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March 14, 2018
COACH CLUESS: I just want to say Iona College and our team are really, really excited to be here and be a part of the Big Dance and get an opportunity to play against one of the best teams in the country, and we appreciate the hospitality of everybody.
Q. Forgive the bluntness of this question. The way it works in a lot of places where you're in one big league and you have a lot of success, other places come, and say hey, why don't you come here. It's more opportunities.
I'm curious what's kept you at Iona for that long and have there been any close calls in the last seven years?
COACH CLUESS: What kept me at Iona is probably the same thing that's kept me on Long Island my entire life, family. I love it there. I love the people that are involved. My family has gone through some medical issues for many years and being there is the most important thing and not uprooting my family just to chase a job around.
I've been really fortunate to have places, and now Iona, that have been really good to me. Yeah, I've had a couple of opportunities where people have called me and I really haven't expressed much interest in it. It wasn't something that I thought would be that the right fit for my family at the time. I'm thrilled to be at Iona and we're just trying to get better there.
Q. A little bit of a similar question in the sense that I was curious to what you might like about coaching in one of the smaller conferences. Is there a sense of security, is there more of a sense of partnership between you and the Athletic Director's office, for instance, as opposed to when you get to a Power Five school and if you don't win in two year you might be gone?
COACH CLUESS: In fairness, I never worked at one of those schools. I worked my way up through high school to where I am now, and my A.D. and my president are terrific. I can walk into my A.D.'s office any time or he can walk into mine and we can have a million conversations that relate to our team or anything around school that we mad need assistance with.
I grew up in New York, so Iona had a great reputation back in the Jim Valvano days. So being part of that is terrific, being able to bring New York basketball and keep it strong. Those are really good things.
Now, do you dream of playing in those power conferences where you can get maybe a higher level talent and be able to compete at a different level? Of course you do. But it doesn't take away from anything that I enjoy doing. I like coaching young men who want to be better and moving to influence their lives to have better lives. And I think that's as big a part of it, than just coaching basketball, and I'm blessed to do it.
Q. When you do see your name come up for job, for instance, the Pitt job being one open right now, how do you respond to that especially when you're trying to prepare a team for the NCAA Tournament?
COACH CLUESS: Obviously, I don't pay much attention to it because I know there's rumors everywhere all of the time. I guess my name coming up, that's a good thing. That means we probably had a good year. So I enjoy our season. My guys know it's all about us and that's all I care about.
Q. Tim, there have been some 2-15 upsets over the years. Duke had one happen to them six years ago. I don't know how much history the guys know. Do you give them specific examples? Have you shown them video or talked to them about, yeah these are times where it happened?
COACH CLUESS: Absolutely. Absolutely. You want to put confidence in them that it can happen. You go into every basketball, you have to think you have an opportunity to win even if it's going to be a "I have to do this, this, this, this, this 100 correct." You still have a chance.
So you have to remind them that teams have been beat. You have similar opponents, like St. John's, we were in the game with 7 minutes left, we could have cut it to 4, we turned it over twice. St. John's beat Dukes. So we have use those reference. We have to reference how we played in Syracuse. If the game wasn't there, we may have won that game. A few calls late changed that game.
We know how they competed against Duke. Now we know we're playing against a tremendous, tremendous team and that we have to play the best game we've played probably in some of our guy's lives. That's how you play the game. It's a great opportunity.
Q. If you could talk about your recruiting philosophy. You're playing a team that has three or four one-and-dones. You've had half a dozen almost done-and-ones with the grad transfers. Talk about how that recruiting philosophy has worked for you, and have you ever tried to recruit a one-and-done?
COACH CLUESS: For us a one-and-done would be -- the end we get it on, would be a grad transfer. Because reality, we're not able to get involved with those type of players. We're just not, our league, our facilities, our budgets, all of the things that go with that. So we understand that.
So we try to recruit to our needs. I try to put it like if you're a CEO of your own business. Do you always want to go out and hire the guy straight out of college, or do you want to get the best fit that does the best job? Sometimes it's the guy right out of high school. Other times it's a need, somebody that's a transfer, a junior college player, a grad transfer.
It doesn't scare me to retool every year. I don't want to go into it and say, If I bring this whole group in, four years from now, I'm going to be good. Even at our level, that window of sitting around, if you don't do well, there's not a lot of patience every at our level. We understand it.
I want to be good every year. It want to challenge for a title every year. We recruit to that and we recruit players who understand that, have a little chip or a little edge, and want to work hard, really hard. We lay it on the line when they come. I don't tell them how good they are. I tell them how good I think they can be. I talk to them about hard they're going to have to work, and if they don't have a great work ethic, don't want that, don't come to Iona.
