March 21, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Coach, opening statements.
COACH Kevin Stallings: We congratulate Siena. They were the much better team today. Obviously, we're very disappointed in our play and in the outcome. But when you get to this point in the season, it's really imperative that you play your best. Particularly when you're a team like us that doesn't have a particularly big margin for error.
We didn't play our best. I wouldn't say that we've been playing our best. In other years we've been able to kind of get that switched around when the tournament has come, and for whatever reason we weren't able to get that done this particular season. But we're awfully proud of the season that we had. I'm proud of my players, I'm proud of their efforts. Again, we weren't a very good team tonight. And unfortunately for us, that's a lot of what we'll remember and that makes it a bitter pill to swallow.
You do the best you can, and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. Again, unfortunately, for us tonight it didn't.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the Vanderbilt student athletes.
Q. Shan, you guys were 4 of 20 from behind the arc tonight. What did Siena do to affect that?
Shan Foster: They did a good job of switching out whenever we were trying to come off screens. Myself personally just making sure they stayed close to me. Not allowing me any space and things of that sort. That's pretty much it though.
Q. It's been a good ride for you. What do you think you're going to miss the most?
Shan Foster: Definitely my teammates. I couldn't ask for a better set of guys that I just enjoy being around them. Great guys on and off the court. They gave everything they had both in practice and on game day. Just the bonds that we shared throughout the year.
Q. Did you see anything out there on the court from Siena that you didn't expect that you weren't expecting going into the game? Was this game more the result of what they were doing or your inability to execute overall?
Shan Foster: No, we were well prepared for what they were going to do. Our defense just wasn't up to par today. Any time you don't play well defensively in the NCAA Tournament, you get beat.
Q. Andrew, if you could talk about how much Shan and the other seniors have meant to you and how much they've taught you this year?
Andrew Ogilvy: They've definitely taught everyone a lot this year. Especially just how to lead a team. It's going to be a really tough year next year without them here. And I wish them all the best next year.
Q. Did you feel like you all took advantage of your size inside as well as you wanted to and needed to?
Andrew Ogilvy: Perhaps in the first half I wasn't playing as well as I should have been, and probably wasn't presenting myself enough. But in the second half I thought we did a really good job of getting the ball inside and getting good looks at the basket.
Q. How frustrating was it for you guys every time you guys tried to make a little bit of a run, they had an answer for you guys it seemed like the whole game?
Shan Foster: It was very frustrating. But coaches say all the time it's hard to get into an offensive rhythm when you're not making shots, and when you're not getting stops. Our defense has really let us down today. Like I said before, in the tournament you don't play defense well, then you get beat.
Q. Questions for both players. Shan, if you could go first: Siena got off to a hot start. Ten minutes into the game you guys are staring at a double digit deficit. Did that start at all catch you guys by surprise how hot they were at the jump?
Shan Foster: I don't know if it caught us by surprise. We knew that they were very capable. We didn't know that we'd go out and have the type of defensive effort that we put out. So, no, I wasn't surprised at all.
Andrew Ogilvy: I think more of the surprise was the way we came out and started playing. We thought we were going to come out and play a lot better defensively and get a lot better looks offensively. To come out and play the way we did it just wasn't really good.
Q. Do you still consider this to be a successful season even though we're asking you this after a loss?
Shan Foster: This team was a special team this year. We got a lot accomplished. Any time you're able to go 26 8, you know, that's obviously doing something great. Unfortunately, we have to end it on a loss, but, you know, I think it was great for the guys coming back next year to be a part of, so now they know exactly how much they have to work to get back here and get further.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now take questions for Coach Stallings.
Q. As much as you guys talk about defense in the SEC Tournament tonight, what is the disappointment in the fact that they shot 56% and you guys couldn't get a stop when you needed it?
COACH Kevin Stallings: Well, the disappointment was really all season long I didn't get this team to play defensively the way it had to play on a consistent enough basis for us to win the way we wanted to win. Now, again, 26 8 is not that's not a terrible year, but we just never were consistent defensively. And, again, that's my responsibility. It's completely my responsibility. I was just never able to push the right button with this group because we worked harder defensively all season long than we did offensively. We spent more time trying to play defense, trying to get better on defense.
