Here is the full transcript and audio from this afternoon’s press conference featuring Buzz Williams and Thad Matta.
Marquette coach Buzz Williams
What are your overall first impressions, experiences and the overall scene?
“Honestly, it’s one of the top five things I’ve ever done in my life. I came over this morning with (deputy athletic director Mike) Broeker and Naz, brought my sons over, took a tour of Yorktown. We were probably here about an hour and a half.
Then I went back and I got a print out a map of South Carolina, explaining the history of Charleston, the history of this ship, explain all of that to us so that as we headed over to practice so we had a better understanding of it.
We’re leaving here to go do a clinic at the base for the children of armed service members and I think we’ll have even more of an understanding of what this is all about.”
How are you balancing this event with playing a top 5 team to start the season
“I would say it’s immature. I would say I’ve done a really poor job about trying to balance it. I just don’t know professionally, this is my 19th year in Division 1, to have the opportunity to play on this stage, for what it represents and the pride that swells up in you for our veterans and for the people that are currently fighting so that we can play ball. It just seems so miniscule.
Like we’re not deserving of doing this and that’s what I was trying to express to our kids. Like we’re eating breakfast for free and there’s a guy cooking omelets and pancakes and we’re having study hall and they get to go to school for free and then this is their first game. That is an unbelievable blessing.
So I would say my response has been very immature. Not that we haven’t prepared, not that we’re not excited to finally play a game, but it kind of pales in comparison to what this is really about and I feel very fortunate that our institution has been able to be a part of it.”
How do you prepare for a different Ohio State team without Jared Sullinger and William Buford?
“I think every team to an extent, at this time of the year, it’s hard to prepare because you do have to base what you know on last season’s team.
I said this yesterday before we left our local media, I think if Thad (Matta) talked about himself the way a lot of guys in this industry does, he would be looked at in a different light. But if you really look at what he’s done in his career as a head coach, he’ll be in the Hall of Fame while he’s still employed as a head coach. It’s remarkable the success he’s had. And he’s always done it with really good players like Jared Sullinger and Buford. So, Aaron Craft is an All-American, Deshaun Thomas is an All-American.
So they lose, I think it was 37 points and 15 rebounds and 68 minutes. That is a big gap to replace. But when you know you can replace it with guys that have already played at this level, I think that they could be a Final Four team again this year.”
Do you have to alter the game plan being outside?
I told Thad, I think it’ll alter what they do because they have guys who can shoot. We don’t have anybody who can shoot. So I hope the wind will help us and maybe straighten out some of the curveballs we typically fire up there. We were going do something outside in September or October but we couldn’t really find anything that was any other surface other than concrete.
So I got really scared about some of the luck we’ve had with knees and feet since I’ve been at Marquette, so I shied away from it. Whatever condition we have to play in tomorrow night, the Buckeyes have to play in it too, so there’s no justification. We’ll probably shoot 32 percent from the field like we did against Florida in our last game and that was inside. So I don’t think it’ll matter. We had guys on the team last year that could shoot.”
Do you have any concerns about player safety?
“I came over here this morning and they were getting the floor dry. I don’t have any concerns about the safety. I think the one thing that will be different is that we practiced when it’s light outside today and we’ll have a shoot around here in the morning tomorrow when it’s light out but when we play tomorrow it’s going to be those pop up lights.
I think there will be an adjustment for us and for them because they have the same times that we had relative to when they were shooting and when they practiced, so I think there will be an adjustment relative to those lights but no concerns whatsoever about their safety.”
Do you think the players will have any trouble adjusting to atmosphere?
“I think they’ll be hyped up. I think all those games of magnitude tomorrow night of the teams that play, regardless of whether they’re on TV or not, every kid in the country and every coach in the country is excited that a new year is started. So I think there are always some jitters. Maybe because it’s outside, maybe because it’s on national TV, there is maybe a little bit more added to that, but I think once the ball goes up, maybe it’ll calm down by the second media timeout.”
Did you look for this one of these games after last year’s event?
“I would play in anything like this, anywhere, at any time. Mike Broeker and Larry Williams have done an unbelievable job of building relationships throughout their career and that’s why we were able to participate in something like this. But if you know anybody who has something like this or any type of event like this, just tell them we’ll play.”
What does this mean to the community in Milwaukee that the team is here
“It’s funny, you’re the youngest guy here and you asked the best question. You don’t have any hair on your back yet because you’re young, but it makes the hair your back stand up. Honestly. Regardless of where you’re from, regardless of the institution that you’re employed at. To have an opportunity to be a part of something like this, I’ve said it a couple of times before I arrived here, I think it’s something our guys will always cherish.
It’s much bigger than the winning and losing. Obviously we want to win and I’m not trying to justify that. But to be able to represent our country in a small, small, small way for what our country and men and women of our country have done to be able to provide us this chance to do it. I’m telling you I was so fired up this morning when I came over.
I don’t sleep a lot but I’m up early this morning and in the lobby I like to talk to the janitors. So, I’m running around and it’s 5:30 this morning in the hotel lobby and by 8:30 people are moving around and Naz came to me and said ‘Hey let’s go over to the boat,’ and Broeker was with him, and I go ‘Hold on just a second I’m gonna go wake up my boys and we’re gonna go.’ Just immense pride. Immense pride. I think for people in Milwaukee and the people in Columbus, for the people that are going to watch it, it just makes you think like he said earlier, we’re still at war. You’re with a camera and these guys are writing and I’m humble and grateful.”
Ohio State coach Thad Matta
Did you have to be convinced or have any hesitation when this opportunity came up
“I think from our perspective, coach (Jim) Foster committed to it first and then were approached. From my perspective, it didn’t take long to think about it. Our fans and players will have the opportunity to walk out of here tomorrow night with the experience of a lifetime. There is a billion dollar industry with college basketball and for our players to understand that there are people fighting for your freedom and for us, it’s our chance to pay them back.”
What are you expecting for the first game?
“I want to see if our guys can function eight out of 10 plays because the conditions and circumstances are unique and it’s not going to be like this again. I want to see if they can stay cohesive and have an effort, rotation-wise defensively and have some semblance of attempting to execute our offense. Those are the things I’m looking for. When I was a player, we didn’t start playing our season until after Thanksgiving. So I think everybody at Marquette, Notre Dame, both of our teams, it’s still early for us. So there’s a lot of things you look to evaluate but the effort and cohesiveness, those are things you can look at.”
Deshaun Thomas had concerns about Aaron Craft falling off the ship diving for loose balls
“I will say the one end is a little intimidating. I didn’t know it would be that close to the edge of the ship. Hopefully we have some extra basketballs in case we toss one over the side. We try to get our guys today in practice, we went about as hard as we could possibly go in 45 minutes and wanted them to not think about the conditions. I think one time they looked at what I have for hair and saw it was blowing sideways, but it’s good.”
Ohio State’s following in South Carolina
“I think that’s the beauty of Ohio State. You go back to that game last year in December (against South Carolina), I remember the players came in before tip off and they said ‘Coach, it’s like a home game out there.’ That is the power. We have over 475,000 active alumni around the world and there’s obviously a great base here in South Carolina, so we’re really proud to be back.”
Will it be weird starting a game without Jared Sullinger and William Buford?
“It will be weird. It’s like I told some of our big guys, the last two seasons, the greatest motivation I had as a coach is when our opponents shot, I knew Jared would get the rebound. That was kind of my motivational ploy. I’m very proud of what he’s doing right now with the Celtics. Maybe it will take them a second, but I think our boys are ready to play the game without him.”
Does being a better shooting team allows the outdoor elements effect Ohio State more?
“I don’t know. Forty five minutes today probably wasn’t enough to gauge. Winds were gusting up there today at practice. Hoping they’ll be toned down a few knots by game time tomorrow. Coach Foster may have a little better time playing at 4:00 than us at 7:00, it may be a little warmer for them, but I’ve told our guys to just shoot the ball and shoot with confidence and hope for the best.”
On what this means to Aaron Craft, having a brother overseas
“Aaron talked to his brother two days ago, he said he’s home in nine days. The ironic thing is when he was taking off; we were playing Syracuse to go to Final Four last year. To be at Ohio State, being a part of this, I know his brother and father are as elated as you can imagine. I said to Aaron the other day, I told you a lot of things in recruiting, but the one thing I forgot was you get to play a game on a battleship.”