March 29, 2009
NCAA Regional Final, Pitt vs. Villanova, March 28, 2009
COACH DIXON: Well, the first thing is I can't say how proud I am of our team and how we've played all year. But even more so how they played in the last 30 seconds, to beat down and make plays and make big shots, Sam and Levance making two free throws. Everybody in the gym knew those two free throws were going in, there was no question in our players' minds, in our teammates' minds.
And I'm just so proud of everything they've done. They've set records. They won more than any other group, our three seniors, and I can't tell you how proud I am. More proud than any group.
I give credit to Villanova. Obviously wish them luck down the road. They're a very good team. And it's just a game that could have gone either way, and unfortunately, we came up short.
Q. Levance, Scottie Reynolds' drive to win the game, how did you see that playing out defensively?
Levance Fields: It looked for a minute like they were having trouble getting it in. If it had been one more second probably could have been a five-second -- they had no timeouts, so we did a good job of denying for about three or four seconds. The last minute he was able to kick it to Cunningham. I guess Jermaine turned the wrong way, which gave Scottie stepping room. Cunningham made a good pass to Reynolds and Reynolds went straight to the basket and even took a little bit of contact and was able to still finish.
Q. DeJuan, can you also kind of recollect what you saw there at the end and did you try and maybe alter the shot or what was your intent?
DeJuan Blair: Like he said, I thought it was going to be a five-second call. But they got it to Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds went down the baseline on the sideline and he just went to the hoop. And he got contact and I thought it was coming out, but at the end they won. I thought Levance's shot was going to go in, but they won out there. They just had more points than us.
Q. Levance, can you take us through what your swing of emotion was from making the free throws to when Scottie Reynolds shot went?
Levance Fields: When I made the free throws had a chance of going into overtime, and we just needed one stop. And we just didn't do what we needed to do in the five seconds.
Reynolds just made a great play going to the basket. It went from being -- you know, having a chance of going to overtime and possibly winning the game to, you know, season being over.
Q. Sam and Levance, everybody is going to remember the ending, but you guys were up 4 with 3 minutes to go and then had a couple turnovers. Do you feel you might have let it slip away more so there than at the end?
Sam Young: Obviously I think that we was up four or five or something like that and we got some turnovers and it let them get a little bit of momentum and get back in the game. And I think from that point when they got back into the game, a moment where it kind of felt like we had it done. It was anybody's ballgame.
Q. I wanted to ask the same question of the other two players, the exact same question.
Levance Fields: What was the question, again?
Q. About being up by four with three-something to go in the game and where it went from there.
Levance Fields: We did a good job on the press the whole game. And unfortunately right there we made a mistake.
But you've got to give them credit. Anderson not only making the steal, but finishing the play and then making the free throw. And then they did a good job of being in the gaps, which they were doing the whole tournament, forced another turnover and went down and executed on offense.
Q. Can you talk about being up, they called a timeout with 3.05 to go, you were up by four, then two quick turnovers and they were ahead.
COACH DIXON: Obviously, as we came back in the huddle I heard the guys saying -- we reinforced that and obviously it was really a big play, it was a turnover and turned into a three-point play for them. And obviously we had handled their half-court pressure well up to that point, but that was a big play. And obviously that changed it. So it's a small margin, that one play turned it.
But I can't say enough about our guys being down and then making the shots, the three, then the two free throws by Sam and Levance. Talk about courage, guts and big game plays, those guys made it and have done it their whole careers.
Just it was a split-second play, it could have gone either way, and it was really a loose jump ball, pass, inbounds pass that we could have got, but it just went their way.
Q. I'm sure you're not thinking too much about the future, but do you think DeJuan will come back next year or you'll advise him to leave early?
COACH DIXON: I think that's something that's probably not a good time -- the right time to be thinking about it. I think this is about our kids. I'm more focused on my three seniors right now and their careers. We just had an incredible game and two very good teams playing their hearts out and they left everything on the floor.
I told those guys you can't have anymore -- the amount of respect and admiration I think they earned throughout their careers, but especially tonight, I think, was pretty evident. I think anybody that saw us come back the first half, then come back in the second half at that last point, would recognize that first and foremost.
Q. Can you just describe your swing of emotion watching that second foul shot go in for Fields and then the way it unfolded there and how Reynolds got into the hole so quickly.
COACH DIXON: Well, you know, obviously the free throw, everybody -- we had the utmost confidence in the free throws going in. We talked about that and guarded it and really got preparation for how we were going to guard their inbounds and what we did. We did a pretty good job of what we did.
They floated it up there and it was really a jump ball and could have gone either way. I don't know if that was exactly what they had planned. I would doubt it. But it just was a pass that could have gone either way. And that's kind of how it went.
But as far as the kid made a tough shot, Scottie Reynolds made a tough shot. But the shots that Levance hit and Sam, those were game -- unbelievably high character plays that they made.
Q. Did you have DeJuan on the ball?
COACH DIXON: No, we didn't have anybody on the ball. We wanted to keep it in front of us. It was a jump ball, really, thrown up top, a lob, anybody's ball. They ended up getting it and then played off of it.
Q. This is obviously one of the great basketball games in college history. Can you talk about the competition, what it's like to be a part of that?
COACH DIXON: Well, I haven't really had that sense of perspective right now. Really, all it is is about disappointment for our guys and we really felt like we should have won the game. We felt that we played hard, played smart, but it just didn't go our way. They made the plays, though. They made free throws, which I thought was a big factor. And then we got out-rebounded and that was something we said we have had to do.
I don't know how it will rank, that's not my job, but I know I'm very proud of our guys and have never been more proud of a team, especially our seniors, Tyrell, Levance and Sam. They were tremendous. And I think that will be evident to everybody that watched.
Q. Can you talk about Sam's performance tonight and the tournament in general?
COACH DIXON: Yeah, I think he's -- I've said all along he's a guy that's gotten better every year. And he seemed to get better as the season went on and down the stretch. He can put the ball in the basket. And that was key for us.
We have guys that can distribute the ball and get the ball in the right spot and he takes advantage of it. But again, he's the guy that's just gotten better and better. He's gotten better down the stretch. The last couple of weeks he's gotten better and that's really been hard work, determination and really been the story of his career at Pitt. He's just continued to improve.
Q. Yesterday Jay Wright, he went through this a couple of years ago losing in the round of 8. You're crushed, you've worked so hard. You started to break up almost a little bit talking about the seniors. Could you just put into words your disappointment about not being able to get it done with this group.
COACH DIXON: Well, I mean, every loss is disappointing, and this will stick out because it's the one right now. But, again, as I told our guys afterwards, a round of respect and love and care we have for our seniors, I think they did so much for this program. They set records, as we talked about. But they also left a legacy and left our young guys with something to build on. And I think they learned what hard work can do and they learned from three great seniors. And their determination will be continuing throughout our program, even after they leave.
Obviously it's a game that I guess people will talk about as far as a great game. But right now all we're reflecting on is it's just a disappointment and loss. But I'm not disappointed at all in our effort or character we displayed, especially the three guys that stepped up here right now.
Q. Coach, you mentioned Sam. He's really had like a pretty tremendous development over the last four years. Can you use that to show some of the younger guys, maybe the first year or two they're not getting a whole lot of time or scoring too much, what he was able to do with his career and the last two years, what he's been able to do.
COACH DIXON: No question. We've been saying that all along. Again, we pride ourselves in the number of most improved players in the Big East and our players, and he's another representative of that. We can tell recruits and tell kids that are in our program and use him as an example. I think there's no question as to that. People now that remember him in high school and just are amazed by his development and improvement.
It comes from hard work. It comes from the determination that he has. And you need to start with that, first. He was determined to improve, to get better, and that's why he's become the player he's become.
