March 27, 2015
MODERATOR: We’re joined now in the main interview room by Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey; studentathletes Demetrius Jackson, Pat Connaughton and Jerian Grant. We’ll ask Coach Brey to make an opening statement, please, and then we’ll take questions first for the student-athletes. Coach?
COACH BREY: That was reminiscent of a lot of games we’ve been in, second halfs, it kind of reminded me of the North Carolina game in the ACC championship, we take the lead, call timeout, not a lot of drama, not a lot of strategy, and we come out of that with a great will, continue to defend and then we got into one of our offensive rhythms that nobody else in the country can do. And so we did a great job defending them. We did a great job not letting them get going from the 3-point line. Three for 18. That’s been the story of our six wins in the postseason. We’ve really defended the arc well.
MODERATOR: Questions first for the student-athletes from Notre Dame. There’s one in the center.
Q. For Demetrius, Demetrius, you’re getting better every single day that you’re at Notre Dame. Tonight’s probably the high point of your time at Notre Dame. What was the low point in your development, maybe where you were really down and you were questioning things?
Demetrius Jackson: Just when I wasn’t handling my business on and off the court, I knew I could be doing better so it was a great lesson for me to learn, definitely learned from it and move forward from it.
Q. For Jerian, talk about your mentality at halftime and how you played different in the second half and what was the difference?
Jerian Grant: Just figuring how they were playing me, it took longer than I would have liked but once I figured out how they were guarding the ball screens and denying me up top, we really got into a rhythm to play our game.
Q. Pat, when you guys go on those offensive outbursts like that, what do you think sparks it? And what’s the feeling like on the court as that’s happening as you hit a couple of shots and get going?
Pat Connaughton: Our defense definitely sparks it. When we’re in that timeout, like Coach said, it wasn’t about strategy, we talked about defense, about getting stops and getting out and running. That’s the fun way to play and that’s the way that we’re at our best on both ends of the floor. So with defense, that definitely sparks it, and then going through it, it’s like, you know, it’s something that you just feed off of, it’s like blood in the water, you feel it and you want to keep getting stops so you can keep running, it’s something you can’t get enough of. It is something that we pride ourselves on, and it’s something that we’re in that moment, we feel like we can run with anybody.
Q. For Demetrius, I know what you’re saying about defense, but it seemed to me like your one of the best passing teams in the country, and Wichita State talked about all the passes you made for easy layups. How critical was that, especially after they got the one point lead?
Demetrius Jackson: We really do a great job sharing the ball, finding a great shot every possession. The guys step up and make huge shots. It’s a he really fun way to play when we play the game that way so we want to continue doing that and continue getting better.
Q. For Jerian, when you guys are on a run like that, can you sense that it’s affecting the opponent and that you’re kind of maybe crushing their will, so to speak?
Jerian Grant: Yeah, a little bit. When we get on those runs we’re just playing. I feel like when other teams try to counter us, they play a little quicker, kind of get out of their rhythm and try to counter our offensive attack, which is almost impossible to do, so we definitely feel that and we just like to keep going and keep playing.
Q. Pat, that stretch when it was 67-56, you hit a 3 from the corner and then Vasturia came back with a 3 and suddenly the lead went from 11 to 17. How important was that stretch in the outcome of the game?
Pat Connaughton: Extremely important. We always talk about not being satisfied, whether it’s with a win or whether it’s just a possession in general. For us to not be satisfied with an 11 point lead because there was so much time left, they’re a fabulous team and they make runs and they can score in bunches just like us. We want to make sure that we continue to play our game, and when you have an open shot, you know with these two guys to my left and right, they’re the best at finding you and getting you open shots so you just have to step up and knock them down.
MODERATOR: First question for Coach Brey?
Q. Coach, in regards to Demetrius, go back to September 2012 when he verbally committed to your program. Do you remember that day and what it was like?
COACH BREY: Yeah, because his recruiting was drama, you know? We were kind of waiting and waiting and waiting. It was an important get for us, a local kid, being able to keep him home. It didn’t go as quickly as I would have liked, but at the end of the day I think the support of his families and being close to us, and I think he saw how guards have a lot of freedom to do their thing, watching Jerian when he was in high school, that certainly was key for our program.
