Pat Knight/Players interviewed at NCAA First Four
March 13, 2012
Read the transcript from today's press conference at the NCAA First Four.
NCAA® Division I Men's Basketball Championship First Four Press Conference - Lamar (practice) March 13, 2012
Q. Obviously the nation you guys got a lot of attention nationally when Coach went off a few weeks ago. Can you just talk about the players' response to that and what it did for the team, and just maybe your own personal response to what happened? Anthony Miles: I just think our team responded in a positive way. And I know I said this a lot of times when he did what he did, we could have curled up and balled up in a corner and quit, but we never did. It kind of just made us forced us to come together stronger and show the world that we've got a really, really good team. Mike James: I think, like, it just made us come together, really. I think it was a turning point in the season. It was either do or die, and we just decided to keep going on.
Q. Prior to, let's say, 48 hours ago, what could you have told me about Vermont? What did you know about them? Anthony Miles: That they're an NCAA team. They're really patient on offense. And I got a chance to check them out when they was playing their conference championship, and they're a good team and they're real patient and they're well coached. And I'm just looking forward to playing them. Mike James: To be honest, I didn't watch the game in the conference. I didn't know much about them; I just knew they were in the tournament.
Q. Looking at Vermont, are there any other teams on the schedule that you played this year that you can kind of compare them to and how so?
Anthony Miles: If anybody, I could compare them to SFA in our conference. They're real deliberate on what they want to do. They're not going to take too many chances. They're really patient with the ball. They set their screens and they're well coached. And it's a face in our conference, so I think we're well prepared for their style of play. And we have to follow the report, and, if we do, we'll be just fine.
Q. Mike, where were you at when you saw Coach's rant that went off? Did you see it on YouTube later? Just watch it on ESPN? Take me through where you were at and what your initial reaction was, maybe seeing it coming or something like that. Mike James: Me personally, I still haven't watched it, to be honest. Everybody told me about it. I haven't watched it. I'm not a big media person. I don't read into stuff like that. I haven't paid attention to it. I just try to play basketball.
Q. Did you hear anything about it? Mike James: Yeah, people call you, tell you stuff about it. But you gotta move on. It's not part of the game. We're here to play basketball. We're not here to join in all that.
Q. Coach Rock is here with USF, just by coincidence have him here. Have you had a chance to see him and what it's like to see him here this week? Anthony Miles: We haven't seen him here or nothing like that, but I'm looking forward to seeing him. That's my guy. That's our coach. He's the one who came and got us to come to Lamar. So we are excited to see him. We're happy for him the things they did in South Florida. So it is good to reunite with our old coach. We all are human. We feel bad it couldn't have been with him here. But things happen and we're happy that we're all having successful seasons this year. Mike James: Like he said, we haven't seen him yet, but I'm excited to see him personally. I haven't seen him in a long time. Like he's the dude that came and got me, so I'm excited to see him.
Q. Anthony, for those that don't get to see you play that much, could you sort of describe Lamar's brand of basketball which made the team so successful this season? Anthony Miles: I just think we've got a lot of people that can play man. We have a lot of people, a lot of athletes on our team, we like to hit the glass hard and we've got people who can put the ball in the hole. We're just a real physical, athletic team. And I think sometimes we'll get caught up and we'll get ahead of teams and we'll let teams back in the game. But as of late, I mean, I think we've been doing a good job putting teams away. Last couple of games we've been averaging 15 point wins and things like that. So I just think overall as a team we've got a great senior court and we've got people on our team that will follow us. And I just think that it was a long season. But at the end, it worked out well.
Q. Last time you guys were in Ohio you played at Ohio State in December and obviously struggled, had a tough night. What's better about the team now? Where have you most improved and can you kind of compare where you are now to where you were when you last came into Ohio? Anthony Miles: First time we played Ohio, I think that was the first half of the season. And, like I said, I mean, even it was probably like our 10th or 11th game, it was kind of new, the offense, and just getting acquainted with each other, where we want to get the ball and get the ball to certain guys and their hot spots, and I think we weren't good at that. I think as the season went by, the offense and the pace we go at is starting to flow better. We're starting to get the guys the ball where they want the ball at and when to make a play or when not to make a play. And me also, the point guard, I think are also guarding offensive, when to push it, when not to push it, when we got something good, take advantage of it. And also defensively I think we've come together defensively better and with helping each other and just communicating on the defensive side. So I just think we matured since we played Ohio State in Ohio last time we were here.
