SDSU-NC State Pre-NCAA News Conference Quotes
March 15, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio -
San Diego State News Conference Quotes
Q. Chase, in particular since you're a starter from last year, could you talk a little bit about the experience that you've gotten from the NCAA and what kind of an advantage you think that might be against a team that has no NCAA experience?
Chase Tapley: Experience wise, I just know what to expect coming in, with all the festivities and stuff like this, through open practice.
I wouldn't say it's an advantage because everybody is here to do one thing, and that's win. I'm just here, ready to get it going, practicing, and can't wait for tomorrow.
Q. I wondered if a couple of others of you could address that. How much of an advantage is having been in a place like an NCAA Tournament as opposed to not ever having been to one?
Tim Shelton: In terms of developing a comfort level of what the routine is going to be and it's easier to maintain focus when you've already been there before and nothing really surprises you in terms of that, and you can also offer any type of advice that other guys need or want.
Q. Chase, could you talk about what your expectations were for this year? I know like none of the preseason mags had you guys picked to be here right now. Did you buy any of them? Did you throw it out in the trash? Did you hang it up?
Chase Tapley: I didn't really even pay attention to it. We all was just to ourselves in the summer working on our games, each and every one of us, just saying what we were going to do in the upcoming year. We saw some of the bad publicity, but we just used it as motivation as the season started. When we started rolling, we started rolling. And everybody saw what kind of talent we had. We just wanted to keep that success going.
Q. Jamaal and Xavier, could you address that coming in how you felt, and why do you think things started rolling, what was the tipping point?
Jamaal Franklin: I think the tipping point was in the summer working out not letting it bother them. Everybody was self motivated and just wanted to win. Everybody thought it was going to be a rebuilding year, but for us it was just going to be the same year, just being consistent at San Diego State.
Q. When you see C.J. Leslie, No. 5, what are your thoughts on him for NC State?
Jamaal Franklin: He's a player, he's a good player, but I don't see him fearing. I don't have fear in him. He's just a regular player I'm ready to play against. But talented, athletic. So looking forward to a good matchup, because he has to worry about guarding me too.
Q. What do you think about teams that have seen y'alls' size and say you guys aren't a big team?
Xavier Thames: Yeah, that is true, but we play with a lot of heart. Tim plays big, Garrett plays big, and Deshawn plays big. So we're going to come out ready to play against an ACC school, a good school in NC State.
Q. Jamaal, you seem pretty confident playing with C.J. You don't seem intimidated by anybody, much less a guy like C.J. Leslie.
Jamaal Franklin: No, C.J. Leslie is a great player, but I don't really feel me being intimidated. Any man I'm ready to play against. I'm not intimidated by nobody. But C.J. is a great player. I can't knock him for being a great player, but I'm not going to be intimidated by him.
Q. Could a couple of you address, what about the pace of the play? How do you want to play as opposed to NC State wants to play and how much will it be the rhythm of the game and tempo?
Xavier Thames: We know NC State likes to get up and down and we like to get up and down as well, but we're not going to get in a track meet with them. We're going to pick our spots. If Chase is open for a wide open 3, Jamaal wide open 3 for transition, we're going to give it to them. But we're not going to get in a track meet with them. We'll see how it plays out.
Chase Tapley: I think the biggest aspect of the game is going to be on the defensive boards. We have to really box them out and limit them on second chance shots. And like Jamaal said, on the offensive end they've got to guard us, too. So I think that's going to be key.
Jamaal Franklin: I feel we just gotta, like Chase said, keep them off the boards, make sure we box out C.J. Leslie. That's how he gets most of his points, and he's a great rebounder. He finishes the ball and runs a lot.
And we've got to make sure we take care of the other big. And we just gotta make sure we make our shots, and everything will fall out into place.
Q. I see Coach Fisher is mentioned as a Coach of the Year candidate. I wonder for any of you what's your best Steve Fisher story that shows what kind of coach he is, on the court, practice, off the court.
