Cuonzo Martin Opening Statement:
"Very excited to be playing in the NCAA Tournament. A tremendous venue. Our guys have worked extremely hard to get to this point. It's unfortunate that our senior Tyrone Wallace was not here with us. He's brought a lot to our program. Two things when Tyrone Wallace decided to come back: One, he wanted to get his degree, and the other thing was to play in the NCAA Tournament. It's just unfortunate, but we're excited to be here, and it should be a lot of fun against a very talented Hawaii team."
How has the staff blacked out the external distractions, such as the Yann Hufnagel firing and sexual harassment investigation?
"I think the difficulty is on the surface, but in our program, it's an every-day lifestyle. What we talk about with our players, things happen in life, whether it's basketball, in the classroom, family members, that's a part of it, for me. It's a bump in the road, and you keep moving forward. We don't spend a lot of time, we're not consumed with it, but we talk about it, deal with it, keep moving. That's life."
What can you tell us about the discrepancy in the timetable that was presented in the report about when you were told by the female reporter that her concerns actually were sexual harassment?
"I don't want to deal with that right now, because we're playing in the NCAA Tournament, and I think if you have any questions about that, you can talk to Wes [Mallette, Cal's head of strategic communications], because that's a University issue. Right now, the biggest concern for me is our basketball team, and the NCAA Tournament."
Can you address the investigation that the University said involves you, and clarify what you've been told about it?
"That's a University issue. The most important thing for me is our basketball team playing in the NCAA Tournament, and we'll deal with that at the appropriate time."
"Sam will start the game for us, then Jaylen, and also Brandon Chauca. Brandon, even though he hadn't played in a while, he's played really well in practice, and I think Brandon has really grown as a basketball player. I think all three of those guys at some point will be at that position, but Sam will start the game at the point."
You mentioned that you'd addressed things with the players [regarding Yann Hufnagel]. Is that something you went over Monday morning? How did that process go?
"The thing about it, when we talk about things, again, whenever something takes place around the country, I feel like it's a topic for us to talk about. We always talk about and address it, when we need to address it, just to keep them aware of situations in life, but also make them understand that there are more important things than just putting the ball in the basket. When this situation took place, we addressed it, we talked about it, we moved on, but we're not spending days and days and days talking about the same topic. We get it handled and we move forward."
How exactly did Wallace get hurt on Wednesday?
"He was just in practice, moving. It's what we call a dry drill, where it's not contact, really. It's our walk-on unit, and he's moving his feet, sliding, got his hand caught in a guy's shirt. It's just unfortunate. It wasn't really five-on-five contact. It's a tough, tough deal."
Over the last several days, what have you gleaned of Hawaii and their style of play that you have to be prepared for?
"A talented team, some experience. You're talking about a team that went through some level of adversity with the coaching change that they dealt with. They'll be ready. They've seen a lot, but they stuck together as a unit, so that says a lot about their program and their team. They play well, and Stefan [Jankovic] is a very talented big guy who can score the ball, inside and outside, put the ball on the floor, and they have other really good pieces -- [Roderick] Bobbitt is a really good, tough, hard-nosed point guard that can get to the rim and make plays. If I'm not mistaken, he led the country in steals last year. They have the parts to be very successful, but I guess, in a lot of ways, in watching film, I'm not saying they're St. Mary's, but similar styles in some of the stuff that they run offensively. Two different programs, obviously."
Hawaii has faced some adversity this year, and has responded well to it. Do you look at them and in a way get inspiration from them?
"I look at them and say, that's a great job for their program, but not necessarily inspiration. Everybody goes through something. At what level, you never know. Sometimes, programs go through things that are not necessarily talked about, but for us, it's a bump in a road. We continue to push forward, because this is good times right now. You have 68 teams in the NCAA tournament, so you work hard to get to this point. You're supposed to rejoice and enjoy this, and have a lot of fun with it. That's what we'll do."
You seem to be able to compartmentalize things and focus on the issue at-hand. When you're laying in bed at night, are you worrying about the possible fallout of all this could be? Do you envision that you will be the coach going forward at Cal?