Q. When did you first discover Demetrius?
COACH BREY: Ninth grade. Coach Anthony Solomon got me to watch him in 9th grade, and I remember telling Anthony the next day in the of office, he’s a defensive halfback playing basketball right now, and to see how far he has come with his basketball skill level, his shooting, he really couldn’t shoot it as a 9th, 10th grader, but where he’s really improved is his decisionmaking with the ball. I think it’s a lot him, I think it’s also a lot playing with Jerian Grant. When you watch over and over day to day, the decisions Jerian makes with the ball, I think he’s a great teacher in the flow of things.
Q. Coach, just a wee bit of history here, it’s not since ’78 has a Notre Dame team gotten this far. That team got to the national Semi’s. Talk about I don’t want to say securing a place in history, maybe that too dramatic, but getting deeper in the tournament than any team in 37 years?
COACH BREY: Again it’s huge. I think the biggest thing was, I was thinking about it all day, I just don’t want it to end for this particular team because this group has been so energizing and so fun to be around with the two seniors here setting the tone, I was thinking if we don’t — like I don’t get to interact with them on Friday if we don’t get it done. So I thought about it more in that context. I’m sure whenever it ends I’ll be able to look back and it’s been an amazing season for us and when you add an ACC championship, and who we went through on Tobacco Road, I don’t know if we’ve had a more special season in the history of our basketball program, but God, I love that I get to go to practice tomorrow with this group again.
Q. 75 percent second half, you guys have done that like four times this season. I’m curious having seen this so many times, when you go 4-of-20 to end the first half, do you know something is coming in the second half?
COACH BREY: I think the law of averages usually does play out for us. Chris, you brought up a good point. Sometimes we can defend but when we get on those offensive rhythms, it does break the spirit a little bit. We really can pass it. I thought what was a key was Demetrius got going and — he got us going and then we came back around to Jerian and the ball screen, and they were a little tired, they couldn’t quite guard the ball screen and we had some great roles from Bonzie Colson and Zach just right down the middle. Now you’ve got to make a decision, are you going to hug the shooters or are you going to help — you get put in a Catch-22 and if you have a good passing team like we do, we usually find enough good looks.
Q. Mike, you said when they took the lead, they come down, you watched like seven seconds of the possession and then took the timeout. What did you want to see change offensively?
COACH BREY: I thought about and I said maybe we play this out, and then I kind of had a flashback, whenever people have made a run on us and taken a lead, I’ve kind of called a timeout. I haven’t even — first of all, the timeouts are so long, I haven’t even gone in the huddles. They figure things out, they talk amongst themselves. By the time I get in there, they have some pretty good suggestions and I kind of just used it as a reference point in the North Carolina game in the ACC SFLs. We’ve been here before. Little did I know it would be another lightening strike, it was a flatout lightening strike just like in Greensboro.
Q. Coach, do you remember how old would you have been the last time Notre Dame would have advanced this far?
COACH BREY: I was a senior in high school and certainly remember Digger’s teams and that ’78 team that went to a Final Four. Tracy Jackson was a DC guy and, again, you know my DC roots. DeMatha. There’s been a lot of Washington DC guys that have come out and played at Notre Dame. So I certainly remember it. I was a total basketball hoops junkie as a senior at DeMatha.
Q. And then coming into this, this tournament, I know there’s always pressure, when is Notre Dame going to make it past the first round, make it to the Sweet 16. Now that you’ve done that, when you guys were coming into this game, did you feel you would head into the Elite 8?
COACH BREY: You know, it’s funny, I’ve never really felt any pressure that way, maybe because I’m older in my career. I’m extremely secure with who I am in this profession and the program rerun. I certainly didn’t want to put any of the past things on this group. So we really talked about this particular group. I do think we played in Pittsburgh a little differently than we played in Greensboro, a little tight. And as much as the loosest coach in America tried to loosen them up, we were a little tight. I thought tonight we were ready to roll and we got out of the gate like we did in Greensboro to start the game and certainly the second half —
Q. When you guys go on those runs, can you sense it on the sideline, and what are one or two qualities that define those runs?
COACH BREY: One of the biggest qualities is do not overcoach your team when they’re rolling. Don’t call out too many — let them figure it out. This nucleus really knows how to play on the offensive end and really the 3 that was the dagger, Pat and Jerian just got to the ball screen in front of that bench, they saw it develop. That’s one of the things we’ve done with our offenses through the years, guys have a freedom to play and they are able to be instinctive and be in an attack frame of mind. Demetrius was in an attack frame of mind, so we can get into those flows at any time. And then we do have — this group is cruel, and I love it, it’s a great trait. They’re really cruel competitors. When they feel a little blood in the water, as Pat said, at one of the timeouts, they go for it again and I think that’s why they’re special and playing for a regional championship on Saturday.
Q. Coach, you’re like 19-0 when you score 80 points. Your thoughts on trying to get that kind of production against a West Virginia or a Kentucky?
COACH BREY: You’re talking about two different preparations. I told our guys if we play West Virginia, it’s a little bit Louisville-like. And we won at Louisville and they pressed us the whole game and we were really good against pressure to win on the road. Kentucky is a whole different bag of tricks with their size. But either team, either team we can spread people out, our spacing has really been good and when you have a guy like Connaughton as your second big guy, it’s a very, very difficult matchup, and we’re able to play that way because then he can go and get 10, 11 rebounds from the undersized four spot. So that could be a challenge on Saturday but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Q. Coach, you just called yourself the loosest coach in America, you don’t wear a tie, you’re listening to Jerian against Northeastern on how to use Zach. Is that just your personality or were you like that when you were at Delaware?
COACH BREY: I think I’ve always kind of been — you know, I want our guys to enjoy the situation. I’ve always wanted them to enjoy it. I never wanted them walking over to the arena at 3:00 going, I’ve got to deal with this guy for two hours. And I’ve been able to balance being firm and getting on them and getting a little psycho sometimes, I do that privately, I don’t do that publicly, but I want them to enjoy it and I want us to smile, and I want us to be loose. When I’m doing that, I’m tight inside, believe me, but I can really play that off. I’ve been doing it for a long time now.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
MODERATOR: We’re joined right now by head coach of the Shockers, Gregg Marshall; student-athletes Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. We’ll ask Coach Marshall to make an opening statement first, please.
COACH MARSHALL: First of all, I would like to congratulate Notre Dame. Tremendous, tremendous team. The best offensive team we’ve seen all year, hands down, and they played a heck of a game and I’m happy for them as they get the chance to move on, especially Coach Brey with what he’s been through this week, tremendous guy. And then we’ll get into it, but I appreciate the warrior spirit that these guys, after we took the one point lead they came out with a barrage of 3s, it’s very quick the way they built that lead, but these guys never quit, they fought to the bitter end, and it was a great year for us, so really proud of them.
MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes from
Wichita State. Questions for the student-athletes only at this time.
Q. Fred, when you got that lead, did you feel like you guys had gotten over a hump given how big a deficit you overcame, and what did you think about Notre Dame just taking off from there?
FRED VanVLEET: Yeah, we felt good, obviously battling back. We started off the first half terrible with being down 18 to 5 or whatever it was. So battling all the way back, we wanted to open up the second half in a good way and we did that. So we opened up the right way, and then like Coach said, they made some 3s, but I think we gave them too many easy looks inside and we can live with the 3s but they just shot layup after layup, it seemed like, and we just for whatever reason couldn’t stop them. So we just wanted to battle, try to keep battling throughout the game, just keep running them off but they were pretty hot, knocking down shots, so give them all the credit.
Q. For Ron and Fred, what makes them so difficult to guard, is it the fact that they can shoot 3s and also pound it inside?
RON BAKER: Any time you can stretch the floor with four basically guards that can shoot it like they can, it’s tough to defend the screen and roll. Their five man was doing a good job of screening and rolling quickly to the rim, and we were doing our best to pinch the floor and they were doing a good job of either passing to the roller or skipping across court and knocking down shots. They just shot the ball, shot the cover off of it in reality. Never seen a team shoot it like they have today.
FRED VanVLEET: Yeah, I mean, they stretched the floor with guys that could shoot it, I mean in a similar way that we did, we made the shots against Kansas. Tonight we didn’t. They did. Any time you’ve got four guys out there that are knocking down 3s with a five man that’s going to roll and work hard and get points in the paint, it puts pressure on the defense. We got a lot of open looks ourselves and we just didn’t knock them down. So, like I say, I give them credit for making theirs.
Q. Fred, after you were down 18-5, then you kind of shut them down a little bit and recovered, what were you doing right at that point in the first half?
FRED VanVLEET: We just got off our heels. We got some deflections, got a steal or two, or were able to just get a stop, you know, I think we came out on our heels a little bit, just eager to try to anticipate what they were going to do. But after that, after they made their first run and we started getting back to the way we usually play defense, they missed some open looks as well, so that helps, and we were able to get out in transition and get some buckets.
Q. Fred, after you took that lead in the second half Demetrius Jackson really got going. I think you scored one layup after Wichita State made a shot. How do you describe how he kind of turned the game around?
FRED VanVLEET: Well, he shot the ball really well and our game plan going in was trying to — he’s so quick off the dribble, just pick him up at the 3-point line and if he makes four or five of them, that was our game plan going into the game. I mean, he made, what did he make, he made four of them. So that was — I think that was a guy that we would let take that shot and he knocked them in, similar to the way they played Evan last week, he knocked them in. So give him all the credit.
Q. Does Pat Connaughton surprise you for being a 6’4 guy who rebounds so well and I know he’s known for his 3-pointers but tonight he drove the ball?
RON BAKER: I’m sorry, who? Pat? Oh, 24, right, right. Yeah, he’s one of those kids that’s kind of in between a 3-4 but he handles it like a 3, but he can bruise with you down low. Obviously he can shoot really well, like I said earlier, he was doing a good job of spacing the floor on the weak side and he was giving Jackson and Grant the opportunity to come off the ball screen and either hit the roller or pass it to him for the shot. So deadly weapon obviously, that can stay in the corner or even post up occasionally.
Q. (FRED VanVLEET): To answer your question, no, he doesn’t surprise us. We watched film and we re-respect him as a player. He’s a heck of an athlete and probably their best shooter and he just competes, so he had a pretty good game. For both of you, I know it’s fresh but could you just describe how you’re feeling now, this run, just there’s been a lot of emotion, there’s been a lot of — just how this has been for you and how you’re feeling?
RON BAKER: Deep down, I’m pretty upset. I feel for our seniors Tekele and Darius, two guys who obviously deserve to move on and play Saturday. I wish individually I could have done more to help my team win and just one of those games. You’ve got to get through and we were unable no execute on the offensive end and defensive end in the second half.
FRED VanVLEET: It’s been a heck of a ride, man. It’s been a great year for us, lot of ups and downs, lot of fighting, got a bunch of new guys just bringing them along but it’s been fun, it’s been a great ride for us. Obviously right now disappointed, hurt, tired, you know, exhausted. Like Ron said, just feel sorry for those seniors, you never want to end on a loss but it happens. They had great careers and I’m just happy to be able to play with those guys and make some of these experiences so — just overall disappointed, it hurt but at the same time just recognizing that we had a great year and just want to celebrate with these seniors.
Q. For Ron and Fred, describe this season in one word?
RON BAKER: I’m not an English major, that’s pretty tough for me, but I don’t know, any word that describes new people, a lot of new people come together and finishing the season like we have today. No one expected us to be where we are right now. When you’ve got eight, nine new faces coming into your program, a lot of people probably didn’t expect us to make it this far. FRED VanVLEET: I would just say, I mean, Shockers, that just defines us, who we are as men and people. We fight, we haven’t been perfect all year, we don’t shoot the ball well all the time, but we fight, we compete, just kept fighting, rallying back, having fun throughout the process and it’s just been a lot of fun to play with these guys. MODERATOR: We would like to thank Fred and Ron for joining us here in the interview room. We’re now looking for the first question for Coach Marshall.
Q. They were so good at the outset of the game and then for a long stretch of time your defense kicked in, held them down and then suddenly another flash fire. What was it like trying to prepare for these guys, and then in the course of the game, what did you see happen in those sudden changes?
COACH MARSHALL: Bob, just from studying the film of them you could tell what a dynamic offensive team they were. There’s nobody you can cheat off of. Each one of those five guys, and they play a lot of minutes, are dangerous. Demetrius Jackson is so good off the bounce, and we were able to keep him out of the paint and away from the rim for the most part, but then he knocks down four 3s. At the beginning of the game, it started with him, he made two of the first three 3s to begin the game. We were on our heels a little bit 18-5, wasn’t happy in that first media timeout. And we just charted to play, and started to chip away and chip away, and got it to 3 at the half and took the lead. And then the same thing, the same guy really, he makes two 3s, he gets to the rim, as Paul mentioned. And there were other guys, I’m not just saying those, but Demetrius Jackson, I think, was the catalyst today in knocking down those shots. He did it at the beginning and then he did it after we took the 1 point lead. So I’ve never seen a 1 point lead get out of hand so quickly, and it did tonight because of their fire power.
Q. Along those same lines, when you climb back from that kind of deficit and you get ahead, does that usually go one of two ways? Does a team sometimes buckle when you do that, and were you surprised they were able to kind of do that right away back at you guys?
COACH MARSHALL: Really, it can go one of two ways or it can be a see-saw affair. you’ve seen enough college basketball. We could have pushed it out to 10, and maybe it’s a different game like we were able to do against Kansas, or they can do what they did, which is go on an incredible run. Or it could then be a see-saw affair where the lead changes multiple times. That’s just college basketball. Tonight it was their night and they shot it much better than we did. We had some good looks now, we had some good looks. Ron and Fred and Tekele had some really good looks, we just didn’t make them. They made theirs and they shot it great, especially in the second half and the beginning of the first half.
Q. You had a real emotional weekend, emotional game Sunday and a quick turnaround. Did that take anything out of this team, the circumstances?
COACH MARSHALL: I don’t know, Paul. I don’t particularly like the fact that we had a less days to prepare than Notre Dame. That’s not an excuse, I just don’t like the pod system or whatever they call it where you play Sunday night, you get back late and then you’re back on the road on Tuesday when the other team has an extra day, plus less travel. Then on top of that, our plane was late to pick us up on Tuesday, so we’re sitting around, sitting around. We finally practiced about 8:30 for an hour and fed the guys about 10:00. I don’t like that, it’s not good, but that has nothing to do with the game. The better team won tonight. As I mentioned, Mike Brey’s one of the great guys in the business, and if you’ve got to lose in the NCAA Tournament, it might as well be to a guy like him.
Q. Gregg, can you kind of just put an overall feeling on this season? These guys kind of acted as if maybe they overachieved just a little bit, but I don’t know how you feel?
COACH MARSHALL: Well, think, Kevin, when you can go through a season like we did with five veterans, that’s it, five guys that have played Division I basketball, the rest of the eight scholarship guys are new. You can be ranked all year long, you can win your regular season title 17-1, you can beat Kansas to go to the Sweet 16. I mean, it’s one of the top teams in the country. So there’s no way you can be disappointed in this year. We lost to a better team tonight that was playing really well. I just watched five or six games of them, and the last game I watched today was Duke in I think the semi-finals of the ACC tournament, and they were up 15, 20 points against Duke and Duke cut it down and had a chance to make a game of it, but it ended up being 10 or 12 or whatever. Steve’s playing really well. When you win the ACC tournament in Greensboro and beat Duke in North Carolina back to back, you’re playing well. And they’re hot and got a great system. Again, I tip my hat to them and — but I’m going to go back with my head held high, too. I love these kids, wonderful human beings, great students, great people, and they represent our fine university in a first-class way.
Q. Gregg, earlier you had indicated Ron has a decision to make about what he’s going to do, if he’s going to come back next year. How’s that process work and what’s your role in helping him with that?
COACH MARSHALL: Well, we have to gather information for him. There’s an NBA — and Fred has the same decision to make. Anybody with the credentials that those kids have can put their name in the hat and then you ask the NBA folks to give you an advisory sample of where certain teams may see you and then they come back to you and then you have to just make a decision. Ron did that last year. So I anticipate them both doing that. I don’t know when that happens but it can start now, I think, but I don’t know how quickly that you turn that around. I like what Ron said up here when I heard him say that he felt bad for the seniors. He didn’t act like it was his last game, he felt bad for the seniors. That was at least a little positive that I took from that, I don’t know if you guys caught that, but I did. So we just — we help them, we advise them. If either one of them are lottery picks, you probably have to consider it very strongly. If you’re midway through the second round, chances are about 50/50 you never play a second in the NBA. So there’s only X amount of slots. You’re a big NBA guy, you know that. They have to make some really tough choices. Ron will have his degree because he’s red shirted, he’s already finished. Fred will have some more schooling to do but they’re both great players, and regardless and here’s the point I’m going to make to them, regardless if they go to the NBA or Europe, today, tomorrow, next year, they’re going to be successful. And they don’t really understand that right now because they’re thinking, man, I can be a lottery pick, I can make millions of dollars, and that’s probably at the forefront, but it doesn’t matter whether either one of them plays a second in the NBA, they’re going to be successful.
MODERATOR: Any further questions for Coach? We would like to thank Coach Marshall for joining us in the main interview room. Thank you, Coach.