Q. Coach, just given the nature of the Big East all season and how that league played out, was there any doubt in your mind that this would come down to the last second?
COACH DIXON: Yeah. Obviously all of our games this year with all the top teams in the conference have been these type of battles. I thought this was just another well-played game down the stretch, and all the way through. And it's just representative of our conference.
I think, as I said before, it's lived up to some very high expectations or even proclamation of the other coaches and probably this game will go down and be another representative or example of the caliber of play that was in the Big East this year and has continued to be.
Q. You played Villanova twice this year. Is there something about them that a team should know, the next team that plays them, that isn't evident, just even looking at them or looking at them on tape?
COACH DIXON: Well, I think the physicality they play with, I think that's something that they do. They rebound well. When they're smaller, they rebound well. They're very aggressive. They continue to come at you, and I think that's the biggest thing that really stands out. They're somewhat smaller, their quickness, their strength, their physicality. Again, they are tremendous at getting into the ball. They're constantly into you and then at the same time they rebound well with a smaller group.
But, again, they're very experienced, they're strong, and they play with amazing determination.
QUOTING VILLANOVA HEAD COACH JAY WRIGHT AND PLAYERS
COACH WRIGHT: This is a tremendous thrill. I want to start by saying I got to see some of the coaches. We have so much respect for Pitt's program. We battle them all the time. We battle them in recruiting and it never gets personal. Those kids play their butts off.
They'll kill you on the court, but they're classy. They're a Final Four caliber team. Anyone could have won that game. We're proud to be a part of the Big East with them. We feel for them, because we could have been in the same spot very easily.
Everybody in Boston, Gene DeFilippo, his people. This place was awesome. We had a great time in Boston. Everybody was great to us. We love this town. Thank you for everything you all did here.
Now, we've got four seniors and we've got Scottie Reynolds, and it is what it is. We have great players, we really do. And you saw it tonight. A lot of guys making big-time plays. Corey Fisher's free throws, we've got really good players that really play well as a team. I'm so proud for them and for Villanova and this great tradition that we're all a part of.
Q. Scottie, please describe the last play, what you saw.
SCOTTIE REYNOLDS: It's something that we do every day in practice at the end, when it's an end-of-the-game situation. They face-guarded me, and when that happens, Dante makes a flash to the middle of the floor and I make a second cut away from him, going towards the basket. We have a stagger going on the opposite side --
COACH WRIGHT: That's -- (laughter). You can coach with me when you're done playing. You got the job. You don't have to interview. (Laughter.)
SCOTTIE REYNOLDS: Oh, my goodness. Well, I just made a layup -- (laughter) -- no, but it's just when Dante gives me the ball, I just make an instinct play, and it's just whatever I decide. Basically I can pass it and I just have to know how much time is on the clock and I got lucky with one tonight.
Q. For Dwayne and Dante, in less technical terms, how did you see the play unfold, what was your reaction?
DWAYNE ANDERSON: Basically we know the play, we always run it in practice. On film I probably would get a little heat from the move I made. But Reggie hit Dante, Dante hit Scottie. That's just how we draw it up.
DANTE CUNNINGHAM: Once I saw that they left me open it was either up the court to Dwayne and Shane or Scottie flying down the court. Scottie was just open. He's a jet. It's kind of hard to catch him with the ball.
Q. Can you talk about Sam Young and the intangibles that he brings that make him tough to defend.
DWAYNE ANDERSON: He can score inside and outside. He's tough to defend. He plays defense, as well. He attacks the rim. He's very aggressive.
Q. Is that the rock you're holding and did you ever give it up after you made the layup, did you retrieve it? How did it find its way back into your hands?
SCOTTIE REYNOLDS: They said this is it. They could be lying to me, because I was asking everybody after, but they said this is it.
