March 17, 2010
Q. Lazar, I wanted to ask you about the change in your role from a complimentary player to a featured offensive player on the team, and both from the standpoint of the offense and also what you do off the field, what kind of responsibilities, off court, what kind of responsibilities have you had to adopt?
LAZAR HAYHARD: I wouldn't say it was a very big change. On the basketball court it's me being more of a vocal leader, last year having those four seniors, sometimes when things were going wrong and we needed maybe a motivational point they were the guys to step up first.
So if I was to come along and be the fifth guy to say something it would be like I was repeating myself. Sometimes me saying something first this year, and these guys beat me to the punch sometimes as well and off the court there was no change at all.
Coach always makes sure we're around each other because he thinks that's a vital thing to do for us to be close on the court, for us to be close off the court. On and off it's not much difference, just a little bit.
Q. As a feature of the other teams, have you had to expand your game or do something different?
LAZAR HAYHARD: I for sure had to make sure I was ready every single night and to make sure I've always been a pretty hard worker, but now those guys go when I go, they need off my energy, they look into my eyes to make sure everything is okay.
I have to make sure I'm always on task, and now it's just I have a little more attention drawn to me. So I can use that to our advantage, bring those guys to me and make some good passes.
Q. Maurice, talk about your coach and his motivational tactics the running at the beginning of the season and the no haircuts, how does that impact you guys and how has it impacted the surge you've had since January.
MAURICE ACKER: Impact us a lot, at the beginning of the year we had to do this thing called "boot camp" that's when we had to accomplish different types of running drills and different things as a team for like 14 days overall. It was one of the toughest things that we had experienced, you know, throughout our basketball careers.
If you ask anybody on our team, that is just something we had to do. We had to come together as a team to complete everybody had to complete it, and it shows the type of team we have. We have a real close team that's willing to compete at the high level and get things done together.
And as far as the haircuts, we had decided not to cut our hair for that long period of stretch where we were winning games. We started it off and as soon as we came together and agreed to it, you know, we started having a successful year, started winning games, which was helpful for us. It just shows the type of team we have. Didn't nobody disagree with not cutting their hair, you know, and that was a good thing about our team.
Q. Your coach was talking about how once you got off to the 2 5 start in the Big East you've been on the bubble and tried to play off the bubble all season. How is this experience of one done experience related to what you guys have been doing the last couple of months?
LAZAR HAYHARD: It really prepared us for this type of thing, because playing in the Big East you have to be ready every single night. Any given night against any team, you know, it could be a loss.
For us to just be able to experience that as a team early on, I think those certain situations will hopefully transpire to this tournament and give us a little bit of an edge because we've been in so many close games, and we finally learned how to stay in those games and come out with a win in some of those games.
Q. What have you guys learned about Washington since the draw on Sunday? Just watching film and game breakdown, what's caught your attention?
LAZAR HAYHARD: They play very, very hard. They're a very fast team. They like to play up tempo, of course they're well coached or they probably wouldn't be here, and they all play together. Pondexter is their leader, and they all feed off him. They have a deep bench as well, and we have to be prepared for that and we have to know each player's tendencies and what they like to do and what not to do.
Q. Last year you guys all cut your hair going into the tournament as a sign of unity. I want to know what's behind the hair and the design this year.
LAZAR HAYHARD: The design isn't significant, but it's another thing for us to be unified, and everybody wants to be in the same boat with two feet in and just to have a little fun, just to get a change of pace is always good, and last year we were bald. I'm happy they didn't choose that last year.
Q. Buzz on board with the move?
LAZAR HAYWARD: We couldn't get him to do it. He would probably be on board with the bald again! (Laughter.)
Q. David, aside from the largest player that UW has on their court, they have a power forward guy, but the rest of the guys are 6'6" and down. Over the past season, do you like playing smaller teams because they're more like you, or do you find opportunities using your game and quickness against other players?
DAVID CUBILLAN: Doesn't really matter who we play. We're always going to play the same way. We're not going to change us, we try to just do us every day, and in the Big East you get teams that sometimes you're going to sometimes they play like sometimes you have teams like West Virginia their star player is 6'6" and over.
So it doesn't really matter. We're going to keep doing what we've been doing the whole season, and then we'll see what happens.
Q. The Seton Hall Coach Bobby Gonzalez was fired today because of what was seen as his conduct, his conduct was detrimental to the players, and there was questionable stuff that happened last night. Did you guys every notice anything about the players' conduct or the coach's conduct?
LAZAR HAYHARD: Of course we hear things, but we try not to focus on things like that off court because there is nothing we can do about that. The only thing we can control is how we prepare for the team and how we get ready to play that team and we just control our games.
But we heard some things and that's a very tough situation for them over there and I hope some of those guys are okay, because they all seemed like pretty good guys when we talked to them. Robert Mitchell was even at my prep school, so I'm hoping everything works out for him. They played really, really hard for their coach as you can see and we just hope for the best for those guys.
Q. Lazar, you mentioned Pondexter, and I wondered what you learned from his game from playing with him on team USA, and what you picked up from that experience that you could bring into the season?
LAZAR HAYHARD: I learned he's a really good guy. I have a lot of respect for him. He's a great player. I don't think he's 6'6" either, he's probably a bit taller than that. But he's a guy that can dribble, pass, shoot, he rebounds well, he defends well. He's a great leader.
The experience out there that I take from there is I just try to be a leader, I just try to help whoever I can and make sure all the guys are on the same page. With a team like that, that USA team it's a bunch of really, really good players, but they all had great attitudes and they listen to other coaches and they listened to me. We're all winners and we're all competitors.
So when they see a guy when they see everyone working hard and we're all on the same page and we all want to do one thing, which is win, it's pretty easy to have great chemistry out there. That's one thing Quincy has. He's a very, very good leader. He works very hard, and I think that's why Washington is a pretty good team.
Q. All three of you, talking to Coach Williams on Sunday he said that when you lost the three seniors last year a lot of people thought you might lose 22 games this year instead of winning 22 games, if you could pinpoint one thing that has allowed you to get to this point to win 22 games, what would that be?
LAZAR HAYHARD: I would say I think my teammates handled all of our situations probably the best way a college team could ever handle them.
We had people getting hurt, people leaving, and those guys did a very good job of keeping focused, never losing faith and always working hard. Those are the things I would say they did the best.
Q. Lazar, I think there is a perception that the Big East is a tough guys league, the PAC 10 is a finesse league. Is there truth to that as you see it? And how might that impact your preparation for the game tomorrow?
LAZAR HAYHARD: I don't see that the Pac 10 is a finesse league at all. After watching tape those guys probably can be add in the Big East and do quite well. They play very, very hard and up tempo and that's like a lot of teams in the Big East as well, and we have to prepare for this game the same way we prepared for every single game.
We're not familiar with them as we would be a Big East team, of course, but we've been preparing with film and our coaches do a great job of getting us ready, but I wouldn't call them a finesse team at all.
Q. Just to clarify, when did you guys first start growing the hair, and when did you guys start to cut it?
LAZAR HAYHARD: We started growing the day after we lost to Syracuse, and I think our record was 2 5 right after that. Then we won five in a row and I don't think we cut it until we lost to Pitt and cut it. It was a very long time that's for sure.
COACH BUZZ WILLIAMS
Q. Coach, just talked with the guys about their new hair do, hair is a hot topic, what dunk?
COACH WILLIAMS: That they are silly. That's it. I didn't say anything to them. They're kids. They're having fun. Last year they all cut it off, and after we got whipped by Syracuse I told 'em they couldn't cut it and that became a story in and of itself. So now they have 19 designs in their head along with their number, so it only makes sense.
Q. You were telling us the other day about how this team has been playing its way off the bubble all season. How do you think that's prepared them for this, and how do you think the mind set is now that you're in a one done situation.
COACH WILLIAMS: The same. If you look at our last 14 games all of those games to an extent were "bubble" games. They weren't called that since, but that's what they were. We weren't even in contention to play in any sort of tournament, much less the NCAA Tournament.
So every game in and of itself had many implications on us being here today. I don't think the mind set has changed any. We've played every game the same way, and that's because that's the only choice we've had.
Q. After you've had a chance to review film and watch games, anybody that you played this year that reminds you of Washington?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think that Washington led the Pac 10 in scoring. They have two of the top 5 scorers in the Pac 10. They're third in field goal percentage, which says a lot playing as fast as they do. They are third in field goal percentage defense, which says a lot. They average 85 possessions. They average 23 freethrow attempts, and they only average 7 turnovers a game and 13 offensive rebounds.
So relative to the Big East this is how I would compare 'em: They drive it like Villanova, they play fast like Syracuse, they offensive rebound the ball like West Virginia and they play with great energy and great pace like St. John's.
Q. You guys, in the first, I think, eight games lost by four points and then won 5 or six of those type games in a row, what was the difference?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think in any profession you learn whether you win or whether you lose. In order to become elite, you have to pay attention to every single thing that happens and try and become better. You are exactly right on the numbers. We started out 1 4 on games decided by one possession or less, and over the last 14 games of the season 8 of those have been decided by one possession or less, and we've won 7 of those eight. When you look at all of our Big East contests, 14 of them were decided by 4 points or less.
So I think when you're 2 5 which we were when we got beat by Syracuse, when you're 2 5, and you're picked 12th by the Big East coaches, everybody counts you for dead. I think it speaks to the character and the fortitude of our kids.
But I also think it speaks to their willingness to continue to work and their willingness to continue to learn. Because I don't think you can start out 2 5 in a league like ours and then turn it flip it around and have the finish that we've had unless you have great character, unless you're willing to work and unless during your work you're willing to learn and get a little bit better, and I think that's what our guys have been able to do.
Q. A lot of talk about the field expanding next year to 96 or very soon. Some of those projections have Big East getting 12 or 13 teams in a field like that. Is that a good thing or would you rather tournaments stay at 65?
COACH WILLIAMS: I've said this before, and I mean this genuinely, it's not coach speak, I haven't earned enough equity in any sort of way to be a politician relative to anything going on in the NCAA or the Tournament. We're thankful to be one of 65 teams, wherever we're at in the curve of those 65 teams we're grateful for it.
But whether it should expand, how many teams would come in, 96, representing the Big East. I'm the least tenured coach in the Big East with the least number of wins. I hope as of today I get paid for seventeen days for the month of March, and I just want to make sure it's 18 tomorrow. I try to avoid any sort of political campaigning.
Q. Coach, Hayward's perspective coming off a team that lost so much talent and going to was picked 12th by the coaches in the league, what was an experience like for him, and what kind of adjustments has he had to make?
COACH WILLIAMS: Lazar has had has handled being a leader than anyone I've ever been around and he didn't want people calling him a leader. The best leaders, if you do your history, the best leaders are the ones that act as if they have no leadership ability, and I think that's how Lazar is.
I think it says in the Bible the one that stands in the back is the one that finishes in the front, something like that, that's my paraphrase of it, and Lazar has those qualities. He's a pure human being, and who he is off court has translated to our team on the court more so than any person or player I've ever been around, and it's because of who he is as a young man.
As far as his adjustments, I don't know that he's made anymore adjustments, I think he shoots more balls than he had to shoot last year but he's not shooting different shots than he shot last year. He had to guard the best post player every game last year just like he does this year. We rely on him more offensively and from a rebounding perspective maybe than our team did last year.
Relative to adjustments I don't know that he's had to make any adjustments other than he gets more reps at shooting balls and he likes doing that.
Q. Coach, how long did your hair get during that winning streak? How much of a sacrifice was that for you? Is that the longest it's been in a while?
COACH WILLIAMS: It wasn't quite as long as yours is, but my hair is really thick. Everybody thought I cut my hair because I'm bald. I began to cut my hair six months before my first child was born in order to save money, and it's not hard if you're listening to me for the first time, you can tell I have quirks and idiosyncrasies about me, I used to get my haircut every Friday at noon, and all the gel and the conditioner and the certain things used to begin to wear me out and it was my way of saving money in preparation for our first child. So that was the first time I'd grown out my hair in 8 and a half years.
Q. Coach, you talk about some of the attributes of Washington relative to the Big East teams that you've faced. Is winning the game tomorrow more about what you guys do or specific things that you need to attack.
COACH WILLIAMS: Best question. I think this. If Washington is playing us, then I like our chances. If we're playing Washington it will be a blowout. We have to make them play the way we play, and if it turns into a contest and we try to play the way they play, they'll man handle us.
Q. When your players were out here there was a question asked about the stereotypes of the two leagues the Big East being the power league and the Pac 10 being more of a finesse league. Do you believe that there are personalities to various leagues? And is the Big East in anyway fundamentally different than the Pac 10?
COACH WILLIAMS: I do believe there are specific personality traits, if that's what you would call it, to each league, but how you would compare them I don't know that specifically. I've never coached in the Pac 10 in any capacity, but I think over the past three years there has been a Final Four participant out of the Pac 10.
So that can't be too bad. What I have studied of Washington they're very physical. I don't think they're finesse in any sort of way. I think No. 11 and No. 3 are extremely physical inside, they have two Pac 10 defensive players on their team. I think No. 1 is the heart and soul of their team, and he probably doesn't get enough credit for doing that, Pondexter will be drafted in the first 30 picks and No. 2 can be in any "and one" video every made, and the way he handles the ball.
I don't think they're a finesse team and maybe that's why they've won 12 out of their last 14 games because that's how they play, I've only been a coach in two leagues, in the Big East and the Sunbelt. When I was in the Big 12, all the kids at Texas A&M, I was part of recruiting those kids and everybody said the Big 12 was set 42 screens before you take a shot, slow 'em down, and there is truth to that.
But relative to the whole league I don't think it's fair to stereotype an entire league. But I do think there are certain traits in each league.