Q. For each of you, your thoughts on where the team is at right now and what’s going to be important tomorrow against Louisville?
JORDAN MURPHY: I think our team is in a good place, confident going into tomorrow. We’re still figuring out our game plan and stuff like that and figuring out our plan of attack. Obviously, it’s a very important game to us. Means a lot to our young guys and our older guys going out in a good way. I think that’s about it.
DUPREE McBRAYER: Still figuring some things out on how we are going to guard and stuff, but we feel really good about tomorrow.
Q. The angle in our town is Rick Pitino and Richard Pitino and all of that. Does that cross your consciousness in Minnesota? Does it even come up?
JORDAN MURPHY: No, not at all. We probably see those headlines all the time and we take it with a grain of salt and pass by it. It’s not something our team is focused on. It’s about our team versus Louisville and that’s it.
DUPREE McBRAYER: I’ve been telling the guys from day one it’s not about the Pitino family. It’s about Minnesota versus Louisville and knowing that our coach came from Louisville and it’s just Minnesota versus Louisville. We will be fine.
Q. In the absence of other questions, how much contact have you had with the senior Pitino? How much has he been at your practices? Have you learned anything from him about basketball? Take all the other stuff out of it.
JORDAN MURPHY: We really haven’t had a lot of contact with him. Obviously, he got a new coaching job overseas. So we haven’t had a lot of contact with him this year. Obviously, you see him tweeting all the time and giving us his best regards. So I think that’s about the most part, but we appreciate his support wherever he is at.
DUPREE McBRAYER: Before he got his job over in Greece he was able to give us pointers, and that’s about it. He’s in Greece, and like Murph said, we see his tweets giving us his best regards. We thank him for his support.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much.
At this time, we have Richard Pitino, University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. They are making their second NCAA appearance and second in the last three years under Richard Pitino. Coach?
RICHARD PITINO: Excited to be here. The grind of a regular season is a lot, and the goal is obviously going to an NCAA Tournament. So that in itself is a great accomplishment. Proud of our guys to be able to bounce back from a lot of things out of their control last year to get back to an NCAA Tournament with five new players, starting two freshmen, playing one of the toughest schedules in the country and obviously one of the best conferences in all of college basketball.
To be here is great. We move on to a new season. Celebration is over and now it’s time to go compete for a championship and play a really, really good Louisville team.
Q. Richard, of all the teams you could have played in the first game here it’s Louisville. What was your reaction when you saw that team in the bracket opposite you?
RICHARD PITINO: Well, I was wanting to know where we were playing. Location is important to me. Then I wanted to know what day we were playing because we got a little injury with Matz. I was hoping that we would play Friday. But other than that it was more about okay, how does Louisville play? It’s get to work. Watch film on them. Put together a game plan.
You know, all that other stuff didn’t even really cross my mind to be honest. It was doing my very best to put ourselves in a position to play a really good Louisville team, a very well-coached Louisville team.
Q. With Jordan Murphy, how has he picked your brain over the years to try to become a better player, and how have you seen him do that?
RICHARD PITINO: Jordan is a thinker. He’s not one of those guys you yell and scream at. He’s analytical. You more need to talk to him about his game. Every big guy in the country has an identity crisis. They want to be outside. They want to be shooting threes. They want to do those things, and Murph did can do that. He can shoot threes, but he knows where his bread is buttered. We’ve talked about that. And we’ve told them not to deviate from where he is. Do great at what you’re good at. Obviously, with Murph it’s a process of me and him communicating all the time about where we can put him in a position to succeed. He’s a real coachable kid.
Q. You picked up things from your dad along the way coaching in the tournament. Have you picked up X’s and O’s or mentality? This team is good at relaxing at this time of year. Was it more strategy or mentality you picked up along the way?
RICHARD PITINO: I would say the coaches you are around. The X and O part you are going to do what you feel comfortable with, but it’s that environment that you take from and the culture that they build and the way they are at times like this in March. I’ve been lucky to be around it, obviously, growing up my whole life. As an assistant coach I was in several tournaments as well. You’ve got to make it about the game. You’ve got to enjoy this. You’ve got to enjoy the exposure and the spotlight being on your program. You’ve got to enjoy these open practices, be in front of fans and to do these things. But then you’ve got to make it about basketball. That’s the biggest things. You’ve got to execute. You’ve got to go tough. It’s a single-elimination tournament, and playing at this level in the Big Ten tournament we were able to get two wins in single-elimination games. So I think we understand that part of it, but we’ve also got new guys that haven’t been here before. So that may be a new adjustment period throughout the course of the game as well.
Q. Your dad is not known for holding his tongue, but he has not tweeted about this game. He has not texted as far as I know about this game. Has he been asked to be quiet?
RICHARD PITINO: Not by me. We spoke. Normally he would listen if I told him to be quiet. I think you know better than that. No, I spoke to him once. He’s in Greece. Not easy to get ahold of people in Greece. We didn’t talk much about anything other than he asked about Matz, how he’s doing, asked about the team. At the end of the day my focus is totally on helping our team be put in a position to succeed, not a whole lot else more than that.
Q. When you talk about the job and I know you and Luke Murray are friends. The job that they’ve done and that the staff has done and you knew the guys and the job that Chris has done this season?
RICHARD PITINO: It’s been really good. Whenever you’re bringing in fifth year seniors. Do they have a true freshman on the roster? They don’t. Obviously, with them coming in here and scrapping together a pretty good roster, obviously Jordan Juarez one of the most improved players in the country. Offensively what they run is tough. Defensively very good and what Chris Mack did at Xavier is phenomenal. I’ve got a lot of respect about what they do. I think Chris does a terrific job. Luke is one of the best up-and-coming assistant coaches in the country. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a head coaching job at some point soon. He is really, really connected. So all those guys do a great job. I think Chris will win big there.
Q. Coach, you mentioned mental toughness. Is this team tougher mentally than any of your past teams and if the answer is yes, why?
RICHARD PITINO: I think some of ’em are. You know, anytime you get whether it’s the Big Ten or any of these power conferences you need to try to stay old to the best of your ability. It’s hard to do with transfers and deflections and so on, but when you got Michael Hurt, Jordan Murphy, Eric Curry, Dupree McBrayer, guys like that who have played in the NCAA Tournament and who have finished in the top 4 in the Big Ten, played on the road in the Big Ten, went undefeated two years ago. Those are the guys that need to be the voices. The other guys need to follow suite from there. That’s what being part of a winning program is about. You need guys in your locker room to step up and I think we’ve got really good leadership in there. They don’t get real emotional. They’re not too high, they’re not too low. I try to be that way and I think the personnel is as well. They go about their business. They’re not about a beat your chest type of team. You make a three you’re not going to see a bow and arrow. They’re just going to get back on defense, and that’s the way I like it. They’re a fun group to be around.
Q. Coach, update us on Matz?
RICHARD PITINO: We held him out yesterday, slowly coming back, getting a little bit better. That will be a game-time decision, but he got popped pretty good in that Purdue game. So we’ve got to make sure we’re careful with him and do what’s best for him.
Q. Jarvis has a unique role on your team. Talk about that?
RICHARD PITINO: We did a military team building thing in the fall and you do a bunch of team building exercises, and Jarvis, they’ve done the program for seven or eight years and at the end of it they give an MVP t-shirt to the best leaders and at the end of it Jarvis was one of the two best leaders. Crazy good quality leadership. Played off and on. You would never know it. He is on the bench, not afraid. We talked about vulnerability. Russell Westbrook is one guy. He is not afraid to compete, and that’s Jarvis. He is not afraid to be emotional and pour himself into the team. He came in that game versus Michigan and everybody was exhausted and he was like the Energizer bunny, because he plays so hard. So I think his future is bright.
Q. What has Matz meant to the team this year especially with Curry going down?
RICHARD PITINO: Curry does down right before the Purdue game and Matz hadn’t played a lot. He played in the nonconference and did some good things. But with Curry going down Matz comes into the game with 7 blocks, 9 rebounds, 6 points, and changed the game. That’s what being part of a team is all about, being ready to go, not feeling sorry for yourself when you don’t play. He’s a terrific, terrific kid. He’s been a valuable member of the team. He’s never pouted and never felt sorry for himself. That’s what being a team member is all about, being ready when your number is called. It’s crucial. We will hopefully have him back tomorrow and I don’t know if we will or not, hopefully he gets healthy more than anything.
Q. I know earlier this week you said this isn’t about you versus Louisville, but as you get closer to the game how do you control those emotions and make sure they don’t seep into your preparation?
RICHARD PITINO: As you get closer, more and more it’s about the game. It’s been that way from day one. I think when you see Louisville pop up you are more about okay, what am I going to say to the media? How am I going to lie to the media? I think you have to be prepared for those questions. But from an emotional standpoint when you play in the Big Ten there are so many emotional games. I learned that. I’m only 36. As a young head coach you have to keep your emotions in check. I think I do a pretty decent job of that but that ball goes up and I’m watching film and I’m watching Louisville play, it’s not about who the name on the front of the jersey is. I’m watching a really good team Louisville, a well-prepared team with a lot of talent, and how can I put myself into a position to beat them and I know it’s going to be difficult.
Q. For Johnson, it’s been a complex path over the last four years for him. He had a big moment on senior night. What has he brought to the team?
RICHARD PITINO: Jarvis Johnson was an important recruit for me when I got to the Twin Cities. He was a fringe guard. We thought he would fit us well. The cool thing about Jarvis is he signed with a third year head coach, to believe in me and when he’s been here he’s provided unbelievable leadership. He is a voice in the locker room, regardless of the fact that he plays and he talked about the right things. He’s been appreciative. His family has been appreciative. You don’t always get that as well, so he’s been a very, very valuable member of our program and unfortunately hasn’t been able to play. But we all see the big picture and we are happy that he’s going to be able to graduate.
Q. NCAA was asked if anybody in the room said, “Is this a good idea to match Louisville and Minnesota,” chose not to comment. What is your thought on that? Should this game have been played or should they have found a way to match you with somebody else?
RICHARD PITINO: I don’t have a whole lot of opinion on it because when I’m sitting there Selection Sunday I’m looking around. I’m excited about the fact that I know we’re in the NCAA Tournament. I’ll play whoever. I’m excited. There is not one part of me that isn’t 1000% honored, appreciative, humbled by the fact that we’re in the NCAA Tournament. It’s a hard tournament to go to, only 19% of our college basketball teams get to go to it. So you never are going to hear me ever complain about anything that we play. Like I said, I got tons of respect for their program. Their coaching staff does a really good job. So I’m going to be very, very excited tonight leading up to this game and tomorrow. Doesn’t matter who we play. I’m just grateful for the opportunity.
Q. You mentioned Jordan, but also Steven Enoch and Malik Williams and other guys that can step out and hit the three. How do they affect the game?
RICHARD PITINO: The way that they play is a coaches dream. We’ve got five guys that can step out and shoot. Malik can knock down a shot. Enoch is so big down low and the fact that he could hit a three is a different dimension as well, and anytime you have pick-and-pop and pick-and-roll, I think we’ve got really good personnel. I think Chris does a good job of putting them in the right spots to put you in a bind and make you make decisions.
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