Postgame comments from Louisville coach Rick Pitino and players Chane Behanan, Luke Hancock and Peyton Siva after Cardinals won NCAA title 82-76 over Michigan:
Opening comments from Rick Pitino:
COACH PITINO: You know, a lot of times when you get to the Final Four, you get to a championship, the game’s not always great, not always pretty. This was a great college basketball game.
(Michigan is) a tremendous offensive team. Fortunately for us, when we started this tournament, and Luke started playing a lot more minutes, we became a great half court offensive basketball team. And tonight was as good as it gets.
They executed almost every play to perfection. They mixed it up well. Can’t tell you how proud I am of the guys, of the moment. 16 straight games from a five overtime, sharing a regular Big East championship in its last year, a tournament championship at Madison Square Garden and then a run to the national championship.
It’s just, for us, been an incredible run with just the most wonderful young men I had the pleasure to be around. So proud of them.
Q. You know Chane, how he started the year, the suspension, what does today say about his evolution as a player and a person?
PEYTON SIVA: Chane is a great player. Coach kept telling him for these last 16 games, Chane, you got to rebound. We watched countless number of hours of film on Kenny Faried. Chane told me before the game. He said, Thank you.
I was like, What.
He just said, Thank you.
He came out today, and he was a man amongst boys on the board. He started patting his stats a little bit, trying to miss his layups and get it back, but he played terrific tonight (smiling).
LUKE HANCOCK: He’s developed as a player, but as a person, too. Chane is one of our leaders out there. He showed it tonight. He said he was going to take care of the board. That’s what he did. He stepped up and was a leader.
Q. Luke, you guys are down 12, you hit four threes in a row at the end of the first half, what was going through your mind? Most points scored by a sub in the championship in 49 years.
LUKE HANCOCK: I just try to play off Russ and Peyton, and Wayne today. They’re so good at getting you open shots. Gorgui found me for a couple of those.
But I just tried to play with them. They’re the guys who are usually scoring all the points. If I can step in and hit an open shot, or just help out, I do. Russ and Peyton lead the show, and I just try to play off of them.
Q. Talk a bit about what this actually means to you. It’s the goal at the start of the year. In the end, you did it.
PEYTON SIVA: Well, I just got to thank God for blessing me with this opportunity. Winning this game, the whole game, Coach Pitino kept saying, You’re out of shape, son, you’re out of shape. You need to dig in.
I kept telling him, I got bruises all over my legs from getting hit. He wouldn’t listen to me.
It feels amazing to get this win. Playing for a great guy, not just from coaching, just a great father figure like Coach P, truly amazing.
I baby‑sit his grandkids. It’s truly amazing to get this win for him. I’m just truly blessed.
LUKE HANCOCK: I agree. Just blessed. Blessed to be in this situation. I’m just so happy for our team. I’m happy that multiple guys got to contribute on this great run. Everybody from Tim Henderson on. It’s just great for our team. I’m so happy for these guys.
CHANE BEHANAN: Yeah, I also agree. It’s a one‑time thing in life. You never know if you get this opportunity again. So we just left everything out there on the court.
For me, it’s just a dream come true. Just coming from where I come from, Cincinnati, Ohio, the area I grew up in, any kid would want to trade places with me today. To have the opportunity to come out here to show my talent, win a national championship with my brothers, it’s unbelievable. I love these guys like they my real brothers. That’s it. It’s just a dream come true.
Q. Do you have any suggestions as to what Rick ought to do in terms of a tattoo?
PEYTON SIVA: You know, get my name. At the beginning of the year, If you guys win, I’ll get a tattoo. It was crazy to even think about it.
But we won. So he’s a man of his word. I told some reporters he should get a lower back tattoo. He said, Does it sting? I said, I don’t know, I don’t have any tattoos.
LUKE HANCOCK: I don’t have any tattoos. But we have a couple ideas. I don’t think he knew what he was getting into when he signed up for that one.
PEYTON SIVA: I think that was our biggest motivation, was to get Coach P a tattoo.
Q. You’ve coached long enough to be named to the Hall of Fame today. Have you seen teams with this kind of chemistry before? Is there something that you do in either attracting the players or in the way you coach them that builds a chemistry and bond like these guys have?
COACH PITINO: I think when you work as hard as we work, it builds a foundation of love and discipline ’cause you have to suffer together. You’re always pressing.
I knew Peyton. I was all over Peyton the entire night. I thought he’d have to play 38 minutes. He was pressing, running. I knew he was exhausted. I kept saying, You’re out of shape. He looked at me and he knew what I was getting at.
You got to dig in, man. I know what you’re doing, but you’re not in the shape, I thought you were. I had to keep prodding him and prodding him because watching him, I was out of gas. He just gave a brilliant performance, not only from a playing standpoint, but a leadership standpoint, conditioning standpoint. He was off‑the‑charts awesome.
Q. Rick, with time and perspective, what changes in your emotions from the last one?
COACH PITINO: Well, ’96, I just had to control the egos and understand, It’s not about the pros, it’s about winning a championship. I had a great team, one of the best teams in the history of the college basketball.
This team is one of the most together, toughest, hard‑nosed teams. We played a great team the other night in Wichita State and got outplayed for about 34 minutes of the game. But this team, being down never bothers us. They just come back.
In the tournament, we became a great halfcourt team strictly because we played Luke Hancock more minutes. Gorgui was brilliant tonight. Six assists. He played terrific. I want to encourage all my guys to put their name in the draft, just get the experience of trying out, whether they do it or not, not get an agent.
Guys like Russ, Chane, Gorgui. I want them to learn the experience. Probably two of them will come back, one may go. They deserve the experience the amount they worked.
When we lost to Notre Dame, I said, Guys, we never panic. But mentally you’ve got to become a great basketball team, not just physically. Your superior conditioning, your willingness to work hard is great, but you’re making too many mental mistakes.
I gave them very demanding goals. I said, It’s not probable what I’m about to say to you, but I think it’s possible. I think we can win the next seven games, go into the most special arena in America, win the tournament in Madison Square Garden, then go on, be a No.1 seed and win the national championship.
So we talked about it. We were quite open about it. When you set demanding goals, you really do have to focus in and pay attention to that. That was our goals right after the Notre Dame game. They were down. I said, You shouldn’t be down. Give them credit. Here is what we’re going to do.
To be honest with you, I’m just so amazed that they should accomplish everything that we put out there. I’m absolutely amazed as a basketball coach.