Tim Shelton: Just immediately you look at what he's done this year in terms of the team's expectations from the outside looking in, what he's been able to do with this team getting national attention once again. It's quite obvious he's a phenomenal leader, teacher, role model.
In terms of the accolades, he deserves everything he's gotten so far. If he gets something again, something along the lines of that, then he's well deserving.
Q. The last two games of last year's tournament were the most minutes you played. I think you had 39 in double overtime against Temple and 32 against UConn. Because of the timeouts are longer in the tournament, because you have a longer halftime, how does that benefit you from a fatigue standpoint, and would you expect that everybody in the lineup will play more minutes?
Chase Tapley: Just extra timeout, get a extra gear, your second gear, second wind in. But it's the NCAA Tournament. You want to play those kind of minutes. It's not the time to be tired, fatigued, or making excuses about being tired.
So I'm just going to give it my 100 percent all. If I have to play 40 minutes, I'll play 40 minutes. But everybody else contributes, contributing in time. We'll need the bench to come in, contribute. Everybody's going to have to contribute. So it's just yeah.
Q. As a follow up, did you feel last year you were a little fresher than you might have expected given the number of minutes you played?
Chase Tapley: Tremendously. I mean, having Coach Fisher having confidence to keep me in the game during that period of time, it's just a big compliment to myself. I just have to put it all out there for him and my teammates.
Q. I want to follow up on the Steve Fisher question. Is he a quiet guy? Is there an example like a moment where you learned something from him unexpected?
Tim Shelton: He picks and chooses his areas. I mean, we've had bad halves before and he's come into halftime, maybe he'll curse a little bit, but also he keeps his reserve and maybe five minutes later he'll bring it back down and go talk to you and be a man about it.
It's like he just handled every situation so well. Part of it is probably experience obviously, but there's nothing that really fazes him or surprises him in terms of like, oh, this is happening, now what am I going to do? He's never on his heels. He always has a game plan for each situation.
Q. Tim, I understand you were a really good high school player. Hurt your knees, have had sore knees for a while. At any point do you feel like it might not happen for you, that something like this would happen for you? It must be fairly gratifying to be here now on this stage.
Tim Shelton: Most definitely. I'm very blessed to have the opportunity to still be playing. With microfracture surgery it's very complicated. People don't always recover well. I still haven't fully recovered, but I've been able to play. Had a repeat microfracture, so I've had it twice.
Just for this to be my senior year, just very honored and blessed to be a part of the NCAA Tournament and to be able to play with these guys. It's been a phenomenal run.
Q. Xavier, what kind of pace do you expect this game to play at and are you comfortable with whatever NC State might bring?
Xavier Thames: More of a balance. Not going to get in a transition game, really pick our spots here and there and run. And whatever they want to play, we can play. We could play a slow down game, we could play a transition game.
That's the beauty of what Coach Fisher brings to the table. So whatever they want to play, we'll be ready.
Q. Tim, big difference between this team and last year's team, and a lot of people from North Carolina are going to think they're going to face San Diego State from last year, and it's nothing alike. Is it amazing to you that Coach Fisher has been able to put this together with a completely different group, much smaller, everything's different?
Tim Shelton: It's not a surprise to me. Just understanding the character of our guys, the worth ethic they have, skill level and their growth and just maturity as players, being able to put it together and put wins together.
And obviously our leadership in Coach Fisher, not surprising at all. I see from the outside looking in there were low expectations for us. Within the locker room we felt the complete opposite way. We've been a part of a winning team, so that winning culture and character has carried over throughout this year as well.
We just kept the momentum going. And building up the program during a, quote/unquote, rebuilding year, I think it's huge for us.
Q. Chase and Tim, you guys have been to a couple of these already. Just talk about how comfortable you feel and whether you think it's a little bit of an advantage having been here before and knowing what this is going to be like?
Chase Tapley: My feeling right now, I'm just excited to be here. God gave me another opportunity to be here. And I'm just looking forward to tomorrow. It's like I said before, it's not an advantage. Everybody's here for a reason. And everybody has probably the same excitement I have. I just know what to expect. And I'm not new to the lights and everything. I just want to get out there and play.
