Final Four Press Conference: Coach Howland, Love, and Collison
NCAA MEN'S FINAL FOUR
April 4, 2008
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with Coach Howland.
Q. A little bit about the familiarity between UCLA and Memphis. You played a really ugly game a couple years ago that was a defensive battle. A little bit about this matchup this time around.
COACH HOWLAND: They're a great team. I think both teams are probably better than the last time we met two years ago, primarily because so many of the players in tomorrow's game played in that game and have had a couple years' experience. Then each team has added a great freshman, in our case obviously Kevin Love, and on their side Rose.
So it's gonna be a very tough game for us. We know that. When I look at their lineup, they're just loaded with so many guys who can score in different ways. They have a great perimeter game. They have a good inside game. They really push the ball. They create a lot of havoc with their defense and a lot of offense from forcing turnovers and blocking shots.
Q. Aside from the obvious talent, do you see anything that Love and Rose have in common?
COACH HOWLAND: I think the thing they have in common is all the hype and expectation surrounding them coming into college. These were two of the top five players coming out of high school last year, for sure. Kevin won just about every award, national Player of the Year. But yet when you have that much expectation, hype for each kid, to be able to handle all the incredible scrutiny, everybody trying to interview them.
I remember when we first started psychological, it was incredible how much demand there was for Kevin with all the different magazines. To be able to handle that all and still perform so well and lead their respective teams to Final Fours, which I think they've both been obviously key drivers behind both teams, has been really special.
Q. Obviously Memphis and you have gotten here. At this stage of the season, is your steady diet of PAC-10 basketball given you -- any relevance over Memphis' steady diet of Conference USA?
COACH HOWLAND: I would say we played now 20 games against the NCAA tournament field this year. So we've had a very difficult schedule. I think that's the most of any of the four teams. And 10 games against the teams that were in the Sweet 16, not including tomorrow.
So we've had, you know, a lot of tough games from start to finish, and especially when we started PAC-10 play, it just seems to never end.
You know, they've had -- I think that John was really, really smart the way he staggers in some really tough games during the middle of their conference. I don't think they're -- the fact that the PAC-10 is such a tough conference gives us any advantage over them. They play -- they're playing SC, they played Arizona, they played UConn, they played Tennessee, they've played Gonzaga. I mean, their schedule is star-studded as ever. In their conference, they're always a team that everybody is doing their very best to try to beat. They're getting everybody's best effort every night. And we experience that same thing in our conference.
So that always makes it doubly difficult when you're playing against somebody.
Q. If I remember correctly, you were  Weber State's defensive player two times. That is correct?
COACH HOWLAND: Uh-huh.
Q. Do you have any idea where those trophies are?
COACH HOWLAND: Probably in my garage somewhere. I think it was really a token award two years in a row. I think Neil McCarthy felt bad for me so he wanted to take care of me in some way. I appreciate that from Coach McCarthy.
Q. Why defense? What is it about defense for you?
COACH HOWLAND: In terms of what? What's the question?
Q. In terms of what you've always gravitated to, your coaching style.
COACH HOWLAND: I actually was a shooter (smiling). I got credit for being a good defender because I tried hard and played with a lot of enthusiasm and passion.
But as a coach, I understand that's what wins. And it's true in any sport. When you look at the best teams in football, where it be the Giants this year, the Patriots, who made the longest runs, you look at LSU's defense this year in college football, look at baseball, always comes down to pitching and defense, that's always going to give you a chance. The same is true in basketball. You look at how good the Spurs are year in and year out defensively, how Phil Jackson's teams, all nine championships were great defensive teams.
It's really clear defense is a constant that you have the most control over as a team because it's effort and preparation every day. Some nights that shot's going to be going and you're going to be knocking things down without even looking at the basket. But on those days where it may be rough, you know, like that game, for example, you alluded to two years ago, I watched that game just the other night, and it was a game where we turned the ball over many times, really struggled to score, largely due to their good defense. They had a tough time scoring because we played good defense.
At the end, it -- there's no way this will be one of those games where it's 50 to 45. Both teams are better. There's just no way you can hold a team like them down like we did last time. They're just so much more experienced and better. Then when you add Jason Kidd to the lineup, it makes it even doubly difficult.
Q. I know Kevin Love took it upon himself to reach out to Coach Wooden, sought his advice. Can you talk about that relationship, what that says about Kevin and his character.
COACH HOWLAND: Well, when we recruited Kevin, we arranged for Coach Wooden to come on campus to meet with Kevin and his family. Coach is retained as an employee of the university, which allows him to be able to do that, not only with basketball recruits, but other recruits.
