Syracuse pre-game press conference notes

THE MODERATOR:  We welcome Syracuse Coach, Jim Boeheim.  We will take an opening statement.

COACH BOEHEIM:  We’re happy to be here, it’s great to survive the first couple of games and we’re looking forward to playing here in Washington.  It will be a great challenge and we’re looking forward to playing Indiana.

Q.  After the way your team played a few weeks ago here against Georgetown do you think you would be around for the Sweet 16?

COACH BOEHEIM:  I can’t remember that game.  Just can’t remember.

Q.  What over these last four years has Brandon Triche meant to you, coming in as a young player with a well‑known name and where is he at now?

COACH BOEHEIM:  Brandon came in and started as a freshman for us and played more games than anybody in the history of Syracuse basketball and won more games than anybody at Syracuse.  He’s from day one, a solid, steady player for us.  I think he’s there every day, comes in, works hard.  He’s just been as steady as you could ask a player to be over four years.  Involved in more wins than anybody in Syracuse basketball history which is a lot of wins.


Q.  What do you remember telling Howard after that ’87 championship game?  What do you remember saying to him?

COACH BOEHEIM:  Well, you know, it’s always difficult when you lose in the championship game, the last game of the year and the last shot; that’s always a difficult thing.

Howard was a tremendous player for us, Brandon’s uncle, the co‑captain of that team and one of the steadiest players that we’ve ever had.  It’s always difficult.  There is nothing you can say after those games.

Q.  Jim, is the thrill of having won it all, is that superior to the sting when a season ends or vice versa?

COACH BOEHEIM:  There is nothing like winning the national championship.  You can talk about it all you like and say you don’t need it or you don’t have to have it, but it’s the ‑‑ it’s the biggest thing that can happen to a college coach, and if you’re in this game for ‑‑ whether it’s a short period of time or long period of time, it’s the single, biggest thing that can happen to you or for you and for your program and for all the players and the fans of a program.  There is nothing like this.  Obviously we all know how important the NCAA Tournament has become.  Like it or not, that’s just the way it is in college basketball.  I think it’s gotten to the point now where, in the beginning you thought you were supposed to win a couple of games in the tournament.  Now it’s difficult to win a couple of games in this tournament.  It’s even difficult to win one.  So I think the tournament has gotten tougher and tougher over the years, but it’s still ‑‑ it’s what you think about from the first day of practice for as long as you can keep playing this tournament.  It’s just what college basketball has become.


Q.  Going back to the loss to Georgetown here, what has changed with this team since that, or has anything changed with the team over the last two weeks?

COACH BOEHEIM:  I think during the course of 35 games you’re going to have a bad game or two.  We just happened to have our bad game at the end of the year.  It could be in the middle where you get beat.  All the teams in this tournament had a bad game, whether it was Kansas at TCU or Duke at Miami, you name it.  Every team has had a bad game during the course of a year or two or three, whatever.  That has no relevance to anything else.

We played ‑‑ our defense has been consistent all year.  Our offense has ‑‑ we haven’t shot the ball in come games and that’s hurt us in the games we have lost but in the nine losses I think the worst team we played was Temple.  I think at one point in the season they were the lowest rated ‑‑ I don’t think they were the worst, but they were the lowest rated team in the RPI and they are probably in the top 50 now, so I don’t think we lost to anybody that was below the top 50, and I’m not sure how many teams can say that.

We had a good year.  I think one of the weaknesses that we had was we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in three or four, probably five of those games, or six.  We played better in the postseason because we shot better, basically.


Q.  You talked about the game in ’87.  How long did that stay with you?  Did you have nightmares of Keith Smart hitting that shot in the corner?

COACH BOEHEIM:  You never get over games like that.  I thought we played as well as we could play in that game.  Indiana was a big, big favorite in that game.  I thought we played as well as we could play and we certainly had a lot of opportunities to win the game.  At the end of games you can be ahead, you can be a little bit better, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to win if you miss a free‑throw or somebody makes a ‑‑ Keith Smart made 10 of their last 12 or 13 points.  He played great the whole last part of the game after being taken out of the game, and he was one of the guys that I was worried about in that game.

He came back in and he was the guy that beat us.  We played very well in the game.  When you lose a game like that, you really almost never get over it.  I got over it in 2003.  That’s when I really ‑‑ I probably thought about it for those 26 years most of the time.  I never think about it anymore.  Coach Knight was good after the game.  He told me we would get back and win it, he just didn’t tell me it would take 26 years.  He’s smart, just not that smart.


Q.  I had a question about Michael Carter‑Williams.  He had to deal with the adjustment of being new and maybe not getting as many minutes as he wanted, and how do you think he dealt with that?

