On the heels of the Nittany Lions' 38-24 Rose Bowl loss to USC a day earlier, he had just started talking in the no-cameras-allowed session when a bit of commotion began in the hallway outside the small conference room.
Reporters turned around to see what was going on and quickly realized who was making the noise -- former high-profile college coaches and current Fox football analysts Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson.
Check out video of the encounter here.
Fox TV studios are in the immediate area, and they stopped by to say hello to PSU offensive coordinator Galen Hall (a former Switzer assistant at Oklahoma) and, of course Paterno.
After a couple minutes of small talk, Switzer told Paterno, The hell with those bastards (the media). You keep doing what you're doing.
Everyone in the room laughed.
And with that, Switzer and Jones left the room. And Paterno returned to his seat to answer questions. Outfitted in a blue Penn State sweater with no tie, he sat at a table and was in a good mood as he chatted with the reporters for about 40 minutes.
The highlights of what he said:
On the loss to USC: We just didn't play well. He added that against a team as good as the Trojans, the Lions had little margin for error. He could not pinpoint why PSU struggled, especially in the second quarter. We practiced well. We just didn't play well.
Paterno said he was disappointed in the logistics of playing in the Rose Bowl, especially with the fact that the Lions had to travel 45 minutes from the team hotel to practice. That prevented them from running double-session practices when they first arrived in Los Angeles. But he added, I don't think that had any effect on (the loss).
On skipping a scheduled interview with ABC and not opening the PSU locker room for the post-game per BCS rules -- two things for which he could be fined -- Paterno said, I don't have the slightest idea (if the fine will happen) and I don't really care. He added he is more concerned with protecting his team.
On whether redshirt sophomore defensive end Aaron Maybin will turn pro: Maybin's got to do what he's got to do. Paterno added that he will be happy to look into where Maybin might be drafted and advise him on whether he should go or stay should Maybin request such input.
On whether he'll be able to travel to recruit this month: We'll have to see. Doc's not sure he wants me up and down on the plane because of blood clotting. Doc is team physician Wayne Sebastianelli, who performed hip replacement surgery on Paterno Nov. 23.
On if he ever considered retiring while his hip was bothering him during the 2008 season. Yeah, I did before the operation. Earlier he said, Before the operation, every day was an ordeal. He thanked his staff for helping him and the team make it through the year while he struggled with the hip injury.
On whether he feels it is important to coach from the sideline next season after spending the last eight games of 2008 in the press box. I don't know if it's important for the team. But it's important for me. Paterno said he felt hamstrung in the press box while the team was struggling against USC.
He said he is still not 100 percent physically but thinks he can get there over time. He'd like to get back to walking 15-20 miles per week.
On the three-year contract extension he received in December, he said he felt it was important to let recruits know that he and his staff will be around. He said provisions in the contract are aimed at creating more security for his assistants. That was important.
On whether he felt his staff would stay intact: I would hope so. He added that he was sure some assistants would draw interest from other programs, but that nobody has mentioned anything to him yet.
Penn State had hoped to stay at this hotel until Saturday. But because the hotel booked a convention, there were not enough rooms available. So the charter for coaches and staff is leaving LAX at 2:30 p.m. local time and due back in State College at 10:30 Eastern. It doesn't bother me, Paterno said. I'm glad to get out of here.
On if he knew which linebacker position Sean Lee would play next season as he returns from an ACL injury: Not yet. He added, Sean is obviously going to be a big plus for us.
Looking ahead to 2009, he said the biggest challenges from a personnel standpoint will be replacing the entire starting secondary and several key seniors on the offensive line. He thinks the team will be fine on the defensive line even if Maybin and one or two other underclassmen turn pro. Likewise, he believes the receiving corps will be solid despite losing veterans Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams.
He had no updates on the injuries sustained by Evan Royster (knee), Dennis Landolt (knee) and Stephfon Green (ankle) in the Rose Bowl. More tests will be done on all three when they get back to Pennsylvania.