Monday, September 22, 2014
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Last year's loss to Lehigh motivates Duke against Albany

Courtesy of ASAP Sports, here's a transcript of Duke's press conference ahead of Friday's NCAA tournament game against Albany at the Wells Fargo Center.

Last year's loss to Lehigh motivates Duke against Albany

Courtesy of ASAP Sports, here's a transcript of Duke's press conference ahead of Friday's NCAA tournament game against Albany at the Wells Fargo Center.

Q. Mason, the Albany guys up here just now said Lehigh didn't do us any favors, we think Duke is going to come out more aggravated after what happened last year. How much do you use last year's loss as motivation for this year?

MASON PLUMLEE: We have more motivation than that. I think that was a different team, we have different players. We have guys who weren't a part of that team last year. Our team's motivation is something bigger than the way last year's season ended. 

Q. What do you know about Albany? They are a 15 seed, you are expected to beat them, and a lot of people think badly. How do you go into a game like that?

RYAN KELLY: Well, we know they're a championship level team. They won their conference tournament, and we know they have great depth at the guard position. They've got a lot of guys that can score the ball there and can shoot the ball, and we know we have to be prepared to play.

We've been focusing the last few days on them, their offense and what we feel we can do with our offense against them. So we're excited to play and we're ready to play.

SETH CURRY: Yeah, I agree. Our coaches have done a good job of just letting us know all about them, how they play, what kind of talent they have on their team, and we are expecting them to come out with a lot of energy, so we have to match that and play even harder.

I mean, we're excited to play. 

Q. Mason, the Albany guys said there's no pressure on them, they're the 15 seed, they're expected to lose so they can just come out and play free. Is there pressure on you guys conversely as the higher seed in this game?

MASON PLUMLEE: From the outside looking in there may be, but honestly, we feel so pressure. We're going to play loose. We're going to take our shots, and we feel confident, but we don't‑‑ personally I don't feel any pressure.

But I think we know that we have an opportunity. We have a senior class that's strong, and we've had a team that at points in the season has been the best team in the country. We feel very confident going into this tournament.

Q. Mason and Seth, there was obviously a period without Ryan where you had to learn to play without him and does it work the same now that you have him? Did you have to learn how to play again with him and has that been an adjustment, and is it just a benefit having him back?

And for Ryan, having missed so much time, I think last year, as well, in the tournament, can you kind of describe the feeling of playing in this one, whether it's urgency or just satisfaction?

SETH CURRY: Yeah, I think it's been a little transition period having Ryan back since the Miami game. We've had to figure out how to play with him, not just watch him, after the good game he had the first time. But just kind of getting back to how we started the season. Guys are excited. It's kind of a new team again and we kind of got reenergized. So it's fun to have him back, and it just allows us to play a lot of different ways.

MASON PLUMLEE: Yeah, I would say the biggest benefit has been our bench, guys like Amile and Josh have played big minutes. Having Ryan out, I think our depth is‑‑ guys have more experience, it's more developed, and obviously we're more than happy to have Ryan back.

RYAN KELLY: I think for me, I just feel very blessed to be in the position I'm in. I didn't know if I was going to be able to play again, and obviously having missed the tournament last year, for my senior year to be back and to be playing in this tournament, obviously for every team there's a lot of excitement surrounding it, but I feel like there can't be many people more excited than me. 

Q. How concerned were you that you wouldn't make it back?

RYAN KELLY: At the time when I got hurt, I really had no idea. I mean, leading up to the Miami game, I hadn't‑‑ I'd only done about 20 minutes of practice. It's been fortunate. I didn't know. It was going to come down to a position whether I was going to go out there and play or not and tolerate any discomfort I had, and thankfully I've been able to.

Q. Mason, you said you're not going to think about Lehigh, you're going to play loose. You are three seniors, and I wonder about the out look or if this is a different feeling entering this tournament as compared to the last three years.

MASON PLUMLEE: Yeah, to me I don't equate a sense of urgency with pressure. I just think there is, like we talked about earlier in the week, a sense of finality. This is our last go‑around. But that can't be pressure because you won't‑‑ I mean, I don't know. Maybe you guys consider that pressure, and whatever it is it has to bring out the best in us, and we're looking forward to that.

