Press Conference Quotes - Syracuse

March 21, 2014

Quentin Hillsman, Syracuse, Head Coach:

On the Syracuse system and what he’s developed...
“I think that from day one when I had the privilege of being the head coach at Syracuse University, it was an issue of us having to change the mentality and the culture of our program. I believe that you have to prepare hard with aggression and urgency everyday and every time you’re on the floor. I think that our players have taken on that mentality of playing hard and playing with urgency and that every game and every possession is important. I really believe that our players over the year believe in our system, they believe in the zone, they believe in getting the ball in the players hands that are most effective offensively. They’ve accepted their roles and that’s hard to do. Every year that I’ve been head coach here, we’ve had a player that probably shouldn’t be starting, that we brought off the bench and the first year it was hard to sell it. The second year, it became easier and this year it was very easy because our success has allowed us to do the things we need to do to be successful without having to overexplain it and overcompensate for different things in our program. I just believe in our kids. I believe that we recruit the right players, we recruit the players than can play at this level and I think early on into my career at women’s basketball, it was very obvious that players win games, coaches put in gameplans and manage your talent. We’re in a good position. Our two sophomores are the most productive players on the floor right now which lends well into our future. We have seniors that are very good leaders and a senior point guard that is doing an excellent job of leading our team. Shakeya Leary has stepped in pretty well for Alexander who left us as the all-time leading scorer, shot-blocker, rebounder. She was tremendous for our program, but I believe that we’re in a good state and in good hands with our young players.”

On if there is a city ordnance to play a zone in Syracuse, N.Y. ...
“I think the city ordnance every day is when I look over my left or my right shoulder out of my office, I see all of those banners lined up. So, I think that’s the ordinance right there and you can look down and see the best zone coach in the country and his system and you sit there and you start to watch it and you start to break it down and you start to believe and you start to go to your offense first, as most coaches do and start playing chess on how to beat it, and the only way that you can beat a zone is to be a really high-execution team and there are not of ways you can really score on the zone. It’s amazing how a lot of people say ‘Hey, you’ve got to get out of the zone, they’re making so many 3’s.’ My motto is play a better zone. You don’t hear people say ‘Hey, you’ve got to go zone and get out of that man because they’re killing you.’ It’s just about believing in what you do, having a system, having rules that you incorporate into your zone everyday in practice. Coach (Jim) Boeheim is the best, and he’s been the best for a long time and he shows you how effective a zone can be. We’ve taken on some of their components and there are certain things that we can’t do because of their length and our length. But, it’s been great for us and we’ve been successful running it.

On if he regularly talks to Coach Boeheim about the zone defense...
“Yeah I do. I ask him questions a lot when I run into a few snags in game prep and teams that we’re going to play, but the best thing is that he’s so open. I can walk down there every day and get a 2-3 zone clinic. It’s been good for me because I’ve been able to watch it and watch it be successful. I’ve been able to watch it in games when they play good 3-point shooting teams and he just doesn’t panic. He runs what he runs and they recognize shooters and they get out and they contest shots, but there are always games and I think people get to a point if they are making so many 3s - they’re making seven, eight or nine 3s. This year our focus has really been on matching other team’s 3-point productivity and this year we’re making almost eight a game. I think if you can make seven or eight a game and you hold your opponent in that same range, you have an even game and now you’re taking away driving lanes and things like that. Most of the games we’ve lost it’s not because teams are hitting 10 3s, it’s because we shot 20 percent. That’s the key: can you match their productivity behind the arc and can you make shots?”

On the loss to Creighton last season and the difference this year for his team in the tournament...
“We’re very conscious of that and I do watch every game, obviously as coaches do. I think they made 10 3s and five of them were in unsettled situations, off of turnovers, off offensive rebounds. They probably made four or five actually against our zone, so if we hold somebody to four or five 3-pointers per game in a half court zone, we’re going to win those games. They just made a few that were in an unsettled situation. I think the difference in last year and this year is that we’re making seven or eight a game where last year we made like four a game. I think that really gives you like four or five more possessions where you can make a mistake and you know you can make them up because you can make shots and even out the 3-point percentage and even out the points beyond the arc.”

On if he recruits certain types of players for his zone defense or if he teaches them to play...
“We teach them. Nobody plays it in high school because it’s not cool, it’s not macho, it’s not a tough thing to do. You have to get out pressure, take away passing lanes, guard people full court. It’s amazing how when players come to college and they have that mentality and you run out there on your first day as a freshman and you sit down right in front of Rachel Coffey and she blows right by you and shoots a layup. I think it becomes a little more apparent that it’s a team defense game. We do look for length, we definitely do that. We look for players that we feel will fit in to our system, but most importantly we try to get willing learners and willing workers who want to come in and learn a new system because it’s such a big difference and it’s a different game between high school and college, but yes we do look for players that can fit into our system, defensively.”

On this being his third appearance in the NCAA Tournament and how important it is to take that next step and keep advancing...
“It’s important and we talk about winning a game. I think a lot of people get to a point where they try to take the pressure off of their kids and use all these different ways to do it, but you have to win the game. We talk about winning, we talk about what it’s going to take to win and we talk about the pressures and the responsibility at this university to win basketball games and go to the tournament and advance. I’m not one to shy away from talking about winning. I’m not one to shy away from talking about our expectations. We understand where we are. We’ve been to the NCAA Tournament two times and we haven’t won here yet and we want to win here. We’ve been to the Final Four of the NIT, Elite Eight of the NIT and Sweet 16, so I think we have that tournament figured out, so we probably need to figure out this one. We have Philadelphia figured out too. We went to the NIT in Philadelphia for like two weeks, so we need to come here and win this game and stay here for about four or five days and move on and be ready to play.”

SYRACUSE PLAYERS

Rachel Coffey, Syracuse Guard

On her thoughts playing in the Lexington Regional ...
“I’m very excited. I’m a senior, so this is my last year. You want to leave your mark.”

On playing in back-to-back NCAA tournaments ...
“Last year, it was our first year and we were excited. This year, we are really focused on winning a game.”

On Chattanooga playing with a lot of confidence coming into this matchup ...
“They are really confident. We are going to come in and execute and play the 2-3 zone like we do. Don’t let them get into the high-post and play the game.”

Brianna Butler, Syracuse Guard

On staying focused during their long layoff ...
“I think that in practice we go hard every day, and we continue with the same mind set as we had in the beginning of the season. (We) look at the team we’re about to play and focus on that really.”

The attitude from last year to this year ...
“I think that experience plays a big role in that. Last year was our first time coming into the NCAA tournament and coming into this year, I think we’re more focused with using last year’s upset as motivation for us.”

Brittney Sykes, Syracuse Guard

On playing in Lexington ...
“It’s a blessing for us to be here in Lexington and grateful to be here playing Chattanooga. It feels really good to know that our hard work really paid off during the season and we’re here now in the NCAA.”

On coming back to the NCAA for the 2nd consecutive year ...
“Well, for one, last year losing to Creighton. We all know the feeling as a team losing in the first round. So, to comeback in back-to-back years, we have a sense of urgency and are more hungry to win and make history as a team and as a whole for Syracuse. The feeling would be unbelievable to come here and get the first win in Syracuse and that’s what has been pushing us this far as we lead up to tomorrow to play Chattanooga.”