Tim Shelton: For me, I have been here before. I don't necessarily feel that my impact here before will be the same as this time. I feel like I play more of a role obviously.
But walking in the gym again ... I mean, it's not the same arena, but you get that feeling. It just feels good. You're like, hey, I'm back, I'm honored to be a part of this, let's go, let's get a win.
You don't just want to be in the NCAA Tournament; you want to win the NCAA Tournament.
Q. Jamaal and Chase, you have been in a lot of dogfights this year, going back to the UNLV game, the first one. Could you talk about how that's prepared you for NCAA Tournament play being in so many games where you guys had to be clutch down the stretch?
Chase Tapley: It helped a lot. NCAA Tournament, you get those kind of games like every night, close barn burning games, and those games at the beginning of the year, early in the year, like UC Santa Barbara, the Creighton game, games like that really prepared us for this moment we have right now.
I think we all have learned from it, and we're just going to try to execute the things we didn't do back then, try to execute better to now so we can be successful.
Jamaal Franklin: I'll second what Chase said. I think all our season games has helped. It's been the games that we won by a buzzer. We've been down at USC and X came down and got a game winning layup.
I think everything has prepared us. We know that if we suffered being down by a lot, then we're still capable of us being able to win. I think we've been through so much that we'll be able to take whatever comes in front of us.
Q. Did you guys watch that BYU Iona game and did you notice the composure that BYU had, having been around the NCAA Tournament and not panicking?
Chase Tapley: I saw the bit end of it, the late end of it. I knew Iona had a big lead by 25. So that just shows the character, what kind of team they have and what coach they have in Rice [sic] are just key. Keep their composure and just always fighting back. Teams that used to beat them out West, just always keep fighting, fighting, fighting.
COACH FISHER: We, like everyone, are excited to be here, a part of the greatest sports spectacle known to man. And for the next three weeks that's what everyone will be focusing on, and we are privileged to be a part of it and hope we can continue to be a part of it as it rolls along.
Q. Steve, as much as you've heard about the lack of depth this year on your team, how does the tournament and the longer timeouts, the longer halftime, how does that affect your team? Do you see that as an advantage for this particular team?
COACH FISHER: I think given the fact that we've got nine scholarship players who are here, we've been playing eight, that it's an advantage to have the longer timeouts.
That being said, our opponent in the first round game, North Carolina State, plays seven guys. So it might be more of an advantage for them with only seven. I also think that at this stage, especially with young guys, that the adrenalin and everything else that they'll have going, I don't think it's as much of a factor as maybe we're making it out to be.
But I do believe that that extended timeout period will help. And we've tried to sometimes selectively sub right before a timeout and now this will really help us where missing the 30 seconds might be a five minute opportunity for a guy to rest with all the things that go on.
Q. Could you just rewind to the preseason and what were your expectations of this team? What did you think it could accomplish and why?
COACH FISHER: Before we started the season, if people when people asked me what are we going to be like, Coach, my stock answer was: I'm a bit nervous. And I was. Then I would follow that: I think we have a chance to be pretty good. I did, and we were.
What happened with us never happens in our sport. The expectations maybe weren't as high as they should be. That never happens. Usually they supersede way far above what is realistic.
So when we started to achieve, then everybody told us how great we were, and rather than being expected to be good like we were the previous year and you have a similar record but struggle a little bit and people say what's wrong.
So I think it was an advantage to us to be under the radar a little bit. And yet I felt we had good players. We had two starters, really, returning. Tapley, Chase Tapley was a starter on record and James Rahon played starter minutes.
So really we had two guys who were used to playing different roles. And then we were very fortunate that Tim Shelton stayed healthy. It's a testament to Tim and our trainer, Tom Abdenour, who first year, former NBA trainer, did a magnificent job with him. And then you piece other guys in, Xavier Thames, who was a Washington State transfer, has been a very, very good point guard, leader for us. And Jamaal Franklin, the guy that I had buried deep on the bench and tried to redshirt his freshman year, played about three, four minutes a game, didn't play in 13 or 14 games, turns out to be a whole lot better than anybody thought he would be, including myself.
Q. Was that the biggest surprise, or what was the biggest surprise to you? What did you not know that you know now?
COACH FISHER: I don't like to use the word "surprise" because I've been with them for a long time. I thought we were good. And even Franklin, Jamaal, willed his way into the rotation last year.
He went from not playing at all to playing just a tiny bit to being in the rotation, with a really, really good team. But I didn't dream that he could be as important to our team as he has become. He was Player of the Year in a really good league that we're in. Leading scorer, leading rebounder for us. And he's been terrific for us all season long.
So if you had to say who is the one wildcard, it would be Jamaal.
Q. Coach, when people are breaking down this bracket they're talking about, okay, NC State has All Americans from the past and present and future and trying to use that against you. But essentially you've done more with what they would consider less in the last five years. It's a dual question here. What does that say about the analysis of players and maybe how they're unfairly skewed, and also it's got to be a testament not just to what you guys can do in research, but what West Coast basketball and west of the Mississippi basketball has become that you guys can do that with what's considered to be lesser talent?
COACH FISHER: Our players would be offended if you said lesser talent. They think they're as good as anybody in the country.
And you have to recruit intelligently. You have to know who you can really get. But we've been unafraid to go into a home and knock on a door of the biggest name in the room.
And two years ago, when we signed Kawhi Leonard in the early signing period, nobody knew how good he was. We did. I think we did our homework. We watched him probably more than anyone. And there are a lot of coaches that maybe could have gotten him, would have had a chance to get him that recruited him casually.
We made him feel what he became for us. So I think you recruit smart. And we've recruited good players who were good people, who have grown and gotten better and were willing to say, okay, if we win everybody benefits. That's what we all attempt to do.
So we've gotten good players. We maybe not have gotten the McDonald's All American type players, but we've gotten some really good players that have been a part of our program.
Q. How much of an effect for 18 to 22 year old kids is it to have been in an NCAA Tournament, to be under the lights and in a big game like this?
COACH FISHER: I think I know the question. You're talking about from the experience from last year, having played in it?
COACH FISHER: I think it's huge. I think the fact that our guys and Chase Tapley was here the year before that, when we played at Providence.
So the experience of having to do this and having an open 40 minute shootaround and having to change the way you prepare the day before a game, they've done it before. I think it's a factor. But the most important factor are how good of players are they and then how they perform.
How they perform may be directly related to some degree what you're saying. But if I had the choice to take five guys that had never played here before that I knew they were sensational as opposed to five guys that been there three years in a row, I'd take the lack of tournament experience with known talent any day.
Q. You've had a lot of teams with big expectations and a lot of big teams stature wise, and this is a completely different kind of team that came together for you. What's your satisfaction level about these guys? I'm imagining it's huge.
COACH FISHER: We are tremendously proud of what has been accomplished. Obviously not just this year but in particular this year with this team when, as I said before, even our alumni are going around saying, boy, this might be a little bit of a, quote, rebuilding year, but wait until next year.
And I think our kids didn't like to hear that. They said, hey, what about me as a senior. And I failed to mention a guy that's been so important to us, Garrett Green, who transferred in from LSU, gives us legitimate size.
So it makes you feel proud. We tied for first in a league that's as good I think as any league in the country with really good players and really hard venues to play in, and we had a nice nonconference schedule that we were successful in.
So if you come to our building and you walk in and you see the atmosphere here, to some degree you know why we've been good. Our crowds and I've been to some of these places with the blue bloods. They're no better and most of them aren't as good as our crowd. And our crowd has helped us win. So that part of the satisfaction is we've seen that grow and grow and grow and grow, really hit an apex for us this year, too, I think.
Q. How much do you buy into the idea of West Coast teams coming east and the fact that this will game tip off at 9:40 a.m. your time?
COACH FISHER: Well, I better not buy into it. We had a local say are you going to change the routine of when you practice to get used to this. To me it's a little bit like altitude. I know altitude is a factor. But the more you talk about it, the more it gets into your head thinking, well, man, oh, man, that could be a factor.
We don't even mention it. We don't mention it. I don't think it's a factor at all, to be honest with you. We had a charter flight. They treated them like kings when we came out here, when we traveled. I believe they slept well, and we'll be ready to play no matter what the time. We'll be ready to play tomorrow.
Q. Just talk a little about C.J. Leslie and the idea they're going to try to force their will and bring you guys inside whereas you guys have the chance to pull their big guys out. Is that where you see this game sort of playing out between the two teams?
COACH FISHER: I know C.J. Leslie is a terrific talent. And to his credit and Mark Gottfried's correct, he's taken that McDonald's All American talent that, from what I heard and I didn't go back and watch him as a freshman. He didn't play up to what they thought he might. To now he's probably playing as well or better than anybody in the ACC, the last seven, eight, nine games. He'll be a load for us, no matter whether we had a guy 6'10" trying to guard him.
So he's a hard matchup, devil of a matchup. And I don't know whether one guy can do it, how much we'll double, whether we'll double, where the double will come from. But we have to do a good job of not letting them just throw it inside and get angles to go on us. If he guards one or a smaller guy, then he might have to come out a little bit.
I think that might be fun to look at early, but we come quite often with the sub and the 16 minute mark with two big guys. So now four man center of the game, regardless, we might come with two big guys.
Q. Steve, when Mark Gottfried was in here he was talking about the longer timeouts and he said sometimes you run out of things to say as a coach. Do you feel you can give them too much information in those situations and do you ration what you try to communicate?
COACH FISHER: Well, I want to qualify. I've known Mark Gottfried for a long time, and he never has too much to say. There's never not enough time for Mark to be talking. So he'll fill the bill on that.
Yeah, I think there is. So I think we won't do what some of them do and march to mid court with our coaches and talk for a minute and then go into the huddle. But we'll give them a chance to get a deep breath, and we will talk and try to give them a couple of bullet points that we feel are most important rather than trying to give them a thousand different things that you want to say. You can't do that. You don't do that in the shorter timeout, and you can't do that in a longer timeout either.
So our guys, they may be up at mid court ready for that horn to sound. We may be done and say, okay, go ahead and go on out, some of it. Maybe say stay and relax, and second horn get ready to go.
I'm a guy, for whatever reason, that the officials have come to me and say we've got the Fisher rule. They got a ref over there all the time saying get them out of the huddle, get them out of the huddle. So I like that extra time for me to get them out of the huddle.
Q. Could you talk about James Rahon and how he's doing and will he be ready to go?
COACH FISHER: James Rahon came up with what's a migraine type headache, and it turned into a little bit more sore throat. Went to the doctor, did blood work. They put him on some type of medication. But he practiced yesterday before we left and was pretty effective. And I think he feels a little bit better today. So James will be fine. James will be fine. He's excited to be here and rearing to go.
North Carolina State News Conference Quotes
Q. For any of the players, Lorenzo, let's go first, was it a little nerve racking when you hadn't seen your name pop up in the brackets until the very end?
LORENZO BROWN: It was definitely nerve racking to see that. We were the last team called. It's nerve racking for anybody. But we just prayed and we got through at the end.
Q. Lorenzo, during the little tail spin you guys had, you were playing good teams, what went wrong there that you guys fixed in the last couple of weeks, if you had to put it in a nutshell for people who haven't seen you too much?
LORENZO BROWN: I mean, last couple of plays for the UNC game we kind of like got our stuff together and just played together, and, I mean, they made some tough shots at the end. They're a good team. And we can't do anything about that right now.
But we're just playing in this tournament and work hard.
Q. But then Clemson, they're not a great team. Did you get sideways, or what happened there?
LORENZO BROWN: They made some good shots towards the end of the game. Once a team is making good shots, it's hard to stop someone from making tough shots.
Q. C.J. Williams, the Aztecs play a four guard offense fairly extensively. How uncommon is that for you guys to deal with, and is there any team that you faced that's similar to that?
