The Repeat National Champion Florida Gators basketball team and coaches talk about their sweet victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes. ALSO: Quotes from OSU players and coach.
THE MODERATOR: While we’re waiting for Coach Donovan, let’s get started with questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Corey, will you talk about the defense that you did a lot of one-on-one with Oden in the post, you were able to guard the three-point line. And Taurean, talk about the hustle plays you won tonight.
COREY BREWER: First of all, y’all got to smile out there. Looking kind of sad. We just won the national championship (laughter).
But, yeah, our defense, we felt like we could just play straight up in the post. Oden is a great player. But twos can’t really beat you if you can guard the three-point line. We basically let him go inside, play behind, try to make him get his.
Defensively our team did good. We had each other’s back all night. We rebounded the ball like we needed to tonight.
TAUREAN GREEN: We definitely came up with most all the loose balls tonight. That was the key to the game. When they shot threes, we knew it was going to be long rebounds. We did a great job of just blocking out and chasing after loose balls and converting on the offense.
Q. Taurean and Lee, will you talk about the defense you played on the perimeter tonight.
LEE HUMPHREY: Yeah, that was a big key for us going into the game, how important the three-point line was. It’s kind of been our main focus for this entire year, seems like. Tonight we really thought it was important just the amount of good shooters they had.
Think we did a good job of guarding the three-point line and making them take tough twos.
TAUREAN GREEN: We also did a good job of keeping them out of the lane. They’re a good driving team also. Just a great team effort on the defensive end.
THE MODERATOR: At this point I’m going to ask Coach Donovan if he would make some comments.
COACH DONOVAN: First, I want to congratulate Ohio State. They’re a terrific team, as good as any team we played this year. I’ve got great respect for Thad. He and I, over the years, have developed a very good relationship. He’s a really, really good guy. He should be very proud of his team.
I sit up here very, very humbled because I think I was fortunate enough over the last two years to coach a group of guys that has to go down in history as one of the greatest teams of all time. I’m not saying they were the most talented. I’m not saying they were flawless.
But when you talk about the word "team," what that encompasses in terms of unselfishness, sacrifice, playing together, they have got to go down and be considered, in my opinion, one of the best teams to ever play.
I think in this day and age, for these guys to accomplish what they’ve accomplished, to do it with absolutely no expectations on them last year, to having all the expectations on them this year, for some of them that had a choice, made the choice to come back, you got to be pretty competitive to take on that challenge in today’s day and age.
I’m just so proud and I feel very blessed and feel very, very fortunate to be sitting up here coaching them because it could be anybody sitting in my chair doing that right now. It’s just a blessing. I really am lost for words what these guys just accomplished over the last two years.
Q. Corey, how do you think this team will be viewed 20 years from now, 30 years from now?
COREY BREWER: Hopefully it will be viewed as one of the best college basketball teams to ever play the game, you know. We did it both ways, like coach said. We’re a team. You know, we’re together. Like I said, we always stick together. It’s what we came back to do, is stay together. We won back-to-back.
TAUREAN GREEN: The ultimate team (smiling).
COREY BREWER: You can argue it, but you got to put us up there. Some guy was talking on TV, a little motivation today, he said we’re not even the top five teams to play the game if we win the national championship. Might want to go do his research. The numbers don’t lie, you know, back-to-back.
Q. When I tried to ask you the other day, you deferred. Can you now talk about making history. What does it mean to make history? You’re the sixth team ever to win back-to-back championships.
AL HORFORD: It’s unreal, man. I mean, I’m so proud of our team, just the way that we’ve been able to handle adversity this year, the way we stayed together. It feels really good to be, you know, in an elite group like that. I mean, that’s all I can say, it’s something pretty special.
LEE HUMPHREY: Yeah, it’s tough to describe, especially right now. Hasn’t been that long since we won it. We’re still pretty excited, enjoying the moment.
I don’t know. I’ve just been so happy to be a part of this team and play with the guys that I’ve gotten a chance to play with. It’s made basketball just so enjoyable and a fun game to play. I couldn’t have asked anything more for my four years in college basketball.