Q. I was going to ask about the senior thing, too, because Coach K said earlier in the week essentially the seniors have to drive the train at this time. Can all of you talk about, Ryan, and Seth, you can contribute too, about as a senior do you feel you have to push this team or drive it?

RYAN KELLY: Well, I think the three of us have had a lot of experiences. Obviously a lot of people are talking about last year at the end of last year, but we've all experienced a national championship, as well. So we know what it takes, and we also have played at a high level throughout our senior years. We need to be the guys that set the tone every game.

A lot of times you think of the young guys should bring the energy, but the three of us have to be the guys that come out every game and set the tone, and the other guys have to follow.

SETH CURRY: Yeah, I think we've done that all year. We've been the guys who have tried to lead this team, set the tone in practice and in games and kind of how the team has gone is how we've gone, so that can't change now. We have to go out there, set the tone early, show the guys how much confidence we have in each other and in them, and like I said, we'll go how far we go.

Q. Seth, have you ever thought about your career arc? Liberty just left the tournament, 15 and 20 team, here you are sitting here for Duke, 2 seed, could have been a 1 seed. It's kind of a crazy story.

SETH CURRY: I haven't really thought about it honestly. I've been focused on this team and just trying to do what I do. I'm sure a few weeks down the line I'll look back on it, but I'm proud of what I've done so far here at Duke, and I'm trying to keep it going.

Q. Ryan, the games you've played, they've all been sort of unique in terms of pressure and level. Miami obviously being what that is, tournament games, have you been able to adjust properly or have you been sort of thrown into the fire?

RYAN KELLY: I can't argue with the fact that I was thrown into the fire, but I wanted to be thrown into the fire. Like I said, leading up to playing, I hadn't done much with the team. So I knew there would be a process of reintegrating myself, and for my teammates back onto the court, and we all knew it was going to take some time.

I think what happened in Miami was kind of an amazing thing, the fact that I made all those shots. Thank goodness I did. But now it's time to just play our best. All that's in the past. We're healthy, we're going into this tournament full force, full speed ahead.

Q. Obviously you guys are the focal point of everyone's defense, so what do you need from the other two starters on the floor?

SETH CURRY: We need them just to show up, be aggressive. They can't be timid or anything like that. They've got to be aggressive, first of all, defensively, and then be aggressive offensively, as well. They're going to have some opportunities to score the ball, be aggressive, and they've got to take advantage of that.

I mean, we give them all the confidence in the world, so they have to go out there and just play.

MASON PLUMLEE: Yeah, some of our biggest wins this year have been when Rasheed and Quinn have played well, and Quinn is capable of that, Rasheed is, too, in their own ways. Quinn setting people up and hitting spot‑up threes and then at the end of the shot clock he can get in the lane and make things happen. Rasheed, he can score the ball obviously, but where he's most valuable to us is he's our best perimeter defender, and he normally takes the other team's leading scorer on the perimeter, and he and Tyler share that responsibility, and obviously Rasheed can score the ball, too. So those guys provide a lot.

RYAN KELLY: I think for us at times we can put five guys on the floor that can really score the basketball in a variety of different ways. That makes us tough to defend. It's been a trend for us. Our offense and defense have kind of gone hand in hand, and when our offense hasn't played as well, it's affected our defense.

When we're hitting on all cylinders, it's often because we're being sharp on offense, and then our defense is sharp, as well. So when those guys are playing at a high level on both ends of the floor, we're a much better team.

THE MODERATOR: We have Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Obviously we're excited to be here, No.2 seed, and I thought our guys earned that. Tough regular season and great schedule, a little bit of ‑ not a little bit but a lot of adversity with injuries. We're back together, everybody right now, unless something happens during this shoot‑around. We'll have all of our guys together, which will be a cool thing.

We know a lot about Albany. When you play on Friday and you get selected on Sunday, you get a lot of time to prepare, a lot of respect for them, great guard play, and their coaching staff has been here before, and they've done a good job. So we respect who they are, and we're ready to go.

Q. You had a bad experience last year as a 2 seed playing a 15. Do you use that going into this game?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, you know, if we keep looking back at our experiences, then we would really get overconfident because we've won four national championships and been to 11 Final Fours. There's no need to go back to good or bad experiences because not all these guys were involved in that.

The best thing to do is to be involved in this experience, and we're not reminding the seniors that they've won a national championship when they were freshmen. We're not talking about what we did last year because it's a totally different team.