COACH BOEHEIM:  Last year Michael Carter‑Williams was behind three really good players, and he was a good player.  Any other year at Syracuse he would have played, as a freshman, any other year, except last year.  He had a senior, Scoop Jardine who was a tremendous point guard for us, Brandon Triche who had been a three‑year starter and Dion Waiters, who, was a fourth pick in the draft.  He played well.  Usually I stick a freshman in there and usually they won’t play well.  So you can say, see, you’re not quite ready, but he played well.  On the road at St. John’s, Providence, tough games.

He played very well.  So you could see that he could play, but I don’t play four guards, I play three.  It’s hard to play the fourth guard.  When you divide up the minutes and you have three really good guards, once they get to below 25 minutes, they’re not ‑‑ they’re going to lose their effectiveness.  There just wasn’t enough time.  But Michael worked hard, he put on 10 or 12 pounds.  He’s a much better player this year than he was last year.  He struggled at times in practice last year playin’ against those guys, what you would figure would be normal.  But he showed that he could be a good player last year.  There was no doubt about that.

This year once he got his opportunity, from day one, he was really good.  From San Diego right away on the boat where you couldn’t make shots he got to the basket and made plays.  And the Arkansas game, which I thought was the best we played all year, we’re not only the team that beat Arkansas at Arkansas but we’re one of the only teams that was close; we were up 20, at Arkansas.  He had an unbelievable game.  He’s still working on his shooting.  That’s the one element, when he gets that he will be, I think ‑‑ he’s obviously a very, very good player.  When he gets ‑‑ he’s getting better at shooting the ball, and when his shooting gets better he will be a great player.  He understands the game, he cease the game, he’s got a great feel for the game of basketball.


Q.  Any different feeling walking in here from a regular Big East conference game?  Does it matter the venue in an NCAA Tournament?

COACH BOEHEIM:  I don’t think about where it is, honestly.  It doesn’t matter.  We’re happy to be here and happy to be playing.  If we were playing in San Jose we would be happy to be playing there.  If you’re in this tournament and playing you’re happy.


Q.  When the season ends for you, do you have a formula now or a structure in place for ‑‑ how do you decide whether or not there is going to be a next year?  Do you take time, get away, wait for an epiphany moment or ‑‑

COACH BOEHEIM:  I’m hoping the season lasts forever because I’ve got to go to Disney as soon as this season is over so I hope we keep winning, I swear.  I would like to keep playing all year.  There is nothing worse than doing that!  I can’t even go play golf anymore.

There is no process.  There is no process.  I’m coachin’ next year, I kid around a little bit and everybody gets crazy when I do so I’m not going to kid around about it anymore, I’m coaching next year, thrilled, got a great challenge, looking forward to it.  About September if I don’t want to coach, I won’t coach.


Q.  The coaching carousel is changing and going around the next couple of weeks.  Is there a time frame that you think a coach should get to evaluate them or give them a chance to turn things around?

COACH BOEHEIM:  You know, the worst thing that ever happened to college basketball and maybe one of the best things, you have to go back to Jimmy at George Mason getting into the Final Four and Butler getting into the Final Four.  I think that’s the worst thing that happened to coaches because every school now thinks they’re there, why aren’t we, and as soon as they don’t get to the Final Four or advance to the Sweet 16 they think they need a new coach.

It’s unfortunate.  It’s the way it is.  When you look at history, schools that change coaches usually don’t do any better than they do because they don’t have the ‑‑ they haven’t put the resources in or they don’t have the right situation to be that successful.  Sometimes things just come together in a short tournament, and a team ‑‑ teams are better now.  All teams are better.  If you do get it together in this tournament, you can win.  Players think they can win, there are teams ‑‑ even teams that have made it to the Final Four like Butler and George Mason, that really struggled during the year.  But things get going together, there is not that much of a difference anymore between the top schools and those schools.  If they get it going, they can win, absolutely can win.  But that doesn’t mean that everybody is going to be able to do that and that we should get a new coach.

Whoops, my first turnover!  Since the microphone incident.  It’s just ‑‑ that’s the nature, now that people and administrators think that their team should be advancing in the tournament or going to the Final Four and coaches are subject to that.  Coaching has always been a profession of you have to win anyway, it’s not that it’s new.  It’s probably better today because if you do coach at a high level at least you get paid for it, and when you get fired at least you made some money.  Years ago you worked at a high level and got paid for it, and when you got fired you didn’t have any money.  So it’s better from that point of view today.

THE MODERATOR:  Coach, thank you.  Good luck, tomorrow.  We are now joined by the Syracuse student athletes, James Southerland and Brandon Triche.  Questions for our student athletes.


Q.  James, Indiana is one of those teams that you see on TV a lot.  How much have you seen them play this year and how familiar were you with their players?

JAMES SOUTHERLAND:  I feel like I see them every time I turn on ESPN.  They’re a good team, consistently all year and definitely one of those teams you look forward to playing against.  They have great talent, great shooters and all‑around great players.  We feel like we will match up pretty well against them.


Q.  Brandon, could you talk about ‑‑ have you ever watched the ’87 championship game with your uncle or how often does he talk about it?  Is it a sore point that you don’t bring up at Christmas?

