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Quotes (and more quotes) from Coach Cal and Pitino on Final Four teleconference

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John Calipari of Kentucky, Rick Pitino of Louisville, Bill Self of Kansas and Thad Matta of Ohio State spent time answering questions on this afternoon's Final Four Coaches Teleconference. Throughout the week, we'll have plenty of stories on the Dream Game matchup between UK and U of L, but for now I leave you with the comments of Coach Cal and Pitino in response to questions about their own teams, their opponents and a number of other topics:

Calipari

On how Louisville has improved since the meeting earlier this season ...
"They're in a nice mold right now about playing the way they have to play to win. I think they're defending that way. I think they're playing offense that way. They're a much better team. I think we're better too, but when I look at them, I just say, 'Wow.' They play very, very aggressive. They're doing all the things they need to do to put themselves in a position to win, and they've done it. They've done it in the Big East Tournament and they walk right into this tournament and do the same thing."

On Anthony Davis' knee injury ...

"I haven't seen him today, but I would imagine he's fine."

On what he'll take from his previous Final Fours ...

"The arenas with these raised floors change things somewhat and I think you've got to get in there and do as much shooting as you can do. Last year I didn't realize that. And I would say this: work on some free-throw shooting, from 2008. I try to keep it all the same. We're traveling the same. We're doing all the things we do in the regular games, we've done it in this tournament. I'm telling them, 'Don't worry about tournament play. Let's just play basketball games. If we do that, we're fine.' "

On whether this year's team has a different feel than in years previous ...
"You go in and all I'm trying to do with all my teams is I want them to be playing their best and if that's not good enough, we'll live with the results. We do it all season that way and last year when we played Connecticut, we weren't at our best and I don't know why. I don't have the answer to that. We played OK, but we had been playing lights out: North Carolina, Ohio State and then we hit that game and we didn't play the same way. I think this team has been steady all year. They've done it, they've had rivalry games, they've had teams that came out of the gate, they've had people that try to play us physical and the bump and grind, 'You got to hit 'em, you got to bump 'em.' They've withstood all that stuff and I feel good going in, but again, you're talking about a team in Louisville that's playing as well as anyone in the country right now. And they got terrific players."

On Louisville's defense and what has made it so good recently ...

"Their zone defense and how they're playing it and the adjustments they make, I've watched some stuff they've done against us and I've watched some tape of what they've done against other people and they kind of morph it into how you're playing or who they want to play and they do a good job of that. There are times they'll throw some press at people and it's rattled some cages. They pressed us here and it rattled us. We just weren't ready for that kind of having to get open with a couple guys hanging on you, having to be strong with the ball, having to have great spacing. We weren't ready for that at that time of the year. We were lucky to get out alive in that game. They're good. They're a really good team and they're terrific defensively and they play really hard and they play physical and they do the things they have to do to win."

On Doron Lamb ...
"He's been fine, but I want him to be special. I'm happy he was (on the All-South Regional Team), but Terrence (Jones) probably deserved it too. My thing is, if he consistently plays, he's as good as any guard in the country. If he'll play through bumps when they grab and push and shove and make a layup. You can't go in there and expect to be fouled. You go in expecting to make that basket and if they foul you it's an 'and-one.' All those kind of things he's capable of. I know what kind of shooter he is. He missed foul shots last game I haven't seen him miss and I'm challenging him because what I'm saying is, when he plays with a high motor, he's as good as any guard in the country. But he's got to play with a high motor because when not, he gets shoved around, he's not playing low enough, he loses balls, he doesn't make the shots he needs to make on drives and things that he's capable of doing. I expect a lot of these guys and what I'm seeing in him is a guy that I want to play as one of the best in the country."

On the challenges of facing Louisville ...

"They're a team that they'll shoot the 3 and it's a challenge because they're going to shoot 20, 25 of them, and if they're making them, you've got a long night. They're going to shoot them, so it's a long night. They do a great job in pick-and-rolls with (Peyton) Siva, who I think is an outstanding player. I've thought ever since I saw him against Eric Bledsoe. At that point, I'm looking at him saying, 'Wow, this kid is unbelievable.' And then I would tell you the other thing is their post game with (Gorgui) Dieng and (Chane) Behanan has really changed things. They'll go in the post, they'll do some stuff, they're rebounding the ball in that zone. It's going to be a hard game for us. It'll be a hard game."

On how he will get his team in the right mindset for Louisville ...
"They know every game we play is someone's Super Bowl. You think about this whole Final Four. We ended Ohio State's season last year. We opened up the season by beating Kansas. You don't think they want a piece of us? We beat Louisville earlier in the year. They're going crazy to beat us. Let me say this, so was Vandy, so was Florida, so was North Carolina. Everybody we play is that way, so it's not as though this is any different than any other game we play. The other team's going to play out of their minds. We know it."

On why this year's team has been so consistent ...
"They play hard but they don't get rattled. They kind of keep their wits about them and if a guy's losing it a little bit, we just bring him out, sit him down, calm him down and go back in. They also know that going through a season as being a Kentucky player, they understand that everybody's going to give us their best shots. It doesn't matter. That's what we're going to get and you better be ready to play because if you're not, you get beat. And they know that and we've prepared that way so they've done fine."

On his relationship with Geno Auriemma of Connecticut's women's program ...
"Obviously back in the New England days, and I've always been a fan of his. Now I won't be when they play our (women's) team. I'm a bigger fan of Matthew Mitchell, but Geno's a great guy. He could coach basketball, truly, at any level, male or female. I believe that. He's a hall-of-fame coach, and on top of it, a really, really good guy."

On how he shields his team from praise like Charles Barkley saying the only team that could beat UK is the Toronto Raptors ...
"Obviously with the Internet and the social media and network and all that stuff, you can't keep anything away from them. They hear everything. They talk to each other. They're probably talking to players on the other team. It's just how it is nowadays. What you hope is they understand, for us, we're worried about us playing as well as we can. That's all we're worried about. Let's play well. If that's not good enough, we'll deal with the results, but that's all I'm trying to do. I'm telling them, 'Don't worry about tournaments, we're playing basketball. And we got a basketball game here this weekend and that's all we're worried about.' They want to make a big deal out of rivalry. Not at this time of the year. It doesn't matter. If you win or lose, you're going to feel the same whether it's a team you played before or never seen in your life. A team that's 12 miles from you, or a team that's a thousand miles from you. It doesn't matter this time of the year. Now, it matters to fans, but we're not worried about that. We're just worried about playing our best and playing a terrific basketball team and it's going to be a hard challenge."

On whether a season like this requires humility from the players ...
"It's more or less you get humbled a lot through the year. The moment you start drinking that poison, you die because the other team's jacked up and ready to play. Literally every team we play, it's like the biggest game of the century. 'I'm going to talk to my grandchildren about this game if we can win,' and that's how it is. They understand it and it's nice that Charles is saying nice things, but the reality of it is this stuff will be won or lost on the basketball court and you can throw talent out the window. Everyone's talented now. Yes, we got good players. So does everybody else. What do you think, they just got a system which is why they're winning? Everyone has good players. It's going to be won on that basketball court. Who wants it the most? Who's going to execute? Who's going to be efficient on offense and defense? You're going to have to have a good team playing well this time to win."

On the Final Four featuring basketball "royalty" ...
"I would say it should be outstanding. You're going to see a lot of ridiculous basketball and I think that, whether you're talking Kansas or Ohio State or Louisville or ourselves, everyone's had good season. They've played well and they deserve to be here and we've gone through the grind of the NCAA Tournament and I feel bad for Syracuse and North Carolina with (Fab) Melo and (Kendall) Marshall and that kind of changed the field a little bit, but that's part of this tournament. It's not best-of-five, best-of-seven. You got one game. You have a bad game, you're done, go home. Your kids think that this is going to be an easy one and they don't show for the game, you go home. That's what makes this tournament special and unique."

On Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's body control ...
"What he's like running at you, it's like a middle linebacker's coming at you. And he is nimble, so here he comes. He's really fast, he can move the ball around, he cups the ball as you grab his arms and waist and hip and they don't call the fall because he goes and busts through it and still scores it and he can do that. He's a terrific free-throw shooter. In the zone, he just gets to gaps and does things. He's a good enough 3-point shooter that you got to guard him. He's proven that the last two games. But more importantly, like he and Anthony (Davis), Anthony takes the fifth-most shots on our team  and everybody says he's the best player. Michael Gilchrist takes the fourth-most shots on our team and everybody says he's the second-best player. Well, wait a minute. They just play. Blocking shots, rebounding, defending and then they are unselfish offensively. That's what makes them unique."

On getting talented players to buy in defensively ...
"It starts in the recruiting process. There's two points of this that you have to make. One, we don't do anything outlandish. In other words, we're not promising you'll start, how many minutes or how many shots. It's a challenge here. This is not for everybody. The second thing is, if you want to shoot 30 times a game, don't come here. Do you want to win a national title? Yes I do. Can you do it by yourself? No I can't. So now you're telling me you want to be on a team with seven or eight other guys just like, which means you can't shoot 30 times a game. The other thing, they've got to really trust that you have their best interests at heart. This is a players-first program and you've got to let them know as you sacrifice, we all gain as individuals and as a team. They just stay on it. This is a group of young men that know this is a players-first program. They know it's about the players and at the end of the day they buy into (it). To be about them, they got to make it about the team first and each of them make it about the other guy, not themselves. And that's why they play unselfish and that's why they're in a defensive stance and they've all bought in."

On what the role of coaching is in the Final Four ...

"It's important, but at the end of the day, the players are going to win the game. Let me say this. You're talking about our talent. I don't know if you understand we're the most efficient team in the country. We're the No. 1 efficient team. We start three freshmen and two sophomores. We also lead the nation in field-goal percentage defense. We lead the nation in blocked shots. We're in the top 10 in rebound margin. Our assist-to-turnover ratio, the way we shoot the ball. We're the most efficient team in the country, so it's not just they're talented. They're a good team. They play together. And again, we're all going in and what I'm going to try to do is get my guys to play as well as they can play. Let's just worry about us playing great. If that's not good enough, let's have more fun than any team playing here, let's play our best and we'll take the results from there."

Pitino

On the changes in UK's play ...
"I think the changes in Kentucky are like any young program, when you have young players, they mature, they get better, they understand their defensive assignments better. They have improved as you would expect as the year has gone on. They're not only a lethal offensive team, but they're equally as potent on defense.  So they're as good as it gets in all phases of the game."

On what's made the defense so good lately ...
"Our defense is really predicated on who were playing more than anything else. We try to choreograph our defense to who we're playing and what our strengths are. It's not really a steady diet of any one thing."

On how the team is staying focused for the game, especially traveling from Portland and Phoenix ...

"Being away didn't help us, and it didn't hurt us. There was really no factor. These guys are really a humble group. They do everything that they can do mentally and physically to try and win a game. It would be nice, but it didn't help and it didn't hurt us. Certainly they have a job to do, but on the other hand, what I've told all my team's that have been there is, fun is a major aspect of the Final Four. You have to let the guys have some fun, as well as work. That's what this whole experience is all about."

On what to take away from the first game in December between UK and Louisville ...
"Well we played that first game, basically we had a little tough luck without Chane Behanan when he got his third foul from that technical, and you know they've improved and we've improved so obviously we'll take a look at the game and see what was so successful and wasn't and what we need to improve on. It's something that you plan on doing for the next three or four days and be ready with your game plan when you play it on Saturday."       

On where the Duke game ranks in terms of his toughest losses and whether he would put a guy on Grant Hill if he had to do it over again ...
"You know it's funny, I've looked at it both ways in my life, from putting a guy on the ball. Talking with Bob Knight, he never puts a guy on the ball. I've done it both ways. I saw Connecticut win up the sideline, I think it was they beat George Mason with a man on the ball. Now that I know the play defensively was unsuccessful, without question I would have put a guy on the ball. But this is going to sound strange, and I know the Kentucky fans don't like to hear it, but it wasn't a disappointment to me at all. It was a disappointment in terms of we didn't make the Final Four and we lost the game. That was a major disappointment. But in the terms of the way that we played that game, I thought it was a brilliant performance by our players, a tough ending for us, a brilliant display of offensive and defensive talent. And what I was really proud of was, you go in there and you give it your performance and you don't play well, then you're disappointed, but when you play great and your best player's on the bench, and it goes to overtime, you've got to be really proud. But fans don't look at it that way, as coaches do. The purity of the game; it was an unbelievable basketball game."

On what one thing a championship team needs to possess ...
"Well, I wish it was one thing to be honest with you. I guess a common denominator more than anything else is that you're ready for the pressure of the game, that you can't let that pressure beat you. When you start thinking about, I've got to do this and I've got to do that, you have to understand that it's we have to do this and we have to do that. I think (if) that's the key, you just lose. The focal point is, it has to be as a team. You're not going to do it by yourself, and sometimes they say, 'Oh, I've got to play better than I did in recent games.' That's not the case. You must focus on everything you do as a team, to help your team win."

On the approach to the Final Four, having been there before ...
"I'm really happy. Generally when teams get to this point in time, you're really pleased with what's going on. But really the only learning experience that I can take away from anything is, just make sure you get used to that dome. Before if you had an hour-and-a-half practice, well you know that's not enough, I want to go to the gym and take two-and-a-half hours, so we take our time with our preparation, and it's really more important to go in there an hour and a half to the Dome, then it would be two-and-a-half hours elsewhere."

On the similarities between Derek Anderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and their relentlessness on the court ...

"He was that way in high school. When I watched him play in high school, I'd never seen too many high school players play every position as if they were down 10. He's one of my favorite players to watch because he plays so hard. He was spectacular in our game, the last time we played him. And that type of thing is really an unbelievable quality to have. I'm sure he's a fun kid to coach. He's a fun young man to watch on tape. He's going to be a terrific player for many years to come."

On the value of practice in the dome ...
"Well, I think it is the depth perception, without question. I think that's something you have to get used to. Fortunately, we have played in Syracuse and we've seen it before. But the worst thing about it is the wide-open space. But it's just something that we need to get a little practice in and get used to, and I think we'll feel comfortable in it. I didn't know about the raised floor. I didn't know about that."

On shooting 3s in the dome to prepare for the game ...
"You have to get comfortable with the spaces and the environment. We're not a big 3-point shooting team. I've had some terrific 3-point shooting teams, but that's not our forte, so to speak, so it's just getting used to the background and as much playing as you actually could. I wish the NCAA would give us a little bit more time than just an hour and a half Ss you can just take your time with everything. I don't think you need more than two hours, but you can take your time instead of rushing with the clock. I don't know why they didn't leave us more time."

On playing with teams that may not have as much talent on paper as their opponent ...

"We're a talented ballclub. You can't get to the Final Four without being a talented ballclub. Now we may not have as much talent in some areas as other teams, but we have young talent that really can develop; guys like Gorgui Deng, Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear. They're going to get a lot better with time. It's just that they're not there yet. So you know the great thing about March Madness in college basketball is? The best team is going to win, generally speaking, 90 percent of the time in the pros. The best team in the pros is going to win a seven-game series. But in a one-game series, anybody can win. There are games that I've lost with more talent and games that I've won with less talent because it's one game. If somebody shoots great, breaks go your way at the end, anything can happen. In the Florida game, Florida totally outplayed us in that ball game. For 32 minutes, they were much the superior team. And the last eight minutes we were fortunate enough to turn the game around and we won the game. So in one game anything can happen. So that's why, talent is not always the reason you win or lose on your way to getting to the Final Four."

On the coaching job he's had to do with this team ...

"The problem that happened with this team more than anything else, it seemed like we were always disrupted. You sort through your defensive sets that you start to feel good about, then you go through another major injury, then another major injury, then Peyton Siva goes down with a concussion for 30 days. Three guys are out with knee injuries. And some guys become available second semester and they don't know about fundamentally anything that you're trying to accomplish. And so in terms of coaching this team, it was pure joy. In terms of the disruptions, it was a nightmare. You try and get a guy in, he just gets eligible December 14. Another person has double shoulder surgery, three knee injuries and multiple concussions. I've got three guys wearing helmets in practice so they don't get another concussion. It was just a distraction in terms of being organized. Most coaches really like to be organized in terms of their practice plans, and we just couldn't get organized this year."

On how the zone makes his players better individual defenders ...

"I think we struggle in certain areas defensively. Chane Behanan struggles because he's a freshman. He'll be much better as time goes on. He struggled in the game against Florida, but when we needed stops he played great. He's certainly a guy that's played great defense. Our guys have gotten better, it's just that what we try to do defensively is try and protect Gorgui. When Gorgui leaves the game we are not as good of a basketball team. I'm sure Kentucky can say the same thing with Davis or any great shot blocker. Your defense it not as good when they leave."

On what it's like to have someone like Dieng on the team ...
"It's been a lot of fun. African kids, they're a pure joy in terms of their humility and the starvation to learn. I just love teaching him because of the humility and to be humble with such an eagerness to learn the game. It's such a healthy environment to be around them. I've had foreign players before. I have another one on my team, Russ Smith, who's also from a different planet. He's not from a different country; he's from a different planet. So I like coaching him as well."

On how rewarding this year has been as a coach ...

"People sometimes misinterpret this team. One might compare to this team to the Providence team (1987), and they're nothing like each other in terms of their physical abilities. I also can't compare them in terms of the type of human beings they are. Also that was 1987, this is now. When you're a team, that's just trying to survive and make the tournament and get on with the next game in any possible way, you really don't think of the end of the road. You're just trying to think, where are you at trying to park your car at that point in time? So to get to the Final Four, we finally have this fact of ending. It's just such an incredible experience, and that's what happened in '87, as is now, so it's very rewarding, and more than anything else is when you love a team like I've loved this team the last two years; it's just great to see this guys give to the fruits of their labor."

If there's any concern with guys relaxing now that they made the Final Four...

"My pregame speech going in to the Florida game was, 'I know you're going to win this game guys, I just want one thing from you: When we cut down the nets, I want one favor in return -- that you're not satisfied with getting there.' And that was the last words I sent to them before we went out. It was trying to be a confidence builder, and on the other hand, now that we're here, let's not be satisfied; the championship is at stake, and you only get so many runs at a championship."

On the pedigree of the field ...
"I think it's without question four schools that you would put in the top 10 tradition of all-time, without question. A lot of people don't realize -- we know their recent success, but going back - how successful Ohio State was. These four programs have had a tremendous influence in the game of basketball. Certainly Kansas, Louisville, Kentucky, the fever pitch for basketball has always been off the charts. And something to understand is, Ohio State, back when (Jerry) Lucas and those guys played, they were at its best. They have great tradition, and certainly within recent years, Thad Matta has gotten them back to where they're a top-five program every year. So it is basketball royalty. And I know for us, a small state like Kentucky, with three million people, to have two teams in the Final Four is quite special."

On whether he's thought about the similarities between being the underdogs in the Duke game in 1992 and this game against UK  ...
"Now that you just mentioned it. But unfortunately you have to think about that game all the time. If it's not commercials, it's UPS running it; we see that. Although I said earlier it was a special game, if Christian Laettner's getting royalties from that shot, he'll never have to work another second in his life. As far as the teams, nobody gave us much of a shot, I'm sure that's pretty much the case now. We can win. Every team should believe they can win. But certainly our respect for Kentucky is off the charts. We played them once before. We think they were a great team when we played them in December. We think they're an even better team now. We understand that we're going to have to play the type of game that Villanova played against Georgetown. We can't make a lot of mistakes like a team against Kentucky, and I know that's what we're going to have to do."

On the positive of having time to prepare for Kentucky ...

"I think to prepare for Kentucky we need three weeks. But with that being said, you know when you play them, it's not a matter of preparing your defense for stopping them, you really have to prepare your offense because they're equally as good defensively. As I've watched throughout the year, I don't know of any young team that can play that well at the defensive end. It's just a great job by their coaching staff."

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