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March 22, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Last night Coach was talking about the first year, the early years, the difficulty involved. And Kenny, your decision to go with him and give him a shot, and Tay your decision to stick around. I wondered if you both could address that and talk a little more about that.
KENNY HASBROUCK: Well, I got recruited late, so it was like a quick decision for me. I went on two visits. They were my first visits. And it was just like I found out about it. I was saying every time he went to a mid-major, they went to a championship. And they turned from a bad season to a good season. So just his reputation was just good. And I felt as though he was really civilized, like he had everything down. They made no mistakes. Like everything was organized. Just his winning records everywhere he went. I felt as though it was probably my best choice of where to go.
TAY FISHER: For me, I just trusted Coach. That was the main thing. It's real hard to trust coaches these days especially on a college level. He promised us, including me with my other teammates that he was going to turn this program around, and that we were going to make it. He didn't say when, but I trusted him that he was going to get it done. He trusted me that I was going to try my best. It kind of was something that we just did together. With the people that he brought in such as Kenny Hasbrouck, Ronald Moore, Alex Franklin, Eddie Ubiles and so on, it just came out to be this. Hopefully we can continue it.
Q. Tay, the last 40 minutes of basketball you had 40 points. Are you feeling just more comfortable in your stroke? More confident? Is it just one of those things? What's going on?
TAY FISHER: I'm just playing. I know that every game could be my last, and it could definitely be my last time wearing a jersey and being a Siena Saint. So I'm just trying to go out there and play as best I can. Whether I'm hitting shots or not, I'm going to find a way to impact the game as best as possible. Even if I'm not hot or not on, there are a lot of other players on this team that can become dangerous. So in order for us to lose games, I feel like we can only beat ourselves. And that hasn't happened in the last seven games. Hopefully we can continue it, but it doesn't start with me, it starts with everybody, it's definitely a team effort.
Q. This is for Kenny: Kenny, we saw you last night on your phone and text messaging a lot and talking to a lot of people. How many texts did you get, and who gave you a call last night because obviously everybody saw you on TV?
KENNY HASBROUCK: I got 42 texts, so there were a lot of people I had to get back to. I got a phone call from my coaches back home, family members and everything I've been getting in contact with. But I was barely talking to too many people. I couldn't text everybody back, so.
Q. Ronald, what was your favorite team again growing up?
RONALD MOORE: I liked North Carolina when I was young, college basketball.
Q. Did you like Villanova at all growing up?
RONALD MOORE: Well, being a Philly kid, I did watch a lot of Villanova basketball. So I do like a lot of Philly teams, St. Joe's, Villanova, La Salle. Lot of those schools. But really UNC, one of the high major schools was definitely my favorite.
Q. Could you just talk about where the program was when Coach McCaffery came after the 24-loss season, and then a few of your classmates transferred?
TAY FISHER: In the beginning, we were good. You know, when I came in Coach Lanier brought them to the tournament, so they had success before I came, we just happened to have a bad year my freshman year, which was 6-24. Then things just didn't go right with coach's change. But when Coach Mac came in, right from the beginning we changed the program around. We started wearing suits. We started being more business-like. Everybody started growing up. We started doing everything different from our approach on the court and off the court. He just did a great job. He's going to continue it.
Every year we have gotten better. We lost in the first round his first year. In his second year we lost in the championship, and this year we made it to the championship, but we're still going. So I really don't know how far we'll go. Hopefully we can continue going further. But I know that next year, I wish I had another year, but I'm pretty sure that they'll keep going further and further. Who knows what this team will be capable of doing. We're doing a good job putting Siena on the map, so I'm pretty sure we'll be all right.
Q. Ronald, following up on the previous question about following Villanova. No. 1, were you recruited by any Big 5 schools in high school? And No. 2, how good is it for you to be playing against Villanova on a national stage tomorrow?
RONALD MOORE: It's definitely fun to play against Villanova. As a kid, looking at them, growing up hoping to play for one of them.
Unfortunately I wasn't recruited by any of the Big 5 schools. They kind of said I'm undersized. But I guess I'm out here to prove them wrong. So it's fun. I know a couple of guys on the Villanova team, so it's definitely going to be a great feeling out there tomorrow.
Q. You guys have done a good job of keeping your focus on the game at hand, but can you talk about overall what it means to Siena the program and the college, the fact that you've won one game in the NCAA Tournament and the fact that you're one game away from the Sweet 16?
KENNY HASBROUCK: I think it's a really big deal. It's saying a lot about our program, saying a lot about our school. And how we're carrying along like Albany with us. Our fans are excited wherever we go. It's exciting for our town. Everybody's talking about it back at school. It is very exciting. I just think it's going to help out our community, really. It's going to bring a lot of attention on Siena basketball now. We're going to be the focus point of the media for a little while. It's going to be exciting for kids everywhere. So I just think it's like helping out Albany in general.
Q. Tay, if I could follow up on what you said, you said it's hard to trust coaches, yet you trusted Coach McCaffrey. Can you give me a sense of what it was that made you say okay, I can trust this guy?
TAY FISHER: Like I was saying is like when he first came in, you know, you've just got to be able to trust people. We all know when you're a coach in the NCAA you worry about your family as well and you want to make sure that everything is going right. But with him he made us part of his family. He made every player a part of him, with his wife and with his kids, and that was the most important thing. It's just hard to come across people like that these days, especially coaches.
I haven't been around many of them to say that. But I have friends that I've run across at some point in their life, and it's just great. It's really hard to find them. He's just doing a great job. It's really hard to explain. Sometimes you just have to be in our shoes or be in our situation to really understand such an impact he brought on this program.
Q. Are you keeping in touch with Jack McClinton, and did you see his performance yesterday for Miami? How close do you guys still stay in touch?
TAY FISHER: Yeah, we still keep in touch. He was my best friend my freshman year. When he left, I kind of felt like once he left and everybody else left I thought about leaving as well. But like I said, I'm the type of person when I make a commitment I like to stick with it, regardless if it's going bad or not. And this is the outcome that it turned out to be. So I'm definitely happy with my choice.
I talked to him right after the game. He told me "good job." I seen him play, he's seen me play. We talked with each other, because we know we've gotten better. And that is hard to do. Keeping in touch with your friends after things like that happen. It's just a great feeling, and hopefully we can continue that.
Q. What George Mason did two years ago, did that change at all the mindset of players from schools like yours or other conferences that maybe aren't the glamour conferences in the country of what you can do in this tournament?
RONALD MOORE: Yeah, definitely, I think seeing a mid-major school like George Mason go that far, it definitely gives you confidence to go out there and compete with the best schools in the country. I think the way Coach set up our schedule throughout the year, he definitely put us through challenges all throughout the year. I definitely think that helps us going up against a school like Vanderbilt and being successful. So it just goes to show that hard work definitely pays off no matter mid-major, high major schools. Doesn't really matter. In the game of basketball, anything can happen.
Q. Your style seems to be marked by really aggressive play. You're very fearless out there as a team. I'm wondering what is job one in stopping Villanova? You will win if you do what?
KENNY HASBROUCK: I think job one is attacking offensively and defensively. We can't let them dictate our pace and try to play to their tempo. We want to play our basketball, which means we have to be aggressive in the game and not be back on our heels.
TAY FISHER: Their play is similar to ours. They like to attack, they shoot threes, and they play hard defense, and that is something that we do as well. It's all going to come down to who does it the best that particular night. And anything can happen. Everybody on that court that played last night, us and Villanova, we're real tired. We're real sore right now. But that's what it takes if you want to be a champion team or a really good team, you've got to fight through it.
So it's all going to depend on who is more focused. Who follows the game plan better, and whoever does that the best is going to come out with the victory, and hopefully it's us.
Q. You banged up your shoulder in the MAAC tournament. First off, any lingering effects of that? And how is your ankle today? Looks like you were hurt late in the game with your right ankle.
KENNY HASBROUCK: Well, I hurt my shoulder in like the semifinal or quarterfinal. But my shoulder's doing okay. It's not sore at all right now. My ankle's a little sore, but it's perfectly fine for the game.
Q. Your thoughts on playing against your hometown team, somewhat, and being from Plymouth Whitemarsh High School and what this means having all the Philadelphia area watching you play?
RONALD MOORE: It's definitely a great feeling. Got a lot of phone calls once we found out we were going to play Villanova. So it's definitely nice going against a hometown school. So I'm just going to go out there and play my best. Hopefully I can put on a little show for the hometown fans.