BRANDON TRICHE:  No, I seen him play but I haven’t seen the actual whole game.  I think watching it was like a missed assignment.  I haven’t directly talked to him about it.


Q.  What’s clicked for you guys since the Georgetown game here and then after the Louisville game in the finals of the Big East?

BRANDON TRICHE:  I think coming together as a team.  We became more urgent.  We always stayed positive, even when we was losing.  We knew that was make or break.  We knew we had to have a good Big East tournament in order to propel us into the NCAA Tournament, so we played for each other.

JAMES SOUTHERLAND:  We went through rotation switches, I was off the month of January and playing in the Big East, that was a crucial time and we were trying to get back in sync with each other because it had been a while since we played with each other, and I felt like we did a great job of clicking, playing together at the end of the season.


Q.  James, can you tell during shoot‑arounds before the game that, hey, I’m going to be having a 6 for 9 from 3‑point game or if you’re going to be shoot being 1 for 9?

JAMES SOUTHERLAND:  My problem is I always think everything is going in, so it don’t even matter for me, if I’m 1 for 9 I still think I’m hot.  I just go in there and stay focused, trying to make the right plays and take decent shots.


Q.  Brandon, building on the Uncle Howard question a minute ago, has Indiana been a sore subject in general, no one wants to speak about it in the Triche family?  And when you got to campus what did you hear about that game?

BRANDON TRICHE:  Indiana never came up.  When his name came up, it was about him being in the community and being a great person but never talked about Indiana and what happened.


Q.  As far as being on campus and hearing your name, did people associate you with your uncle?

BRANDON TRICHE:  Oh, yeah, people still call me “Howard.”  People would literally call me Howard, but I tried to turn them around sometimes, but I thought they would know my name after being here four years.

JAMES SOUTHERLAND:  I thought that was his dad at first.  They kinda look alike.


Q.  Coach was just up on stage and said that he absolutely is coming back next year, he’s not going to crack anymore jokes or drop hints about walking away or leaving.  How did you guys react when you heard that and second can you imagine this program without him, whatever that day does come?

JAMES SOUTHERLAND:  Well, I never even thought about Coach retiring.  I think he has another 20 years left.  I think he will retire by the time my child is playing basketball but all joking aside, he’s basically built this program from the ground up and it’s been great to be part of the tradition and I feel like he has a lot more coaching years left in him.

BRANDON TRICHE:  I agree.  Him being so instrumental to the community, especially in Syracuse and the basketball program and whatnot but also the Syracuse area, me being from Syracuse, he’s one of those guys where you can look up to as a coach and as one of the teachers of the game.


Q.  Brandon, playing in the Big East and playing against teams like this, how does that battle test you for playing in March Madness?

BRANDON TRICHE:  Definitely does, especially for the pushing and the grabbing, and also intensity, I think the Big East has some of the strongest guys and toughest refs, what they call, things like that, I feel like they let more go when you’re playing in the Big East than any other place.

Just like you said, being battle tested.  I think through our season having ups‑and‑downs throughout the season and finally getting things clicking at the right time, I think we’re battle tested, especially with losing four or five games in a row.

Q.  For you guys, both being seniors, is this the best defensive team that you’ve played on in your four years, do you feel like?

JAMES SOUTHERLAND:  Definitely.  We have had great defensive teams but we’re long, Mike is 6’6″, playing the top of the zone, which definitely gives anybody problems, we have Brandon also giving people problems.  He has a strong body, he can get rebounds, and then we have Rak, me and C.J. down there taking up the whole baseline, so I feel it’s hard for people to score.  I feel Cal had a hard time getting through the zone, every time they moved we recovered because we’re so long, but yeah, one of the best defensive teams we’ve played on.

Q.  Brandon, one more win and you would be the winningest player in the history of the program.  What would that mean to you in terms of pride?

BRANDON TRICHE:  That would mean a lot.  I came to Syracuse with the main goal of winning.  All the personal goals were secondary for me.  Ultimately I’ve been here four years and just being one of the team players that was one of my goals, just to win.  Not become the most winningest, but I feel like now since I’m here and I have up to three games to play, I want to be one of the most winningest players to play at Syracuse.


Q.  Coach Boeheim just spoke about the dramatic improvement of Michael Carter‑Williams from last year to this year.  Talk about the difference you have seen in his play?

BRANDON TRICHE:  Coming into the season, I felt like he could be one of the best defensive players at the Big East because he’s so long in rebounding.  He’s always going to steal the ball from you.  He’s always in the passing lanes and active.  I didn’t see the assist total that was going to happen, I didn’t see that coming into the season.  That’s one of the things he improved on.  I think more so mental.  When you go from playing five or six minutes a game to 35 minutes a game, mentally you’re going to be ready to play.  I think all the adversity that he went through last year, all the ups‑and‑downs made him the player he is today.  He’s very competitive, and I think one of the best things he improved on was the mental part of the game.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you,