NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP ROSTER

Coach Lute Olson
# Name Height
10�� Mike Bibby 6'2"
34 Miles Simon 6'5"
23 Michael Dickerson�� 6'6"
21 Bennett Davison 6'9"
42 A.J. Bramlett 6'11"
31 Jason Terry 6'4"
13 Donnell Harris 6'10"
33 Eugene Edgerson 6'8"
43 Justin Wessell 6'9"
24 Quynn Tebbs 6'2"
12 Josh Pastner 6'2"
53 Ortege Jenkins 6'3"




1997 NCAA FINAL FOUR - Mens Division 1

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

March 31, 1997

Postgame interviews:

COACH LUTE OLSON: "Well, it was definitely a cat fight, I'll tell you that. I mean, I'm not sure that two teams could expend more energy than what these two teams did. Shots were difficult to come by. For us, I think we made it difficult for them to get the shots. Their pressure defense is really something special. And the thing that makes it special is how hard they work once you get by; the sprint to the lane to stop the attack after the -- after you break initially."

"But I'm just so proud of this group of guys. It's been a never say die group. They've had faith in themselves, they've had faith in their teammates. It's been a very closely knit family all year long. And as I told them in the locker room, I could not ever be prouder of a group of young people than I am of this group. They've just been a wonderful pleasure for me, a wonderful pleasure for the assistant coaches to work with every day. It's always been a tremendous work ethic, and that's why they're sitting up here right now, is that they were willing to pay the price."

Q. "This is for Mike and Miles. The Kentucky press has been so devastating to other teams, and you all handled it well tonight, it wasn't really a major factor in the game. Why was that, why did you have so much success against it?"

MILES SIMON: "Basically I think our guys, we kept coming to the ball. We never floated away from Mike if he was in trouble. And we saw one thing when we watched the tapes that we could break the press down off the dribble, and we could basically get to almost half court and get skip passes. And our spacing was just tremendous."

MIKE BIBBY: "We've been working on the press since day one when we came to practice. We've got -- I think the greatest competition is what we see every day and that's in practice. And our team is just so quick out there, and I think we -- I don't even know what to say."

Q. "Miles, even once you guys had broken the press, it seemed like you wanted to get inside, you turned down the perimeter over and over to slash inside. Was that continuing to break them down?"

MILES SIMON: "Definitely. They played us for the three, tremendous. They were in our face as soon as we caught for the three. But they were coming out so hard that the penetration was open all night. It was a matter of not going to the hoop, but being able to pull up, follow the short jumpers."

Q. "Can you talk a little bit about the defense tonight. It seemed as if whatever a Kentucky player was getting the ball there were two or three of you guys on them. What enabled you to do that; especially shutting down Mercer in the first half?"

MILES SIMON: "Well, one thing, I think Mills was getting a lot of open looks in the first half. And our guards were not fighting through the screens very well. But one thing on Mercer, we knew he was going to curl cut a lot, and that's exactly what he did. Our objective was to fight around the screens and be there when they caught the ball. And our big men, if we got caught for a second, they were hedging out and helping us tremendously. And they were not getting many easy looks at all."

COACH LUTE OLSON: "I think on that, too, Miles, I thought Kentucky did a great job early of adjusting to what we were doing defensively, and you saw them get some interior feeds and easy baskets on us. So what we did is we just said, okay, guards, you have got to get through that screen. And if you don't get through the screen, then the big guys have got to recognize that, and we've got to make the switch, because in most cases the switch is followed by a pop out to the three-point line, and typical of these guys all year long. It's like, okay, we need to do this, we need to adjust this way. And you can talk about it from a coaching standpoint, but if the players are not alert and communicating, then you're going to have problems. We did not give up many of those in the second half."

Q. "Miles, could you describe in a personal note what having such an incredible game in the final game meant to you after some of the things you've been through this season?"

MILES SIMON: "It's unbelievable. To come out and -- I don't know, just -- I gave it my all. Kentucky, I think they wore me down in the first half. I was very tired. I called for a sub, I'd say like three times. But in the second half after we had played maybe a mediocre first half, there was -- I just had to suck it up, and I was getting the ball in the right spots, able to create easy shots and get to the foul line."

Q. "You guys could have taken it back a little when they hit the threes to put it in overtime. Miles and Mike, in the huddle before you come back out for OT, what were you guys thinking and talking about for attacking that and not letting that disrupt you?"

MILES SIMON: "One thing, they hit two incredible shots, the first one, Mercer, you know, if I was any closer I would have fouled him. And I wasn't sure about the Epps one, I wasn't on him. But one thing, when we came out, you know, it was still our game to win. We had been in control the whole second half and had the lead. We weren't able to make a major run to get it to 8 or 10, but we maintained no matter what they threw at us."

MIKE BIBBY: "He said it all."

Q. "For Mike, Epps looked like he used a shot fake before the three pointer that tied the game at 74 with 13 seconds to go in regulation. Did you go flying past him or do you remember when he hit that three?"

MIKE BIBBY: "I knew he was going to pull up. I looked at the time, I could see he wanted to pull up. When he went to pull up, I tried to distract him, I jumped pass him. He pump faked, and I tried to distract him again once I flew past him, and it was just a good shot."

Q. "Miles, usually Kentucky wears down its opponents. Did you feel that maybe tonight you wore them down?"

MILES SIMON: "Their press, I think they came out and tried to fool us at the beginning. They didn't press for the first couple of minutes. But we knew it was going to come eventually. They pressed the whole game. And one thing, they were not getting turnovers and easy baskets off of it. And continually we were able to break it and break it. And eventually running 94 feet the whole game, they were going to get tired. And I think at the end you could see them, they were dragging a little bit. But I think that also came. The game was very physical and it was just a war out there."

Q. "Starting with Miles and the other two players, Mike and Donnell, could you just talk a little bit about what your feeling is about Lute winning this championship and what he's done? He's been there three times with the program. And then Lute, if you would answer that, as well, what it means to you personally?"

MILES SIMON: "It's unbelievable right now. I don't think it's really sunk in. I'm still thinking that we're going to have a day off tomorrow and practice on Wednesday. But for Coach Olson, he's been so close so many times and to come through in this championship for him as well as our team, it's remarkable."

DONNELL HARRIS: "It's just a wonderful feeling to be here and to have won it. I know this is the Coach's first. I'm just happy to have been on the team to win it with him. And he's prepared us all year. He's helped us achieve our dreams, and I'm sure this is one of his dreams. And I want to say it's been a wonderful -- and I can't wait until we start playing again."

MIKE BIBBY: "I think he was bound to win one, and I was going to try to win one for him while I was here. I'm just so happy that we won my first year, and we're going to try to repeat next year."

(Players excused.)

COACH LUTE OLSON: "Well, I still have difficulty believing that this has happened. We've had other teams here, outstanding teams, more experienced teams. But this group, from the get go, it's been such a pleasure to work with them. It's been a pleasure to be around them off the court. They're guys that if the bus is going to leave at ten minutes to 8:00, you can count on everyone being in there by quarter to 8:00. I guess as coaches we just feel so blessed to have the kind of young people that we have on this basketball team. It's been a family from the get go. The toughness that they've developed during the course of the year I think has been due to the schedule, the games they've had to go through. But also it's been due to Miles Simon and the fact that we needed somebody to continue getting that kind of tough attitude and that there's not anyone that's going to play harder than what we're going to play. And all night long in the locker room beforehand, at halftime, you asked about what was said in the huddle when we came out after the -- after Kentucky did a great job of hitting those threes to get them back in, and the whole thing we always talk about is the toughest team mentally and physically is going to win this basketball game. They've gone through three No. 1 seeds, and in every one of those cases that was the point, that we -- are we tough enough? Can we be the ones that run other people out of gas? Can we get the tough rebound down the stretch, even though you're exhausted? And I think they answered that for everybody tonight."

Q. "Lute, I know this may not have sunk in just yet, but when you think back over NCAA Tournament Championship games and you think of some of the wins, Villanova, Michigan in overtime, et cetera, where do you think this game will be remembered in terms of the game and in terms of the run of beating three No. 1s?"

COACH LUTE OLSON: "It's never happened before, the runs of three No. 1s. But for those who didn't think we deserved to be a No. 4 seed, they probably think -- probably need to check the schedule. But as far as the game, itself, that's going to have to be up to you people to make the determination on that. But for excitement, for effort, for tremendous defense, for the kind of game that it was, I may be a little bit biased, but I wish I could have been there as a spectator watching it, because it just seemed like it had everything that you could possibly have in the game."

"A question was asked earlier about the press and that kind of thing, and Mike Bibby said we worked on it from day one. And our practices are set up where the first thing we do after we get them loosened up and we go through some other drills every day, all year long, is working on pressure, pressure offense, pressure defense. And the reason for that is a lot of people make the mistake, okay, you're going to face a pressing team, so now you spend a week getting ready for a pressing team. Our players develop the confidence that, hey, there isn't anybody that can press us. And, frankly, Kentucky is one of the few teams that's been able to stay in the pressure the whole game. We faced an Iowa team, Cincinnati a year ago, that had to come out of the pressure, and I think it's a case of the tough-mindedness of these kids, and the fact that they feel confident that people cannot come out and pressure them."

Q. "Coach, your program has carried a little bit of a shadow of some early round knockouts in the past. Does this make up for it and do you think that it's fair that it takes this to make up for it?"

COACH LUTE OLSON: "Well, as I said the other day, that's up to you guys to make that determination. It's always that same question, and we've got guys here with a National Championship in their hand. And last year's Sweet 16 where we had a great shot right down to the very end of doing it. So I know that they all go to -- I'll go to my grave with some of the people still talking about losses, but I feel badly for them."

Q. "I've known you longer than anybody in this room --"

COACH LUTE OLSON: "Except my wife."

Q. "You've been a winner every place you've been. Probably got as good a record as anybody. But you have taken a lot of abuse that you don't have coming. Second of all, No. 2, how about you look back, how close you came to getting eliminated by South Alabama in that first game."

COACH LUTE OLSON: "Well, we faced that all the way through. We had to come back from ten in the first. We had to come back from ten in the second. We had Kansas by double figures and almost let them back in the ballgame. But it's just a never say die attitude out of this group of guys, and it's amazing with no seniors. But Miles Simon's toughness is unbelievable. I do want to mention one other thing, Sean Elliot chartered his own -- chartered a jet to fly up here from San Antonio to be with us tonight. He talked with the kids. I asked him to talk with the players when we got on the bus prior to the time we left, and I told Sean we could not have written a script better than what he had to say to our guys. And he finished it up by saying, play hard and have fun. And I think that relaxed our guys. We've had a lot of people say during the week that they're too loose, and you should -- I think a couple of coaches said you shouldn't let them come out to the Fan Jam, you shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do that. A lot of those people have never been here, to begin with. But the key thing is that you can't make this bigger than life, and that the kids have got -- you coop them up in a hotel room, and by the time the game comes they're so tight they can't do anything. Steve Kerr had called us, what was it, last week, and he said I still feel badly about my shooting night, but you're going to get it this time around. And we were fortunate to have a number of our former players that are very special to us, very special to our program, and I'm just so happy that they could be here tonight. Damon Stoudamire was coming in, and this shows you the kind of quality of the young man, his flight would not have gotten back into Toronto early enough, and he was afraid that he was going to miss their practice in the morning or be late for the practice, and he said I'm the team captain, and that would not be a very good example. And, yet, I think every one of his teammates and coaching staff would have excused him for being ten minutes late or whatever for practice. But we've been fortunate to have unbelievable young people in our program, and I think every one of them shares this evening with the current team."

Q. "Congratulations, Lute. You were supposed to be a work-in-progress this year. You ended up with the Crown. Is there any reason to think that you can't be just as good or even better next year?"

COACH LUTE OLSON: "Well, knowing these young people, I know that they're not going to be self-satisfied. They do have to understand that everybody is going to come at them with everything they've got. But you know what? We haven't seen many teams not come at Arizona full bore. They take great pride in that that, hey, we're going to get the best shot that you've got. I don't know how many years in a row that no one has beaten us in the PAC-10 without storming the floor and cutting down the nets. So I think they're tough-minded enough. I think they'll work hard enough to give it the best shot they can. That's all you can ask of them, is to give it their best shot."

Q. "Coach, you talked earlier about the family, your team being a family. Buechler was here tonight, Kerr, Elliot, is this what you mean, when guys --"

COACH LUTE OLSON: "Bruce Fraser, Matt Muehlebach, I could go on and on as far as the number of people that are here. Excuse me for interrupting, I didn't hear the end of that question."

Q. "You mean not just when they're playing for you they're family, but when they go on?"

COACH LUTE OLSON: "Exactly. They watch our scores. First thing I do in the morning is to get to the sports section to check how our guys are doing in the NBA or to see Kenny Lofton in terms of what's happening with him. I don't think that ever ends as far as how this -- the guys who have played at Arizona, how they feel about the university and how they feel about the great fans that have been so tremendous for so many years. So this is something that belongs to everybody associated with our program."

Q. "Coach, two things. First, would you address Miles' ability to penetrate through that defense and get to the line so much tonight? And also, just how much of an effect the overall quickness of this team had on you being able to win this National Championship, both on your perimeter guys and your interior guys."

COACH LUTE OLSON: "Well, we've won with quickness and hard work all year long, I think. And Miles -- Miles' understanding of the game is beyond anything that you can teach. He just -- he has a feel for it. And in the huddles he'd say, guys, we can penetrate. I thought in the first half we overpenetrated a few times and got ourselves in trouble. And we indicated that at halftime, okay, beat it, beat that press, but then make decisions. I thought we tried to go at them sometimes when we did not have the opening that we needed to. I said, hey, beat the press, if you've got the good advantage, take it, if you don't, then let's make them play some defense on the half court. But Miles cannot only penetrate, but he can get you up in the air. Probably as well as he shoots threes, his best basketball is when he's slashing and cutting through the defense. He has a feel when to shoot it, when to show it, get the guy up in the air."

"Plus 14 of 17, we're on the year about a 64 percent free throw shooting team. If you wonder what kind of guts these kids have, tonight it's 82.9 percent from the free throw line. And that's when the pressure is really on you, because now you've got time to think about that shot. And we took it to them, and we've been taking it to them and getting a lot more free throws than anybody else, but that's because we are not going to stand around and shooting the thing outside, we're going to take the ball at people and make them make the play."








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