Players React to Braun Dismissal

After today's press conference announcing the firing of 12 year Cal men's basketball Coach Ben Braun, two of the team's returning veteran players, Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin addressed the media and offered feelings on the players' reaction to the coaching change and what went wrong in the 2007-08 season.

Boykin noted that Braun took things in stride as he met with the players midday.

"He pretty much just said that he wishes us the best of luck in the future, that he's proud of what we accomplished and that he wants us to stick together and work hard in the off-season and take care of ourselves," said Boykin.

"He was calm. He's always handled things like this well. He's been dealing with it all year. It was just hard to see him go through that because I think it was kind of unexpected, especially this early. It was really unexpected by a lot of people."

"I know a lot of guys were really appreciative of things that Coach Braun brought to the team," said Robertson. "He gave us an opportunity to play at this level and gave us a place to play and receive a top-flight education. But as for the overall feel of the day, I think a lot of guys right now are a little unsettled about what happened. It was such a quick turnaround with us just getting back. But as Jamal was saying, it's a business and not just basketball –the game we love and play. I think from that standpoint, everyone understands the decision."

The players still in town after the return from Monday night's loss in Columbus, Ohio also had a chance to meet with Athletic Director Sandy Barbour to discuss the coaching change.

"She's truly dedicated to getting the best for us and this is what she feels is what's best for us," said Boykin. "It's tough but it's just one of those things that's a part of the college basketball business."

"The general impression that I got from the meeting with Sandy was that you could obviously sense her commitment to not only us but the university in trying to be the best that we can be," said Robertson. "She basically reinforced with us that it's her job to do what's in the best interest for the school and the basketball program. I think a lot of the players feel that it's not just something that's necessarily all about coaching but that there's a lot we could've done to help."

The players are now left to pull together and figure out what they'll need to do to lead the program in the right direction.

"As a team, we're going to meet and talk to each other and figure out what we feel we need (in a coach)," said Boykin. "I think that the coach would have a lot of the characteristics that Coach Braun had in being compassionate, caring about players, caring about academics, letting the players play who produce the most results."

Barbour expressed an interest in what the players felt would help take the team to the next level.

"She definitely wanted to hear the players' input on some of the characteristics and traits that we're looking for in a coach and I think the guys are going to meet when everyone gets back in town, prior to the start of classes in this next week and try and come up with some things that we feel like were successful for the program and where we came up short and present that to Sandy," said Robertson. "She was very open to hearing our voices in the situation so it's definitely something we'll take advantage of."

"I think there are a lot of positive characteristics from Coach Braun that we'll talk about but other characteristics I think we'll be looking for would be a disciplinarian," said Boykin. "I think that's something we could really use –some more discipline –in our practices and just moving forward.

"I think every program does. It's a crucial part of every program. I came from a program (Duke) that was very disciplined. Coming here, there was a difference in that. The advantage of it was that the relationships between the guys here were phenomenal because you're able to be free and smile and laugh but at times that carried into times that we should've been taking care of business. I think having a coach that we kind of fear clowning around with could help us at this point."

Oddly enough, the hallmark of most Ben Braun-led teams –tough defense- was the downfall of a team that many thought could go far this year.

"I really have no way to explain why our defense was so bad this year," said Robertson. "I think a lot of it is about mental toughness and we didn't have it on defense. We did on the offensive end but not on the defensive end. I think sometimes we got caught up in our offense. I don't think that it's so much about our defensive plan but it's an individual thing –each man saying, ‘Hey, I'm going to stop my man.' It's a personal thing. We struggled all year defensively and there's no looking back from that. It's an unfortunate thing. We're a great offensive team but defensively, we pretty much didn't get it done all year.

"I think there's an aspect of mental toughness from just watching the game that this team lacked and I think that was evident in our defensive struggles. Maybe it isn't just the coach that brings that to the team. I think that everyone on the team to a man needs to step up and say, ‘I'm going to take responsibility for what takes place on the court.' I think a more mentally tough mindset might have helped this team, especially on the defensive end where late in the games, you need to really dig deep and find a way to pull out a win and get stops."

Late in the year, rumors surfaced that players were unhappy and that there might be a possible transfer or two, but if that was indeed true, Robertson noted that he was not aware of those feelings.

