Louisville post-game press conference after winning national title:
THE MODERATOR: Please welcome the head coach of the University of Louisville, Rick Pitino, as well as Louisville student‑athletes. Coach Pitino will begin with an opening statement.
COACH PITINO: Well, first I want to congratulate the University of Michigan. They are a great basketball team.
You know, a lot of times when you get to the Final Four, you get to a championship, the game’s not always great, not always pretty. This was a great college basketball game.
They are a tremendous offensive team. Fortunately for us, when we started this tournament, and Luke started playing a lot more minutes, we became a great halfcourt offensive basketball team. And tonight was as good as it gets.
They executed almost every play to perfection. They mixed it up well. Can’t tell you how proud I am of the guys, of the moment. 16 straight games from a five overtime, sharing a regular Big East championship in its last year, a tournament championship at Madison Square Garden and then a run to the national championship.
It’s just, for us, been an incredible run with just the most wonderful young men I had the pleasure to be around. So proud of them.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student‑athletes.
Q. You know Chane, how he started the year, the suspension, what does today say about his evolution as a player and a person?
PEYTON SIVA: Chane is a great player. Coach kept telling him for these last 16 games, Chane, you got to rebound. We watched countless number of hours of film on Kenny Faried. Chane told me before the game. He said, Thank you.
I was like, What.
He just said, Thank you.
He came out today, and he was a man amongst boys on the board. He started patting his stats a little bit, trying to miss his layups and get it back, but he played terrific tonight (smiling).
LUKE HANCOCK: He’s developed as a player, but as a person, too. Chane is one of our leaders out there. He showed it tonight. He said he was going to take care of the board. That’s what he did. He stepped up and was a leader.
Q. Luke, you guys are down 12, you hit four threes in a row at the end of the first half, what was going through your mind? Most points scored by a sub in the championship in 49 years.
LUKE HANCOCK: I just try to play off Russ and Peyton, and Wayne today. They’re so good at getting you open shots. Gorgui found me for a couple of those.
But I just tried to play with them. They’re the guys who are usually scoring all the points. If I can step in and hit an open shot, or just help out, I do. Russ and Peyton lead the show, and I just try to play off of them.
Q. Talk a bit about what this actually means to you. It’s the goal at the start of the year. In the end, you did it.
PEYTON SIVA: Well, I just got to thank God for blessing me with this opportunity. Winning this game, the whole game, Coach Pitino kept saying, You’re out of shape, son, you’re out of shape. You need to dig in.
I kept telling him, I got bruises all over my legs from getting hit. He wouldn’t listen to me.
It feels amazing to get this win. Playing for a great guy, not just from coaching, just a great father figure like Coach P, truly amazing.
I baby‑sit his grandkids. It’s truly amazing to get this win for him. I’m just truly blessed.
LUKE HANCOCK: I agree. Just blessed. Blessed to be in this situation. I’m just so happy for our team. I’m happy that multiple guys got to contribute on this great run. Everybody from Tim Henderson on. It’s just great for our team. I’m so happy for these guys.
CHANE BEHANAN: Yeah, I also agree. It’s a one‑time thing in life. You never know if you get this opportunity again. So we just left everything out there on the court.
For me, it’s just a dream come true. Just coming from where I come from, Cincinnati, Ohio, the area I grew up in, any kid would want to trade places with me today. To have the opportunity to come out here to show my talent, win a national championship with my brothers, it’s unbelievable. I love these guys like they my real brothers. That’s it. It’s just a dream come true.
Q. Luke, you got McGary up in the air for what turned out to be a big play, shot faking everybody all weekend. Could you describe that play, that particular move.
LUKE HANCOCK: I missed the free throws. That’s all I was mad about. Missed the first two.
But, I mean, it’s not something you really practice on. I mean, we do ball fakes, individuals, but you don’t practice leaning into somebody and trying to get a foul.
It ended up helping us out putting Trey Burke on the bench, but I don’t know how much help it was because Spike came in and killed us for a while.
You don’t work on jumping into Mitch McGary. He’s huge. When he came at me, he just kind of hit me.
Q. Luke, could you reflect a little bit on your journey. You were a guy that wasn’t recruited out of high school, barely recruited out of prep school. And the personal stuff with what your father is going through this week.
LUKE HANCOCK: All of that?
I wasn’t recruited real high out of high school. I went to prep school and picked up several offers. George Mason recruited me, Coach Larranaga, made me feel like I was home at George Mason. So I went there. Then I ended up needing to transferring when he left.
