After the Horn

When the final horn went off in San Diego ending Marquette's season, Tom Crean pulled Dominic James, Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal together on the court and spoke to them. What did he say? At the post-game press conference the media asked, but Crean wouldn't say. He said it was personal. So what was said to the three young stars? asked - and got the answers.

When the final buzzer sounded after Marquette's 90-85 loss to Alabama in the first round of the NCAA tournament last March, the pain instantly sunk in. The ringing bells and celebratory whistles of Marquette's inaugural season in the Big East could no longer be heard. The Crimson Tide was moving on and Marquette was going home.

Before Freshmen Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, and Jerel McNeal could leave the floor though, Coach Tom Crean took a few minutes to impart a little wisdom. Maybe it was obvious what Crean felt as there was certainly frustration and disappointment over the game that had ended just minutes prior. Alabama had upset the 7th seeded Golden Eagles who had finished as a top four team in the Big East. The locker room talk was only minutes away, but Crean was on a mission.

"The biggest thing was, we wouldn't have been in the position we were if it weren't for how they played during the year. I didn't want them to get used to feeling that way, though."

Crean said it was a spur of the moment thing and that it wasn't something he had ever done before.

"I let them know, ‘We are going to go one of two ways when we walk out of here; we are going to have a hunger to want to get back and go above and beyond, or we are going to be a short memory.'"

There is no question that the bar has been raised with this group of freshmen. Had it not been for an injury to Matthews early in the season, all three freshmen would have been locks for the Big East's All-Freshmen team, of which James and McNeal were named to at season's end. Crean's words will not be forgotten either, as the team now enters a long summer of hard work.

"Coach pulled us over and told us, ‘Never forget this feeling,'" recounted McNeal. "He let us know, ‘If you get better and work hard, this is just the tip of the iceberg for you guys. We are going to back here next year and our goal is to win a National Championship.'"

That probably sounds pretty good to many Marquette fans, who have just the 1977 Championship memories to remember. Having completed just his seventh season, Tom Crean has already been to a final four and took the 2006 team to the NCAA's, Crean's third trip in seven years.

"Mike Krzyzewski said it best. ‘You either want to be crying because you are happy or crying because you are sad at the end of the year,' and that's exactly what it was."

Even though the talk was initiated on a whim, it could go a long way in setting the mindset for the young players next year. As Digger Phelps pointed out to the team at Monday night's banquet, Florida won the championship this past season starting four sophomores and a junior. It will be a long off season for everyone, but the promise of better things to come is clear.

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