Before Kansas State faces off against Kentucky they talked to the media in the locker room and at the podium. They
Players and Coach at the podium
Kamau Stokes, Xavier Sneed and Barry Brown, Jr
Bruce Weber, Kamau Stokes, Xavier Sneed, Barry Brown, Jr
BRUCE WEBER: Well, obviously we’re excited to be part of this, to be in the Sweet 16. I’m just so happy for our players. They’ve been very dedicated, worked very hard. It’s been a great group from really day one. And I’ve talked about it before, just getting in the tournament last year and getting to play in Dayton, getting a win, it was such a motivator for them to get a taste of it. It led right into our workouts in the spring, in the summer, and the great leadership of Barry Brown and Dean Wade, Mason Schoen, Kam Stokes, they really took our group to a new level.
We’ve really persevered, if you look at all the things that have happened to us, the injuries. It seems like next man up has been definitely something that’s — they’ve kind of bought into. You know, I’m just proud of them and happy to be part of it.
Obviously we have a challenge. I think Kentucky, Coach Cal, does a better job defensively than people give him credit for. Obviously their length causes you problems, and we’re catching them at a — when they’re hot. I think nine out of ten, won the SEC tournament. They’ve got good players. They’ve got size. You know, we’ve just got to hope we can — we have got to come out, fight them, grind it out, and hope that somebody can step up and make some shots.
Q. Coach, there’s been some re-seeding, so to speak, media re-seeding the 16 teams, and you guys have been parked at or near the bottom in every one I’ve seen. Do your guys pay any attention to that? Is that a motivator or just something you tune out?
BRUCE WEBER: I don’t know if they saw it, but we made sure they saw it, and we put it up on the board. Obviously the game was ugly the other day, but I don’t think people appreciate what UMBC did to Virginia. You’re talking the best team in the country for most of the year, and that team was tough to play.
How our guys played to exhaustion, how their guys played to exhaustion, obviously it wasn’t the prettiest game. And I’m sure that’s how people would rate you off of that thing, but I’m just — again, I’m proud of our guys and what they’ve done and how they’ve fought.
You can also look at the defensive numbers. We’re last in the ratings, but we’re No. 1 in the defensive ratings: Defensive efficiency, points per game, I believe. So that always give you a chance and they’ve bought into that, done what the coaches have asked, and that’s why we’ve had a successful season, and that’s why we’re here.
Q. Any change in Dean Wade’s status since last time we talked?
BRUCE WEBER: Well, if you saw — you were out there, he got a little bit — we loaded it, we got him moving a little bit. He did some 5 on 0, a little bit of live stuff today, just to see how he feels. Every day they’ve increased it. He’s got to points to now where he doesn’t have pain with the boot on, which is a positive step. Now we’ll see when we did something, how he reacts.
You know, he’s not going to be a 30-minute guy, but we can get like NBA, the minute guy, a couple minutes here, a couple minutes there. Obviously smart, he does a lot of good things for us, it would be a nice boost. I know the guys were excited to have him back and cheering him on today.
Q. Bruce, this is the third team you’ve taken to the Sweet 16, three different programs, three different teams. What has been the same about your approach in each of those situations?
BRUCE WEBER: Well, and then I’ve also been part of — when I was at Purdue, we did it several times, so you have that experience.
You know, I think the big thing is that at SIU we weren’t ready for it. I mean, it surprised us. I didn’t even know who we were playing, what bracket we were in, whatever. I was just happy to be there, and we found a way to beat Georgia and Chicago. If you remember back, that was UConn, Kentucky, Maryland, and us; and Maryland ended up winning that thing. Our guys ran out — there were several of them who were at our game last week, and they brought it. We ran out there and they looked at the banners and, we don’t belong, Coach.
I think since then, I’ve learned to, hey, this is not about just getting there, it’s about moving forward and making sure they understand that that was our emphasis yesterday. Can’t stop here. You’ve got to keep moving forward. You’ve got a chance. Obviously there’s been so much chaos in this year’s tournament, and you say, hey, Kentucky is favored. Yeah, fine, so was Virginia, so was Michigan State, so was all the other teams, and they all are not playing and we’re playing. I think we’ve got to have a good mindset, and I guess more than anything, that’s what I’ve changed.
My first team at Illinois, I talked about getting to the Sweet 16. I didn’t talk about getting to the Final Four, and I thought I capped them. And that summer then I said, we’re going to the Final Four. We gave out tee shirts, and that’s what happened.
So, I guess, different is just kind of saying not just get there, let’s get further and further and keep making that next step.