Generally speaking, our teams have played pretty well defensively at the end of the year. Generally, we get better as the season goes along. We hit a stretch where we play decent defensively there in February, but the last two or three weeks it wasn't what it had to be. Tonight was an apparent culmination of that.
Q. You said coming into this week that you're remembered by how you play in March. Given that, how do you feel like this team will be remembered at this point?
COACH Kevin Stallings: I think that most will certainly think that March was very disappointing. In terms of the season, you know, I really think that we probably overachieved in some respects. I think if you look at the season as a whole, I think that this group got a lot out of itself. But, again, not enough defensively to where we could become great. We were good, but not where we could become great. Again, that's my responsibility, and my failing in this team.
Q. This group of seniors leaves as the winningest group in the history of the program. Could you talk about what the group means to you as a coach.
COACH Kevin Stallings: They're extremely special. Not only as basketball players but more importantly and more so as human beings. They've been everything that we desire to have at Vanderbilt and in our basketball program, from a character standpoint, from an attitude standpoint. We talk a lot about being great teammates, and these guys have been great teammates the entire time they've been here. So they've really been the whole package. All five of them will have their degree in May, and there really isn't anything you could ask for more than what these guys were able to give.
I think their success and their records speak for themselves in terms of being the all time winningest class in the school's history I'm exceptionally proud of them and very, very appreciative of all that they've done.
Q. How big of an upset do you consider this to be tonight?
COACH Kevin Stallings: I thought looking on tape that it would be a tough game. I thought going into it I thought we were better than them. But, again, it doesn't matter and I tell our team this all the time, it doesn't matter who the best team is, it's who plays the best. Siena played the best. I'd have to reevaluate my thinking, because watching what I watched out on the floor tonight, they beat us to the ball, they beat us to spots, they were better with the ball than we were, and they were better when we had the ball then we were when they had the ball.
So they had a lot more answers tonight than we did. So certainly the team that deserved to win the game won the game tonight.
Q. I know it's a long way off, but how do you build on 26 wins? What do you take out of this going into next year?
COACH Kevin Stallings: Well, I don't know. I think every season is an effort to get the most out of what you have. It's not really, in my estimation, about building on this success. It's what the objective is every year, and that is taking the process of becoming the best team that you can become and making the most of it.
I'm not, again, I sit here even after getting our butts whipped out there, and I think that maybe we got a lot out of this team. I think that this team got a lot out of itself. That's how we gauge success. We don't gauge it by 26 wins. We don't gauge it by NCAA Tournaments. We gauge it by what is this team capable of, and how close did this team come to achieving what it is capable of?
We're disappointed the season ended tonight. It will always be disappointing to us. But in some ways we got pretty close, probably.
Q. One of the few bright spots defensively tonight was Jamie Graham on a couple of plays. Have you been pleased with the way he's come along this year, and are you expecting bigger things out of him in the future?
COACH Kevin Stallings: I'm a big Jamie Graham fan. He has really added a lot to our team and added a lot to the personality of it. I think that Jamie's got a chance again. You just don't know how much progress a guy can make when he plays football and you're only going to have him for part of the year. Jamie was a very welcome addition, and really, really a great guy to have on our team this year, and we loved every minute of having him, and I thought he played very well when he was in there tonight.
Q. With three so called upsets in this building today, just talk about whether you think there is a closing gap between the mid majors and the majors in college basketball?
COACH Kevin Stallings: I just think the nature of the NCAA Tournament is that it's about match ups. It's not about seeding, it's about match ups. Do you get a match up that is good for you? And Siena, obviously, got a match up that was good for them. Western Kentucky got a match up that I thought was good for them. Obviously, San Diego made the most of their match up.
So, again, so much of it depends on how you're playing when you hit the tournament and then who you draw. I don't know that yeah, you know, the gap probably is closing because there are a lot of good players out there. There are a lot of good players. I think that shows through. There are some guys on that Siena team, obviously, that would be very successful SEC players. So maybe that gap is closing.
THE MODERATOR: From Siena, we welcome Coach Fran McCaffery and student athletes Tay Fisher and Kenny Hasbrouck. Coach, your opening statements.
