Transcript: Michigan Pre-NCAA Press Conference

Dylan Burkhardt
Photo: Michigan Basketball on Twitter

John Beilein, Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Darius Morris and Stu Douglass all participated in Michigan’s pregame news conference today in Charlotte. We don’t have video but here’s the full transcript. A wide range of topics were discussed, everything from Tennessee to Jalen Rose. Everything after the jump to preserve front page space.

Q. I actually want to get two different perspectives here on this one, perhaps from Tim and maybe Zack or Stu, young, older. I’m just kind of the emotion of walking into the arena, being here for the tournament, being up here on the podium and just how it feels, if it lives up to your expectation and if you see it a different way having been here before?

TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: I think it’s a great opportunity to be here. We’re excited, all of us. I mean, I don’t know what to say, words can’t describe it.
ZACK NOVAK: I think compared to last time having been through it once before, you know, you kind of know what to expect a little bit, but, I mean, it’s just feels really good to be back. We’re excited.
THE MODERATOR: How does everybody else feel?
DARIUS MORRIS: A life-long dream of mine, growing up watching the tournament. You always hope one day you can be fortunate enough and blessed to get here. I’m here now and it’s everything that I expected it and more.
STU DOUGLASS: Same thing Zack said. The emotion is different. It’s not quite the new experience feeling. It does feel good to get back here. For the last year we had no idea if we’re going get back here at all. It feels good to see all the hard work pay off.

Q. Tim, I’ve read some things in the media about how you kind of had a work through your sort of emotions this season. I was wondering if you could talk a little about getting hyped up enough without sort of losing your sense of things.
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: My teammates did a great job of keeping me up and, you know, keeping my head up and just encouraging me throughout the season and just being there for me.

Q. Would one of you mind talking about that, help him work through that?
DARIUS MORRIS: I think everybody goes through it. It happens to all of us. Our emotions get high during the game. We’re all competitive. We don’t like to lose. Out there on Court a couple of plays here and there you might just react to it. You know, it’s just young men to express their emotions. We’re all working through it and learning and growing together.

Q. If I could get each of you to comment on this question. Is this team closer now than ever and making the tournament from Selection Sunday until getting to this point and how do you see that both on and off the Court?
ZACK NOVAK: Yeah. I think this whole year we’ve really had like a tight-knit group. I think that’s really just — has shown on the floor. We’ve had each other’s backs. On and off the Court — since I’ve been here this is the most time we’ve spent off the Court, and, I mean, I think it’s just — you got a group of guys that really genuinely like each other. It’s. Its fun to be around each other. We’re going to hopefully keep this going as long as we can because we’re having fun.
STU DOUGLASS: It’s crazy. Even in practice today, this is — there’s a lot of stuff we still have to work on, lot of things we still have to experience and get a lot better as a team, but you just see it every day, we keep getting better. We want to get better. We have each others’ backs on and off the Court. That’s huge for our progress. If you don’t have that, it just stunts your growth.
DARIUS MORRIS: We really did a good job of growing together, learning each other, learning what everybody, you know, likes to do, what they don’t like to do, and learning how to adjust, and if something comes up, like any adversity we face, we faced a lot this season, all opportunities for us to come together or split apart, and we definitely came closer together. I think we’re closer this point in the season, and I can tell the way we finished up the season, you know, just really start to reflect out there on Court as well.
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Yeah. Going back to that six-game losing streak we had in the Big Ten Conference. Everybody pulled together and stuck together as a team. No one held their heads. I think that’s a team. That’s what makes the team, you overcome adversity. We’re having fun right now. We just want to keep it up.

Q. For you guys, how important is the three-point shooting and the shot selection? Because the height advantage is what it is, you might not be able to get as many defensive rebounds as you want in, how important is it to take the smart shot and best shot you can?
ZACK NOVAK: I think that’s definitely something that we’ve worked on and gotten a lot better at as the year has gone along. I think you can attribute that to why we started winning and taking the right shot and just the tempo of the game. I think, like you said, it will be really important tomorrow. If we’ve got early ones, we do like to get out and run a little bit. So if we’re open, we’ve got to take those. If not, we’ve got to work the offense and get a great shot.

