NCAA Men’s Regional Semifinals: Boston
Thursday, March 22 2018
West Virginia Mountaineers
THE MODERATOR: We’ll get started with the first of our participants in Game 1, which kicks off at 7:27 p.m. tomorrow with West Virginia Mountaineers. Representing the Big 12 Conference with a record of 26-10, we welcome head coach Bob Huggins. Coach asked if we’d just go right to questions.
Q. Coach, this is the first time you’re facing Jay Wright since the 2011/2012 season. How have you prepared going against Villanova?
BOB HUGGINS: Pretty much like we do everybody else — study some film, try to figure out some tendencies, try to figure out how you can score. It’s pretty much the same thing we do for everybody else.
Q. Bob, what’s the game plan going to be utilizing Konate on the inside to try and deter their guards and go up against Spellman?
BOB HUGGINS: Pretty much the same thing we always do. He’s in the back of the press. So it’s great to have a guy like him back there that can block shots, change shots. It makes people pull up and shoot jump shots a lot. We don’t change that much. We try to look and see if there’s something we can take advantage of or something that they can take advantage of, and then we’ll try to work with that.
The basic core of what we do, we don’t change.
Q. Coach, Villanova, obviously, led the nation in scoring, but they’ve also had success in games played in the 60s or low 70s. Is there a pace that you want this game at?
BOB HUGGINS: I don’t think we want it in the 60s and 70s. We’re better when we score, and we’re better when the game’s sped up. We’re going to try to speed the game up and play at a faster pace.
Q. Coach, travel issues for you guys, even leaving San Diego, some issues maybe? And then obviously having to get here early. What kind of logistical problems has that been?
BOB HUGGINS: I missed the flight back, as I flew back with a friend the night before so I could get to a high school game on Monday night. So I missed that, but I think it was an hour and a half or something, hour and a half, two-hour delay, something about a little bit of maintenance on the plane.
And then I got a call — I was coming back from a high school game, and I got a call from our travel coordinator who said that the NCAA called, and they were calling for all the snow here, and we had to leave on Tuesday instead of Wednesday. So we’re kind of scrambling around trying to — we had to practice before. So we were scrambling around to get a hold of our guys to make sure that everyone knew we were going to practice at 9:30.
And then I think an air conditioner went bad, right? The worst thing of the whole deal has been Jay Kuntz sitting behind me. Jay was screaming like a little school girl. The air conditioning unit, something happened to it, and then we got smoke into the deal. People are saying Hail Marys and trying to think of all the bad things they did and ask forgiveness and all that. But it really wasn’t all that bad.
Q. What has Ron Everhart brought to your staff?
BOB HUGGINS: A lot of things. You know, Ronny’s got a lot of experience, and I’m blessed because I’ve got him and Larry Harrison, who both are former head coaches, and then Erik Martin played for me. So I’m blessed. I’m blessed to have guys that have — sit in that chair where you ultimately have to make the decisions. So they’re very aware of what goes into that.
And I think, when you have guys like — they really take a lot off of my plate, which is as I’m getting older, I need that. And Ronny’s — Ronny’s a West Virginia guy, which is important as well because Ronny knows everybody. There’s not a single person in Fairmont, West Virginia, that Ronny doesn’t know, and that helps us from — I think from a standpoint — we’ve had great attendance. West Virginia people love to support West Virginia people, and it really helps to have Ronny there.
But on the floor he’s terrific, as I’m sure you know if you’ve covered him. He’s terrific. He’s got a wealth of knowledge, and he was a guy — I was kind of the same way. We were guys that had to figure out ways to get on the floor. Had to figure out things that coaches wanted done that other people didn’t do so that we could get on the floor. So I think that’s a really good advantage.
Q. Bob, I was wondering, we talked a lot about Villanova’s offense. Can you talk about their defense a little bit? What problems it may present.
BOB HUGGINS: Well, they’ve got really good length, and they’ve got really good quickness, and I think they’re a really good rebounding team. I mean, everybody talks about their offense, and justifiably so, but they do — Jay’s teams have always guarded. And I think he’s been at the forefront of doing some different things defensively. They were the first ones that — I’m sure he stole it from somebody. I’m sure Jay didn’t think of it. But they were the first ones that fronted ball screens — that I saw.
It’s kind of different. You used to — you’d catch the ball, and you look, and you see the screen there, but when we played Villanova, you looked, and you saw their guy there. So it was a little bit different.
I think he’s — he’s not proud enough not to change, you know what I mean. Some guys are like they don’t want to change anything or adapt something from someone else, and I think Jay’s been really good at being able to do that.
Q. Bob, you mentioned before with your team the basic core of what you guys do doesn’t change, but for you as a coach — and you just talked about Jay adapting — how have you changed from the days at Cincinnati to now?
BOB HUGGINS: Oh, I steal everything I can. I watch tape, and if somebody’s doing something pretty good, we’re doing it the next day. I’ve never had an original thought in my life. My dad was a coach, and I got a lot of things from my father, and he kind of looked up to a guy named Ed McCluskey, and I spent a lot of time with Coach.
I still to this day — honest to God, Jay was fronting ball screens against us, and then we fronted ball screens against them because it seemed like the thing to do. So I don’t — I steal everything I can. I don’t know how to put it any plainer. If I see something I think helps us, we’re going to do it.
Q. Coach, with Villanova having four or five guys, sometimes six, that have the green light to shoot the three-pointer and can hit it, what kind of problems does that present? Particularly the way they pass the ball and look for the open shot.
BOB HUGGINS: Well, I think you hit on maybe what they do best, and that’s pass the ball. They do a great job passing the ball. They do a great job of getting the ball to the guy most open. It’s not sometimes. It’s not the guy that’s open sometimes. It’s the guy that’s most open. And when you put five guys on the floor that can all make shots, that spreads you.
We’re just going to go play. I don’t think there’s any secret. We do what we do, and we’ve got to try to do what we do better than they do what they do.
Q. To follow up on that, how has the impact of the three-pointer changed in your coaching career?
BOB HUGGINS: Well, I think there are two things that have really changed our game dramatically, and that’s the clock, obviously, and the three-point shot. If you go back and look at the games that — every time there’s a Final Four, they show Villanova-Georgetown, right? They show Michael Jordan’s shot. And they’re talking about defense, and they were all standing in the lane. I mean, they used to let people shoot it out there because the percentages were lower. They were playing the percentages, and everybody stood in the lane and guarded the lane and didn’t let anybody have anything easy.
Now when you get one more point for a shot outside the line, that kind of draws the defense out. I think it’s really opened the floor up. I think that’s the biggest impact the three-point shot’s had. I think that was the intent was to open the floor up more.
Q. Is that a good thing?
BOB HUGGINS: Depends on if you’ve got guys can shoot or not. If you’ve got guys can shoot, it’s a great thing. If you’ve got guys can’t shoot, it’s an awful thing. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Q. Bob, how have you mellowed as a coach over the years? Or have you mellowed?
BOB HUGGINS: Old age, I guess. I don’t know if I’ve mellowed. I just think I pick and choose my spots better. How’s that? That’s pretty diplomatic, wasn’t it?
Q. Very diplomatic.
BOB HUGGINS: I don’t know. You know, when you’re — the younger you are, I think, it seems like it’s more life and death, you know what I mean? And as you get older and you get more experience, then you’ve seen so many things, it’s not as much life and death.
Now, you say that, but we lost to Oklahoma State, and I went home and pulled the covers over my head and stayed there for four hours because I just was like — I’ve been more distraught, but I can’t remember when.
I think age, maturity, and experience have a lot to do with it. You know kind of when to do it and when not to do it.
Q. Just kind of your general thoughts on the one-and-done rule. I know the Big East came out with a recommendation yesterday suggesting a two-and-none rule where kids should have to spend two years in college if they commit to college. What’s your thoughts on that?
BOB HUGGINS: Well, I’ve always thought the more time that young people could spend on a college campus, the better prepared they’re going to be for life. Whether it’s one, two, three, or four, you’re going to be more prepared for life. I have bunch of college graduates in here, I would assume. You think back about the difference when you were 18 years old and coming out of high school and the difference when you were 21, 22 years old coming out of college, and that has a lot to do with a lot of things. I mean, you experience more things. Obviously, hopefully, you come out a whole lot more educated and prepared for whatever it is that you decide to do with your life.
So I’m all for the longer you have to stay in college, I think the better it is for you. But I don’t — I’m trying to think the last time I had a one-and-done was like 2000.
Q. Who was that?
BOB HUGGINS: DerMarr Johnson, I think. Yeah, I think that’s the last one-and-done I had. Ask Calipari. I mean, he’s so much smarter about those kinds of things than I am.
Q. Bob, just to dovetail off that, was it a conscious decision to not go after those one-and-done type guys? Or did just your system philosophy evolve and there’s not a ton in your backyard obviously now? Or did it just kind of evolve?
BOB HUGGINS: Have you seen my team, Pete? I told my athletic director that really he had two choices, either fire me for recruiting the guys I recruited or give me a raise for being able to win with them.
We got a bunch of guys that really were looking for an opportunity, to play at the highest level. We got a bunch of guys, quite frankly, that were recruited kind of whatever, mid-major schools, and we saw something in them. We got maybe two that were recruited, but we had to beat like the big boys for. And the rest of them are guys that just love to play, wanted to go somewhere, get better, wanted to play at the highest level.
We’ve been fairly successful with those guys. I mean, I’d like to have had those guys, but we’re probably not going to get them. So you spend a whole lot of time recruiting guys you don’t get. I mean, I thought about that kind of at the end at Cincinnati because I’m recruiting all these guys. We got a few, but we didn’t get very many. So you spend all that time recruiting guys you’re not going to get. You know, it’s like chasing a girl you want to marry but can’t. You spend all that time, spend all that money chasing her around, buying her things. At the end of the day, she walks off with somebody else.
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