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March 14, 2012
Q. Looking at Long Beach State and the way you play defense and the way they play defense, what kind of a match‑up do you expect?
HUGH GREENWOOD: I think it's going to be up and down. Both teams like to get out and run. We're both athletic groups. I'm sure it's going to be a fun game. But like I said, it's going to be a lot of up and down stuff. And I guess who can be more disciplined, take care of the ball and stuff like that.
Q. Coach said he recruited you very hard. Obviously you chose New Mexico. Can you tell me why you chose New Mexico.
KENDALL WILLIAMS: It's been a pretty rewarding decision, my sophomore year making the big dance with the team. Coach Monson was in my high school gym just about every day in my senior year. He's a great guy, a great coach. I'm excited to play against him and his team. Like I say, I couldn't have made a better decision, being a Lobo, and I'm ready to make a nice little run in this tournament.
Q. What do you expect as far as inside, what kind of challenge are you expecting on this team?
DREW GORDON: It's tournament time now, so there's going to be challenges regardless of who we play, how tall they're going to be or anything like that. It's going to be difficult to kind of get things going on the inside. I'm sure there will be double teams. If not, it's going to be a big boy down low.
But we just have to work with what we've got. I know my guards are more than capable of making the outside shots and spreading things out. I'm hoping it's easy, but more than likely it's going to be a big challenge.
Q. It's been really a whirlwind the last couple of weeks for you guys. How has it been trying to regroup, refocus and get ready, and are you guys ready after everything that's happened the last couple of weeks?
HUGH GREENWOOD: Yeah, obviously we've had a lot of success. And we're proud of our accomplishments so far. But if you're not ready to go at the NCAA tournament, you shouldn't be playing basketball.
We know we've got a huge opportunity. We've made the most of our opportunities so far. But like Drew said, it's tournament time, and it's going to be tough. But I think we're focused and ready to go.
Q. A lot of the guys are from California and I know you all have had familiarity with one another. How often do you see some of those guys and know about their game?
KENDALL WILLIAMS: Since Drew is a north Cal kid, I guess I'll answer that. I don't know if it even applies to me, really, because I don't know too many of the kids. I know the freshman kid went to a couple of our teammates' school, Centennial.
On a trip to Long Beach State I met Larry Anderson. He was a nice guy, a really good player. Aside from that I don't know many of the other guys from any of the other schools. They all seem like nice guys and I know they're good players to make it here. So it will be a good match‑up.
Q. I'm curious, and forgive me for not knowing this, what was your major reason for transferring from UCLA, and again, just like Kendall just said, it worked out very well for you.
DREW GORDON: Just didn't get along with coach. Sometimes people pick the wrong school for the wrong reasons. And unfortunately, I was one of those people that needed to transfer and get out of there. So I landed in New Mexico. It's been one of the best decisions I've made in my life.
Q. This is a California question, again. Coach Monson was up here and talking about the weather. He said my California guys, they hate this. What do you guys think about the weather, all the rain and stuff?
DREW GORDON: I'm from the Bay Area, so it's like this all the time in the wintertime. I'm loving this weather.
KENDALL WILLIAMS: Once again, Southern California, it's much sunnier than northern California. Point, Los Angeles.
No, I like this area. It's light rain, so nothing too heavy. We're ready to just get into the court. Luckily we're playing inside.
Q. Describe some of the techniques that you used against Vegas that may apply against Long Beach State.
KENDALL WILLIAMS: You know, I think some of the techniques that we used against most of the teams in the Mountain West, especially the ones from the middle pack up, you look at Wyoming and teams like that, they slow it down a little bit. But teams like Texas Christian and San Diego and even Colorado State, they play a lot of guards, the tempo is very high, and the defensive pressure is always at a high level.
We're just going to take those components and use our calmness and our experiences through the Mountain West conference in the regular season as well as Vegas and apply that to this team.
Q. Does the tournament change the way you approach things? Is it more physical? Is it more half court? How does the tournament change maybe who you are or what you do?
COACH ALFORD: At least from my instance we don't want to change anything. You get to the middle of March and start changing things, you're probably setting yourself up.
We've been consistent all year long, so how we travel from pregame meal to our film sessions to shoot‑arounds, walkthroughs, the things that we did in our Anaheim tournament we're doing in this tournament as well, as far as preparation goes. I learned a long time ago, try to be consistent with your student‑athletes as much as you can, so they can get into that kind of routine, and hopefully that routine won't change.