Now he's cut back on that in the last couple years. It's pretty rare that he does that, come to the campus. We used to have breakfast with him once in a while.
The great thing for Kevin, his parents and his father really instilled in him, because his dad Stan played against Coach Wooden's teams, you know, when at the University of Oregon. So Kevin, and I really appreciate this, because I love the history of the game, he has great appreciation for the history of basketball, of college basketball, knowing all the players, being exposed to film at an early age.
So what I really love about that is that he has a true appreciation for it and really, really cares about it. You know, he gets how great it is for him to be able to know and to be able to have a relationship with Coach John R. Wooden, who is the greatest coach in the history of all sport, in my opinion.
Q. Can you talk a minute about the big-man matchup, Kevin, I don't know if it will be solely against Joey Dorsey, might be Dozier, they have two or three different bigs that can rotate on Kevin. Can you talk about that matchup?
COACH HOWLAND: Well, Dorsey we played against. Remember, the first time we played Memphis, we played him twice two years ago in the same year. They crushed us at Madison Square Garden, November, the pre-season of the NIT, I think it was. They had a great team that year. I think their team this year's much better because of all the experience, Roberts returns from that team, Dozier returns from that team, Dorsey was on that team, so on and so forth. A lot of their key guys. Anderson, their four other starters played significant minutes with them two years ago.
But Dorsey is just so strong and so physical and so tough, I remember when he was coming out of Baltimore, I was still the head coach at Pitt. But Kevin will probably see a multitude of bigs rotating at him, including Taggart, as well. They're big, they're strong, they're tough, they pressure the ball, they switch a lot on the perimeter. They're switching one through four. All ball screens, sometimes one through five. They're also very athletic. They make every pass hard to complete.
What's amazing is that, okay, we played Michigan State in November. In November, Darren wasn't playing in that game, so that was a disadvantage. But we were lucky to beat Michigan State. We were down 13, I think, early in the second half and came back and took a one-point lead with 30 seconds to go and ended up winning by three. They had them down 50 to 20 at the half last week. That just is incredible to me.
Then we got beat by Texas at home in a tough game. We played 'em tough. But they ended up beating us on our home floor. They had them down 17.
We understand how good Memphis is as a team and have unbelievable respect for not only how good they are, but what they've accomplished. 37-1, close to being 38-0. They were up one in that game against Tennessee with three minutes to go.
With all that pressure of trying to be "undefeated" all that, they have just been incredible. You have to commend their coach, Coach Calipari, and their players.
Q. You talked about the big-men matchup. What about out front with the guards?
COACH HOWLAND: Rose and Roberts are their guards. I think they have 98 points last weekend between the two of them. They each averaged about 25 a game in their last two games. Rose and Roberts are their two leading scorers on the year. They're a very difficult matchup. Rose because he's so strong, he can get wherever he wants to go. He is so quick. You know, I saw one play against I believe it was Texas where he went up and grabbed the ball on a rebound on defense, two hands, way above the rim. You know, it looked like Jason Kidd or Sidney Moncrief or something. Went coast-to-coast like a bull at the time, about three seconds, if that, the other end, laid it in.
Then you look at Roberts how he finishes, left hand, right hand, floaters, jumpers, post-up, face-up. I mean, these guys are great players. They're both future NBA players obviously.
That's why they're hard to match up with anybody, much less up.
Q. I understand you've been listening to a lot of Ribbon in the Sky when you've been breaking down film. Any significance to that song? Any reason for that?
COACH HOWLAND: I actually saw Stevie Wonder in concert this year at the Santa Barbara County Bowl. I've always loved Stevie. He actually sang that song this summer. He's improvising. He sang it for about, I don't know, 10 minutes. It was actually incredible. The recording I have, I listen to it when I'm watching film once in a while, does it no justice. But no significance other than I really liked how he sang it this summer. I was so impressed with him. Hope he's on tour again this summer.
Q. Kevin and the bigs, how much of an advantage is it for him to be able to take those guys outside and shoot from the outside?
COACH HOWLAND: That's always more difficult to guard a player who can face-up, post-up, bounce it, pass it. And Kevin is a tough matchup. He's really improved as the season's progressed at knocking down those perimeter shots. I remember I think it was against - who was it - Oregon State maybe, somebody, he hit three threes in a row late in the year right from the top of the key to start the second half.
You know, Kevin can really, really shoot the basketball. I've been working with him on that halfcourt and full-court shot all year, and it's starting to play dividends. We're really excited about that.
THE MODERATOR: That's all the time we have. Thank you, coach.
COACH HOWLAND: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Darren, Kevin said when he first started trying to be a leader, people just kind of shrugged him off. How did he convince you guys and when that he was okay like that?
