Georgia Tech Head Coach Josh Pastner
Opening Statement …
“First of all, obviously Kentucky is a great basketball team. I think Ashton Hagans has just gotten better and better and better. He’s really good, and from where he was in a junior, senior in high school, because we recruited him, he’s just continued to get better and better. Which is a great credit to Coach Calipari and his staff on the development of Ashton Hagans. I thought he was a big difference today. The biggest part of the game was 44-41 and we left 11 points on the board. That’s just the game. Michael Devoe, who’s been great all season for us for the most part, one of the leading three-point shooters in the country, had two wide open threes and he missed both. Khalid Moore had one that went in and out. Literally went down and out. Asanti Price had a layup that we missed. That’s 11 points, and you’re playing a really good team on the road. We’re missing two of our better players with Jose Alvarado and Jordan Usher. You just don’t have any margin for error not to score in those type of situations when you get those type of looks. That was the game right there. I thought our guys executed our game plan. We put ourselves in the position to win the game defensively. We are who we are defensively. We are a very good defensive team, and we do a good job with what we do defensively. We did a good job on the glass limiting our goals to keep them under nine offensive rebounds, which we did. We missed some threes in the second half, we missed some free throws and Kentucky made their free throws. That was the difference right there.”
On Ashton Hagans …
“He was a pro tonight. He was a first-round draft pick the way he played tonight. He’s gotten better and continued to improve. He’s phenomenal young man and he’s just a good person. He’s got a good spirit about him. I’m really high on Ashton, I think he’s really, really good and he continues to get better each game. As each game has gone by, he’s shooting the ball better. So, credit to him. I told Coach Calipari when we were at Memphis, Georgia Tech shooting free throws like we did at Memphis. They’re shooting free throws like… as much as you won at Memphis, you might have won 100 percent of his games the way they’re shooting the free throws. I think they’re one of the two or three best in the country. That’s a big difference in games when it’s a possession by possession game, being able to make those free throws. That’s a big deal. But, Hagans is a stud and I think he’s a first-round draft pick.”
On going from being Coach Cal’s assistant to being his opponent …
“The only reason I got the job at Memphis is because nobody wanted the job at Memphis because nobody wanted to follow Coach Calipari at Memphis because he had the most wins in a four-year period his last four years. He won close to 95 percent of his games. So, when he left, I just happened to be the last man standing. They had to hire somebody and eventually they just asked me if I wanted to job. But, I was all set to come to Kentucky with Coach Cal. I was very fortunate. I got really lucky a door opened up. I was at the right place at the right time. I don’t forget that. I understand an opportunity was there and allowed that need to be an opportunity to be able to coach at an incredible institution like Memphis and then an incredible institution like Georgia Tech and to be able to coach in the ACC. I’m very fortunate and thankful and extremely grateful to Coach Cal for allowing me to come to his staff which allowed me to get the job at Memphis.”
On what Keion Brooks provides…
“Yeah, Keion Brooks was solid. But my whole thing is, when we followed the game plan, there was no issue. Ashton Hagans was—the biggest difference in the game today was them making their free throws, but also the 11 points we left on the board when we were 44-41 late in the second half, or middle of the second. That’s the game. And Keion—they’ve got a bunch of good players. The eight that play are all high-level guys. They’re all going to play in the NBA. But obviously, the guy that’s a sure-fire first round pick, I assume, is Ashton Hagans. And he was really, really good today. But, we followed our game plan, we did our job and we put ourselves in a position to win; we just—there was that segment, there was 11 points left on the board and we don’t have that margin for error against a really good team like Kentucky. You’re just not in a position to do that.”
On his very first meeting with Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari…
“Yeah, I mean, I knew Coach Calipari during recruiting and all that. And, I really mean this: A couple people, Mr. (Jerry) Tipton called me and John—there you are, okay—and (Calipari will) deny it but when he retires, he will not go into TV. He will go for politics and I really believe he’s going to run—he was going to possibly run for the President of the United States. And if not that, he’s going to go for governor or senator. He’s going to come up here and deny it, but mark my words. And he just—you know, he has that charisma, he has that energy to do it, and he’s always been interested in it. And so, I’m telling you, when he does it—and he can deny it now—he will end up running for it. And I don’t know which part or anything like that, but he’s got that ability. He’s a genius marketer. He’s obviously a genius of a basketball coach—one of the greatest to ever do it. Regardless of sport, he’s one of the greatest coaches ever. It wouldn’t matter if he was running a slice-by-slice pizza place down the street. It would become a multimillion-dollar company. He just has something about that, that, you know, the ability to be very successful and he happened to choose basketball. And he would’ve been successful no matter what he does.
On the issue with translating turnovers into points…
“The whole game was that second half where we left 11 points on the board. Michael Devoe was wide open. Incredible look. If he gets a hundred of those, he’s got to shoot a hundred of them. And Khalid Moore was wide open and the ball went in the hoop and literally rolled out, and then we missed the layup. So that’s the basketball game. You know, if you make—just, and your best shooter and one of the best shooters in the country has that open of a shot, that segment was the entire basketball game. We make a shot here or there, it could be a different outcome in the end.”
Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari
Q. What’s the biggest difference between Ashton Hagans this year and Hagans last year?
COACH CALIPARI: He knows what to expect. He has no anxiety about what he’s doing. He knows coming into the game. He knows game planning. He’ll watch tape.
He’s so far advanced. And again, there may be better point guards out there. I’d have to watch closely. I mean, the way he is playing — that he’s starting to master his skills. Now, he still gets sloppy. He’ll get sloppy both on defense and offense. But it’s, sometimes I think he gets bored so then he has to try something new.
But I’m proud of him. And I like the three guards. It was nice to see Tyrese (Maxey) go 0-for-9. Or did he go 6-for-10? No, that was Brad (Calipari) that went 6-for-10 and got 20 today. I’m sorry. (Laughter.)
Q. Seems like Keion (Brooks Jr.) is finally starting to get —
COACH CALIPARI: He’s fighting. Fight.
Q. Through some energy.
COACH CALIPARI: Fight. You’re saying energy. Like fight.
Q. How does it change you when he plays?
COACH CALIPARI: He’s a skilled basketball player. I even saw him stay in front of people where we were getting beat on the dribble — No. 5 (Moses Wright) beat us on the dribble with everybody else who played him, and he didn’t get around Keion (Brooks Jr.). I was proud of him.
But, look, at the end of the day, we need to get Nate (Sestina) back. Nick (Richards) has reverted, he reverted in practice. And what he did was he got lazy with catches. Did you see him fumble passes in the post today? He got lazy with catches. He started rebounding with one. Wasn’t playing with the energy that he had been playing with. And so, this is what you get, this kind of game.
I told him it was coming. Maybe I jinxed him, but I told him, you play how you train. And so, he and EJ, we need them both. And it’s not — if they score, great. They can score. But they’ve got to fight and rebound and block shots and be active and talk.
This stuff is hard here. It’s easier to just say let me shoot more balls. Well, it’s not how this stuff works. It’s not how you elevate your game. But Keion (Brooks Jr.) did today.
Q. How do you think the team is playing defensively?
COACH CALIPARI: I’ll have to watch the tape, but in the second half I thought we did some good stuff. First half, I think at one point they were shooting 60 percent, 65, to start the game. But every team comes in here, high energy, flying around, nothing to lose. The rim’s big.
And then our job is to keep at it, keep at it, keep at it. And now all of a sudden it catches up. That’s kind of what happened — if you noticed, we changed how we warmed up at halftime.
What was happening is the start of our games and even the second quarter of our games, the start of the second half, everything was dipping. So, then it’s, like, what in the world is that about? And so, we tried a different warm-up today.
We went into — and they all knew. The players knew, we warmed up a little different. I think it helped us with our start. But it ended up being 6-6, even though we got the thing to 12. And then all of a sudden you look around and it’s 6-6.
Q. Are you seeing the strides out of this team that you want to see this time of year?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, I guess. It’s hard. I think Josh (Pastner), the job he’s doing, they’re playing zone. They’re mixing up their defense. It’s hard to go 40 minutes against a zone. It just is.
And especially when you’re a team that’s not going to try to shoot 35 3s. So, the teams that have hurt them shot 30, 35 3s and made 20, 15, eight. We don’t play that way. Do I want to shoot more 3s? Yeah. I thought Immanuel (Quickley) passed up a couple and drove and ended up getting in trouble when he had a better shot on the first catch.
I thought Kahlil (Whitney) had a 3 in the far corner away from our bench, too. And he drives into really nothing and he had to pass it. I’d rather him shoot the ball.
But the biggest — I’m telling you, folks, there’s two things, fight and finish. How we finish games is going to be vital because we’re going to be in a bunch of close games. We are. We’re not going to be 25 points better than people.
And as a matter of fact, we’re going to play some people coming up who may be 20 points better than us. Then it’s, like, okay, do we have any fight in us to even this stuff out, because that’s what it’s going to be. And then we’ve got to be a better team to make sure we can survive.
Q. (Tyrese) Maxey didn’t make a shot, yet he had rebounds, he had assists. What do you think about just the way he stayed competitive and in the game despite not making —
COACH CALIPARI: Again, he’s just learning and, again, I keep telling him, you cannot avoid contact and try to flip balls. You’re not playing St. Aloysius anymore. These dudes, when you go like that, they block it. And if you go like that, the official’s not going to call a foul. He’s not.
If you go into him like he did the two times he went into them, they will call that a foul. He’s never played that way. Everything is a throw and a flip. They give him no call. So, we’ve been all over it, and he’s responded.
He’ll text me, keep coaching me, man. Keep coaching me. And believe me, I’m, like, people that have watched us in practice know I’m just holding him to a high standard and holding him accountable.
Q. When you were talking about Nick (Richards), when you look at his line today — 12 points, four rebounds, four blocks, 5-for-6 — in the first two years you probably would have been in here jumping up and down if he gave you that kind of line. What is he not doing exactly that you think he’ll do better and you just raised the bar than much for him?
COACH CALIPARI: I want him to be the best big man in the country. You know why? Because I truly believe he’s capable of it. Who’s his size with his athleticism? But if you don’t fight — if there’s talent but you don’t fight and the other team is a better team, they play together better, you’re losing. I don’t care how talented you are.
If you’ll fight and play on a team that plays together, he could be the best big man in the country. I’ve had people say why didn’t he get more rebounds? Why doesn’t he get more? Well, again, shot goes up, he runs versus I create contact. Shot goes up, I reach with one, I never bring him in, versus I’m going after every ball with two.
Holding him accountable, he reverted last week. I love him. He’s going to be fine.
But, look, the only way these kids get better, they have to fail. They have to have adversity thrown at them. It’s the only way you grow.
Now, then you evaluate yourself, self-evaluation, and you’re honest or, folks, you’re delusional. The delusional guy says if you let me shoot more, I’ll be better, I’ll be fine. You’re being delusional. This has nothing to do with your shots. As a matter of fact, most of these guys I’m telling them to shoot more.
Q. I know you talked about what you saw from Hagans, but with Immanuel Quickley, how impressed were you to see him have another career high in scoring?
COACH CALIPARI: No, how did you guys — did you know I started three guards? Did you guys even notice that? Eric (Lindsey) told you? (Laughter.)
So, I went with that lineup. Now, the problem is it may push Johnny (Juzang) and Kahlil (Whitney) a little bit back and I don’t want to do that, which is why I wasn’t starting him early. But if those three deserve to play together, it is what it is. What, am I going to cheat one of those guys because I’m trying to get — no, like, Coach (John) Wooden called me in 2010. He was talking about my team. I called him. And I said, Coach, are you watching my team? And he said, yeah. Tell me what you think. We’re not an execution team. This is my 2010 team.
He said, you’re not an execution team because you try to play nine guys. I played six. And you either earn the right to play in practice or you didn’t play. And the other guy did. That was from Coach (John) Wooden. That’s what he said to me. You’re playing nine. You’re never really going to be a great team.
And he said, but times have changed, and I understand why you’re doing it. You’re trying to bring everybody along. Kids transfer. They didn’t with us. They were there. I had guys had to sit three years, in their fourth year become an NBA player. It’s changed. And he’s right.
The best teams I’ve coached I’ve played five and six guys. This team I’m hoping I can play nine.
Q. Would you talk about the fight, the fight these guys had to have. Georgia Tech put up a pretty good fight also, especially the first half. What were the adjustments —
COACH CALIPARI: Is the ambassador from London here? Where? I need to see the queen, please. We’re coming over next year. Do you know we’re coming over? Can you please let her know that I am the biggest fan? I read everything. I watch everything I can. Amazing, amazing woman.
She’s going to say who is this guy? (Laughter) She’ll say, where is he from, Italy? What’s his name?
Q. The adjustments at half that you made —
COACH CALIPARI: Brad (Calipari) had 20 tonight. He was 6-for-10 from the 3-point line, by the way.
Q. How did Brad do on defense? The first half —
COACH CALIPARI: I’m a father. I wasn’t watching him play on defense. All I said every time he gets the ball, shoot. If they don’t throw him the ball, pass it to him. If they sub him out of the game? [Off mic].
No, I go get something to eat. I’m not watching the game. He’s not in. But anyway —
Q. About the fight.
COACH CALIPARI: They stayed in the game. They didn’t go away until there was one stretch where we pushed it out. But let me say this, they missed three open 3s, wide open, that they don’t normally miss. Those three, if they make those three, they may have beat us.
You’re sitting there with where we are right now, at times you’re just trying to get out of the gym. Let’s just get out of here. But look, we’re a work in progress. Every year we go through the same thing. I forget how hard it is. I forget what did it look like in March, yeah, if you remember Tyler Herro couldn’t make a shot in November, do you remember that, and he’s scoring 30 in the NBA against NBA teams.
He couldn’t make a shot in November. And then all of a sudden it just changes. And the light will go off on these guys. I just gotta be there in form and get them to understand that I can’t do it for you. I don’t have a magic wand. You’re going to have to fight.
If you think it’s something else, you’re probably going to stay in the same position you’re in. If you learn to fight in battle, you’ll see stuff change.
The hardest thing is the skill stuff. The easiest thing is playing hard. Fighting. Great energy. Effort.