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December 16, 2013

Keith Dambrot

David Matlin


ELIZABETH MCCOLLUM:  Thank you for joining the call.  This is in advance of the 2013 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.  The tournament will be held Christmas week, Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, December 22, 23, and 24th at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hawai'i.
It is an eight‑team men's college basketball tournament that will feature 12 teams over the three days.  Each team will compete in one game per day advancing through a bracket tournament format.  The teams that remain undefeated throughout will face off in the championship match on Christmas Day.
I'd like to introduce David Matlin, the executive director of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, just ask him to answer a couple questions about the tournament and we'll move on to the coaches.  David, can you give us a little background about the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic which is now in its fifth year?
DAVID MATLIN:  Sure, sure.  Aloha, everybody.  It is the fifth year of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.  The original stakeholders of the event were ESPN, University of Hawai'i, the WAC, now it's a Big West tournament as well as the tourism authority.  Kind of what happened is we were in the 7th year of conducting the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl and felt the time was right to add another ESPN locally managed event in Hawai'i.
We didn't think it would be the same time period of it, so what we do is we have a week of events, four days of events from the 22nd to the 25th where the Hawaiian Airlines Classic, being the 22nd, 23rd, and 25th, and so, in essence, my team went from working one day a year to four days a year.  But that's a 400% increase, so.
Last year's champion for our tournament was Arizona who is currently No. 1.  We're very excited about holiday tournaments and how the community has embraced it as well as we hear from a lot of teams that are interested in playing in it.  Coming to Hawai'i is a great opportunity for a lot of schools and student‑athletes.
ELIZABETH MCCOLLUM:  David, can you tell us about the field and the brackets for this year's tournament?
DAVID MATLIN:  Yeah, we're very excited.  There are three teams that are currently getting votes in the rankings, Iowa State, Boise and St. Mary's.  Two of them are undefeated.  Their total record is 46‑15 of the teams as of today, which is about 75% winning percentage, and actually I think one of the teams played St. Mary's and Boise played each other.  So there is an extra loss that might not have happened.
But we feel it's a really strong field led by Iowa State who will probably be a top 15 team after their win against Iowa, and a lot of great student‑athletes and great players.  Really looking forward to a competitive field.
ELIZABETH MCCOLLUM:  We'll move on now to Coach Dambrot.  I appreciate you joining us since you have a game versus Oral Roberts later today.  Quickly, after playing three games in the first eight days of your season you had 21 days off before another regular season game.  But you won your first two games back after the break, can you tell us how you kept your team sharp during that stretch?
COACH DAMBROT:  Well, it's probably one of the most difficult things that I've ever had to do.  You know, it's very, very difficult to keep guys motivated after that time period.  Now you're used to it at the beginning of the season before the first game, but after you've played, it becomes very difficult.
But we've actually played better.  We feel like we're a team that gets better as the season goes almost every single year.  So we feel like we're coming into our own right now.
ELIZABETH MCCOLLUM:  Great, now you face a different type of challenge where you have nine games in a 19‑day stretch, including the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.  With the limited time off, how do you keep your team fresh?
COACH DAMBROT:  Well, we have good depth.  We have 11 guys that can all play.  We've won a lot of games over the last nine years playing a lot of people.  So the format is good for us.  We're used to it.
We've played in the MAC Championship game seven years in a row.  So we've played three and as many as five games to win that thing.  So we've done it many, many times over the years, so we feel we're ready for it.
ELIZABETH MCCOLLUM:  Speaking a bit about the format.  You do play two games and you have a day off, then you play one more.  Can you talk about your first round opponent in Oregon State.  Have you had much time to scout?
COACH DAMBROT:  Not really, because we still have two more games before we come.  So we played at night against Oral Roberts and then Wednesday with Detroit at home.  So we know a little bit, but me, in particular, know because I go game by game by game, but we know they're a good team.  We know they're big and strong.  We know they play in a great league.  They're well‑coached.  It will be a challenge for us, but we're looking forward to it.

Q.  Following up on that, how do you go into a tournament like this preparing for teams that you don't play all the time and you've not been too exposed to?
COACH DAMBROT:  It's no different than playing any other non‑conference opponent.  We watch a lot of basketball throughout the years.  So it's not like we're going to go in there and not know much about them.  You tend to watch the box scores of teams you play most of the year.  So we feel like we know a lot about every team in the tournament.  We know how they play, what their tendencies are, and we'll get into specifics as we get closer.

