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Monday March 17, 2014Billy Donovan Press Conference Quotes

Gainesville, Fla.

Florida Men’s Basketball Head Coach Billy Donovan

Monday, March 17, 2014, Press Conference Transcript


Head coach Billy Donovan held his weekly press conference on Monday to look ahead to the NCAA Tournament and recap the Gators’ SEC Tournament championship run.


On what you take from the 2006-07 team that helps now:

“I don’t know if we look that it that way from my perspective. We got a number one seed. There is a whole body of work that I think everybody is being evaluated on. Now that the seeding is set, the only thing that matters is playing well and putting yourself in a position to win and advance. We’re excited to be in the tournament. We’re excited for another opportunity to play but the number one seed, the overall seed, whatever it is, is great. But that’s probably a reflection of what’s happened from November all the way to here in March. Once the brackets are out and you’re playing, seedings and things like that, players aren’t thinking about that. They’re thinking about playing and competing and playing to the best of their ability.”


On what he saw from his half-court offense in the last 10 minutes against Kentucky: 

“Our team played two very difficult games. I thought there was definitely some rust with the way we played in the first half against Missouri. I thought that the first half against Tennessee wasn’t great. Our defense was really good in the second half. In both those games, especially the Tennessee game – the physical contact, the game in itself, the amount of energy our guys had to extend. I thought we had some pretty decent looks. Scottie Wilbekin had a couple of threes that were short. Doe-Doe (Dorian Finney-Smith) had a shot that he missed. We missed some free throws. I thought we started to get worn down a little bit. I think a lot of it was the residual effect from the last two games. I don’t think that you can really underestimate how physically demanding (it was). We have experienced a lot of things this season. We had not experienced playing three games in a row and a quick turnaround like that. It was the first time Kentucky had to do it, too. I think there were points in time when both teams were somewhat fatigued. I think you can see that we shot the ball very well from the 3-point line in the first half. We were 6-of-12 and maybe 2-of-6 or 2-of-7 in the second half. We didn’t get shots to go down. I thought we had some good looks around the basket but to Kentucky’s credit we had some blocked shots. I thought there were a couple of drives that there was some contact that wasn’t called that probably led to some fast break points for them. We had an opportunity at the free throw line to extend the lead to three. Those kind of games, it just comes down to somebody making a play and doing something. I thought our guys really battled and fought. For me as a coach, it was good to see us start the game playing well. We got out and didn’t do that in the first two games. We came out playing well. We played a very good first half, but due to foul trouble and playing guys too many minutes, Scottie in particular. But you really have no other choice. You’re in a championship game. It’s the last SEC game of the year. (Kasey) Hill has four fouls in the game and you’re constantly trying to get guys energized. I couldn’t play (Casey) Prather at the end of the game because I thought he was physically gassed. We didn’t get enough out of him. Doe-Doe came up with a good rebound for us late. You’re trying to manufacture players out there to do the best job you can. The one thing you can never lose sight of is the physical toll that takes over a three-game stretch like that, especially against a Missouri team right on the cusp of being in the NCAA Tournament and you knew you were getting their best shot. Tennessee, people said that if they beat Florida they’re in but they may or may not be in. You knew we were getting their best shot and they were playing great coming down the stretch the last five games and won five in a row. It was a lot of contact and physical basketball game. The amount of energy we had to exert to erase a 10-point deficit, the amount of energy we had to exert to get the stops we did. Then you come back 24 hours later and play a Kentucky team with great size and had an easier time advancing than we did the first two days.”


On if there’s anything to fix this week:

“Free throw shooting. We’ve got to do a better job there. We were doing really, really well for a while there. One of the things that happened is we did work on it some, but we’ve got to spend more time on that. That has to be an emphasis and focal point for us. We’ve shown the ability and the potential to shoot the ball well. There’s been numerous games where we come down the stretch of games and gone 10-for-11, we’ve made 16 out of 18. There’s been some good stretches. Certainly that three-game stretch from us was not a great stretch for us at all. That would be an area we’ve got to get better. I think with our guys, the execution part on both ends of the floor is good. We’ll break down these three games to evaluate areas we need to get better. The biggest thing for us is recuperating from this weekend today. We’ll get together and watch film, but there will not be anything done physically today and then we’ll have Tuesday and Wednesday to get ready to play Thursday.”