Q. I noticed Sunday’s game, especially in the second half when you guys were on defense on the opposite end of the court, you were definitely yelling at them and trying — not yelling at them but yelling things to them, and moving closer to that mid-court line. I wanted to ask you, the coaches’ box was expanded this year —
BRUCE WEBER: For me.
Q. For everyone.
BRUCE WEBER: No, for me, I think.
Q. Have you noticed a real difference in your ability to operate as you want?
BRUCE WEBER: I mean, everyone gets carried away. I think if you watch games, a lot of guys go a step out or so. The refs continue to — my thing is if you yell at the refs, you should get a technical. If you’re coaching your kids, I don’t understand, what’s the — there is no effect on it. I’ve applied to be on the Rules Committee several times, and they’ve turned me down.
But you know, I don’t understand that. If we’re bothering them, give them a technical. If we’re coaching our guys, that’s what we’re paid to do. You know, so it — obviously it was a grind-out game, emotional game, exhausting game. I was just trying to encourage that and keeping them going. I don’t know what was it, nine straight times we didn’t score, but we kept the lead, so we had ten straight stops.
And you just encourage them, keep them — but I have had officials tell me that it was expanded for me, so that’s why I’m joking about it.
Q. With the work that you and your family have done for Coaches Versus Cancer and other philanthropic endeavors, you have been like a hero to many, but who is your hero?
BRUCE WEBER: Oh, I think my hero had to be my dad and mom, my parents. You know, just — my dad came over on a boat from Austria. And my grandparents, you just think about what they did, and the sacrifice they made to give us a chance. My dad and mom said all five of the kids were going to be teachers and coaches, and we all are.
We were afraid of my dad if we didn’t do it, and he just said there was no better life than to help others, and what better way to do it than teach and coach. At that time he said, you’ve got your summers off. Well, obviously now in coaching, even high school coaches, they don’t have the summers off. So my parents are definitely my heroes.
I just watched my mom sacrifice for so many people and help so many people. And I always told myself, if I ever get to a position where I can help others, that was going to be my, whatever, commitment, to be there to help, whether it’s Coaches Versus Cancer or whatever it might be. And my wife, my family, and I think it’s great for my kids to see that. We’re so blessed and have so much given to us that, you know, when we give — and I talk to our players all the time, the more you give, the more you receive, and I really believe that, and that’s how I try to live my life.
Q. I’ve been asking the coaches today about their first jobs in the business, and I was curious, what do you remember about what you did for Coach Keady, and what did that mean for you in your career?
BRUCE WEBER: It was a crazy thing. Coach Keady gets mad when I tell it, but at Western Kentucky, I applied for a grad assistant, and he said, come down and meet me, and I drove nine hours. And for me at that time — I had never driven nine hours from Milwaukee to Bowling Green, and when I got there, I had my leisure suit, I was ready to go. And he wasn’t there, and he was not only not in town, he was out of the country, and he totally forgot about me.
I was just heartbroken because this was my — I thought I was going to get into college coaching. I had taken off work in camp, I drove all the way back. About a week later, I got on a pay phone, working camp, Marquette University High School, put my quarters in because there was no cell phones yet. And I called, and I got Coach Keady. I said, I came down there — yeah, I’m sorry, he said, drive back down. And I said, hey, I can’t do that, I’m running camp. You either hire me or not.
And obviously if I would have known how mean he was and tough he was, I would have never done that, but I didn’t know any different. And he said, okay, I’ll hire you, be here on whatever date. And he had never met me, and I was with him 19 years. He gave me a chance in the business, and when you talk about heroes, obviously for a coach to — what he did for me and what he’s done for so many, it’s amazing.
That was the start, and the next year he went to Purdue, and he said, you want to go to Purdue? And okay, come on up. And then we were at Purdue for that long time.
So he got me into the business. But the first NCAA Tournament, Western Kentucky, we hosted, and it was Kentucky with Kyle Macy. It was Isaiah Thomas, Indiana, they were all in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Toledo was there, they had great players, Harvey Knuckles, Dick Miller. For me I was just in awe and appreciative, so appreciative of Coach Keady.
Q. Both you and Coach Calipari have been doing this for a long time. What is your relationship with him, and any significant meetings with him in the past that stand out in your mind?
BRUCE WEBER: Well, we played them a couple years ago. They were the 8 and 9 and we were the 9. I don’t know why they were the 8 because I think that was the year with Harrisons, and they were really, really good, and we battled them. You know, so way back when we were at Purdue he was at UMass, we played one of his early teams. They came to Mackey Arena. I remember that.
But those have been the only times that I’ve really had games against him, I guess. Obviously he’s done amazing things at several programs, and as I said, I think he doesn’t get enough credit for what he — how he develops his teams. They’re really good defensively right now. That’s one of my biggest fears for our team, how we’re going to find a way to score.
Q. How gratifying is it to get back to this Sweet 16 stage after that early success you had at Illinois and even at Southern?
BRUCE WEBER: You know, it’s great. It’s great for our kids, great for our program. We have such a good group. I couldn’t ask for a better group to get here, and they’ve earned it. They’ve worked hard.
You know, it’s good for our program, for our fans. It’s exciting.
My K-State team, my first year there, I thought that was a team — definitely was a Sweet 16 team. Wichita ended up going that year. We would have been in that bracket, and just so disappointing. But that’s the tournament. You watch this year, there’s so many teams that lose.
But we’ve got a good group, and it’s fun, and I’m glad they got rewarded. Even when I doubted without telling them, they didn’t doubt. You lose your point guard two, three games into the Big 12, the toughest conference in the country, and man, can we survive? And they didn’t doubt, they kept moving. You learn something from them, their hope and belief that they can be good, and they weren’t going to let our team down, and they didn’t.
Q. Loyola has earned a lot of attention. Can you relate to what BRUCE WEBER is going through as a coach, Missouri Valley Conference program, being looked at, generating the sort of buzz he’s created?
BRUCE WEBER: Yeah, it’s great for him. He’s a good person. We’ve known for a long time he got a — he had a job, lost his job, he got a second chance. To win the league, win it outright, win the tournament, get here, and now win some games — I’m sure, somebody else asked me. I know what we went through at Southern, the attention you get. It’s one thing to get in, you get attention. But to get to the 16 as a mid-major I guess you could call them. They sure don’t play like it. It’s overwhelming. I’m sure in Chicago it’s probably even more overwhelming because they’re the one team that’s still around.
You’ve got to deal with that. You’d better enjoy it. But at the same time, you’ve got to try to keep the kids focused on being able to win and keep moving forward. I guess at SIU — I guess I would have been a little better about focusing and seeing — I remember I did 25 radio interviews in one day. You know, you can’t think about coaching, you’ve got so much going on. But it’s also good for your program.
I’m happy for him and his group, and the Missouri Valley, Doug Elgin is one of the best, the commissioner, and happy for them.
Q. Barry, when you guys’ group came in three years ago, it was kind of a rebuild. You guys got thrown right into the fire, right onto the playing court, and you won, I think, five Big 12 games. Talk about that process and how challenging it’s been to get from that 5 to the 8 to the 10 and now what you’re doing in this tournament?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: It’s been tough. Like you said, we came in, got playing right away. We knew it was all we all wanted to do. As the years go by, we’re kind of leaving the program better than what we found it, and I think that was one of our goals coming in, us three, coming in and just trying to rebuild the program to what it’s been in the past.
Q. It seems like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been on a tear lately and just another point guard for you to stop. How do you prepare for him?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: Just watch a lot of tape and kind of see where he wants to pick his spots, how he handles pressure. I’ve been watching him a lot, so I kind of know what he likes to do and where he wants to be on offense, and just trying to attack him on defense, as well.
Q. When you’re doing that film study, because you said that about Jairus, as well, what are you looking for the most, and what do you wind up using and translating on the floor the most?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: I mean, I just look at everything, honestly. I think I start on just isos, see what they want to do in isos, and then I start seeing — then I watch full games and see how they do. I watch games where they went off and games where they didn’t do so well, just to see how those match up. And then I start just watching the plays, kind of memorize their plays and where they are when they call a play, so I’ll be ready.
Q. Barry, I know you spend all kinds of hours in the gym, but now kind of going off — researching everybody on video, how much time do you spend doing that, as well?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: I don’t know, but I spend enough time. Between the coaches and myself, plus the film room work we have as a team, honestly I couldn’t really tell you. But I think it’s paying off.
Q. Kamau, knowing how Kentucky has been and knowing how Coach Calipari has been and just the history of that program, how have you guys been preparing for that as a team?
KAMAU STOKES: We’ve got to treat it the same way we treat any other game. We can’t go about it any differently. Like Barry said, we’ve been watching film, looking at things they like to do and how they pick their spots. We’ve just got to make adjustments to that and be really locked in during that game.
Q. X, you guys have bounced back from underdog to favorite to underdog to favorite. Which side do you prefer?
XAVIER SNEED: Just bouncing off what Kam said, we have the same mentality for every game. We really don’t pay attention to outside things or anything like that. So we just stay locked into our scouting reports, of course, and just come in focused for the game.
Q. Kam, this is a bigger stage; the first two rounds are cool, you’re in the tournament, but now do you feel like the attention is ramped up, and how are you staying focused on the task at hand?