Q. Steve Anderson is day‑by‑day. How different are they as a team with and without him?
COACH ALFORD: We're preparing like he's playing. I think that's all on them. It doesn't affect us any. They're an outstanding team. They just won their conference tournament without him. So we're preparing, he's been off that long, so we're preparing like he's playing. If he doesn't play, we're prepared that way, as well.
You get to the middle of March and you get in the NCAA tournament, it's about Long Beach State and New Mexico. And those that are able to play, those that are able to coach, you just do what you do. And that's what we've done all year.
And we won't prepare any differently. We're going to try to do what we do well, and hopefully that's going to be good enough. And if it's not, we take our hat off to them. Regardless of whether he plays or not is not going to have an effect on how we play.
Q. Coach, in a nutshell, what do you think are going to be the keys to victory for your guys?
COACH ALFORD: Well, I think throughout the year, our ability to take care of the ball and get the shots we want have been big keys for us at the offensive end. And then really defending the way we've defended all year. We have been a very, very good defensive team all year. And we're going to have to be that in this game.
They obviously with four 1,000‑point scorers in their lineup, we haven't faced that all year long. So this is a team that knows how to score. It's very up‑tempo, fast paced, extremely well‑coached team. So this is a team that presents a lot of problems for any defense. And we've just got to hope that the experiences that we've had throughout the year defensively and what we've had to guard already is good preparation going into this game.
Q. Dan was up here earlier talking about the relationship you guys have and how it dates back to Top of the World Classic. Could you talk about it from your standpoint of how that's developed and stayed so strong over the years?
COACH ALFORD: Well, it's just been a tremendous relationship. That's why I thought it was unfortunate that we ended up having to be paired. Because obviously only one of us gets the opportunity to go into the weekend.
And Long Beach State is one of those scores I check every Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday, Sunday, however it hits the schedule. But you're looking medicine week for Long Beach scores. You're looking for weekend scores for what Long Beach is doing, because of the relationship I have with Dan. The families are very close.
And really, that relationship was struck up at a luncheon at the Top of the World Classic when he was at Gonzaga and I was at Southwest Missouri State at the time, now Missouri State. So I think we've followed each other. He went to the Big Ten the same time I went to the Big Ten. He left the Big Ten the same time I left the Big Ten. There's been a lot of parallels that way, just the track of where we've gone. We both went to the west or myself to the southwest at the same time.
So it's been fun following the success of his program. And we've just been really good friends since that luncheon.
Q. The success that you had in New Mexico, what have been the keys? What have been the challenges you've faced and what's enabled you to have this kind of success?
COACH ALFORD: I think I've been in the business long enough, 21‑plus years now at the collegiate level. You have to have an administration that supports you. And that's through good and bad, of whatever takes place. You have to have a strong administration that can step out if they need to step out and support you.
And then when things are going good, we've been fortunate we've had a five‑year run that's been outstanding. We've had five real high quality years. But whether it's been good or bad instances, no instances, you've got to have that support. And you've got to have administration that equips you and gives you things that you need to be successful. I've been fortunate, I've had an administration that's done that.
On top of that we have an incredible fan base. We're playing in front of 13, 14,000 every night. At home we have one of the most special basketball venues in the entire country, of which we just put $60 million in a renovation project over the last three years. So couple that with just a great institution that appreciates student‑athletes that are doing things the right way and a coaching staff that is putting their foot forward doing the same things, I think it's a great situation. That's what we have.
Q. Wondering about you and Dan, the similarities, not only in your career path, but your contentment, as well. He talked about going from Gonzaga to Minnesota and back to Long Beach, where he's found a high degree of happiness. Has it been a similar path back to the joy of coaching basketball, getting back to New Mexico off of BCS level, that you've refound that?
COACH ALFORD: I don't know if BCS level really has anything to do with it. I think it's just where your path goes. I had a great four years at Manchester. I had a lot of fun at Missouri State for four years. And I had a lot of fun at Iowa. I was there eight years, we had 7 winning seasons in a row, we won two Big Ten titles, we were making postseason every year.
I just felt like there were things after I went through the interview process at New Mexico that I could be equipped with to do the things that I really aspire to do. That's not just NCAA's, it's really just building a program the way I felt like I needed to build a program. And those things have come true at New Mexico.
As I said at the onset, I've got great bosses, I've got a great support system. When you have people that support you and believe in the way you do things and trust when you come to them and say, Look, we need this. It doesn't mean the answer is yes all the time, but if there's no, there's a logical reason why.
And when you have that you can build a program. And that's what we've done in New Mexico. We've built a solid program that I think is not something that happens every three or four years. I think we're going to be a solid program every year. We've got a great recruiting class, a kid like Alex Kirk that's supposed to be on the team this year, that's sitting out, that is going to have a great career ahead of him.
