CHICAGO — A much-anticipated night of all-ACC action in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight begins in Chicago on Sunday when top-seeded Virginia meets No. 10 seed Syracuse in the Midwest Region final.
The Cavaliers contended for their third straight regular-season crown in the high-powered conference while the Orange finished ninth and squeaked into the NCAA Tournament, but both are a win away from joining a league mate in North Carolina or Notre Dame – who play later in the evening – in the Final Four.
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim and his players answered questions about the Virginia game during a Saturday afternoon press conference at the United Center. The following transcript was provided by the NCAA:
Q. Jim, going back to the first North Carolina game, you said afterward that Tyler Lydon wasn’t ready to do some things physically. What has he done since then that’s made him better and more of a physical presence, especially in this tournament?
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, first of all, Tyler started out the year averaging 15 points and eight rebounds a game in Atlantis against obviously two NCAA-quality teams, so he had a great start to the year. I think in the beginning of the conference play, he really wasn’t looking for his shot as much as we would have liked him to.
Then I think gradually over the last 10 games in the league, he averaged something like 14 a game. So I think he made that adjustment and made defenses come out and respect his shooting.
But overall, he’s had a tremendous freshman year right from the start to now.
Q. After the game last night, you said Tony Bennett was one of the best coaches you’ve ever seen and you’ve seen a lot of coaches. What makes him such a good coach in your opinion, and is he a future Hall of Famer?
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, I think he’s a — I don’t predict that, but I think he certainly will have an opportunity to do that. He’s a great defensive coach, and he’s also, I think, I believe a great offensive coach. They get great movement. They do great things on the offensive end of the court, and obviously he’s a great defensive coach, as well. But he’s also a very, very good offensive coach.
His last three years he’s had, I think, the best coaching record in the NCAA in terms of winning the ACC two years, and this year they had a couple glitches very early in the year or they would have won it again this year.
Q. What makes your full-court press so effective and is it going to be tough if you need to use it against a great passing team like Virginia?
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, our press is great usually for about two minutes. That’s about it, and it was there
yesterday. We’ve used it, but it hasn’t been a great weapon for us this year, but it was — obviously it turned
the game yesterday. I think these guys just made some unbelievable plays.
Trevor made a couple great plays in the full-court situation. Other games this year we were seven down against Virginia Tech with 1:22 to go, and the press kind of bailed us out in that game, as well.
Q. Trevor, are you ever baiting the opposition to make a pass? You’re just trying to anticipate? You obviously had that one kind of under the basket last night. How did that all go?
TREVOR COONEY: Just making the rotations. We were able to get a good trap in the corner and I was
just trying to play the passing lanes, and I played the right one and was able to get the steal.
Q. Trevor and Michael, what’s Malachi’s confidence like? He had obviously a very good freshman year,
great first tournament game, and the shots didn’t fall the last few games. Do you have to remind him
to keep shooting or is he the kind of guy that has such self-confidence that you don’t have to do that?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: Malachi is naturally a confident guy. We don’t really have to tell him to keep shooting.
I think he has that already in his mind anyway. He’s been a good player for us a lot of times down the
stretch he makes big baskets when we need it.
TREVOR COONEY: Yeah, I just keep telling Malachi to be aggressive, be aggressive, and good things happen
when he is aggressive as you can see the last couple games, even when he missed some shots going to the
basket we were able to get tip ins and make plays, so we just want him to be aggressive.
Q. Jim, Virginia shot 56.8 against you guys in January. That’s the best against you in at least two
years. What were they able to do against your zone that others cannot or have not?
JIM BOEHEIM: You know, they shot well from the perimeter, but they also got it inside. I think during the
middle part of the year, North Carolina game, Virginia game, there were two or three games where we didn’t
defend very well inside.
I think you saw yesterday our interior defense is better — even though Sabonis had a good game, I thought we did a pretty good job on him down there when he got the ball.
And I think our interior defense is a little bit better, but at Virginia, they made the threes, but they also were
able to get it inside, and Gill and Tobey hurt us in there. They got a couple threes from guys off the bench. I
thought we played very, very well offensively against Virginia in the game this year. I thought it was maybe
one of our better games.
