Deep in the back of my mind I kept saying, "We've got to be in." We were obviously very thrilled [to be selected]. Everybody in the room went crazy.
It was all for them. Quiet honestly it went through my mind of what I would say [if State wasn't picked] because they were going to be devastated if our name didn't come up there. Now with TV, the Internet, you hear so much that you're in, you're in, and your players are hearing that so they begin to believe we are in.
It just becomes a really tough thing with where we were this year. I couldn't be more prouder of a group of guys. You look back at the four-game losing streak. The way we lost the Clemson game, in a position to win it... we had to literally play our way into the tournament. You had to like how this group buckled down and played strong.
It seems like your strength of schedule may have been pivotal in the Pack's selection. How did it get you over the hump, not just with that but also as the season went on?
I think there were a lot of things. It made us better. It gives you a confidence. Even playing North Carolina the other day knowing we've played Syracuse, Indiana, Vanderbilt, and Texas.... the list goes on and on.
When I got the job on April 4th... Debbie Yow was just fantastic. We had some contracts set, and we had to spend some money to get out of some games and get into others. She stepped up and got it done. Along the way she kept asking, are you sure, are you sure? We had Indiana and Syracuse, so we said let's add Texas and Vanderbilt. Then I said we're going to fly to Stanford an play there. Then we said let's fly to St. Bonaventure and play there on the road. She kept asking, "Are you sure?"
i think it's the right thing to do. It separates you at the end of the day from other teams that haven't played a tough schedule, and it makes our team better too.
The celebration once picked to be in the tournament...
I think it's great we filmed it because it lets everyone around the country see our players. You look in that room at a guy like C.J. Williams, who hasn't been in the tournament, wanted to go so bad, senior year... it is a great story for him.
It seems the team remained together after the losing streak, do you think it showed?
I don't think there is any question. You go back and look at the Miami game at home, and we now realize how big that game was, with us sweeping Miami and separating ourselves from them as far as the standings go.
Our guys did a great job. One thing I like about our team is we've got better, and I still think we can get a lot better. There is a lot of improvement left for our team right now.
One thing I really like is, in a humble way, there is a swagger. There is a confidence that our guys have in how they are playing, and that's what you want your team to have this time of the year.
What stood out in the loss to Carolina was the way your team seemed to play after Calvin fouled out. They were done but fought there way back. What does that show?
It shows you how this team has grown up. If you go back to the Stanford game early in December when Calvin left the game with cramps with 10 minutes to go. We had a nine-point lead and didn't handle it well.
Our team has grown up. They've improved, got better, and trust each other more... for the most part executing offense at the right times, key stops, defensive rebounds... Richard Howell made big shots late and Lorenzo made a couple of phenomenal plays for our team.
How important is confidence?
We've got to believe we can win. Our team does right now. Our team believes deep down that we can play with anybody in the country.
We've looked at Syracuse, Carolina, Duke, Indiana, we looked at Vanderbilt up close who just won the SEC Championship. We've got a shot with a minute to go in that game down one that would have put us up two. We miss and they go down and hit a shot to put them up four.
Now, we've got to get better.... shoot foul shots better, handle the ball better. Things we can do to improve on.
It may have looked like the team was going to have to start in Dayton on Tuesday, but instead you are playing Friday. How big is that for the team?
I think it helps us. We played three tough games in a row in Atlanta. We came home that night after the game. [Sunday] was emotional, even the show.... it was gut-wrenching for our guys.
We took Sunday off. Today all we did was shoot foul shots, watch some film. We'll have two good days of practice on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Thoughts on not making a foul call in the final seconds:
I don't agree when an announcer says you can't make a call at that point in the game. I don't buy that. If you get fouled you get fouled.
What was the emotion like in the locker room after the loss to North Carolina?
We were all disappointed, and they were really down.
One thing we talked about was with winning or losing we're going to handle everything with great class. You want to make sure you guys aren't going to make comments they will regret later, and I knew they wouldn't.
We had to look at things we did and didn't do well in the game and that's how you get better. You don't get better by blaming anybody else. Pick your head up and they have. They've been great. That was tough day, but you move on, you learn, and you grow from it.
Thoughts on Lorenzo Brown's recent play:
Lorenzo, you look at how he played in that tournament. All three games, he was just sensational. Passing the ball, scoring the ball, and Lorenzo's defense on Harrison Barnes was spectacular... just a great effort by him.
