#AztecMBB NCAA Press Conference Quotes
March 19, 2014
Q. Winston, as the season went on and you guys kept winning and people kept asking you guys about being surprised. There were times you almost seemed insulted by it. Look, you knew we were going to be good. When though? When did you know, if you could talk about maybe like the open gym periods in the summer and you saw Josh and how good Xavier was and when did you know you were going to be good?
Q. What did that loss to Florida Gulf Coast do you to you. Not because you lost a game, but because it was a 15 seed that most people thought you would beat. How did that change you as player and as a team?
Q. Xavier, you started your career out here in Eastern Washington and you said you left Washington State for basketball reasons. Do you feel like you found those reasons at San Diego State?
Q. What did you see in Coach Fisher and his program that made you decide that was the place to be?
Q. And then, even this past year, you seem to have improved greatly as a basketball player. Could you talk about what your development was like and maybe what clicked?
Q. Xavier, was it a difficult phone call to have to make when you wanted to go, when you wanted to transfer to San Diego State, given that you had sort of had a chance to go there before?
Q. Winston, can you describe what the locker room is like after the Florida Gulf Coast loss when you walked in the locker room and before they opened it up to media. What were those five or ten minutes like and how did that change the team that atmosphere?
Q. You get a four seed, you're playing a 13, and the obvious thing is to think, well, we're playing a 13. How quickly did you realize that New Mexico State's a pretty good team and what have you learned about them just from watching them on tape about how good they could be?
Q. What stood out, what did you learn most from working with Aerick Sanders when he was at San Diego State's camp over the summer?
Q. I wonder how important advancing in the tournament is. You speak a lot about your program and program versus team and just how important is it to win a few games here for the advancement of your program.
He's now on Marvin Menzies's staff, but at New Mexico State and has done a great job with Marvin. So, I think we have got proof of the fact we have got a program all over the place. Guys that we have had are now Division I assistants, productive and successful and Aerick is a classic example of that. So Aerick, we'll be enemies for 40 minutes tomorrow, but we love you to death and you know that. And if you win, we'll be your biggest fans and I know you will be for us if we win.
We want to win. We want to win. We want to come here and find a way to get a win and see if we can continue to grow the program. And that's our goal. I know that's Marvin's goal at New Mexico State to do the same thing. We're proud of what we have done. When all eyes are on you at this time of year, it seems like one win means a lot more than one win. And I understand that. So, hopefully we will do that for ourselves first, our league, we have got a great league.
Our commissioner is here, we've got a great league. And our league last year got five in, only won two games. And everybody talked about, why did you get five in? But our league deserved five last year. We have two in this year and we're both good teams. So, long answer to your question, but we feel like we have proven that we have got a program that has sustained itself.
Q. Xavier and Winston were in here and they were talking about the impact of the Florida Gulf Coast loss. Mostly, from the standpoint, not so much they really took the team lightly, but that it proved that a low seed could beat a higher seed in the NCAA tournament. How much has that helped in preparing for a team that I know you, as coaches, are concerned about and how has that experience last year helped your players to focus on a number 13 seed that maybe doesn't play like a 13 seed?
I don't think we, to me, we're not the, I'm not thinking Florida Gulf Coast and what they did to Georgetown and then us. If our kids were not immensely impressed when we popped in the tape when New Mexico State beat New Mexico at New Mexico, then we won't win. But they were. They were very impressed with what they saw on tape with the team that was well coached, knew what they wanted to do, controlled the pace, tempo of the game, and were the better team that night.
Q. You were talking about building a program. You have a fair number of transfer players on your roster and have what's the art, I guess, to keeping a program going when you have players who might not be there from the start or for the whole time?
Well, now the blue bloods recruit transfers. They take one and done's. They take guys who have graduated and have one year left. They take guys that played in a lesser league and take them in as transfers. All you have to do is look at rosters all across the country.
What we have done at San Diego State is we say, okay, what formula will work for us. And we have had a blend of high school players, Aerick Sanders was a high school player. We have taken Junior College players, and we selectively have taken four year transfers. We, for the second time now, have had a one have had a graduate, this year it's Josh Davis from Tulane, we had Garrett Green from LSU, a couple of years ago, that have come in to fill a void that was desperately needed.
