early lead help dictate tempo in the game?

I thought it would be an ugly game, and it was a well-played game. Few turnovers, great execution by both teams, outstanding defense, good rebounding.

On Montrezl Harrell and Quentin Snider

Yes, he (Montrezl Harrell) needed a blow and Jaylen came in and gave us a good minute. He made a terrific move going to the basket. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Jaylen, and what I told him when I met with every player individually before this game was “Look, there is going to come a game when Montrezl is going to pick up two fouls and I have a lot of confidence that you can play.” I’ve got to get Shaqquan playing better defense and right now he is 180 pounds so there is not a lot whole lot I can do with him because he is very light.

I was really pleased with Quentin Snider because he didn’t hurt us defensively tonight. If he doesn’t hurt us defensively that is great because he is a very good offensive basketball player. Just think about this kind of game when he is shooting 28 percent from the field and 22 percent from the three in conference play and he looked like he was averaging 22 points a game. He goes into the game and throws blind lobs and he shoots the ball as if he is averaging 20 points a game. So that’s great confidence and that comes from within. He knows his statistics. In our meeting, I said “Q, what would you do if one of your point guards was shooting 28 percent from the field and shooting 22 from the three in the conference, what would you do?” He said, “I’d probably sub him out.” That is what he said verbatim. I said “You took a bad shot from the left side against Notre Dame that was challenged. I’ve got the confidence that you can make every single shot in every single offensive play. So I don’t ever concern myself with your stats offensively. All I am concerned about is your defense. You have to stop hurting us defensively. Just go out there and play, son, I’ve got all the confidence in the world in you.” But defensively you have to pick it up and he did.

On the team carrying this confidence going forward

I don’t think this team ever lacked confidence. I think what they have lacked is the understanding that every game must be played differently. Clemson and Florida State have some similarities, and Georgia Tech. But BC is totally different from everybody else and Virginia Tech is different as is Duke. Virginia is different and Syracuse is totally different. So every game plan offensively and defensively, you must pay attention to the things that you have to accomplish. I have hurt the team by trying to stay with a complex system. But my hands were untied when Chris left. We were doing a great job for 60 percent of the year confusing people. Now it is time for us to stop confusing our own team. That is why we had to make the changes. I think the guys are very confident in what they are doing right now.

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