Five, six minutes to go it’s 50-50, and they didn’t lose a home game this year, so I think if we can play at that level, it’s a good omen that we can play that way.
But they’ve been — they were very good against us in that game on the offensive end, very good. They’re a good team. They’re good offensively against the man-to-man or against the zone. It doesn’t matter what it is. You don’t win the games they’re winning, because 99 percent of people are playing man-to-man, so they’re good offensively.
They’ve got a lot of weapons. They don’t depend on Brogdon who’s really good, but if he has an off day, they’ve got other guys that can step up and play well. Again, that’s why they’ve been so difficult to play against the last three years for everybody. It’s not just us.
Q. Michael and Trevor, could you guys speak to what did you learn, if anything, in the first match-up with Virginia? Also, when you look at the seeding, do you feel like the pressure is on them and not so much on you guys?
TREVOR COONEY: They’re a really good team. I mean, Virginia is a really tough place to play at, and
they’re really good. They’ve had our number the last couple games we’ve played them, and hopefully we can change that tomorrow.
MICHAEL GBINIJE: Yeah, just playing against them the first time, they’re a very disciplined team, and we’ve
just got to be smart defensively and offensively, as well.
Q. Michael, given your background in the state of Virginia, whenever your teams have played against
Virginia, do you hear from a lot of people down there and what kind of rivalry are they for you?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: I enjoy playing against teams from Virginia just because I’m from Virginia, and there’s a
sense of familiarity. I’m just looking forward to the game.
Q. Coach, what does it say about the ACC that regardless of what happens tomorrow in the Elite 8 games, half of the Final Four is going to be made up of teams from that conference? It’s essentially the ACC semifinal and then the right for the final.
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, I think — I a long time ago stopped getting into the conference thing about who’s
this and who’s that. We’ve got a very good conference, and I think that it’s hard to document it during the regular season because you look around and the PAC-12 was playing great. Obviously the Big 12 and the Big Ten and our league.
I thought the Big East was really good when you watch those teams — I watch all these games.
I watched Long Beach state play four times this year. I don’t think there’s many people that can say that, is there? But it’s probably a bad — something bad about whatever it is, character, whatever, that I’m up watching these games, but I do.
You know, I thought all those teams were good. I think it’s hard to measure leagues. It’s too simplistic to just
say, well, this is what we did in the NCAA Tournament. But it’s relevant. It certainly is relevant.
So again, I’ve long felt that the NCAA basketball committee should take a look back on the tournament
results and see if some leagues maybe got — getting in based on what you do in your league. That’s what
you’re getting in on.
So if you happen to be in a weak league, one of the top four or five major conferences, and you’re just beating the people in your league and you’re getting six, seven bids, and year after year, a couple years or something, they’re not producing anything in the tournament, then I think there should be some cause to reflect on does that conference deserve that many bids, because for the most part you’re getting in because you beat somebody in your league.
That’s your two or three good wins. Absent outside wins, that’s how the committee has to decide who gets into this tournament, and that’s a long answer to — obviously we have proven that we’ve got a very good league this year.
The last two years have been very good results in the NCAA Tournament and I think that has to be somewhat taken into consideration as you move forward.
What does it really all mean? Nothing. Nothing. (Chuckles.)
Q. Just wanted to ask maybe two questions, but the first one, when you look at obviously how you guys won and the Northern Iowa game just in general, have you seen the press and teams’ inability to beat it have more of an impact in this tournament?
JIM BOEHEIM: I think the Northern Iowa game, that’s the kind of game you just wish never happened to
anybody. Those situations, I always root for the coach to win that had that lead. I hate it when a coach gets
into that situation, and you lose a game like that, and the same thing yesterday. It happens. It happens when you’re pressing.
We’ve been the beneficiary of that sometimes, and sometimes we’ve been on the other end of it where
we’ve made a horrific turnover. But that’s what kids do, and it’s just the nature of the game. But it’s always —
whenever you lose, it’s heartbreaking, and when you lose when you have a little lead or a good lead, those
games are the hardest to live with over the years.
You don’t live with the wins, you live with the losses.
Q. When you look at some of the teams that have made it this far, you and Virginia being included in
that, obviously this year the shot clock changed and it was supposed to speed things up, and you guys play some of the slower tempos in the country.