I think he has got a lot better. His presence, his decision making is improving, but more importantly his defense has improved. When you talk about the responsibility of a point guard, you talk about those offensive things but the point guard is the point of your defense, that's where you defense starts.
That is where he is getting better. He is improving as a defender in a great way. He can guard different sizes, and he did a great job of defending Barnes.
Thoughts on foul shooting:
I don't think it's pressure. The court is 94 feet and the basket is 10 feet off the ground... players play. Basketball players throughout their lives have played in so many venues, gyms... we just have to get back to shooting free throws well like we did earlier in the year.
Did you think you could be in this situation at the start of your tenure here?
Probably not, but at the same time when I took the job and worked our guys out you're always thinking if you put pieces together and they buy in then you've got a chance.
I think there is no question it has been a remarkable year for our guys... they've done a great job.
Coach, as a group, we'll pay the fine for you. Can you share your comments on the officiating in the North Carolina game?
[Laughing] That's a nice offer, but I'm still going to refrain. I'm with you 100%.
It seems certain guys get into foul trouble. How will you handle that differently going forward?
Probably not a lot [different]. You don't want your guys to foul, but our rotation and the way we've rotated, usually we've come out pretty good. If we need to go deeper in our bench we can go to some guys there.
The NCAA tournament is different in that you're going to look out there and probably see three referees you haven't seen all year long... [crowd applause] I got a standing ovation for that one.
The interesting thing about that is it's a new set of eyes. In other words, there is not a preconceived idea that this guy does this or will foul on that play or typically does this, so it's a different game. You get in the tournament and as officials do well they get to advance just like the teams. You hope you get great officials every game.
Coach, will we start teaching Flopping 101 as an elective?
[Laughing] We probably should have practiced that a little more going into the [UNC] game.
When you took over at Alabama, what was the first question you got on your radio show?
It was in the spring time. They wanted to know to who the starting quarterback would be.
When you were watching the selection show who picked you up and carried you around?
DeShawn Painter. I think he had to go the training room today too because his back was hurting.
If you win on Friday you will play again on Sunday. How do you go about the short turnaround and preparing for that next game?
Last night by about 8:15 our staff was already watching San Diego State.... I watched two games. The first 24 hours-36 hours will be all about San Diego State and then the assistants will start breaking down Georgetown and Belmont where if we win we'll be ready to go.
What did you see in Lorenzo Brown that made you move him to point guard?
When I watched him in high school he played some of both positions and I always thought with the right coaching, guidance, and mentoring he could become a lead guard.
I don't know he ever had the opportunity to truly learn the position, and I felt like he had a chance. I thought it was in there, and he has improved as the season went on.
How do you handle the team's excitement entering their first NCAA tournament game?
Our players are excited, and I think they should be excited. Frankly, there is an advantage for San Diego State because they went last year, went to the Sweet Sixteen, and have been through this.
But, we'll keep our guys level-headed. At the same time, I want them to be excited. There is some advantage to that as well for our guys.
You finished the season with all five starters averaging double figures.
They've done a great job. Our team has become terrifically unselfish and they really look for each other. That's part of the togetherness and unselfishness.
The one guy is C.J. Williams... his scoring has dropped off recently and as a senior he needs to step up, but I think he will here in the tournament.
It is an unselfish team. Look at our assist numbers this year, and you see how they compare in the league. You've got a team that really likes to pass the ball. They've learned our offense to know where the ball should go so they've done a great job with that.
Thoughts on San Diego State:
Coach Fisher has done an outstanding job. There was probably a period where in San Diego you probably wouldn't have known they had a team.
What he has built is phenomenal. They went to the Sweet Sixteen last year and lost four starters, but are right back to being a tournament team. He's done a great, great job.
They are a team that relies on perimeter players. They play four guards, spread the floor, and get up-and-down... They run. You can't let them get open shots.
They are not a big team that goes 6'10, 6'10, and 6'9, but they are going to be a difficult team for us to guard.
Calvin is going to have the assignment of guarding the MWC Player of the Year, 6-foot-6 wing player who is really, really good. He averaged about 19 or 20 in his last 15-20 games.
It's a tough assignment. They are a very good team. It's going to be a good game.