Donovan Says U-M Offense More than just Burke

Donovan Says U-M Offense More than just Burke

Florida headman Billy Donovan met with the media today to preview Sunday's Elite Eight match-up with Michigan. Flanked by players Mike Rosario, Kenny Boynton, and Scottie Wilbekin, the Gators discussed the challenge of trying to slow down Trey Burke, the Wolverines' other weapons on offense, past opponents that Michigan is somewhat similar too, and more.

QUESTION:  Billy, can you talk about Michigan's back-court.  Will this be one of the greatest challenges you've faced as a defense?

COACH DONOVAN:     Well, clearly from an offensive efficiency standpoint they may be the best in the country.  They've got a guy in the back-court, Burke, that is just terrific.  Great assist turnover ratio, explosive scorer and certainly with him he has got a great ability to get everybody involved.  Whether it's McGary up front, Hardaway, Robinson on the perimeter, and offensively to take over a game like he did in the second half with Kansas. This is a great challenge, maybe the best offensive team in the country.

QUESTION:  Could you talk about Burke, the challenge he presents, and maybe some guys you saw during the season that compare to him.

Mike Rosario:  As Coach would tell us about this team, they're very good in transition.  Offensively they have a lot of guys in the back-court that can score the ball, and they have one guy that can get in the paint and contribute the ball to everyone.  Trey Burke, he's a very good point guard.  But I feel like we've got to treat this situation on the defensive end, we've got to be really good.  You've got to know the scouting report and you've got to know the positions that you need to be in on the defensive end because I feel like that's a big key to the game.  And especially dealing with Trey Burke, high pick and rolls, he's very good coming off high pick and rolls and getting into the paint and creating his own shot and getting others involved.So I feel like we've got to hold him, less possessions to do that.  And just make him feel uncomfortable.  That's just -- who we'll compare him to is Phil Pressey from Missouri, very quick, very good on the offensive end.  We've just got to do a great job.

Scottie Wilbekin:  I would say the closest player that we face to him is probably Phil Pressey, but I'd say he does a better job of scoring than Pressey.  And I don't know, he's a great player and he does a great job of getting into the lane.  Once he gets in there, he can either finish himself or find all the shooters they have or McGary inside.  It's definitely going to be a challenge and we've got to be on edge the whole game.

QUESTION:  Scottie has taken on these kind of challenges all year long.  Can you talk about the dirty work he does to keep you guys moving and how you think he may do against Burke tomorrow?

COACH DONOVAN:  Well, you know, I think there's been only -- we've only played one team, we played them twice where I felt like Scottie was on an island by himself defensively, and that was against Ole Miss with Henderson, just because of the actions and the things that they did and the way they offensive rebound, it was really hard to provide a lot of help for Scottie in those situations. I think when it comes to Scottie, I think he would agree, yes, he does a great job getting on the screens.  He works hard.  He's very committed to defense, he gives you a great effort, he takes pride in it.  But I also think our front court players, Patric and Erik and Will Yeguete and Casey, those guys as front court players, I think really help Scottie do his job.  If we don't have enough help built in around Burke with him coming off screens, using screens, it makes it very, very difficult for any defensively player to handle a guy like that.  So you know that Scottie is going to work hard on the ball.  He's going to work hard on getting all the screens, but he's also going to need help, too, inside of our team.  And we've got to make sure we give him that built-in help tomorrow.

QUESTION:  Anything you can take from the past two experiences in the Elite 8 that you guys can apply to this game to get over the hump this time?

COACH DONOVAN:  Well, I think first and foremost the opportunity, I think these guys are all excited about it and I'm excited for them to be back in this position again.  It's a different opponent than we've had the last two years.  It's a great opportunity. I'm not so sure what we take from those situations that could really help us get prepared for Michigan.  I think this game stands on itself.  It's got its own separate identity as itself.  It's in the moment.  It's now.  It's here.  It's present. I think these guys have been in this situation.  They've worked very, very hard to get here.  But they also know when you get into this situation it's a great, great challenge.  And you cannot play 20 minutes or 25 minutes or 30 minutes, you're going to have to play a whole complete game.  I believe when you get to this point in the time in the season there's 8 teams left, these 8 teams are playing very, very good basketball.  And in these moments you've also got to play very well.

Kenny Boynton:  I think we remember what happened in the past two years, but I think like Coach said, this is a different team.  I think what we learned is we need to play our full 40 minutes.  Michigan I think is a team that plays a full game as they did yesterday, and having a comeback win against Kansas. I think if we go out and play as a team offensively and defensively for a full 40 minutes we'll be good.