KAMAU STOKES: We know we want to keep moving forward, and to do that, like I said, we’ve got to be really locked in and just focus on one game at a time. We’ve been focusing on that since the tournament started, and we’ve just got to keep doing that just to be locked in and focused on what’s ahead.
Q. X, many have talked about what Kentucky has done in the five-game winning streak and nine of ten, much better defense. How much of that have you been able to see on tape, and kind of give us a sense of what they’re doing well defensively right now.
XAVIER SNEED: They just ramped it up, like we have, as well. They’ve ramped it up. They don’t want to lose, and at the end of the season nobody does, so I can see that in how they’re fight. And we have been the same way this season, so I feel like if we come out and we be tougher than them this season, we have a chance.
Q. Kamau, with their length, what are the concerns about just their length and athleticism?
KAMAU STOKES: We’ve just got to move the ball. You know, it’s definitely going to be opportunities for us to get open, just because of the way they play like on steals and blocks and everything, so we’ve got to pick our spots wisely and make the right play.
Q. Barry, when guys like you are playing such tough defense, are so focused on it, you appeared to me at the end of the last game to be as tired as I’ve seen you. How mentally and physically exhausting is it to go that hard as a team on defense and then convert to offense?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: I mean, it’s tough, but I’ve been preparing for this all year, my whole life, and so it’s nothing I’m not ready for. I pride myself on defense and also playing offense, as well. I think I’ve been doing a good job of that this whole season, and it’s something that I told my coaches I wanted to do, and it’s just something I have to do.
Q. Kam, how would you characterize how you guys have managed to survive without Dean, and if he can play, what does that immediately bring you guys?
KAMAU STOKES: You know, when one player on your team goes down, it’s a type of mental toughness from everybody else on your team that you’ve got to step it up. We’ve shown that throughout this whole season. If Dean plays, he’ll exercise another threat out there on the court for us, so it’ll be big.
Q. X, this is the third different program Coach Weber has taken to the Sweet 16, and he’s been to a Final Four. How helpful is that for the players to have a guy in charge that’s been here, done that, and has such experience?
XAVIER SNEED: Like you said, experience is a big word there. He’s so experienced. He knows what to do in any situation, and he’s a great coach for us. He puts us in the right positions to succeed, and it’s big for us. It helps us out a lot.
Q. What’s it like to rep K-State in the state of Kansas where college basketball is just king?
KAMAU STOKES: It feels great, one of those teams that everybody is talking about, one of the last 16 teams that’s still playing. It just feels great, and like you said, coming from a state where it’s mostly probably KU, it means a lot to us, and it means a lot to our fans.
BARRY BROWN, JR.: Like he said, it’s great to be one of the last 16 teams playing. It’s a special time of the year, and just to be able to rep K-State and make our friends proud, our families and our coaching staff is big-time.
Q. Barry, Bruce has always kind of worn his emotions on his sleeve, especially on the floor. But off the floor what sense do you get of what this means to him, trying to build this program to get to this point and have a chance?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: I think it’s big time for him and everyone. And I mean, everyone in the locker room, coaches, players, everyone that’s thinking about K-State and a fan of K-State. I think it’s big for everyone. But as far as Coach, I know he really wants us to win, and we all want to win. We’re all expecting to win right now, so he’s kind of just ramping it up a little bit just so that we can stay focused, stay ready, and be prepared mentally.
Q. How do you ramp it up?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: Just — I mean, he’s just getting on us about all the little things, all the things that are going to show in the game that could be the factor of us winning or losing, just kind of trying to fine-tune some things.
Q. Barry, can you just describe what it was like to go through the eye injury, that first moment, and how scared you were? And the second part is your dad was talking about how you were taught if you roll around, you come out of the game, so he knew you were really hurt. Can you tell us a little bit about how he instilled toughness in you?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: Well, I mean, the first part, I got hit in my eye, and it was bleeding kind of, just a whole bunch. I couldn’t really see once I got the blood out. It was still kind of pretty blurry. I tried to get back out there, but I was kind of seeing two rims when I was looking at the rim. It was an indicator I just couldn’t play that game.
I mean, I just tried to be the biggest cheerleader for my team, trying to keep some positive energy on the sideline and cheer them on as much as I could.
What was the next question?
Q. How your dad instilled toughness in you, and if that was important to him and important to you.
BARRY BROWN, JR.: I mean, he’s just been tough on me. It’s just something that he’s been doing my whole life. I think he just — I don’t know, maybe words and stuff like that maybe kind of got me mentally tough and ready to be up on any coach, especially yelling at me and stuff like that. I think him yelling at me at a young age and preparing me mentally for that kind of prepared me for this stage right now.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports