Chris Caputo (pictured) is in his 4th season as an assistant coach at George Mason. In charge of many things recruiting for the Patriots, Caputo is a graduate of famed Archbishop Molloy, the alma mater of Jim Larranaga.
Prior to leaving for the Final Four, we caught up with Caputo and got his take on what the Patriot's run means for recruiting and what George Mason has done thus far to leverage its Final Four appearance with recruits. As a mid-major, Mason made history with its run and its impact on recruiting should be exciting for a lot of programs at their level.
What Recruiting Moves Did You Make Since Beating UConn?
"I think we first of all, called the guys that we are involved with now. Those guys got calls immediately right after the game on the bus and in the locker room. Some of those guys called us and we were able to talk to them about the things we've been telling them. Every coach talks about the Final Four. A week ago, that sounded crazy, but we always talk about it. Now, it's not so much about we want to get there we're telling people that we want to get back. It's believable.
Usually if you tell them about the Final Four and you're at George Mason and they think you're crazy. Now we tell them we want to win games and get there again. For most mid-majors you get to the Sweet 16 and it's the mountain top, the pinnacle. You have to believe that somebody can do it so why not us?
We've had two underclassmen on campus (this week) for practice and those guys are high-level guys. They might be guys being recruited at a high-level and we want to make a little headway with them.
What's Been The Recruits Reaction To Your Final Four Berth?
A lot of them they got to us first. They were rooting for us and were happy. They texted us and called, all that stuff. A couple guys committed to visits immediately on the spot.
How Strange Is It To Get That Significant of A Reaction?
The thing is, we've always done well with local kids and we'll continue to recruit those guys. We won't change the area we recruit but I'm sure we'll feel some effects in the spring more than we do now. We aren't in contact with as many kids today as we will be a month from now. We have seniors we're talking to now and the juniors we talk to now are local and they know about us already. Hopefully this spring some guys that might have been a little out of our range; this might put us in their range.
Can You Speculate As To What This Does For Recruiting?
I don't think you can gauge it right now because it's never happened. You'd like to think that it's going to help a ton. When Jim Larranaga walks into a house and says play for me so we can go to the Final Four, you'd like to think that people don't look at him like he's crazy. You want the kid to say I'm a good player and we can do what those guys did again.
How Does The Final Four Affect Your Long Term Plan?
I don't think it affected our long term plan. We are going to recruit our area we just hope we can get a couple of guys we lost to the Big Ten or the ACC that we can convince to stick around. If we could have kept a few high level guys around, if we can keep them around next time we can continue the success. We just want to be a team that can get into the tournament every year and win some games.
When Did it Hit You That You Made The Final Four?
The way that game was … wow. When I looked up and I saw Lamar Butler and Tony Skinn standing on one of the press tables … wow, it just happened. The best moment of the whole thing was running out onto the MCI Center floor with 20,000 some people cheering for us; it was a local type game.
Does Your Run Unite The Mid-Major Fraternity?
People from all levels have congratulated us. There's room for all of us. People in our league have been very supportive and I'm happy about that.
Are you carrying a banner For The Little Guys?
I think to some degree. We're representing our league for sure. Hey, how good is our league? We didn't even win our tournament. People talk about getting rid of the mid-majors. My thing is now people might realize what this tournament is all about. For what we did is great but how about Wichita State, Gonzaga and Bradley? Four of the 16 teams are mid-majors, what does that say?
What Was The Scene Back On Campus?
It was unbelievable. There were 7,000 or 8,000 people in our arena going absolutely bonkers. It was nuts.
What Level Are Your Players?
"I think they were mid-major plus players. If they were high major guys why aren't they in high-major schools? Those guys don't miss anyone. I think our players are good. The only thing a high-major player is a guy who goes to a high-major school. (Our kids) don't think of themselves (as mid-major players). They think of themselves as basketball players.
Who Was The Toughest Guy To Sign?
People messed with Folarin Campbell, high-majors but they had him 3rd on their list we had him first. Xavier offered Lamar Butler. I don't think it was so much battling but with John Vaughan, beating out St. Joe's was big. Folarin Campbell was the one guy that we kept worrying about. Was he No. 1 on (the high-majors) list or No. 3? Even if he was inching up on their list, we were able to get him before that happened. He was local and we were able to baby-sit him.
These are guys that were at Eastern Invitational Top 20 the week of the Nike All-American Camp. When everyone was there we were sitting at Trenton State watching Eastern. Will Thomas was at Nike but he's undersized. He's long but people didn't recruit him. People forget that he was the Baltimore City Player of the Year and his team won the championship 3 years in a row. We've got a team of guys with intangibles. That's what it is. We've got guys who can do some things – pass, dribble, shoot.
Have You Thought About Cutting Down The Nets?
The whole tournament we haven't thought that way. For real. You don't know when it's going to end. I didn't think about cutting down the nets until we won the game (against UConn). We're thinking about Florida now. We're kind of fighting for our lives. I haven't thought about Monday night yet.