Patric Young:  Well, we remember the feeling we've had in the locker room from losing those two games to go to the Final Four the last two years, but I'm not sure exactly what we could take going forward with Michigan. But we can play for 40 minutes, making sure we're locked in, playing together, fighting through the adversity, because it's going to be a difficult challenge game for us and make sure that we're locked into doing our job, as well.

QUESTION:  Beyond Burke how do you deal with the size they have on the perimeter?

COACH DONOVAN:  Yeah, they've got a lot of size.  They've got a lot of athleticism.  I think the one thing that's really impressive about Hardaway is he can get shots off over people.  I think our guards being attached and connected to him will be very, very important.  We've gone against teams that have had big back-courts, so to speak.  The one luxury I think we do have is the way we start the game, with Kenny, Mike and Scottie on the perimeter.  We also can slide a guy like Casey Prather to the small forward spot that gives us more length and size. I think our defense, whether it be against bigger guards or a team that pounds it inside, is we've been able to do it collectively as a group.  And I think our team defense is going to have to be really, really good.  And certainly transition defense with Burke when the ball is in his hands and their wing players, and in particular Hardaway, those guys can really shoot the basketball.

QUESTION:  Coach and Kenny, can you talk about maybe being a little bit under the radar certainly with Florida Gulf Coast's run and Kansas and Michigan also in this Regional, that maybe you guys have been a little bit overlooked and people haven't shined the light on you as much as the other teams?

COACH DONOVAN:  Yeah, I mean, I tell our guys this, we've got enough to worry about and prepare for going from game to game.  Those are not things that we can control. What we can control is how we prepare and how we play in between the lines.  We're excited to keep on advancing and to keep moving through the tournament.  But maybe rightfully so from a public perception or media excitement, maybe Florida Gulf Coast captivated the country because of getting to the Sweet 16.  It was the first time it happened. But like I told our guys, it's got nothing to do with our business and what we need to do.  These guys need to continue, and they've done a good job.  We need to focus on what we can control. And we can't control who writes articles on us, who gives us exposure, who talks about us, who doesn't talk about us.  I think you earn respect by how you play and compete on the court.  These guys have to go out there and worry and focus on the things that they can control and things that they can prepare for and what we've done all year long is take care of Florida, take care of ourselves, do your job, take care of your responsibilities.

KENNY BOYNTON:  I think as a team, our team, we just don't worry about things like that.  I think up to point we've done a good job preparing for our game.  So what's on TV or who is being talked about, I don't think that's really important with our team.  Because when we get on the court it's just us versus the other team, regardless of what's on TV.

QUESTION:  Billy, could you talk about the development of Erik through his four years here, please.

COACH DONOVAN:  Yeah, he's really grown in a lot of ways.  It's I think a lot of times in life your greatest strength is your greatest weakness. He's as good of a teammate that I've had a chance to coach.  I don't know if I've been around a player that the other guys on the team love a guy so much and enjoy being with him so much.  He can interact with anybody on our team, whether it be a freshman, older guy or younger guy, and I think he was the same way.  The first two years he never really wanted to inject himself into the team like we needed him to, because he was worried about chemistry, stepping on toes more his freshman year. His sophomore year I thought he really started to play well, and then he got an ankle injury, and I think being out for a period of time and then coming back to the team, our team was kind of settled, he really probably didn't know where to fit in, how to inject himself.  I probably needed to do a better job for him. I think going into his junior year, he saw an opportunity to step into the role and felt comfortable with it.  The last two years I don't know if there's been many front court players that can stretch the defense the way he can, that's more a team guy than he is.  From his freshman year to where he is now, I've seen incredible growth, both on and off the court.

QUESTION:  Kenny and Erik, how do you view this team being different from last year and two years ago, and how do you think it will be equipped to handle an Elite 8 game against an opponent like Michigan?

KENNY BOYNTON:  I think this team, we prepared the right ways for games consistently, not saying the previous teams haven't, but I think everybody on the team contributes.  I think even the freshmen, they don't get in much, but they do a great job at preparing us, giving us a great look from the other team at practice. So with this team I would just say we have good preparation for games.  And we know how to put games behind us and move forward to the next.

Erik Murphy:  I agree with Kenny, everybody from top to bottom is really committed to doing their job and whether that's preparing or playing or whatever it is, this group is just really close.  And obviously it's a different team than the past, we have different guys. But I think we've really come together this year and have a really good bond within the team and our chemistry is great.  We just all want to do it for each other.

QUESTION:  When Mike came to Florida he said he wanted discipline and he wanted structure.  Do you think he really meant it and was he prepared for the kind of discipline you showed him?

COACH DONOVAN:  Well, I think sometimes he has a hard time articulating maybe, because Rutgers was a great place for Mike.  It really was.  Because he was a hometown kid, going back to a hometown school to try to help resurrect the program.  And I think sometimes when things don't work out, I think you could always look to both sides.  And I always told Mike that if that situation is not the right situation for you, you need to take responsibility of why it's not, because he did choose to go there.I don't know anything that happened inside their program of how they dealt or coached Mike.  I know Bob Hurley, because I've been in his practices and I know him personally pretty well and been around him, recruited his program.  So I know the kind of structure that's there. Mike -- his biggest thing was he wanted to be really pushed and challenged every single day.  Never said to me that Rutgers did or did not do that, that's what he said he wanted.  And I don't think that he was prepared for that coming here.  And I really held him accountable. And I think Mike's the kind of guy where if you give an inch, he will work to get it to six inches and he'll work to get it to be a foot and before you know it, I'm actually one of the players and he's coaching the team.

And he needed to understand that there are certain things here at Florida, a way we're going to do things and an expectation here.  And I think he really struggled with that, in particular last year.  He was going to go in there and just rely on his talent, so to speak, and just go play.  And it was a real growing and maturing process.

And for me as a coach it's been very, very rewarding and gratifying to see where he was to where he's come to.  And I would tell you this, last year I didn't even think him playing as many minutes in our program at this stage of the season would have even been possible.  I mean, he has really made a great commitment.  I'm really proud of what he's been able to do.

QUESTION:  Do you talk to these guys, especially like maybe the seniors, this is their 13th NCAA game, for the juniors it's their 12th, and just how fortunate they are?  They got here, but how fortunate they are to have these opportunities?

COACH DONOVAN:  Well, I don't in terms of that, maybe -- what I do talk to them a lot about is the opportunity God has given them to be able to play this game.  And I really have used our injuries in a lot of ways. When you see a guy like Will Yeguete that's got his knee surgery toward the end of the SEC schedule and the only way he can come back to play is to have surgery, and that's not a guarantee.  To see him start bawling and crying because he went through it last year with his broken foot.  For Scottie Wilbekin to be suspended for three games, and the game to be taken away from him.  Casey Prather, concussions, the game being taken away from them.

So not so much the NCAA tournament, but I really try to get them to understand and appreciate the God-given ability that they've been blessed with.  And how do they go about utilizing that talent and not wasting days and opportunities and to be thankful and appreciative that they get the opportunity to practice, to prepare and they get the opportunity to play. Because there are so many players out there that maybe are not playing right now or they're not afforded the opportunity or they're injured.  And just to be thankful and to utilize what you've been blessed with and the opportunity.  But just to be the best you can. And that's kind of really what I've talked to them more about, less about we got here, we need to be appreciative.  They should always be appreciative that they can get up, walk on the court, play and compete.

QUESTION:  Kansas held Burke scoreless in the first half.  Did you see some things that they did and what adjustments did Burke make to be so assertive in the second half?

COACH DONOVAN:  Well, I think in the second half he took 17 shots, which was probably a whole lot more than he took in the first half.  He's really, really, to me, just watching him, not only is he playing the game, but he's also measuring the game, how are you guarding, what's open, what can he do.  And he understands the length and time of 40 minutes.  He's got the ability to explode at any point in time in the game.Kansas, I thought, did a good job, but I thought he started testing the waters a lot more in the second half than the first half.  Some of the shots he took in the second half he really was not taking in the first half.  He probably turned them down and tried to do some different things.  And then he really started to become aggressive in terms of trying to score.  And then he obviously took over the game. But when you're dealing with him, in my opinion, it is a long process.  You can do a great job on him for ten minutes, a great job on him for 25 minutes.  He has got the ability just to explode at any point in time.  And it's got to be a concerted effort against him for 40 minutes.

Kansas was in pretty good shape, up by 8 -- whatever it is -- he makes that long three.  I don't even think you can even fault Kansas's defense where he shot the ball from to tie the game up.  It was unbelievable where he let it go from. He's got that kind of ability where if you rest a little bit or think that he's not going to do something, that's exactly when he creates great plays for himself or his team.

QUESTION:  I don't know if anyone brought this up to you, but Trey was the first player since you to go for 20 and 10 in a Sweet 16 game.  Prepping for him who else in your coaching career does he compare to and given your defense, how do you match up against him?

COACH DONOVAN:  I don't know how I got that.  It's funny, my wife says to me this morning, she asked me the same question, she said, Who was the player?  I know even know what the numbers were.  And I said Magic Johnson.  And she said, no, you.  I said I'm glad I'm comparing myself to Magic Johnson, that's great (laughter).  I think he reminds me of Kyrie Irving, that's who he reminds me of.  And I think this -- he gets a lot of attention and he gets a lot of publicity, he gets a lot of exposure.

But I think this with their team, they have an incredible team that seems connected and bonded.  I've got a lot of respect for John, he's a terrific coach.  He's put those guys in situations to be successful.  They play together.  They share the ball.  They're a low turnover team.  But there's a lot more to Michigan than just Trey Burke, there really is.  They're a really, really good team.Now, yesterday in the second half was a special show that he put on to help them win the game in overtime.  But you can't lose sight of the fact that McGary had 25 points and 13 rebounds. You can't lose sight of the fact that a guy like Hardaway and Robinson, those guys are really good players, even though some of them are young.  They are a really, really good team.  And Burke certainly gets a lot of attention.  But it's not only dealing with Burke.  If that was the case, you could run three guys at Burke.  The problem is they've got other good players around him that can really make plays, as well.

QUESTION:  Talking about your own career, how would you remember yourself as a defensive player?  And your success or struggles that you had, how has that gone into shaping your philosophy that's manifested itself this year?

COACH DONOVAN:  I certainly was not a good defensive player.  We played a lot of 2-3 zone in college with Coach Pitino, and he referred to me as the human sieve when I played.  That probably wasn't one of my strong suits.I felt like going into this year, I think your team -- you look as a coach, what can be our team identity.  I thought it was hard last year with Irving Walker and even Brad Beal being a freshman, as good as they were offensively.  And particularly with Irving, as great as he was and as great a career he had in Florida, at five foot six or five foot seven there was always things we had to mask and camouflage because of his size. And I thought with Patric being a year older, Murphy a year older, Scottie Wilbekin, Boynton has been a proven defender, I thought our team could take on a defensive identity, that we could become a very, very good defensive team.  And we've had some games we haven't been good defensive, and some games we were special defensively.  This will test us tomorrow because of the way they are offensively.

Philosophically, obviously working for Coach Pitino and working for him, you pick up those things, I think it was great having Larry Shyatt on our staff for seven years, he brought a different philosophy defensively.  A different way to look at things. And I think what you've got to do defensively is look at your team and say, okay, where and how do we need to play on the defensive end of the floor?  With getting Prather we've been able to press a lot more.  We don't really press a lot with Erik Murphy and Patric on the floor together.  We've been able to play zone, we've been able to change defenses, and pick up full-court, and defend pretty well on the half-court.

QUESTION:  You recruited Mitch McGary pretty hard, had him down at your place.  Is this the kind of player you thought he would turn into?  And talk about what you remember during that time.

COACH DONOVAN:  I love Mitch as a kid.  What a great kid.  The thing I loved about him and just watching him and recruiting him, phenomenal teammate, great enthusiasm for the game, incredible personality.  I'm not surprised that wherever he would have gone he could step in and provide what he is able to provide. You look at him here of late scoring a lot of points late and maybe not scoring like that during the Big Ten season.  But he's that kind of kid.  He does whatever your team needs for it to be successful.  And I think he really has internally some very, very unique and great qualities about him.  But I'm not surprised about what he's been able to do at all.

QUESTION:  Last night we were here pretty late.  I know you wanted to get out of here.  There's been a three-hour difference between Michigan's opportunity to get some rest and you get some rest and the team get some rest.  Are you at all concerned about that turnover time and coming out here and having yourself a good preparation day in order to be ready to go tomorrow?  Does that bother you at all?

COACH DONOVAN:  It is what it is.  And I said before, we don't set the schedules, the times or things like that.  It's the same thing a lot of times when Selection Sunday is over and people talk about seeding and things like that. I just believe that you've got to focus on what you're going to do.  We have a responsibility to be here today and we've got a practice here today.  We've got to get ourselves prepared and ready to go. And whether or not we're a little groggy, we're a little bit tired, we're in the Elite 8 and I'd rather be here tired and groggy than home very rested and very, very excited about doing nothing.  For us, we're pleased and thankful that we get a chance to play again.

Is it a tough turnaround, getting back like we did and coming back here today?  Absolutely.  But I think if you asked any of our players would you rather do that or be at home, they'd say they'd rather be here.  We're excited we're here and playing.

QUESTION:  I'm sure you've been asked this question a lot, should student-athletes be paid?

COACH DONOVAN:  I think there has to be something done, in my opinion.  And I don't know what that is.  I don't have a solution or an answer to that. I do think there are situations with kids that -- there's almost, I think, getting to a point now in college basketball where there's maybe little bit of a distaste because you have all these amateur rules.  And I understand both sides.  I understand the NCAA and the rules committee, I understand all that in terms of keeping integrity and amateurism status and all those things.

And I also understand the players' side of it.  When you're on the road like we are as coaches and you go into some of these situations and kids are not in a good situation financially at all or even to eat or their families don't understand the NCAA rules, somebody comes in and gives them something.  There's a lot of things that people can look at from the outside and sit and point fingers and say is wrong. But there's a lot of financial gains being made through this tournament, through the coaches, administrators and universities.  And I'm not saying these guys should be on a full salary, but there should be something done for them to make their life a little bit easier when they're going through college.

Now, there's student opportunity funds.  I think we started to move towards some of those solutions.  There's PELL Grant money, there's things.  But still, I think it can be better.  And it's very easy for me to sit up here and complain about what the problems are.  I've always been a big believer if you're going to complain, have a solution.  I know some of these kids, there needs to be a little bit more done in my opinion.

QUESTION:  You said you have respect in Beilein as a coach, when you have a crash course in him between last night and today, what impresses you about the coach?

COACH DONOVAN:  Well, I competed against John's teams when he was at Canisius, at West Virginia, we haven't played against each other for a while.  I've always admired and respected him as a coach.  I think he's innovative on offense.  They pass the ball, they share it.  I think those things when you watch a team play offensively, there's always a reflection of the coach and how they want them to play.  I think the situations they put you in, the way they move the floor, space the floor.  The way they run in transition.  I just admire their team, admire him as a coach and admire the way they've played.  And that's talking over several years of getting a chance of playing against his team sometimes.

QUESTION:  Is there a team that maybe you could compare Michigan to in the SEC, a team you've seen and what their fire power is on an offensive standpoint?  Defensively do you look at what they've done in the Big Ten season on keys or ways to defend them?

COACH DONOVAN:  Well, coming out of last weekend when we beat Minnesota we were in a situation where we broke up three coaches, one coach at Florida Gulf Coast, one coach Kansas, one coach Michigan.  That coach for us right now has been watching Michigan for the last week.  The trick is, how do you get that information where you don't overwhelm your guys but get specific things that you really need to do to get prepared for the game.

The one team in our league I thought was really explosive offensively and could be really explosive was Missouri.  And I thought before Bowers got hurt they were kind of that team.  They had the ball in Pressey's hands, they spaced you out, they have Jabari Brown, Ross, they had Oriakhi up front who was always rolling to the basket and taking up space, the ball was in Pressey's hands, he was making plays.  The floor was spaced.  They moved and passed it around. Obviously the players are different, the system is different, the style is different.  But that was a team I thought in our league was very explosive offensively.

QUESTION:  You're at a "football" school and football state, but you've got a wildly successful basketball program.  What are the challenges to building your program at a football school, is the secret as simple as winning?

COACH DONOVAN:  Well, I've said this before, our situation is a lot different in Florida.  I look at Ohio State, they've got great football tradition, and Texas has great football tradition.  Michigan is a perfect example as well, you can have both. I think the thing I've always tried to do and to get people to understand is certainly there's a passion for football in the southeast.  But there's no sport or program bigger than the University of Florida.  Florida fans love the University of Florida.  So whether it's basketball, football, baseball, football or track, there's a great enthusiasm for anything the University of Florida is representing. I've always believed that the passion you see in football, per se, we have that same passion in our own building on our home games.  I mean, it's a really, really hard place to play. But you've got to in some way get people to understand or see that the perception of this football or people labeling things is not necessarily accurate.  And there's a lot more to it than just that.

Listen, I'm a basketball guy.  I love basketball.  But I'll tell you what, I like going into the Swamp in September and watching the Gators play, I like that.  But I love basketball.  So you can do two things there.  I don't think there's any question about that, you can be successful at both. And I think it comes from your institution, University, your president, athletic director making a commitment saying we want to get good at this.  You've got to do a good job recruiting, you've got to get good, quality players.  You've got to coach them and help them get better and improve.  It's a challenge, but I think you could overcome sometimes that perception that maybe people have.

GoBlueWolverine.com Recommended Stories