Do you see that as just it happened, or is it something deeper to that that maybe you guys
were in better position to kind of —
JIM BOEHEIM: I think the shot clock thing was good.
Obviously everybody knows I’d like to see 24 seconds. I think it would really make a difference in our game.
We would have to play faster, and other teams would have to play faster. I think in the long run, I think it would be good for the game.
I think the longest — we’re about the longest, I think us and Virginia, to get a shot, and I think it’s 17 seconds
or something. I’m probably wrong, but I remember seeing that someplace, that we take 16 or 17 seconds.
That’s still less than 24.
I think that would do the — I think the way they’ve called the game has been good. I like that. I think they’re
calling more stuff, and then players adjust and you get more movement.
I think that’s a great thing for our game. I like the clock change. I would like it shorter.
It’s not going to probably happen in my lifetime because every coach thinks they don’t have enough players, except for maybe North Carolina. Roy I’m sure would like 24 seconds, too.
But I think it’s good for the game. Teams take a long time against us, so we don’t want to get into where
we’re going to — we’ll take a shot quick, but we’re not going to take a quick shot if we just played defense for
30 seconds. It’s hard to just go down and take a quick shot. You can get in a bad way that way.
But no, I think the rule changes from what I’ve seen have been good.
There’s a horrific rule change that was made, now that I’ve been nice, taking the timeouts away from the coaches — it almost cost me two games. Tom Izzo says it cost him a game this year.
When Trevor caught that ball, I’d have been calling time-out. When he made that steal that unfortunate thing wouldn’t have happened because I would have gotten that ref’s attention at half court who made that call and gotten a time-out.
Players should not have to call a time-out.
Players are fighting to get a steal, they’re fighting to get the pressure, get the ball up the court. That’s what
their job is. My job is to call a time-out, and if five guys are doing their job, they are sure as hell not looking over at me to call a time-out.
So take that rule change as the single worst rule change I’ve seen. I’ve heard some coaches — I haven’t
heard much about it. I think it’s a horrific rule change, and taking the timeout away, they did it to shorten the
game, well, then make all five of them 30 seconds.
I’d be fine with that, and you’d actually have a benefit of saving time in the game.
But you take a timeout, like yesterday’s game is a good example.
Gonzaga took a timeout because we got a run and a start, and then they had to take another one, and now all of a sudden they were down and they took the last one they had to take.
Now they didn’t have a timeout. Now the other horrific rule change is when they look at the clock, the players go over to the bench, so you’re getting a free timeout.
That should not happen. When there’s a clock change, the players should go to the opposite foul line from their bench.
Now they can look at it all you want.
But that rule hurt us in two or three games where coaches could set their defense up, set their play up,
the whole thing, and they don’t have any timeouts. In reality there was really no reason to check the play at
the end of the game because the clock wasn’t an issue, and they can’t look at it for the end line, and I guess
that’s another rule change that maybe should be forth coming, that if you’re going to check on a deflected
pass going out of bounds, you probably should be able to check and see if the guy was out of bounds.
Okay, that’s my sermon for the year. (Laughter).
I am really fairly humorous and witty, but I guess I haven’t convinced too many people of that. (Laughter)
Q. Tyler and DaJuan, holding Sabonis in check relatively yesterday, it seemed like his 19 and 17 were a lot less. What does that say about how far you guys’ frontcourt has come in terms of staying
out of foul trouble and erasing the stigma of —
JIM BOEHEIM: I’d qualify that before they answer. I don’t think we did too much holding in check yesterday,
but I’ll take the compliment for them.
TYLER ROBERSON: You know, we had a game plan coming into yesterday’s game on how we’d try to slow
them down, and I think as a team we did a pretty good job of that. I’m just looking forward to playing against
DAJUAN COLEMAN: I think we did a good job yesterday. Could have been a little better, but we just
got that behind, and we’re ready for Sunday now.
Q. Trevor and Michael, it’s been more than two months since you guys played Virginia; how has
this Syracuse team changed for the better since that first meeting?
TREVOR COONEY: I think our defense has picked it up a little bit from our movement to activity, to getting
out to shooters. I think defensively, rebounding, I think everything has just gone a little bit better, and I think
that comes with the season going on. I mean, you’re supposed to get better towards the end of the year, and
I think we can see that happening.
MICHAEL GBINIJE: I think we developed a winning mindset since that point of the season. We were just
trying to come out and compete as best as we can, and we’re expecting to win games.
Q. The other day Coach Boeheim pretty much said he wasn’t all that impressed with you initially in the
recruiting process. Have you heard those comments —
JIM BOEHEIM: He’s heard them.
Q. Obviously things have worked out well for you two, but what was your reaction to the first time he
told you that?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: Next question. (Laughter).
JIM BOEHEIM: I tell him that a lot in full — I forgot the word now. Full disclosure, yeah. I wasn’t that good in
English. But full disclosure, I told him that a lot the first year, I think. That’s fair to say, isn’t it?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: That’s fair, yeah.
JIM BOEHEIM: He handled the ball every day in practice and played the whole practice every day of the
year he sat out, got better. Not good, but he got better, and each year he’s been with us, he’s gotten better.
I believe you could make a case — I like Malcolm Brogdon. I think he was the best player in the league
this year, but I think you could make a case for Michael for being as valuable to his team as Malcolm is, and in
fact, I think that Virginia has been able to overcome Malcolm having a bad game.
We really can’t overcome Michael having a bad game. His numbers, what he’s done, speak for themselves. He led the league in steals, four rebounds, four assists, shot 42 percent from the three-point line, 47 from the field. He’s our best defensive player.
Those awards — and I tell the players this all the time.
The Player of the Year, first-team league, always goes to the top-four teams in the league. That’s where it
goes. And I don’t have a dispute with that at all. But Mike has been as valuable as anybody this year for his team.
Q. Did that motivate you, him reminding you of that?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: Yeah, that’s very motivating.
Q. You expected more out of Tyler Roberson, and Tyler, just what you can say about calling him out and how he’s responded to that?
JIM BOEHEIM: I didn’t call him out. He can — I made a comment. He can answer that question, though, I’m
sure. It’ll be the first time we’ve heard him answer a question, but it’ll be good.
TYLER ROBERSON: I mean, at this point I’m not too worried about that. I’m just focused on Virginia and trying to win tomorrow.
JIM BOEHEIM: He doesn’t listen to too much I say anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.
Q. Jim, Virginia is a bit of an anomaly. They don’t have any teenagers in their rotation, they’ve got some 23 year olds. As a coach is that something you see on film and how does that play out in the way they play?
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, first of all, three years ago, Brogdon wasn’t 23 or whatever, and Perrantes was,
and they were good. They were just as good then as they are now, and now obviously they are veteran guys.
But the key to their team over the three years I’ve been involved watching them is they’ve had upperclass
players and young players, and the same thing is true this year. They have upperclass players, but they have good young players, and that’s what makes a program stable over a period of time.
We’ve always tried to do that, and we’ve been hurt a little bit because the Jeremy Grants and Tyler Ennises and Chris McCulloughs have left, and those are the guys that we have counted on for being probably three- or four-year players, and Virginia has had those guys, and they’re also very talented players.
I think that gets overlooked a little bit in terms of how talented their key guys are.
And the fact that — I don’t think age necessarily, but the fact that they’re veterans, they’ve been there, they’ve
won big games, all that plays into it. They have a very, very good defensive system, and they have a much
better than people think offensive system, as well, and that’s why they’ve had the success they have.
We have one of the best leagues in the country, and they’ve won it two years out of three, and this year they
just dropped a couple games early when they hadn’t really quite got it figured out.
And at Virginia Tech and at Georgia Tech, they were good teams.
If our league had a better scheduling approach, I think we would have — as the Big East used to have — this will get me in more trouble, we would have had two more teams in
Georgia Tech started out with a horrific early-season schedule, Virginia Tech, also, and Florida State — I think Leonard told me, I’m going to go by Leonard’s word here, which I think is OK, he played
five of his first six on the road.
That might — I’m attributing that to Leonard, so I hope he’s right.