Coach Keatts and Coach Pitino made me feel like this was a home, that we’d have a chance to win a national title.
I’m so excited for this team to be in this situation. It’s been a long road. There’s really no way to describe how I feel that my dad was here. It’s hard to put into words. I’m so excited that he was here, it just means a lot.
Q. You have come back a number of times this year. The way Spike Albrecht was landing haymakers, did it feel different from other deficits you had earlier this year?
CHANE BEHANAN: It did kind of feel different because he was hitting them back‑to‑back, going to the rim on us. We’ve been in situations like this, Syracuse game back in the Big East, we was down 15 at the half. This game, we knew we was going to get over the hump, but when they had all the momentum going for them, it felt like we weren’t going to come over the hump.
But as positive a coach as Coach Pitino is in the huddle, he told us to dig in, stop the three, we gonna make our run. That’s when Luke came and hit four threes back‑to‑back. I think that’s what changed the game for us going into halftime.
LUKE HANCOCK: Yeah, I mean, obviously this is a bigger game. Means a lot more. I was nervous, how much moment they had, how well they were playing. We know how great of a team Michigan is. It definitely makes you nervous. We were able to come back and our pressure ended up wearing them down a little bit.
Q. Chane, how much did the idea of winning it for Kevin, getting him up to cut down the nets, how much was that a motivator tonight?
CHANE BEHANAN: It was a big motivator for us just for the simple fact I think Kevin Ware would do anything to be back out there. We was all locked in for him, ourselves, our coaching staff, also for our fans and our family.
Kevin was a big part of this team. To see him going down like he did, it was devastating. It was a big motivator for us.
Q. What does it mean to win the national championship this year after your arch rival Kentucky won it last year?
PEYTON SIVA: Well, for us to win this national championship truly a blessing from God. We don’t look at it as who won it last year. We’re living in the present. We got this win for our team.
I told somebody earlier, this is really what a team is. This is really what college basketball is about, a group of guys who are like family. With Kevin Ware going down like that, everybody rallying around him, it showed how much we love each other, that we are a family. We’re truly blessed to be here with this national championship trophy.
LUKE HANCOCK: As a team, we’re just blessed to be in this situation. That’s what we’re worried about. I’m so happy for these guys, my teammates. That’s what we’re thinking about. I just love these guys, coaches, our fans and everything, like Peyton said.
CHANE BEHANAN: What Luke said (smiling).
Q. Peyton, it almost seemed like you were particularly energized in the second half and you wanted to take control of the game. Could you tell us what was going on in your mind and did, in fact, you want to be the guy that got things going?
PEYTON SIVA: Well, this is why I love Coach P so much. At halftime he kept asking me like, Do you know the plays? You keep looking over at me and asking me what plays to run.
Yeah, I know the plays.
In the second half, he let me call the plays, what I saw out on the court. That’s what I do, try to be an extension of him, try to gather my guys, get them in the right position.
As a point guard for this team, it’s my duty to create good shots, take care of the ball, play good ball, play good defense.
Coach P kept telling me, Dig in, dig in, dig in. They was knocking down some difficult shots in the first half. Luckily we wore them down. We got a big win tonight.
Q. Do you have any suggestions as to what Rick ought to do in terms of a tattoo?
PEYTON SIVA: You know, get my name. At the beginning of the year, If you guys win, I’ll get a tattoo. It was crazy to even think about it.
But we won. So he’s a man of his word. I told some reporters he should get a lower back tattoo. He said, Does it sting? I said, I don’t know, I don’t have any tattoos.
LUKE HANCOCK: I don’t have any tattoos. But we have a couple ideas. I don’t think he knew what he was getting into when he signed up for that one.
PEYTON SIVA: I think that was our biggest motivation, was to get Coach P a tattoo.
Q. Peyton, sometimes you would lay back if Russ had something going. Can you explain what it was like to go ‘mano y mano’ back and forth with Burke like that?
PEYTON SIVA: Russ, he was taking the usual shots he usually takes. They weren’t falling. Tonight wasn’t his night. He carried us the whole way. Without him we definitely wouldn’t be here. In the second half, I saw a lot of openings and chances to go and attack, and that’s what I tried to do.
As far as getting in mano‑y‑mano match with Trey Burke, I was just trying to win the game. I wasn’t trying to get into a head‑to‑head competition with him. I know he’s such a great player, such a talented young guy. That’s why I went up to him after the game and gave him a big hug.