TAUREAN GREEN: I think it’s hard for me to describe, too. You know, I’m just happy for my team, my teammates, all the coaches. You know, everybody that was with us when we got here. It’s just a great feeling.
COREY BREWER: Yeah, it’s all about team. Like our motto: We set records, and we make history. I guess you could say that, too. But our motto is: We set records. That’s what we try to do.
COACH DONOVAN: Again, the UNLV teams, the UCLA teams, the Kentucky teams, the Duke teams, I’m not sitting up here saying that these guys or our team could beat them. I’m saying the word "team," when you encompass just the word "team," just look at the word "team" by itself, I’m not talking about competing against other teams, but what a team is, I think they’ve got to be talked about.
Q. Corey, could you describe your thoughts and emotions when you were watching One Shining Moment there, singing and swinging?
COREY BREWER: It’s unreal. One Shining Moment, almost makes you want to cry. Second time I got to watch it, our team got to watch it, just to see what goes into people playing in the NCAA tournament. That’s why you love college basketball, all the guys diving on the floor, everybody playing as hard as they can play just to be in this moment where we are right now. We’re just very fortunate to win two in a row, just to win this one, we’re happy.
Q. Corey, you were not in your head when Billy was talking about the back-to-back championships. Is this it for most of you guys? Can you envision a scenario, would you ever consider a three-peat?
COREY BREWER: I couldn’t even tell you right now. I’m just so happy we just won the national championship. Hasn’t crossed my mind about anything else. Just enjoying this, enjoying it with my teammates. We worked so hard together, starting, going to Canada, being cold in Canada. Now we’re going back to the sunny state of Florida and enjoying the national championship.
Q. Corey, you got off to a good start in the first half. Can you tell me how you felt going into the game? Did you feel like you wanted to take the game—take an aggressive start to it?
COREY BREWER: I felt really good. But I felt like our whole team, we had to go out there and be aggressive because we just let them hang around, let them play with us, may have a chance to get beat. So we all went out there and we were really aggressive. My teammates were finding me in open spots. I had to knock ‘em down.
I’m just thankful I got teammates like I got because a couple times my guys could take shots, but they gave it to me.
Q. Corey, could you talk about what the most outstanding player award means to you.
COREY BREWER: It means a lot. But, you know, it’s all about my teammates. You know, I give it to each and every one of my teammates if I could break it apart because if it wasn’t for those guys, what’s MOP mean? It’s all about the national championship, to be honest.
Q. Taurean and Lee, could you talk about the importance of the threes that you made as answers to every run that Ohio State put forth?
TAUREAN GREEN: I think it was just taking what the defense was giving us. We used ball screens, did a good job of coming off ball screens. Coach always tells us, once you have a crack, let it go, shoot the ball with confidence. When they made runs, I think we did a good job of just coming back and knocking down threes.
LEE HUMPHREY: I thought the three-point line was key. I’m sure they coming into the game wanted to stop the three-point line. That’s one of our main goals on defense, stop the three-point line. Any time you can hit a string of threes in a row, get a good rebound like Al did, kick it out for a three, it’s good for kind of stopping momentum for a little bit.
Q. Al, you probably had the most success offensively down low. Could you talk about how you did that, how difficult it was to get points with Oden in the middle?
AL HORFORD: Their whole front court, they’re pretty physical. Oden did a good job staying on the floor. He’s a really good player, great shot blocker.
But I feel like, you know, we had to earn everything we got inside. I think Chris gave us a big boost off the bench. He was a real boost for us tonight.
Q. After everything was pretty much over, the four of you ‘04s, were up there on the podium dancing, could you talk about what was going through your heads there? Had to be the moment you were dreaming of.
COREY BREWER: We’ve been dreaming of that moment since we stepped on the University of Florida’s campus, I think.
Us four, we’ve been together through everything. I feel like we’re like brothers. I love all three of ‘em. You know, just to be up there with those guys after winning two in a row, like, man, I don’t know—I can’t even explain the feeling. Such a good feeling.
AL HORFORD: I mean, it’s something I think that I definitely was thinking about before the season, just like everybody else was, and even was bringing it up, repeat, repeat, in August.
But, you know, at the end of the day we do have goals and I did picture, you know, ourselves in this situation. But I couldn’t come out and say it because we didn’t have the opportunity to play the game yet.
