FROM SALT LAKE CITY — As is customary the day before the NCAA tournament, the head coach and players from each participating team took the stage to answer questions at a press conference. Here's the transcription of Gonzaga's media session, as provided by ASAP Sports.
Q. You guys were asked this on Sunday, but now that you have had a few days to think about it and be texted and everything from your friends, is there a weight to being a top seed? Is there pressure? And how are you dealing with that?
ELIAS HARRIS: “I see it as a great honor. I don't see it as a weight that's on our shoulders.
We were lucky enough to get the 1‑seed and we're going to make the best out of it and play team basketball and show that we are worthy of it. ”
KELLY OLYNYK: “It's a great honor to be that, there are a lot of teams they could have slotted in there. Nice to have that respect and we still have to go out and play basketball and still have to go out and win.
KEVIN PANGOS: We believe in ourselves and it feels great to be the number 1 seed, but we believe that we belong and there is no pressure. We're just going to go play and have fun out there.”
Q. The last number 1 seed to kind of‑‑ I don't want to say to be criticized but to be questioned was Saint Joseph's in 2004. From a historical perspective, do you guys see any consistency with your number 1 seed and Saint Joseph's? You guys both came from mid‑major conferences and both had great years and kind of both going in with something to prove a little bit.
KEVIN PANGOS: “Honestly, I haven't looked at that at all. I don't know much about the past and number one seeds. But we feel like we are ready to prove ourselves, we believe in our team and our abilities and we're confident going in. We're going to take one game at a time. ”
KELLY OLYNYK: “I'm not super versed in the past NCAA Tournament knowledge; but, like Kevin said, it could be parallel. But all we have to do is come out and play our game and focus on the task at hand and not worry about that kind of stuff. ”
ELIAS HARRIS: “I agree with Kevin and Kelly. I think they said everything right there.”
Q. With your school being relatively close to here, I know Gonzaga teams in the past have had to fly across country for the first round, now second round. But tell us what it's like to look up in the stands and see some Gonzaga red or blue up there?
ELIAS HARRIS: “It means a lot to us. Our fan support has been great all year long. We've got tremendous fans that have our backs all year long and it's going to help us out.”
KELLY OLYNYK: “It's really nice to see that following and that kind of support, throughout, we saw in Vegas a couple of weeks ago in the conference tournament. So it's nice to play in front of that kind of a crowd and have that kind of support, and it gives that lift to the team that you don't always have to bring yourself, which is always nice.”
KEVIN PANGOS: “It's no surprise, our fans have been like that all year, the last decade, really, and our fans are great and we love them.”
Q. Can you talk about how your games complement each other given the fact that you're two totally different looking Canadians?
KEVIN PANGOS: “Well, for me it's so fun to play with Kelly. He's an easy guy to play with. He doesn't demand the ball too much, but he makes himself available, whether it's off a pick‑and‑roll or any set that we run. He can do so many different things; he's versatile. He can stretch out and shoot it. Even if he gets the ball in the perimeter, he can drive from there, too. I'm never worried about where I get him the ball because I have trust in him that he's going to make the right play. So it's unreal playing with him like that.”
KELLY OLYNYK: “Playing with Kevin has been unreal for me this year. He gets me the ball in places where all I have to do is lay it in, basically. So it makes me look really good. He's done a great job of the pick‑and‑roll, penetration, that stuff. He's a great guy to find when he's open, knocking down shots and setting ball screens. I have a lot of belief and respect in Kevin. I would give him a shot anytime.”
Q. Did you guys follow Gonzaga, its Cinderella run, 10, 15 years ago? Do you remember much about that when you were following the game? Is it funny to have the shoe on the other foot right now?
ELIAS HARRIS: “I mean, I'm from Germany and to get basketball on German television is really seldom, so I didn't, no.”
KELLY OLYNYK: “You know, like I said before, I'm not very versed in the NCAA history. I didn't know Gonzaga from Duke really when I was growing up, to tell you the truth. But they had a decade of excellence and when they were recruiting us, we all became versed in it and found out what it was all about and their past and history and where they're coming from and now where they're going. So although we didn't know the history before, we know it now and we're taking a step in the right direction.”
KEVIN PANGOS: I would say the same thing. I watched it growing up, but I never got to follow it completely and I was pretty young. The decade of excellence that our staff has helped me learn a lot about the program.”
Q. Guys, now that you have more time to study videotape of Southern, what is your impression of them? They seem pretty confident they can lineup well with the guards, but they have questions about how well they match up with you guys inside.
ELIAS HARRIS: “I think it's a team that tries to control the pace, they guard forty minutes really well and they have tremendous players who are really, really good.”
