Syracuse University 2003 Final Four Media Day Transcript


April 6, 2003


JOHN GERDES: We're joined by Coach Boeheim and the five starters for Syracuse. We'll ask Coach Boeheim to make an opening statement, then we'll open it up to questions to any of the gentlemen on the dais.

COACH BOEHEIM: Not to start on a negative note, but coming in, I realize this will be the last one of the year. Thank the Lord, praise God, good (smiling).

Q. A lot is made about having only one day to prepare between the semis and the finals. Your preparation would seem to be a little bit easier because it's like you're preparing for the same type of team you beat last night, whereas Kansas is getting ready for something kind of entirely different.

COACH BOEHEIM: Is that a question or a statement?

Q. Put a question mark.

COACH BOEHEIM: As a statement, it sucks (smiling). As a question, I would just tell you it sucks there, too (laughter).

Q. Is it easier to prepare for a team that's similar to the one you've already beaten?

COACH BOEHEIM: I guess I don't understand that. I guess I don't understand the game then, because I don't see that much similar between the two teams. Kansas plays unlike really most any team in terms of things that they do on offense and the things that they do defensively. Maybe you're confused because they're in the same league (smiling). No, they do a lot of different things than Texas does. You know, Texas to me is Ford trying to make plays, and Kansas is a lot of guys trying to make plays. Both teams do get up and down the court, but really whenever you play against a good transition team, a guy told me last night, a lot smarter than me, he said, "You have to be efficient on offense." I think that's a good word, so I'll use that, too. We were efficient on offense yesterday, and that kept Texas out of their transition game. That's obviously important. But preparation, both teams have the same time to prepare. You know, it's fair for both teams. Both teams should be able -- will do the best they can to prepare.

Q. Speaking of playing teams from the same league, do you see any correlation, all the wins you've had over Big-12 teams this season?

COACH BOEHEIM: No, none whatsoever.

Q. If you're unable to slow down Kansas' transition game --?

COACH BOEHEIM: -- we'd be in trouble.

Q. What other things have to happen then for you to stay in the game?

COACH BOEHEIM: Well, I mean, we'd have to obviously be good on offense if we weren't able to do that. But if we're going on offense, then that will slow down their transition game.

Q. Is there a difference in coaching a team this young early in the season, at this point in the season, what you're able to do?

COACH BOEHEIM: No, I don't think so. I think we start out playing pretty well. We played pretty well in the beginning of the year. Even though the loss we had early, we played well against Memphis. We missed a bunch of free throws going down the stretch. But we played well. We played well during the middle of the year. We played well at the end of the year. We've been playing well in the tournament. So, no. They're getting in -- I think our defense has improved somewhat in the tournament. I've seen a little bit of an improvement there, even though we gave up a lot last night. We played a very good team offensively. I think we have improved as a team defensively. I think offensively we've probably gradually developed into a little bit more of a well-balanced team as the season's gone along. We've used our bench more. But that's really nothing to do with being young. That's just being to do with a natural progression that teams in general should make. I've never treated this team as a young team. I've never told them they were young. I've never told them to say that they were young. They've never played like that. But I think it's just we have improved as a team, as you would hope your team would improve, but not because of getting older.

Q. Is there any team that they're similar to, perhaps Connecticut, in terms of how quickly they get up and down the court? Is it reasonable to assume that they will have a spurt or two, that no team that has played them is going to be able to match that for 40 minutes?

COACH BOEHEIM: Basketball's a game of spurts. Everybody we played all year long, there's spurts in every game. There are going to be spurts I'm sure tomorrow night. I don't see them like any team that we've played in terms of comparisons. I don't see that. I just hope they didn't see Coach Calhoun's diagrams. They might get confused. Maybe they should have seen those things. I was confused watching it.

Q. Carmelo and Gerry, to follow up on what Coach was saying, he doesn't tell you you're young, but you know that from your driver's licenses.

COACH BOEHEIM: Who says they can drive (smiling)?

Q. Does it worry you to play against a team led by seniors, you being a team led by freshmen, or does it make any difference?

GERRY McNAMARA: We played teams that were led by seniors all year. At this point in the year, we're not freshmen, and we haven't played like it. We didn't expect to play like it. So I don't think it makes a difference by now, because if we play like freshmen tomorrow night, we're in a lot of trouble.

CARMELO ANTHONY: Like Gerry said, we've been playing against seniors all year long, teams that were led by seniors. I mean, they got to play just like we got to play. They put their uniforms on just like we put our uniforms on.

Q. Kueth, did I get that right?

KUETH DUANY: Yes (smiling).

Q. How surprised are you to be sitting here, given how young the guys around you are? If I'm not mistaken, your brother played on a Final Four team not long ago. Have you talked to him about that?

KUETH DUANY: Yeah, you know.

COACH BOEHEIM: Trying to get one up.

KUETH DUANY: Exactly. We have to try to win this whole thing. It's not a surprise. We've been playing pretty well this whole tournament. We've just had different guys step up each night. I think that's what you have to have in the tournament because not every guy's going to click every night. We just have that balance. Yeah, my brother was here. So he's just telling me about the atmosphere and stuff like that. That's just something I wanted to be a part of. This team has helped myself and the whole Syracuse community be part of it.

