NCAA Men's Basketball Championship: Final Four

Saturday, April 2 2016

Houston, Texas

Roy Williams

Kennedy Meeks

Joel Berry

Brice Johnson

North Carolina

North Carolina - 83, Syracuse - 66

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by North Carolina and student-athletes.

We'll ask Coach Williams to tip things off with an opening statement.

COACH WILLIAMS: Okay, opening statement.

Needless to say we're ecstatic.

I'll get something out of the way first tonight. I really wish Stuart Scott was here tonight. I really wish Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge and my best friend in Chapel Hill, Ted Seagroves, was here. It's been a difficult year and a half because of all of that. They're up there smiling somewhere and having a good time. Stuart is saying Booyah, so I like that.

Second part I'd like to say. I was back there listening to Jimmy's questions. Jimmy told you to stop asking him about retirement. He said, Ask Roy. You have asked me that question five times since I got into town.

If I'm going to retire, I think I'll retire in the next two minutes. How good do you think the chances of me retiring in the next two minutes? So don't ask me that stupid question either.

Other than that, it's been a great afternoon, a great night.

I screamed loud at my players. Had a timeout because we let a loose ball roll on the floor and Syracuse got after it better than we did. Had two turnovers in three possessions. Then we had a rebound that came out and we had four guys stand there and look at it. Syracuse got that one.

So my pulse went up quite a bit, my heart rate went up quite a bit. After that Joel Berry, Marcus Paige, Brice Kennedy, those guys really did a nice job.

Couldn't be prouder for a team than I am for a team this right here. We beat a Syracuse team that has been great down the stretch and is very difficult for us to play.

We didn't shoot the ball well on the three-point line the first half. Jimmy asked me when we came out at halftime and asked me if we're going to keep shooting them. I said yes, because North Carolina tries to have good balance inside and outside.

The two biggest baskets in the game were when they cut it to seven and Marcus makes a three, I think Theo makes a three right behind it.

These guys up here were sensational. I couldn't be having a more fantastic ride than I'm having right now.

THE MODERATOR: We're looking for questions for the Tar Heel student-athletes.

Q. What are your thoughts about playing Villanova on Monday night?
KENNEDY MEEKS: Villanova is a great team. They're coached by a great coach. They do some similar things as we do.

Our main goal is to play a similar goal to what we played tonight, get the ball inside, really try to pound it in there and knock down our free throws.

JOEL BERRY: I think they do a great job of taking pride on the defensive end. As you saw tonight, they won by I don't know how much, 44. But I think they did a great job of taking Oklahoma out of what they wanted to do.

We just got to be able to move the ball. Do what we always do, get the ball on the inside, play inside-out, everything else will be good, so...

BRICE JOHNSON: Just like those guys said, we got to go out there, play our game. Those guys are a very good team. They're really hot right now. They held one of the best players in the country to little or nothing today. They all play together. They space the floor. We've just got to go out there and play.

We're going to have the same attitude that we had tonight in Syracuse. They have a great shooter in Kris Jenkins. We just got to go out there and just play our game.

Q. Joel, why do you think your dribble-penetration and your attacking on the perimeter was so effective tonight?
JOEL BERRY: Yeah, their 2-3 zone, it's really wide. It's different than another team. Another team usually just goes in and stop another team they're playing against. I just tried to give them a ball fake. Whether it was off a pass, a shot fake, faking a pass, I just try to get inside.

Like I said, our big men did a great job of showing their hands on the baseline. That's what we had success at, whether it was Brice throwing it down to Isaiah or to Kennedy.

This time it was penetration that made the big man in the middle step up and we were able to get it on the baseline.

Q. Brice, talk about the sequence when Syracuse got the score down to less than 10, and y'all had to make buckets.
BRICE JOHNSON: In that situation, I mean, we expected them to press. That's what we wanted them to do. They wanted to try to speed us up. We had a couple bad turnovers here and there.

At the end of the day, that's the way we want to play the game. If you look at the results of the game, we got a bunch of layups out of that situation. We did a great job of just playing the way we know how to play. We just played with a lot of poise and not turning the ball over.

Q. Talk about the balance between you guys. You all had 15, 16 points.
KENNEDY MEEKS: I think we're a capable team of doing that every night. I think those guys are great scorers. We did a great job of executing. When we're sharing the ball, I think the sky's the limit for this team. Coach always puts us in the right position to do so. That's why we've been pretty balanced the last couple games.

