GBW's Sam Webb catches up with Michigan basketball assistant Baraci Alexander inside the locker room…
Teleconference Transcript: Coach Boeheim
Q. I know a couple of the guys talked after the game on Saturday about the players had practice after the Georgetown game, how you kept the spirits up after the loss to Louisville in the championship. Did that maybe strike a tone for what these two plus weeks have been like for you guys?
COACH BOEHEIM: I think it was very short. They probably scrimmaged for 10 minutes before we were down there. It was good to see that.
But I think that we were always a good team. We obviously had a very difficult last part of our schedule and didn't shoot the ball particularly well. But our defense was good throughout.
Once we got to New York, started to play there, we could see that we were fine. We had a good basketball team. We'd be able to play well in the tournament.
I wasn't worried at all about the NCAA tournament after we got done with New York. I knew we were in a good place and that we would play well in the tournament.
I think it helped us going out west, a long trip, but I think it helped us. I think we got focused in on what we needed to do, played well. Then coming back, we played even better on the defensive end against Indiana and against Marquette.
Q. On Coach Beilein, his career, a guy that has had a lot of adversity to get to where he is, what have you seen?
COACH BOEHEIM: I'm not sure he's had any adversity. He's been successful wherever he's been. I remember him at Erie, Le Moyne, Canisius, Richmond, you name it. West Virginia. He's won every place he's been. That's difficult to do, to be able to go to five or six different places and win.
John has been able to win at every place along the line, and nothing different now.
Q. You said this team has come together. After the Georgetown game you won in the Big East tournament, was that the game where you saw this team have emotionally, mentally its highest success going into the NCAA tournament and being ready?
COACH BOEHEIM: I think after that game, once we got to New York and started to play well in New York, we started to feel that we could compete with anybody.
Q. When did you start doing this zone exclusively? In the '96 run, were you doing all 2-3 at that point? Also, just wondering if the way your team is playing it now, where does it compare with your best teams in terms of playing the zone?
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, until '96 we played some man every year. In the exhibition games, non-conference games, even the conference games we played some man. We continued doing that probably up to '03. '03 we pretty much played all zone, and after '03 we still played some man, but it really probably hasn't been until '10, 2010, when we lost the exhibition game to Le Moyne, we just said, We're going to spend more time on our zone.
We still spend some time man-to-man, but mostly it's zone for the last two, three years, pretty much exclusively zone in all of our games.
Q. Is this team playing as well or right up there with your best? And what about this matchup with what Michigan has?
COACH BOEHEIM: We've played the zone the best that we played it probably in all the years we've been playing zone.
Michigan presents more problems than anybody in the tournament. They're the best offensive team in the tournament. I think they were the best offensive team coming into the tournament except their center hadn't stepped up yet. Now their freshman center, McGary, has really stepped up. They're a different team with his presence inside. He's now in some games dominant. Before, he was not a factor. He's a dominant offensive player. They still have the same guys on the perimeter. Each one of those guys can score 20 points in a night. There's nobody on their team in that lineup that can't score 20 points.
Offensively they're by far the biggest challenge we've had this year. We played some really good teams, but we haven't played anybody as good offensively as Michigan.
Q. How tough is this team, considering everything that's happened towards the end of the season? How focused are they?
COACH BOEHEIM: I think everybody has distractions. There's no team that doesn't have distractions during the course of the year. That's part of life. That's what you have to learn to handle.
They focused well all year. It's difficult when you lose four out of five games. But people go through that. Duke lost three games in a row this year. Kansas did. Michigan had a bad stretch. I think most teams have a bad stretch sometime during the course of the year, particularly if you play four games against three teams in the top 15 in the country, you're going to have a bad stretch.
We got through that and played well in New York, got in the tournament, and have continued to play well.
Q. Having a bad stretch at the end of the season is a little more difficult.
COACH BOEHEIM: It is probably a little more difficult (laughter). But we still had confidence in what we were doing.
Again, going to New York helped us obviously. To play well there against Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Louisville, those are good teams, difficult teams, and they've beaten us. Pittsburgh and Georgetown beat us in the regular season. So to beat them was a big boost of confidence, I think.
Q. Rick Pitino, he could be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend. Are you surprised that he's not in there already? What does it say about this guy that he's got 660 career wins, yet he missed eight seasons to coach in the NBA?