So, you know, after it was all said and done and we were up there, it was just a great feeling for us.
TAUREAN GREEN: I was just thinking about, you know, where we started from, you know, from our freshman year, the steps that we had to take in order to get to this point. You know, it’s been a long journey. I was just happy, you know.
Those are my four best friends, those are my best friends, and I was just excited. We always talk about setting records, you know, as a team. We did.
Q. Corey, Taurean, Lee and Al, thank you very much. Congratulations.
Questions for Coach Donovan.
Q. I recognize that everybody always wants to take you in the past or take you in the future, so I’ll bite the bullet and ask it. Where is your future?
COACH DONOVAN: I just got off the court (laughter). I mean, right here at the University of Florida. I’m going to enjoy this moment right now. Right now it’s this game. I think all that stuff will be addressed.
But, you know, now’s not the time to address it, as it wasn’t when it got asked over the last week. It’s all about these kids, our program and what happened. It was a good try, though (smiling).
Q. A little about the past. Can you talk about how much personally the amount of effort and drive that it took from when you took over Florida at 30 to build it to this level, just the ups and downs and the up again? Just the force and drive, commitment you personally put into building this.
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I definitely think it took years off my life. But there’s a lot of people that have to be on the same page. You got to have the administration that understands and is supportive of the direction you’re moving. You have to obviously have the resources at the school academically, athletically.
But, you know, there was a time there when we got knocked out of a lot of tournaments early. My theory is, and I really believe this, I haven’t wavered on this, haven’t changed this, the minute you enter the NCAA tournament, anything can happen to anybody at any given time because it’s a one-game deal.
Part of building a program is you have to go through that. Just as, through all hard work, we got to this point, too. But a lot of times it’s not always the hard work that gets you to this point; it’s the good Lord’s blessing, a lot of good fortune, just trying to do the right things, in my opinion, of what I need to do it.
Come on, I didn’t know that this group of guys—heck, people were telling me when I recruited Horford, you better get better if you want to compete in the SEC. Those guys are projects. Maybe by the time they’re juniors maybe they can help you.
Nobody knows. Nobody knows. I think all I try to do every day is put my heart and soul into the program to do the very, very best I can, and then the chips are going to fall where they may.
At the end of the day, you know, if it didn’t get to this point I would be very, very disappointed. But I feel like I, over the last 11 years, have left no stone unturned in trying to help the program. But you can’t do it by yourself. You got to have players that have bought in, assistant coaches that are bought in, administration that’s bought in. And everybody’s got to be selfless. Everybody has to share in it together.
Q. Earlier this year you kind of alluded to you really didn’t take enough time, in my opinion, to enjoy last year’s championship. Obviously there are things that are going to be going on the next couple days. Is that a goal of yours, to make sure you enjoy this one?
COACH DONOVAN: Yeah. Last year, and I told Jeremy this, really for me it’s been two straight years of working because we won it last year, and then we had a couple weeks left of school. We got to April, and those guys all said they were coming back. And then immediately it started with, repeat, repeat, repeat. Everybody was talking about it.
What are the odds? Not good. Can’t happen in this day and age. There’s nobody better than this. You win by 50 points. They’re going to lose. This is why they’re going to lose. This is why they’re going to win. It went back and forth.
I would say probably right in May—and Jeremy told me I needed to take more time to enjoy it, but I would say that I really put my heart and soul into trying to get these guys to understand what was getting ready to happen to them this year.
I think there was things that we were a little bit ahead of that we headed off some things to help them stay focused. There were probably some things they didn’t think were going to be as difficult that were very difficult.
I will definitely enjoy this. I will definitely enjoy it. You know, I enjoyed last year. But next year’s a different type of group, you know, because I’ll sit down and talk to all these guys. But it’s very, very rewarding because I can’t sit here and say that I worked harder this year than I worked in 2002 or 2003. I can’t say that.
That’s why I said before I think sometimes can you work as hard as you can and you got to keep plugging away, and hopefully things move in the right direction for you.
Q. After the game you and Jeremy hugged, then talked to each other, then hugged, talked to each other. I’m wondering how hard Jeremy was hugging you and what you all were saying.
COACH DONOVAN: Well, you can get with him because he’s no longer the athletic director any more of Florida because he told me, If you guys do it again I’m retiring. That’s it for me. Two in basketball, one in football, I’m done.
I said to him, Listen, I hope you enjoy your retirement. Enjoy your time. You told me this was it for yourself. It was great for me to be able to embrace him and spend time with him because he was certainly an integral part of having a belief that Florida’s program could be successful.
Q. When Urban won the national championship in football he said, This is the top of the mountain. Is this the top of the mountain, two in a row?
COACH DONOVAN: This game, this moment?
Q. This moment.
COACH DONOVAN: Oh, yeah, it’s an incredible feeling. But as I said when I first got up here, I’m very humbled, I really am. When you get to this point, you can see how fragile it all is, how nobody has it figured out. I sit here humbled and very grateful and appreciative of being able to be part of two national championships.
Q. You talked about the team’s place in history. What about your place in history? How important is legacy to you? How important is what you built here to you?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, the program’s very, very important. I’ve always said this. The program’s bigger than anybody. I’ve never, ever got into coaching or looked at my legacy or how it would impact me, and I said this last year. It’s more about the program.
There are a lot of great, great coaches that probably don’t get the opportunity that I’ve been afforded, that never get to this point, that probably deserve a lot more attention and credit than I do.
I’ve never really worried about what my legacy’s going to be. My legacy to me is I hope I work as hard as I can to do the very, very best that I can. I hope I do it in a way that you can walk away from things or enjoy things where you say, You know, I did my very, very best. I’m a big believer for me personally what gives me peace is where I walk away from something where I have no regret.
We worked as hard as we possibly could as a basketball team this year. You know what, if we would have come up short I wouldn’t have had any regret, and they shouldn’t have either because I felt like we did the very, very best we can.
You know, I think place in history or legacy for me is much, much more about what do these kids say it was like playing for me, and was I able to help in way their growth and development. I know this sounds kind of corny and crazy and everything else, but I really mean that. There’s a lot bigger things to me that are important to me than, you know, how I’m remembered, my legacy.
I hope that my legacy is, A, a good person, good father, you know, good husband, try to do the right things. I know we all make mistakes. But that’s how I treat these guys, how I coached these guys.
Q. It’s come up during the weekend discussions, will there ever be a situation again where a championship team returns this many guys who had options to not come back. Do you think this group can maybe influence in the future? Do you hope so?
COACH DONOVAN: You know, I hope so because the story that happened this year is so right for college basketball and it’s so right for young players. And I said this a—I think it was on Sunday. I’m not sitting there saying that every single player should come back to school and should never, ever leave early. I’m not saying that.
But I feel bad for kids that are pushed out or given bad advice or wrong information, and people make comments about draft status and stock. You got to compete. You know, there eventually becomes a time in life, you’re not tricking anybody. You eventually got to go on the floor and compete.
I think what speaks volumes about these kids is to get the national championship is that in this day and age they came back to play and compete because they were happy doing that and they wanted to take on that challenge.
And if there’s another kid out there, you know, if Greg Oden is out there and really in his heart he wants to go back to Ohio State, he should do what he wants to do. If anybody of those guys feels like, Hey, listen, I got the opportunity to leave, but I really want to stay. Look at what happened with Brewer, Noah, Horford, Taurean Green, Florida, it all worked out for them. You’re eventually going to have to go out and compete and play.
I’m hoping these kids can be a source of inspiration, strength, for some of these kids that say, I really don’t want to go, but I’m worried about what’s going to happen. I’m sure our guys went through that. They probably went through, Oh, my gosh, am I ever going to be this good, as good as everybody thinks I am, the expectations. I tell them all the time, You’re not tricking anybody. You got to go out and compete and play and work and get better.
Q. You talked about all the hard work that’s gone into building this program for 11 years, reaching the top of the mountain. If you remain the coach at the University of Florida for the future, what do you focus on now? The program is built and you’ve reached that point.