We've been fortunate to get guys who have bought in and helped us be successful.
Q. Tim, you guys actually have more players who have played in NCAA Tournament game than Duke does. Is there any kind of advantage to be gained by that. Also on a completely different note but you mentioned it, what's the Jim Valvano legacy at Iona these days?
COACH CLUESS: I'll start with the first one. I don't know how much playing four guys -- I think we have four or five that have played in the NCAA Tournament, and none of them were our big stars. So, I think it's going to help them as far as a comfort zone of being out there and knowing what the emotion is going to be like during the game, before the game, and everything we're going through right now, and they can share that with our other players.
But talent is talent. When you get on a basketball court as a player, two minutes into the game all of that adrenaline is gone and you're just playing basketball. And that focus just appears. You don't know if there's anyone around you, you're just locked into what is going on. So I'm not sure that matters.
Jim Valvano's legacy is a huge one. We all know him from North Carolina State and everything that happened to him and his passing and the Jimmy V. Foundation is phenomenal for so many people. Having a family that has taken a lot of blow from cancer, it's one of the best things around that they do that and help so many people.
We try to keep up that legacy. When I got there, that was one of the things I wanted to do is keep the legacy of those coaches and successful programs before us and that's what we're striving for every year.
Q. Two things. One, find out that how much have you gotten out of the -- how much has your team gotten out of these trips to the NCAAs. And also what does this all mean to your family?
COACH CLUESS: It's phenomenal for our team, for our school, for our family. To be able to make this for me, personally, it keeps my brothers alive. Them, and my parents are the reason I got into basketball and with the losses I had, basketball saved my life. And I do believe that God put me here to coach to help other people have better lives and I truly believe that.
So, when we're able to get to this level, all I preach to my guys all year is about working hard, and if you work hard, you can have goals that you never dreamed of. And when you win and get to this level, those guys will now believe that in other areas of their life. When their basketball days are over, I know they're going to find a way to be successful.
Having done it as hard long as I have, I have so many players that come back and point to all of the hard work and th discipline and accountability they had because of our programs and how successful they are now in their life. A lot of these players came from nothing. So that's where my pride comes, my joy comes, watching them have better lives and be able to prove, See, you work hard, something good happens. Continue to work hard in your life, no matter what happens, no matter what obstacles. Dream big.
Q. You have a former Robert Morris player in Isaiah Still. Curious, how has acclimated to the program?
COACH CLUESS: He's doing great. We were just talking about him outside. He's a tremendous man, working really, really hard. Talented. I think he's got going to have a phenomenal two years with our program. We're happy to have him.
Q. You've obviously played some powerful teams in the past couple years in the tournament is the mental different, because there's a different brand name. They've been watching this team their whole lives.
COACH CLUESS: I think it is. Our guys are really excited about the opportunity. If you can't be ready to play Duke, there's something wrong with you. So when you look in that mirror, you know that you've got to give it everything you have. And I said to them before, don't die wondering. Don't die wondering. Don't die wondering what could have been if you played as hard as you could. So go out there and let it all hang out.
Q. Coach, I wonder about the challenges of defending some of Duke's players, specifically Marvin Bagley. Is he kind of the number one guy that you try to limit, and then just what are some of the things --
COACH CLUESS: It's one 1, 1A, 1B, 1C, like that. If you want to start on the inside, their size is a challenging test to our team because we do not have bodies that big. He's a tremendous player. We have another one as big as him on the other side and they have three guards that are going to be playing in the pros as well.
It's a pick your poison situation. Try to take something away and see if that works, and if that doesn't work, make an adjustment as quickly as we can. I'm sure we'll make a lot of adjustments throughout the game, and hopefully some of them work and some of things we want to do work. We have to shoot the ball at a really high clip and share the ball, not turn it over. There's a lot of challenges ahead. That's why you play the games. It's great stuff.
Q. Tim, we had Zach in here earlier and he was talking about how big Jon Severe was and what were the thoughts about Severe coming here and how did that help you see Zach and go from there?
COACH CLUESS: I think the last grad transfers were all playing professionally overseas and all made the NCAA Tournament. I think they're able to talk about their dream coming true of making the tournament and being on a winner and getting to play professionally afterwards in a system that's a lot of fun to play in.
And for us, it's kind of like you get the ball, you're a point guard. Most of the time, it's five out of five guys. This year it's four out of five guy. Everyone gets to work on their ball handling, their passing, their shooting, their dribbling. On the offensive end, it's something they enjoy. On the defensive end, we try to hold them accountable to play with a tremendous amount of effort, if they want that luxury on offense.
When a player tells another player about coming to a program nothing can speak higher volumes than that. Nothing better than a coach trying to talk someone into it.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports