John Beilein and Michigan’s starting lineup – Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary – were on the podium this afternoon at the Georgia Dome to discuss Saturday’s Final Four matchup with Syracuse. Read the entire transcript of the press conference below.
COACH BEILEIN: It’s been a great week. The last 48 hours have been a lot of fun for everyone. Did not realize, usually a spectator at this event, how much went on behind the scenes.
Really proud the way our kids are handling it. We’re pretty focused when we get out on the court, when we’re doing film, when we’re doing our walk‑throughs, they’re right on it. So we’ve tried to make this as much of a business type of trip as you can and I think our kids are focused and we’re ready to do our best.
THE MODERATOR: We’re taking questions now for the Michigan student‑athletes.
Q. Is your definition of a smart shot the same as coach’s?
TREY BURKE: I definitely think that most of the time. Some shots he doesn’t agree with. But we’re pretty much always on the same page.
You know, just playing for him for two years, I pretty much know what shots he want us to take or what shots he rather us not to take.
That’s just a read. As a player, you have to be able to read, understand what’s a good shot for the better of the team.
Q. Trey, I think it was your mom who said she was making Final Four plans four months ago. Can you talk to when you were having your first meetings and this was your ultimate goal, and now you’re finally here?
TREY BURKE: It’s surreal. It’s a dream come true. We understand we have unfinished business. Like you said, the first couple meetings, that was one of our goals, was to get to Atlanta and compete for a national championship. Now that we’re here, we just have to take full advantage of it, just be focused.
Q. Trey, I was wondering your impressions of Michael Carter‑Williams, what you’ve seen of him on film, what he does for that team?
TREY BURKE: He’s definitely a game changer. At 6’6″ at the point guard position, definitely tough to defend. He does a great job of getting his teammates involved and scoring when he can. He’s also really good on the defensive end. I think he averages with 2.7 steals per game. As a point guard playing against him, you have to be careful, make the right plays, make the right passes or they’ll end up as dunks on the other end.
Q. Trey, you’ve already won the AP Award and the Oscar Robertson Trophy. What was it like to win those? If you could top that off by winning Saturday, what would that weekend be like for you?
TREY BURKE: Great accomplishments. You know, but my teammates and coaching staff, you know, they put me in this position. I wouldn’t be able to receive those awards without them. I wouldn’t even be in that talk.
It would be great to get a win on Saturday, to have the opportunity to play on Monday and cut down the nets would definitely be a great feeling.
But we have unfinished business. We’ll be ready for tomorrow.
Q. In order to beat a zone, do you need to attack it? How much confidence do you have in your outside shooters in order to break the zone?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: I think you just got to be patient with it. You can’t rush anything. And you can’t match their length when you’re practicing against your scout team. Take great team shots and don’t pass good looks for better looks because you might not get those.
Just when you have a great open look, knock it down.
TREY BURKE: Same as what Tim was saying. You know, we can’t really get too greedy. We can’t fall in love with the three‑point line, start taking deep threes. We have to just try to find different ways to attack the zone.
When we see areas where we could attack, we have to try to exploit it. Execution will be big tomorrow.
Q. Trey, your steals total went up significantly from last season to this. What is the reason for that?
TREY BURKE: Just my intensity on that end of the court. The assistant coaches, specifically Bacari Alexander, he got on me a lot this off‑season about raising my energy on the defensive end. I definitely think that was an improvement in my game as well as improving my lower body strength.
It has just allowed me to be able to anticipate better. It’s allowed me to be able to just get more steals, help the team get easy buckets.
Q. Trey, I think Tim talked about this, but have you taken note of obviously Syracuse seems pretty confident and feels their zone can shut down anybody, they have a size advantage on you guys. How do y’all approach that mindset they seem to have?
TREY BURKE: If you’re not confident in the Final Four, then you shouldn’t be here. So I don’t blame them being confident.
But we’ll play them tomorrow, so we’ll be ready.
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: You know, like Trey said, we’ll be ready. If the zone was unbeatable, then they would be 39‑0, whatever the case may be. We’re just going to go out there, play our game, not worry about what they’re going to do, and just play Michigan basketball.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll continue with questions for Coach Beilein.
Q. How do you feel being head coach, never an assistant, has affected your career and your coaching style?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, I think in many ways it made it more difficult to become a better coach sometimes because I couldn’t shortcut, I couldn’t sit next to a great coach and say, You should never try that in a game. I would try it in a game, we would get our butts kicked, I would learn by sleeping on the couch that night because I didn’t sleep all night that night.
You learn that it takes a step back, but it takes a step forward because the next time you get that opportunity, you’re not going to make that same mistake again. It goes up and down, up and down.
But it’s well over one thousand games now, if you go way back to junior college as a coach. I think the losses have been much more valuable than the wins getting us to this point.
Q. One of the best compliments I guess you can give a point guard is that he’s an extension of his coach on the court. Has it reached that point with Trey?
COACH BEILEIN: It’s been that way for most of his career here. I think in the first couple months, he was reading me. He was putting deposits in my trust bank more and more every time. That’s really important. The more deposits he made, the more I knew I could trust him.
One of the keys with our coaching staff is change, and continue to grow as a staff in everything. So he’s done things that I probably wouldn’t have coached in the last couple years because I didn’t think it could be done. Now I’ve seen him do it in practice. I said, I’m fine with that.
So there’s been this mutual respect for each other, and I mean it. He’s incredible at practice. I’ve never had him one time show any frustration in practice with a coach. I’ve probably at times coached him in different ways. At the same time, I’ve seen great growth by showing him a lot of patience and trust.
Q. I think on the conference call on Monday you were asked about the Fab Five. You mentioned it wasn’t just five players, there were some great coaches there. Could you expand on that. Do you think maybe the job that Steve Fisher and his staff did has been forgotten the way things ended there?
COACH BEILEIN: I think the Fab Five was such a tremendous story, five tremendous players that did something special. But there were other guys on that team now. There’s 10 other guys on that team, just like we have. Everybody makes a lot about our starting lineup, but there’s other guys that are contributing every day, as well as the coaching staff.
For Steve and his coaching staff to come in in that situation and direct a freshmen team to the Final Four was terrific. We don’t talk about that enough. There was a lot of people behind the scenes in that one, as well as those five fabulous players.
Let’s embrace that whole team right now for what ‑‑ they went back‑to‑back Final Fours with some young players, but with some guys that really had to sacrifice and coaches that probably had to sacrifice during that time.
They were very successful, but it was a team thing. That’s what Michigan is: it’s a team thing.
Q. Chris Paul statistics as a sophomore, similar to Trey as a sophomore. What similarities do you see in their games?
COACH BEILEIN: I did get to see Chris Paul up close. That was his last game, against West Virginia in the NCAA tournament. A great friend of mine Skip Prosser, and wonderful coach, the late Skip Prosser. I haven’t watched Chris Paul. I watch him now and I know how special he is. It’s probably unfair to compare anyone to him.
However, at that stage in their game, I know when we were preparing to play against Chris Paul, then watching Trey every day, there certainly are many similarities because he can hit the in‑between jump shot, he’s got a great pace to his game. Chris Paul has worked so hard at his game, he’s elevated, like we hope that Trey can one day. This young man’s got a fire in his belly to be the best player he can be and make his team win. I would sense if you checked Chris Paul, he’s probably got that same fire.
Q. Coach, can you talk about Nik Stauskas, the player, and the role he could play for this team tomorrow night.
COACH BEILEIN: He’s been, from day one, a young man that came in with great confidence. You know what is really sensational about him, he has a great ability to move on to the next play or the next game.
He had games he’s rolling, getting open shots. All of a sudden, people are not letting him get the ball. In games at times that bothered him. Two days later, he’s fine.
So he’s growing every day. I’ll show you how much he’s grown. After he won the NIT, he said to one of my assistants, Man, this college basketball is a grind. He’d been through four games.
So now it’s through 38. He’s understanding. It was probably early to use the word ‘grind’ as far as our schedule. He’s learning every day how hard you have to work. His future is extremely bright. That man is a gym rat. He’ll find a gym anywhere and get his shots up. He’s very right now interested in improving other parts of his game. His defense has taken a tremendous jump this year.
Q. Can you put in perspective just how difficult a task it is to throw a freshman into the point guard role? Did you try to coax him along, give him a little bit of time, or here it is all at once?
COACH BEILEIN: Trey Burke is a sophomore, but when he was a freshman, we put him right in. The Western Illinois game was his first game. The funny story is, there’s a fifth‑year player at Western Illinois that had a great game against Trey Burke. We’re flying out to Hawaii to play in the Maui Invitational. I said, This is going to be tough having a freshman point guard. We go to Maui, he’s one of the best players on the board playing against Duke, UCLA and Memphis. I said, Maybe it won’t be such a bad year after all.
As Trey reads the situation, he just improves. He’ll get knocked down and he’s the first one back on his feet.
We had no other choice last year because Darius Morris went pro early. Turned out to be a win‑win for both. Darius with the Lakers, Trey got an opportunity to play early and jumped on it.
Q. One of the biggest college basketball stories this week has been what happened at Rutgers, that whole situation. As somebody that’s been involved in college basketball for so long, what struck you with the whole situation, the incident, and the aftermath?
COACH BEILEIN: Let me speak on behalf of all college basketball coaches, and high school basketball coaches. This just doesn’t happen. This is so unique. This is so rare. I’ve never heard of this before.
I’m sure there’s times in practices, as any of you that ever played a sport, there are times a coach may lose his temper, sometimes for effect, sometimes just to get the point across, sometimes it’s real. But Mike, I am sure, would say he overstepped his bounds.
But it should be very clear to everybody, that is not college basketball. That is not the millions of coaches that have positive impacts on young men and women across the country. That is very rare for anyone to do that.
Mike may have been the only college coach in the country doing that, and it’s unfortunate. But I think we’ll all benefit from it and hopefully it will never happen again.
Q. Can you tell me about C.J. Lee, a guy with you, staying with you, what it’s been like having him with you in the program?
COACH BEILEIN: There’s a lot being made probably about this. There’s so many people behind this renaissance at Michigan. C.J. Lee is one of those men that has been very important. I called him in my office when he first got there. He was a walk‑on. I said, C.J. I want you to understand something. You will shag balls, you are going to be a manager/roster player. You will never play. You will never get a scholarship. You will never start.
He just said, Yes, sir, yes, sir, yes, sir. By the end of it, he was on scholarship, he was a starting guard in the NCAA tournament 2009 when we made our first break‑in there. Right now day‑to‑day, he is one of the most important parts of our staff behind the scenes, with our players, in all kinds of ways.
So I can’t tell you enough. This young man is a superstar, and a Michigan man. His roots are in Saginaw Michigan, he’s a Michigan man through and through. Great representative of our university.