Q. Your three-point game, can you still win if your threes are not falling as a team? Can you do it? Because you really were great from beyond the arc the other night?
KENNY HASBROUCK: Yeah, I think we came on with our three-point game late. For the most part we're not a three-point shooting team. We have a couple guys that can shoot the three and it does spread the floor. But we try to drive and kick for the most part, get lay-ups. The easiest basket we can take. But it helps us out when we're hitting threes because it spreads the floor more, makes people worry about the shot, and you can get past people easier. But I think we base ourself off of defensive rebounding. That's what won us our last seven games and hopefully we can keep it going because of it.
TAY FISHER: I can agree with Kenny with that. We're not a three-point shooting team. We have people that can knock down the threes. But we don't go out and shoot 25, 30 threes a game. We take what's open, and we try to feed off of that. We have great players, so we know how to drive the ball, we know how to shoot. But that's not what's going to get us the win. We've got to play defense and rebound. We're a smaller team than Villanova. We've been a smaller team for the whole year compared to teams that we've been playing against. So we've got to use our quickness and all that other stuff to our advantage and hopefully things can work out good.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. We continue with Coach McCaffery. Questions for coach.
Q. You spoke last night after the first year and how far you had come and kind of reflected on that. I was wondering if you could expand on that a little with what you meant with the difficulty with the players leaving and that kind of thing?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I had heard the team had lost 26 games. I think it was probably the low point in our, certainly our Division I history as a program. So there was a lot of expectation on the coaching change and hopefully what we would be able to do. I had entered a similar situation six years earlier in Greensboro and it was much easier because all the players stayed. We had some good players that were there and we recruited well, and we got to the tournament in year two.
But the first thing that happened was the two players that had committed to us both opted not to come. Our leading scorer transferred to Miami. Another starter was in such serious academic difficulty he was dismissed. We had probably our best player in the program blew his Achilles tendon out traveling with the MAAC All-Star team in China. Of and the first seven players that visited all said no.
So, of course, we're talking about maybe a six-to-eight-week period of time where it was one negative after another. I think fortunately for me, I had great family support at that time. We had a staff who I had brought with me from Greensboro. So we sort of, as they say, hit the ground running and kind of knew what we wanted to do.
Two of the players that visited, we actually sent home because of the way they acted on their visit. It's not uncommon that you're recruiting players late that you don't know as much about, since you just got the job.
So we felt, I felt, that it was important that we identify what we needed and not waver from that despite the dire straits that we were in. There was a time when we had, I think, eight or nine players. That was it. We had no size. Now ultimately we got Kenny Hasbrouck to say yes. That was, I think in my career and you know, over the years you get a lot of commitments that you're very proud of. That was probably the most excited I've ever been to get a yes. Because I felt like not only did someone say okay, I believe in what Coach McCaffrey's saying and I want to go there and help him build it, but I knew he was good. And I knew he had the kind of character that we needed. I knew that he was a valuable piece of the puzzle.
I was very fortunate that we had David Ryan and Antoine Jordan still in the program. Two players that I hope that they feel very much a part of this because we would not have gotten to this point without what they lent to that program, which they helped us recruit. They sold Siena. They believed in Siena. They stayed. The first year we were picked tenth, we came in fourth.
I remember driving to work one day, I was listening to the radio and a guy said, They are going to go winless. They're not going to win a game. They have no players. And I thought we had some players. We won 15 games that year, so I was very proud of that team. One of my favorite teams that I'd ever coached.
Then that next class with Edwin, and Ronald Moore, Alexander Franklin, Cory Magee and James Carr, I felt like, okay, now we're kind of where we need to be. Because now we have the bodies that we need to practice.
There were times in year one we didn't even have enough players to practice. Assistant coaches were practicing, and practice early because somebody turned their ankle.
So to be sitting here and have a number of these players, in particular Tay Fisher, who went through all of that. Because ultimately when you are going through that as a student-athlete, your concern is, is my career going to come and go and we're just going to struggle for four years? And it's not going to be what I envisioned it when I went there. And Tay had the confidence in me and our staff and himself and in the few players that remained and his ability to recruit other good players. Because no matter what a coach says in recruiting, the most important part of any recruiting process is what your players say to prospects when they visit campus.
When you have somebody like Tay Fisher that sells me and sells the school and sells the program what we're about, it's much better than anything I could say. So I'm happy for them. I'm happy for the institution. And very proud of what we've accomplished.
Q. Edwin Ubiles is known as an offensive player, but his contribution on the defensive end last night was critical. Could you talk about his defensive play of late and how the team has brought into the defensive principles you've been trying to instill all season?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I think it's interesting, because in our meeting this morning I told him that he views himself as an offensive player. He's tremendously gifted. But I hope he understood and had some measure of satisfaction with the tremendous job that he did. And his job on Foster was every bit as important to our team winning as Kenny Hasbrouck's 30 points or Tay Fisher's 19 points off the bench. Anything short of that would have been a much different game. You're talking about a guy who was the SEC Player of the Year. Had 42 against Mississippi State. Had nine threes. And Edwin's length and his attention to detail really bothered Foster. Held him to 13 points. But I do think that's indicative of our collective commitment to how we've played defense in the last seven games.
We were a pretty good team in the beginning of the season, and we outscored some folks and we had some wins. I was stressing at that particular point in the season that while we're pretty good, if we don't start to play better defense, we will not win a championship. And we have to make a distinction, do we want to have a pretty good season, you know, 18, 19 wins and be satisfied with that? Or do we want to win a championship and have an opportunity to play in the greatest sports event in our country?
There's only so much that I can say or do or teach or drill. They have to ultimately buy in and make a commitment together. There's no question that we're sitting here today because of how we have defended, in particularly in the last seven games.
Q. I just want to clarify one thing when you're talking about that day you were driving in and you heard that on the radio, was that before the season began?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: Yes.
Q. And my question is the players are talking about you instilling an idea of changing the identity of the program. You made them start wearing suits and being more business-like and they approached playing basketball for you and Siena. Can you talk about that idea of setting that mindset, that business-like mindset?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: I think it's important how we conduct ourselves. How we represent Siena College. When we travel, we always travel in coats and ties. We have rules with regard to facial hair and braids, for example. So guys had to cut their hair. Guys had to shave. And it's all part of a commitment to winning.
I told them they made a decision when they enrolled at Siena to begin the interview process early. Because every time they take the floor, every time they were in a situation like this, it's a job interview. People were going to make decisions and assessments of who they are and what their character is. We are going to have a program that, I think, has the kind of character that will enable us to win, but will also be a great example for our other students and make our alumni proud that they attended Siena College.
Q. I assume you stayed to scout the second game last night. Could you tell me what you saw and what you were thinking as Villanova turned what appeared to be a certain loss into a win?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I thought first and foremost they made that run at the end of the first half which is critical. They have the ability to press. I think one of the things that's always impressed me most about Villanova is how they compete. If the threes aren't falling, they still defend, they still rebound, and they still compete. So as I've looked at that game, knowing what I know about Jay Wright and what I know about the players and his program and what he's done there, they were not going to fold up the tents. They were going to keep coming. I think that was evident.
As they got closer and closer to even, I think it was evident to the Clemson players what kind of fight they were in. I kind of looked at it like as soon as Villanova took the lead, that was it. They weren't going to lose. We're well aware of that's who we are playing tomorrow.
Q. Defense has been a real key for you guys throughout the season, and the way you prepared for Ogilvy and Neltner is definitely going to be different than the way you prepare for Cunningham and Anderson, they're a little quicker and can shoot the outside jumpshot. Can you compare Villanova's post players to anybody you saw maybe in the MAAC or through your other games?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: Maybe like Syracuse a little bit. You know, with Harris and Green, long arm, athletic, bouncy, running rebounders. Attack the wings, get up in the passing lanes. Of course Syracuse plays more zone. Villanova will mix it.
But I think that's probably the closest team that I would come up with.
Q. Tampa is the talk of the tournament after what happened yesterday. I was wondering, do you consider it an upset when you win and you tell your players and they execute and do everything that they're supposed to do and play like they did yesterday? Do you consider it an upset victory? What does a coach consider an upset?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: I'm very respectful of what Vanderbilt accomplished this year. Winning 26 games in the SEC, winning 19 games at home. Beating the No. 1 ranked team. And I know what the SEC is. So I think when you look at it in that perspective, it's probably an upset. When I really studied their team and looked at our team, I felt like we had a legitimate shot to beat them. I felt it was a good draw for us in terms of match-ups, and I felt comfortable that we would play well. Certainly did not expect to lead wire to wire.