Q. Mike, you said on Sunday you were concerned that playing this first round game, or play in game that people call it, might not seem like a real the true NCAA Tournament experience. But now that you're here, how do you feel? Mike James: I mean, they treat us well out here. It's like nothing I've ever been a part of. And they showed us a good time. I mean, I'm having a fun time being here. It's a nice experience. THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We're joined by Lamar head coach Pat Knight. Questions?
Q. Obviously what happened a few weeks ago with your team has gotten so much national attention. We haven't had a chance to talk to you. Can you rehash just what this team how it's responded to that night and the fact that you guys are actually in the tournament now? COACH KNIGHT: The main reason I didn't do it to get national publicity. I had a guy try to debate me this morning like we're on Crossfire, and that's not why I did it. I hung up on the interview. As a coach you have to make decisions that aren't going to be popular with the media or the fans. But if you listen and worry about that, you're going to be sitting with them before long. And so no one knows your team better, the temperament of the team, than the head coach. And this is a different group. I suspended three starters throughout the year for a total of seven games, and we're 6 1. Usually you'd be about 1 6. And these are a tough group of kids. And, I mean, you can tell by the way we play defense and rebound, and we've had a great year altogether, but it got to the point and to sum it up, on a Wednesday we won our 17th game, clinch going to the conference tournament. And our next game was George Mason. And I had a friend in town tell me: Hey, Coach, I'm worried that this team will give up. They've given up the last three years the last two weeks of the season. And you need to check the records. Plus, since they've already made the conference tournament, this could be it for them. I want more for them than just making the conference tournament. Plus we still had a chance to win 20 games, which they hadn't done in '88. I still thought we could win the division. I thought if we got things going, we had a shot to make a run at the tournament. But I checked the records. They lost three years ago, three out of four. Then four out of four. Then three out of four last year. But we're going to George Mason, playing the bracket buster. We get to George Mason that morning. I got my two centers, starting center and backup center, missed the morning meeting and breakfast. Two of my starting guards missed morning meeting and breakfast. Then the centers are ten minutes late for the bus to go to shootaround, and then my two starting guards missed the bus to go they missed the bus to go to the shootaround. Have to get a cab to get there. So suspended the center for the game, because I had warned him about something that happened in the game before. Benched the backup center. Benched the two starting guards for about ten minutes of each half. Well, now after the game I probably should have suspended somebody else. But I thought, hey, we got two weeks left, let's just hey, you guys served your punishment; let's move on. Monday, guys missed weights in the morning. So I had to run them after practice. Tuesday, we had three seniors that didn't get their study hours in. So I got to run them Tuesday. And then Wednesday we don't even show up to play the game. We start out playing 1 for 19. It's Alumni Night. So now with four games to go, and I know it happened in the past, we're 0 1. So I met with the staff beforehand. We've done everything. It's a long year. So you've done everything from hug these guys, love these guys, hate these guys, yell at these guys. Run them, suspend them. And you've tried everything you can to motivate them. So I told our guys I'm going to do something and trust me, I thought it would just stay in Beaumont. But I'm going to take heat for it. There will be people that disagree, which is fine. But I'm going to call these guys out to the media, because I think they'll respond. And so that's why I did it. And then the next day, you know, Anthony Miles comes in, apologizes to me for the things that had gone on the last couple of weeks. All the seniors show up, shoot extra that day. And then we usually don't practice on Thursday. We had a practice like we had on Monday, best practice we had in a month. So they started to get it. And plus I have six kids that it wasn't just the play on the basketball court; it's missing the study hours and the classwork. I want six guys to get a degree. So it's not just to finish the season strong, we still have a couple of months to go to get their degrees. And I just thought they could take it. Now, did I think they'd win six in a row? No. I was just hoping to finish strong and finish strong academic wise. You've got to give these guys credit. I mean, I was on cruise control for the last six games. I didn't have to coach, really. They were telling me things: Hey, Coach, we can switch this, we can do this on offense or defense. And it was a joy to see these guys. The seniors were talking. I mean, they're an extension of the coaching staff. And I took a chance. And I have no problem if people disagree. But it's not a debate. I didn't do this as a debate. I did it because I thought it was the best thing for my guys. And to see the look on their face after we won the division was unbelievable. But then the look on their face and how happy they were after we won the conference tournament, it was all worth it. All the heat I got, it was worth it, because that's something these kids greatness, no matter how brief, is something you'll carry for the rest of your lives. These kids are going to be better for it in the long run to have that experience. And when I took this job, this was a group of kids that people didn't like in town. I mean, I had people telling me I should get rid of this kid or that kid, but I took the job because I thought I had a good group of kids that could win. And I wanted them and I talked to them about it all year: You can either be the group that leaves and they're happy you're gone, or you can be the group that got its head in the right direction. And that's what this group is. This group has put a stamp on this program and they made Lamar basketball relevant again.