Q. Coach Boeheim, third time you're here. Last few times didn't go as well as you would have liked. Does it temper the adrenaline this time knowing that you have one more to go? Can you not get quite as excited about it on this day?

COACH BOEHEIM: I feel the same I believe as the other two times. You're excited, you're looking forward to the challenge. I don't think this is something that -- I think if you did this every year, like John Wooden, then, after 10 of them maybe he didn't get quite as excited, but it would take a lot of them.

Q. Do you guys think if you can win a national championship for Coach Boeheim, he'll be as happy in the future as he seems right now?

KUETH DUANY: I don't think so.

JOHN GERDES: Craig, do you want to say something on that?

CRAIG FORTH: (Shaking head.)

COACH BOEHEIM: They know I'll be just the same next year, win or lose.

Q. You said before, winning this thing, you want to win it more for your kids than you do for yourself. Why?

COACH BOEHEIM: First of all, I'd like to win it. I hope nobody misunderstood that. You know, you're in this business, and the whole thing from when you start, when you're a player, when you're a coach, is to try to win this thing. What I've said is it's not going to be the end of the world for me if it doesn't happen; I'll feel bad, but I'll feel worse for the players. In the locker room after the game, in '87 and '96, our players, rightfully so, were devastated. When you come that close, it's 15 different people that, you know, you feel are your children. When something happens to your children, you will feel a lot worse than if the same thing happens to you. That's the way I would feel in this situation.

Q. Kueth, can you describe when you first saw Carmelo Anthony play what you thought.

KUETH DUANY: When he first came to campus, he was a little out of shape, you know (smiling). When I first looked at him, "Is this guy really going to be able to do what he does, like go outside, inside, have just an unbelievable game?" But the more I saw him play, the more I got to know him as a person, I knew all the expectations that people had on him, that he would be able to accomplish that. He's just a great person to have on the team and a great teammate.

Q. Coach, you said the other day, talking about Carmelo, how his personality has sort of enabled him to be welcomed by his teammates, even though he's dominated the scoring. Can you talk about what it is about his personality that is so engaging?

COACH BOEHEIM: You know, he's a rare kid. He's got a great personality almost all the time. You know, I think he's just easy to get along with. He's a guy that's well-liked by the players, he's well-liked by the staff, the people that work in the building, the student body, everybody that comes in contact with him really. We have a guy in Syracuse that hasn't liked one of our players since we've been there, and he likes him. I mean, that's unusual.

Q. Jim, do you believe there's something that's changed perhaps in the dynamics of college basketball that allows a team with two freshmen playing key roles to contend for a national championship?

COACH BOEHEIM: Well, I don't know. You could say that, but then you could say that Michigan contended for it years ago before that change occurred really. I think, you know, you'd have to still have special freshmen to contend. I don't know how many freshmen-oriented teams have contended lately. I'm not going to kind of research that one; you can do that. I think you have to have special freshmen - we do. We've got a special group as a whole. Our sophomores, Craig and Josh, Hakim, have really matured tremendously. You know, I think it's unusual to get to this point in time. I mean, I think we obviously weren't ranked pre-season, and probably shouldn't have been. You know, it took us a long time to get into the rankings because of the perception that we were a young team that wasn't going to be ready. You know, this team, they proved themselves. I didn't vote for us for a long time because, you know, you have to prove yourself. It took a long time. I think not until we beat Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, then we got a little boost up there. But until we beat Notre Dame and Michigan State on the road --. (Light starts on fire in background.)

COACH BOEHEIM: As I was saying (smiling), after we won the Michigan State game, people started to realize that we had a chance.

Q. You talked earlier about playing in international competition. Can you talk about how he's evolved as a player?

COACH BOEHEIM: Nick, he played three years for me. It's amazing he turned out to be a great player with that handicap. But Roy was able to overcome it, my coaching. Nick was great. You know, he really was instrumental on us winning the World Junior championship, which we hadn't won in a long time last summer, a couple other summers he was with me. I think we lost one game or something in the three times we were together. He's just a great team player. I had him when he was going into his senior year in high school I think the first time, then had him a couple times after that. He got better every year. He works at the game, just an absolutely great kid to coach.

Q. He talked about your fun ride in the Dominican Republic. Do you have some recollections of that?

COACH BOEHEIM: We got there at 2 in the morning. There was a little van there for 16 people that had room for about six people in it. Somehow at 2 in the morning, we found two other cars. Then they told us after we flew all night to get there that we had a three and a half hour ride to where we were staying. It was quite an experience.

JOHN GERDES: Coach, we're going to step off and let them look at this light on fire for a minute.

COACH BOEHEIM: You have too much fear (smiling). (Pause in interview.)

JOHN GERDES: We'll start up again.

Q. Roy talked about his '97 team, how hard that loss was for him, because it was a team he felt deserved to play for the national championship. Is there a team of yours that you feel similar to?

