March 21, 2021
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Indiana Farmers Coliseum
Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
Postgame Media Conference
Oral Roberts 81, Florida Gators 78
PAUL MILLS: There's a gospel hymn that says praise God from whom all blessings flow. It's a blessing to coach those guys in that locker room. It's a blessing to win.
The experience that these guys will have, and I don't mean to come across as if we're content, but I'm so happy for those players in that locker room.
And for me, I'm glad I get to do laundry. We got here last Saturday. We are off tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a good day because I have run out of clothes.
Q. We talk a lot about Max and Kevin, but how big were the contributions from other guys? In particular, Weaver's three-pointer with two minutes left?
PAUL MILLS: It was huge. We knew we were playing 1-3-1, and we stuck D.J. over there. I think there was 2:44 on the clock when we had the media. I said, D.J., you're going to have a chance to win it or put us up, and I need to you knock down this three.
If you remember D.J. as a freshman, who is a 42 percent three-point shooter and made big shots, I can recall the games where he made big shots. And you know what? That kid is not scared. Love D.J. Weaver. He's super resilient and he cares about the team. He took a shot in the first half that we didn't want, and he immediately came over and said, won't happen again.
We told him, hey, you're going to be in this position in this left corner, knock it down. He just nodded his head, and that kid, when he's dialed in, is really special.
Q. The low seed -- what did you do in the last 24 hours to get your guys back on edge?
PAUL MILLS: Well, one, I told them it better not take us 24 hours. I mean, the reality is, if you're going to win the next one, you have to forget it. You know, as I told the guys, were not going to let somebody put a number in front of our name and tell us that's our worth or that's our value. We are not capitulating to anybody here. And after we won against Ohio State, you got the bus ride back to answer text messages, and obviously there's some media obligations for Max and Kevin, but this needs to get over with quick.
I'm so happy for those guys. This is my fifth Sweet 16 experience. Four of them as an assistant, first as a head coach. I want those guys to have these experiences. So to their credit, I thought they did a great job in film, the very next day, of putting all of that behind us, and they want to compete for each other and honor each other because they know they have a responsibility to one another.
Q. Last time we talked to you, we asked how it felt to advance after the last game, and you said the message to the team was: You think this is nice, wait till we get to the Sweet 16. Imagine that feeling. What's your message to the team going forward?
PAUL MILLS: My message was: I told you so. When we got to the locker room: I told you the Sweet 16 was a much better feeling.
Again, I think that most people who are in this profession hate losing more than they like winning, except when there's a lot at stake. And not that other games aren't at stake, but obviously this is -- if you lose, your season is done, and so you need to -- you need to come through. You need to deliver. We need to execute. We need to do all those things that you practice over the course of the year.
So I'm just happy that our guys see that, and then they are able to stay true to it, to stay true to each other, to love each other, as we talk about quite a bit. And again, I'm so happy for our players.
Q. You've become the second 15-seed to advance to the round of 16. I know you're in the middle of a moment and needing to do your laundry, but can you reflect on the history you're bringing to the campus?
PAUL MILLS: One, haven't thought about it. I mean, I wasn't aware that 1974 was the last win. I mean, honest to goodness, I've told the guys all year that not only are we going to win the conference tournament but we're going to win multiple games in the NCAA.
We talk about -- and a lot of coaches do this, but we talk about winning in March way back in November. These are the things that have to happen in order to win in March. And we've got a graphic that we show probably once a week: This is what it takes in order to win in March.
You know, there's times in practice where one of them is taking care of the ball, and I'll ask them: Have you ever been to March Madness? Do you understand you can't make that turnover? They look at you and say no. Now they are going to have a response to come back.
So that's pretty cool. That's what you want is when your guys understand how to win, I don't need to do anything anymore. I've always said that a player-coached team is better than a coach-coached team. When those guys in that locker room are leading, I get to kind of sit back and enjoy it. My job is to invest in them as leaders, and they eventually need to take over, and I think that's what you saw here late.
Q. Your defense in the last two minutes, particularly the rebound by Francis, his only offensive rebound the whole game. And second part of the question, what does this mean to the community and the school?
