NCAA Phoenix Regional Alabama Press Conference Quotes


Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Mark Gottfried
Coach Mark Gottfried


NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championships - Phoenix Regional
America West Arena ? Phoenix, Ariz.
Alabama Press Conference Quotes

Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried:

“Starting off with, I think along with the other 15 teams we’re excited to be here. Our players are excited and feel very hungry they feel like they’ve got a great opportunity. They’ll advance but at the same time they’re playing the national champion with in opportunity to advance to the final eight. They’re really excited about it, they’ve had a couple good days of practice at home Monday and Tuesday and again today so I think they’re ready to play.”

(On Syracuse)

“Well, I think they’re a great team. Obviously they’re well coached. The fact that they lost eight great players after winning a championship, I think their other guys have stepped up. I think that Warrick and McNamara, I think that Josh Pace has stepped up and had a real nice year as well. They just find ways to win. Their best players take the majority of their shots. They play smart; they don’t turn it over very often. I think that’s a sign of a well coached basketball team.

(On Antoine Pettway)

Well, he’s meant a great deal. You probably know the story: he came as a walk on player, he played last year behind Mo Williams. This year he’s kept in there and just has played with so much confidence and competitiveness. He just battles every single night, he makes big shots for our team on a number of occasions. People use the term, ‘he’s the heart and soul of your team’ well he’s the heart and soul of our team. He’s the little engine that could. He keeps on plugging away, and he’s not going to be denied. He finds ways to help our team win games. Everything about him is a beautiful story, it really is. He’s a great young person and you like to see guys like that have great moments like he’s had.”

(On role players)

“Everybody understands their role. They know what’s expected of each other. I think they know what each person needs to bring to the table each night and that’s been true for our team, especially this last month.”

(On comparing this team to past teams)

“I don’t really like to compare teams. This team is a gritty, gutsy team. Not that the other teams weren’t, we won the SEC Championship in 2002, we won 27 or 28 games, so that was a pretty good team as well. This team, they just compete. It’s been a number of times that we’ve been down in games and they’ve just found a way to get back in it. They have never rolled over one time, they just play hard. That’s a great characteristic to have, it’s pretty simple, but it’s true about our team.”

(On basketball respect in Alabama)

“I think football in our state has earned the right, they’ve won national championships. At some point basketball needs to take the next step and reach the Final Four. I’ve believed that since I played at Alabama. When I was a player that’s something I always believed. We need to do that and I wanted to do it badly as a player at Alabama. I still think that’s true right now. I think basketball is underrated in our state as far as I do think people care a lot about it. There is a lot of attention for football but I think they do care a lot about basketball as well. Hopefully, we’re the team that kind of breaks the door down and goes farther than we’ve ever gone before.”

(On players jumping to the NBA)

“I think it’s created a lot of parody. Probably from my perspective looking at it because I had some guys leave early the last couple of years, so I know how it feels and it’s not fun. Individually it hurts the team, or it hurts the program, or sometimes you like you’re not as good as you would have been. But I’ve also sat back and watched college basketball and to be real honest, on a big picture of things on a national scene and I don’t think that’s it’s effected it one bit. Those handful of guys that have left a lot of them are playing in the NBDL or the CBA. College basketball is moving right along and it’s just as good and the teams are just as good. I think that it’s a true statement that fans in college cheer for the name on the front of the jersey, much more than the name on the back. I think that’s a true statement. Probably a lot different than the NBA. Although it can hurt each program, and sometimes hurt them bad if they’re not able to compete if they lost key guys. I don’t think that college basketball in general has really taken a hit at all.”

(On how players are handling being in the Sweet 16)

“I think they’re handling it pretty well. I think they’re right where they need to be mentally. They’re excited about it and they should be. They should feel good about it, but they’re also very hungry at the same time. I don’t think that our team is a team that’s satisfied at all. You’ve got guys in the re that have taken their individual high school teams to state championships where they’ve won it all, they’ve finished it. They just haven’t participated in a tournament, they’ve accomplished the goal that they wanted to get to. Now they’re collectively together, and I think they’re right where they need to be mentally.”

“We watched Syracuse and they’re a team that just finds a way to win. McNamara is every bit as good as advertised. He shoots it from deep, he shoots it from everywhere. We just have to do a great job on him and I think that we have some very athletic guys on our team. I think Hakim Warrick is on another level athletically. He is so long and he’ll go right over you easily. They just find ways to win. I think that they’re a team that really understands their roles. Josh Pace has got his role, he doesn’t take shots that he can’t make, he takes the shots that he can make. The same with Nichols, the same with Forth. They do a real good job of being proficient with what they have to play with, that’s why they win.”

(On Stanford win)

“Well it’s a big win, there’s no question. I think the fact that they were ranked number one in the country kind of adds to it. You look at our team how we’ve played this last month of the season, the last eight, nine, ten games of the season, we’ve just played with a lot of confidence. We played a great non-conference schedule, we played against really good teams. A number of those teams are still alive in the tournament. Our guys feel like they can play with anybody because they have. That doesn’t mean that we’ll win the game, but they feel like they can compete. So I think the win just helps give you great confidence when you beat a team like Stanford.”

(On the remaining teams from the SEC)

“The interesting thing about that is that’s the reason why college basketball in my opinion is such a good thing. And I refer to the NCAA tournament as the ‘greatest show on earth’. In college football, I’m a football fan, I love football, there are teams like Alabama and Vandy that don’t get to play for championships. You don’t get to play you’re not invited to the national championships scenario and in basketball where there are there are 16 teams left right now and we all feel like we’ve got a chance. And so does Stanford, or Mississippi State, or Kentucky, or Florida, or whoever they may be. That’s the great thing about basketball; you have to play for it, you have to play it out. I think that’s a great accomplishment for Vanderbilt and us as well. That’s what makes college basketball so fun.”

(On getting the team back after losing players)

“Well, one of the things that helped us a lot was that we took our teams to the Bahamas in August, we were hoping to go to Italy and Spain and play some good competition, but we couldn’t work all that out. We ended up in the Atlantis Hotel, it was a pretty tough couple of weeks for us down there. But it was a period where Erwin Dudley, Kenny Walker, Terrance Meade, and Mo Williams, those four key players from last year, they weren’t with us. This group of guys, they had to learn how to play and who was going to score and who are we going to in the post offensively and defensively who are we going to guard. That trip was a good springboard for our team. Then we came right back and we opened up the season in New York City in the Garden playing Pitt and right of the bat now you’re playing on the best teams in the country. Those things combined really helped our team a lot, helped us figure out more things about our self how we need to play, who needs to step up and be more effective than they were a year ago.”

(On this season’s schedule)

“In 2001, we had 21 wins and we were 8-8 in the league. We didn’t intentionally schedule a soft schedule it just kind of worked out that way and we didn’t have enough great teams. We didn’t go to the NCAA tournament, we went to the NIT and made it to New York City that year. The committee made a pretty loud and clear statement to us and the whole country, but singled Alabama out. You need to step it up and play some better teams. Last year I thought our schedule helped us, this year I really believe it made us a better basketball team. The one thing about our schedule I think is important is we played Stanford the other night and here we are the eight seed playing the number one team in the country, who at that time was 30-1. But the beauty of that was
our players felt like we played every good team there is out there, we played the best schedule, we played against physical teams, quick teams, good shooting teams, teams that like to run, teams that like to go slow, we went on the road, we played great road teams, at Providence, at Xavier, we played Oregon, we did the whole thing if you go down a look at it. What happened was our team, I think still today they feel like they can play with anybody. That doesn’t mean we’ll win, but they feel like we’ve competed all year long with the best teams. So I don’t think that there’s any question that it helped our team, helped our program.”

Antoine Pettway:

(on new footwear)

“Coach got new shoes for everyone and I asked to put them on for the sweet sixteen. The old pair we torn and when I got a new pair I just wanted to put them on and see how the felt.”

(on the Syracuse zone defense)

“They play zone the entire game and they’re going to be better than most teams, but we have to beat them once or twice down the court and we’ve been preparing for it the entire week. We have to rebound and the zone makes it tough to rebound. We have to get offensive rebounds and protect the glass.”

Kennedy Winston:

(on how this team reached this point as opposed to last years’ team)

“Last year, we weren’t playing well and this year everyone is, clicking together, playing well and everyone is knowing their role.”

Antoine Pettway:

(on the team reaching this point)

“All the guys every night go out there and lay it on the line and play hard every night. It’s really showing now, we fight every night and as long as there’s time left on the clock we still have a chance to win.”

(on walking on and being a team leader)

“Coach saw me play in the state championship game and he gave me the opportunity. I came up here and worked hard and took advantage of every opportunity that I got.”

Kennedy Winston:

(on how Alabama basketball is on the rise in the state)

“It’s great for the basketball program to get on the cover of a national magazine. It shows how basketball is coming up in the state.”

Antoine Pettway:

(on the trip to the Bahamas)

“That trip was great for us. We took time away from campus and the coaching staff really let us bond. It was a great trip to let us bond and really get to know each other’s game. We found out how playing with each other will be for the entire year.”

Kennedy Winston:

(on high school basketball)

“I had a great time in all four years of high school. We won the state title in 11th grade and made it in 12th grade and lost. If you’ve been there before it’s a lot easier.”

(on a possible signing with Cal)

“I decided on a lot of different teams and I decided to stay at home and play for Alabama.”

(on where the Stanford win ranks with others)

“All wins equal the same. One win. We don’t credit for more one than the other. We look at it as one game and trying to get past Syracuse tomorrow.”

Antoine Pettway:

(on where the Stanford win ranks)

“It’s still just one win. We approach both games the same. They are an opponent that we have to get by in order to reach our goal. We have to respect them, but not fear them at all.”


The Tide gets set for practice at America West Arena.

Chuck Davis shoots around in Phoenix.

Coach Gottfried watches practice from the NCAA logo.

Antoine Pettway takes a jumper in practice.

Antoine's red shoes are back!

Coach Gottfried talks at the press conference.

Chuck Davis picks up a few copies of his image on Sports Illustrated this week.