Transcript: Gators on Minnesota

AUSTIN--Florida head coach Billy Donvan and athletes Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete, Patric Young, and Casey Prather address the media on Saturday afternoon to discuss facing Minnesota in Sunday's third round match up...

Q. For all these guys, start with Patric, just what the transition is like going from a team up-and-down that Florida faced on Friday to facing a more physical team and how important is rebounding going to be? Stopping them on the boards.

Patric Young: Well, we're going to do a good job with scouting, make sure we come ready and just and just as every game, it's important for to us rebound.

Scottie Wilbekin: Every game is going to be physical from this point out. We got to do a good job of being ready and on every possession, box out and limit their easy buckets.

Will Yeguete: Got to make sure we do a good job rebounding. I think we've done a good job in the second half of the game and we just got to keep it up and box them out and make sure we take care of the ball.

Casey Prather: We got to make sure we come ready for the physical confrontation up front and got to do great job on the board and block out and limit them to one shot.

Q. Scottie, talk about Hollins and the challenge that he's going to present, he had 28 yesterday and has had the tendency to kind of go off in games. Had 41 against Memphis. What do you see specifically out of him?

SCOTTIE WILBEKIN: Well, first of all, he's a great scorer and he can score in a multitude of ways. So I really got to just be ready and I got count on my guys to help me if I get beat. But I don't know, just be ready to contain him and don't let him get any easy shots, always have a hand in his face.

Q. Want to know about your embracing the defensive stopper role.

SCOTTIE WILBEKIN: Yeah, I guess I embrace it. I love playing defense and it helps when you got guys that are beside me right now that love playing defense as well. I just try to come out and play my hardest on defense.

Q. Pat, can you talk about Mbakwe, what you see with him and how physical a player he is.

PATRIC YOUNG: From what I've seen, he's just a really high energy guy, he plays hard, and he's a big part of their team.

Q. Were any of you guys kind of familiar with Tubby Smith back in his days in Kentucky and are you aware of kind of his status as far as him in the coaching game?

CASEY PRATHER: Yeah, he's definitely a great coach. I saw him earlier in my career and I was just amazed at the things that he could do at Kentucky.

Q. Scottie, where did that love for defense come from?

SCOTTIE WILBEKIN: Probably back when I was playing AAU nine and under, ten and under, my team, we just really pressed a lot. And I just loved getting steals.

Q. For Pat, but you guys can address it too. What's it like having a bat flying during practice and how much of a disruption was that?

PATRIC YOUNG: Well, it didn't really bother me at all or bother coach at all either. He was like, what did he say? "If you get bit, I'll pay for your medical bills."

(Laughter.)

It was a little distracting, but we just kept doing what we were supposed to do.

SCOTTIE WILBEKIN: I kept focused.

CASEY PRATHER: It was funny watching the guy's reaction to it. There was like two of them at one point.

(Coach opening statement)

COACH DONOVAN: I think any time you can win in this tournament and advance it's exciting. Excited about the opportunity to play against Minnesota. They have -- obviously Tubby and I go back a long way, he's done a terrific job. A lot of respect for their team. I know we have a great challenge in front of us. But I think that all of us at Florida are excited about the opportunity to be able to play again tomorrow.

Q. I know it's been a long time since you guys were all together, but what would people see on the court from your team and Tubby's that maybe came from your time with Pitino?

COACH DONOVAN: I think that the one thing is probably trying to get players to play together. Playing together, being a team, understanding that there's a greater good when everybody's sacrificing together. I think you're always going to see differences inside of teams as it relates to personnel, style of play, what's the best way for your team to play.

Tubby's always been a terrific defensive coach and really sound offensively. But I think that probably all of us being together, I would hope that we would say the one thing that we try to get our teams to do is just that. To sacrifice for a greater goal, greater good, and to play together, to play unselfishly, and to try to play the right way and do the right things.

Q. Obviously Tubby left Kentucky six years ago, how much have you guys been in contact since then and would you refer to that as kind of a friendly rivalry even though it was a serious rivalry between Florida and Kentucky at the time?

COACH DONOVAN: Tubby and I have got a very good relationship. I love his family. But I think the one thing for myself -- I'm sure Tubby feels the same way-- really all the time is the players are playing on the floor. They're playing against each other. It's never really been about that.

What I look at more than anything else, is who we're playing against and what they do and what we have to do to try to be successful in the game. Even though it's Tubby at the other end of the sideline I'm not watching him. I'm watching the court and film, I'm not watching him, I'm watching what's going on on the court.