Q. Who gave it to you?
SCOTTIE REYNOLDS: The athletic director, I believe, Bob Steitz. Thanks. Is he here?
Q. Dwayne, the steal you made that led to the three-point play coming out of the timeout, was that anything you had seen the guy do before or was it total spur of the moment?
DWAYNE ANDERSON: It was definitely spur of the moment. We were down and we needed something to get us going. We had a great trap and somehow I deflected it and won, and it kind of changed the momentum of the game, which was great for us.
Q. Dante, can you talk about receiving that inbounds pass. It looked like it was a pretty tenuous situation, Jamie Dixon called it a jump ball three or four times. Can you talk about getting that pass. It looked like Reggie was thinking about calling timeout, and how that a great moment was led to by an unsettled situation?
DANTE CUNNINGHAM: Honestly, it's something that we go through almost every day in practice, just allowing ourselves to not have timeouts, end-of-the-game situations. And he trusted that I was going to go get it and he threw it up and I went and got it.
Q. Scottie, can you kind of take us through the roller coaster of emotions from you guys being up two and Fields hitting a couple of free throws, and the game-winning shot?
SCOTTIE REYNOLDS: I told somebody the last two minutes was exactly like practice, basically like we always turn the ball over somehow in practice, to lose the game. Somebody always hits big shots on the white team, and Coach is yelling at us.
The last two minutes were exactly like practice. And I think creating those habits in practice and losing some and winning some helped us prepare for the end-of-the-game situation and keeping good attitudes throughout anything that happened, whether it was them making big plays or us turning the ball over, it didn't matter, we kept great attitudes through the whole situation.
Q. How big was Corey as far as hitting a couple of free throws, and how much has this experience, I heard you guys talking about it, how big was Corey?
DWAYNE ANDERSON: He's been like that all year. He was the Big East 6th Man of the Year. He's showed it tonight. He's always explosive when he comes off the bench. Anytime he comes in the game his objective is to change the tempo of the game. He does that night in and night out.
Q. Scottie, following up on a question about your emotions, seeing that thing go through, did you feel like it was good enough to get you to Detroit or when Levance Fields let go of that ball with that last shot, did you have to kind of clutch your heart a little bit?
SCOTTIE REYNOLDS: When we made the shot, or I thought I made it, everybody just rushed the court. I just felt like -- I didn't even see the ball go in, actually.
Then Coach is pulling everybody by the neck, saying, The game is not over, there's time on the clock. And then something crazy could happen, we've seen it before.
When the ball left Levance's hands it was right on target to go in. And I guess a little less off of that shot we could be in another position right now.
Q. Scottie, obviously you never got the chance to make that shot if Dwayne doesn't make some of those plays he made. Can you talk about how important the steal was and the three-pointer he made late?
SCOTTIE REYNOLDS: It was very important, and something that we talked about at halftime, saying that if we're going to go down, we're going to play our style and leave it all out there. And Dwayne and Corey actually did a great job of just playing off of each other and Dwayne stepping in the shots, even though some of his shots in the first half didn't go, him having the confidence and him knowing that he had to step up and make big plays, that's what the senior is for, and we love him for it.
Q. Dante, did you say anything to Reggie after the one inbounds pass that went a little long and just a few seconds later you're counting on him hitting you with a pretty good one?
DANTE CUNNINGHAM: Actually I did. He said, My fault. I said, What are you talking about? When the play is over, we've got to get back on defense now. So we won't worry about it.
Q. I mean before the inbounds.
DANTE CUNNINGHAM: Like a second -- before the second one?
DANTE CUNNINGHAM: No, we forget about it. I didn't know what happened, I don't even know what pass you're talking about (laughter).
Q. Scottie, you hit one of the shots today that will be replayed over and over and kind of live on in NCAA tournament lore, talk about that?
