Arizona and Coastal Carolina have heard the term Cinderella thrown around this week, but Arizona head coach Jay Johnson isn’t buying it as it relates to Arizona’s opponent this week.
“There's nowhere else on the planet I'd rather be than right here right now,” Johnson said. “Looking at Coach Gilmore and Coastal, this is a long time coming.
“This is not a surprise to me, knowing what that program has stood for for a long period of time; the way they're coached, the amount of good players that they've had, and I'm very proud to say, when I look at their team, just initially, I see a lot of characteristics I see in our team and think it's going to be a great series, and we're very excited to be here.”
Johnson admits that he didn’t see Arizona having this type of season, but the success the Wildcats have had has to due with their approach.
“When we talk about expectations, for us it means two things: There has to be maximum effort towards preparation and maximum effort towards executing the task at hand,” Johnson said.
“We've not gotten into the result thing. The Coastal players mentioned staying in the moment, in the pitch. When you walk out of our room, there's no pictures of Omaha, there's nothing other than it says "one pitch at a time." Really trying to get them to live that, breathe that was the first task.
“Just improve. Our goal throughout the fall was improvement on a daily basis and some of it was slow. It's weird saying that now, but it took some time and their buy-in to that is probably the single most important reason that we've had success.
“There's good players that just needed a foundation to look to to get the most out of their ability, and there's a lot of guys that I'm really proud of that have been able to do that.”
When looking for overall perspective, Johnson actually got advance from another Arizona coach.
“As far as how it's gone and the routine, I had maybe a thought in my mind having a day off in between games you might have a little bit more downtime,” Johnson said.
“In the Regional we played four games in 32 hours. Doubleheader, doubleheader, almost in one day. It certainly wasn't like that, which was good.
“The best advice that I got was from Sean Miller, a basketball coach. He said, You need to look at this like you've accomplished a lot already and it's a great accomplishment in being here, and don't let anybody tell you anything different. He said, make sure your players enjoy or see you enjoying this experience with them.
“I think we've combined really well, which I think reflects our team, is enjoying the opportunities in front of us and preparing and playing at an extremely high level while we're doing that.”