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: Obviously I'm very proud of our team's effort. I thought one of the most critical things that was going to happen tonight for us to win was how we came out at the start of the game. And I thought we jumped on them a little bit. We got a lead. And I thought that was very important. I was concerned about foul trouble. We got into a little bit of foul trouble with Alexander. Obviously Tay Fisher was phenomenal, but so was Ryan Rossiter and so was Cory Magee.
We had great play off the bench. We got in a little bit of foul trouble. But the fact that we got the lead early and answered every run they made, I think, speaks to the character of this team.
Pretty much the last quarter of the season I think we started playing defense the way you have to play to win games against good teams. And I think this is the culmination of that, and we get to play Sunday.
Q. Every time Vanderbilt would get within nine, ten, 11, something like that, you guys always had an answer. How critical was that, that you never let those mini runs become big runs from them?
TAY FISHER: We knew they were a great team, and they were a great coming back team as well because we prepared for them. And we knew their plays. The scouting report was great and we just followed the game plan. And I was telling the team that we've got to act like we're down right now. And that's kind of hard to do when you just look up at the score. But it's been working the last six games whenever we were down. And I just felt like if I continued doing what was going right for us, it would lead to something good like this, and it definitely did. It was a great win, and I'm just happy for us right now.
Q. Kenny, similar question for you, you seemed to ask for the ball, demand the ball almost at times when it looked like they were going on a mini run. Did you have that confidence that you wanted the ball in those situations?
KENNY HASBROUCK: Yes, I felt as though they were struggling guarding the drive and penetration on our offense, and I felt as though I had a mismatch when it came to driving the ball and creating for everybody else and myself. So, yes, every time they scored or went on a mini run, I just tried to get a good basket or create a play for somebody.
Q. When you guys see Western Kentucky winning and San Diego winning, does it kind of get contagious? Do you get that feeling going into the game?
KENNY HASBROUCK: Actually, we wanted to be the first upset of the day, but besides that, it just shows that mid major teams are coming up. There's not a big separation between mid majors and high majors, there's just great players all around the country. Just focus when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. Our Coach Buonaguro told us the best teams in the tournament, the ones that prevail are the ones that focused and concentrate on the game plan, and that's how we tried to come up.
TAY FISHER: We knew that it was going to be a tough game, and we just came out and worked hard. We know that it's basketball. Teams aren't going to win with the name that's on the front of your jersey. You've got to go out there and play hard. A lot of people weren't going for us, and some people were going for us. But with all the predictions, we had to go out there and play hard. We know once the NCAA Tournament starts, since this is a lot of our first experience, we had to go out there and leave it all on the court and we did that tonight.
Q. How big of an upset do you guys consider this to be, if at all?
TAY FISHER: I really don't consider it an upset, because I have confidence in my team. And I knew that we can hang with anybody in the country. We had a tough schedule against Stanford, Memphis, Boise State, Syracuse. So Vanderbilt, they were right in that category with all those great teams that they play. So this was just like a regular season game. And we have gotten so much better since we played those teams. So I definitely feel like I can hang with them.
When people say Cinderella, it really doesn't come to my mind because I knew we could hang with anybody, and it definitely proved today and I'm just happy with this group.
Q. You were perfect from the field tonight, but you didn't take any two point shots at all; 6 or 6 from three. Is that part of the game plan or the way things developed with you getting open looks?
TAY FISHER: That's just the way things developed. I hit my first couple of threes and they started putting big players on me. And I knew that I had to use my quickness and keep running off screens, and if that didn't work, just keep running and keep running. It definitely played to my advantage because I was not only getting open shots, I was also helping my team get baskets as well because they worried about me a lot. And that's what I have to do.
I'm just out there just to play defense as best as possible, and hit the open shot when I'm there. And I definitely did that tonight. I couldn't have done it without my team and my coaches coming to me every time.
Q. Tay's the old man of the crew, he's the only senior, do you guys look to him for leadership? I mean, you've gotten freshman and sophomores. It's kind of unbelievable this run. Is he the guy you look to for leadership?
KENNY HASBROUCK: Yeah, he keeps leading by example. He had two real big games straight and probably two of the biggest games of his career. It shows how good a person he is. How much he's focused and how concentrated he is on the game plan. And it just feeds off of everybody when he's playing that good.
Q. As a shooter, how do you pick up where you left off from the conference championship game not having played in 11 days?
TAY FISHER: You just got to stay focused. Our practice has been tough. We've been going hard every time. Having those 11 days off it could be a bad thing, but it definitely got us focused and got us prepared for this tournament. We went out and celebrated and had our fun. But once you hit the NCAA Tournament, you're thinking of the best coaches, the best players, the best teams in the country. And I was just really excited to say that Siena was one of those teams. And I think that we went out there and we proved it.
But it's just going to get harder and harder for us right now. We've just got to stay focused every time because we really want to go far, if possible. Just get as much as we can get done.
Q. As the game progressed, could you sense more and more frustration on Vandy's part?
KENNY HASBROUCK: I think for the most part they started backing down from us. They were trying to pressure us as much as they could. They thought we were going to turn it over, and it worked for the first five minutes of the second half. But I think when we started attacking and backing off and they started finding out that we weren't going to back down from them at all, and we were going to keep attacking, it worked to our advantage instead of theirs.
Q. The other two games today were last second shots, but you guys won very convincingly. What message do you think you guys sent to the country today about Siena basketball?
TAY FISHER: That we compete. It really doesn't matter who we're playing against, we're going to compete. The best thing about basketball is you've always got another chance to be able to make up the things that you didn't do right. These last six games or seven games that we had, we won every game, but we got better every time. That's what we have to do. We have to get better every game and treat it differently, because every team isn't the same. So we're just getting prepared and starting right now. We already enjoyed ourself. We only have a day to prepare.
So we have to take it, soak it all in, because it is definitely a business trip. All the fun will happen once we get out there and get the job done.
Q. Can you share a little bit of what you were saying to Coach when he picked you up at half court after the game and held you for what seemed like a very long time in the air?
TAY FISHER: I don't know what I was saying, to be honest with you. I was just saying that we made it, and that we're doing this for our program. We're doing it for ourself. We really came a long way. And we don't have a big team as you can see. Most of the teams we play are bigger than us. So we've got to go out there and compete and use our quickness to our advantage, and that is definitely what we did.
I really don't know what I said to him, it was just a real exciting moment. Hopefully we can do it again. And I'll think about what I say next time so I can let you know (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: Now we'll take questions for Coach McCaffery.
Q. The emotions of that moment, you pick Tay up, give Kenny a big hug. These are guys, one of whom stayed, one of your first big kids you got in here. Talk about the emotions of that moment.
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, it's been a long journey to get here. I don't know if anybody realizes what it was like those first few months on the job. Seemed like everything was going wrong. And Tay was a rock. Everybody was wavering, and a bunch of people left. The players that had signed, they bolted. He was the one guy that stuck it out in that class. And there were a few key players ahead of him that were also a part of this, and I hope that they feel like they're a part of this. But Kenny being the first player to say yes to me, that's very special because he believed in me as someone that could be a part of his career, which is very important to him. He's a special player, he's a special person. And I think you can see his character probably more so than you see his talent. Because when it got a little sticky, he was the guy, and he's been like that for three years. Both of those guys are very special to me.
Q. Did you think that your guards could control and dictate the pace of this game to the degree they did?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: I did. Obviously I was concerned about the big fella in the middle. I was concerned about Foster's threes. But I felt like we could really get after them on the perimeter. They only made four threes. This is a three point shooting team. Led the SEC in three point shooting. So I thought our attention to getting out and getting a hand up on the three point shooters was critical. But I think more importantly offensively I felt like we could spread them out and drive on them.
I thought Ronald Moore could run the offense the way he did. I thought he was tremendous tonight.
Q. Edwin had three first half points, Josh Duell had none, Alex was on the bench with foul trouble, yet it seemed to be going to plan and you guys are up 12. Did you think it was going to plan at that time? And how were you guys able to overcome the absence of contributions from a couple of key players that first half?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I think the way we did all year it's contributions from those who came off the bench. Obviously Tay was phenomenal. I thought Ryan Rossiter was spectacular in the first half. His length, I thought bothered their big guys. He makes a great finish when Chris de la Rosa penetrates. In that period of time when they really revved up the defense. Chris busted through, kicked it off to Ryan, he finished it. And I thought that energized him.