Q. Darius and Tim, there’s been some controversy swirling around the Michigan program, not specifically with your team but what Jalen Rose said in the last few days about Duke. Are you following that at all? Is that uncomfortable for either of you? Do you have any reaction to what was said?
DARIUS MORRIS: To my understanding, when I watched the documentary, we watched it as a team. You know, I just felt like Jalen was being honest and he didn’t mean to offend anybody at this current time. He was just saying how he felt as a young man coming up and what he felt, you know, Duke represented. Just probably because they didn’t recruit him, you know, he probably wanted to go to Duke because it’s such a great program. I don’t think — when he made those comments, it was something kind of immature at the time, but, you know, he realizes that Duke is actually a really good program now and he realized Grant Hill is a great player. I don’t think, you know, it bothers us. It creates a feud between us and the current Duke team. That is Jalen being Jalen during his time at Michigan.
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Yeah, like Darius said, I think that’s in the past right now. He said what he felt, and, I mean, it’s long gone and I don’t think it’s no controversy between us and Duke. I mean, we’re here now, we’re both here. We just want to play.

Q. There’s some talk early in the season about whether or how you guys would fit in the coach’s system. Can you talk about that transition and some of the difficulties there might have been?
ZACK NOVAK: As far as who fitting in?

Q. The athletic players fitting into the system.
ZACK NOVAK: Yeah. I mean, I think the big thing when Coach Beilein is recruiting kids, a lot of times they ask, well, am I going to run? It seems like you slow the ball up and you’re taking 34 seconds, taking the air out of the ball. If you look at it, when we’re playing our best basketball, a lot of times we’re getting clean rebounds and getting out and running. Just the way we space the floor out, I mean, if you’re an athletic player, there’s going to be so many lanes for you to get open. I think we’re playing for arguably the best offensive mind in college basketball. Being athletic is only going to help that. I mean, you can look at some of our guys, unlike myself, that have a little bit more athletic genes in them. They’ve really done a great job.

Q. Tim, could you talk a little about when your dad and you talk basketball, what he stresses, how you tap into his experience, how you sort of benefited from that?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: I think me and my dad just, you know, he just talks to me about just being calm and just playing your hardest out there, let the game come to you and just don’t harp on anything, be aggressive, play smart and have fun.

Q. What do you guys make of Tennessee, your opponent, you know, they’ve beaten Pittsburgh, beaten Villanova and they’ve lost to Oakland and Charleston, lost to Charlotte. What do you make of their highs and lows?
ZACK NOVAK: I think if anything we can definitely empathize with them. We’ve had our ups and downs this year, too. Like we said earlier, we had a one and six stretch to start out the Big Ten season. So I think it just matters what kind of basketball you’re playing right now. We know they’re a team that’s capable of being very, very good. So, I mean, we’re coming out expecting them to play their best basketball, we’re expecting to play our best basketball, and I think it will be a great game.
STU DOUGLASS: Same response, really. We know what they’re capable of. We’re not overlooking anything, but we’ll take advantage of what other teams did well against them and also looked at what they did well against other teams and try and, you know, counter-attack that.

Q. As you look forward what this game could mean in terms of winning the game and the progress of the program, is there a premium now that you’re actually here and achieved the NCAA goal?
STU DOUGLASS: You guys have asked me a lot of questions about the future. It could mean a lot, but like I said, you never know if you’re ever going to get back. Freshman year we thought it was going to be great for our learning curve, and it just didn’t turn out that way the next year. I think it’s a different feeling for this young group. It will be a good experience and we’re real excited about being here, but we’re really looking for a win.

Q. How much has the Big Ten schedule in playing against some bigger guys and some quicker teams as well, you’ve seen a lot of different variations on styles. How does that prepare you for the NCAA Tournament where you don’t know but you have to adapt very quickly from one game to the next game?
DARIUS MORRIS: I think it was a great, you know, opportunity for us to be able to play in the Big Ten and this year, you know, the Conference was really up and we had a lost teams representing the Big Ten here, and each of those teams kind of give you a different look. You have the quicker teams as well like Penn State, and then you got Ohio State, you know, really quick but also strong, really play team basketball. Lot of teams in the league gave you a different look, different kind of defensive styles. You got Purdue that pressures all up on you and other teams that sag off of you. So playing in the Big Ten, definitely gave us a lot of different looks and definitely prepared us well, you know, going into this tournament, you know, rather than other conferences that might have one or two NCAA Tournament teams.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions? Okay. Thanks, guys.
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I hope our team showed how excited we are to be here. It’s been a great journey to get to this point. It’s really started back with summer school and then a trip to Europe and looking at a schedule just going day by day. The true story of just take it day by day, no expectations. We knew we were very, very young and just keep getting better and stay — our thing is dream big, but you got to focus small and as a result, played very good basketball and in very tight games for the last six weeks, won just enough for me to be sitting here right now.
THE MODERATOR: Questions again.