COACH BOEHEIM: Well, our best team was a team we lost to, you know, Illinois in Minneapolis. I think it was '90, I'm not sure (actually, 1989). Had an unbelievable game with Missouri that just got over at midnight or 1 or 2, got back to the hotel at 3 or 4 in the morning. I just felt we ran out of gas on Sunday against a really good Illinois team. We jumped up way ahead. I just didn't think we had enough legs. I think that was our best team really, you know, that we had probably.

Q. There were a couple of instances last night where, after Marquette made a 3 or made a basket, Kansas would just push the ball up the court and then score a layup or a dunk. How do you keep that from having a psychological toll on your team?

COACH BOEHEIM: There's two things. You have to get back. Better than that is you've got to score. Those are the two things.

Q. Could you comment on Warrick's development this season for your team. Then looking at Keith Langford for Kansas, the kind of challenges he presents, especially to that zone defense.

COACH BOEHEIM: Well, he's a tremendous player. He can shoot it, he gets in the lane, he can rebound. You know, he's a really, really good player. You know, he's a challenge for anybody's defense. Hakim has improved tremendously from last year. They were kicking sand in his face last year. Now they're not kicking it quite as much. He's getting a little bit stronger, a little bit tougher. You know, I think he's still got a lot of improving that he can do. As he gets stronger, I think he's going to continue to develop and become a really good player.

Q. For a coach to be at a school as long as you have is unusual in this day and age. Has that always been what you wanted to do? Was there any time when you were at Syracuse that other schools came courting and you seriously considered their offer?

COACH BOEHEIM: No, early on, you know, I would get a call or two every year. I had one -- I think there was one time that I interviewed for another job. It really wasn't an interview. You know, it was at my house. It was just a discussion really. Really didn't get past the first 15 minutes of discussion. And other than that, I've never really thought about going anyplace else.

Q. Other than obvious success and wins, has it been difficult at all to get kids to buy into zone that often for that long?

COACH BOEHEIM: You know, in the beginning we played a lot more man, then we mixed it up. It's only been recently that we've been using the zone more. It's really been because teams have really struggled against it. We play a lot of man-to-man in early season games. In practice, we spend most of our time on our man-to-man. Teams have just had a lot of difficulty with our zone. With this team, we just got a lot of young guys. The one thing I think that prevents young teams from getting to a Final Four is if they play man-to-man, they won't get here. I don't think there's any way a man-to-man team could get here. They just don't think they could. You know, when you're that young, your defense is what takes the longest to develop. Zone, you can hide a little bit of your one-on-one deficiencies, which I think we do have with some of our young guys. I think we get in a lot of foul trouble if we played a lot of man-to-man. That's, I think, the reason we've been able to get this far with this team, is because of our zone. But in the ideal world, we play a lot of man-to-man, and we'd like to get back to where we're playing more. We have more depth now and we think we've recruited some guys that can come in and play right away and help us. We think we'll be able to play more man-to-man. I think our zone is more effective when we play at least a decent percentage of man-to-man during the course of games.

Q. I asked Coach Williams to kind of assess your golf game. He was very complimentary. Could you go over the strengths and weaknesses of Roy on the golf course.

COACH BOEHEIM: We both used to be a lot better than we are now. And everybody thinks we're a lot better than we are. He hits it left to right and I hit it right to left. That's about all you need to know. We play the same golf course, but not many of the same areas on it (smiling).

Q. On Coach Williams, he said last hour how much respect he had for you as a coach. You both go in tomorrow night hoping to win your first. Can you talk about your relationship a little more.

COACH BOEHEIM: We really came together largely because of golf. I think the first time I remember ever even talking to Roy was on a golf course, and that was quite a long time ago. That was before he was head coach at Kansas. Since then, we play every year. As a basketball coach, you know, I watch every game, as everybody has pretty well-documented, that's on TV, men's and women's, all year. Just to watch Kansas play over the last 15 years, whatever it's been, I'm sure that number's wrong, you watch, they always execute, they always look like, you know, they do everything as well as it can be done on both ends of the court, year in and year out, every team. There's never any slippage at all. That's very hard, very unusual, to be able to do that. You know, to be able to dominate like they have in a very good conference is just about impossible to do today. So you have to have immense respect for the basketball program.

Q. Obviously the '87 game had a dramatic finish. . I wanted to get your memories of that. What did you try to do to put weight on Hakim since he's been on campus?

COACH BOEHEIM: Try to get him to eat, which he won't do. Try to explain to him it's pretty hard to gain weight when you don't eat. He hasn't quite grasped that concept yet. '87, we played well. I thought we played very well. You know, Keith Smart, everybody knows he scored like the last five baskets just taking it on his own. We had a little bit of a cushion, but we had an opportunity to maybe get a little bit bigger cushion, kind of just didn't convert a couple good opportunities. We missed a free throw, then we missed the front end of a one-and-one. He made a real good shot. It was a great game. I've always thought we played well. We didn't quite get it done in the game. That's about the way I remember it.

Q. Is the experience gap between freshmen and seniors in the game today less than it used to be? Is the reason just because of the high-level of competition these kids play now at a young age?

COACH BOEHEIM: Yeah, I think that's part of it, the high level of competition, the kids are just better, they're more suited, more ready to play. They're probably not as ready as they think they are. That's life. You know, that's pretty much the way life is. They're definitely more ready. There's not as many great seniors. There's seniors that are still very good. You know, you don't have Kobe Bryant who has played four years and is waiting for you there, that type of thing. It's much easier for a younger player to have a chance to make a big impact and compete against more experienced players.