Q. When you got done speaking seven games ago, were you confident that they would respond, or could they have gone the other way? COACH KNIGHT: Oh, yeah, I could have had a mutiny. That's the thing. I screwed up at Texas Tech. One, obviously I didn't win enough games. And I put up with too much BS and I coached scared. What I mean by coach scared, you worry about the consequences and not the result. I said I'll never do that again. I'm the guy that gets fired and all the good coaches put their neck on the line. I played for one. And growing up, Coach Krzyzewski, Coach Donoher that lives here in Dayton, I mean, I've been spoiled, been around great coaches that took chances. And I said when I get my second job I'll never do that again. But, yeah, that night you're thinking boy, I mean, I wouldn't have been surprised if I was the only guy that showed up with my assistants and we had to play two on two against each other. But it went the other way, and I really thought it would go the other way, because these kids really want to win. They've actually been coachable. And I'm dealing with a different type of athlete. I wouldn't have done it if I had a bunch of freshmen. I wouldn't have done it if I had soft players. I don't think you could do it at a bigger school. Like I've said, these kids haven't been coddled by AAU coaches, or I didn't buy these kids. None of these kids have a street agent. These are blue collar kids that have a chip on their shoulder that didn't get recruited by the bigger schools. And I think you can this is the purest level left, is at a smaller school, because you can really coach these kids. You can mentor them. And for some of these kids, I'm the only male figure they've had in their lives. So a lot of that goes into it. I think about what my dad did. I was a pain in the butt as a player. My dad kicked me off. I got in trouble for drinking, got kicked off the team. Imagine that tough love situation there, having to go tell your dad. You get out of jail and you gotta go knock on his office door and tell him what you just did. So I've been through it. And I see myself in these guys, but what got me through it is I had a coach that had no problem putting foot to butt. And I got my degree and now I'm a head basketball coach. And I wouldn't be here if I weren't for my dad, and I had the same type of coaches in prep school and high school. So it could have gone either way. But I was willing to take that chance because I didn't want this season to fall apart.
Q. What was your father's reaction when you talked to him after that post conference tactic? COACH KNIGHT: He understood why I did it, because he's been around my team, but he and I'll clean it up a little bit: Don't ever do it again. But he understood why I did it, because he was like: You have a different group of kids, tough kids that respond to kind of drastic punishment. But you've done it. Don't do it again. But then it was that day of practice: Don't raise your voice, don't yell at them, don't use and I know you guys won't believe it don't use bad language. You've got to coach them. You've done your part trying to motivate them, so now you've got to coach them up. So we just went into that practice like it really didn't happen. And just had regular practices trying to coach these guys. Then we won our first game. He was elated, but he kept on reminding me: You can't ever pull that card again. It's kind of a last draw deal. And I made it to him. I was like: Dad, I could coach another 20 years and I don't think I'll have a team with this type of makeup where you could really do that. But he was being a father. And he understood, but he didn't totally agree with me.
Q. What's different in your team, not just from them, but when you came in to play Ohio State in December, you guys were struggling and that was a tough night. But what's different from the team at the beginning of the year to now? COACH KNIGHT: Confidence. Actually, that game gave us confidence. I think when you play teams like Ohio State and Kentucky, Louisville on the road, and in front of those crowds, it gives you confidence. And this is a confident group. And so it really helped us from a standpoint winning on the road. We won a lot of games on the road this year. And that's hard for any team. And I think this team's better defensively. I think they're tougher mentally. But you have to go through all that stuff in the preseason. And I think it proves by the way I responded, by what I did. But if you look at the season all year long, they had a pretty good year. But it was like every two or three weeks we'd have a slip up, but I think these guys get it. Our leadership is unbelievable now. Used to have to come from the coaches. And I think the guys finally got used to winning, that's tough too. When you haven't won, how do you handle winning, having winning streaks. Because we had five or six winning streaks this year. But now I think they've matured enough where they handle winning, kind of expect it, and want to keep on winning and don't get caught up kind of relaxing or getting the big head now if they win a game.
