Monday, March 31, 2014

Billy Donovan, Kevin Ollie Talk About Upcoming Final Four Matchup

Each of the Final Four head coaches were on conference calls this afternoon. We'll stick with what Kevin Ollie and Billy Donovan had to say:

DONOVAN:

(on Scottie Wilbekin vs. Shabazz Napier matchup)

"Napier is a great player. I, obviously, have an enormous amount of respect for him. Being a Big East guy, I've always followed Big East teams -- I know they were in the American this year -- but he's a gifted offensive player, a gifted leader as well. Scottie is a great defensive player, Shabazz is a great offensive player. I've always believed great offense beats great defense. So, it's not necessarily a situation where Scottie is playing Napier by himself."

(on Dec. 2 meeting at Gampel, which UConn won on Napier's last-second shot)

"It was a great game, a great environment. I think it was a game that helped our team going forward. Napier made some great plays ... there was a lot of ebbs and flows -- they took the lead, we took the lead back .. it went back and forth in a lot of ways. I thought (DeAndre) Daniels made a tremendous play, keeping the loose basketball alive. Napier got a great look at the free throw line and knocked it down for their team."

Keep in mind, Donovan labeled Napier's shot "luck" after the game that night. He meant that Napier was lucky to get the second shot, after Daniels had tipped back the rebound of his first, off-balance shot.

(on why the loss to UConn helped Florida)

"It was really our second road game. We had played Wisconsin early. When you play against a good team, you've got to battle, fight, go back and forth, it helps you understand just how hard you have to battle, fight and persevere. It was a great venue, a great crowd. Any time you play a game like that, you have the chance to learn and grow. Obviously, it was a tough loss for us, losing at the buzzer. We knew where we needed to get better and improve. We gave up some offensive rebounds down the stretch."

(on Kevin Ollie)

"I've always respected Kevin. Obviously, he was a terrific player, a first-class guy. He's done an unbelievable job. One of the things I respect more than anything else is he was a guy that plays at UConn, was an assistant coach there, he's taking over for a Hall of Fame coach. No question, Kevin is comfortable with who he is, what he stands for, how he wants his team to play. I'm sure there are differences between he and Jim (Calhoun). He put a stamp on the team, what's the best way for his team to play. He's done a magnificent job coaching them all year long."

OLLIE:

(on how he was prepared to be a head coach despite no prior experience)

“I’ve always been a coach on the floor. Being around Larry Brown ... and what helped me, I played with 11 different teams, so I’ve seen different offenses, defenses, different ways a coach can communicate with his players."

"I used to keep scouting reports. Teammates would be like, what are you doing? I had to watch tape and film, scout my opponents. I was getting in there 10 minutes, five minutes, so I had to know exactly what I was doing so I could make those five minutes meaningful.”

“I tried to be an extension of the coach, so he didn’t even have to call a play, I knew exactly what he wanted at the end of the game.”

(on the AAC's postseason success)

“I’m glad our American flag is being raised. We lost six games in our conference, and we’re going to the Final Four. That just shows how great our conference is.”

(on the lack of African-American coaches at high-level programs right now)

“It’s definitely a concern. We don’t want to look at ourselves as African-American coaches. Hopefully, our coaching ability doesn’t have to do with the color of our skin … I just admire John Thompson, Nolan Richardson, they paved the way for me, that I can have a job and do it successfully.”

(on the exchange between him and Calhoun after Sunday's win)


“He just said, ‘I’m very proud of you. Just keep doing what you’re doing, keep battling.’ I was trying to hold back tears, because I always want to look tough in front of coach. But I just wanted to say thank you for believing in me. There were a lot of doubters, but Coach always believed in me.”

Here's that exchange:


(on Ryan Boatright)

“He’s meant a lot. Ryan is growing up. I’m very passionate about my point guards ... Ryan’s allowing us to coach him now. He’s opening up and trusting us more. That’s always difficult sometimes, the trust issue. Does coach have my back, maybe I should pass this shot up for Amida (Brimah) to have a better shot? The big thing for me, in the Iowa State game, they cut lead down to four, Ryan took two dribbles left handed, kicked it to Niels (Giffey) in the corner for a 3 that really stemmed that tide. That shows his maturity as a point guard … what he’s done in practice, being more vocal, being a leader, really helping our team, helping Niels and DeAndre getting better shots."


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