My feeling is stay in this moment. Whatever happened in the past, good or bad, has happened in the past.

Q. How does your practice routine change from the beginning of the season to the end, and how do you get your guys prepared at this point after such a long season, and has that changed over the years and decades you've been doing this and coming to this tournament?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: So I already know one of the things about you is that you're a multiple‑question guy, and that's what makes Sports on Earth so terrific because then I can't remember the first one and I'm trying to figure out the third one.

Overall practice, practice is something that's a really big thing during this time of the year because you've got to be careful how long you go, how much you go, and then what you during it.

You know, especially for like a first‑round game you can sometimes get into information overload because usually you don't have four days to prepare. So you've got to make sure you don't play a game or overprepare for an opponent when you get your team prepared.

For us, we used last week to kind of pace ourselves before the ACC Tournament to make sure that Ryan and Seth did not get injured, all right. So this week we were able to practice, except for one day, with both of them.

And I think our guys are fresh, they're excited ‑ I mean, I believe in my team. I love my team, and I've tried not to overprepare them this week with too long of practices. Our practices at the end of the year are much shorter than they are at the beginning. However, we have to practice enough to try to develop the chemistry that we had early when Ryan was with us. You know, we lost him for two months.

Q. Is the Curry family going to go down as one of the most criminally under‑recruited families in basketball history, and two, what Seth has been able to do this year on essentially one good leg, how remarkable is it?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, the very first thing is I wish we had gotten both Curry brothers, and we didn't recruit either ‑ we didn't get either one of them right out of high school. What a tremendous family, and the two brothers have the record for most points scored by two brothers, or brothers in the NCAA.

As far as Seth's performance, I think it's one of the more incredible things I've seen as a coach in 38 years because I can remember getting a call in September, mid‑September, I was in Chicago recruiting for my trainer, and when you get calls from a trainer on the road, you never want to answer the call because it's not going to be good.

And he said, talking about Seth's injury, and we were told when we got back that one alternative was to operate at that time, and he would have been out for the whole year. We went with another and just tried to manage it, and he didn't practice then for about six weeks and missed all the preseason. And then it got a little bit better, and we said, well, maybe if he doesn't practice or practices sparingly, we could do this.

And basically for the whole year he's probably been in 25 percent of our practices. The leg is actually healing, but it's not 100 percent, and really he's put up numbers‑‑ it's hard‑‑ I feel bad for him as far as what could have been. But he's had a sensational year and has never complained about it.

But it hurts our continuity in practice because then you're not playing with him on a day‑to‑day basis. So what our guys have accomplished and what he's done individually have been absolutely terrific.

Q. Your human nature press conference the other day, picking up on that, moments ago you said I've tried not to overprepare them this week. You more than any other coach in this tournament has gone through the decisions of this week over and over again. Does it matter how you finished ACC‑wise or regular season at this point?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, the only reason it matters is where you're seeded, and then once you're seeded, what you've done really goes in that closet of memories. It's right next to '94, 2004‑‑ you know, it doesn't make any difference.

Q. It doesn't change how you coach this week?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It doesn't change how you prepare. Like you become 0‑0, and now who are you? Who are you for this moment? And that's how we've approached the week, and that's‑‑ I think it's a good approach. I think it's a good approach.

Really you have to sense what each team is like, whether I'm coaching our national team, this Duke team, or the 2001 Duke team, you try to be in the moment where they are and sense what they need, and then go for it.

I really believe our team is ready to play and excited to be here and determined to be at their best. They've done some sensational things this year, but there have been bumps with these injuries, and who knows if we would have won anything anyway, whether it be regular season or tournament, but we didn't, and now we have a chance to play. I hope we play great tomorrow and are worthy of winning, and if we can do that, then move on.

But we'll take it ‑ Sports on Earth is going to be mad at me for saying this - one step at a time. I know it's been used on earth many times, and it's a little cliché.

Q. You mentioned over the course of the season that without Ryan the team had to adjust and learn how to play without him and learn to be a new team. Now that you have him back, is this sort of the same adjustment but in less time? And also in Ryan's case, the games he's been thrown into, those are the high profile games to kind of get adjusted in. Can you talk about that?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, well, it's a little bit easier to get adjusted to him than without him because we don't have anybody like him. So for those 15 games when he started out this season, everybody ‑ they knew who he was and the court was spaced and we had really good chemistry. When he went out, our guys did a terrific job. The court got smaller, and no one really could take his place, otherwise they would have been playing a lot, too.

But since then everyone welcomes him back, and it's more of him getting adjusted. Like I think we have adjusted to him real easy. It's who is he now. His first game back, it was like divine intervention. It was like, I'm Catholic, and we got holy water from Fatima and just doused him with it, and all of a sudden ‑ that couldn't happen, what he did. It couldn't happen, what he did.

And so since then it's more of a reality of, hey, this is a guy who's back in November getting in shape playing with guys who are in shape to play in March. So I think he's had to push it up, and he's had a great week. He looks more fluid right now, and he feels as healthy as he's been in two and a half months.

Q. Earlier this year you saw Florida Gulf Coast. I wonder what your impressions are of them?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, unbelievably well coached. You talk about a coach being able to use his personnel to the maximum, and he does that. We had a good game with them, we just had this hellacious run in the game that kind of just blew it open. But it doesn't surprise me that they've had the year that they've had.

Q. Just a couple days ago in this building Doug Collins gave his pitch for Chris moving on to become a head coach. Do you feel this is kind of the off season you might lose him and what makes him qualified to be a head coach?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I could lose any of my guys at any time. I feel I have the best staff in America, pro or college, because two of them have been with me for seven years in the Olympics and world championships in Wojo and Chris, and I have three head coaches on my staff in Chris, Wojo and Capel, and there's nobody who has that.

He'll be great ‑ all three of those guys would be great, and all those guys that work with them, all the pro guys, will tell you the same thing.

Q. I was told you're wearing a special bracelet for this game. We had two student athletes in December get killed in a Northway crash. One of the families, Deanna Rivers, she passed away, big Duke fans, their family is coming to the game. Can you talk about that?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: You know, I'd rather keep it a private thing. The thing that I'm wearing, though, I wore since they visited Duke. We invited them to come down and spend a week ‑ spend a game ‑ have a game experience, and Brian and Debbie gave me some things, and one of them was a bracelet, and I told them that I would wear it. So it's an easy thing to do. It's an amazing, amazing tragedy. I have three daughters and eight grandkids, and I can't even imagine that ‑ I can't even imagine it.

Q. I know this kind of sounds like a crazy question, but - 

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: No, it doesn't. The earth guy with the multiple questions.

Q. What do you have to do to beat Albany, and to a lesser question, when is the next time we're going to see you at Saratoga?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: First of all, I love being at Saratoga. I took my family there for about eight straight summers, and it's the Wrigley Field of horse racing. As a fan, it's unbelievable. Beautiful place, beautiful people.

The Albany team, you have to defend their guards. Black and Iati have had terrific years. Black is as good a player as there is in their conference. Iati is a guy that can blow a game apart with his three‑point shooting. They did that when they beat Washington.

They have a toughness about them that's personified in Rowley. You have those three Aussies who play tough together and do a good job. We want to play harder than them. I know they'll play really hard against us, and I feel if we play harder, and we've got to hit our shots, then we'll have a chance to beat them.

But we respect them, and they're not here because they've won on flukes. They've won close games and their kids responded under pressure in late‑game situations.

Q. I wanted to revisit Chris for just a moment.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Chris Collins?

Q. Right. The relationship that he has with his dad, he's a big family guy, I know that you are, too. I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about what you know of the Collins family, their relationship, and how that translates to success as a coach, success leading a group of young men.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, it's a great basketball family and it's a great family. I mean, Doug is as smart a guy about basketball as there is on this planet. You should get him to be a spokesperson for your thing. I mean, Chris is growing up with it. Chris knows everything about basketball. I mean, you ask him scores, who's‑‑ he's just terrific.

They're beautiful people, and we feel like we're one and the same family. I mean, I've known Chris since he was 17 years old. And in Doug's case, all the things that have ever been done in the United States for basketball, Doug's free throws in the '72 Olympics, unless we got messed over ‑ we got messed over in that game, his free throws in that game would have been shown forever because he is not cold.

Coach Iba said, if he can get up, I want that guy shooting those free throws, and he made them, two swishes, to put us ahead and should have won the '72 Olympics. That heart, that soul, that passion, his son has it, too.

I love them to death. I'd go to war with Doug, Chris, and have with Chris. They're just terrific people.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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