I mean, that's what you have to have. You cannot come into a tournament like this, play a team that won 26 games and rely on three or four people. It's going to have to be a collective effort to advance and it was tonight.
Q. On the other team Shan Foster the SEC Player of the Year. You guys limited and controlled him as well as any team has this season. What exactly did you do defensively and what did you tell your defenders to do to limit him so much?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: I think Edwin's a good match up for him. They're built similarly. I think Foster murders guys in the 6' 2", 6' 3" range. You've got to put somebody on him who is 6' 6", 6' 7", he's got big length. He's a big shot fake guy. We try to stay down on his shot fakes. He shot fakes at the start and at the end of his move, and he gets a lot of threes in transition. First thing we did was limit his threes in transition. Have a bigger guy on him, and stay down on his shot fakes and make him more of a driver.
Q. You've got ten freshmen and sophomores, how did you prepare them for the big stage?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: I think two things, fortunately on our staff myself and Mitch Buonaguro have had a number of opportunities to participate in this great event. So we shared some of those experiences. I think one of the things that helped us also is the fact that we won our conference tournament on Monday. The bids didn't come out until Sunday. You look and say you're off for 11 days, is that going to be a negative? I felt like it was important that we have a chance to enjoy winning the championship, and then get to a point after three or four days where we put that behind us and started focusing on the next task at hand. I thought that enabled us to focus a little bit better.
But I do think that despite the fact that we have a young team, our upperclassmen of Kenny, Josh Duell, and Tay Fisher are tremendous leaders. But we have a great sense of maturity in that sophomore class. Those players have played a lot. They've produced. We have all league players in that sophomore class. We have a great point guard. We don't turn the ball over. So I think coming into this we were not in awe of what we were going to face, and I think we proved that.
Q. For the Commodores it's kind of been on Shan Foster's back when they're down late in the game. When you went in at halftime, was that a point of focus for you guys to limit Shan?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: We felt like in the second half they would do two things, ratchet up the defense, and run set plays at Foster and Ogilvy, that's what we thought. We did a better job on Foster than we did on Ogilvy. Part of the reason we didn't do a good job on Ogilvy is we didn't go get him. We played behind. We wanted to go get him a little bit. But we were so concerned about Foster, Gordon, Beal shooting threes that we had a tendency with the lead to stay out on the three point shooters and then Ogilvy got some buckets. We went and got him one time and got a big stop. So that's how we looked at it.
Q. With two weeks to go in the MAAC, it was a five way tie for first place. How important was it for you guys, and how big was it to be playing almost tournament basketball those last five games in the MAAC?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: I think that's a great point. Absolutely critical. We were in control of our own destiny, then we lose two games in a row. One at home in overtime. We lose on the road by a point. Then we're looking at a 5,000 mile trip to Boise, Idaho for bracket buster. And I think our team had, I think our team was going to go one of two ways on that trip. When we beat Boise the way we did, I think that was a statement of which direction we were going to go.
Go into the last weekend tied with three other teams and, obviously, had the win, won both games. Got the first seed. Secured the NIT bid, then won three games in our conference tournament. So it was sort of that every game is almost a "lose you're out" type of mentality. And it started long before the conference tournament. So I do think it was very beneficial.
Q. Jim Calhoun earlier today was talking about San Diego kind of gaining confidence early on. Did you feel like you guys had that the first ten minutes so you proved to the guys that they could play with Vanderbilt, and then did you see the confidence growing as the game went on?
COACH FRAN McCAFFERY: Oh, there's no question. Last thing you want to do in a situation like this is fall down 10 2, because now it's going to be a struggle. When you get a lead, jump shooting teams are going to struggle a little bit more when they're behind than when they're ahead, so we never let them get the lead.
I thought establishing the fact that we were going to be the aggressor from the opening tip was absolutely critical. Not only in terms what have they thought of us, but what our players thought of themselves.