On the effect of not knowing your opponent till Tuesday:

“I think what you try to do is we’ll have coaches watching both teams right now on a regular basis, that started last night. Those things are being watched. And you’re not going to know anything else until Tuesday night so for us, today and tomorrow, this is really an opportunity to focus on some things we need to clean up and get better at because of the quick turnaround and playing Thursday. What we may do on Tuesday in practice is maybe look at some similarities, some things we’re going to have to do in both games that will definitely be a carryover and work on those things but instead of getting into, ‘This is what Albany does, this is what Mount St. Mary’s does.’ All of a sudden, you’re infiltrating your guys with stuff that may or may not happen. And then inevitably you get caught wasting practice time on stuff that clearly is not going to happen. So what we’ll end up doing is looking at some things that we could get better at and then on Tuesday night, whenever that game’s done, and we’ll basically give them a first look at whatever team it is we’re playing. And then obviously we have Wednesday to practice and do some things live against each other after knowing our opponent. We’ve had some games that have been quick turnarounds in this league on those Thursday-Saturday games, especially early in the season where you’re seeing an SEC team for the first time. I think our guys are accustomed to that, and that’s what’s really going to end up happening if you’re fortunate enough to move on and advance. You’re dealing with a one-day prep even going into the next game. So, right now we’ve got two days here, today and tomorrow, to try and make some improvements in ourselves.”


On if he likes this scenario:

“The one thing that is a little bit unique for everybody right now is you’re dealing with complete unknowns. You know Kentucky, third time we’ve played them, second time in basically a week that we’ve played them. Tennessee, third time we’ve played them. There is a great familiarity with personnel, offense in what they’re doing. This is a situation now where you’re starting off really from scratch where everyone doesn’t know each other and you’re trying obviously to get prepared to play. So there is an excitement I think for both teams playing somebody new, but when you’re playing against each other in a league that was 21 games, there’s a lot of familiarity inside of those games that are being played. Personnel familiarity, what they’re running on offense, what they’re going to do on defense, what they want to be running inbounds, special situations, there’s a lot of familiarity there. Now you get into a situation where really you’re starting off on the ground floor. Like when we went into the Tennessee game and we didn’t really have any preparation time, our guys know Jeronne Maymon, they know (Jarnell) Stokes, they know (Jordan) McRae. They’ve played against them. They know their size, their length, their speed, quickness. They know what they like to do. They know their defense, what they’re going to run on offense. Same thing with Kentucky. So you try to make some tweaks and some changes, saying, ‘OK, here are the adjustments we need to make. This is what we’re going to probably see. This is what we need to do. We did this last time, and we need to do this this time.’ That doesn’t really happen now. Now it’s about starting at the ground floor and trying to build up a level of preparation for your guys getting ready to play the game.”


On the importance of the players coaching themselves: 

“The thing that I’ve been most pleased with with these guys, is when you talk about guys who are policing themselves and coaching themselves leadership-wise, what ends up happening is sometimes for your younger players, that’s very, very difficult to do because when you talk about doing that, the first thing you’re doing now is you’re getting out of yourself and you’re looking at a bigger picture and you’re looking at the whole. Normally in situations, OK, we miss back-to-back free throws coming down the stretch in Kentucky. The immediate shift in mentality by our guys was next play, next possession. That’s over with. This is what we need to do with 14 seconds left, last possession. That’s where you get the policing part that becomes good whereas a lot of players, you could have walked on that court with Dorian Finney-Smith saying, ‘Gosh, I missed a free throw. We could be up by three,’ or Scottie Wilbekin thinking ‘Geez, I missed a free throw. We could be up three,’ but it’s still a one-possession game. And sometimes players, young players, have a hard time moving past what just happened, good or bad. I think our guys have done a better job than maybe earlier in their career of moving past those situations.”