But when you get off to a bad start in a league like ours, it’s hard to overcome. Virginia Tech did end up
10-8 and Georgia Tech did end up 8-10, but it’s only one game or two away really for those two teams, and
they didn’t have quite enough success non-conference which hurt them a little bit, too, but the scheduling is
something that’s very difficult to figure out and to get it — the bottom line in my opinion, there’s a lot of —
obviously television is important.
You have to be concerned about it. But when you play four games in seven days and you’re off for nine days, there needs to be some way to address that, if you want to benefit.
Because the reality is that the really good teams can overcome any schedule. North Carolina can play four
days in a row. They’re going to be in the tournament. Now, they may not have quite as good a record as they
would like to, but that kind of team, those teams can overcome a tough schedule. In the old Big East we
had one year where we played four Saturday-Monday nights during the season, and we were good, so we
overcame it. But scheduling is so crucial, and television is important, but it shouldn’t put teams that
are going to be bubble teams on the competitive edge and maybe keep them out of — it’s one game that can
keep you out of the tournament, literally, really.
I’ll use ourselves as an example.
We were picked ninth preseason, ninth. So we had Pittsburgh and we had Boston College. That’s who we play every year, and that’s a balance.
Pretty good team, a team that turned out bad, then they added Florida State as our other
team we play twice, Florida State was good, and they turned out pretty good.
Then our other game was North Carolina twice.
North Carolina was picked first in the league. So if you’re really thinking about it as a basketball person, and we
want to get as many teams in this tournament as we can, why would you put the ninth-rated team against
the best team twice, which they’re going to probably lose twice, as we did.
Now, that’s a simplistic example. That’s just kind of — but that’s the thinking I think you need to do if you want
to get the maximum teams in the tournament, because the top four or five are going to get into the tournament,
and I think some years — I think this year Notre Dame really benefited from the schedule. It was difficult for
us because not only did we have North Carolina twice, but we played at the top-five teams in the league.
We played at North Carolina, we played at Virginia, we played at Miami, we played at Louisville, and we played
at Florida State and Pittsburgh.
So of the top teams in the league, the only one we didn’t play on the road was Notre Dame. So I don’t
think anybody else played that schedule. So it was a very difficult schedule, and I think that hopefully the
committee does take that into account when they look at your record, but there’s so many things that get
taken into account, sometimes it’s hard to take everything into account.
But scheduling is crucial, and how you — I don’t think you can just say, well, our next year’s schedule, this is
it, based on some formula. I think you have to take the schedule that’s going to be played next year, and you
need to look at it, and you need to maybe tweak it somewhat.
We’ve been in this league three years, and we played Duke twice the first two years and North Carolina twice
this year. So for three years in a row, we’ve been picked sixth, eighth and ninth, and we played the top team in the league twice.
And I know why that is; because they want that game on television.
I think sometimes that can — a onegame swing in this league can be the difference between getting in the tournament and not getting in the tournament.
Q. You mentioned London, their point guard. He had a nice game against you the first time —
JIM BOEHEIM: Every time.
Q. What about him impresses you?
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, he does what they need him to do. He’s a very good defensive player. When he gets
open shots, he makes them. He gets the ball to people — – he’s tough. He made a tough drive against us
when it was a three-point game at Virginia, real tough drive, and he doesn’t make mistakes. He’s as good as
anybody. He’s as good a point guard as there is for what he does for his team, and Gill is as good inside as
anybody that we’ve played against all year.
Q. You’ve been at this stage of the tournament with teams that are favored and teams that are a little bit more of an underdog story. Is there a difference for the players depending on the role?
JIM BOEHEIM: I don’t see that. I never saw any revenge factor. I never saw any chip-on-your-shoulder
factor work. None of that works. The only thing that’s going to work is tomorrow who plays the best. There’s
pressure on us because our players want to go to the Final Four just as much as Virginia’s do.
This has nothing to do with history. It’s this team. This team wants to go. What happened last year or the year
before doesn’t matter. It doesn’t put extra pressure on you I don’t think.
I think the pressure will be on when it comes down to it as a close battle. There’s always pressure because you want to move on. Everybody does.
But I don’t think anything else factors in other than the normal pressure that — we’re not going to play
loose because we aren’t supposed to be here.
We want to win just as much as anybody does, so we’re going to have that same pressure that Virginia will
have, and it’s just who can overcome that and who can play well.
Yesterday we just fought a little bit harder at the end and made a couple plays, and it’s a great tribute to these guys that — those are hard plays to make, and Trevor Cooney made three really — the last play he made, we have a normal rotation to go down to the baseline on that kind of drive, but he was over on the other side.
He was 15 feet away from where he normally would be because he needed to cover something originally on that side because of Wiltjer being in the high post, and he had to go an extra 10 to 15 feet to get to that corner to make that play.
If he didn’t make that play, the guy has got a wide-open three, so who knows what happens.
Q. As a guy who spent his entire life pretty much at Syracuse, what does it mean to you also to see the women’s program also in the Elite 8 this year and to see their growth?
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, as I said last night, I’ve been a big fan — I’ve been to several games and I watch all
their games on TV. I watched the whole game yesterday. It ended about five minutes before our game started or whatever it was, but I was still watching it on my phone. I’ve got that ESPN app.
I thought it was great. I think they’ve just — it’s a fun team to watch. I take a little credit because they play a
familiar defense to mine. I’ve seen that defense they play before, and they’ve just got a great group of girls.
They played great this year, and I couldn’t be happier for them.
Q. If we could go back to great coaches that you’ve seen, off the top of my head, Dean Smith, Krzyzewski, Carnesecca, John Thompson, Massimino. I’m sure your list is longer. Are there any common characteristics among those coaches that made them successful, and do you see any of those characteristics in Tony Bennett?
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, they all were good defensive coaches for the most part, as well as good offensive coaches. I think that’s what the great coaches that I look at, that I respect as great coaches are able to obviously do, coach at both ends. Some of those guys got better players, better talent than others, but you can be a great coach and not have any great players.
You can never get to the Final Four and be a great coach. The one thing about coaching that I think is underrated
and overlooked is there’s a ton of great coaches. I mean, there really are a ton of great coaches in this country. When you watch games as much as I do and you watch the St. Mary’s and Gonzagas play, then you watch
Creighton and what Doug McDermott’s father does — that’s what I call him — you know, you watch these coaches, and as somebody who loves basketball, that’s why I’m in this, I love basketball, that’s the reason I do this, it’s unbelievable how many coaches out there that just do an unbelievable job.
What Bill Self has done at Kansas and Tom Izzo and all these coaches, it’s an amazing game that we have. Tony Bennett has been the best that I’ve seen the last three years in terms of the way they play, how they play.
You know, obviously in the course of your career, you win and you have to win championships, and you have
to get to the Final Four and all that stuff. But that doesn’t mean if you don’t do it, you’re not a great coach. It just doesn’t. But it does in this country.
But that’s just the way people are judged.
I always thought Karl Malone was the best power forward I ever saw. I don’t think he won any championships, but that’s just my opinion. I just think there’s — we’re fortunate in this game. I watched — I thought the best-coached team in the tournament
I’ve seen this year is Stephen F. Austin. I thought they were the best-coached team, just watching how they played on offense particularly. I just said, wow, look at that team. I guess Oklahoma State thought that, too. But there’s a lot of great coaches.
Tony Bennett is a great coach, no question about that in my mind.
I’d say that if he lost yesterday. I said that before.
Q. I spoke with Michael last week and asked him just about making the tournament and the confidence that they have, and he said that he felt like once you guys were in, he had full confidence that you guys could make a run in this thing, and looking at the guys and seeing the way that they performed last night despite the way Gonzaga performed and the way the game started, I’m just wondering if you could talk about how this group
particularly is handling this pressure cooker and how teams that you’ve had in the past have handled the pressure of this moment?
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, we try to just coach it as a game. I mean, it isn’t a game, but we try to approach the
tournament like we approach our games. I think one of the reasons we’ve been a pretty successful team in
tournaments is that we’re a good turnaround team. It’s usually not as big an advantage when you’re playing
somebody from your league, but there’s nothing we can do about that.
But the two things that come to my mind, we were a good team all year. If you’re not a good team, you’re
not going to win in the tournament. We have a good team. We proved that by how well we played against
really top teams. Even the ones we lost, we were there.
So it’s not that big of a step just to go a little bit further.
So I really thought this team was good all year, and I thought once we got in the tournament, obviously we
thought Dayton was good, and Dayton was good until we beat them, then they weren’t good anymore, then
everybody thought Middle Tennessee was good until we beat them, and then they weren’t good anymore,
and I guess that’s probably what everybody is saying today about Gonzaga, that they weren’t that good.
All these teams were good teams, and we’ve had to play well. We’ve had some adversity, obviously yesterday
the most, but we’ve had tough first halves against Dayton, obviously we were behind at the half and I think we were a little bit ahead of Middle Tennessee.
But this team has performed well when we’ve been behind this year the whole year. We made a lot of
comebacks, and we’ve won, and we’ve made some comebacks and we didn’t quite get there.
I think we were down 50-40 against Virginia, and that’s a tough thing against Virginia, and I think that was the score and we tied it, and I think we were down 10 to North Carolina at North Carolina and came back and tied it.
I might not be right about Virginia, but I think we were down there.
But I think they’ve been — they kind of know that they’re capable of winning, and that’s how you have to believe,
that you’re going to win.
At Syracuse we’ve always believed we’re going to win.
It doesn’t matter who we play. We’ve had enough success that we feel we can win. I think our players feel that way.
Q. You mentioned Anthony Gill earlier even though Malcolm Brogdon is kind of the most talked-about
Virginia player. Is Gill perhaps an underrated part of Virginia’s offense?
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, I think he’s very good. I don’t know what other people think about him, but I think
he’s very good, and I think Tobey is very good, and Tobey is coming off two very big games here, and he’s
a very good player inside and one that we’re very mindful of.
But I think with any team that’s achieved the level that Virginia has for the last three years, it’s
not ever about one guy.
In our game yesterday, it’s a good example of how you win games. Trevor Cooney made the steals, Mike Gbinije made the basket that won the game. Tyler Lydon made the block that kept the game in check, and Tyler Roberson knocked the ball loose to Mike Gbinije to make that play.
It takes everybody, and particularly at this stage of the year, to play and to play well. It’s about the team.
Basketball is a team game. It always has been, always will be. Nobody wins by themselves.
Q. What impresses you most about Brogdon’s game, and then also the pack line defense that Virginia plays?
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, they’re a tremendous defensive team. I coached against Tony’s father. He’s a great
coach, same defensive philosophy. Brogdon is a tremendous defensive player. I voted him the best
defensive player in our league. He might have won that.
I don’t know if he did or not, but I voted for him for it. I think he should have won if he didn’t, and he
He’s an underrated offensive player. He makes big shots for them almost all the time. I’ve worked with him
with USA Basketball, and he was on our team last summer. I’m the chairman of a couple — one of that
committee, I guess, anyway. He’s just a really good basketball player, doesn’t say a lot. I like those guys.
They just play.
They don’t have big celebrations when they make the normal plays that they make, which are great plays. But he’s a player that as a coach you admire tremendously for what he does.
He reminds me of Klay Thompson who we coached in the world championships. They play both ends of the court, they don’t say much, they just let their games do their talking for them. Malcolm is not quite as good a shooter as Klay, but nobody else is, either.
Q. In the arena out there, there are banners for retired numbers for Jerry Sloan, Bob Love and a couple more modern guys. Am I right to say 50 years ago you were in Bulls’ training camp?
JIM BOEHEIM: I was in a training camp with Jerry Sloan and Bob Love, and I scored a couple baskets. I remember that. But I remember doing a shooting drill with Bob Love, and I think Bob Boozer was here, just getting in the Hall of Fame. I was a young player.
I mean, I was okay. I was down to the last cut on that team, which fortunately I got cut and I went back to Syracuse and had to figure out what to do, which turned out good.
But I was in that camp. I remember rebounding for Bob Boozer.
He was about 6’9″ or 6’10”, and he made 27 straight 17-foot jump shots, and I caught every one.
Every one did not hit anything, and I said, hmm, these guys are pretty good here.
Q. All these years later, can you evaluate how rewarding it is to have accomplished the things you have and the high of a win like last night? How does that measure against had you made the team had you been an NBA…
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, it’s a good thing I didn’t make the team. I would have been a very below-average NBA player, so I think it worked out good for me that I didn’t make that team.