JOEL BERRY: Yeah, that just goes to show the balance of our team, that we don't have to throw it to Brice all the time to get some baskets, have to throw it to Kennedy or Justin or Marcus or myself. It just shows the balance.

That's what kind of team we are. We're not all about ourselves. We're all about making a good play, whether it's someone else going or you getting a basket yourself. But overall it just shows the balance that our team has on the offensive end.

BRICE JOHNSON: Yeah, we're a team that we love each other. We don't really care who gets the credit. Tonight we loved to share the ball with each other. We all just know the way we want to play, whoever wants the ball. Joel did a great job of looking in, finding everybody in open spots.

Marcus was hitting some big-time open shots. If you're going to leave Marcus Paige open, I'm quite sure he's going to make a lot of those.

Like Theo, Theo really stepped up and made some big-time shots. Including Joel, too. Joel played some terrific minutes in the first half.

That's how we want to play. We want to play together. It's a team sport. We don't really care who gets the most points. We'd rather be spread out the way it was today.

THE MODERATOR: We thank the student-athletes for joining us.

We'll continue with questions for Coach Williams.

Q. We love the second-guess coach, whether it's put Marcus Paige back on the ball or take Kennedy out of the starting lineup. You stuck to your guns. For Kennedy to have the success he had tonight, how much of that during the season was total confidence in your guys versus a coach hoping that his guys would get it together?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, take this the way it's intended, not to be critical. But I'm a hell of a lot smarter about basketball than you guys are. I mean, I'm serious. What do you do after basketball season's over with? You cover baseball. What do you do after baseball? You cover football. I don't take any breaks.

This year I heard more than ever announcers and writers question things more than I ever heard. One of the other guys said we're not in the locker room, we're not at practice every day. If you asked me if I'm as smart of a sportsfan as you, I'd say probably not because I don't work on those other sports. But I do see our guys in the locker room every single day.

The last question, I wasn't paying attention to know who asked it, but we want to be a balanced team. I have to have some contributions from everybody that plays.

It is something to listen or read. I haven't read very much this year to be honest with you. I haven't read many articles.

That's the best answer. Do you know how many practices we've had? 98 practices. Not just you, John, because I liked the way you asked the question. You didn't hit the wrong buttons, and you really did it nicely.

How many of you guys came to any of our practices? Michael came to one. Somebody else came to one.

I mean, you think about that. I would never criticize somebody about something that they know a heck of a lot more about.

Bill Guthrie has the best statement, Do not condemn thy neighbor unless you've walked in his moccasins for two full moons. I have to explain that to my guys to explain what moccasins are and how long a full moon lasts.

So it wasn't stubbornness, it was intelligence. If we get beat Monday night, it's not going to be stubbornness Monday night, it will be because Villanova played better.

But you think about it in those terms right there. When I retire in 2035, okay, I want to be an announcer one year 'cause I want to be the only announcer to never criticize coaches acting like I know more than they do when they've been with their team every day.

Thank you for asking the question the way it was, John, thank you.

Q. After the two games last week, I'm sure you probably knew that Syracuse was going to press late in the second half. What did you see on film or from having played them that you knew you would be able to do and have better success than Gonzaga or Virginia?
COACH WILLIAMS: I've been around long enough to play Jimmy when his teams pressed a lot, not just late-game scenarios like they have the past two weeks. When we played Jimmy in 2000, 2001 -- no, we played them in '96 or '97 in the Elite 8 game, they pressed at that time. So I've always thought of him as being a coach who could really press. He gets his teams to do it the right way. Every game we played Syracuse in my entire life, we've worked on press offense a couple days before practice.

The other thing is we work on press offense every day. So for us, it was something that we thought was going to be happening at some point. We hoped, because that probably meant we were ahead. So we do it all the time. We try to play an up-and-down full-court game. We do a thing called press offense-defense game almost every day.

Q. What are your initial thoughts about playing Villanova on Monday night?
COACH WILLIAMS: Don't have any really. I said it out there in the public. Marty Schottenheimer is a great friend. He always said, Let's enjoy the blankety-blank out of it till midnight, then worry about what comes after that.

I did not watch one second of Villanova-Oklahoma game today. Even after we got here in the arena, I told them, Give me a place where there's no TV. I read the Syracuse scouting reports for times 61, 62 and 63 because I thought that was more important to me.

One of my coaches, either Coach Robinson or Coach McGrath had Villanova. Coach Davis had Syracuse. So I know one of those guys had it. They'll give me a scouting report early tomorrow morning before practice and we'll make out a practice that will help us do some things and get to know them a little better.