On if he feels like he’s a better coach now than in 2006 and 2007: 

“I hope so. I hope I’m better each year. I’ve never looked at, for me, the coaching part or the coaching credit, so to speak. I don’t know if I get credit or not. I’m sure maybe when we lose, I get maybe too much blame and when we win I probably get maybe too much praise. But the thing that I’ve always looked at is whether or not I get credit, what kind of impact I have made in those guys’ lives. No question that (Joakim) Noah, (Al) Horford, (Corey) Brewer, Lee Humphrey, those guys coming in were not McDonald All-Americans, outside of Brewer. Now they had developed into some outstanding players. The thing that I’m most proud about with that group is not only what they did winning-wise, but I feel like this place helped them get prepared for what they’re doing up in the NBA. I feel like their time here prepared them. There’s a stat out there right now that guys that get drafted in the first round, I think less than nine percent of those guys play more than 10 years in the NBA. So for me, when I see a guy like Jason Williams, and a Mike Miller, and a Noah, and a Horford, and a (Matt) Bonner, and a David Lee, OK, and a (Bradley) Beal and a Chandler Parsons, these guys playing 10 years, there’s a part of me that gets great satisfaction that we’ve done our job here at Florida to help them get to that point. So that’s what I look at as more of a bigger picture not what kind of credit I get. My thing is, ‘What kind of job have I done preparation-wise for those guys in the next step?’”


On if players look at tourney as a “Do or Die” situation:

“I don’t think they look at it that way. I really don’t. I think they realize there’s an opportunity given to them and then it’s what they do with the opportunity. I don’t think our guys are wrapped up in the seeding. I don’t think they’re wrapped up in anything else other than the fact that there is an opportunity they’ve been blessed with. And it’s not about anything that happened last year. Our team is different from last year. We don’t have Erik Murphy. We don’t have Kenny Boynton. We don’t have Mike Rosario. The year before we lost Brad Beal. We lost Erving Walker. Every team is different. I think what those guys did, winning three out of four SEC Championships, putting themselves to get all the way to the Elite Eight, there’s no promises or assurances that we’ll never get back to that point again. I don’t think our guys are looking at this as a ‘win or bust’ kind of thing. They’re not. I think they’re looking at this right now as we have an opportunity, what are we going to do with our opportunity and what are we going to try to chase and pursue? And you’re going to have every team in the tournament doing the same thing. But I think our guys have stayed relatively grounded on those kinds of things that probably at some point don’t really mean a lot.” 


On if high expectations become a burden:

“I think that there’s all sorts of things that are distractions for your team. Everyone is dealing with distractions. Everybody is going to have an opinion. Matchups. Who’s going to win? Who’s going to lose? Who’s going to get knocked out? Who’s going to go the Final Four? Who’s going to win the national championship? My thing would be if everybody really knew that, they should give up their job, go to Vegas and never have to work again for the rest of their life. That’s the thing I think that makes the tournament so exciting is everybody’s got an opinion what’s going to happen. Everybody watches the tournament all year round because they’re going to be excited to see what happens. But the reality is those distractions you’re talking about have nothing to do with the preparation that we need to do. Whether someone picks us to go all the way to the national championship game or someone picks us to lose our first game, whatever, it doesn’t make a difference right now, okay? Our guys, I think, are focused right now on the fact that anything that’s happened in the past, it’s over and done with. It doesn’t necessarily mean – we lost last year in the SEC tournament championship game to Ole Miss, we won this year. Last year, we won the league, this year we went undefeated in the league. I mean, that’s really, to me, it’s hard to draw any conclusions because of what’s happened in the past. I think you can learn from things, but I don’t think our guys are worried about the expectations of things around us as much as they’re focused on what are our expectations, what are our goals, what are we trying to do, how are we going to practice, how are we going to play? What can we do? Because ultimately, everybody in that locker room has way, way more of an impact on what’s going on in between the lines than anything else. And we need to block out any distractions, if there are, and focus on what we need to do between the lines.”