SCOTTIE REYNOLDS: Oh, man, it's so many emotions going through my head. It's something that you think about as a youngster, advancing yourself to the Final Four or winning the championship. And to do it with these guys on my back, and the players that came before us, I think that that contributes to our program. I think everybody that played before us got us in the position to where we are now and we take great pride in that and continuing the tradition.
Q. Two questions quickly. One, did you call a timeout after the first free throw because you didn't want to give them time to set their defense or were you trying to freeze Fields? Second, how much did it bother you to wear the cap, because it doesn't really go with your outfit (laughter)?
COACH WRIGHT: It was actually a gray cap. I was very impressed that the committee here had that prepared to match my suit.
But actually both. We knew what we were going to do. Like the guys said, we do practice that. So, both. We had a chance to do both. If it was something we were going to do that was unusual for us, I would have waited to see what happened.
So I was hoping I would freeze them, but Levance Fields, you should have known, there's no way he's missing those. And I didn't want them to be able to get set. We have our best chance of getting everybody in our spots, we practice it all the time. So it worked out.
Q. You wouldn't tell us what Coach K said to you, but will you tell us what Rollie said to you when he went over there?
COACH WRIGHT: He said, I'm so proud of you. I'm so happy. He's emotional, I was emotional. He said, I love you and I told him I love him. And it means the world to have him here.
I tried to get him down on the court for cutting down the nets, and I think he was thinking, That's your time.
Q. Can you talk about, you have the seniors and Scottie Reynolds. It seems like it's been the same guys for you the last three years. Just the growth of the senior class and Scottie and kind of getting this achievement, getting to the Final Four with that group?
COACH WRIGHT: This was a group that I told them, they earned this. We could have lost this game, but they still would have earned the right to be good enough to play in a Final Four, just like Pitt did. Pitt is good enough to be a Final Four team. We just happened to win this game.
They're four seniors that came to college to be a part of the program, to get a great education, to be a part of the culture at Villanova. Of all four of those guys, not one of them said to me when I recruited them, What if I leave early. I want to go early to the NBA.
They're just old-school guys that just came to be a part of something. And it's so special to be a part of this with them.
Q. Just wanted to ask you about that inbounds play. Did you have a specific name for it, was it like a Statue of Liberty? And secondly, Scottie Reynolds getting the ball, did you have any doubts that they would be able to execute the play? As he said, you guys have practiced this so often, were you confident that you would be able to execute it as well as you did?
COACH WRIGHT: That's where, John's question, we could call that timeout. We have a name for that. I think Scottie gave up most of the play. Anybody that listened can diagram that now. We have a name for it. That's all we had to say in the huddle was we're running it.
And the other thing we were concerned is if he missed, we had not been rebounding free throws really well. That was the other part, that's why we got Shane Clark in there. I was worried as much if he missed, them getting an offensive rebound, which they'd done to us all night.
And, you know, Corey Fisher was playing great there at the end. He made all the free throws. But like Scottie said, we practice that all the time, and the white team, the second team, they always stop it. They know what we're doing, but we want to practice it. They always stop it. He usually gets fouled, but we don't call the foul in practice. We do it for that reason. He's done that in games a lot. I really had great confidence in him. I just had a feeling there. He's done that a lot of times for us, made shots at the end of the games.
Q. Were you okay with Reggie's first throw?
COACH WRIGHT: I have to be, because we put him in that position and we really tell them -- and that's why I talk to the team afterward. Dwayne mentioned he's going to hear it in film. It's easy to watch film and criticize and critique, but it's hard to be the guy that's in the battle and make the decision. So we always tell them in those end of game situations, we have to trust your decisions. And that was the point I made to the team. If that would have cost us the game, we would have applauded Reggie for the guts to make the play.
Now, after you deal with all your team stuff, as a sensible basketball person I can say it probably wasn't a great decision. But within our team, and we did talk about that after the game, within our team he knows we trust him on that and we would have been there to pick him up if that would have cost us.
Q. You talked the other day about what a crushing feeling it is to lose a game like this. On the flip side how much sweeter is it that you can experience the other side of this?
