Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and players James Southerland Brandon Triche at Wednesday’s NCAA news conference:
What over these last four years has Brandon Triche meant to you, coming in as a young player with a well known name and where is he at now?
COACH BOEHEIM: Brandon came in and started as a freshman for us and played more games than anybody in the history of Syracuse basketball and won more games than anybody at Syracuse. He’s from day one, a solid, steady player for us. I think he’s there every day, comes in, works hard. He’s just been as steady as you could ask a player to be over four years. Involved in more wins than anybody in Syracuse basketball history which is a lot of wins.
Q. What do you remember telling Howard Triche (Brandon’s uncle) after that ’87 championship game? What do you remember saying to him? (Triche was the one who was defending Indiana’s Keith Smart when he hit the winning shot in that ’87 game).
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, you know, it’s always difficult when you lose in the championship game, the last game of the year and the last shot; that’s always a difficult thing.
Howard was a tremendous player for us, Brandon’s uncle, the co captain of that team and one of the steadiest players that we’ve ever had. It’s always difficult. There is nothing you can say after those games.
Q. Jim, is the thrill of having won it all, is that superior to the sting when a season ends or vice versa?
COACH BOEHEIM: There is nothing like winning the national championship. You can talk about it all you like and say you don’t need it or you don’t have to have it, but it’s the it’s the biggest thing that can happen to a college coach, and if you’re in this game for whether it’s a short period of time or long period of time, it’s the single, biggest thing that can happen to you or for you and for your program and for all the players and the fans of a program. There is nothing like this. Obviously we all know how important the NCAA Tournament has become. Like it or not, that’s just the way it is in college basketball. I think it’s gotten to the point now where, in the beginning you thought you were supposed to win a couple of games in the tournament. Now it’s difficult to win a couple of games in this tournament. It’s even difficult to win one. So I think the tournament has gotten tougher and tougher over the years, but it’s still it’s what you think about from the first day of practice for as long as you can keep playing this tournament. It’s just what college basketball has become.
Q. Going back to the loss to Georgetown here a few weeks ago, what has changed with this team since that, or has anything changed with the team over the last two weeks?
COACH BOEHEIM: I think during the course of 35 games you’re going to have a bad game or two. We just happened to have our bad game at the end of the year. It could be in the middle where you get beat. All the teams in this tournament had a bad game, whether it was Kansas at TCU or Duke at Miami, you name it. Every team has had a bad game during the course of a year or two or three, whatever. That has no relevance to anything else.
We played our defense has been consistent all year. Our offense has we haven’t shot the ball in come games and that’s hurt us in the games we have lost but in the nine losses I think the worst team we played was Temple. I think at one point in the season they were the lowest rated I don’t think they were the worst, but they were the lowest rated team in the RPI and they are probably in the top 50 now, so I don’t think we lost to anybody that was below the top 50, and I’m not sure how many teams can say that.
We had a good year. I think one of the weaknesses that we had was we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in three or four, probably five of those games, or six. We played better in the postseason because we shot better, basically.
Q. You talked about the game in ’87. How long did that stay with you? Did you have nightmares of Keith Smart hitting that shot in the corner?
COACH BOEHEIM: You never get over games like that. I thought we played as well as we could play in that game. Indiana was a big, big favorite in that game. I thought we played as well as we could play and we certainly had a lot of opportunities to win the game. At the end of games you can be ahead, you can be a little bit better, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to win if you miss a free throw or somebody makes a Keith Smart made 10 of their last 12 or 13 points. He played great the whole last part of the game after being taken out of the game, and he was one of the guys that I was worried about in that game.
He came back in and he was the guy that beat us. We played very well in the game. When you lose a game like that, you really almost never get over it. I got over it in 2003. That’s when I really I probably thought about it for those 26 years most of the time. I never think about it anymore. Coach Knight was good after the game. He told me we would get back and win it, he just didn’t tell me it would take 26 years. He’s smart, just not that smart.
Q. Any different feeling walking in here from a regular Big East conference game? Does it matter the venue in an NCAA Tournament?
COACH BOEHEIM: I don’t think about where it is, honestly. It doesn’t matter. We’re happy to be here and happy to be playing. If we were playing in San Jose we would be happy to be playing there. If you’re in this tournament and playing you’re happy.
Q. When the season ends for you, do you have a formula now or a structure in place for how do you decide whether or not there is going to be a next year? Do you take time, get away, wait for an epiphany moment?
COACH BOEHEIM: I’m hoping the season lasts forever because I’ve got to go to Disney as soon as this season is over so I hope we keep winning, I swear. I would like to keep playing all year. There is nothing worse than doing that! I can’t even go play golf anymore.
There is no process. There is no process. I’m coachin’ next year, I kid around a little bit and everybody gets crazy when I do so I’m not going to kid around about it anymore, I’m coaching next year, thrilled, got a great challenge, looking forward to it. About September if I don’t want to coach, I won’t coach.
Q. The coaching carousel is changing and going around the next couple of weeks. Is there a time frame that you think a coach should get to evaluate them or give them a chance to turn things around?
COACH BOEHEIM: You know, the worst thing that ever happened to college basketball and maybe one of the best things, you have to go back to Jimmy at George Mason getting into the Final Four and Butler getting into the Final Four. I think that’s the worst thing that happened to coaches because every school now thinks they’re there, why aren’t we, and as soon as they don’t get to the Final Four or advance to the Sweet 16 they think they need a new coach.
It’s unfortunate. It’s the way it is. When you look at history, schools that change coaches usually don’t do any better than they do because they don’t have the they haven’t put the resources in or they don’t have the right situation to be that successful. Sometimes things just come together in a short tournament, and a team teams are better now. All teams are better. If you do get it together in this tournament, you can win. Players think they can win, there are teams even teams that have made it to the Final Four like Butler and George Mason, that really struggled during the year. But things get going together, there is not that much of a difference anymore between the top schools and those schools. If they get it going, they can win, absolutely can win. But that doesn’t mean that everybody is going to be able to do that and that we should get a new coach.
Whoops, my first turnover! Since the microphone incident. It’s just that’s the nature, now that people and administrators think that their team should be advancing in the tournament or going to the Final Four and coaches are subject to that. Coaching has always been a profession of you have to win anyway, it’s not that it’s new. It’s probably better today because if you do coach at a high level at least you get paid for it, and when you get fired at least you made some money. Years ago you worked at a high level and got paid for it, and when you got fired you didn’t have any money. So it’s better from that point of view today.
Q. James, Indiana is one of those teams that you see on TV a lot. How much have you seen them play this year and how familiar were you with their players?
JAMES SOUTHERLAND: I feel like I see them every time I turn on ESPN. They’re a good team, consistently all year and definitely one of those teams you look forward to playing against. They have great talent, great shooters and all around great players. We feel like we will match up pretty well against them.
Q. Brandon, could you talk about have you ever watched the ’87 championship game with your uncle or how often does he talk about it? Is it a sore point that you don’t bring up at Christmas?
BRANDON TRICHE: No, I seen him play but I haven’t seen the actual whole game. I think watching it was like a missed assignment. I haven’t directly talked to him about it.
Q. What’s clicked for you guys since the Georgetown game here and then after the Louisville game in the finals of the Big East?
BRANDON TRICHE: I think coming together as a team. We became more urgent. We always stayed positive, even when we was losing. We knew that was make or break. We knew we had to have a good Big East tournament in order to propel us into the NCAA Tournament, so we played for each other.
JAMES SOUTHERLAND: We went through rotation switches, I was off the month of January and playing in the Big East, that was a crucial time and we were trying to get back in sync with each other because it had been a while since we played with each other, and I felt like we did a great job of clicking, playing together at the end of the season.
Q. For you guys, both being seniors, is this the best defensive team that you’ve played on in your four years, do you feel like?
JAMES SOUTHERLAND: Definitely. We have had great defensive teams but we’re long, Mike is 6’6″, playing the top of the zone, which definitely gives anybody problems, we have Brandon also giving people problems. He has a strong body, he can get rebounds, and then we have Rak, me and C.J. down there taking up the whole baseline, so I feel it’s hard for people to score. I feel Cal had a hard time getting through the zone, every time they moved we recovered because we’re so long, but yeah, one of the best defensive teams we’ve played on.