"I don't worry about those things, to be totally honest with you. I think you've been around me long enough to know that my job is this basketball team winning ballgames, graduating young men, developing young men. Anything else is a waste of time."
As a note, a source has told BearTerritory that the men's basketball program expects to post a 1000 (perfect) APR when the numbers are announced this spring.
You've lost a player that averaged 15 points per game in Wallace. Where do you replace that scoring?
"It's part of the game. Everybody loses someone at some level, injuries, stuff happens. You have 13 scholarships, so there's no excuse. It's part of the game. If you have an issue with it, then try to get 13 Tyrone Wallace's when you're recruiting. It's part of it. Sam Singer's a junior in college, is a very talented basketball player. We won games with Sam Singer as our point, so I'm not worried at all. Sam will do a great job at the point guard position, and whoever backs him up will do just as well."
What was Yann Hufnagel's role in game management and on the sidelines, and how will you adapt without him there?
"He was a part of, just like all three of our other assistant coaches, all those guys did scouting reports, all those guys brought a level of energy, they worked with the guards, so it wasn't a case where a guy just did one thing. Our staff, they do a lot of different things, and the biggest thing that all of them do, they have their hands on our players. It's a tremendous relationship, so when you lose guys like that, from a relationship standpoint, it's always tough. He's impacted our practices with energy and passion and enthusiasm. We just have to pick up those pieces."
Will you begin the process of looking for a new assistant after the season ends?
"I'm not in a rush to do anything right now. Right now, it's having fun, and after that part, it's making sure our guys continue to do well in the classroom. Those are the things I'm consumed with. We don't necessarily need a new assistant coach right away. The most important thing is to enjoy this now, and make sure our guys take care of business in the classroom."
What's your players' mood right now? Are they just excited about tomorrow? Have they been able to block out these things? Why did Tyrone not make the trip?
"Tyrone really just wanted to make sure the hand was OK, because we felt like there was a possibility he could possibly get here and play, so you stay back, get it checked, and if it's OK to go, we fly him in. But, he obviously won't be able to play [Friday], but you never know. That was the biggest reason why Tyrone's at home. As far as our guys, it's like losing a brother, but they understand. We've lost him before, so it's not a case of [...] I think it will be a little bit tougher if we'd lost Tyrone and this was the first time we'd lost him. That would be tough, but we've played games without him. Sam played well without him. Jaylen played well at that position without him. We'll make adjustments. More than anything, they would like for him to be here, on the floor and playing, because we owe him that, as a senior, and that was one of the reasons why he decided to come back to college, to be a part of this setting."
With Tyrone out, does that mean that Ivan Rabb needs to step up more offensively and demand the ball more, and be a bigger part of the offense?
"I think he and Jaylen. I think he and Jaylen, because both of those guys, as well as Jordan [Mathews] and Jabari [Bird] shoot the basketball, Ivan and Jaylen, their level of play and what they bring to the table demands more than one guy to defend them, if they're playing well. When that happens, other guys can get shots, they can make plays for other guys. I don't know if 'demand' is the right word. We need to be more assertive and get him the ball. He needs to have a better presence of wanting the basketball. it's a two-way street. Same way with Jaylen. He hadn't shot the ball well [Editor's note: he's 9-for-42 in his last four games] but we need him to be aggressive at all times, because he puts so much pressure on the defense."
Hawaii comes from a one-bid league, and every Christmas, they host the Diamondhead Classic, and they've been 4-2 the last two years against teams like Oklahoma, Wichita State, Auburn -- took losses to the top teams, one to overtime, the other was in the final possession. Is that a measuring stick to how good and dangerous this team can be?
"I think they're good because they're good. Obviously, the coach has done a great job in coaching them and putting them in position to be good, and I think you get a lot of help and a lot of prep work when you play in a tournament like that. I saw the game against Oklahoma, and I saw the game against Auburn. I saw the games against Long Beach State. They're a good team. I just think they're in a one-bid league because they're in a one-bid league. It doesn't mean they're not a good team. You look at their team, they can play anywhere. They have the talent to do that. It's just unfortunate that their league only gets one team in the Tournament, but they're talented enough to play anybody, anywhere."