I don't know if I can tell you much about the game. I don't know if I've ever felt as much stress over a regular season game as I did tonight. As soon as I got on the plane coming back from Virginia I started feeling that because I just wanted Brice, Marcus and Joel to win their last game so much - that was maybe more important to me than any game I've been involved with...
Syracuse's zone was really effective tonight. We may have been too emotional, who knows. Some of the things that we did - some big offensive rebounds, Isaiah and Brice both made big plays inside.
But it was extremely important for me for those three guys to go out with a win ... That team has been extremely important to me because of all the stuff that we've had to handle, it's been very difficult, but every day when I've gone out on the court those guys have been there -- I've loved coaching that team.
Those three seniors, very unique individuals. Joel's grown up, not physically, but grown up right in front of my eyes. He's been one of the most mature youngsters I've known in my life. I would have adopted him the first day and I still would. I don't know if I've coached anybody that's been more impressive than he has. Brice, I've pushed and pushed and pushed. He's done some amazing things offensively - it's on one hand the number of players in 28 years that I've coached that have been able to do the things that he's done. I want him to give more, but he's been pretty doggone impressive. Marcus is a young man that's felt the weight of the world on his shoulders for four years. Freshman year people didn't think he was good enough, sophomore year he felt like he had to make every year, last year he was hurt and tried and tried every day, this year it hasn't been as smooth as he wanted. But I've never coached a young man that I've admired more than I have admired Marcus Paige.
So today to me was about winning, I didn't care how, I didn't care if we shot the ball well, I didn't care if we rebounded it well. I just wanted to look up at the clock and see that we had more points.
You've mentioned how much these seniors meant to you dealing with the 'stuff,' but how have you had to help them through understanding it?
There's no way I have helped them as much as they helped me. I had to give them enough information to say that we're going to be all right - in men's basketball we're going to be all right. Those guys, we've won 99 games and we still get a chance to play some more. Most programs in the country would accept that and be thrilled. But the way they've helped me is they've trusted me. Joel Berry, Theo (Pinson), Justin (Jackson) were highly recruited kids and all three of them committed before the stuff started. They trusted me and believed in me and our program when other kids didn't feel like they could do that. They gave me so much more. The only thing I could give them was enough information that we were going to be ok, that we were going to be able to play in tournaments and represent the University.
You closed the game with Hicks and Johnson in there. Was that because it was the best lineup for this game?
That's what we had that matched up best with them. DaJuan (Coleman) got in foul trouble so they had five perimeter guys out there basically - (Tyler) Lydon is a great three-point shooter, (Tyler Roberson) is hard to handle with his athleticism around the boards. Kennedy gave us some good moments, he really did, but when we were ahead, the more they spread to drive and kick for three or drive all the way to the basket. So it was the best lineup for us at that time. I'm always comfortable with Brice and Isaiah in the lineup together, I just am not comfortable with it for too long because they make so many daggum fouls that I don't want them over there with me.null