This past weekend, the Phoenix Suns came into L.A. looking to capitalize on a pair of games against the city’s two hometown franchises. While the Lakers would hand them a crushing 3OT loss this past Tuesday, two days earlier, the Suns were busy mopping up the Blakers for a nice 108-99 win at Staples Center. This was also the same Sunday that both Duke and North Carolina were fortunate enough to escape serious second-round upset bids from both Michigan and Washington, respectively. After the Suns’ victory over the Clippers, we were able to catch up with one of Tobacco Road’s most famed alums, Grant Hill, to get his take on the NCAA Tournament thus far.
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Dime: What were you thinking after Duke’s close 73-71 win over Michigan?
Grant Hill: To get there, which I’m not sure if they’ll get to the finals or not, but you’ll always have a couple of games like that where if you can win those games and take care of business, then you’ll have a chance. Carolina had a close one too (86-83 win over Washington), so there might be something about Tobacco Road.
Dime: Do you and Vince Carter have a bet on the Tournament?
GH: Nah. I (do) have Carolina going to the Final Four in my bracket. Vince and I, we really don’t take it that serious.
Dime: What’s the secret for Duke trying to become back-to-back champions with that added pressure?
GH: Well, you know, I think you have a coach who really understands certainly how to do it. And not that you’re defending anything, but you’re pursuing. I think that’s been the mindset that Coach tries to establish from Day One. It’s interesting with [Kyrie] Irving back. Now you have a guy who has come back – I haven’t seen him play, so I don’t know if he’s as good as before – but obviously if you’re out for that long, I know you can get a little rusty sometimes with the chemistry. So, it’s a very fragile thing. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out in the next round. But in theory, as talented as he is, and if he’s healthy, then they have a good chance to be pretty good. But they got used to playing without him.
Dime: What are your thoughts on Coach K being two games away from tying Bob Knight for the all-time winningest record in NCAA history?
GH: I was just worried that he’d coach like Bob Knight. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get yelled at every day… I got yelled at most of the time (laughs). But nah, it just makes you proud to know that you were part of what he’s accomplished and what he’s done. He’s had a remarkable career. I think the thing that really impresses me is that over the span of 25-30 years, as each sort of era and generation of player changes, he’s able to adapt and able to deal with the modern day athlete. That’s a hard thing to do. The ’86 generation Johnny Dawkins crew was different than the ’96, than the ’06 and to be able to inspire and motivate and teach and connect with those kind of guys is difficult. Different generations is not an easy thing to do.
Dime: Did you speak to the team or any of the players as they headed into the tourney?
GH: Nope, they don’t need any help from me. You know, I’ve tweeted them I guess from time to time through the season, but they’re in good hands.
Dime: Do you think Duke can repeat as champions?
GH: Yeah, it’s a possibility. But the great thing, is what I really like about the Tournament, is that anyone can go all the way. You see teams like Butler last year, (they) had a chance to win it. There’s a lot of parity, so it makes for a more exciting tournament.
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