Q.  Coach, I was wondering, being that your opponent is Oregon State, President Obama has gone to see the Beavers play in person in times in recent years and he's been in the islands Christmastime in the past.  So in the event he comes to see the match‑up with you guys and Oregon State, what do you think that will be like for your team?
COACH DAMBROT:  Well, I think anytime somebody of that prominence comes to a game, it's a thrill for your players and your university and your fans.  We're excited about it, and hopefully that opportunity will come.  The most famous guy we've ever had was LeBron James, so even he can't compare to the president of the United States.

Q.  Travel‑wise for you guys, being that you do have two games this week, any concern on your part of just fatigue after playing Detroit and coming all the way out here after that?
COACH DAMBROT:  Well, I think you're always concerned about that, but we're going to be ready to play.  We played the game on Saturday, and nobody plays more than 23 minutes.  We'll have a tough game tonight with Oral Roberts who is a very good team and then Detroit.  But that's kind of what we signed up for because of the way the schedule is flipped this year.  So there is nothing we can do about it.  We're not going to talk about it.  Just come out and play as hard as we can play.

Q.  Coach, does your team have any plans for your day off in Hawai'i?
COACH DAMBROT:  Well, we do.  We haven't totally decided yet for sure what we were going to do, but we're definitely going to make sure whenever we take our guys out to different places, we make sure that they get the full experience.  We're not just here to teach them basketball; we're here to enjoy Hawai'i.  So they'll be there.  They'll be able to do a lot of things, but we'll take care of business also.

Q.  What is the importance of these holiday tournaments?  Do you believe it's imperative to find a way into these tournaments right before conference play?
COACH DAMBROT:  When you're a good mid‑major like our program, it's imperative because number one you get to play on TV.  Last year we were in Puerto Rico, this year we're in Hawai'i, next year we'll go to Charleston.  So those TV games are imperative.  But to be able to play high majors on neutral courts is really important if you have any chance to get an at‑large berth.
ELIZABETH MCCOLLUM:  David, what can the teams look forward to as far as travel to the Hawaiian islands?
DAVID MATLIN:  Well, the one thing about basketball is they're pretty busy with practices and their games.  But we have a creation show, it's a luau at the Princess Kaiulani with fire dancers, a great meal, and a great cultural experience with Polynesia and Hawai'i.  The neat thing about that is some of the players end up getting up on the stage and dancing also, so it's a great experience.  That is one of the things I think they have to look forward to.
I think a lot of the other things that the teams do when they're in Hawai'i, besides the beach is a lot of them choose to go to Pearl Harbor, which is obviously a great historical place for them to check out.  A lot of it is just experiencing the people and the great food we have here, so that's an opportunity.
I know some coaches like to keep them off their feet a little bit, but they tend to get a few activities in.
ELIZABETH MCCOLLUM:  Probably hard to do in Hawai'i.

Q.  David, I was wondering about ticket sales?  How are they going for this tournament?  Is there allotment for each team that they're supposed to sell or a bowl game?  How does that work?
DAVID MATLIN:  There is no allotment or commitment.  We've been selling travel packages through the holidays, and the local partner in Boise is Harmon Travel for the last ten months.  I know in Boise's case, since we've announced them coming to the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, we've had a lot more activity.  But sales are pretty brisk.  They're starting to pick up now.
Normally for this tournament we probably end up issuing between 7000 and 8000 tickets traditionally.  We think it could be a little better this year.  But time will tell.  But, yeah, the activity has been good especially with two of the teams being here for two events, the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl between Oregon State and Boise as well as the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.

Q.  How much did that play into it having the process for the bowl game that you have both teams there and that will probably help sales for both events?
DAVID MATLIN:  For basketball it didn't play at all because we didn't know, but for football, yeah, it definitely was a factor and something that makes a lot of sense.  When Boise seemed to come in line with us and we had an opportunity to get a Pac‑12 team, Oregon State made a lot of sense.  It's something that we've tried to make happen, and we were fortunate enough that we were able to get them here.  Yeah, it did play a factor.
ELIZABETH MCCOLLUM:  Richard from St. Mary's, when are you guys traveling to Hawai'i?
RICHARD:  We leave on the 20th.  We have a game against American on the night of the 19th.
ELIZABETH MCCOLLUM:  For most of the players, Richard, will it be their first time to Hawai'i?
RICHARD:  Good question.  I don't recall the last time that St. Mary's played in Hawai'i, but they have played there.  It was before I got to work here a few years ago.  I don't know for this tournament yet.  We just got back from Boise.
DAVID MATLIN:  St. Mary's was here for the 2009 Diamond Head Classic, so this is their second appearance.
RICHARD:  So, for sure it would be the first time for these particular players.

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