COACH WRIGHT: I think it's just starting to sink in now. It's numbing when it happens, especially when the game ends like that, it really is. And you're watching it on TV all the time and you think, wow, that must be the greatest feeling in the world. And it's just starting to hit me now. When I was out there I was numb.
And as a coach, I even said to my wife -- we hugged, we got our whole family together. She said go out and enjoy this. And I said to her, I still in my own mind have to get over that play that we just discussed. Because I wanted to make sure Reggie feels good about it. I had to stay with him until I could make him feel good about it.
Now it's starting to hit me. It's thrilling. I'm so happy for all the players. I know the players in our program from back in the '40s, '50s, know how much they're part of the '60s, '70s guys, they're always there. It's a great tradition for Villanova. I'm really happy for all of them.
Q. Two points, first of all, when Dante and Shane pick up four fouls apiece, how well the team played and how well they played with four fouls. And secondly, address the Dwayne steal at mid-court and how much that changed momentum?
COACH WRIGHT: You know what, that was huge. For us in a big game we never have Shane Clark in and Dante Cunningham sitting on the bench down the stretch. I kept looking and seeing him and thinking: What are we going to do? That's where Corey Fisher really stepped up, got to the foul line. We got a turnover. And then the trap by Dwayne Anderson, senior, it's just seniors just -- they just get it done for you, they're invaluable. That was a big part of the game.
Q. You mentioned Corey Fisher three times now. And I saw you kind of encouraging him on the games and stuff like that. Why is it important for you to talk to him and how much trust did you have when you put him in he was going to make it?
COACH WRIGHT: I think it's going to be a great experience in his life that's going to make him a great player, because in the Duke game he had a bad ankle. He and Scottie Reynolds, they kill each other in practice, and they had a major collision and he turned his ankle. So we were all concerned that he didn't -- he could play, but he let it bother him, he let it affect him. He started this game and he was tentative.
We told him you can't be afraid to foul, you've got to go play. He was tentative. And he didn't want to be the one that cost us. And it turns out he was on the foul line and made all the big shots. I told him, you're the man, you can do this the rest of your life. You can't fear failing anything.
Q. You have great appreciation for the history of the program. You just mentioned 24 years since the last Final Four. What does it mean to you and how hard you've worked to do this to deliver the Final Four back to Villanova after all those years?
COACH WRIGHT: You know, that's exactly what it is. It's never been a goal of mine. And actually someone in Philly wrote an article on that, and I got a little grief from some people that I said it's not a goal for me, personally. But for our program and all the people that -- the players that came before us and still stay in touch and support these guys, it feels great to do it for them, it really does. And especially these players on this team.
What you can do for other people is the greatest. And that's what I feel great about. They're so happy. They're happier than me, way happier than me. All I was worried about was if we lost that game, I wanted to make sure Reggie Redding felt good about himself. That's all I was worried about. I'm so happy for those people and that's what it's all about, is delivering it for them.
Q. The Big East is on the precipice, obviously the last time was 1985, Villanova won. Talk about the history and sort of the validation?
COACH WRIGHT: It's kind of eerie how this is playing out. I hope to God history repeats itself (laughter), because I remember -- my wife is here, my wife and I were down there as fans. I worked Rollie Massimino's camp, I was there like a hanger on. I was part of the family. The thing with Rollie was if you worked his camp you might as well have been the top assistant, everybody was in the family. And my wife was a cheerleader there, she had just graduated.
And it's -- that was kind of the greatest year in the Big East history, and we've had discussions whether that year was better than this year, it's a whole another topic. But that was similar. Villanova was a great team, but St. John's and Syracuse and Georgetown were the teams that year. Villanova kind of sneaks in. And then it's all happening the same. I'm not a superstitious person or anything, I don't care. I'm worried about the next game. But if history repeats itself, I'll take it (laughter).