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What they said… USC coach Tim Floyd

03.20.09 at 12:46 pm ET
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Tim Floyd coached the Chicago Bulls in the NBA after Michael Jordan left in the late 90s. He has had a more successful and certainly more enjoyable time coaching the USC Trojans. This season his team caught fire at the right time, winning its last five games, including a run to a Pac-10 title that earned them a berth against Boston College tonight in Minneapolis.

Here’s how Floyd summed up his opponent on Thursday night.

Q. Hi, Coach. What do you know about B.C. by now? And what concerns you most about them?

COACH FLOYD:
Well, from the coaching standpoint I think he is the best coach that nobody ever talks about. The job he’s done there with seven NCAA tournaments in 12 years. A young team this year that obviously believes in what they’re doing. Great shot selection, great conviction to what they run offensively. Play with a physicality, terrific offensive rebounding team. And great role definition with their players in terms of knowing what they should do and when they should do it.

And they have a star caliber with Rice. You know, a developmental big guy in Southern who is getting better and better. The 2 guard is outstanding, maybe could have been an All ACC player with a little bit more attention paid to him because he has been terrific the last five games. Just very good basketball team.

Q. Coach, a lot of people are, you know, picking you as, you know a lot of people are saying that you guys are going to be a good upset pick. What do you think makes you such a dangerous 10 seed in this tournament?

COACH FLOYD: Well, I just hope the people that are picking them are the same people that didn’t or not the same people that picked the upsets in the first round today because there haven’t been any.

You know, I think that those things don’t mean anything. They really don’t. If these guys were such great predictors, we ought to let them do the economy and get them out of basketball games and get them to turn that around.

It’s going to get down to players playing, players making plays.
Typically, I think these games get down to who gets the easy baskets.
The free throw line, offensive rebound baskets, transition baskets, scoring on inbounds plays. All of those things.

Q. DeMar came in with such tremendous expectations hanging over his head. How has he developed from the time that he came into your program? And what does he bring to your program now that he’s got a year of playing experience behind him?

COACH FLOYD: Well, I remember the first day of practice he told me, Coach, you’re going to have to be very patient with me. I’ve never been taught on the defensive end. And as far as running set offenses, I have never done any of that either, screening and all that kind of thing. So he came in very humble. He came in as a listener.

But he came in hungry. And he has just grown with the process, every game. Gets a little better, learns, asks questions, goes back utilizes the experience garnered in that game and gets a little better the next game. He is blessed with so much talent, so much God given talent.

And he’s got a nice touch. And he’s learned when to, when not to.How to play off the dribble. How to pass off the dribble. How far to go. When to go. All those things. And, you know, he played a lot of AAU ball, he played high school that was a very loose system. He never really had to play in any half court games which you see in the ACC and the Big Ten and the Big East and college basketball. But, also, that’s what you see in the NBA. It’s not 94 feet. And the great players can play half and play full.

And you play Washington State and UCLA and Arizona State and Cal, and Arizona, these teams get back on defense, and he’s had to learn how to play in a half court set, in addition to full court. And I think it’s really to his credit, he came in without ego and is a listener and has just gotten better and better.

Q. Well, Coach, you brought it up. One of the guys who picked against you is dealing with the economy, President Obama. He took Boston College to go to the second round, though. Your comments?

COACH FLOYD:
Well, as you know, President Obama is a former basketball player and athlete. And he played out west in Hawaii. And any kid that grows up west of the Rocky Mountains grows up wanting to play in the Pac 10. And he was not recruited by the Pac 10 level and I think he is still dealing with that. There is still some bitterness (laughter).

Q. Coach, interested in your assessment of Tyrese Rice. And is there anybody that you can compare him to that you compete against in the Pac 10 conference?

COACH FLOYD: Well, he’s terrific. He’s absolutely terrific. You don’t see many guys go over to Carolina and get 46 in a game. And what we’ve seen is a guy that’s deferred more this year and made his team better. There’s an understanding that point guards are measured by winning versus points scored, which is a credit to Al and what he has imparted on this young man.

I think that as far as comparatives, I guess Rochestie at Washington State, the speed of a Collison maybe at UCLA, which for people out west that’s a pretty good combination of talent.

Q. Coach, you certainly know the challenge of having players leave early for the NBA and how much it can upset things. What has it meant to your team this year to have a core of experienced upperclassmen that have stuck with you?

COACH FLOYD: Well, it’s really helped us. This is the first time since we have been there this is our fourth year and, by the way, we only have one senior still, Keith Wilkinson, who is a senior on the team. But we’re just thrilled because we have three guys in the junior class which we haven’t had. It is great to have a core of three guys together for three years that have played minutes. Because early we weren’t having to teach every drill ourselves and get out and slide around on the floor and show them how we are supposed to do it. I don’t do that very well anymore.

And these guys could do that. And they also could lift players that were young and get them through the process of the commands of pre season practice, in terms of understanding that that is a period of growth and that they’re going to hear their name a lot. And understand that that’s a good thing and not a bad thing.

Q. Coach, what is what have you seen changed in the team from, you know, the string of losses that you had in February until now when you are on the winning streak?

COACH FLOYD:
People wrote us off in February and I can understand why. We lost six out of seven. Let’s look at who we played and where we played, and I don’t think enough attention was spent on that. At UCLA, not many people have won there in the last four years. At Arizona. Not many people have won there in the last 20 years. At Arizona State, we came back home and got a great win against Washington State. Very good Washington State team and then lost to Washington. They won our league and then we went on the road at Cal and at Stanford. Very good basketball teams.

I thought we played well with the exception of the UCLA game. But we played without key people. Simmons was still nursing injuries, Marcus Johnson was out, Leonard Washington was still nursing injuries and Dwight Lewis was just coming back off a high ankle sprain where he didn’t play at Washington and Washington State. We got healthy and we played better and we were able to insert Marcus Simmons into our rotation and he has been outstanding.

The stats won’t reflect anything about what he does for our basketball team. He has got us into a defense out front, and we have been much better on the defensive end with him in the lineup.

Q. Tim, you mentioned injuries. Give us the update on how your club is healthy. And I noticed from following your club from afar when you have all hands healthy you are 8 0. I certainly hope everybody is healthy and ready to go. And talk about your rotation. You leaned on your core guys to play a lot of minutes for you.

COACH FLOYD:
Yeah, we have. Well, we’re in great health right now and feel terrific about that. We lost a young man that we won’t get back this year, the sixth game of the year, Kasey Cunningham. In 14 minutes against Missouri we were up 9 at half, and he went down with an ACL. 14 minutes, he had 14 points and 11 rebounds. And we lost him for the year. Hopefully we’ll have him back. But everybody else is in the best shape that they have been in all year long.

The second question, I’m sorry.

Q. On your rotation and your tendency to lean on the core guys.

COACH FLOYD:
Heavy minutes. Hackett is a guy we feel we can’t win without. He’s the heart and soul of who we are. He is our best driver.
He’s our best 3 point shooter. He is our grittiest defender, along with Marcus Simmons now that he is in the rotation. He is the best post feeder. He is a guy that is our best free throw shooter late in games, the whole thing. We have a very difficult time playing without him. So we played him every minute in the Pac 10 tournament, 120 minutes.

But we have been able to get some breathers for Lewis and DeMar DeRozan. The guy I am excited about tomorrow night is Leonard Washington, and I think he will play well. He is as healthy as he has been and he played very well at Oklahoma early before he got hurt.
Nikola Vucevic at 6 10 1/2, 6 11, has done great things. If Taj is out of foul trouble, we will play him. And Vucevic is a guy we have grown to trust with the minutes that he has received.

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