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I don’t—things, you know, happen. You don’t know what’s going to happen. For me, as long as I have my passion and my enthusiasm, my energy, because there’s only one way I can go about doing the job, and if I ever get to the point that, you know, I feel like that piece of it for me is slipping or I’m not interested or I’m not willing to make one more recruiting trip or work one more guy out or watch one more tape or get to that point where I’m willing to leave no stone unturned, then I’m going to have to be able to look at myself and say, You know what, I’m not doing what I needed to do.
Now, just because we had success here the last two years, there is a lot of requirement in terms of making good decision on the next guys you want to recruit. Sometimes there’s ups and downs, sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. Just because we’ve had success the last two years at a very high level doesn’t ensure success in the future.
So to me I think it takes the same type of work ethic and energy. It’s not like all of a sudden because this happened, I feel like, Wow, my job is easy now. I’m just going to sit back. It’s just going to run itself. I don’t believe that ever happens.
Q. Could you talk about the play of Chris Richard tonight, what he meant to your program.
COACH DONOVAN: Chris really helped us. This was a game where Oden had a monster game. I knew we were going to have a tough time. I really felt like the three-point line was so critical in the game. If we would have given Oden 20, 25, could have guarded the three like we did, I probably would have taken that. I wanted them to try to beat us with two-point shots.
Where they’re a real major problem, Ohio State, is when Oden’s getting his 18 or 20, and you look down, they made nine, 10, 11 three-point shots in a game. So Oden, because of his size, got a lot of our guys in foul trouble. But we just tried to keep on rotating guys, played Noah, Horford, Richard. But Chris Richard really stepped us because Horford played too many minutes and Joakim I don’t think ever really got in the flow of the game because of fouls.
Q. You were just kidding about Jeremy retiring, right?
COACH DONOVAN: You have to ask him. That’s what he told me. I think he was maybe joking (smiling).
Q. It was hard enough to repeat in this sport, except for the UCLA kingdom. Why is it harder now, besides the NBA? Are there other factors that make it harder to have two straight championships?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I think in today’s day and age, as you mentioned, the hardship rule really comes into effect with guys leaving early. The consistency on teams is not like it used to be any more. I think the transfer rate is up at an all-time high. There used to be a time in college basketball where freshmen came in and knew they had to wait their turn.
I think because freshmen have made such an immediate impact in college, because rookies have made an impact at a young age in the NBA, a lot of these kids want to get the opportunity to play right away and a lot of them can and a lot of them can help programs.
Coupled with no longer 15 scholarships, down to 13, those three things in itself are going to create a lot more parity in the game. There’s going to be a lot more opportunities for kids to maybe go to some programs that they didn’t.
You have to remember, I think the Dukes, Kentuckys, North Carolinas, UCLAs, these programs that have the unbelievable tradition, rich. It’s a pretty nice luxury when a guy like Sam Bowie is in college for three or four years, or you look at a guy like James Worthy at North Carolina for three or four years. You look at Akeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing in college, Bill Walton. When these guys stay, kids don’t stay long enough when they have a lot of success. To keep a program at a high level today is very, very hard.
I would—I don’t know what the future holds for any of our guys. 20 years ago they’d all be coming back. There would be none of those issues again. The whole thing would start. Can you three-peat? I think those things are what makes it so difficult in today’s day and age to try to get to that point or be able to get to that point.
Q. When you talk about kids making decisions to come back, could you talk maybe specifically about Corey, given his family situation, maybe how much he ended up meaning to you by coming back?
COACH DONOVAN: You know what, I’ve had Mike Miller, Jayson Williams, Kwame Brown, Roberson, Walsh, Donnell Harvey, a lot of guys leave early. It’s all been different. Why?
For Corey, his own individual personal situation, his mother and father are unbelievable. The most important thing for them is that he get his degree. I mean that genuinely and sincerely. That sounds like a standard line. They would not allow anybody to put pressure on Corey to leave if he didn’t want to do that.
And they really made him—you have to have such great respect. I think there’s been enough written about Corey’s situation, the health of his dad. He could have been in a situation where maybe his family said, You really need to do this for us, if you can do this. Never once. They wanted his happiness first.
So I think for Corey, it really comes from history and father, his brother and family.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Donovan, thank you very much. Congratulations.
COACH DONOVAN: Thank you.