The NCAA gave the media a copy of their teleconference interviews with the Final Four coaches. This bears reminding: it was not a dream; we actually have one of those! The master of ceremonies is NCAA media coordinator David Worlock. I've included the Beilein part, with Syracuse's Jim Boeheim after the jump. Bullets:
- Syracuse's zone is like Cheney-era Temple.
- Boeheim helped get B hired at Canisius and WVa.
- Boeheim calls M the best offensive team in the tournament. Aw shucks guy.
- Le Moyne:Syracuse::EMU:Michigan, except Le Moyne isn't D1 and they're even more up in each others' junk, in case you're wondering why Beilein's early career is being brought up a lot.
DAVE WORLOCK: We're joined by Coach Beilein. Would you mind making an opening statement and then we'll take questions from the media.
It was quite a day yesterday, playing a very good Florida team, getting out to such a great start. Hanging on was the biggest thing after we got off to the good start. I really love the way our guys sustained their effort, even though I think both teams showed fatigue in the second half. So good trip back. It was a great trip back. We had a lot of Michigan fans, particularly our students here waiting for us. It's a great day to be a Wolverine.
WORLOCK: We'll go ahead and take questions from the media.
Q. Those of us who know you from the east, I don't want to say [getting to the Final Four] was inevitable [Ed-S: 'I'm not saying but I'm saying…' this is called a "paralipsis."] but we realized how long you've been coaching in four different Division I programs. I'm assuming this doesn't feel like a validation to you because you always knew at every level what you were doing. Is it true or is it a validation?
I said yesterday in the press conference, you know, it's great to be in the Final Four. If we had never made it, it's not the reason that I'm coaching. The reason we're coaching is about the student athletes, the relationships, the overall excitement we have of seeing young men grow in every way.
However, it's terrific to see what this has done for this university, these young men, for all our fans worldwide. So that really brings a great deal of certainly not relief, but appreciation for all of us, for what we've been able to accomplish so far.
We're all just thrilled here. But just like when we went to the Sweet 16, we're ready to move on and concentrate on the next opponent.
Q. There have already been some questions about the past, and I think the word you used was 'nomadic.' Nazareth College, I was told Jeff Van Gundy was on that team. Can you talk about what it was like there and why you left after one year.
Well, you're off by one year. I did not get to coach Jeff, unfortunately. My first game at Nazareth was at Brockport State. Jeff Van Gundy was the starting point guard at Brockport State and his father was the head coach. Interesting sideline. Both teams showed up with gold uniforms. The Brockport State guys had to go back to their rooms to get their new uniforms.
When Jeff's father stepped down as the coach at Brockport the next year, Jeff and his father came to see me at Nazareth. We began the recruiting process. I took the Le Moyne job. Bill Nelson, a great coach at Nazareth and John Hopkins, continued the recruitment. That's how Jeff ended up at Nazareth.
There was an opportunity at Le Moyne where I had a long association with going to camps there. Division II was a great opportunity. We hadn't bought a house yet in Nazareth, had another child being born any day. That was the only time I didn't stay a significant amount of time at a place. I felt bad about it. When I look back at it now, it still was the right move to make.
The late Carmen Basilio.
Q. Did you have much interaction with him?
He would come over to Le Moyne in my earliest days quite often. He was very good friends with my uncle, who was the athletic director. When he came into the offices, we all knew he was there. He was a tremendous athlete, but quite a character as well. He had all our respect, believe me. You might get playful shot to the solar plexus, which was never good (laughter).
Q. On the Syracuse zone, you've seen it a few times, what are the big challenges going against it? I don't know how much you've been able to see from last weekend on them, but if you've seen much of it, is that as well as Syracuse has played in that zone?
Yeah, I didn't watch any of their games at all. I usually wait and do that all by video afterwards. Seeing the Syracuse zone both at Le Moyne, then at West Virginia several times, it's basically the same great defense. The personnel, the names change, the abilities stay the same. One thing I've seen, more times there's more shot blocking, and right now this is a great steal team that gets their hands on things, much like our old 1-3-1 zone used to do. It creates offense with their defense.
With them turning the ball over 15 times a game in the NCAA tournament is remarkable. Think about that. When you turn it over, everybody's in their lanes, guards are out front. It's really hard to stop and play transition defense against a turnover. That's really helped them through this tournament.
Q. Fred looks at this matchup as not a great one for the zone because of the number of shooters you have. Do you feel you match up well with it?
We had a lot of shooters at West Virginia. We had a lot of shooters at Canisius and Richmond, as well. I do like the idea we have at least a week here to try and simulate as much as we can.
But that length is never a good matchup for any team. So we have to get familiar with it and really be on. The big thing is with them, you make tough twos, but when you get an open shot, you got to knock it down. You don't get many of them. You got to be able to do that. We're going to practice all week to make sure we can do that.
Still it's tough. Their offense is no joke, for sure, as well.
Q. Could you go back to your days at Le Moyne, the bus trips to College of St. Rose and St. Michael's. Could you ever have imagined yourself on this stage when you were making those trips?
You upgraded as to bus trips. There wasn't a lot of bus trips. It was more van trips with Coach Beilein in van number one, Mike Rizzi, or Tony, my assistant, in van number two.
No, I thought about that often. I often refer to the times we'd be up playing St. Lawrence or Potsdam or something, playing St. Rose or St. Michael's, being white outs, snowstorms, listening to the Syracuse/Georgetown game. Here we're trying to make it home alive sometimes.
I thought about it often, what it would be like, having confidence maybe I could get here, but knowing it was going to be a long struggle to get to this point. Really been very fortunate. I wouldn't suggest this route I took to anyone. You have to be very lucky to get to this point if the right breaks fall your way. Certainly changed from what Kathleen and I were doing raising four kids just over 20 years ago.
Q. Going back to your Le Moyne days, how helpful was Coach Boeheim in helping Le Moyne emerge or put your program on the map?
I think this happened more than just a few times. Maybe every other season. We'd be playing a game, maybe it would be a big game, Philadelphia Textile, different teams that were our rivals at Le Moyne. I would look up in the stands, never called me for a ticket, maybe called others, but Jim would be in the stands watching a game on occasion. I had a couple clinics at Le Moyne, he helped me, brought his team over. They would practice, we would practice. It would be a clinic that was helpful to our budget.
We interacted. I wouldn't say we were back and forth all the time. Where he was really helpful, as I already mentioned, whenever he would see Kathleen or the kids, whatever, very outgoing and just a good role model for seeing what a coach's wife goes through, what you do with children.
He really helped me get the Canisius job, no question. I was a borderline candidate. He really got me on the board. Ended up getting the job. That was 20 years ago. So I owe him a lot, and admire him a lot, as well.
Q. I think Le Moyne beat Syracuse in 2009. Did you have any close encounters against them in an exhibition game?
No, at that time there wasn't the rule where you would play Division II teams. So it wasn't like that. I think there was just mutual respect. I hope it was. I know it was on my part. I would watch them play, but it wasn't like we went back and forth to practices.
In that era, you couldn't play Division II teams. I guess you could. It would be a real game. We never did that. That's probably good news for us. It would have been difficult. In an exhibition game three or four years ago, Le Moyne did beat them. I'm sure Dolphin fans everywhere loved that one.
Q. Since you got to Michigan, long before it, too, the high bar has been where the Fab Five got to. Everybody was talking about that yesterday as well, 20 years since the Fab Five. Can you talk now what it's been like to coach with that as the shadow bar you were yet to reach until getting to it now, and what this means to Michigan in terms of having a team in the present tense, that if you win on Saturday, you will have gone as far as any of those Fab Five teams did, establishing a new high bar by accomplishing what you did by getting to the Final Four?
I've never looked at it that way, that it was a shadow bar or whatever. I think I know what you mean by that with the Fab Five. It's been about the complete Michigan tradition. 'Cause I go way back to it. I still remember the team that went to Philadelphia in the Final Four.
It was survival now for three or four years. Let's get into the NCAA tournament. We haven't been in there forever, let alone worry about getting into the Final Four. We realized the expectations, getting in the NCAA tournament, after you start to get there, four of the last five years, it's not enough, you have to win and advance.
That just creeps up on you. It's part of the game. To me it's just about continue to grow this program so that we're in position to be in this position. Hopefully one day, He's been in the Final Four so many times, he needs to win it or win it more. It continues on.
But we're all paid really well to do these things. Those are the expectations. We understand it. The Fab Five era is a great, great era here. I think everybody needs to remember there were great coaches on that team. Those five players were tremendous players, but there were great coaches on that team. That wasn't just five guys. If you're in Michigan, it's about the team, the team. I'm guessing there were 10 other guys on that team that were very important in that run as well.
Q. The second team especially, there were five sophomores who had started most of their careers, three of them every single game. Can you compare what your group with three freshmen, a sophomore, a junior as starters, isn't that equally as impressive considering one of your freshman starter hasn't been a starter but for six games?
I wasn't aware of that. That is a remarkable similarity. We had a young man Matt Vogrich who was a starter, was a sixth or seventh man for three of his four years here. Now he's all of a sudden a scout team guy, has stepped back. We had Eso Akunne, a senior could be playing at Division I at a lot of mid majors, here he is running our scout team. There's a lot of sacrifices that era with the Fab Five, I've got to step back for the team. That takes a lot of sacrifice. I'm sure the guys that did that, I'm sure the Fab Five is very appreciative of that during that time, because I know the coaches would be.
Q. You referenced this a little bit earlier, the reception you got back when you got back to campus last night. I'm curious when you found out about how many people had gathered around the arena, what the reaction was like on the bus before you got off and talked to the fans.
We made a call back to security just thinking there may be someone there, not knowing the numbers, make sure that security was there. There could be autograph seekers, things like that. We want to make sure we have some type of control with our enforcement here.
They said, It's much more than that. We're estimating 1,000 people. Looked to me like 90% students who had walked over from the dorms on a Sunday night and wanted to see these guys and congratulate them. It meant a lot to our team. It really meant a lot to our team and our coaching staff. So it was special. I don't think those guys will ever forget that one.
Q. You talked about the zone, but have you ever seen a zone as problematic as Syracuse's zone is, and as successful as this one has been in the tournament?
It certainly withstood the test of time. Jim continues to work at it and tweak it in different ways. The length and some of the slides, I believe, I don't know for a fact, he changes the extension of it at different times of the game, makes adjustments within the game.
No, it reminds me of when people used to play Temple and John Cheney, you were going to go play them, and it was going to be a very unique prep to get ready for them because you can't simulate it in practice, you just can't do it. It's a thing we just got to work at. We'll be as ready as we can be.
Q. Boeheim said after the Elite 8 game he can't stop a team from shooting, but he can dictate which guys are going to shoot on the team. Would you agree with that from what you've seen?
He's had an ability, particularly with our teams, is really make sure some of our best shooters don't get open shots, don't get their traditional shots. So that's our job to try to figure that out, to make sure we can get clean looks, we call them. That's different. But he's a master at keeping the guys who really making those clean looks from getting them.
[Boeheim after the jump]