NCAA Reaction: Trent Johnson

For the even-keeled Cardinal, the rudder is Trent Johnson. He seldom if ever expresses excitement or dejection regarding his Stanford team, though the third-year Cardinal head coach was different on Selection Sunday. He admitted to riding the roller coaster as the brackets were unveiled and explained why he felt so much joy for his kids. Also, his first thoughts on matching up with Louisville.

Opening statement:

"Obviously there is an excited group of guys, and from my standpoint a well deserving group of guys.  It's a pretty exciting time right now, especially when you consider that going into the year, nobody thought this group of guys could be in this position.  For me personally, I feel really good for Anthony Goods because he has worked so hard.  If anybody would have seen the last two days, you would have thought he was on his death bed.  I just told him, 'Don't worry about it.  I wouldn't want anybody else in that situation shooting free throws but you.'  And I really feel that way.  I'm really happy for him personally and happy for this group."

When you got to that last slot, what were you thinking?

"I always put myself in a situation where I think worst case scenario, but I still thought we had hope.  I'm not a guy who goes to bat for certain things in certain situations if I don't feel strongly about it, but I really thought our body of work and the people we played... when you look at this thing realistically, when we have been healthy, we have been extremely good at times.  I was optimistic.  I really was.  I liked our chances.  It could have been Kansas State, Air Force, Texas Tech, Drexel.  I'm never going to throw the towel in."

Is this a pretty strong validation for the Pac-10 to receive a #2 seed, two #3 seeds and a #5 seed?

"Yes, this year.  But we have to go and prove that we are worthy."

As you watched, when you saw names like Illinois and Arkansas come up, did you give in to a little despair?

"Well, I have a pretty good poker face.  But when Arkansas came up, I went, 'Hmm.'  Purdue and Illinois - 'Hmm.'  To be honest, yeah.  I have a hard time lying, as you guys know."

What was it like in the room when Stanford's name was announced?

"It was pandemonium, and in a good way.  A couple of them said, 'My goodness, Coach, we have never seen you like this.'  Well, sorry guys."

Did you jump out of your seat?

"You can let them tell you that.  But I'm happy for them.  You get to my age and you've been through your share of the wars, and you like to see good kids and good teams get rewarded.  In that regard, I feel for some of the teams that didn't get in because I know how this thing has turned into a monster, with the Tournament and how hard it is to get in.  Kids play so hard.  How quick guys want to come back after an injury.  I feel for the teams that don't get in."

Do you feel for Air Force?

"Yeah, I do, just from the standpoint that early on, they were probably as good as any team in the country with how they were playing.  But again, Drexel and K-State - this thing is hard.  It's hard to win games in college basketball with so much parity.  I talked to Reece Davis and Jay Bilas just before the Selection Show.  They asked me to make another case why your team should be in.  Well, we have 12 losses.  Out of those 12, Cal might be the only team that is not going to any kind of post-season.  That's how hard this thing is.  I think Cal is worthy of the NIT, and they beat UCLA."

Does the thought of playing Louisville in Lexington bother you at all?

"No, I don't care.  We could play them in Jamaica for all I care.  We just get the opportunity to play.  The good thing about it is that Louisville plays with bigs.  David Padgett, I'm really familiar with.  He was a high school player my son played with at Reno High School.  It's a great challenge for us.  Coach [Rick] Pitino is not arguably but is one of the top five guys in this business right now."

How is Lawrence Hill doing?

"Health?  We're fine.  A kid goes down in college basketball now, and they give you either a walking boot or crutches.  That just seems the way it is now with injuries.  I didn't know what was going on after the game.  I saw Lawrence on crutches, and Mitch has been wearing a walking boot with plantar fasciitis.  When I was playing, they gave you a drink of water and told you to get your ass back out there."

Will Lawrence Hill fully participate in practice?

"We're fine.  Everybody's ready to go.  Trust me."

Is this team possibly particularly dangerous because you can go big and you can go small?

"Well, you know, I really feel that.  When we play to our capabilities, especially when we're healthy, I think we are capable of playing with a lot of teams.  Teams who can really stretch you on the perimeter or who can pressure you, as you well know, have given us problems.  If we can play to the level we are capable of and take care of the ball, we have a chance to play with anybody.  I really feel that.  The bigger the team, the more I like our chances.  Smaller teams who can bring our posts away from the basket and attack them off the dribble have given us problems."

How would you characterize Louisville in that regard?

" [Derrick] Caracter is really talented.  He's a big kid, a post kid.  David Padgett is 6'10" and plays around the basket.  At least Brook [Lopez], Robin [Lopez], Peter [Prowitt] and all of our bigs should be in a situation now where they have an opportunity to match up.  On the perimeter now, it's a different story.  Terrence Williams is special.  He's a Rainier Beach grad who actually played against Mitch [Johnson] in high school.  He's really talented.  Without having watched tape and having seen them just a couple times and being familiar with a couple kids coming out of high school, that's my initial reaction.  Right now we have staff breaking tape down."

What were these last couple days like for you?  Were you thinking about this constantly?

"Quite frankly, a little bit.  But I'm not a guy who sits up and worries about thinks I can't control.  I really haven't.  My thoughts have been worrying how Anthony is doing, how Lawrence is doing and how the kids are doing because I understand how important it is to them.  This basketball team is going to have more opportunities in the future to be in this situation."

If you hadn't made it, that would have been two years in a row not in the NCAA Tournament.  Would that have been a blow to this program?

"From my standpoint, because of the expectations and what we have done in the past, it probably would have been.  But for me personally, like I said, going into this year nobody in this room had us picked to be in this position, let alone .500.  Again, that's a credit to these young men.  When you look at the facts for this program and this team coming into this year, they had no returning all-league player.  We had a bunch of guys who were unproven at a high level.  You look at the people we played - who we played and when we played.  You look at the injuries, and so on and so forth.  When you look at those things, I can't honestly sit up here and tell you if we didn't get into the NCAA Tournament, that it would have been a disappointment to me, based off the facts.  We wouldn't have been a bubble team if we make two free throws or if we don't have food poisoning against Arizona or Anthony doesn't go down - we wouldn't be talking.  Those are the things you can't control.  I look at all of that, and that is how I base my answer."

Do you feel good about the selection committee?

"I can name two guys on the committee.  But I guess I should say, 'Thank you.'  You're talking to the wrong guy.  I'm not a committee guy; I'm not any of that stuff.  My big joy is going to be just like it has always been: when we get onto the practice floor, and the doors are closed.  I have 14 guys who have been busting their tails all year long, and that's where I get all my enjoyment from.  The rest of this stuff, it's part of it but not like what is going to happen in two hours [at practice]."

What are the lessons from the USC game, the first time you had Anthony Goods back?

"There is nothing to be learned from that.  Anthony was fine.  We have lost games all year long when we haven't defended at crucial teams, we haven't rebounded at crucial times and we haven't taken care of the ball.  Everybody wants to talk about Anthony coming back off injury and the two missed free throws.  The bottom line is that we threw the ball away on a couple possessions prior to that.  The bottom line is that we didn't block out at crucial times.  So our lessons are the same."

Did you have a bracket guy on the staff, who was able to tell you during the show what names were good and which were bad?

"Nah.  I sit up there in my chair like I normally sit when we watch video.  It looked like I was about to die, and that's normal.  Doug [Oliver] and the rest of the staff sat over there in the corner and were writing down things.  [So it was just like any other day?]  It was for me, until we got the last one in.  Then everyone started jumping around.  I think it was Brook who knocked me down.  Then I got up and got back in the mix."

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