DARREN COLLISON: Uhm, you know, personally for myself, you know, I always listen to Kevin. Kevin's IQ of basketball is phenomenal. Just as a freshman, he doesn't think as a freshman, he thinks, you know, probably as a senior for this game. From high school to college is a big transition. And you can see that he's already made for this game, if not better.
The thing I wanted to do with this team is just make everybody feel comfortable so everybody could play at they best. I thought we did a good job of that this year. Kevin probably had his times, but for the most part, you know, when Kevin says something, everybody listen. It was all meaningful to us.
Q. Kevin, I know coach talked about you reaching out to Coach Wooden and talking to him. Why did you feel the reason to do that and your appreciation of history to take that step on your own?
KEVIN LOVE: I would say mostly because my dad and myself, I would have it no other way. I've always tried to be a historian for the game. You know, in my situation, coming into UCLA, being a big recruit, you know, I felt it was only the right thing to do to reach out to Coach Wooden. I feel like anybody in the same situation would do the same thing as well because I feel like, not only is he one of the greatest human beings I've ever met, he's also the best coach I've ever met as well. He's probably the best coach in college basketball ever. Has 10 national championships, coached two of the greatest NCAA players of all time, and some of the greatest basketball players of all time.
Q. Were you surprised he reached out and called him?
DARREN COLLISON: Definitely, I was real surprised. I can't remember the last time a player has done that. Just proved to my last point I made about him, his maturity level. He just wants to learn so much about the game, he's gonna do whatever it takes and ask whoever to learn about the game.
Q. Kevin, the crowd seemed to enjoy your full-court shots quite a bit. If you have to point to one single thing you did growing up to help you prepare for that shot, working out, what was it? Darren, how is your full-court shot coming along?
KEVIN LOVE: I always keep stating my dad Stan, but he really helped me with that as well. He always had me doing the curl bars with the weights, doing push-ups. But mostly it was fingertip push-ups as well. Wes Unseld doing them all the time, which is actually my middle name. I'm sure all of you know by now, I'm named after Wes Unseld after how many times I've mentioned it.
No, I've worked on that shot since I was about, you know, a freshman, doing it on the smaller court, my sophomore and junior year where I moved to a bigger court. Now I'm pretty consistent on hitting the rim or the backboard.
DARREN COLLISON: My full-court shot is coming along as well, too (laughter).
Q. After you made the one out there, did you consider just going out and leaving the court at that point?
KEVIN LOVE: I wanted to make two in a row actually. That's what I was trying to do. I hit the rim a couple more times after that.
Coach Howland, along with a couple of the trainers, pulled me off the court after I sat down and tried to start making them from halfcourt as well.
It's all fun and games. We're going out there trying to dunk, trying to make halfcourt shots, everything like that. But come game time tomorrow, we'll be focused and ready.
Q. Jordan Farmar related a story a couple years ago that in his recruitment, Ben talked about defense, defense and more defense. Has he changed the picture at all? Do you ever at times wonder if he's ever going to mention offense?
DARREN COLLISON: I mean, it's the reason why we're here, 'cause of his defense philosophy. You know, he really does talk about offense in practice, and practice is nothing like the games. It's real physical. You know, guys are hurt every day. Knicks and nags every day. Practice against Kevin, guys really get after him in practice. It mainly started with the defensive end.
I always felt we were a defensive team because when we really started, you know, playing as hard on the defensive end, that really starts our offense. We do a good job of not worrying about offense because we're good enough to score whenever we want. But, again, you know, Coach Howland, he's done a good job of emphasizing that throughout my whole years at UCLA.
KEVIN LOVE: Just like Darren mentioned, Coach Howland emphasized defense all throughout the year. Every practice, that's what we start out with. Our main focus is always the defensive end, knowing if we take care of it on the defensive end, we're hyped up, getting steals, deflections, doing everything we need to do on the defensive end, that the offensive end will take care of itself and we feel pretty confident that we can score every possession down.
Q. I know last night y'all got to preview One Shining Moment. Did that inspire you?
KEVIN LOVE: That gave me chills, I don't know about you. But you've been here how many times now, three times?
DARREN COLLISON: The video itself was cool. But personally I'm kind of tired of the music. I'm not just trying to be mean. It's just like, you know, you hear it so many times.
KEVIN LOVE: "The ball is tipped and there you are" (singing and laughing).
DARREN COLLISON: Third year, right now it's just about winning. You can hear the music all you want, but if you don't win it, you're not going to be a fan of it. Maybe when we win it, I'm going to love that music. I'm going to play it a lot.