Other than that, I know Jay Wright. I love Ryan, the way he plays. Kris Jenkins. I remember going into Nate's home, recruiting Nate, really liking him. Even telling someone that if he didn't sign early, I might try to see if we could get that undersized four man that I thought was going to be a big-time college player, and that was Kris.

Q. Speaking of Jim and your guys' legacies, what is it like passing him in the halls pregame, postgame? How many times more times will you match up together on this stage at this level?
COACH WILLIAMS: We're both old enough that we'd like to match up with anybody on this stage. We don't care if it's matching up with the other one or not.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jim. They beat us in the Elite game, as I said, when I was at Kansas. They beat us in the national championship game in 2003. As I was walking off at halftime, guys yelled down at me, I saw who they were. Hey, Williams, you remember 2003, don't you? But their rear-ends weren't there when I came off the court at the end of the game because I was looking for them.

You know, it's coaching. He's a guy that's won so many games and done it. I said this before. Syracuse was okay before Jimmy got there. But Jimmy's taken them to levels they never were before. So I think he's got to be congratulated for doing that. I think it's special a guy has stayed in the same place the whole time.

Q. Preparedness. 50 points in the paint, 16 points off of turnovers. How much is that a point of emphasis in practice on a daily basis?
COACH WILLIAMS: One thing about playing someone before, you do get more information. You do know more about them.

I wrote down three things on the board tonight. The first one was: Attack their defense with great spacing and great movement and great offensive rebounding, 'cause we played Syracuse before and we had some success at Syracuse by getting the ball inside, perhaps more than we did in Chapel Hill.

I said: Box outs. It's got to be our greatest box out game of the year. They hurt us a couple possessions, a flurry of two or three shots. I think we did a better job of boxing out.

Third thing was: Know the personnel. Some guys are going to set a screen and they will slip the screen. Some guys are going to set a screen and they screen. Some guys like Lydon may set a screen and then they spin out for a three. Our guys did a good job of doing what we gave them in the scouting reports.

They got tendencies on us, too. But I was proud of the way our guys listened to our scouting reports report and did the things on the court.

Q. I went to the open practice. Was it you or the players that came up with the dunks at the end? How has that brought the camaraderie together freshmen all the way through seniors?
COACH WILLIAMS: Until 2002, 2003, I used to practice in front of the public because then they gave you about an hour and 10 minutes. One time they cut it to 45. You can't get anything done in that. So when they cut it to 45, I think now it's 50 or something, I don't think you have enough time. We go practice at Rice for an hour and a half that morning.

When we came to practice here in front of the public, I wanted to get them a couple shots up, five or six seconds to go, let them dunk and do what they want to do. The only thing is I told Isaiah he couldn't try to dunk from the foul line like he'd done a couple weeks earlier because his ankle has been bothering him the last couple times.

But it's fun for the guys. It's fun for me. Theo tried some weird dunk. I hurt my knee trying to jump up off the floor trying to help him, so I told him not to try that one anymore either.

Q. What do you try to teach your players besides playing basketball, and how did that contribute to your great win tonight?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think if something is really important to you, it's got to be really important. Don't just say it. As I said earlier, I went whacko at one timeout because the ball was rolling across the floor. We had somebody that didn't go after the ball, Syracuse did, they pick it up and score a three.

I've tried to point to our guys, if it does mean something, act like it does, don't just say it. You have to work to get it, work to get it. Then if you do achieve it, you'll even feel better about it.

I hope I taught them something other than how to just box out or shoot free-throws or whatever.

Q. When Malachi hit the three to cut it to seven after you had been up 17, you needed obviously to get a bucket there. Does it mean more to have Marcus make that shot, given what he can mean when he's on?
COACH WILLIAMS: You know, at that moment, I wanted somebody in a North Carolina uniform to make it. There's no question I got really excited because he had done so many good things and hadn't been able to make a shot. That was the first three our team made. I got a little excited on the sideline at that.

You think about it. If I had time to reflect, I'd say yes, it couldn't be more appropriate that was Marcus Paige that did that because he's just been sensational for us all year long.

And somebody, all the mock drafts and things like that, they're not listing that guy. Somebody is going to get a guy that is going to be in the NBA 10 to 12 years. I'm going to be happy to watch him.

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to thank Coach Williams for joining us.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #1 by #168 at 2016-04-03 04:02:00 GMT

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