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NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP: FINAL FOUR

April 1, 2019

Tony Bennett

Minneapolis, Minnesota

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach Bennett. This is David Worlock from the NCAA. Congratulations on winning the South regional and advancing to the Final Four. We look forward to having you in Minneapolis. We will go right into the Q&A session.

Q. Good afternoon, Tony. I don't know how much of a chance you've had to study, but how familiar are you with Auburn and what they do?
TONY BENNETT: Well, obviously, you're into film watching now and getting a feel for them, but Coach Pearl was at actually Milwaukee when I was at Wisconsin and certainly know of him as a coach and the job he did, and seeing the years he's had at Auburn, you understand obviously their quickness, their ability, just how scrappy they are and just a really good team, as everyone is when you get to this stage that's playing good basketball. Just continuing to dive in, and obviously have great respect for what they've done.

I know they lost one of their key players, but the way they played without him was very impressive against Kentucky, and because of their depth, it seems like they can really absorb different kinds of things -- foul trouble or different players. They have a wide range of guys.

Q. Hello, Tony. I know it's a real pleasure to have (indiscernible) back to back. You're welcome for that.
TONY BENNETT: That's exactly what I was thinking. You read my mind.

Q. Your guys have talked a fair amount about the TED Talk you showed them, I guess, at the start of the season, before the start of the season, but they're always vague on who was making this talk. They say John the Storyteller, and I saw Doug Doughty, I read something about Carmine Gallo. Can you tell me who made the talk and how you found out about it?
TONY BENNETT: Sure, it was called -- I guess they didn't pay attention. It was Joe the Storyteller, is the name of the TED Talk, and it was just something -- I can't even remember exactly when -- it might have been our first -- you know, before we started official practice. It was one of the first things. It was very planned.

I believe it was, as all great ideas come from -- I believe Laurel, my wife, shared it with me. She's shared some really good TED Talks. I remember one by Simon Sinek called The Golden Circle is another one. But a lot of people look at those TED Talks. They're such good information. She said, You might want to listen to this. This one's really good.

Whether it's reading or something, I don't know who told her, but she told me about it, and I listened to it. I said, Boy, that's really good. I listened to it a second time, and I thought that might be -- it's a little unconventional, but it might be worth something to present to our guys and really talk about it. That's how it took place. I don't know where -- I assume the guy's name is Joe who tells the story. But it was done in Charlottesville. Those TED Talks, some are national, but this was one -- I don't know anybody who was there live, but ironically it was done in Charlottesville, they do them. So that's my understanding.

Q. But the guy isn't from Charlottesville, is he?
TONY BENNETT: I don't believe so. In the story, I think -- I don't why I feel like maybe the Carolinas, but that's about all I got for you on that.

Q. The players keep saying the message is taking adversity and using it to your advantage to be successful. Is that what you got from it as well?
TONY BENNETT: Among other things, yeah. There's a specific quote we talked about that I've shared often, and, yes, that's the gist of it, though.

Q. Hi, Tony, we've seen plenty on TV of Ralph Sampson at your games. I'm wondering how big of a fan Ralph has been for Virginia, and has he addressed the team either this season or during the tournament? If so, what did he say?
TONY BENNETT: He's great. He's been so good to me since I've been here. Obviously, he's a legend, and what he's done for Virginia basketball and the game has been terrific. He's come around our team. You know, he's related to Braxton Key. He's come around our team throughout the years. Whenever he's around or in Charlottesville or doing stuff, he'll stop by a practice. He does charity stuff. And whenever he'll come by and say hello to the guys.

I got to see Ralph a lot in the hotel, and he was just fun through this NCAA Tournament. So he's been great. I didn't have him come in the locker room and address the team in the tournament, but he's definitely been at practices.

Whenever he's around and our guys get to talk to him, it's a real treat because of his -- just who he is, the kind of man he is, and his impact on the game of college basketball and, of course, specifically the Virginia basketball and its history.

Q. Tony, good afternoon. I know you've addressed this at points this season, but I was hoping, as we get to the Final Four, we can elaborate a little bit on what has allowed this team to improve so much in offensive efficiency based over the last season? I think you're second nationally in offensive efficiency. Is there anything specific to that? And how much was that kind of addressed in the off-season and going into this season?
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, I think every year you look at your personnel and you say what are things we can do personnel-wise to play into the strengths of this team? And so I think it's both. Predominantly, it's your personnel. It's your versatility, how the guys have improved individually. Just how they've gotten better to a man and the emergence of players, being able to play a little differently. And then, of course, as I said, you look at what are some things we can maybe add or reintroduce? Some things we're doing that we did not last year, but we did three years ago, we're doing more of. And there's some new things that you use -- that you always are studying in the off-season that makes sense.

So it's really been a combination of those two things that -- and mainly the players, how they've played to, I think, increase the offensive efficiency. I think we've had years in the past where we've been up there in offensive efficiency, if I'm not mistaken, but this year they've been very, very good.

Q. I don't know if it's correlation or not. The points per possession, obviously up this year. The turnovers up a bit from last year too. Is that, for lack of a better way to put it, taking more chances on offense, or how would you kind of characterize that?
TONY BENNETT: I don't think so. I think good offense you have to be -- you've heard me say this so many times. You have to be assertive and have an aggressiveness, and you also have to take good shots. You can't get wild. You can't go over the edge. But you also have to be sound with a level of patience, but you can't become hesitant and ineffective.

So it's trying to find that sweet spot. Offenses we talk about, it can waver through seasons and through games. So you've got to try to lock in and be as good as you can defensively, but the goal is to try to be as good as you can to get a quality shot. So all that's there.

Yeah, we've had stretches where we've turned it over, and that's obviously a test against Auburn and the quickness and quality of their defense. I don't know that we've tried to be -- take more chances this year. I just think it's different things, different players. So I think it's really that combination.

Q. Tony, obviously, Mamadi's shot at the buzzer is the one that's really going to be remembered for a long time, but he's had a really good NCAA Tournament overall, and that's coming off of a couple of low-minute, high-style performances in the ACC Tournament. Did you say anything to him to kind of get him back onto the right track? What's been the defense in kind of those two tough games in Charlotte and then the last couple of weeks?
TONY BENNETT: At the start of the season, I said Mamadi is an X factor for us. I think his talent and his ability were important, and he has improved. He's newer to the game from when he started playing. He's matured. He's had a really good season, really good outing, and I think that was the key to our success.

Ironically, in Charlotte, by his standards, whether it was foul trouble or he wasn't as effective as he's been, interesting that you asked that, Mamadi asked to speak with me after the ACC Tournament, and he said, Coach -- and we talked, and he said -- I can't exactly remember the words, but he said, I'm ready. He said, That wasn't my best. I wasn't quite where I needed to be or right in that ACC Tournament. I desperately want to do anything, absolutely anything I can to make this team advance. I know what last year was, and he said, This is what I'm so committed to.

In his words, it wasn't like I'm back, but it was more like I'm ready and I understand that I wasn't what I was in other games. So, again, it was an interesting conversation.

And what I think was interesting even more about that is, when we played Gardner-Webb, and they played so well early against us, and Mamadi and all of us, we didn't get off to a great start, but he showed -- he stayed with it, and his maturity -- Ty mentioned it on the podium after that. Earlier on, if guys get off to a hard start, it's hard for them to get out of that. Boy, we got off to a hard start, all of us, but, boy, he really responded, and, again, he has been a catalyst among other players for this run in the tournament.

Q. Tony, Coach Pearl came on earlier and said one of the first books he bought was your dad's book on defense. I guess my question is do you hear that a lot from coaches? And at some point, did you chastise your dad for making these books so available?
TONY BENNETT: For sure. I was like, Why do you have to do these instructional videos back then? Actually, there's some -- his influence on the game, maybe a lot of people don't know about it, but in the coaching circles has been huge. My dad, he's an open book, as they say. He's so honest. He just wants to help the game because the game's been so good to him.

I have said before, you don't have to share everything. Obviously, people pick and choose, but he absolutely has influenced a lot of people, my father has, as so many great coaches have. And I've been fortunate to be under Coach Ryan. Obviously, he's had a big influence. But, yeah, certainly, Coach Pearl, I didn't know that, but I do definitely -- I've teased my dad about that before.

Q. Coach, obviously, I know this is your first trip to the Final Four as a head coach. I'm just curious if there's anyone that you maybe kind of leaned on for advice as far as logistics or how to handle your team or if you have any thoughts on how to go through it in that kind of a stage.
TONY BENNETT: Like I said, I got to do it as a volunteer manager. I don't know how much experience I had in that one. I think, obviously, I'll visit with my dad, Coach Ryan, who I was under for two years at Wisconsin, has been there twice. I think -- you know, and I've listened to people, and I know, when I've either read some things or heard things coaches said, whether first time of often, it seems like it's the balance of you do have to enjoy it, but you do have to remain focused and prepare well because you can get pulled in so many different obligations with NCAA or CBS that you have to do. It's probably more in the tournament, every round you go, it's a little more and a little longer, and of course you do those.

But it still always comes down to preparing well with the right kind of focus but also enjoying it in the right way. That's the advice that I've gotten from those people and that I would -- I guess I've observed or heard over the years and I think would be common sense in these settings.

Q. Hey, Tony, how do you sort of balance the excitement of the last few days, making the Final Four and the welcome home party you guys had, and sort of now turning it around and having to play two more games and go for a national title? Was the welcome home event something you guys had thought about doing if you got to this stage, or was it spur of the moment?
TONY BENNETT: You know, I'm not even sure. I think it was more the fans wanted to just say -- you know, show up and support and say thanks. I think it was kind of more they wanted to do something. It wasn't like we had set that up. It just tells you how great and appreciative the people of Charlottesville and UVA and all that are and those around that drove to it. So that's, I think, how that went down.

As far as the emotion of it and turning around, it just -- it's going to the tournament is a big deal. Then you advance to the next round, the Sweet 16, and there's even more excitement and preparation, and I just think it steps up a little bit.

But it is the same formula, and kind of the previous question I just mentioned, you try to balance both. You get your rest. You prepare well, but as I said, when you have a thankful heart with things and you have a strong desire to do well, that's a good combination. So I believe that's the mindset of our young men, is they're, of course, excited, they're thankful for this, but they're passionate to be as good as they can in this setting.

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