I met his family earlier at the Hall of Fame thing. They’re amazing. I told him to keep his head up. He has a bright future ahead of him. I was just trying to get this win for my team.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll dismiss the student‑athletes and at this point and continue with questions for Coach Pitino.
Q. It was a big story with Kevin, with his injury. In U.S. Sports, there are big stories over the year. How would you rate this thing, finally winning the title?
COACH PITINO: Well, after the incident, we knew Kevin was going to be okay, he was then a member of the team. Four years ago we built a brand. I felt if you stay at a school, you have to change your brand. Our school was going to be Louisville first. Everything we do is for our team, university and city, not for ourselves. That brand is the reason we won tonight.
Kevin, without question, I’m not sure I could have, or the players, gotten over that emotional trauma, if he didn’t say to me, Coach, I’ll be fine, we’ve got to win the game. He said it three times.
I said, Hold on. I got everybody in. I’m not sure any of us could have beaten a great team like Duke unless he gathered us all together. From there, there’s so many plots.
We don’t get to the final game if a walk‑on doesn’t step up and hit two gigantic threes. As soon as we started playing Luke Hancock more, our halfcourt offense evolved into something that was very special. Luke is a play‑maker along with Peyton.
Q. Chane started the year with the suspension. What does this game say about his ability to focus and his evolution as a player?
COACH PITINO: First and foremost, it’s no serious matters that they got suspended for. Serious enough to get suspended, but it’s something I’m a big believer in fun, in discipline and love. Chane just needed to grow up, as well as Kevin, mature as an adult.
I’ll tell you something about Chane Behanan. When the chips are down, things don’t go well, that young man rises to a new level. There’s no question, when I looked at him today, he shook my hand and said, Don’t worry about me, I’ll bring it tonight. He always rises in big games. He’s 6’6″, 6’7″. He was a monster tonight.
Q. You’ve coached long enough to be named to the Hall of Fame today. Have you seen teams with this kind of chemistry before? Is there something that you do in either attracting the players or in the way you coach them that builds a chemistry and bond like these guys have?
COACH PITINO: I think when you work as hard as we work, it builds a foundation of love and discipline ’cause you have to suffer together. You’re always pressing.
I knew Peyton. I was all over Peyton the entire night. I thought he’d have to play 38 minutes. He was pressing, running. I knew he was exhausted. I kept saying, You’re out of shape. He looked at me and he knew what I was getting at.
You got to dig in, man. I know what you’re doing, but you’re not in the shape, I thought you were. I had to keep prodding him and prodding him because watching him, I was out of gas. He just gave a brilliant performance, not only from a playing standpoint, but a leadership standpoint, conditioning standpoint. He was off‑the‑charts awesome.
Q. With everything you’ve been through over the last few years, just the emotions, when the buzzer sounded, when you were hugging your wife, talk a little bit about that.
COACH PITINO: You know, you never know how you’re going to feel when you get such a special moment like the Hall of Fame. All afternoon I was just reflecting and thinking. Tonight I gathered my family at the end and I presented my sister‑in‑law, I said, This is the most important item I have in my life, but it’s now yours.
We’ve had a rough go, our family. Mary Minardi, the youngest one, her husband went to a retirement party in New York. The man who was retiring, he didn’t have a way home. He gave his car voucher. And downtown New York, Don started hailing a taxi, got hit by a taxi and died. Five months later, she lost her brother in 9/11.
Unlike Stephanie, who I’ve been able to be an uncle to her children, she lives four homes down, she had to work. She has no money. She has to work her tail off, raise three children, put them through college. I told her tonight, Mary, I’m not the Hall of Fame, you’re the Hall of Fame. This is the most special thing that’s happened to me personally and I want you to have it. I gave it to her on the court. We’re a family that’s had a lot of difficult times.
That being said, no one celebrate like the Pitinos and the Minardis. No one. We celebrate together. My children, they have a lot of Irish in them the way they celebrate.
Q. Rick, with time and perspective, what changes in your emotions from the last one?
COACH PITINO: Well, ’96, I just had to control the egos and understand, It’s not about the pros, it’s about winning a championship. I had a great team, one of the best teams in the history of the college basketball.
This team is one of the most together, toughest, hard‑nosed teams. We played a great team the other night in Wichita State and got outplayed for about 34 minutes of the game. But this team, being down never bothers us. They just come back.
In the tournament, we became a great halfcourt team strictly because we played Luke Hancock more minutes. Gorgui was brilliant tonight. Six assists. He played terrific. I want to encourage all my guys to put their name in the draft, just get the experience of trying out, whether they do it or not, not get an agent.
Guys like Russ, Chane, Gorgui. I want them to learn the experience. Probably two of them will come back, one may go. They deserve the experience the amount they worked.
When we lost to Notre Dame, I said, Guys, we never panic. But mentally you’ve got to become a great basketball team, not just physically. Your superior conditioning, your willingness to work hard is great, but you’re making too many mental mistakes.
I gave them very demanding goals. I said, It’s not probable what I’m about to say to you, but I think it’s possible. I think we can win the next seven games, go into the most special arena in America, win the tournament in Madison Square Garden, then go on, be a No.1 seed and win the national championship.
So we talked about it. We were quite open about it. When you set demanding goals, you really do have to focus in and pay attention to that. That was our goals right after the Notre Dame game. They were down. I said, You shouldn’t be down. Give them credit. Here is what we’re going to do.
To be honest with you, I’m just so amazed that they should accomplish everything that we put out there. I’m absolutely amazed as a basketball coach.
Q. Could I clarify, what is it that you gave your sister‑in‑law?
COACH PITINO: The Hall of Fame jersey I got. Like I said, it was probably the most special thing I’d ever gotten in my life. But to me, she’s the Hall of Famer. The tough luck she’s had in life. Another thing she’s also done, she was an alcoholic from everything that’s happened, and she’s been sober for 10 years. Just her courage, I wanted her to have something special.
I’m so proud of her as a mom, everything she’s had to go through. She’s the Hall of Famer in our family.
Q. In the heat of the game, can you appreciate how great of a game it was?
COACH PITINO: You know, that’s the great thing about it. Sometimes expectations get so high, I knew it would be a great game. You never know if you’re going to win. The other night I knew that Michigan/Syracuse wouldn’t be a great game. I knew our game against Wichita State wasn’t going to be a great game because of the type of defense Syracuse and Wichita play.
I knew this game would be a great game. Two great offensive teams doing battle. Two great backcourts, great front courts, great talent. I was so happy to see that because I knew it would be a great game. Didn’t know we’d win, but I knew it would be a great game.
Q. What did it mean to you to watch that basket come down to Kevin Ware’s level, cut the net down, the place goes crazy for him?
COACH PITINO: It’s been such a rollercoaster of emotions. I’ve been around when guys blow out their ACLs, but I’ve never seen such affection and spontaneous emotion. I look back on it and say, That was really, really special. I was glad to be part of this team.
Q. Rick, in ’96 when you won, you had I think nine pros, maybe six first‑round picks. College basketball has changed a lot. Can you talk a little bit about how this team is indicative of the evolution of college basketball?
COACH PITINO: You know, I think the game today is much better than it was in ’96 for this reason: it’s always about the athletes and the student‑athletes. Now, I’m one that would love to see the guys to see all the UCLA players come back and graduate and do all of that. It’s so exciting because Coach Wooden’s teams, you knew who was going to win. Dean Smith’s teams, the Kentucky teams, my team in ’96.
You had no idea who was going to win going into this tournament. I think that’s so much fun as long as the game is well played. Tonight was a great championship game. They were tremendous. We had to beat a tremendous team.
My tenure in coaching, I’ve never seen, the amount of games I coached in this tournament, I’ve never seen such brilliance from the guys on the sidelines that I coached against. Some of the guys, like Dana from Oregon, Larry Eustachy, from our first game A&T, tonight the coach was phenomenal, phenomenal. I’ve never been around this type of coaching excellence in my coaching tenure. I’m proud to be part of this fraternity.
I think the game is great right now. We have to tweak it to where everybody is not just taking off and drawing offensive fouls. We’ve got to make it where 80% of those are blocks. Then we’ve got to create more freedom of movement. I told you the story last time I was here that we averaged 116.8 points per game with the Knicks, and everybody but one team was over 100 per game.
Then David Stern wanted to do something about it because there wasn’t enough scoring. Now the pro game is better, because they allowed freedom of movement. The LeBrons of the world can truly be great players because they’re not being checked everywhere.
That’s the next step of evolution in the college game. We have to stop all the hitting, fouling and the flopping. I think with the story of tonight where a Kevin Ware can rally the troops to beat Duke with the greatest coach‑‑ one of the two greatest coaches in the history of our game, he was responsible for rallying us against CoachK, who is the best in our game. When Tim Henderson, a walk‑on, will carry you through to a championship game, then these guys to rally for a championship against a great team tonight is something really, really special. It just happened to happen to us, but it’s really special.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach. Congratulations.
COACH PITINO: Thank you, everybody.
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