KELLY OLYNYK: “They have had a lot of success this year. They have a couple of guys who can score the ball; they have inside presence, like you said. So nothing is going to come easy. They're a great defensive team. They dictate where they want you to shoot the ball instead of giving you free range to do what you want. So that will be a challenge; and like Elias said, they try to control the tempo and make it their style of game.”
KEVIN PANGOS: Like they said, they try to control the tempo. They're a great team. They're here for a reason and they won their conference tournament. It will be a good match‑up.”
Q. There are 28 Canadians playing in this tournament. That doesn't seem to have happened before. Do you have a sense of what's happening in Canada that's allowing people like you to suddenly appear in which bigger numbers than we have seen in the past?
KEVIN PANGOS: I would say we're pushing each other. The bar is set a lot higher. Guys aren't satisfied with making the NCAA team anymore, now the goal is to be on the NBA, the top NCAA teams. So everybody is pushing each other and holding each other accountable and we meet in the summer and reset our goals as a country and individuals and stuff. It's great to see. Growing up with a lot of the guys that are on the stage right now and seeing how basketball has transformed, as a country the culture has changed.”
KELLY OLYNYK: “Definitely what Kevin said with the culture changing. I think there are some guys in the past who have paved the way for our success to be able to happen, and the continued success is great, and I think the culture in Canada has really changed. Basketball is really kind of on the rise and it's really on the come‑up, so that's huge as well. Like Kevin said, there are guys who are focusing on being in the NBA now and trying to get to that next, next level which is huge. I think that's where Canada is headed and where it needs to go. “
Q. Can you talk about the Canadian National Basketball Camp that you tended in the summer and some of the players helped you with your game, Steve Nash and Joel Anthony. Can you talk about that?
KELLY OLYNYK: “It was an amazing camp. Everyone was there, NBA coaches, great guys. All the players were there from the NBA. So it was an amazing learning experience. Joel Anthony has been a great help to me for the past four years or so, showing me the way, telling me stuff on and off the court, how to prepare, how to get yourself ready to play. As well, there are other guys there that you're learning from, all the way up the ranks through the coaches and obviously Nash, as well.”
KEVIN PANGOS: “Kelly said a lot of it, but that camp‑‑ me and Kelly came from that and we were almost rejuvenated with excitement going back to school with how much we learned. It was from the trainers, the strength coaches, the basketball coaches, the players. Everyone you could think of involved with Canada basketball was there. Being around them, playing with the different styles of guards and things, it's hard to soak it all in because there is so much you can learn there. We came back with a whole new mind‑set and it motivated us for sure.”
Q. 1‑16 match‑up, when a 16 hangs around, things can get tight. How important is it to put Southern away early tomorrow?
ELIAS HARRIS: “Hopefully we can put them away early. But I don't know if that's the case. It's a 40‑minute game and we have to grind it out and take it possession by possession.”
KELLY OLYNYK: “It's always nice to put people away early, but in the tournament the reality is that's not going to happen. Like Kevin said, this team is here for a reason. They have a lot of wins this year. They have some great players, some great talent and they know how to play their type of game. We just have to go and play ours.”
KEVIN PANGOS: “We can't look past anything. We're going into this game just trying to play the way we can and obviously get the win whether that's in the 39th minute or in the first 10, doesn't really matter. We're just going to play our basketball and try and play our best.”
Q. You guys say you're not in the history, but I guess one name I'm assuming you know is John Stockton, his son is one of your teammates, talk about his shadow over your program and this year you will have a teammate with his dad's statue outside of the building.
KEVIN PANGOS: “It's great, John is around the program. He's the focal point. He went to Gonzaga, best point guard of all time. I go against David every day in practice, and I can see so many of the things that he has learned from his dad, just like the little things that you might not think of all the time. I'm sure for David it's a great opportunity. He's excited. And for our team it's neat to be here in Salt Lake.”
KELLY OLYNYK: “He's been unreal for the program. When he played, throughout his whole time and even now, he's one of those guys where if you talk to him for five minutes you will learn something. And he's one of those guys that you want to listen to him like he's going to give you the secret to life because he is a wealth of knowledge and if five minutes you can learn something you couldn't learn your whole life if you hadn't talked to him. So he's a great guy, and you can see him come out in David sometimes, the passes he makes or the reads he make, it's unbelievable. I think it's great for David to be back here and continue the legacy.”
ELIAS HARRIS: “I completely agree. I have nothing else to add. Everything has been covered.”
Q. Coach Few, maybe an odd question because if you didn't know Kelly and Kevin, the Canadians, and you saw them on the street, what would be your first impression with the obvious difference in their body types, but what makes‑‑ if you could follow up with what makes them effective on the floor together with their chemistry?
COACH FEW: “The first thing I would notice is probably the hairstyle difference, that would catch my eye and then probably the style of clothes. Kelly has a different kind of‑‑ he's got a unique style about him with what he wears. Kevin is pretty conservative. Other than that, you know, again, they both have the qualities that make them such special players, that they are unbelievably driven. I'm always talking to my son about‑‑ Kevin is in the gym every day. When he gets a chance to be in the gym he's specifically working on something. He's just not wasting time. Kelly does a real nice job with that all, and people have been so amazed at his red shirt year. But it's no surprise if you know Kelly. He's really bright, really focused and, again, he had a goal and a plan and he saw it through to fruition.”
Q. It's a little different coming into this tournament with this seed. I'm curious if you have had any kind of different approach to it. Have you heard from any of your coaching cronies who have had advice?
COACH FEW: “I talk to all of my buddies all the time, even the great friendships now that have been developed with Billy Donovan, myself, Shaka, those have been valuable to me all summer and all through the season as well as all the other guys I know in the profession. We're taking our normal approach into this. We have to come out and play our style and play our way and stay in attack mode. That's how we have been all year and this team has been remarkably consistent all year. I wouldn't guess that it would be any other way as we venture into the tournament now.”
Q. Coach, last number 1 seed with a similar profile to you was Saint Joseph, 2004‑‑
COACH FEW: Memphis, wasn't it?
Q. Memphis was actually thought to be a lot more dominant out of Conference USA, but with you and Saint Joseph's out of the Atlantic 10 and you out of the WCC, do you see this road any different with your approach?
COACH FEW: We have been a 2 seed, a 3 seed, we might have been a 4 seed, so I think this entire year, as a lead‑up we have been the highest rated team in every single game we have played, whether it was Oklahoma State, Illinois, Kansas State, Butler, Oklahoma, any of those, we have been the highest rated team. We're just going to approach it just like we did all those other games. That's all we know, this entire year, we're 33 games in and every game we have been the highest rated team. If it ain't broke don't fix it, is my motto. These guys have done probably as good of a job as any team I have ever coached at just focusing in on what they got to focus in on.”
Q. Coach, do you remember the last time you came into the tournament where you were the one they were saying needed to pull the upset? It's been a while, but did you approach those differently or can you remember the last time?
COACH FEW: “As far as being a really‑‑ like a double digit seed?”
Q. Yeah, yeah, back in the day when you were the lower‑‑
COACH FEW: Yeah, man, I can't‑‑ I don't know. 15 years‑‑ I think one thing our guys have been able to do each and every year‑‑ we have had some difficult match‑ups in this first round even when we have been a 7 to a 10, they have sent us across the country in somebody's backyard. I think we approached it with a chip on our shoulder and went out there and were the aggressive team. We have been talking a lot about doing the same thing with this group.”
Q. Coach, I wanted to get your impressions of John Stockton's influence on your program over the years? And as a follow‑up, how much of him do you see in David?
COACH FEW: “John has had a huge impact on our program. You're not going to meet a more humble, down‑to‑earth super star, Hall of Fame guy in your life. He coached my son's AAU team, and I wish all you guys had the opportunity to know John on the level like I know John and guys in our program know John.
He's probably one of the most‑‑ if not the wittiest guy I know, and really a lot of fun and very giving, really cares immensely about our program, about Gonzaga and about Spokane. I think that's carried over to our guys. Our guys see somebody tremendously successful like that and how he handles his business and how humble he is and the amount of grace he has. It's contagious. I think it has reflected on our program.
As far as David is concerned, he's not humble. He doesn't have‑‑ (Laughter.) No, David is unbelievable. He's fearless, like John, he has an incredible innate feel for the game that he can make passes into the smallest of windows, that there is nobody on our team capable of doing and there are very few people in college basketball that can make those plays. He has a great knack just like John did off the ball on defense for making plays. It's uncanny‑‑ I remember watching him in high school, just how much he reminds you of John.”
Q. How special is 15 straight NCAA appearances? And what does it say about this program?
COACH FEW: Far and away the number 1 thing has been great, the number 1 seed has been great. But for me the 15 straight NCAA tournaments is the unbelievable accomplishment that we have been able to achieve this year. If you think about this year, Kentucky didn't make it. Maybe last year Arizona didn't make it. A year or two ago UCLA didn't make it. North Carolina didn't make it. It shows sustained excellence and it shows‑‑ all the coaches will tell you just how hard it is to get into this thing and you can't take anything for granted. Our group of players that have came through during this time and the assistant coaches I have had have done an unbelievable job of getting us prepared, getting us to go out and execute and step up to make plays in the greatest sporting event in the world, I think, year in and year out, we haven't experienced anything different. I have a 13‑year‑old son whose favorite day in the whole world is Selection Sunday, and it's just not reality. You think about how many people are disappointed. He likes it better than he does his own birthday. That's not real, you know? That, to me, is incredible, what our guys have been able to do all these years.