But we have been playing well, and I thought Coach Buonoguro did a great job with the scout, and our game plan was solid, and our players executed it to perfection. So I think in some ways it's probably viewed as an upset. But at the same time when we walked off the floor victorious, it wasn't a surprise to any of us by any means.
Q. This is one of those semi frequent times where there are connections on both teams, beginning with yourself in Big 5 play, Andrew having coached at Villanova, Mitch having coached at Villanova, Ronald, and your relationship with Jay. We run across this time to time in this sport. How special is a game like this because of that?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, it's very special. I think as you well know, the bond with Philly coaches is very unique. Considering for a very long time in the Big 5 we all tried to beat each other. But there is a tremendous respect there.
I got a great text message from Fran Dunphy last night, from Dave Duke, and it's just I think it's hard for a lot of other areas to understand. I remember playing in the ACC. It's just not like that. You've got the big four right there. And it's just constant competition and dislike. But there's always in Philadelphia this sort of, we all root for each other. Legitimately, genuinely.
A lot of the reason why Andrew is on my staff is because of my relationship with Jay Wright. Jay Wright gets on the phone with me and says hey, this is a guy that you need to look at. He's tremendous, he does this, he does that. And he would be great for your staff. I only interviewed one person for that job, and it was one conversation, one interview and it was done.
So it goes back to, as you pointed out, Mitch Buonoguro's time at Villanova and his relationship with Rollie. And Rollie has come up and he spoke at our basketball camp. So the connections just never end. So I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I know Ronald's excited about it. He plays with their players all the time in the summer. Whether it be out at Villanova or over at Plymouth Whitemarsh where he plays. I think it's something that we're all looking forward to.
Q. What was it that attracted you to the Siena job when it came open?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I had a very unique perspective on it, because in '96 I interviewed for it when Paul Hewitt was hired. So I had a chance to study the tradition of the institution and their basketball, more specifically their basketball tradition. So it really piqued my interest at that time and sort of followed that program from afar a little bit. Subsequent to not being hired.
I think at the same time I remained on their radar screen as a potential coach down the road. But when it really came down to whether or not I was going to go, there were a number of conversations that I had with people that I have tremendous respect for in the business, which I think most people do. When they're looking to make a career change, who in the industry do you talk to? Who do you listen to?
For the first time in my career I was making a move not as a single person. I was moving my entire family to Albany and new Greensboro. I liked my job at Greensboro, liked my team. Kyle Hines coming back. He was the Player of the Year in the league. After I left I had a great boss. I really needed to be convinced. And everybody that I spoke to, I mean, everybody said this was a move that was a no-brainer. You have to go.
This is a very special place, and I can attest to the place that that was true. While the first two months were incredibly difficult, the sense of community that we as a family feel at Siena is very unique. I think that is something very important to me.
Q. You're steeped in all the Philly basketball. You came out of that. But you've had a lot of stops on the road since then. Are you essentially the same basketball guy at the core as you were when you left town? How much have you changed, and how have your philosophies sort of evolved?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I think your philosophy evolves based on who you work for. So I was very fortunate. I played for a phenomenal college coach in Bob Weinhauer. I had a great experience at Penn. I did not think I wanted to get into coaching, but I had such respect for Coach Weinhauer, that I entertained the idea. Then I worked for Coach Littlepage for one year. Then left but didn't go that far. Went to Lehigh Valley, spent most of my time recruiting in Philly. Had some success there, but when I went to Notre Dame I think that really changed how I approached coaching. Because I worked for Digger Phelps, and I worked for John MacLeod, two very successful individuals with just dramatically philosophies on how to do it.
I think that's important to be exposed to how people do it differently and still have success, and then sort of mold that with whatever your personality is to do it how you want to do it.
So then after being an assistant for 11 years and learning those philosophies and Coach Phelps, for example, taught me how to run a program. John MacLeod's offensive mind is unparalleled. So I was exposed to some great opportunities there. Then had a chance to go to Greensboro and be a head coach again. Then, fortunately, I'm here at Siena.
End of FastScripts