"We had about 7 or 8 guys at the meeting. A lot of the guys that weren't in attendance had already gone home. I've had no indication that anyone was thinking of leaving the program. I'll have to talk to the guys that weren't here for the meeting but I don't have a general sense that any of them are leaning towards leaving the program.

"I think myself and Jamaal have really taken leadership roles on this team, with this being our 4th year coming up. So I think it's kind of our job to kind of guide the team while we're in this time. While we're kind of new to this kind of situation, we relayed to the guys in the meeting that we need to work hard –starting in spring practice- and to learn from this season and improve on it next year."

While the season was a definite disappointment to players and fans alike, both Boykin and Robertson were quick to point out that they as players had at least as big a role in the failures of this season as the coaching staff did.

"I think we have 7 or 8 guys on this team that could score 15-20 points a game. But I understand how the business works and this is a top university," said Robertson. "This university is competitive academically and athletically and with basketball being a revenue sport, and with our ticket sales being off and with all the media making it more of a big deal, I can see something like this happening.

"We did underachieve this year. I don't think that should all be put on the Coach, though. I look back at some games where I could've come up with the rebound and the game would've been over, where we could've made more defensive stops. There's nothing a coach can do about that.

"Looking back, we lost two games in overtime. We lost to UCLA on the over-the-backboard shot. We lost some games where we were up late. We lost a lot of close games. We get four of those back and maybe we're in the tournament right now and Coach Braun might have his job. But that didn't happen and so many things could've made a difference but overall, the numbers don't lie. We made the NIT and I think that was a disappointment to a lot of people. To some, the NIT is an honor and I was definitely happy to be playing rather than sitting at home. But with the talent level of this team, I'm sure a lot of people had higher expectations –as did we."

Now the team is left with assessing what went wrong and what they'll have to look forward to next season.

"I think we have a tremendous amount of talent on this team and we have a lot of youth," said Robertson. "We only had 2 seniors this year. I think some of the positives we can pull out of it is additional experience for some guys and I know playing in an atmosphere like Ohio State was big. We have guys coming back that are familiar with each other and like playing together and enjoy being with each other. A lot of these guys have a great work ethic. I think this summer will be big. Once we put in the work and get this sorted out, I think we'll be just fine."


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Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.


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\r\n\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"Boykin noted that Braun took things in stride as he met with the players midday.

\"He pretty much just said that he wishes us the best of luck in the future, that he's proud of what we accomplished and that he wants us to stick together and work hard in the off-season and take care of ourselves,\" said Boykin.

\"He was calm. He's always handled things like this well. He's been dealing with it all year. It was just hard to see him go through that because I think it was kind of unexpected, especially this early. It was really unexpected by a lot of people.\"

\"I know a lot of guys were really appreciative of things that Coach Braun brought to the team,\" said Robertson. \"He gave us an opportunity to play at this level and gave us a place to play and receive a top-flight education. But as for the overall feel of the day, I think a lot of guys right now are a little unsettled about what happened. It was such a quick turnaround with us just getting back. But as Jamal was saying, it's a business and not just basketball –the game we love and play. I think from that standpoint, everyone understands the decision.\"

The players still in town after the return from Monday night's loss in Columbus, Ohio also had a chance to meet with Athletic Director Sandy Barbour to discuss the coaching change.

\"She's truly dedicated to getting the best for us and this is what she feels is what's best for us,\" said Boykin. \"It's tough but it's just one of those things that's a part of the college basketball business.\"

\"The general impression that I got from the meeting with Sandy was that you could obviously sense her commitment to not only us but the university in trying to be the best that we can be,\" said Robertson. \"She basically reinforced with us that it's her job to do what's in the best interest for the school and the basketball program. I think a lot of the players feel that it's not just something that's necessarily all about coaching but that there's a lot we could've done to help.\"

The players are now left to pull together and figure out what they'll need to do to lead the program in the right direction.

\"As a team, we're going to meet and talk to each other and figure out what we feel we need (in a coach),\" said Boykin. \"I think that the coach would have a lot of the characteristics that Coach Braun had in being compassionate, caring about players, caring about academics, letting the players play who produce the most results.\"

Barbour expressed an interest in what the players felt would help take the team to the next level.