C.J. WILLIAMS: I can't think of a team in particular. But I feel that we have four guys on the perimeter, including C.J. Leslie, that can guard any position 1 through 4.
So I think we match up pretty well with them. They're a very talented team. They've got guys that can score the basketball. We've got to go out on defense and kind of shut them down.
Q. C.J. Williams, this is the first time you've gone through this whole process where you have to ... all of a sudden you're playing a team, you've never heard of them, probably never seen them. I mean, as fans, do you ever see these guys? Do you stay up and watch West Coast games?
C.J. WILLIAMS: Personally I do. I've seen them play a couple times. I watched them in their conference tournament. I remember the shot that ... I don't know which player it was, but he hit at the end of the game to win the game for them.
You know, they were ranked during the season. So you see them on TV, watch their highlights.
Q. Did you strike that as funny that you happened to be watching that game, or is that something you do all the time, just as a fan?
C.J. WILLIAMS: I'm just a fan of college basketball. I've been a fan since I was little. I grew up in ACC country. I'm used to watching college basketball all the time.
Q. As a guy that grew up watching so much college basketball, what's it like for you to play in this tournament?
C.J. WILLIAMS: One thing I will say is during the Selection Show, I was getting a little worried as our name wasn't popping up yet.
I knew this is my senior season, so this is my last chance to get to the NCAA Tournament. But now that I'm here, I'm just glad and I'm focused on what we have to do to win the game.
Q. C.J. Leslie, do you feel that at times NC State doesn't get its due, it gets lost because of the other great teams that are in Carolina?
C.J. LESLIE: No, I think we know who we are. We know who we are. We just gotta keep playing. We know we're on the stage, we're growing, and we're just working on getting better and better.
Q. You've never been here before, and San Diego State, pretty much their entire team has played in at least one, maybe two of these, and they're very different than regular season game. Are you concerned about that, and if not, why not?
LORENZO BROWN: We try not to worry about it's been our first time here. We just come out and try to play our best. I mean, we know they're a great team. We know there's a lot of great teams in this tournament. But we just try to worry about us.
C.J. WILLIAMS: We have a tendency to focus on what our game plan is each game, and really it a ... it's a little different feel than a regular season game.
But it all comes down to still playing basketball. This is a game we've been playing since we were little. And it really just comes down to who has the will to win and just playing basketball.
C.J. LESLIE: Well, like you said, we've never been here before, so we never know what it can be like. But I'm sure by halftime we'll figure out everything we need to.
COACH GOTTFRIED: Well, obviously, like every team, we're excited to be here, and we feel like we're a team that has played our way into the NCAA Tournament. Our guys are excited, but I think they got a lot of respect obviously for San Diego State. It's the greatest show on earth. I've always said that. So it's a privilege to be a part of it.
Q. You've been here before obviously. What's the message to the kids who haven't? None of your guys have. What do you tell them about this experience and sort of these circumstances?
COACH GOTTFRIED: First of all, we talk about it a lot throughout the year. This is the goal, is to play in this tournament and obviously to advance in the tournament.
And I want our team we talked yesterday about staying hungry. We found ourselves in a position where our backs were against the wall late. We had that same mentality. You can't just be happy to be here.
And so that's where our guys mentally, I think that's where they are.
Q. How does the longer timeouts and the longer halftime impact your substitution pattern in the tournament, and is fatigue less of a factor than it might be in a normal game?
COACH GOTTFRIED: I think it is. I think the fact that the timeouts are longer, halftime is longer. I think even as a coaching staff you have to slow down a bit here inside of timeouts, because they are longer. You can run out of things to say in a timeout. There's only so much your team can grasp.
But I don't think it will change anything with our team. We've played seven guys. We'll play eight every now and then anyway. Probably helps us a little bit.
But it becomes a little bit different game because it's harder to maintain a run. If you're on a spurt, those timeouts really because they're so long, I think they can stop some of that.
Q. So what do you say to the guys when you've got too much time on your hands in the timeouts?
COACH GOTTFRIED: Well, I think first most of the time you'll see coaching staffs now meet for a few minutes or a few seconds and gather our thoughts, let the players gather their thoughts. Just depends on the time of the game, what's happening in the game. There may be a time that you do have a lot to say to them.
But at the same time I think it is an opportunity to get rested, because they are longer.
Q. You guys are a pretty quick tempo team, you had some quick tempo teams the end of your tenure in Alabama. This tournament by and large doesn't seem to be friendly to that. Maybe that's not your opinion. What do you try to do in that realm?
COACH GOTTFRIED: I think when you get to this time of the year, the die is cast on who you are, you're not going to reinvent your team and change after 33 games and become somebody you're not.
So we want to be a team that tries to find opportunities to push the ball up the floor and run. And I think what's happened to our team this year is we've had a number of games where the pace hasn't been fast and we've still been pretty good. So I think to win in this tournament you have to be good if the game is at a fast pace.
But you have to be good if the game settles into a half court game, you have to be able to execute and defend from the top of the key to the baseline on both ends of the floor.
So I think this team has learned how to do that. That's not a concern for me.
Q. NC State's won a couple national championships. Is that something that you summon at this time of year, or is that just ancient history and doesn't have anything to do with today's game?
COACH GOTTFRIED: I don't know if I summoned it. But Dereck Whittenburg spoke to our team prior to us going to the ACC Tournament. Our banners, national championship banners are hanging in our gym. Our guys see them every day.
And they understand the tradition and history of NC State. Been in three Final Fours, won two national championships. So our players are very well aware of that.
Q. You have some sophomore starters and juniors up there. As you start building this program, what does this experience mean for the future?
COACH GOTTFRIED: I think it does a great deal for the credibility of our program. It's a new staff. New system. We're recruiting hopefully a high level player. We think it's a high level guy.
And I think you can and sell to recruits this is where we're going to go. Here's the picture. But then when you get yourself to the tournament, I just think it gives credibility to that.
So we understand we got a long way to go. This particular group has exceeded most everybody's expectation. But it's certainly something we can build on for the future.
Q. You've obviously been on both sides of this, being a very experienced coach in the tournament, your players haven't been here. What advantages are there for players who have been here two and three years, played in three and four games?
COACH GOTTFRIED: The only ... I don't know sometimes if there really is an advantage. Now, common sense would say there is. You know, the first time you come to the tournament, you know, all of this type of stuff, the media attention, the hoopla around the games, you know, it's something that you're experiencing the first time. And obviously if you're a player you're looking around and taking it all in.
I'm sure once you've been through that once or twice, you know, those kind of things become old hat. But then I look at teams every year that it's first time for those players. You look at a VCU last year, I don't know if those players had been in that situation. And they made a great run.
So the great thing about this tournament is regardless of experience or veteran team, young team, when the games start, anything can happen. We've all seen it. We've seen stories that none of us would probably expect. That's the beauty of this tournament. That's why I call it the greatest show on earth. Anything can happen in this tournament.
And your players, our players, need to be as hungry as possible.
Q. I don't know if you've watched ESPN lately, but Barack Obama picked you guys to go to the Sweet 16. Maybe this is piggybacking off of a little bit of what you said, is once you get hot, it feels like you guys have the hot hand, and I'm just curious if you had any response or if you had seen that?
COACH GOTTFRIED: I actually sent Andy Katz a text this morning and I told him that the president's trying to get votes. I'm trying to get wins. It's a little different. So we respect his opinion. But we understand this game will be decided once the ball goes in the air.
Q. When you were a player, and after you transferred to 'Bama, all of a sudden you found yourself a sophomore in the NCAA Tournament. Do you have any memories of that, or is that way, way back? Tell us about how nervous you were, anxiety or maybe you weren't because you played pretty well.
COACH GOTTFRIED: As a player, I just remember being so excited to be a part of it. I was a guy you gotta remember now, my dad was a small college basketball coach. He was the head coach of Southern Illinois, then he became an athletic director. Our family vacations every year was the Final Four. I went to Salt Lake City and watched Bird and Magic in 1979. I was in Philadelphia in '81 when Isiah was the MVP in Indiana won it.
And so for me as a young guy I've got two of my sons sitting right here, but that was me growing up.
So when I had a chance to play in the tournament, I mean, it was special for me. And I remember it clearly. I remember the first two years we went to three straight Sweet 16s, and the first two our team probably didn't believe we could go much farther.
My senior year in Alabama in '87 when Rick Pitino's team beat us in Louisville, we were a 2 seed. I thought we were a Final Four team. That one hurt. Those memories never leave you.
Q. Were you excited or anxious? Have you tried to communicate any of that to your players that this is their first time?
COACH GOTTFRIED: I was excited, anxious. I was all those things. I think when the game starts, you know I've always said that. All the nervousness, I've always felt as a player, as an athlete, when the ball's in the air and the popcorn starts popping, players play. And I think even our guys it's their first time. They'll settle down into the game and they'll be anxious and ready to go.
Q. Steve Fisher was saying that your father tried to hire him at one time and that you guys have a little bit of a relationship. Can you talk about that and were you aware at the time that he might have come work for your dad?
COACH GOTTFRIED: Oh, yeah. I've always had a great relationship with Steve when I was at UCLA. We played the Fab 5 in Tucson in the NCAA Tournament. Obviously recruited against those guys many times when he was at Michigan.
And over the years just become good friends. As a matter of fact, my daughter, who is a freshman at NC State, was looking at San Diego State. And last spring my wife and her flew out to San Diego and Steve met them at the office, and he had somebody show them the campus, that type of thing. And he was very generous towards my wife and my daughter when they visited San Diego State.
So good friend. Great coach. All those things. And obviously a lot of respect there.
Q. You've talked before about how during the four game losing streak you guys continued to play at a high level. I was wondering how you're able to keep the confidence up during that stretch and into the
COACH GOTTFRIED: A couple of things. One, obviously we were playing some good teams. The hardest part about that was the day after the Duke game. We let a big lead get away. It was a game I think our players felt they should have won, clearly.
We didn't. And that next day was tough. And it really carried into the next game, which was Florida State. And we were not good that day.
But I think after that, you know, you go back I think what probably helped us was the fact we played such a tough nonconference schedule, we played good teams from day one and played everybody great.
The only team that our first game with Carolina, they beat us pretty good. Outside of that we've been in a position to win just about every game we've played all year. So I think just reminding our team of that, we are a good team. And we can still get better.
I think they responded to that.
Q. You might have touched on this already, but can you talk about the battle of wills that's going to be going on here, with them being a smaller team on the inside trying to pull you guys out but you wanted to keep pulling them inside?
COACH GOTTFRIED: Well, a little bit like I mentioned before. I think at this point in the year it's hard to change who you are. They're really good when Franklin's at the 4 I think. Now, they're also really good when they move him to the 3. We've watched enough tape both ways.
And, again, we're kind of who we are right now. I don't know that you change a lot at this point in the year. What I like about their team probably more than that is even when they've been down in games, they've had a tremendous will to come back, and they have not allowed themselves to get buried at all.
So I got a lot of respect for the team we're playing.
Q. When you took over you were talking about you have good players, not great players, but clearly there was a point sometime before the season started where you started talking about the 11 wins, we can get in. Where was the point where you believed this could be an NCAA Tournament team? What was the turning point in your mind?
COACH GOTTFRIED: I don't know that there was a turning point. I'm just one of those guys that always believe you have a chance. You always do. And there's a lot of different ways that teams end up in the tournament.
Some years you just roll right through it. You got a dominating team, you find yourself as a high seed. There are other times, like us, I think we were we heard that mantra many times. If you don't win one of these three games coming up, then you ain't going in the tournament.
But we were a team that found a way to get in it regardless of that fact. So it happens all kind of different ways. And I've always thought this team had a chance. Never cocky about it like we are a tournament team. But I always felt like, hey, this team's got a chance. We've just gotta keep slugging and swinging, maybe in the end we'll get there.