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, he's a tremendous coach. He belongs in the Hall of Fame. Getting in is the only thing that's important, it's not when you get in. He belongs in the Hall of Fame based on what he's done even prior to this year, not even counting this year and last year.
I think there's some backlash from NBA people sometimes. They have votes on this thing.
But he's a tremendous coach. He's one of the best coaches that's ever coached this game. I think from a style point of view, he's somebody that's able to change and press, pressure, play man, play zone. He's probably the most diverse, if not the most diverse, coach in the country in terms of the style that his teams play.
He's a tremendous coach. That's why he was the first guy I hired when I got the job at Syracuse. I'm not stupid.
Q. Can you talk about Carter's play here in the tournament. For someone who doesn't shoot the ball well, he still gets pretty much where he wants to be on the court.
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, I think he's even picked up his play defensively, leadership, getting balls to people, still being able to score when we need him to, because we need him to score.
I think he's had a great year, but he's had an even better tournament, which is hard to do sometimes for a young player, to play well in the regular season but have a better tournament. He's really been good in terms of helping his teammates be better, scoring when we need to, rebounding, passing the ball He had eight defensive rebounds against Marquette, which I've never had a guard get that many defensive rebounds. I've had guards get eight rebounds, but I can't recall a guard of ours getting eight defensive rebounds in a game. I'm not sure there's been any guard anywhere has gotten eight defensive rebounds. Five steals, six assists, one turnover. Michael has played great in this tournament. Overall he's had a tremendous year, but he's played great in this tournament.
Q. Obviously the matchup with Trey Burke, how is that going to play out?
COACH BOEHEIM: I don't pay much attention to matchups. It's teams. Teams play. Trey Burke has had a great year. Michigan is a great team, probably the best offensive team in the country. It will be a great challenge for us.
Q. There's been so much talk about your zone defense. One of the things your zone is doing well is blocking shots. Why do you think this particular team is so good at shot blocking?
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, I think we have more guys. We've had one guy do it over the years in different situations. I think our forwards have blocked shots and our guard, Michael, is capable of blocking a shot. We've got two centers that can block shots.
I think we're just a little bit better there, although we've had some better individual shot-blockers, I think our team is probably a little bit better.
Q. In '96, was there a loss or something that happened in the season that triggered the move to the zone with exclusivity?
COACH BOEHEIM: That was best for that team. We had played some man, and continued to play man after that up through probably 2010. We still played man-to-man at different times. I don't think we went exclusively to zone until about 2010.
But '96, that particular team, we had the big guards. We weren't very good man to man, but we were very good in our zone. So we used it exclusively. We tried to use man-to-man even in the tournament in the Montana State game, first half against Drexel, then the coach finally got smart and played zone the rest of the way.
Q. John Beilein was talking earlier about his days at Le Moyne, how you would come over and watch, participate in a clinic. He also added that you helped him get the Canisius job.
COACH BOEHEIM: I helped him get the Canisius job and West Virginia. Both jobs I recommended him highly because I thought he was a great coach and would do a great job at both places. Especially when the West Virginia athletic director called me, I told him to hang up the phone and call John Beilein back and hire him without waiting another minute because he's a great coach and he's won every place he's been. He's just a tremendous guy and a great basketball coach.
I've always admired his coaching at every level, watching his teams play. We've never even gone out to dinner, but I just have tremendous respect and admiration for how he coaches.
Q. The 2003 championship, how important was that to the city, do you think?
COACH BOEHEIM: I think getting to the Final Four seems to be very important. That's a huge thing. I've had numerous things this year already. I think our fans really support us and they like what we do. I mean, I think getting to the Final Four is a great thing for the fans and the City of Syracuse.
I think the non-basketball people get involved when we get to the Final Four. Of course, winning the championship is a great thing for this area.
Q. About maybe three weeks or so ago you talked about being happy to be in the position your team was. Considering the four guys you lost last year, has it sunk in at all, given the magnitude of the production you lost, that this group was able to gel together and make such an incredible run this year?
COACH BOEHEIM: Again, I was happy with what we'd done up to the point, especially with the regular season we had, what we did in the Big East tournament, I was very pleased with what this team has accomplished with what we've lost.
But certainly the way we played over the tournament run has just been tremendous to see what these players have done, how they've come along and what they've been able to accomplish.
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