All I can say is Tubby is a terrific coach, he's done a great job with his team. They're very talented, they're very gifted, they have got a lot of experience, they have played in a very, very difficult conference, they're a tough, hardened team and with all those things being said, I think we all realize at Florida what a great challenge we have in front of us.

Q. What are your thoughts about Minnesota's rebounding ability and how you matchup with them physically and how much of a concern that is?

COACH DONOVAN: A great challenge. They really do a great job getting off the glass. They're a terrific offensive and defensive rebounding team. Mbakwe is as good as there is in the country. But they chase it. They go after it. They do a really good job and this will be, again, not only a challenge for our front court, but it will be a challenge for our team to collectively be able to rebound the basketball. Because certainly their misses, they get a large percentage of misses back. They are relentless in terms of going to the glass.

Q. Billy, this looks like your best defensive team, at least statistically. Where did that come from? Was that a concerted strategy this year or does it just fit the players and the personnel you got?

COACH DONOVAN: I think a couple things happened. I think going into this season, one of the things I tried to do every year is try to create projects for myself and our assistants of how can we get better. I think if you would go back and look at last year, we were able to make a run in the NCAA tournament because of the way we defended the 3-point line during those three or four games. If you go back and look at our conference in regular season stats from a year ago, we gave up nearly 40 percent from the 3-point line. And the first thing that comes into question is why, what is the problem, what is going on. So we broke down every single 3-point shot that was made against us or even taken against us, from the whole entire season last year and what was the reason why.

So some of it was positioning, some of it was lack of screening coverages, guys being out of place, maybe not challenging hard enough. And then I do think Erving Walker, at the point guard spot for us last year, being five foot six, five foot seven, we played with a much smaller point guard for three years. And as great as he was and things that did he very, very well for us, there was always a challenge that he was an easier guy to shoot over.

And I think the addition of Scottie Wilbekin, defensively, has added something different to our team. I think Patric Young has grown in a lot of ways in terms of his knowledge and understanding of the game. That he's kind of been an anchor, not so much a shot blocker, but he's been an anchor back there that he can see actions and things starting to develop before they happen. And he's a good communicator and he's been able to call out different coverages. So we felt like we needed to tweak some things, from last year that we needed to get better.

We also thought we could do some different things because our personnel was a little bit different. But we really looked to break down our defense and find areas that we could get better. And to our guys' credit, they have been really committed in that area all year long to try to make the right strides and growth to become better defensively.

Q. You mentioned Scottie, what is it that makes him so good as a defender?

COACH DONOVAN: I think he has three qualities that enable him to be very, very good. The first thing is he's got great feet. He's really got good feet. The second thing is, he is a physical defender. He can get through, around, and off screens very, very well. And then I would say the third thing is he is a guy that's a tough minded defender maybe more so than any guard I ever coached. He values that. He himself puts a lot of value on defending.

I think most kids put a lot of value on scoring or what they do on the offensive end of the floor. I think he understands the impact he has and can have defensively when he's really locked in guarding the way he guards. But he's somebody that really enjoys that challenge and that part of the game and is he great all the time, does he stop everybody? No. But you know his focus defensively is going to be where it needs to be.

Q. Could you talk about Andre Hollins and the strengths that you see from him on video and just what some of the challenges that he presents.

COACH DONOVAN: He's an outstanding player. He shoots it, obviously last night really shot it well from behind the 3-point line. He puts it on the floor, he can create, he can get in the lane, he gets other people involved. When he gets going, and he really gets into a rhythm, he's a very, very difficult guy to stop.

Again, NCAA tournament game, he comes in and gets 28 last night against a UCLA team that's pretty darn talented. I think that speaks to the kind of quality of player that he is.

Q. You sat Rosario for a while in the second half because of a missed assignment. What are you looking for him going forward and maybe learning from that?

COACH DONOVAN: Yeah I think that the biggest thing with him is that's over with and done with. For whatever reason he was not as in tune, or in line mentally, as we needed him to be yesterday. Coming out of the half, we're up 8, it's their ball, we're up 12 coming out of the half against Ole Miss and that evaporated pretty quickly. So we knew the first four minutes were critical. We come out and he just gives up an offensive rebound. Doesn't even block his guy out. And that's what we kind of had talked about, was getting some stops.