On if he sees similarities to this team and the 2006-07 teams:

“I think the talent level is totally different, I mean totally different. You’re talking about three players that went in the top nine (of the NBA Draft), the first time in the history of college basketball it’s ever happened. You’ve got the all-time 3-point shot maker in NCAA Tournament history in Lee Humphrey, a second-round draft pick in Taurean Green, a second-round draft pick in Chris Richard, you have a first-round draft pick in Marreese Speights. The similarities, if there are any, is much, much in terms of the connectivity inside of our team, the chemistry, and that they care for each other. Those things would be somewhat similar. Style of play-wise, there are some similarities with what we do, but we’re a little bit different. We have at times, with Dorian Finney-Smith a 3-point shooting four-man. With Noah, we really didn’t have that. We had two huge guys up front, even when we brought in Chris Richard, so we do some things that are different. But I think a lot of times when you talk about really good teams, there’s always similarities. There’s certain qualities that make up good teams. And you may go about doing it a different way, but a lot of it is the chemistry, their care for one another, their commitment to one another, their unselfishness, their ability to accept their teammates for who they are, not pass judgment. It would have been very, very easy for a guy like Scottie Wilbekin with what happened at the beginning of the year, for everybody to pass judgment and not forgive the guy, you know. But that didn’t happen. Scottie proved to those guys that he wanted to be there and he proved that he was committed to those guys. So there’s a lot of things inside really good teams that you can draw upon and say you know what, these teams mirror each other in certain ways.”


On if experiencing quick turnarounds this season helps during the postseason:

“We’ve had to experience that in our league. This is not the first time that we’ve had to go, if we’re fortunate enough to win, a one-day turn-around. We’ve had to do that before. The one thing that was new to our team this year, and not to say our guys hadn’t gone through it because we did it last year, was playing three games in a row. We had not done that the entire season. This was the first time we’d done that all year. Some of the quick turnarounds with the NCAA Tournament are something we have to do inside our league. I imagine a lot of leagues are doing that right now due to TV contracts with leagues and those kind of things.”


On what led to the last three games resulting in some of the best sustained defense of the season:

“I think a couple things. If you look at it, we averaged 63 points a game in the SEC Tournament, which was far below our average. There are a couple reasons. First, you look at 50 percent from the free-throw line. That cuts down points. The other thing, Dorian Finney-Smith and Will Yeguete, at the power forward spot, were like 7-for-25 from the field in the tournament. Doe-Doe average four points, Will averaged two. That was another reason for our scoring. The one thing we did do a great job on, if you look at the stat sheet, we shot a very high percentage from the field, right around 46 percent over the three games. We shot 47 percent from the 3-point line for the three games, but I think we held teams below 20 percent from the 3-point line. That was really big. I also think the steals and turnovers – we averaged nine steals over those three games – those things inevitably helped us going forward. So I agree the defense and 3-point defense were pivotal, based on the fact we weren’t scoring the number of points we usually do.” 


On why the team has been shooting better recently from the 3-point line:

“Our guys working in the gym, doing a lot of extra work shooting the ball. Like I said, you can’t do the same things physically that you did back in November and December. You want them out there. You want to get work in. One of the best things to do is shoot the basketball. And I really believe coming down the last two weeks of the season, we did a nice job at the free throw line. Obviously, the results in the SEC Tournament were not great. But our guys have invested a lot of times shooting. It’s a repetition skill that needs to get done over and over. We’ve gotten better. I think our ball movement and guys understanding for themselves what’s a good shot for them and what’s a bad shot. We’ve gotten good shooting from Scottie (Wilbekin), gotten good shooting from (Michael) Frazier. DeVon Walker did not take a lot of threes. Doe-Doe (Dorian Finney-Smith) has shot the ball better after going through that long stretch where he was 0-for-18, he’s gotten better. That gives us another shooter. And I think we’re taking good shots. The shots we’re taking are good, high-percentage shots.”


On how it helps having Kasey Hill back:

“I think he’s helped us. I made the comment, I didn’t think our bench did a great job in the Tennessee game. I thought Kasey played much, much better. I would have liked to have played him more yesterday. But I was really worried because of his foul trouble and having three in the first half and picking up his fourth, we couldn’t afford to have him foul out. There was too much on Scottie’s shoulders. I needed to get him in and out of the game just for some quick rests until he said he was ready to go back in. But Kasey played well in that first half. If it wasn’t for foul trouble, I probably would have played him a little bit more.”


On what the bench did well this week and what they need to work on:

“This is how I looked at the tournament – the Missouri game, our starters did not start the game like we needed them to start. Inevitably, we were down there at the half and we played better in the second half. Our starters started off the game really, really well against Tennessee in that second game right when we subbed. And some of it was my fault because I was trying to get guys some rest, I probably had too many young guys on the floor at the same time. I thought in the Kentucky game, we didn’t substitute as freely, but we did sub. But we kept some of those younger guys out there, so we got really good minutes from Chris Walker. That was the best he played. We got really good minutes from Kasey Hill. We got good minutes in the first half from Dorian Finney-Smith. Where those guys struggled was on the defensive end of the floor. We had way, way too many breakdowns. Chris Walker in pick-and-roll coverage was very, very poor. We fouled too much. Kasey Hill and DeVon Walker fouled way too much in the game. DeVon Walker picks up a foul, Kentucky’s shooting one-and-one, he just fouls the guy 40 feet from the basket for no reason. Kasey Hill fouls a guy all the way up the floor, puts himself in harm’s way. Their defensive discipline, their defensive intensity, how hard they compete and play, would be an area that continually needs to be raised. I thought they did that in the Kentucky game in the first half. I did not think they did that in the Tennessee game in the first half.”


On Casey Prather getting tired:

“I think he was really tired, and I could see he was in a position where he was about to be beat several times. John Pelphrey made the suggestion, do we want to go a little bit bigger and get some more size in? It worked out well because that last possession, second-to-last possession, one of the Harrisons drove, took a tough off-balance shot and Doe-Doe with his length came down with that rebound, so we had some size. But I was really worried about him getting beat off the dribble, and he did a pretty good job moving his feet and keeping the guy in front.


On what makes Patric Young a good post defender:

“This is the difference between Chris (Walker) and Patric (Young) – Chris Walker athletically, moving, running, jumping, is an unbelievable athlete. But I would not classify him right now as an efficient mover. Patric sometimes looks like he's struggling or laboring. Patric is a disciplined, efficient mover. There's no waste of motion with him. He's really, really disciplined. He is, by far, the best guy I have ever been around in the frontcourt – and I'll put (Joakim) Noah and (Al) Horford up there too – he is, by far, the best guy defending the pick and roll. He's loud, he's vocal. We have three different coverages that we call out based on where the pick and roll is at. He's the catalyst behind that, so if all the sudden his man runs out of the post to set a screen, set a pick and roll, he calls out the coverage. He's loud, he's vocal, he gives the guards time to adjust their stance. He gets up there. Sometimes you watch Chris, just watch him, he is all over the place. And that's where Chris can learn stuff from Patric and he can get better. The reason Patric is good at it is he is disciplined. He has a high level of communication and he really, really, really takes great pride in it. He takes great pride in defense. And then the other thing I would say is he's an efficient mover. He really can move his feet efficiently.”


On Providence winning the Big East Tournament to make it to the NCAA Tournament: 

“My Friars. I'm very, very happy. Very, very happy. Ed Cooley is a great guy. I've known Ed for a long time. My sister and he went to college together. I've known Ed all the way since he was an assistant for Al Skinner at Boston College. I was proud when they hired him. He’s a really, really good man, and I’m excited that we’ll get a chance this summer to work with each other with the USA (Basketball team). He’s going to help us coach, which is great. I was certainly happy for my alma mater that they got in and won the Big East Tournament.”

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