This is a good program, something that stays consistent year in and year out. And I just felt like the timing was right for me, the children were at the right age. So you just kind of go with your gut. I've been very fortunate. Everywhere I've been, have there been tough times every place? Yes. I've been very fortunate the places I've been blessed to be a head coach at, they've all been really nice places for me to coach.
Q. Just wanted to get your thoughts on Indiana and what you've seen them go through and maybe your pride as an alum, just to see them get back to a nationally ranked program?
COACH ALFORD: It's been fun. It's the 25th anniversary of when I played there in '87. They did a great thing with our title team for the Stetson game in early December. They honored our team. They did it in a first class manner. It was a really neat experience for our team to get back and get in that environment. And then get in that environment where it's winning again makes it that much more special.
You root and pull for them like crazy as an alum. There have been some hard times, and hopefully through the hard times Tom and his staff have done a terrific time. And it's neat seeing them being at a national level again and competing at a very high level, because that's what Indiana is, and I think Tom and his staff understands that and that's what they're building towards.
Q. A lot has been made of U of M getting to the Sweet 16. That's what people are counting on and hoping for in Albuquerque. But last night President Obama picked you guys to go to the Sweet 16. Does that put some more pressure? And any thoughts about that?
COACH ALFORD: Well, a smart man.
We're optimistic about it, we're playing good basketball. I don't know if our goal is just to stop there. We've got big aspirations, big dreams, just like everybody else in this tournament. We're not in the tournament to be one and done. That doesn't mean that's not what's going to happen. We're going to play as hard as we can.
I don't know if I agree with just Sweet 16. We've won three championships in four years. We've been in postseason all five years. We've won more games in the history of the school over five years. I think the fans in Albuquerque appreciate the student‑athletes that are on the floor. I think that's why I'm so very happy there. I've got a fan base that truly understands unselfish play and hard work.
Do the fans want us to reach Sweet 16? Yeah, so do we. But I don't think that's the measuring stick of things. We're in the tournament. We're one of the teams in the field. We open up play tomorrow. You've got to take it one step at a time, one game at a time. Our guys, there's been no talk of Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four. All our talk since we won the championship, every ounce of energy has gone into Long Beach State.
Q. You talked a lot about just having administrative support and them coming through for things that you need. What do you need from your administration? What are the specific sort of things you need them to come through for you, what do you have to do to win?
COACH ALFORD: I don't think it's just ‑‑ all the elements of basketball, whether it be facilities. We have one of the best facilities anywhere in the country. I'd put our facilities up with anybody in the country, from the Pit to our practice facility to our weight room and training room, our locker rooms. We're having an academic center. How things flow for the student‑athlete. Your strength coach. Your academic advising.
Is there importance put ‑‑ everybody talks about grad rates and APR's, and the well being of the student‑athlete, that's easy to talk about it. But equipping coaches and student‑athletes where you have a great chance to be successful in that area, that's a whole different story. We've got that. We've got a $2 million academic center for our student‑athletes to learn and study in.
I think that's one of the reasons why the last five years we've had incredible not just grad rate, but APR. Our GPA has been over 2.7 for the last nine semesters as a team. That doesn't happen everywhere. And we've been equipped in every area that we think is very important to a program being successful.
And then post‑grad. Do you have an administration that cares about the individuals once they graduate? Once they're no longer winning basketball games for your university. And the answer to that is yes. We have an athletic director, we have a president, we have a staff within both, the first thing they want to do is meet with these young men when they're done and help them find a job. Again, that doesn't happen everywhere.
We feel like we've got all the things in place for our student‑athletes, one, to be successful while they're here, but more importantly the rest of their life. I think that's in place to help them be successful after that, and I think that's why we're in the business.
Q. The challenges or maybe how is recruiting at New Mexico different?
COACH ALFORD: We have a lot of open space in the southwest. So you don't have universities ‑‑ you drive an hour and you hit another university, you drive another hour and hit another university. So the openness of the southwest, one, it's beautiful country, for one, and beautiful weather. But ‑‑ which is great golf weather. I don't know if that helps with recruiting, it helps with head coaching mentality. It's great golf weather. But you don't have as many schools in a little area like you do in the midwest when you're competing against their recruiting.
We found that out. Obviously we want to take care of our state and then the neighboring states that we recruit very hard, all the way to the West Coast and California. If you look at our roster, we do have a lot of Texas kids and California kids, these are two big states, populated states that have an awful lot of talent in them. Those two states have obviously been very good to our program.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports