Final Four: Lesson in semantics and other notes

By Jerry Palm - April 01, 2007

Being in a crowd of professional wordsmiths can be a tough thing sometimes...

During the Ohio State press conference, Ron Lewis was grilled on his assessment of Florida. His teammates used words like "great" and "excellent" to describe the Gators, but Lewis simply called them "good" and referred to his own team as "great." He was given at least two chances to back off of that, but never did, but when asked to define what a great team was, he used the Chicago Bulls as an example.

Then in the Florida roundtable (which was technically rectangularly shaped), the players were asked about Lewis' assessment of them as a "good" team while his was "great." Joakim Noah, in a near-falsetto voice, said "Oh my GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD! Did he really say that??" The reporter said "yes" and Noah came back with "No! What a bad person! (smiling)"

Brewer chimed in with, "At least he said we were good. He could have said we were bad."

Then it was time to pick on coach Donovan's semantics, and I don't mean the use of "very, very" as one word. Last night, Donovan talked about how he "had" a great relationship with Florida AD Jeremy Foley, but today uses the word "have." Naturally, someone picked up on that and asked if anything should be read into that change. It's the only time in two weeks I've seen Billy slightly flustered. He said, "No, it shouldn't. No, I haven't - no, no. (laughs) I apologize if I used 'had.' That was not my intent. Have!"

On a more serious note, Donovan has been asked repeatedly about why this team has been able to get back to this position. He keeps coming back to the joy the kids have playing with each other as teammates and the fact that the success of last year didn't go to their heads.

Donovan said, "I think in order to go through a year like this, you have to have guys that remain coachable. I've seen a lot of kids that have a level of success, because the hardest thing to handle at a young age to me is success.

"What happens is sometimes players lose their humility, they lose their sense of who they really are, have an inflated opinion of how good they think they are. At that time can sometimes become uncoachable, where they have all the answers.

"These guys are as coachable this year as they were last year. I've had to coach them a little bit differently, but they're as coachable that they listen. I feel like I make headway with them when I talk to them about different things. There's no question there was a lot to deal with coming out of last season."

Fellow slogger Eric Sorenson went to the breakout rooms to try to mine some quotes from the players while I was listening to Donovan. As usual, the best stuff came from Noah.

Asked about this season, he said that "expectations is a word I've heard a lot this year. This year has been more satisfying. This year has been a circus."

Talking about having a father who was a star in a different sport, he said, "I feel like I learned a lot from my father. He talked to me about expectations. I learned about work ethic. I watched him work hard to succeed."

When asked if he played tennis as a kid, he said, "No. I suck."

Florida is such a prohibitive favorite that one writer who has been assigned the task of coming up with five reasons why Ohio St will win is having trouble coming up with one.

The best line of the day came from coach Thad Matta. He was asked about having three potential NBA first round picks decide to come back to school for another season like Florida did for this year. The question was, "When do you think the game will see something like that again?"

Matta said, "Hopefully, next year."

I'll be back with more tomorrow unless I'm compelled to write sooner.

Posted by Jerry Palm at 03:44 PM on April 01, 2007

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