\"She definitely wanted to hear the players' input on some of the characteristics and traits that we're looking for in a coach and I think the guys are going to meet when everyone gets back in town, prior to the start of classes in this next week and try and come up with some things that we feel like were successful for the program and where we came up short and present that to Sandy,\" said Robertson. \"She was very open to hearing our voices in the situation so it's definitely something we'll take advantage of.\"

\"I think there are a lot of positive characteristics from Coach Braun that we'll talk about but other characteristics I think we'll be looking for would be a disciplinarian,\" said Boykin. \"I think that's something we could really use –some more discipline –in our practices and just moving forward.

\"I think every program does. It's a crucial part of every program. I came from a program (Duke) that was very disciplined. Coming here, there was a difference in that. The advantage of it was that the relationships between the guys here were phenomenal because you're able to be free and smile and laugh but at times that carried into times that we should've been taking care of business. I think having a coach that we kind of fear clowning around with could help us at this point.\"

Oddly enough, the hallmark of most Ben Braun-led teams –tough defense- was the downfall of a team that many thought could go far this year.

\"I really have no way to explain why our defense was so bad this year,\" said Robertson. \"I think a lot of it is about mental toughness and we didn't have it on defense. We did on the offensive end but not on the defensive end. I think sometimes we got caught up in our offense. I don't think that it's so much about our defensive plan but it's an individual thing –each man saying, ‘Hey, I'm going to stop my man.' It's a personal thing. We struggled all year defensively and there's no looking back from that. It's an unfortunate thing. We're a great offensive team but defensively, we pretty much didn't get it done all year.

\"I think there's an aspect of mental toughness from just watching the game that this team lacked and I think that was evident in our defensive struggles. Maybe it isn't just the coach that brings that to the team. I think that everyone on the team to a man needs to step up and say, ‘I'm going to take responsibility for what takes place on the court.' I think a more mentally tough mindset might have helped this team, especially on the defensive end where late in the games, you need to really dig deep and find a way to pull out a win and get stops.\"

Late in the year, rumors surfaced that players were unhappy and that there might be a possible transfer or two, but if that was indeed true, Robertson noted that he was not aware of those feelings.

\"We had about 7 or 8 guys at the meeting. A lot of the guys that weren't in attendance had already gone home. I've had no indication that anyone was thinking of leaving the program. I'll have to talk to the guys that weren't here for the meeting but I don't have a general sense that any of them are leaning towards leaving the program.

\"I think myself and Jamaal have really taken leadership roles on this team, with this being our 4th year coming up. So I think it's kind of our job to kind of guide the team while we're in this time. While we're kind of new to this kind of situation, we relayed to the guys in the meeting that we need to work hard –starting in spring practice- and to learn from this season and improve on it next year.\"

While the season was a definite disappointment to players and fans alike, both Boykin and Robertson were quick to point out that they as players had at least as big a role in the failures of this season as the coaching staff did.

\"I think we have 7 or 8 guys on this team that could score 15-20 points a game. But I understand how the business works and this is a top university,\" said Robertson. \"This university is competitive academically and athletically and with basketball being a revenue sport, and with our ticket sales being off and with all the media making it more of a big deal, I can see something like this happening.

\"We did underachieve this year. I don't think that should all be put on the Coach, though. I look back at some games where I could've come up with the rebound and the game would've been over, where we could've made more defensive stops. There's nothing a coach can do about that.

\"Looking back, we lost two games in overtime. We lost to UCLA on the over-the-backboard shot. We lost some games where we were up late. We lost a lot of close games. We get four of those back and maybe we're in the tournament right now and Coach Braun might have his job. But that didn't happen and so many things could've made a difference but overall, the numbers don't lie. We made the NIT and I think that was a disappointment to a lot of people. To some, the NIT is an honor and I was definitely happy to be playing rather than sitting at home. But with the talent level of this team, I'm sure a lot of people had higher expectations –as did we.\"

Now the team is left with assessing what went wrong and what they'll have to look forward to next season.

\"I think we have a tremendous amount of talent on this team and we have a lot of youth,\" said Robertson. \"We only had 2 seniors this year. I think some of the positives we can pull out of it is additional experience for some guys and I know playing in an atmosphere like Ohio State was big. We have guys coming back that are familiar with each other and like playing together and enjoy being with each other. A lot of these guys have a great work ethic. I think this summer will be big. Once we put in the work and get this sorted out, I think we'll be just fine.\"


©Copyright 2008, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.

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