Q. What are some of your impressions on Vermont after seeing them on film a little bit and scouting them? COACH KNIGHT: I don't like them because they remind me of two teams we had problems with in our league. They remind me a lot of Stephen F. Austin and Nicholls State. I love the way they run their offense. They run the flex offense, but they read out of it. They take their time. They always have three or four shooters out there at a time. You can tell they're well coached. You know, they run their offense around like the Indiana teams I had, Brian Evans, Pat Graham, guys that could really shoot it. But the problem is those are teams that have given us problems, teams that take their time, don't make mistakes. So we're going to have to, one, guard the shooters, stay in the stance for 35 seconds, try not to make mistakes. And we need to try to speed it up a little bit. If we can get a steal or a rebound, we need to push it up. Because with a team like Vermont, what's hard when you play them, if they get a lead on you, even if it's like six points or eight points, it's almost double that, 12 points, because they take a lot of time off the clock and are so patient. So I admire them as a team, but it's not the type of team I want to play.
Q. You said on Sunday that being here in Dayton you're going to have a lot of friends and family here. About how many people do you expect, and will your dad be here? COACH KNIGHT: No, Coach has got to work. But I've already talked to him this morning. He'll have his weekly conversation with Miles today before the game. I'll have probably like 50 some people, but the problem is they're going to have to buy their tickets. Being in a smaller school, I'm only given four tickets, take care of family. My mom's coming up, which is good. Some of my ex teammates. But that's the only difference. If you're coaching in the Big Ten or Big 12, you can comp everybody's tickets. The only problem is people will have to buy their tickets a little bit. But we'll have a big following. Plus what's so special about me, Don Donoher, close family friend, and I used to come over here to Dayton all the time and hang out with his son, Brian, who was one of my best friends. So being able to come back to the Midwest, but to do it here in Dayton is special for me.
Q. You made an interesting comment about the players getting it. And I was just wondering as a coach, obviously victories in the games are great, but is there almost something special, too, about the victory that comes not in a game but comes off the court and maybe just seeing these guys do get it? COACH KNIGHT: That means more. It's great we got to the NCAA Tournament. Don't get me wrong. But if we didn't make this run and they just got it, it would have been just as satisfying for me, because this is what I was taught. You can only play basketball for so long. Eventually you're going to be told you can't play a kids game anymore. I want these guys to be successful. Just like we were at Indiana, after you play. And for them being able to get it, even if we didn't make this run, it's going to help them when they get a job. Going to help them when they raise a family. That's the main thing. And I'm going to be with these guys I'm there for them the rest of their lives and will try to help them out. And I think coaches overlook that. I mean, there's so many kids I've talked to coaching the minor leagues: When is the last time you talked to your head coach? And for many of them it's the last time they played. Or if they weren't one of the star players, they never talked to them. What my dad taught me and guys like Coach Krzyzewski, you almost get more upset with your guys after they play for you when they're in real life and they screw up. Because in college you get second chances, third chances, because you're a kid. But in real life you don't get that. You get fired and you lose your job. So I think jobs as coaches especially at a smaller school, the chances of my guys going to the NBA isn't that high. So I want them to have success and be able to fulfill their life. This is only one fourth of their life. They still have three fourths left. And I think too many coaches treat kids like cattle and once they're done with you, especially the ones that play a lot for you. But I treat No. 1 through 13 the same. And when they come play for me, I'm not their buddy. I'm not a player's coach, never played for one. But I will be their best friend when they leave. That's what I mean by getting it. It's so nice to see it. Now when they're off on their own, I don't have to worry about them as much.
Q. When you were coaching in Columbus, were you dead set on being a coach the rest of your life, or were you kind of like feeling it out seeing if you liked doing this or that point in your life, where were you? COACH KNIGHT: I was dead set. I got in the minor leagues because when I worked for the Phoenix Suns right after college for Dick Van Arsdale as a gofer. And I loved being with the NBA team. But I missed the competition. And so Mr. Van Arsdale is like the only thing that's as close to playing is coaching. So I liked the pro game at the time, so they helped me get involved with CBA and USBL and IBL, all those different leagues I coached in. But then I found out the problem is at that level there's not a lot of coaching; you're a sports psychologist. I actually had to call a timeout we were playing in Minneapolis in the IBA, I had two guys arguing because one guy stole the girl away from him that he was working on all night at the bar. I had to pull the one guy out of the game. That's the stuff you're dealing with. It's total psychology stuff. So my dad, he'd come to a couple of those games: I see what you're doing, but you gotta get to college. Now that you've proven to me, you've gone off on your own he did not want me to get into coaching. I took these jobs in the minor league on my own. When I finally proved I wanted to coach, that's when he brought me back to Indiana. He said: You gotta get in the college game. He's like: Pat, you're just a psychologist dealing with those guys at that level. You need to come back where you can make a difference and actually coach. So after one year with the Suns, I was pretty much dead set on getting into coaching. THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.