So, saying all that, we have and Angelo Chol is sitting out from Arizona, who is a local, or San Diego youngster, who has come back home. But we signed four high school players in this year's class who are very good players.
So, I think we'll continue to take transfers. But, we have turned a lot of transfers down that wanted to come, because we didn't think they would be a good fit. I think you can't just take the highest -rated transfer that's on the market, on the board, and say we're going to win, because we're going to take these three guys that when they were in high school they were five star recruits.
Nobody's going to nobody wants to take somebody else's problems. But, if you know the kids and their families, I think you can do what we have done, and that's take one that you know is a good person, JJ O'Brien is a good example for me. I thought that he was coming to San Diego State out of high school. (He) went to Utah. (He) transferred, came back to us. I knew more about JJ than anybody in the country, because I worked really hard to recruit him.
Those are the kinds of guys for the most part, that we have gone after and taken and we have known a little bit about.
Q. Not that you need any reminders, but a lot of people talk about 25 years ago. I wonder if the number 25 means anything to you the way a wedding anniversary does in terms of the championship at Michigan. Do you look at that any differently now 25 years later? As you get older and as that gets farther away, how do you look back on that time?
Sometimes in this business, you get lucky and I was in a position where I was not a rookie coach, I had coached since 1968. But, I was a guy that became a head coach, a head coach at the college level for the first time and then I became the story line. And Glen Rice and Rumeal Robinson and others led to us a National Championship, the first and only that they have gotten. I stay in touch with a lot of those guys. Terry Mills calls me quite often. He's doing color now on one of the Michigan network stations and Mike Griffin now lives in California. So, I stay in touch with them. Rob Pelinka is the hottest NBA agent known to man now and he lives in Orange County.
So, I've reminisced with them about their careers and all of that and, but it doesn't seem like 25 years ago, but it obviously is.
Q. To sort of do a full arc, and I apologize if this has been revealed more than I know, but the end of your career, how much, where are you at in terms of how you would like to exit, not that I'm trying to push you out or anything.
I got fired. And I thought that I would stay there until now. Until I wanted to quit. And I thought, well, I'm just going to have to decide which building I want named after me. And it didn't happen that way.
Things happen. And you move on. All of the emotions that anybody that he's ever been fired from any job know how I felt, from a high profile job too. But sometimes things happen and a better thing is waiting on your doorstep. I didn't know that, but the experience and the opportunity we have had at San Diego State is unbelievable. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
We love where we are. My older boy's on staff, my younger son had the ability to go to USC Film School because of the fact that we moved to Southern California. So and I'm always a guy that the glass is half filled. I'm always going to make the best of the situation.
So John Beilein, the current coach, I like him a lot. He is a terrific coach. And I talked to him several times over the course of the past year or so. So I know what happened, I know where I've been, and I love where I am.
Q. Your future at San Diego State, have you thought about when that time will happen when you'll walk away and does it matter how you do in a tournament? Is it possible that win or lose a certain way, that would you say, now's the time?
COACH Steve Fisher: Thank you.
San Diego State Locker Room Quotes
Dwayne Polee II (Junior, Forward)
On playing New Mexico State...
Josh Davis (Senior, Forward)
On playing New Mexico State...
JJ O'Brien (Junior, Guard/Forward)
On rebounding from a loss in the MWC Tournament Championship...
On the excitement of continuing their season in the NCAA Tournament...
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and take questions for the student athletes.
Q. To both of you, you've been 13 seeds the last couple years, didn't work out that well. What's different about your team this year? Why do you think you will have more success?
SIM BHULLAR: Same thing, last year was a couple guys' first time being here and definitely the experience will help us being in this atmosphere and hopefully, we can go out there and win the game.
Q. Do you guys find more hope in knowing that last year this San Diego squad lost to a 15 seed, Florida Gulf Coast?
Q. For both of you guys, what is the basketball scene like in Toronto and Ontario where you grew up, or is there a basketball scene?
SIM BHULLAR: Same thing he said, basketball in Toronto especially, is on the rise right now. We got a great bunch of players coming out of there. There's a ton of players from Toronto on Division I teams all across the country and most of them getting pretty high looks even from the pros and stuff. So, I think we got a great group of players coming out of Toronto.
Q. To follow up on that, being so close to Canada here, have you guys been able to of a lot of family members come down and do you think there's going to be a lot of Canadian support in the stands?
Q. For both of you, what worries you most about San Diego State?
SIM BHULLAR: They got a great team overall. They're long, they're athletic. The press is really a part of the game that we got to focus on and box our men out and gain the rebound. Because that's another big thing that we got to focus on.
Q. You guys were talking about how their press might be giving you issues, is that the spot where you think you'll miss K.C. Ross Miller the most, is ball handling?
And they're good ball handlers as well, so that was a key when he got out was to be extra careful and take care of the ball more. So, I think that the guys stepping in are ready for that, as well.
Q. I'm sure you've seen a lot of double teams this year, because you're A. Big and can see over it and B. You're a very good passer, unselfish player, do you almost welcome when teams double team you?
Q. Daniel, talk about what you think of Thames as a player and how important defending ball screens are going to be in this game for you guys.
Q. A lot of people look at 13 seeds and just say, okay, they're here for one game. What would you say to people who might overlook you and just kind of look at the seed and not look at the team, not look at game film? For both of you.
DANIEL MULLINGS: This is a great matchup for us and we match up well with them. For the people that just overlook 13 seeds, especially us, we're just not here for one game, we're a great team inside out. We have great bigs that are unselfish and then we also have good perimeter players, we got good shooters, ball handlers. So we're a great all around team.
Q. Daniel, you were talking about the importance of rebounding, but I have to honestly ask, how many kind of your boxing out mistakes sometimes get erased when you've got a 7 5 guy sitting in there?
Me, along with the rest of the guards, know that that's our job, to help these guys out and take off some of the pressure by boxing out our guys, so they can get less hands on the ball so they can get it.
Q. Sim, what did you learn from last year's tournament game? You had, I think, four shots in that game. You're obviously more involved in the offense this year, but do you need to get involved earlier tomorrow night?
Q. If you can do us a favor and reminisce briefly about what it was like the first year with Coach Fisher at San Diego State sitting on that bench when the team would lose night in and night out, went 0 14, and if during those times also, were you confident that Coach Fisher could turn the program into what it has become?
Coach Fisher was as the type of personality that he has today and he had it then. He's just an even keeled guy. Not too high with the highs and not too low with the lows. So he understood the journey that was before him when he took over the job. And he was quite often with the players that we had there, he never let them lose hope.
He never even though we were out, I was out 90 percent of the time recruiting, that was my niche that they needed at that time. They didn't he had other things, other roles for different guys, and mine was to go get players. That's why I was hired and obviously, there was some basketball component involved, but pretty much that was my deal.
So, but, the guys that were there at the time that he inherited, he treated them just as well as he would his own kids as well as the recruits. And that's the thing that stands out to me, it's just the and we have heard this a thousand times about his personality, about how he's just so solid and such a great guy. And you are hearing it over and over for a reason, because it's true. And that's kind of what stands out.
Q. It looks like you go all over the world to find players. Can you sort of talk about the philosophy of recruiting to New Mexico State and also specifically what's going on in Toronto.
So, we knew that we had to kind of re invent our paradigm a little bit. As I sat with Doctor Boston in the beginning, we really kind of honed in on generating a culture of character, true Aggies that will spend four years and five years in some cases in reference to red shirt a year.
We knew it was something that we were going to do. Toronto, Paul Weir, Paul Weir, Paul Weir. I mean he's the reason that we were able to identify and secure top quality talent in Canada.
So I don't take any credit for that at all. Well, maybe closing the deal, I was pretty good at that, I guess, when he got them to the door. But, that's the reason we were able to be so successful.
Q. Coach Fisher, today just kind of confirmed he's going to come back next year. Final year of his contract and maybe even beyond that. Does it surprise you that he's still coaching and how long do you think he will go?
He thinks he's in control there, but I think Angie is pulling the string on that one. And she's probably let him go a little bit more. So I don't know. Coach is one of those guys that just has a spirit that's just it's ongoing and very, very bright and he's just as passionate today in a practice as he was when I was there years ago.
So I don't see any real signs of slowing down, so I'm not really sure. Dutch probably wants him to hurry up and retire, but I think he's got some run left in him still. And as evidenced by him, by their appearance here once again.
Q. Talk about the impact from this year from the that DK had and then recently with Ian?
And both of these guys are guys that are developing, quite rapidly, actually. And with opportunity, you know, they have taken advantage of it.
You look at Ian's journey here, he's been here and had to sit out and wasn't able to practice with us and really quite frankly was just on his own getting up shots and getting better.
But then once you get thrown into the fire where now you got the to learn the system, the plays, understand the verbiage, all of the differences that exist from high school basketball to college basketball and the discipline and the accountability and so forth. So, it's only been a short time that he's really been playing on the college level, even though he's a Freshman, he's only been a half a season as a Freshman. So, to see him play as efficiently as he is right now is really impressive. He's got a great moxie about him for a young kid and has done some very good things for us in a short amount of time. DK, on the other hand, is a little bit more mature coming in as a Junior College transfer and typically we don't take Junior College guys. I've taken two in the seven years that I've been the head coach and but DK was special. Just like Kevin, the other Junior College player, they fit a niche of specific needs that we had when we lost our seniors.
He came in, competed for the position, earned the starting spot, and has never turned back. And keeps growing and keeps getting better. Not to go too long on the answer but being a Junior College coach, I understand the transition that it takes those guys to go to D1 it take as little while. But he's hit his groove right now. A little bit earlier than expected, so we're happy to have him on board as well.
I'm giving long answers because it doesn't look like there's going to be a lot of questions, just so you know.
Q. The one thing that San Diego State coaches have said and other coaches have said, is that you guys have a plan, very unselfish, very disciplined, and I don't always hear that about some of your teams in the past because you get players from lots of different places and try to put them together. What is different about this team and why is it able to be that way compared to maybe the way teams were before?
And then it's much easier to get them acclimated into a new family, basically, and understand the concepts of team as the older folks in here know what a team is. This generation now is a little different with the way that sports is marketed. But, I'm from the old school and I really want family. A lot of coaches will preach that and teach that, but it's a core of our educational system within our team. And our guys have really bought into that. I think that's the reason that we have been able to have that kind of carry over that you just explained on the court.
Q. It's kind of ironic, but Mullings and Thames have the exact same points per game average, they're both all conference players, would you mind since you're doing the long answers giving us a little compare and contrast there?
I have no clue.
I do think that when you look at their versatility and athleticism, their basketball IQ, I think it kind of lends into why they have the numbers they have.
But I will saying they both have a great supporting cast. If they were on different teams, they probably would have different numbers. I think that lesser talent around them, they probably would have higher points. More talent around them, they, which would be tough to find, but you could see their line being spread over rebounds a little bit more and assists a little bit more. So I just think they know how to play the game, both of them have good basketball IQ and they're both very mentally tough kids when it comes to the actual game. You look at wanting to take the big shot and things like that, they have that. Not all kids have that kind of cerebral demeanor, when a game's going on, where they can still see the game at a little bit different speed. And both of those guys I think have that similarity.
Q. You obviously got the two brothers over seven feet. I don't know if you do the like individual coaching with them, but what's the art of coaching a very large guy in this today's game?
I was going to do his voice, but that might get You Tubed too much. But I do think that hiring Keith was a key piece of their development for us.
Q. We asked the players this too, what's different about this team? You've been number 13 seed before, didn't fare so well in the tournament, what gives you a sense that this game might be different and this team is different. What's different about it?
I guess I don't know what that we'll have the same result. We'll know after the game. But I feel good about it. I do feel like we're a team that has some a little bit more legitimate size, a little bit more versatility when it comes to a few or spots on the floor. We have kind of changed our system. I used to be a little more up and down. I had Coach Pitino's blueprint. And when you end up getting, I don't know if a 7 5, 7 3, 6 11, 6 10 guys can play in that system real well. So we have had to adjust. We have had to do some things a little bit differently. So I guess at the end of the day the system that we're using with these particular players may give us a little bit more of an advantage.
COACH MARVIN MENZIES: Thank you.