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March 18, 2014

Joe Callero

Chris Eversley

Kyle Odister


THE MODERATOR:  We're now joined by the head coach of Cal Poly, Joe Callero, and student‑athletes Kyle Odister and Chris Eversley.
So we'll open up the floor for questions for our student‑athletes, and we ask you direct your question to a specific student‑athlete.

Q.  How big of a deal is this back in SLO?
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  It's a huge deal.  As you guys probably know, we're not like a huge city in California and we're a town of about 38,000 people.  So this is a huge aspect of them, of our college experience, and for the student body.
We had people waiting for us when we got back at 3:30 in the morning from Anaheim.  That shows you what the city thinks of it, and everybody's excited for us another chance for us to make history.
KYLE ODISTER:  Definitely been a great experience for us.  Like Chris said, we got back, we had students waiting for us.  We had a bunch of text messages right after Selection Sunday.  We went to a sports bar, Firestone, and everybody's there celebrating, and then we found out we had to come to Ohio at 6:00 in the morning the next day.
So we're just still riding the ride and ready for our game Wednesday.

Q.  As a Cali guy, when was the last time you guys played toward the East Coast?  You've been there four years.  Did you come to any tournaments this way?
KYLE ODISTER:  This year we traveled a lot.  We went to New York for New Year's.  We played‑‑ what's that in the East Coast?
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  Played Delaware.
KYLE ODISTER:  We played Delaware.  So we went back and forth twice this year in a certain amount of time.  So we've been traveling a lot this year.  That's why we had tough preseason schedule.  That's why we feel like we're ready for the tournament this year.

Q.  Is there any danger in the fact you feel like you've accomplished something just getting this far?  Because this is a pretty remarkable turn of events that you find yourself in.
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  One thing we stress in our program is not having what we like to call altitude sickness.  That's when you reach a certain level of success.  Not letting yourself feel like you've arrived and not being complacent with anything you do.
So we try to keep our guys as the co‑captains with Jamal Johnson, who is not up here, but as the leaders of the team, we try to make sure everybody's staying hungry and staying focused and making sure everybody's on the same page in terms of accomplishing another goal.  Because we're excited that we made it, but no one's excited that we're just here just to be here.  Everybody else wants to come out and make some more history.  Why not keep it going.
Kyle, obviously you guys started with UCSB in the Big West Tournament.  Your record was what it was coming in.  Was there something you guys did differently going into the Big West Tournament, or was it just a matter of focusing and getting hot at the right time?
KYLE ODISTER:  UCSB is one of our rival games, so they beat us 20 points on our senior night, so that was tough to swallow.  We had them the first game of the Big West Tournament.  So we came out like this is it.  We have three games.  We started the season off 3‑0, so might as well end the season off 3‑0, and that's just what we did.  We had that mentality, and that's what we want to bring into the tournament tomorrow.
One of the strange things about the NCAA Tournament no matter where you are, the underdog ‑‑ usually you're playing before a crowd that a lot of people are neutral and they just want a sign from the underdog they can play with the favorite team.  Or particularly in your case, because your record, everybody's going to look at you as the underdog.  Do you get a feel at all that there are people pulling for you strictly because you're not like the other 67 teams in this?
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  Yeah, we definitely got that sense of just feeling that, like you mentioned.  But like we knew our season didn't really turn out the way we wanted it to, but we made sure nobody was just full of lament about like how their record was going into the tournament.
And it's just‑‑ we understand that we're the underdog.  We've been the underdog since we entered the conference tournament.  And nobody expected us to be here, but we stuck together and made sure that all 15 players and the rest of the coaching staff made sure that every guy in that locker room believed that we could honestly play with anybody in this tournament.
Chris, you starting up at Rice, the transition from Rice to the Big West, and there was the hope that you would get to the NCAA Tournament, but was it a tough transition going to the Big West?
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  It has been.  It's been a tough transition.  You can see it because it took us four years to get here.  So it wasn't anything that happened overnight.
But the decision for me to transfer was one of the best decisions I've made because it provided me with an opportunity to be around great people and great coaching staff and put myself in a great position to help a team get to the tournament.

Q.  And great weather.
            CHRIS EVERSLEY:  And great weather, exactly.  I'm not complaining.

Q.  Have you guys had an opportunity to look at all of Texas Southern?  And what do you think is particularly an area that you have to be good tomorrow night in order to win?
KYLE ODISTER:  Actually, we started watching them yesterday.  We had the whole day of traveling yesterday, so we just watched a little film on them yesterday.  We don't really know much about them yet.  After shootaround today we're going to go back and really lock in on what exactly what they do.
But the main thing we know we have to do is be there defensively.  That's what got us to this point.  We have to keep it going.

Q.  Chris, obviously Aaric Murray is‑‑ their player has also transferred.  Have you talked about him at all, or is that something you guys are going to do in the next 24 hours or whatever?
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  We covered him yesterday in the scouting report.  Like Kyle said, we went through their personnel and got the basics down.
We understand, you know, a great player, averaging 21 points a game, seven rebounds, I think 2.4 blocks or something like that.
So we've also looked at the rest of their team and like those guys that are contributing factors to why they're here as well.  And we're just going to keep our defensive principles, like Kyle said.  Pressure and defending and rebounding is what got us here, and that's what's going to keep us here.

Q.  Have you had the opportunity‑‑ was there anybody on campus or somebody who put you down late in the year or anything that you could kind of get the last laugh on?  Or did you get any odd‑‑ you said you got text messages and everything when you got back from the tournament.  I wondered if anybody said, hey, look, I gotta admit I didn't believe in you guys.
KYLE ODISTER:  No, our whole community has been behind us the whole time.  So we had a lot of support throughout the year.  They knew our talent we had.  We had some injuries.  I got hurt in and out of the year, and people were finding roles.
So people had faith in us and knew we played a tough schedule throughout the beginning of the year because we played Arizona, we played Pittsburgh, we played a lot of top teams that are in the tournament now.
So we knew we had a tough schedule, and the whole community has been behind us.
There might have been friends back home that said something, but at the end of the day they're still behind me.
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  As Kyle said, the SLO community is ‑‑ we're 6‑9 going into our senior night against Santa Barbara, and that game was still sold out.  Like there were people still there being supportive of like the three seniors and the rest of the team.
So that just shows you no matter what happens the SLO community is just that close and that bonded.  And since day one we both felt like we've been embraced as one of their own.

Q.  I'm not going to lie.  I got Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo mixed up.  Am I the only one to do that, or do you guys get that sometimes?
KYLE ODISTER:  We seen that on ‑‑ before we played the championship game, said Cal Poly Pomona versus Cal Poly Northridge.  We're like oh.  I mean, it was Northridge, we were like wow.  So we just want to make a statement so everybody knows now we're Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  DIRECTV is right there with you.

Q.  They do the same.
THE MODERATOR:  Any other questions for our student‑athletes?  Kyle and Chris, thank you.  Good luck tomorrow night.
We're joined by the head coach of Cal Poly, Joe Callero.
Coach, an opening statement before we open the floor to questions for you.
COACH CALLERO:  We're ecstatic to be here.  And how many teams in the nation say they're ecstatic to be a 16 seed and being in Dayton and aren't complaining about their seeding.
We love it.  We're pleased.  We've earned it.  Some people might say, wow, you snuck in.
We think we're a very good team.  We've been a very good program the last two years.  We won 18 games.  We set a school record for victories.  Last season as a DivisionI program we played in the semifinals and lost to Pacific at the buzzer who went on to the tournament.
We thought this year we were completely qualified to win the Big West Conference Tournament.  We played five high majors on the road to start the season off.  We're competitive at Arizona, Oregon, Stanford, Pittsburgh, and the Colonial Conference champion, Delaware, who are all in the tournament.
We've been seasoned.  We started off conference play 3‑0 and suffered an injury to Kyle Odister.  We were 4‑2 and we went on a terrible streak where we couldn't score consistently and Kyle wasn't playing.
We got Kyle back late in the year starting, getting some of the wear and tear off of them and we went on a phenomenal run during the tournament to get to the tournament.
But I think myself, the assistant coaches and the players are the ones who are least shocked to have a team that is 13‑19 in the tournament.
My last opening statement is if we win the National Championship, we'll have a winning record, 20‑19.  We have to win seven straight.

Q.  Coach, I saw UCSB earlier in the year and you obviously lost to them twice in the regular season‑‑

Q.  Did you beat them the first time?
COACH CALLERO:  Yeah, we beat them on their home court.  I'm going to correct you.

Q.  Correct me anytime you want.
COACH CALLERO:  Beat them on their home court; came up on Senior Night, beat us on our home court.

Q.  So, anyway, you guys obviously did a really good job in the Big West Tournament.  Did anything change going into that?
COACH CALLERO:  Yeah, we played them down at their place and we beat them with offense.  We hit 10 of 16 3‑pointers.  They came up to our place eight weeks later, because of scheduling was kind of weird.  We started off with them early in the year and rotated to playing them in the last game of the year.
And it was Senior Night.  They came up and kind of punched us in the throat and we never recovered.  They beat us down the court.  They beat us in the interior and exterior and we lost by 15 points.  We pushed back very aggressively and really turned up our defense, pressured the perimeter.
We forced some turnovers and we really won the second game based upon our defense.  Our man‑to‑man defense the last week at the tournament has been the best I've ever had a team play at Cal Poly in my five years.  That's what we're basing it on.  And what's happened is because our defense is turned up so much, we're flowing a little bit more relaxing a little bit more on the offensive end.

Q.  Is there a danger at all that, like you said, you're ecstatic to be here that you can consider this an accomplishment without necessarily playing through tomorrow?
COACH CALLERO:  Absolutely.  And we've addressed that with our players, that we're concerned about celebrating the birthday party for week‑long.
It's like we've accomplished a first‑time historical moment for Cal Poly as far as 20 years of DivisionI.  We've made the tournament as a Division II program a number of times.  But 20 years as DivisionI, first time we get to the Big Dance.
So everybody's celebrating the first time.  That's great.  I'm just glad that we are playing on Wednesday, not Tuesday, because I think it gives us an extra day to exhale and realize that was a great accomplishment but put that in the archives and move on now to try to win a first round game.
And I think that the more time that we have to come out here and practice and get our feet underneath us and get the emotions and go to press conferences and talk to parents, friends and family, eventually you're like, well, let's go play another game now.
I think if it was a Tuesday‑playing game right away, that would have been much more difficult for us about it's going to be a Wednesday game.  I think it's big to get us our emotional stamina as I call it.  We have to get our emotions back to an even‑keel level.

Q.  Along those lines, obviously 24 teams, there's YouTube and tape and stuff like that, but was it tough to get a scout on Texas Southern and do you have people that you can call?
COACH CALLERO:  With technology nowadays, you can get anything on anybody.  I can get a ninth grade team in Alaska's tape on YouTube if you need to.  Everything's available.  So in the last five years things have advanced that you can get any tape on anybody you need.

Q.  Just looking at the stats, Aaric Murray averaging 21 points for them.  Obviously the most important thing I guess for you is to play great defense and not allow him to hit his average and hold him down a little bit.
COACH CALLERO:  Yeah, it is.  And we've played against ‑‑ Al Williams got signed to Santa Barbara who's the MVP of our conference.  Al is 6'7", 6'8", 255, 260 pounds, and 21‑12 kind of guy, double‑double machine.  I think he leads the nation.
What we've learned about that is when you get a player like that you're going against, it's not just about stopping him.  Guys like that, if they draw so much attention from you, you leave their second, third, and fourth leading scorers open, they're flat‑footed 3s, they're getting easy drop‑off baskets.
So we've gotta do a great job concentrating on the leading scorer, but I put as much emphasis in the second, third, fourth options as well as making sure you know who the guys are coming off the bench, that X factor of a guy who steps on the court that maybe you didn't pay as much attention during the scouting report, comes and gets 10, 12 points and gets hot.
I think that's a big part of our team's maturity in the last two weeks is that notion that everything matters.  We talk about over and over again the game really comes down to one play.  You just don't know when that one play is.  Might be 12‑minute mark, 60‑minute mark, everybody focuses on the last play of the game, but many times that one play could be at the 12‑minute mark that you get a stop, you recover from defensively, you knock from behind, instead of them getting a layup, you knock from behind and get it and kick it ahead and it's a four‑, six‑point swing in those situations.
We try to look at it play‑by‑play, break the game down to, hey, they've got great players, they're going to have their run.  But just staying in the moment.  We've talked really a lot about one‑day contract, one‑moment contracts, just keeping the focus on the play at hand.  So don't get too far ahead of yourself in any direction.

Q.  You mentioned that it was a tough turnaround.  Can you go through the timeline that you had, what you guys had to get where you are now from Saturday night?
COACH CALLERO:  It's been a whirlwind.  Saturday night we win, it's West Coast time, 9:30, 10:00.  By the time we get the championship net cut down, get to the hotel packed up the bus, they didn't leave to get to San Luis Obispo until about 11:30at night.  Four‑hour drive north from LA‑Anaheim where we were up to San Luis Obispo, north of Santa Barbara.  So four hours in the bus, they got in at 3:30 in the morning.
There were 100 students waiting there to greet them.  I'm sure the players didn't go to bed until 5:00 or 6:00 when the sun was coming up.  We got up about noon, 1:00, 2:00 and we met for the Selection Show down at the local barbecue place.  Turned around and went up to the gym and did paperwork for the NCAA on gambling and physicals and flight.
Found out we'd be catching a flight Monday morning at 8:00a.m. so then we had to get up at 6:15 to get on the bus to get to Santa Maria to catch a charter, took the charter, got into town late yesterday afternoon, checked into the hotel, unwound a little bit and went out to a team dinner and looked at our guys' eyes and going, wow, in about 72 hours we went from trying to hope to win a championship of the Big West on Saturday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon we're sitting in Dayton, Ohio, at the Spaghetti Warehouse going we're here.
You go from 72 hours you're having a subway sandwich in Anaheim hoping you can win to going, hey, we're in the Big Dance in Dayton.
And the coolest part, though, I want to give the NCAA and the city of Dayton some real credit, kudos for when we stepped off the charter plane, there was a sign there on the cyclone fence, Welcome to the First Four, the first step to the Final Four.  It was a nice sign.  It was just‑‑ and there was a little basketball sitting on top of the cones where the charter jet ‑‑ I thought that was classy, the hotel lobby being decorated with team photos and balloons.
I know that you guys are reporters and you're not responsible for that, but I do think that it needs to be noted to the city of Dayton, the feeling and the hospitality that we've been in town now for 20 hours, I understand completely why the NCAA wants to keep the First Four here and appreciate the city for hosting that.
From a small school, small‑town Catholic kid coming to Dayton, being part of the NCAA Final Four and the whole tournament, couldn't be more appreciative.
I hope everybody will cheer for our team.  That's where we are, is what a cool thing this is.
THE MODERATOR:  Any further questions for Coach?  Thank you, Coach.

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