KEVIN LOVE: I feel the same way. As you can see, I didn't get the singing gene from my Uncle Mike. That sent chills up and down my spine, even though, like Darren said, the song is a little cheesy.
When it says, Will you be next, that was pretty cool.
DARREN COLLISON: How long have they had that music? Anybody know? Can they change it? Have a little hip-hop?
KEVIN LOVE: What are they going to throw in there, though?
DARREN COLLISON: A little Jay Z.
KEVIN LOVE: You want me to give you a beat? Darren is a little camera shy. Trying to help my counterpart out here. You want the beat?
DARREN COLLISON: Go ahead and sing.
KEVIN LOVE: I can't rap, man (smiling). Back to business. Sorry about that.
Q. Can you both address what Lorenzo has meant to the team and how he accepted and embraced his role this year?
DARREN COLLISON: Lorenzo's probably that piece that we really need to symbolize us: hard, tough, going through adversity. That's Lorenzo himself right there.
Anybody can speak in college basketball. When you're a player, you know, your whole goal is to start on the team. If another player comes in, he starts over you, that's one of the toughest things ever. Lorenzo, he didn't look at it as a bad way, he looked at it for the team. We all know Kevin is good. Lorenzo has worked on his game in the off-season. He does some good things, some really good things for us. The way he sacrificed himself for the team explains a lot about his character. That's what I love about Lorenzo. He's a people first, before the team. Lorenzo is always going to fight through adversity. I hope he has a good future ahead of him.
KEVIN LOVE: Pretty much Darren said everything. The thing about Lorenzo, not only is he a family-oriented person off the court, but he is on the court as well. He really took into the family. Being a newcomer, being one of the lone freshman on the team, myself and Chace Stanback and myself, it was a little different. Anybody in his situation could have been a jerk to me, could have kind of blown me off. But he embraced me, he really brought me in and made me part of the family as well. For him to take a little bit of a backseat to me for part of the team, for the team aspect, that was huge and it showed a lot of maturity.
Q. After watching tape of Memphis, what impresses you about those guys most?
KEVIN LOVE: Definitely their speed, their athleticism, the way they get out on the break. For us to win this game, we're going to have to win the battle of the boards, like Coach Howland always mentions in our pregame. Also, we're going to have to get back into transition, try to play our tempo, because they're a fast team, to get up and down the court.
DARREN COLLISON: Again, like Kevin said, one thing that does impress me is their athleticism. I thought their athleticism was a big part in that Texas game. It was the reason why they overcome that victory. We're ready to play tough. We're going to go out there and play tough. A little physical battle, like Ben has always taught us. That should do it for us right there.
Q. Kevin, with all the attention you've gotten, all the media scrutiny, interviews, how were you able to stay grounded this season?
KEVIN LOVE: That's easy. I mean, I got this guy sitting right next to me right here that wouldn't let me get a big head. I also have a good family. Even in my immediate family, but also my Bruin family as well keep me grounded.
I never feed into any of that stuff. I always feel like I have something to prove. I always feel like I'm fighting from behind. So I go out there and give it my all every game. They're something inside of me, that killer instinct, that's really the driving force in the back of me that really keeps me going.
Q. Is there a most Memphis-like team in the PAC-10? If not, how is Memphis different?
DARREN COLLISON: If I had to pick a team that was like them, it would probably be Oregon.
KEVIN LOVE: Yeah.
DARREN COLLISON: Because of the guard play. One through four, you know, they can shoot the ball really well. We really got a big load on our hands on the perimeter. We're on our own. We got to contain them on the D end. It's not going to be easy, but it's something we have to do to win the ballgame.
Just like Oregon, you know, we're going to be ready to switch, we're going to be ready to contest shots. You never can relax. There's possessions where you can't relax, but not against Memphis because they'll penalize you for that.
KEVIN LOVE: Yeah, I agree. They're kind of like Oregon on steroids a little bit. They go out there, they defend. Each player can shoot the three ball. Dorsey is a beast inside. Rose, he runs that team very well. We're all going to have our hands full, whether it's on the offensive or defensive end.
I think we're poised enough to get the job done if we just play our style of basketball.
Q. What sort of things have you learned or liked about sports and masculinity?
KEVIN LOVE: That's funny that you ask. He's over here asking me about school right now and I'm trying to focus on the Final Four. But I've had a great run at UCLA thus far. It's been a lot of fun. I have over a 3.0 GPA. I made the honor roll my first quarter. I know I'm bragging about academics when we're here at the Final Four when we're here trying to win basketball game, but it's been a lot of fun and a good ride for me as well.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Good luck tomorrow.
(photo credit: AP)
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