Q. I don't expect a deep philosophical treatise here.

COACH BOEHEIM: Good (smiling).

Q. When you're thinking of recruiting a kid that you know is probably only going to be at your place one year, the pluses and minuses of that, fitting into your program?

COACH BOEHEIM: First of all, we would do that. We didn't do that with Carmelo Anthony. When we recruited him, he committed late spring of his junior year. He wasn't in the top 40 players. We didn't like say, "This guy is the best player in the country, are we going to take him?" It wasn't that decision. If I had to make that decision, I would have still taken him because he's a great kid. You know, we knew he wanted to go to college. We don't recruit guys that are -- they're saying, "I think I'm going to the NBA." We don't recruit those guys. A guy that's going to college, generally we recruit those guys because we think once they get there, they won't be good enough to go right away and we'll have them for a couple years, three years. That's the thing. He went from 185, 190, to 225, really in his senior year of high school, which you don't expect to have happen. If he hadn't done that, he wouldn't be ready to go after one year, he would have needed two years, which is what we originally thought. I'll take any great player for two years. What I think you have to do philosophically in the short-term here, just to give you the short version, you better make sure you have other good players around him and coming in behind him so that if he does go, that you don't get caught without players or without enough players to compete the next year. That's what we try to do.

Q. Isn't it a little unusual to have so many players all progress, all get better, all mature, all at the same time it seems?

COACH BOEHEIM: No. I think, you know, all teams, you hope everybody gets better. And I think everybody does generally get better on our teams, especially guys -- some guys we recruit have a long ways to go. I think we have only one McDonalds All-American. That doesn't necessarily mean that that says anything. I mean, that's a fact. He's improved tremendously. We think everybody should improve. I think our guys have improved. I think a couple guys can still get a lot better. In fact, I think really all of our young guys can get a lot better. I told Carmelo that just this morning.

Q. In looking at Kansas' transition game, who or what is the biggest reason for its success?

COACH BOEHEIM: They all can get out and run. They rebound the ball well. Nick is a great outlet passer. It's a combination of those things. You know, teams are a reflection of what their coach wants. Teams that play halfcourt don't do it because the players decided they wanted to do that. They do what Roy coaches. They work on it. But they have the elements to make that successful because all their wing guys and guards, whatever you want to call them, can get out and go. They rebound the ball and they can outlet the ball. They all can push the ball. They all can finish. You have a lot of elements that you have to have to run. The thing that's unusual, and I felt this for a number of years, college coaches in general have gotten so conservative, I think it's bad for the game because it's like halfcourt, walk it up the court, play defense, don't make any mistakes. We had that in our league going for a while. I was able to get some of my friends out of coaching and into different areas. Now we got guys that push the ball, run more. So I think it's a better game. But Kansas has always been good at transition basketball. You know, that's their hallmark.

Q. Looking back as a kid, as a player, as a coach, the things anecdotally that impacted the NCAA tournament, the Final Four? Are we overdoing it or does it mean as much to you, to Roy, any coach, as we think it does?

COACH BOEHEIM: I mean, oh, yeah. When you get through any kind of a high-level coaching job in college, that's expanded from 20 to 50 or 60 now, you think you've got a chance to win this thing. That's what college basketball's all about. But the NCAA tournament, I mean, back before games were on TV, I remember watching the Loyola game with Cincinnati, I don't even know who they played, I remember Loyola, I remember that game, and I remember my earliest memories of basketball were that game and Jerry Lucas. There wasn't a lot on television then. Of course, the UCLA teams were my first real vivid memories of the NCAA tournament, what it was about. Then, obviously, going to all of them since I was an assistant coach, I guess, playing in the tournament, seeing the development of the tournament over the years. You know, when you coach at this level, that's what you want to do. After you've been to one Final Four, I think maybe that first time you think getting here, that's it. After you've gotten here, you realize it really only matters if you win. Even though it's a tremendous accomplishment to get here, it's a great feeling, but it still comes down unfortunately, whatever way, you know, you still have to win to go home with your team going home happy and your fans going home happy. You know, that's tremendously important. I think the problem I have is when all of a sudden you're a good player, good coach because you win or don't. I mean, that's just absolute just foolishness.

Q. Do you feel winning the big game would validate you in any way? What have you learned by not winning the biggest game?

COACH BOEHEIM: Well, it's like I said, is the final of the regional a big game or is the first game here a big game? None of those are big games? That's what some people's mentality is, that the only big game is the last game. I just don't buy into that theory, so I'm not concerned about that. What was the second part of that one?

Q. What have you learned by not winning the biggest game.

COACH BOEHEIM: It's not fun. That's what I've learned. It's not fun when you don't win the last game. I learned the same thing I learn in every game. There's no difference between that game and last night's game or the game in the regional or the game against Michigan State. It's a basketball game. You play for 40 minutes. You give it everything you've got. You try to win the game. There's no absolute difference between any of those games, absolutely none. Is it more important to me? Yes. Is it more important to you? Yes. But you coach it the same way. If all of a sudden because it was a little different magnitude of game, if you coached differently every time there was a little game that was a little different magnitude along the way, then you would -- you know, it's like do you write harder on one story than you do another? It's ridiculous.

Q. Could you talk about your offense and the philosophy with this collection of players? So much is made about your defense. You guys scored 95.

COACH BOEHEIM: I've always considered myself as an offensive coach, much better offensive coach than defensive coach in my mind, whatever anybody would say. You know, I like coaching offense. We spend more time on it, which probably shows sometimes. But, you know, we try to attack defenses. It's evolved over the years in different ways. Try to find which way is going to be successful against which defense as the game goes along. You know, we're a little different than some teams. I call most all the plays on our team. That's unusual today in college. It doesn't happen that much.

Q. Does a three-guard offense pose any particular problems for your zone?

COACH BOEHEIM: Well, I think -- I mean, is that what you're saying Kansas is?

Q. (Inaudible).

COACH BOEHEIM: I think the problems that cause problems for any zones are the guys that can pass, catch, shoot and penetrate. They can do that. I don't really look at teams as whether they have two guards or three guards. I look at if guys can shoot, if they can penetrate, if they can make plays. Kansas has three guys that can do that. A few teams have that, the small forward who can do those things. You know, those are certainly things that you're concerned about when you play Kansas, that they have three guys on the perimeter that can do all those things. And they also obviously can defend, they can rebound. They're really good players, which is what you would expect with a team that you're going to play now. They've got good size inside. Kansas presents huge problems for any team, or any defense. It doesn't matter whether you're man-to-man or zone. They're a very, very good team. They can attack either defense. They're going to score against any type of defense.

Q. When you watch television through the years, you see that Smart shot go in the basket.

COACH BOEHEIM: I don't watch that, baby (smiling). It may come on, but I don't watch it.

Q. Do you keep it on and watch? Was there a time, those final few seconds, that kind of got away from you at the end, would you relive those as a coach, think about what could have been in those final couple seconds or do you have to let that go eventually?

COACH BOEHEIM: Yeah, I mean, it took about 10 years probably, but it goes. You know, they got the ball back with 28, 29 seconds, and we played great defense, we really did. Took them to 4 to get the shot. It was a pretty tough shot. Our defense did a pretty good job, you know. But he made a pretty difficult shot. You know, that's what happens sometimes.

Q. How about once it went in the basket, you guys didn't get it out, shock (inaudible)?

COACH BOEHEIM: I've read this a couple times. The ball went in the basket when it was just below 4, and it actually went to 3, and everybody said we didn't get a time-out. We got it with 2, and it was our last time-out. If we would have gotten it with 3 or 4 even or 2, it wouldn't have made any difference. We were going to do the same thing. We ran a long play, long pass play, which is what we would have run. They stole the ball. It wouldn't have mattered if it was 3, 4, 5 or 6 left, we would have run the same thing. If we have two time-outs, then it would have made a difference. At the end of the Georgia (1996) game, it was 5 seconds, and we had two time-outs, threw it to halfcourt, got the time-out, then we were able to make a good play. But we didn't have two time-outs against Indiana, so it didn't make any difference. Clock could have run out. We would have run the same play.

Q. You said you haven't seen any other transition offenses that compare to Kansas, they don't see the zone all that often. Does that give either one kind of a neutralizing advantage in any way?

COACH BOEHEIM: I don't think so. I think they're going to do what they do well. Really, Kansas has played against zones. They play some zone. They know how to attack zones. There's just a very few teams that really struggle with zones. There are a few of those. Then there's a few teams that might have a little trouble with it. But Kansas I don't think fits in either one of those categories.

Q. Gerry McNamara, what was it about him that you liked when you saw him as a player? Was he highly recruited? How did you first come upon him? Carmelo, is there any reason he should come back to college next year?

COACH BOEHEIM: Yeah, he can get to play for me for another year (smiling). Yeah, you know, the reason to come back to college is that you want to. You know, that's it. That's the bottom line. This is what you want to do. If it was about money, he would have gone last year. He would have been the 10th or 12th pick in the draft, he would have made money if he would have wanted to go. Everybody thinks it's because, you know, now he's going to be picked so high. He would have been picked last year. He would have been a lottery pick last year. He would have made money last year. He didn't want to. He never wanted to. I never talked to him about college, whether he was coming or not, he never wavered. This year, when it's all over, we never talked about it. When it's all over, I said we'll talk about it. Usually you can't tell. You know, obviously after this we're going to know where he is, and he'll know. It will be strictly a matter whether he wants to go. He likes college. His mother's really the one that should want him to go the most because she works hard. She's already told him she'd like him to stay. I've told him -- the only thing I will tell him, usually you have a lot of different things to tell a player, the only thing I'll tell him, "Do what you want to do, do what you feel you want to do." If he was in college next year, he'd have a great year, because he's a great player. You know, he'd still get a little better, get a little more mature, be that much more ready. But if he wants to go, it will be strictly a matter if he wants to go. Gerry, we found Gerry early. He was recruited very hard. Florida, Duke, everybody recruited him. You know, when I saw him the first time, he had 36 relatives sitting next to his family at the first game I went to see. Didn't take a lot of real long thinking to think he was going to stay close to home. I was never too much in doubt that we would get him in the end because we were the closest big-time school to him. I have a legendary reputation in Scranton, Pennsylvania, as a player (smiling). I think his grandfather saw me play.