Q. Coach, now that obviously focus and preparation job one here at the tournament. A lot of the players talked about how much they enjoy playing basketball and they’re having fun. As a coach, when you get to this stage, do you try to play on that and promote it with them and say hey, enjoy the moment and savor this because it really is great and it’s a rare opportunity?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: You can’t ever count on this to happen again. You can’t ever count on that. There’s some really — our goal is at Michigan to become very consistent, that we’re in this environment every year, but the truth is all kinds of things happen and you don’t know, whether it’s injury, sickness, transfers, all kinds of things happen where you might not be able to be here, and so really embrace it and we have. We’ve — actually we’ve embraced the whole bubble dance that we are in just now. This is where — you’re in February and you are playing for something every day, so every practice counts, every study hall counts, every training table counts. I think it’s helped them just get through the last month of the season.

Q. Coach, what one thing, one couple of things, do you really feel like is going to be the difference in winning and losing for either team tomorrow?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: There’s a couple of the things. How that ball comes off the backboard if they miss shots, because they’re so good at offensive rebounding. Right now we’re boxing out anybody you see. If you get in the hallway, on the way back, I’m going box you out on the way down. There they are a tremendous offensive rebounding. Somebody asked me does it concern you? It would concern the Boston Celtics if they had to box these guys out. They really crash the boards. Sometimes you can do everything right and the ball is just the geometry that you can’t get it. That’s one by thing. Them scoring easy points off turnovers, that would be very concerning to me as well.

Q. With all the turmoil surrounding Tennessee right now and what’s going on with them, how do you, how does your team react to that? What do you do about that?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I don’t think our team is aware of it at all, and if you were ever in a basketball environment right now you would know how little attention we pay to the rest of the basketball environment and what’s happening in different programs. We just don’t do it. I know very little about it. Our teams know very little bit. We’re coaching our team. Just hang with me for one day and I have to force myself to go to CNN sometimes just to follow the tragedy in Japan and different things, but it’s very hard to worry about anybody else’s issues right now because you’re just trying to get better yourself.

Q. Speaking of controversies, there is a bit of one in Michigan regarding Jalen Rose’s comments. Do you have any reaction to that? And I know it doesn’t reflect on you specifically, but it is Michigan’s program.
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: Yeah, I know very little about that as well. If you know the situation, it happened after Selection Sunday. I watched bits and piece of it, but not enough to really hear everything, and I heard that Grant had made a statement, but I haven’t read it in depth at all or know very much about it.

Q. No impact on you?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: No. No. We haven’t discussed it. We’re in a vacuum right now. I’m sorry I can’t go further.

Q. John, you’ve got three kids who are the sons of former pros. Do you see any difference in how those kids play? Do you see it reflected? Are they quicker insofar as picking things up? I just kind of wonder what it’s like to have a resource like Tim Hardaway as a dad?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: You know what, being a father of four, that’s one of the first things I learned and knowing that as I got to coach them all, even whether was it was softball or Little League or soccer, they were all so different from the same mom and dad. So same thing I would go in this situation. Even though their fathers are tremendous pros, one has a brother that’s a tremendous pro, that they are all very different and just like everybody else and we are trying to find ways to make them better players. They do understand one thing that is consistent with all of them, you have to work very hard and you have to earn your — what you’re going to get. Anyone that’s been a long-time NBA player like those three fathers have been and the one brother is, they worked hard every day to get there or they wouldn’t have been in the NBA very long. I love that and I love the respect those fathers have also given the coaching staff. We haven’t had one call from one of them on any occasion regarding anything but their grades and how they were doing along those lines.

Q. Can you talk about finding the right piece for your offense. It’s a very specific type offense. Talk earlier in the season about the athletes fitting in.
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: We recruit to it. I don’t think we’re nearly quick enough right now where we can really get things done the way we will in the future. And we’ve added two really fine incoming 2011 guards, but we are — we try to find guys that really feel the game. Length, we would love taller and longer and quicker, we would love to have those things, but what we found is that if they really feel the game offensively, they feel the game defensively. Much like you take a quarterback and he’s not quite — you already have a really good quarterback so you make him to safety and he’s a really good safety.
So we sort of recruit to that idea that guys that really can feel the game and can pass it. They see shooting is important to us as well. And we got a good mix of that right now.

Q. Following up on Rick’s question, a lot of times sons of players are distinctive for their feel of the game because they learned from it their father. Those guys were we talking about before. Are those examples of guys who feel the game and because of their fathers?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: They’re all different in that. Tim just turned 19 yesterday, so he’s very, very young. So he’s — we’ve just been going little by little with him, seeing what he can do. He’s so focused that really it’s very helpful. Jon Horford plays more of a center position for us. He’s been getting better every single day, just hasn’t — we’re not as needy in that area right now as far as having a big — having very little at the small forward. We’ve converted Matt Vogrich to the small forward. Jordan Dumars has been hurt a year and a half. We hope he’s going to get better real soon. We’ll find out more about him.

Q. John, I read something in the media about how early in the season apparently Tim went through some things as far as sort of controlling his emotions. How do you help a kid reach that balance between caring enough versus caring too much?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: That’s what we said, everybody is so different. That’s a difficult one, because you carry — I say you carry luggage, a backpack around with you, and you can’t do that. You got to let go, play on. So we do a lot of that with all our players and you might be — while you’re making the statement about — I’ve had, you know, have a player come out to the with a backpack with 20 pounds of weights and say go play. That’s what’s happening to you when you’re worrying too much or trying to coach or trying to ref, you’re showing your frustration. All those things we try to teach them, but everybody learns that differently. And then when they do have success fighting through adversity, whether it’s self-created or created by someone else, you just applaud the heck out of it and show them all the good results.
THE MODERATOR: Anyone else?

Q. I hate to get away from the game a little bit, but I will ask you about Coach Pearl’s situation in that I believe you’re on a committee about ethics in coaching and if you just have any comments or if the committee — is this the kind of thing the committee ever considers?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: Anything — you know, as I just said, we’ve been in a little bit of a vacuum and just you talking to me about it and some others is what I know. I really don’t have — haven’t had — the off-season I’m sure our coalition has worked. It’s called the Ethics Coalition, it’s part of the NCAA. I have no longer the chairman but was one of the first people on it, and we deal with all kinds of issues. I’m not as familiar with this one right now, where it is, but it’s more that we will do in confidentiality and do off the court, outside the season. And then our big — our coalition is about education of young coaches, about older coaches, about changing rules and how to deal with them. We’re not a group that is judgmental.
THE MODERATOR: Anyone else? Okay. Last one.

Q. Coach, why do you think it is this little run here at the end of the year has coincided with Tim playing probably the best basketball of his short career so far? Why do you think that is?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: Well, I think that everybody that go through a level of comfort in playing college basketball, handling the rigors of classes, of travel, of so many things, and pretty soon they get under the bright lights and they don’t seem to be a barrier like they once were. He’s much more comfortable with it. If you watch — another reason why we’re here right now Evan Smotrycz sponsors. He had a great game at Clemson earlier and then hit the Big Ten wall. Certainly like every freshman that you watch — my stat I always say is John Diebler shot 28 percent at a freshman. You’d watch him shoot and say never in his life that kid wouldn’t shoot 28 percent with seven guys guarding them. Freshman year it different, and they go up and down, up and down. They just get used to it, and there’s a comfort level of playing uncomfortable, if that makes sense. You just get used to it and the adversity doesn’t bother you as much. That’s been big for us because we needed to get one more scorer and someone that could just score the ball without having to get set-up.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you. Good luck.

  • Tweeter

    wow. Morehead state let the madness begin. Tough no call for Louisville at the end but it looked like Fahreid (sp) got a lot of ball.

  • AG2

    At this rate I wouldn’t be surprised to see UNC Ashville beat Pitt.

  • AG2

    Wow, just wow. Taylor Battle deserved better than that.

    • Tweeter

      tough loss, but the size of temple’s guards just abused PSU. I don’t think I have gotten a pick right yet.

  • Mattski

    Princeton sticking it to the Flying Caliparis right now; fun.

  • Mattski

    Princeton down 2 with :57 to go. They have the ball after the timeout. Ashley Judd or no, I’m rooting for the Tigers.

  • AG2

    I’m pulling hard for Kentucky. I firmly believe they match up with Ohio State better than any team in that region.

    • Tweeter

      eh wouldnt want to cheer for either of those teams.

  • AG2

    Surprise, surprise. Another year, another abject failure to show up and close out a mid-major in the first round for Vanderbilt. To think, we considered offering Kevin Stallings the Michigan job. If there’s one thing you can’t knock Beilein for its NCAA Tournament performance.

  • Gary

    Anyone else think the first 2 rounds of the tournament are the best four days in sports?

    • jmblue

      They’re right up there with New Year’s Day in my book. Having almost round-the-clock action is awesome.

  • AG2

    Championship week ain’t bad, either.