March 19, 2021
West Lafayette, Indiana, USA
Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
Postgame Media Conference
Oral Roberts - 75, Ohio State - 72
THE MODERATOR: We'll now begin with an opening statement from Coach Mills.
PAUL MILLS: Yeah, I listen to Psalm 1:18 before every game, and it says, Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. We're thankful, as Kevin mentioned, and just this opportunity.
As I told the players, our staff has been involved in 81 of these NCAA Tournament games, and now they don't have to listen to us talk about it anymore. I'm glad that they have the experience of actually playing in March Madness and to have it an enjoyable experience. It's not any fun, obviously, if you don't win.
Q. Congrats on the win. I'm watching the background now, actually, and the celebration didn't seem as big as after winning the Summit League title, which is surprising. Is this more because you feel -- you said it several days ago. This team believes every game they come into.
PAUL MILLS: I thought we would win. I mean, our guys thought we would win. I mean, the reality is you have to turn around and you're about to play another one. So a celebration better be pretty quick because, if you spend all your time looking back at your marriage day videos, you're probably not going to have a very good marriage. There's other things to get done.
Obviously, you want your players to have this experience and enjoy it, but the reality is -- I can tell you, I've been to four Sweet 16s, and that's a better feeling. So your attention turns pretty quickly.
Q. I was just curious what that moment was like for you, Coach, just that moment the game ended?
PAUL MILLS: Sure. The goal is to win, and you can't win until that final buzzer goes off. I thought Duane Washington's look off the offensive rebound kickout at the top, didn't know if E.J. was going to pull down another and give them another chance, so really it's just are we headed to a second overtime, or are we going to be able to win this game?
Once the buzzer went off, it's more a feeling of relief, probably, than anything else.
Q. Coach, congratulations on the win. I know it's still fresh, this result, but can you just put into perspective what it means for the program to get its first NCAA Tournament win since the early 1970s?
PAUL MILLS: From a historical standpoint, it's great, but I mean, nobody thinks about that stuff. It's how do we win this game, period. You don't think about it. I've not looked into the history of it. You're just -- I would do a disservice to our guys if we couldn't focus on what's next and that opportunity.
I don't mean to come across as arrogant as all. I'm just telling you I don't think about it. How do we put ourselves in the best position in order to make sure our players are prepared to play Ohio State?
Q. Coach, you talk about being humbled and your faith, and we all know that faith without works is dead. You come into this game. They outrebound you by 20. They shoot a better percentage, but I think the key stat was that you all only had 6 turnovers to their 16. Can you speak on that as far as just the way you all played and composed yourself?
PAUL MILLS: Sure. We're top 25 in the country at not turning it over, and Ohio State is 336th in the country at causing turnovers. So we knew that we were coming into a game where there wasn't going to be a whole lot of pressure. We do a good job taking care of the ball. That's not their strength. They do a number of things really, really well, obviously, but their strength isn't that they're going to pressure you.
So I thought any turnovers that we had were going to be self-inflicted, and fortunately -- I mean, how teams kind of play through the course of the year -- us taking care of the ball, them not necessarily generating them -- I mean, we were fortunate that it played out as the year played out for both teams.
Q. And a quick follow-up. Can you just speak on Obanor and Abmas and how they played today and led the team.
PAUL MILLS: Yeah, Max Abmas, Kevin Obanor, if your best players are your hardest workers, you have a chance. I love Kevin Obanor. I love Max Abmas. I love all those guys in that locker room, but those two work really hard.
I say this all the time, but when our players get to campus, we ask them to make 20,000 shots, make not take, and they've got a six week period to do it. Kevin Obanor did it in six days, making about 3,500 shots. Obviously, going 7 for 7 from the free-throw line down the stretch in this environment kind of speaks to his level of work ethic.
And if you're around guys who have humility and they have a work ethic, that's usually the two components that translate to being a really good player. So I'm happy he's a junior. He's been through it, 7 for 7 down the stretch. I thought he played really well.
But Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor are everything that -- and all those guys. Honest to goodness, all those guys in that locker room. I just think those two are really good.
Q. Coach, you mentioned your Sweet 16 experience and that you know that your attention has to turn pretty quickly, but your players do not have that experience, and they're going to be in a lot of headlines and a lot of highlights in the next 24 to 48 hours. How do you get them thinking about Florida quickly?
PAUL MILLS: We'll put them in a room, and I'm pretty animated during film sessions. And so we'll -- they want to win. I mean, you do have to avoid the distractions. You do have to avoid some of this hype that comes with it. I'm just going to encourage them, don't return text messages or look at whatever social media until Monday. Just wait. That stuff doesn't need to be tended to right now unless it's your mom or your dad -- or your girlfriend. You probably need to answer that one.
But for the most part, you have to eliminate distractions in order to be good this time of year.
Q. Hey, Coach, you just mentioned it, and you talked on Wednesday at that press conference about sort of your philosophy that players with humility and good character perform well, and we saw that today. What does it mean for you to see that, that sort of philosophy pay off on a big stage and have your guys just get this big win?
PAUL MILLS: I mean, sure, you can say all the right things, right? Like everybody has these ideas about how this should play out, and to each his own. But I'm a big believer in the New Zealand All Blacks theory that good people make good players, and we have really good people.
And you know what's a sign of having good people? Humility. If you're arrogant, I mean, I don't know how I could ever help you, and if I'm arrogant, I don't know that I could ever learn and be taught. And if you don't have a work ethic, you're not going to be any good, and if I don't -- if I'm unwilling to work, I'm not going to be any good. So I just think those are two huge components.
Again, there's a bible verse that says, God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. I don't want to be God's opponent, so I don't want to go in this prideful. I understand what an opponent looks like. So from that perspective, humility and work ethic play such a huge part in becoming good people, good players.
Q. Coach, Kevin talked about kind of always his whole life, he kind of felt like the underdog. When you're recruiting at a place like Oral Roberts, do you have to go find those kids who are like I'm better than maybe some of these coaches think I am? And they come in with kind of that chip on their shoulder?
PAUL MILLS: You try to recruit guys who want to work. The reason that somebody goes to school, you go to study accounting to be an accountant. You go to study engineering to be an engineer. Our guys want to be basketball players. I've been fortunate to coach 71 pros. Our staff has coached 28 NBA players. I've coached 13 NBA players. Ten of them were never ranked top 100 high school players. They're just guys you identified, and you said, you know what, you have a work ethic.
I want these guys to become pros, and that's why you go to college. So you try to identify and find guys who want to get the most out of their God given abilities for God given reasons. So I think, from the most -- my perspective is you have to find guys who say, man, they've got a legit chance. If they really want to do this, they have a real chance, and then you just invest in them as people and as players.
Q. Coach, congratulations.
PAUL MILLS: Thank you.
Q. What is said to the guys before overtime? After Ohio State had a pretty good look to win the game there but missed it.
PAUL MILLS: Before overtime?
Q. Yeah, before overtime.
PAUL MILLS: We're winning this. I mean, we guys are going to lock in, and we are going to win this basketball game. I can promise you Coach Holtmann said the same thing. You're not over there going, all right, we may or may not have the chance here. I mean, you're telling your guys that you're going to win, and then you just look them in the eyes to see if they really believe, and we had a group that really believed.
Q. Coach, earlier this week, you talked about how you have some guys from overseas who had never even heard of Ohio State coming in. At the end of the day, how did this team react to your message of they're just a team, they can be beaten, and how did the team rally around your message this week getting ready for this game?
PAUL MILLS: Who walks into a game and says the other person can't be beaten? I mean, I don't think anybody does. As I shared with the guys, don't let anybody put a number in front of your name. And it's hard, right? Because when they're high school players, they want a number in front of their name. They're ranked this, or they're ranked that, because that ranking is going to bring something for them, whether it be attention or a scholarship offer.
So we just have a bunch of guys who -- my staff is unbelievable. My graduate assistants are unbelievable. My student coaches are unbelievable. And so we all have the same job, and that is to help our players. Our job is to assist our players. So when players know -- like, man, you know what, these guys are really here to serve. These guys are really here to help me -- that number kind of goes by the side, and you say, man, what do I need to do in order to propel this team forward?
From that perspective, I don't think it's anything that's ever brought up other than, guys, we're here to -- we talk a lot about loving each other, and not in word, but in actions. And we need to show people that we honor the commitment that each other gives. It's honestly -- I mean, if you're not here to win it, I don't know why you're playing.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much for your time. Congratulations on the win. Best of luck in the second round.
PAUL MILLS: I appreciate it.
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