Q. I want to know about the Scranton story.

COACH BOEHEIM: You don't know it? It's legendary (smiling).

Q. Obviously, we find the whole idea of you and Roy going for your first championships endlessly fascinating. When you're not playing in the Final Four, when you're just watching other coaches compete, outside of friendships, do you find yourself partial to whichever coach at the moment happens to have been going through the longest journey trying to do this?

COACH BOEHEIM: I usually have somebody I pull for. There's somebody that's closer. The one thing I determined a long time ago in coaching early, Dave Gavitt was a big part of this, but I came to it myself, your only really good friends in life are coaches. Not to demean anybody in here... But, you know, you better try to stick together as much as you can. I believe strongly, as I progress through the years, been on the board with other coaches, the great people that are in this game coaching that I've met, other than the players, the greatest experience I've had in coaching is the relationships I have with other coaches. So I'm always torn a little bit when I watch any game because usually I like both coaches. It's very rare when I'm watching a game I would try to pull against a coach at any time because I just don't do it that way. I have a lot of really close friends in coaching. It's hard to sometimes watch games. So sometimes I just root for the underdog like everybody else.

Q. As far as Carmelo getting the 30, 40 pounds since he committed to you guys, was it his senior year, in the summer, when he showed up on campus, "This guy is a kid, now he has a man's body"?

COACH BOEHEIM: I saw it before that when I went for the trials. The USA junior team. First of all, I think you're not only big, a little bit too big. Kueth and I kid him a lot, call him fat boy when he came in in September. You know, I never seen anybody put on weight like he did. He just really blew up overnight strength-wise. He's worked hard. That was one of my big concerns starting out the year, is how much weight he was carrying and how much he had to do and would have to do over the course of the season. You know, he just has been a 38 -, 40-minute-a-game player all year. He gets stronger. He's gotten stronger as the year has gone on. He's gotten stronger as the game goes on sometimes, too.

Q. Basketball culture obviously has changed in recent years. Colleges, though, are still pretty much in the business of educating people over a four- or five-year period. Is the fact that coaches such as yourself and others across the country willingly and knowing you're enrolling kids who will stay for a year or two, that is a disconnect from the mission of a University?

COACH BOEHEIM: First of all, I believe if I'm not right, Bill Gates went to college for one year. I don't think it hurt him, did it? First of all, I never recruit anybody that I thought was going to be at Syracuse one year. That's a fact. I didn't think that with Carmelo, as I explained earlier. In fact, if a guy is talking about coming out, I usually don't recruit him, coming out of high school. That's something that I just choose to do. But even that would not be wrong to take a kid for one year or two years because, first of all, he will get educated during that year- or that two-year period. I think that's important. My best part of college was the relationships I developed and the interaction I had with the students at Syracuse University. The knowledge I gained in the classroom, history, was good, but I don't think I won too many more games because of that. But the four-year period of learning was great for me. So I believe that every kid that goes to college for one or two or three or four years, whatever, gains tremendously from it. I've never subscribed to a theory that a guy that doesn't go to college, you know, or isn't taken to college and goes someplace else than college in life is better off because usually that someplace else is not very good. I really believe that everybody benefits from going to college. I believe in the 300-plus schools that have, as you say, the business of college basketball, which I think frankly as far as student athletes goes is a joke, because of those over 3,000 players, 25 are going to play in the NBA, or 50. When I hear people talk about paying athletes, guy, "What for? What are you talking about?" The 25 to 50 guys that are going to make it in the NBA are going to get paid, they're going to make money. The other 3,000 are going to go out into the world and they're going to be a lot better off if they have a college degree, they're going to be a lot better off if they have the college experience. They will get educated. You know, you can talk about graduation rates from now and forever. A kid that goes to college that is good enough to leave in two years and can go in the NBA and play at that level or go to Europe, if that's all it is, and make money, is being successful. We've had five guys leave. One left early, four guys stayed four years, have come back and graduated. They've come back, done the work, and graduated. That's great. We want that to happen. But if a kid is eight or nine hours short, and he starts playing professional basketball because that's what he wanted to do for a living, even though it hurts our graduation rate, I support him in doing that because that's what he wants to do with his life. He can always come back and get that nine hours. It's going to hurt us because he'll never show in the graduation rates, because he's going to go someplace. But you still have to get back to the vast majority of student college athletes are never going to get paid for playing basketball. I think they benefit tremendously. We have 15 guys on our team. You know, there's three or four that may make money playing basketball, but the rest just won't. But they'll be successful, I think, in life because of their experience that they've had in college, how they've learned to handle themselves and all the different experiences that they've been through, the work ethic they've learned, the relationships they've learned how to develop. I think that all is what college is all about. If we keyed in on that instead of writing some stupid ass article about, "They only had 20% graduation rate," that's just numbers. That's like just saying the guy shot 7 for 20. Just statistics that don't really tell the whole story.

Q. Even John Thompson said he's rooting for you.

COACH BOEHEIM: Uh-oh, we're in trouble. I got shocked last night when I looked, he was sitting right there (laughter).

Q. Do you have a feeling that the coaching fraternity is happy for you and Coach Williams this tournament?

COACH BOEHEIM: Yeah, I'm sure coaches, they see these long-suffering guys, they really think we're suffering a lot, I'm sure, under this tremendous burden. I'm sure they feel real sorry for us (smiling).

Q. Have you heard from some of your former players and assistants over the last couple weeks? What's the level of pride in the program right now?

COACH BOEHEIM: Well, they're very happy for us. They're a big part of our program. A lot of them are here. Rony Seikaly is here. That meant a lot for me. Him and I had our battles through the years, but we've reconciled a long time ago. It was good to see him here. Derrick is coming. He says he's hurt, so he's coming (laughter).

Q. Speaking of Derrick, where do Dwayne, Derrick and Carmelo rank in terms of importance to the program?

COACH BOEHEIM: I mean, Pearl really was the guy that was not only important to the program, but I think as you well know, along with Patrick and Chrissy Mullen, they're the guys that founded and built the Big East. Those three guys, we rode on their shoulders. I remember before Pearl came to Syracuse, I went to recruit in LA, I went to a good high school of good players, the kids looked at me and said, "Where are you from again? Where is that?" After Pearl played, when I got off the airplane at LAX, the bell guy said, "Coach, how you doing? You coach Pearl, don't you?" He didn't know who I was, but he knew I coached Pearl. Derrick I think is arguably one of the most exciting players that ever played college basketball. I think he's still the all-time leading rebounder. Every time I go someplace, he'd be the guy people ask me about. Now Carmelo, you know, he's a little bit like Derrick in that way. People talk about his game the way they talked about Derrick - and Pearl a little bit. As I said before this all started, he's brought a lot to our program. Although I didn't realize he'd be a one-year player when we recruited him, I'm happy to have him for whatever length of time he's with us.

Q. It's become fashionable to root for a guy who has put in a lot of distinguished service but hasn't yet won the championship. Ray Bourque with the Stanley Cup, Elway and the Super Bowl. Have you detected a Jim Boeheim ground swell as you've come along?

COACH BOEHEIM: My friends are for me, but I don't know about everybody else. But they were for me before, so I don't know.

Q. Roy has mentioned how maybe early in his career he got a little sucked into the notion to be a great coach, you have to win the national championship.

COACH BOEHEIM: I talked about that.

Q. His perspective has changed. Have you gone through a similar process?

COACH BOEHEIM: Yeah, I said that last night a couple times. In the beginning, yeah, I think you definitely feel that way. Now I definitely don't feel that way anymore. As much as I would like to win, I absolutely don't feel it would make any difference whatsoever in my feeling about what I do. To some people that think you have to win it, those are the people I really don't care what they think.

Q. When you read in articles or on TV people talk about Syracuse, New York, they always complain about the weather, a miserable place. You spent your life there. What is it about it that makes it such a great place that you want to live in?

COACH BOEHEIM: It's like I said, for eight months of the year, it's the best place to be in the country. The other four is basketball season. You come to Syracuse in spring, summer and fall, and I'll take you to the mountains, I'll take you to fish five minutes from my house. I'll take you to 20 good golf courses within 20 minutes of my house. The most expensive one is $2500 a year to play. You can get anyplace you want to go in 20 minutes. Eight months it's warm, summertime. You play golf in the morning, you have a sweater on, you take it off in the afternoon, night you put it back on. It's just a great place, great people, as long as you ignore those four months, which I do. I've said this, this has been out. Rick Pitino, my first wife, bless her heart, is here, still supporting us, Joanne, we're on the beach, we all picked our favorite place to live. My wife picked Santa Barbara. I think Rick picked something ridiculous, Paris or something. Joanne picked Paris. I said Syracuse, they all left. They got up and left me.

Q. All this experience that these kids have now, the travel, the high school match games, how has it produced a different type of kid where you have to approach them to coach?

COACH BOEHEIM: Well, you know, there's good and bad to what's happened. The good is that they are better. It's unlike football players who never play against anybody except the guys in their area, then they get to college and all of a sudden they're playing against good players. They're playing against good players all the time with the AAU thing all the way from eighth grade on. They're developing as players. Can they have some bad habits or whatever? You know, do they maybe take too many shots, all that? But as a coach, say you get that guy and he's been taking 30 shots, you bring him in your office the first day and you say, "You understand " -- well, if his name is not Carmelo, you say, "You're not taking 30 shots. You may not even take 10 shots." Of course, you wait until they register for school. You say, "You may get five shots this year. You understand that? Okay?" Then you go about practicing. The first day, maybe not first, but the third or fourth day, he'll take that shot. You blow the whistle and you say, "Do you remember that conversation we had? If you don't, that will be the last shot you take." So you have to change some of the things maybe that they bring in. That's what your job is. Do you change your coaching from 20 years ago? Yeah, I mean, sure. I'll listen. I'll explain something a little bit better. But we get after our players. I don't think there's a coach in the country that doesn't. I've seen some of the best coaches in the country, I've seen them at practice, I've seen how they talk to their players. You're never going to get a player to do something he doesn't want to do by saying, "Please, will you do this for me." It just doesn't work for me. Does that mean you have to hit them? No. Do you have to yell and scream all the time? No. You have to get after them, you have to push them. In the long run, kids appreciate that because they think you're trying to make them better. That's what we do. Some players don't like it. In some cases, they've never been yelled at, they've never been told what to do. When you get four or five of them on the same team, then you can have a little problem. If it's not handled right by administrators, it can turn into a big problem. You know, the advantage of the system is that kids are much better, much better players than they've ever been. It's a good thing because we're losing so many players that are top-level players. We have more players. There's more good players because of that system. There's kids from North Dakota, Minnesota -- I shouldn't say that, they'll be mad at me. You know, from obscure places that don't get competition every day. Upstate New York, we have some kids that really become terrific players because they've gone to play in these big events. It's really helped their game. Is there some problems with it? Yeah, of course there are.

Q. Have you ever seen anybody who shows as much joy and enthusiasm while he's playing as Carmelo? What does that do for the rest of the team?

COACH BOEHEIM: No. You know, I think obviously it helps everybody. He's just that kind of kid. I've seen very few kids that I can think of that I've seen that are like him in that attitude that he brings to the game. It's been a great pleasure, you know, coaching this kid. It's been really fun.

Q. Everybody asks you about '87. What are your memories of the '96 final? Were your feelings after that game any different?

COACH BOEHEIM: Yeah, they were a little different. '87 I thought we outplayed Indiana for the most part, had our better-than-even chance to win. You really feel worse in those games, when you lose that game. '96, I thought we played really well. I thought obviously Kentucky was a great team. I thought we really battled them. We had a chance when we got it to 4. It wasn't a great chance even then, but we had a chance. We didn't capitalize. We missed a couple shots when we had it at 4. You know, they were a great team. I didn't feel quite as bad in '96 probably as '87 because we didn't come quite as close. '96's team will always be a special team to me because they really came out of nowhere and just played well together. It was a really good group.

Q. Do you think perceptions of you have softened over the years? If you could step back and look at this, do you think there is a sentimental favorite between you and Roy in this deal?

COACH BOEHEIM: I don't think so. The back part of that. As far as the perceptions, everything is softened. My first 10 to 12 years, I didn't like to answer questions, so I didn't. I didn't really want to be funny, so I wasn't. Unfortunately, not everybody sitting here, but some people take that as being arrogant or being whatever. Then all of a sudden that translates into, "Well, he can't coach anyway." Unfortunately, I believe that did happen a lot. I probably consciously decided to, "Let's mellow a little, let's change a little bit, show a little bit about who I really am." I think when Rick was with me in the beginning, somebody asked him about me. He said, "Jim's funny, great sense of humor." The people with him, a couple writers, said, "Are you nuts? Who are you talking about?" I guess it's better that I act the way I do now. You know, this is really what I'm about. You know, when I started in coaching, that's all I wanted to do. I didn't really want to talk to anybody. That's just the way I went about the business of coaching, I guess, at the time. I wouldn't be doing this. I'd have been gone long ago by now, I guarantee you.

Q. Especially because you're back in the Superdome, when you hear from Derrick Coleman now, Greg Monroe, does that group in '87 maybe feel connected to this season, almost a sense that you guys maybe can finish the business that they brought here?

COACH BOEHEIM: A little bit. I think Sherman came up, we honored Sherman this year at our banquet. The last thing he said is, "You guys are going to New Orleans, and make sure you finish the job."

Q. Last night you mentioned in your game preparation one of the concerns you had is trying to get your team to be loose for a big Final Four championship game. What is your approach?

COACH BOEHEIM: I don't have to do that too much with this group. They're pretty loose. I don't have to worry about that too much. They play pretty loose. We try to approach every game the same: to go out and play hard, really work hard on defense, but to be loose on offense in terms of if you get a shot, you know, don't think about it, don't think about where you are, take it like you do when you're in any game or any practice. That's what we try to do when we come to these things. You know, we played well in the Final Fours the times we've been there. It hasn't turned out right sometimes. But I think by and large, we'll play tomorrow, we'll be loose, see what happens.

Q. In your memory, what freshmen in the Final Four on this stage have stuck in your mind? Where would Carmelo fit with that group?

COACH BOEHEIM: You know, I haven't thought about it a lot. I remember reading about Pervis Ellison. I remember I saw that game. My recollection was he had a lot of veterans around him. I think Jay Bilas was guarding him. He's gone. That didn't work. You know, honestly, Derrick Coleman for us I think had 19 rebounds against Indiana, 15 or 19, I remember that that game, how he played. For a freshman, he was spectacular. But I hadn't really thought about that. You know, I'm sure I would leave some people out. I mean, Webber, Michigan, how he played. He had a great game. I'm really kind of drawing a blank on that one. I don't think any of them had much better games than that guy had last night, though.

JOHN GERDES: Thank you, Coach Boeheim. Good luck Monday night.


Back to Top