PAUL MILLS: One, I mean, Francis's rebound -- Francis, I tell our players this often: You will not have another teammate like Francis Lacis the rest of your career, if you go on to play until you're 40. It is just so rare to watch somebody celebrate other people's success.
The other thing is he had a turnover, a nonball-fake turnover in the first half that I wasn't happy about, and you know what, that kid just brushes it off. Some kids look at it, is Coach upset or mad, but he can brush it off and move on to the next thing.
I constantly tell our guys: Can you do the next right thing regardless of the circumstances? And he does it. So he is such a phenomenal teammate. So for him to stick his nose in there late and make a tough play, not surprised at all. I thought the fly-by on Scottie Lewis was remarkable in order to ensure he didn't get off a quality look.
Regarding the institution, you get another week of media press, all that comes with it. I'm glad that the school, with it's faith-based mission, is going to get attention. And so from that perspective, it's good that sports kind of provides this platform.
Q. With three minutes and 11 seconds left in that game it, looked like you guys might have committed an intentional foul to send one of Florida's backups to the free throw line. Can you walk me through the strategy there?
PAUL MILLS: We weren't getting stops and ask who had fouls? We knew that Max was the only one who had three at the moment, and we knew that 15 was 6-for-12 from the free-throw line on the year. We knew the next foul was in the bonus. So we are not getting stops and we're not getting rebounds. We're down one, so we need to give ourselves a chance here. We took a gamble, and it paid off.
Q. They seemed to slow down the tempo the last ten minutes of that game after they got up by 11. How did that help you guys make that comeback?
PAUL MILLS: Yeah, I don't know about that. Mike is a friend. Mike is a class act to do what he did. I was -- I mean, I had to apologize to Chris Holtmann for my reaction and not going over and shaking hands. I just got caught up in the moment, the majority of the time this year. We kind of just waved to the other coaches, and people haven't really touched. And so Mike came over and was just, I mean, as nice as he could be.
And so, I mean, let me tell you something, Mike knows what he's doing, and he knows this team way better than I do. I mean, I think if you look at it from the previous games, they just beat Virginia Tech and they were very deliberate there, also.
From that perspective, I don't know what it did to his team because I won't be his team, but I can tell you this: Mike White knows what he's doing.
Q. When it comes to dealing with the upcoming week and kind of being the darlings in the Sweet 16 team, do you think it will be easier being in Indianapolis and not traveling to campus and back in terms of dealing with all the media and publicity?
PAUL MILLS: Yes, 100 percent. Yeah. I mean, as I shared with the guys, if you saw the E.J. Liddell tweets, the E.J. Liddell tweet, this stuff is so phoney. And from -- if you can be puffed up through praise, you can be ruined by criticism.
I just really tried to caution our guys that it's important that they get attention, they get acknowledged for what they do. But when they have real issues, none of these people are around, and you need to recognize it for what it is, and you also need to understand fandom when it doesn't go your way.
I think this is -- the controlled environment, as the NCAA has put it, is terrific, because we can get away from some of that fanfare that kind of comes your way and people pulling you in a number of different directions. So 100 percent, I think it helps.
Q. I know you guys couldn't see it when you were there, but the fans and students, it was just exciting to watch even if you had it on mute. What's the message to everyone back home, all those people that greeted you guys when you came back and are cheering you on now?
PAUL MILLS: Yeah, one is thank you. I mean, I tell our guys this often: We need to use our God-given abilities for God-given reasons, and we need to make sure -- in a hundred years, none of us will be here, okay. And what our guys need to understand is we are really not that important. And you need to know that. As much as I admire Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., there aren't three people who gather every Sunday to celebrate his greatness. We are not going to sit around and act like we're great.
Now, 120 million people gather every Sunday, 180 million on Easter, to celebrate one name, and that is the name of Jesus Christ. And so to be at an institution that honors that, there is no other name under Heaven and Earth which man must be safe.
To be at an institution that honors that and we can give them something to celebrate, but at the same time, we are not that important. And our guys need to understand that. I do -- they are teenagers, early 20s, but by the same token, we are so thankful for the support and the people because we want to do this the right way.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports