LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Below is a transcript of Fred Hoiberg’s "media day" press conference that took place on Wednesday in Louisville in preparation for Thursday’s 11:40 tip against UAB.
COACH HOIBERG: Thank you very much. First and foremost, we’re really excited to be back in Louisville, where we had our first NCAA experience three years ago. Just an absolutely wonderful town, a great basketball community. People were awesome to us all week. It’s great to be back. It’s also great to be back competing in this tournament. I think sometimes you forget to enjoy this a little bit, and you get so caught up with everything and the pressures of playing in this event. One thing I talked to our guys about was going out and having fun and playing loose and going out and just absolutely playing the best that they can. We’re excited to be here on the big stage, and hopefully our guys will play well.
Q. Coach, your team has shown that they can come back, particularly the last five games. Is that something that it’s nice to have in the pocket, but you’d like to maybe see them start a lot sooner and show that they can get on top early.
COACH HOIBERG: Yes, I’d love to see it a lot sooner. I’d love to see us come out of the gate and get off to a great start and us jump out to a double digit lead. It started a few games ago, last couple games of the regular season against Oklahoma on senior night, and they just jumped all over us. Then a 21 point lead in the second half. We just kind of switched things up and tried to create some space and driving lanes for our guys, and they responded in a huge way. I think that game really gave us confidence that you can fight through adversity and you can battle through tough times and still come out on top. And then we did it on the road the next game against TCU. I give the teams we played against, you look at the three in the Big 12 tournament with Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, and now you’re looking at four teams that are in this tournament. One’s a 2 seed. One’s a 3 seed that we played twice in that run. And then Texas was playing their best stretch of the season as well. TCU had beaten some really good teams in our league at home. A lot of it is who we were playing, but I was really proud of how our guys found a way to continue to battle through that adversity. They stayed positive in the huddles. They continued to talk to each other. They ramped up their communication on the floor. But to answer your initial question, yes, we’d love to get off to a great start, starting tomorrow. In this tournament, you’re playing against great teams, starting with UAB tomorrow. I’ve been very impressed watching that group, and we need to get off to a good start tomorrow.
Q. Coach, what do you bring from that experience last year when you guys were as good as anybody and you weren’t playing at full strength at the guard? What sort of hunger did that leave with you and your guys?
COACH HOIBERG: I think that left a lot of hunger, specifically with Georges Niang, who was playing as well as anybody in the country, he had a stretch going to that tournament and scored 24 points in 26 minutes in that game against a very, very good North Carolina Central team. I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was getting ready to be interviewed by Craig Sager in that game, and the trainer came up and said it was broken. It was hard to get through that interview. It was emotional. Walking into the interview, I had to break the news to our guys about what had just happened. Georges probably played through more than anybody on the team, especially that time of year. So it was tough. Our guys, I give them all the credit in the world to go out and bounce back and beat a very good North Carolina team and just didn’t quite have the fire power to beat the national champs in Connecticut. Yeah, the hunger, it’s there. Our guys that are back from that team worked all year to get back to this opportunity to try and put your team in a position to where you can compete for a championship. In the win last week at Kansas City, especially the way we did it, was unbelievable. Now it’s putting that behind and getting on to the next phase, which our guys are excited about being back here. Hopefully, we play well. I think our guys are focused. They’ve got a great week of prep. We’ve thrown a lot at them in a short amount of time with UAB and what they try to do. Hopefully, we’ll go out and execute it tomorrow because that’s where it starts. If you get past the next one, it’s one at a time.
Q. Coach, how have you and your staff been able to successfully mesh new players each year?
COACH HOIBERG: I think it’s the biggest part of our job is to build the team chemistry that you have to have to have a successful basketball team. We’ve had a lot of new faces every year. You look at last year, what we lost, we lost two All Americans. We lost Deandre Kane, who put up as good a numbers as anybody.
And Melvin Ejim, who not only was the number one player in the Big 12 Conference, but also our leader. We had to bring in some guys, a couple transfers. Fortunately, we had some guys that sat out and learned a system a year ago on the scout team, but it’s different than getting out there and playing for real. I give our guys credit, the guys that have been around. You look at Georges Niang and Naz Long and Monte Morris and Dustin Hogue, you’ve got guys around that know what the expectations are, what the culture is. You have to buy into that if you want to become a successful basketball team.
Q. There was some overlap between your playing career at Iowa State and Jerod’s playing career at Kansas. What do you remember about him as a player and what jumps out to you this year?
COACH HOIBERG: Jerod is one of the hardest working players that I played against. Very talented, but he never stopped moving. He was very tough to guard. I used to love when he would get subed out, and Greg Gurley would come in, because he was a horrible defender. No offense to Greg. But Jerod, his team has taken on his personality. I’ve really enjoyed watching them and how hard they played for him. That run in the conference USA tournament was big time, kind of similar to us, where they found a way to hang on at the end of games and found a way to erase deficits late in games to win. It’s a team that’s really matured. You can see, as the year has gone on. And the talent level, watch out for UAB in coming years because they’ve got young talent, and they’ve really bought into what Jerod has preached to them about playing together. You can tell it’s a team that’s playing their best basketball of the season. That’s all of our goals is to get your team to do that. Again, I’ve been really, really impressed with what Jerod has done with that group.
Q. A lot of people have talked about offensive stagnation in college basketball. You guys score a lot of points and have a very efficient and good offense. You think it’s just a matter of creativity, or what is it what remedies do you suggest? Or should there be any remedy?
COACH HOIBERG: I’ve never been known as a real creative guy, but it’s just based on the personnel that we have. That’s how we’ve tried to set our offense. We’ve had pretty unique players that have gone through our program. In all five years now, we’ve had a different system. We’re not going to do the same thing every year. We’re going to base our offense on what the skill sets of our guys are and where we feel we can utilize their strengths the most. Got a great point guard in Monte Morris, and that’s where it starts. If you’ve got a guy to go out there and make the right play and make the right decision, which Monte has done. He’s led the nation in assist to turnover ratio in two consecutive years. You’ve got a four man in Georges Niang that is very difficult to guard because of his versatility and how many places on the floor you can put him. It’s based on spacing the floor properly. If we get the floor spaced and get the ball in our play maker’s hands, good things generally happen. As far as changes, I would love to see the shot clock shortened. I think you increase possessions and naturally increase scoring. The coaches will adjust. There’s great coaches all throughout college basketball talk about maybe shot selection won’t be as good, but the coaches will adjust. I think that’s a good place to start is by lowering the shot clock.
Q. Out of the hundreds of coaches, you’re probably the one most tied to the town where you coach in most ways. What are some of the things that you love about Ames?
COACH HOIBERG: What do I not love about Ames? It’s God’s country. It’s a place that was phenomenal to be raised in. My dad took a job in Ames, Iowa, when I was 2 years old. He had two job offers. One was at Kansas, and one was at Iowa State. He moved the family to Ames from Nebraska, and it was just I grew up four blocks from campus. I used to walk to the basketball games, walk to the football games. I was a ball boy for both programs and just fell in love with Iowa State athletics. My kids grew up huge Iowa State fans. My parents still live there. My inlaws still live there. My brother lives there. Just have so many connections and ties to that town. It’s really been a dream come true for me to be home coaching the school that I absolutely idolized growing up.
Q. Obviously, Larry Brown is in town. Have you ever crossed paths with Larry? You know how this works. How can a person succeed going back and forth between college and the NBA?
COACH HOIBERG: I love catching up with Coach Brown whenever I see him. I’ll see him on the road, and just being able to sit by him, he’s absolutely amazing. He remembers all my kids, their names. I saw him today. He’s like, oh, there’s your twins, Sam and Charlie, how are they doing? There’s Jack. Don’t you have a daughter that’s graduating right now? It’s amazing what he remembers. He’s one of the best I played for obviously, hall of fame coach. Small details, the best I’ve ever been around. Took a lot from him and applied it to my coaching philosophy. He’s a basketball coach. He loves the game. He loves teaching. Most head coaches, especially in the NBA, they don’t go out before the game, but when I was in my first two years in Indiana where I played for Larry, he was the guy that worked me out before games. He’d be out there in his suit putting me through a workout, and I’d take a cab over early because I wasn’t playing many minutes, and he was the guy out there. That’s what his passion was teaching the game. I don’t know if he liked the game so much, but the practice time and all the individual work was so much fun for him. It was great to be a part of that. To look back and remember all the things that I learned from him. I saw him today. We practiced right after them at a different gym, and just being able to catch up with him again. He said he’s still going to be coaching when my kids get up there. Who knows, maybe they’ll play for him.
Q. So can you expand on that a little bit about Coach Brown and try to imagine what it’s like to move from town to town, team to team. Obviously, a different personality to be able to do that.
COACH HOIBERG: He’s amazing. To still have the passion that he does right now, being in it as long as he has, is unbelievable. I’m burnt out, and I’m in my fifth year. I can’t imagine continuing to coach that long. Again, he was born to be a teacher and a coach, and he’s one of the best I’ve been around. But as far as moving from town to town, I don’t know. I’ve only been in one place. So I guess I can’t speak to that.
Q. Fred, talk about Dustin in these big games. Six games and shooting almost 70 percent, six postseason games.
COACH HOIBERG: Dustin, he’s our rock. You talk about the glue guys. You talk about a guy that’s going to go out and do whatever role is given to him. He rebounds. He defends every time he’s on the floor. The biggest thing I’ve seen over the two years we’ve had him is how his shot has improved. He’s a guy that didn’t shoot much from behind the arc, in fact, didn’t shoot at all in junior college. I’ll never forget the game at the Garden in front of all his friends and family without Georges Niang and he put up 34 points. It was just awesome. Even though we lost the game, to see the passion and to see how much that meant to his family to be in front of them in his home city doing that. But he’s meant the world to us. He’s done all the little things, the dirty work, I guess you could call it, for us. He’s been a big part of our success.