Monday, December 22, 2014

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger brings his fifth different program to the NCAA tournament

Courtesy of ASAP Sports, here's a transcript of Oklahoma's press conference ahead of Friday's NCAA tournament game against San Diego State at the Wells Fargo Center.

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger brings his fifth different program to the NCAA tournament

Courtesy of ASAP Sports, here's a transcript of Oklahoma's press conference ahead of Friday's NCAA tournament game against San Diego State at the Wells Fargo Center.

Q. Romero, I think you're the only guy on the team with any experience in the NCAA Tournament. I know it was I think your freshman year. What have you told the other guys, and have they even needed to be told anything?

ROMERO OSBY: I hadn't really thought about it. I feel like every game is like the NCAA Tournament as far as how hard you've got to compete and everything, so I really haven't tried to lecture them because the first time I was in it I didn't really play a lot, but we did make it. But this is the first time I've been a significant part of a team and we've made it, so it's kind of a first for me, too.

Q. Amath, Coach Fisher kind of gushed about your athletic ability when he saw you play at Wyoming. How do you think you've grown since you were in that league.

AMATH M'BAYE: I think I grew a lot just being around Coach Kruger and his staff. This stuff does a great job of getting the best out of you, whether it's like shooting or being an athlete. I think they did a good job with me and just expanding my game and being something more than just an athlete. Hopefully I'll be able to show a little bit of the stuff I was able to work on these last two years.

Q. Amath, what do you remember about Coach Fisher's teams from your time at Wyoming?

AMATH M'BAYE: Well, the team and coach when I was in Wyoming was probably one of the best teams San Diego State has ever had. They were fourth in the country for a long time. They had Malcolm Thomas, Billy White, Kawhi Leonard and all these guys were great. They were really good, and they pretty much busted our butt three or four times.

But yeah, we won one time at home, but other than that I lost all the three battles. I mean, he's a great coach. He's known for being a great coach, good recruiter, and he always gets the best out of his players, so it's going to be a fun match‑up.

Q. You've talked all year about wanting to play in the NCAA Tournament, getting the program back into the postseason. Now that you're here, can you cut it loose with nothing hanging over your heads in terms of goals and accomplishments, or do you feel sort of we've got to still get a few things done from here on out?

ROMERO OSBY: We still want to ‑ our goal was to make it at the beginning of the season, and now that we've made it and we're in the postseason we're looking at it as a new season and an opportunity to definitely win some games. But we know we've got to take it one game at a time. But our goal is to come out here and compete as hard as we can and try and get a win.

AMATH M'BAYE: Well, we had high expectations the whole season and the NCAA Tournament was one of our goals, but as long as we're here, we might as well get a couple Ws, as well.

Q. Romero, what can you tell us about your first experience in the NCAA Tournament? What do you remember about that?

ROMERO OSBY: I just remember how competitive it was. We played against a really good Washington team that had some really good players, and it was just a tough battle, and we ended up losing the thing by like 12 or 13, but it was a close battle the first half and beginning of the second half, but I just remember the tougher team won, and they were a lot tougher than we were, and I don't want that to be the case this time.

Q. What has Coach Kruger told you what to expect about coming into this kind of environment in this region?

AMATH M'BAYE: Coach Kruger's been here like many times, and we know when he talks about the NCAA Tournament we should definitely listen especially for guys like me who haven't got a chance to be in it.

Like Romero said, pretty much word for word, he said the most physical and the team that wants this the most is going to pull for it and be able to win. It just depends on how hard we play and how we get like the little things, like the loose balls and all this stuff. It's going to be really important for us to be able to advance.

ROMERO OSBY: Same as Amath said, pretty much Coach Kruger has been here many times and his staff has been here many times, and he's coaching us on how every possession is significant, every possession is important. We just want to take heed to his words and make sure we go out there and play like we're supposed to play.

THE MODERATOR: We have Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger.

COACH KRUGER: Thank you. It's a delight to be here. The guys worked hard all year and they've made consistent progress, and I know they're excited to be here and excited about the opportunity to play in the tournament. They had that as a goal way back to last spring, and again, they worked consistently hard to make the necessary progress, and they've done that.

We're playing a very good San Diego State team in the first round, and we know what Coach Fisher has done over his career, and it's been outstanding, what he has done at San Diego State. He has been outstanding and our guys have a great deal of respect for that and we look forward to the game tomorrow night.

Q. Coach Fisher was saying you two have become good friends over the years. What is it about him that allowed you two guys to hit it off and is it any different facing him?

COACH KRUGER: It's always different when you're facing someone that you've really gotten close to over the years. It started when I was at Illinois and he was at Michigan, a little interaction there, and his wife Angie would hook up whenever we would go to different conferences and Nike trips or whatever. Just a good guy. Just a good family. His players always play really hard for him, and they do a great job.

Any time you play a friend it's always a little bit more difficult because each wants to win but you also know how the other guy feels, too, on the other side line.

That's the nature of tournament play, and we'll be happy for sure if we win, and if we don't, then I know he'll have a little bit of a concern for how we're feeling on the other end.

Q. I know you know Coach Fisher very well, but what do you expect to see from San Diego State tomorrow and what have you told your guys about getting a win against them?

COACH KRUGER: San Diego State very much like Coach Fisher's teams, they play hard, they're rangy, they're athletic, very stingy defensively, very good loose balls, second shot opportunities. They have a lot of guys. Franklin is a terrific scorer, a lot of other really good players around him.

Like a lot of other teams, they've got a lot of weapons and they play well and they play free, and they're very aggressive and active and are very good basketball team. Very good rebounding team always. We'll have to take good care of the ball, be strong with the ball, make the extra pass, try and limit them to one shot. Have to do a lot of things well to win.

Q. When Steve was in here, he referenced the 2005 game when you were at UNLV and made up a 10‑point deficit in the last 30 seconds of the game. What do you remember of that game and what stands out to you now eight years later?

COACH KRUGER: Well, I intentionally hadn't brought that up because I know how painful it was for him. That was our second year at UNLV, and actually with 20 seconds to go on the clock we were down 10. We had the ball and scored with 19 something to go to cut it to 7.

But just everything that could have gone wrong for them did. Everything that needed to go right for us did. We made a three at the buzzer to get it into overtime. One of those fluke finishes that just not much control either way about what's going on. They missed a free throw, we make a three, they turn it over, we make a three. Just one of those things that's hard to explain, but it did happen.

Q. What's enabled you to have so much success at so many different programs, and if you could just talk a little bit about being the first coach to take five different teams to the NCAA Tournament.

COACH KRUGER: Most obvious, obviously, is it takes good players to play in the NCAA Tournament. You just don't get here without good players. We've had good fortune to have had a lot of good players through the years. We inherit a guy like Romero Osby who's been the difference maker for our club this year; not only points and rebounds, but leadership and maturity and focus every day when he goes to practice.

Literally since last year Romero has not had a bad practice. He's not come to practice without total 100 percent effort, total focus, total investment, and when that happens out of your best player, other guys just naturally buy in. We work hard at that, the communication part of it.

We talk to Romero a lot about what it's going to take and what he needs from us to be that type of a leader. But he's not wavered, he's stepped up. I think every stop along the way it takes your better players being totally invested, totally genuine about it, team‑first attitude, all of that. It really comes from the leadership among the players, and Romero has been absolutely terrific.

Q. Coach Fisher was talking about the infamous game in San Diego where it was 10 points in 30 seconds. What do you remember about that, and he said you genuinely felt bad after that?

COACH KRUGER: Well, I did, because like we just talked about, it wasn't anything that we did or that he did, it was just one of those things that got out of control and they missed a free throw, we knocked down a three, they'd turn it over, we'd knock down a three. He'd take a time‑out and then come out and miss a free throw. So it really wasn't anything that either of us had any control over, it just happened.

Any time you win a game like that, you know you're very lucky, and yet at the same time regardless if it's a good friend like Coach Fisher or anyone else, you feel badly for the guy on the other end because there's nothing that could be done about it, it just happened very quickly and it was over.

Q. That one win obviously was one of the few you've had against Coach Fisher in your record over the years. Obviously you've seen them a lot, but at the same time you haven't had a lot of success. Do you think that prepares you or is it a bad thing just because you haven't had a lot of success versus ‑

COACH KRUGER: Yeah, our guys don't have any idea. It won't have any play in tomorrow night's game for sure. Coach Fisher has done a great job. He's had good teams. They've beaten us a lot more than we've beaten them. I have no idea what the numbers are, but we're way on the short end of that.

But as far as tomorrow night, I don't think that'll play into that.

Q. There's a lot about this game, I think San Diego State feels pretty good about itself with this match‑up because you're not an extremely big team and they're not a big team and they've had success against your teams in the past. They've been here quite a bit, Chase Tapley is in his fourth year in the tournament and you really don't have very much experience.

What gives you confidence about your team's chances? What do you think might make this a closer game than maybe on paper it appears?

COACH KRUGER: Well, they've got all the tournament experience. We've got none. Our guys, sometimes when you're not totally sure what you're going into, you're better for it sometimes. Our guys have made consistent progress all year long. They've responded to adversity well all year long. They've focused and made consistent progress. They've played with confidence for the most part the last half of the conference season.

We certainly had a two or three halves where we didn't play like we would want to, but for the most part they have moved the ball well. They made the extra pass. They shot it with confidence. Good job defensively and just need to continue that and do that for 40 minutes.

We've done it pretty well for the past six weeks. We need to avoid those stretches where we haven't. We've been inconsistent a little bit that way, so we've got to try to improve on that.

Jonathan Tannenwald Sports Producer
About this blog
Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

Jonathan Tannenwald Sports Producer
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