Men's Basketball: Coaches Reflect On Their Players

By
Grant Burkhardt

Dateline
Updated Tue, Mar 20, 2012 6:11 pm
Photo Credit: 
Ryan M. L. Young
John Groce and his players react shortly after Ohio's upset of #4 Michigan.

MODERATOR: Now we'll take questions for coach.

Fran Dunphy, Temple, on Juan Fernandez and his Owl seniors (lost to South Florida): He had a tough night. Other than that, I can't really explain it. He's a kid that wants to do very well, very badly, and just kind of got away from him in a couple of possessions, especially there in the second half. He's had a fabulous career. He's a great guy and feel bad for him right now, but hopefully he'll have some great days playing basketball over the next 10 to 12 years.

They've won a lot of games together. They've been to four NCAA tournaments together. I feel badly that we ended up like this, but I hope that they will continue to play basketball for a long time to come and all three of them will -- Mike has already graduated. Juan and Ramone will do that this year. Very proud of everything they have given to Temple.

You know, we had a phone call from Bill Cosby before the game and one of his comments was "Just go out and play the best basketball you can, because you'll remember this game for a long, long time to come."

I mentioned that to our guys. The abruptness of the season ending, especially for a senior, like where do you go now, what do you do? There's no practice to go to, there's no routine that you're typically in anymore. They'll work at their games and they'll try to get into post season -- into NBA camps and all those things, and hopefully they'll all have a chance to continue to play professionally somewhere.

But it's an [unbelievably] abrupt ending for these kids. Again, I thought Bill was very poignant in his remarks, and I mentioned that to these guys. It's one of those things. It's a right of passage for a senior to take a step back and now it's all over and what do you do? I think it's -- the finality of it all is staggering.

Mark Schmidt, St. Bonaventure, on Andrew Nicholson (lost to Florida State): He's everything to me. He's everything to this university. He's going to go down as one of the greatest alumnus of this university.

He brought us back. He brought us back from the ashes. And without this guy next to me, I'm not sitting up here. We are not where we are. The program is back because of Andrew Nicholson. He's going to go down when I'm dead, 50 years from now, he's going to go down as one of the greatest student athletes to ever play at St. Bonaventure, if not the best. Because where we came from, he took a chance with us and where we were five years ago, where we were nine years ago and where we are today, it's him.

I think we brought pride and spirit back to our community. We might be the only school in this country that plays in such a small environment where basketball is everything and, you know, it gets people through the wintertime, and you talk to a lot of people and the Bonnies are back. It's a great place to live and it's because of what our players have done.

John Beilein, Michigan, on his Wolverine seniors (lost to Ohio): It's difficult, because they've been the heart and soul of this team for four years through so many good times and certainly some low roads at times, but you hate to see that -- this happen when they end like that, but frankly, most teams do end with a loss, whether it's first round or the fourth round. We thought we could play for awhile. We knew we were going to have to play a really good game today. We didn't play as well as we had played earlier in the year.

Leonard Hamilton, Florida State, on his Seminole seniors (lost to Cincinnati): I think we've changed this group of six seniors, they've helped change the culture of basketball in Tallahassee and Florida State.

But, the game of basketball is such that that's why this tournament is, in my opinion, is the greatest event going, because regardless of how talented you are, how well you play and how well prepared you are, you can go into a game and circumstances in that game can be created that you can come up short, even if, regardless of how well prepared, how talented you are, and I think that's what makes this such a unique and special tournament, and the team that has the ability to absorb the game preparation, a team that's mature enough to execute the things within themselves and be consistent with it, normally is the team that comes out top. That's why sometimes you always have a lot of surprises, and I don't think the word "upset" should be used in the NCAA Tournament at all.

John Groce, Ohio, on Walter Offutt (beat South Florida, advanced to Sweet 16): Part of it is maturity, part of it is guys getting older, part of it is the addition of Offutt.  He's a culture changer. He's as good as it gets with all the little intangibles, and he's a productive player as well. He's an unbelievable ambassador for our university and how conducts himself, and he's really affected our program at a high level and injected it with a lot of toughness and everyday guy mentality that we're been looking for.

And, you know, as I said yesterday, you know, I can't -- it's impossible for me to thank him enough for what he brings to our program. I'll never be able to repay him for that.

Rick Barnes, Texas, on his experienced players (lost to Cincinnati): And I told them after the game, we'll never take for granted being in this tournament. It's a good year to get here, but to make a great year, you got to win it. And I told them...if we will go back and work as hard in the spring as Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene and J'Covan Brown worked last spring, we'll be okay. We come back and we knew we would come back. I mean that with my whole heart.

Mick Cronin, Cincinnati, on Yancy Gates (beat Florida State, advanced to Sweet 16): Just maturity. He's not a prep school guy. He wasn't held back in the eighth grade. He's very young senior for this day and age in college basketball.

You know, I told him -- he's gotten a crash course in life and learning who your friends are, learning what's important and, you know, how to mentally be able to deal with tough times and pressure, and ultimately he's made it through because of his family. He has a great family. It's very tough to be a local player in this day and age in college basketball, let alone sign up to help build a program that's been devastated and just joined the Big East.

I don't think any player in the history of our program, and we've got a storied history, has really had the weight of the world on his shoulders that he has during his time at our school.

That's what I told him late in the game, you know, I'm happy for him to see him make those free throws. He's a different guy. The problem in college basketball, though, guys, everybody wants John Wall. Everybody wants one and out. That's not what our game is about. It's a bad rule anyway, you know if the pros would change it [they would].

But, you know, you saw tonight from Florida State's seniors, we played against Luke Loucks as a freshman, the development of their older guys, what they've been through.  That's what college basketball is all about. I was just really happy for Yancy and Dion to reap the benefits of all their hard work for four years. I'm obviously very proud of them.

Stan Heath, South Florida, on his seniors (lost to Ohio): Well, you know, my [Athletic Director] came in and he said it right, there's only going to be...one team, but now there's so many tournaments, I guess there's going to be about four teams in the that end the season with a win, but really one when it's all said and done in the big tournament.

So, there's going to be a lot of coaches that feel like I do.  I wish I could have felt this way next weekend or the weekend after that, but it's hard.  It's something I love doing. I love these kids.  You know, I don't get to coach Ron Anderson, [Augustus] Gilchrist and Hugh [Robertson], Alberto [Damour].

I don't get to coach those guys again. That's hard. I don't get to coach those guys again. That's hard. That's hard to think about.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.


Editor's note: Heath became very emotional as he finished answering that question, which was the last one asked to him in Sunday's press conference. Heath walked away from the microphones very shortly after.

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