So I just basically he took him out of the game and we started to obviously make a run at that time and started to extend the lead and I wasn't mad at him to the point I was going to bench him the whole game. But game was going well while he was on the bench, that probably contributed to part of it. And also him not blocking out there.

Q. Back to Scottie, you were very complimentary a couple years ago about Aaron Craft. I wondered if you have shown Scottie any film of Aaron because you seemed to describe about the same kind of guy?

COACH DONOVAN: No, not really. I think that what I try to do is, when Scottie came to me, he was a guy that bypassed his senior year of high school. So I was very concerned of what could we actually get from him as a freshman who really should be a senior in high school. Is the game going to be too fast, is he going to be intimidated, is he going to be physically overwhelmed, is he going to be too weak to physically play.

After about three weeks, I think after the first three weeks of practice, that's when you can really find out what guys are made of. Because the first three weeks everybody's amped up and jacked up, but then fatigue starts setting in. The grind starts setting in and this guy never wavered. And he's been like that for us a long time. I never showed him films on Craft, I think Craft's a great defender. I love him, I love his toughness, I love the way he slaps and reaches at it and the way he comes up with loose basketballs and uses his body.

I think Scottie's very, very similar. I think that what you try do as a coach is when you got -- guys come in with a certain mentality and what you do is try to get them to enhance that mentality. His mentality's always been-- he's always been able to function, and will always be able to function on any team because of the way he plays defense. And you need a guy like that and there's always going to be room for a guy like that on your team. And he's gotten better offensively as he's been in more of an expanded role this past season. But that's who he is. He has great internal competitiveness and pride in playing defense. Maybe more so than anybody I've coached.

Q. Tubby's Athletic Director, Norwood Teague, hired a couple of your assistants from VCU in the past, and it's kind of a unique situation where you had a guy that had that much faith in a couple of your assistants and he's trying to help Minnesota basketball and bring it to another level.

COACH DONOVAN: I've known Norwood for awhile, as you mentioned. He wanted to interview Anthony Grant and I always said this about Anthony Grant, that he should have been a head coach a lot longer before he was hired. Anthony was never a self promoter, he was never out there networking, that wasn't who he was. He just put his head down and did his job. And Norwood called me about him and I told Norwood, I said, I'm just telling you right now, Norwood, it will be the biggest coup of VCU basketball that you could possible get of hiring anybody that you could hire out there nationally that would go to VCU. And then Anthony obviously went there and did a great job. And the kind of the same thing happened he called me back about Shaka who was on the staff at the time and I said the same thing, I said listen, this guy is unbelievable, he's great. You got to make a decision with the age and him and his youthfulness, but he would do a phenomenal job. And I think that Norwood went down that road again. So because of those two guys, Norwood and I have been able to develop a relationship over the years.

Q. Wondering, when Florida Gulf Coast sends a shock wave through the whole tournament with the upset, can you, will you use that as a real specific and fresh example of how little that the name means on your uniform in this tournament?

COACH DONOVAN: You know, I think that a lot of times I think this is what happens in college basketball: You get November, beginning of December, everybody's fixed on college football and the NFL. Okay. And then all of a sudden you start getting to March, it starts really moving towards end ever February, beginning of March, starts moving towards college basketball. Just the nation. The same Florida Gulf Coast team that beat Georgetown also beat Miami. So our players, they live in that world, they understand that. But a lot of times because people maybe say, oh, November doesn't really mean anything, everybody's kind of getting going, they're, you know-- and listen, Miami's had a great year and they're a really, really good basketball team, but these things happen all the time. It's just that the nation's watching it now and maybe the nation hasn't been watching as closely in that time of year. So I think our guys understand, we have lost to a Jacksonville whose come into our place and beat us at home. We lost to South Alabama. Our players have experienced that. They have gone through that. So I don't think we're going to sit there and say, okay, this is what happened. Minnesota, right now, forget about the seeding, they have played in the Big-10, arguably the best conference, from what people say, in the country. They have probably played against 10 or 11 Top-10 teams over the period of time, playing Indiana twice, playing Michigan State, all that.

So our guys understand that the playing field of college basketball, anything can happen in a one game deal. And our guys live in that for five, six months. We see that happen quite a bit.

Q. Pat seemed to be a little on edge maybe when he was up at the podium. How important is that for you guys for him to kind of have an edge against Minnesota and play maybe with some anger?

COACH DONOVAN: Yeah, I think that the biggest thing to me was that he chased balls yesterday. That was, that's what we need from him. He chased balls and he got involved in the game early. We found him a couple times on some plays. After the game he was winded, but I'm sure he was excited. But we need him playing with a motor. That motor is -- first of all, he does not play well when he does not play like that. It's pretty simple. That's something that internally he's got to be more accountable and responsible for. And he's got to take ownership of it and make the decision that this is what I need to do. And then he's got to go out there and do it as hard and aggressive as he possibly can.

When he does what he did yesterday, not so much the scoring, but the chasing of the balls and rebounding and the defense and being in the lane and clogging it up, it makes us a better team. And we need that from him as long as we continue to play. Because when he doesn't do that, we're not the same team.

Q. In this tournament, teams aren't familiar with each other. Do you think you and Tubby are more familiar with your teams because you have gone against each other so much?

COACH DONOVAN: Maybe philosophically. As I said earlier, Tubby's always going to put an emphasis on defense, his teams have always been very good defensively. I think he always utilizes and takes advantage of the personnel he has on offense. They're always a tough, disciplined team. Those are things you're always going to get prepared for when you are playing against one of his teams. They're going to be very well coached, they're going to play together, they're going to defend, they're going to be unselfish on offense, and again I think that probably he's probably changed some things offensively over the years based on his personnel. But I think the core value of who Tubby is as a coach, and what he represents, and what he is about has probably stayed the same there. So I think being around him, you kind of understand what the core beliefs are, but that really has nothing to do with the fact that we have got to get prepared for personnel on the court and how they're going to play, what they're going to do.

You can know a team as a really good rebounding team, and I think Tubby's teams have been good rebounding teams, but you got to block out and rebound. So I think a lot of times you see on film what's being emphasized and again, I got great respect for the job Tubby's done and the way his team plays.

Q. With your assistant coaches, can you explain a little bit about how those personalities fit together and maybe how you guys work so well under the stress and short turn arounds of this time of year?

COACH DONOVAN: Well I think the one thing is, is when you're a coach, you're always breeding chemistry, connectedness, you know selfishness, togetherness, all those kind of things. I think if you walk down the court and your staff's not those things, I think it's really, really hard to expect your players to be those things. So I think when you start talking about unselfishness and sacrifice and guys working together, we as a coaching staff have got to display that before our team could ever display that.

So I've got a lot of trust and confidence in our staff, they work really hard. They are reliable, they're accountable, they're dependable. But what we'll do is one guy will take Northwestern State after the selection show, one guy will take Minnesota, one guy will take Illinois and those three guys will just be basically locked in a room until the time we play watching film, breaking down film and then we'll meet and sit down and talk as staff. But when we go on the court to practice we're all connected on what we're doing and we're all in it together.

Q. You've been around awhile now. If you could just go big picture about the coaching profession. Ben's been to three straight Final Fours, there's questions about his job. Tubby's won at Minnesota, there's questions about his job. How precarious has it become for coaches right now?

COACH DONOVAN: Well, I would just say this: One is, I don't know all the dynamics that go on inside another athletic department. So is it something that's greater or bigger than the winning and losing? I don't know.

But I do think, if it's about that, about the winning and the losing part of it, to me, that's crazy. Because the job that Ben Howland has done there -- and we obviously played them twice in the Final Four-- was great. They just won a PAC-12 championship. Tubby's won national championships. He's an outstanding coach. He's done it for a very, very long time. If there's something greater or deeper inside that nobody else knows about, then it's hard for me to comment on that.

But if you're talking about coaching-wise, both of those guys are outstanding and terrific and as good as anybody in the business.

Q. You were just talking about being familiar with Tubby Smith and the things that he's maintained over the years. Do you feel like your style has changed to a degree since when you were coaching against him?

COACH DONOVAN: I think we all change and evolve as coaches. Everybody's going to do things -- a lot of what you do is based on your personnel, who you're dealing with, what the strengths and weakness are of your players.

But I do think there's a core foundation and fundamental things that you're probably not going to budge on, regardless of who you're coaching, that you believe in. You want to play the game a certain way on offense, you want to play the game a certain way on defense. There's core fundamental beliefs that I think every coach has that I think they're going to stick to, but inside those core fundamental beliefs you have to adjust based on your team and your personnel.

So I would hope that, for myself, that I'm constantly evolving and growing based on what we're doing from a recruiting standpoint and what players are in there. I feel like my job as a coach is to try to put guys in positions to be effective and successful on the floor and in order to do that sometimes you've got to change some things from year to year for that to happen.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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