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March 19, 2021

John Gallagher

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Hartford Hawks

Lucas Oil Stadium - Unity Court (South)

Postgame Media Conference

Baylor 79, Hartford 55

JOHN GALLAGHER: On the game, first off, you've got to give Baylor credit. They're a National Championship contender for a reason. I studied, watched 11 games of them. They present problems in a lot of areas. Their length, their size, their shooting ability. They're a definite championship one or two and they're probably one of the best one or two teams in the country, them or Gonzaga in my opinion. I think for us and our program, first time being here, I'm just so proud of the neighborhood, the community of Hartford, and how our players represented themselves.

The word is "grateful."

Q. I just wanted to ask you, can you just sum up this week and what the experience was like, what you feel like it meant for your program, and Traci coming off the game and you guys giving him a big hug and greeting the fans on the way out. Kind of sum up this week's experience for you.

JOHN GALLAGHER: I mean, it was transformative. I really believe that this week was a four-year culmination. And I don't think the program is going to look back. I think we're going to continue to win. We're going to continue to recruit at a high level, and now I think we're going to get huge turnout with fans.

I think we have a huge opportunity with branding with the neighborhood, meaning it's real. You could feel it. You could feel it from a huge contingent of firefighters in Hartford that reached out to me over the last couple days to Jeff Flaks, the CEO of Hartford Healthcare, reaching out to me, senator, governor, the mayor Luke Bronin. It's transformative. You can't put a price tag on this for our program and our university.

I'm blessed to be the coach here. I'm thankful. You know, I know we didn't get the result we wanted, but we as a program and a University and a neighborhood represented ourselves, the players did, in a first-class manner, and I'm proud of the players.

Q. You enjoyed a nice moment with your fans when this game ended for quite some time. What did that feel like, and why did you do that?

JOHN GALLAGHER: First of all, I feel like I made it because you're talking to me. I grew up in Philly, and Dana is the best. So I made it, Dana.

The moment, Dana, so many people in my life and in the Hartford basketball community have waited for this moment for 36 years. Jack Fallon took us to Division I. He passed away in July. I was on the golf course with Steve Donahue and I cried. I couldn't even hit a golf shot. There's so many people in the stands I just saw, my children, my wife, my mother and father and my three sisters. I had 25 cousins come down out of the 50. I used 120 tickets.

I mean, what's it mean? The head of -- the union boss of the Hartford fire department, Jason Diaz, I mean, just people that care about Hartford and the community and the program has just changed before my eyes.

It's hard to believe this. I'm speechless.

Q. Talk about the experience of coming to Indianapolis, obviously a truly unique tournament here account controlled environment here and everything. Talk about some of the positive experiences your team has gone through here in Indy.

JOHN GALLAGHER: First of all, Dan Gavitt and the NCAA have absolutely done the best job -- whatever Dan is making, he's underpaid, because this was as well run, 68 teams, 67 games, the hotels, the infrastructure. Dan Gavitt deserves just the most -- him and the staff deserve so much credit for how it's run. We're grateful, and the organization and the detail and the ambassadors that are there with you the whole time, our program, our university is grateful for the infrastructure and how to get this tournament accomplished.

Q. I want to ask you about D.J. I know he got hurt early in the game. He rode by me on a golf cart for the second half and still had a smile on his fees even though he had gotten hurt. Does that kind of speak to the joy that your players played with and had in this environment?

JOHN GALLAGHER: D.J. Mitchell is a joy to coach. He's the details guy. He does all the little things, and obviously we missed him. If you're going to upset somebody, you can't have any injuries. 16 seconds into the game he goes down. What do I say? Look, everything happens for a reason. It's the feast of St. Joseph. It wasn't our day.

For our program, I'm just grateful, D.J., all the players -- our best player got hurt December 27th, Moses Flowers, and we found a way to do this anyway.

Look, we're not going anywhere. We'll be back next year. We lose one guy, Traci Carter, and it's an exciting time for the future of the program.

Q. What did you say to Traci when he came out and you guys had that long hug?

JOHN GALLAGHER: Just I love you, man. This is so much fun coaching you. I love you. He just said, can you believe it? Like you two, two Philly kids, although I'm DelCo, he's Philly, two guys that don't live far from each other growing up that really have a love for each other, and it was just great coaching him for two years, and I'm going to miss him.

Q. I noticed about 15 minutes before the game you kind of came out of the tunnel and pointed up to the crowd, and you did a similar thing -- how much were you trying to enjoy this moment, being that it was you guys' first time here?

JOHN GALLAGHER: So one of my close friends is Steve Levy from ESPN. I coach his kids in baseball. He's a real tight friend of mine. He texted me, he said, I want you to walk out 15 minutes before and I want you just to breathe and look up and see what you did for the community and the program. So I took his advice, and I went out.

You know, it was amazing to see 300 and change people in Hartford red, and we were louder than Baylor, even though we didn't win the game. We had a great Hartford neighborhood feel to that game and the crowd. I went out, and I just wanted to embrace the moment and not let it slip away, and I got a chance to.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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