Siena's Fran McCaffery, Tay Fisher, Josh Duell and Kenny Hasbrouck met with the media Thursday to discuss the Saints' NCAA first round matchup with Vanderbilt.
THE MODERATOR: We welcome the Siena student athletes. We welcome Josh Duell, Tay Fisher, and Kenny Hasbrouck.
Q. You guys have undoubtedly been hearing for the last few days that you are a popular pick to pull off an upset in this game. At the same time Vandy's been hearing the same thing. Do you think that might be a bit of a disservice in that they were in that position last year and beat GW by 33? How do you guys have to guard against thinking that it's already won because you're a popular pick?
KENNY HASBROUCK: We really don't pay attention to the media when it comes to that standpoint. We know it's going to be a tough hard game, and we have to fight our hardest to win the game. It's going to be a real, fast paced game because they run the way we run. But when it comes to the media, we don't pay attention to that. We know how we have to work ourselves.
Q. Josh, you've gone up against a lot of bigger players over the course of the year. Now you're going up with a really big guy in Ogilvy. How do you defend a player like that? Is it a matter of denying the entry pass? Basically, what do you do to make up for the height mismatch?
JOSH DUELL: He's a great player, no doubt about that. I'm going to have to mix up the coverage, deny it from the front, come from behind. But it's really going to be a team effort. You can't ask anybody on the team to guard one person like that. So it's really going to be a team effort.
Q. Tay, can you comment on what a win would mean to the program in general?
TAY FISHER: It would definitely mean a lot, because this is an opportunity that's not guaranteed. We work hard to get here. Not many people know about us. Many people can't even spell Siena, many people don't even know where it's at. So we definitely want to be able to go out there and play our hardest and put a win for our program into the second round. That would be very important to us. We're not only representing ourself in the program, but we're representing the MAAC, our conference as well, which is a very competitive conference, but many people don't get the opportunity to see it.
Q. If my memory serves, and it is sometimes failing, you were part of a 13 beating a 4 when you were at UVM. Have you talked to your teammates now about just what that experience is like, and how something like that is something that you'll never forget?
JOSH DUELL: Yeah, some of the guys have asked me questions throughout the week. Just asked me what it's like. And I just said, you've got to really enjoy it. It's one of the experiences that you might not ever get a chance to come back here again in your lifetime. Many players don't even get to here once. I just told them to really enjoy it. It's up with the best experiences in my life, I know that. Coming back a second time I'm very fortunate. I've been on some great teams. We're going to try to do whatever we can to win.
Q. Now that you've seen a lot more on Vanderbilt, how do they stack up against some of the teams that you've seen this season already?
KENNY HASBROUCK: They're definitely one of the best teams we've played against. We played against Syracuse, Stanford, Memphis. They're up there with the best teams in the country. They have a very aggressive shooter, very good shooters in Gordon and Foster. They have a really good point guard in Beal, Ogilvy is one of the better big men in the country right now. It's going to take all our effort to win this game. I think we match up pretty well against them. I think they're going to have problems with our team as well the way they try to match up with us. It's going to be a hard fought game, and hopefully, we come out with a victory.
Q. Being a mid major, you guys have a long break, has the confetti stopped falling from last Monday night yet? Is ten days at this time of the year, is that really kind of a negative to overcome when you guys are used to playing so often? To wait so long to play this game, how do you stay sharp?
TAY FISHER: Just keep going hard in practice. We really did hope that we'd have a layoff and we were able to get right into the games, but unfortunately that did happen. We had like 11 days off. We're just trying to stay focused. We work hard in practice. The only good thing about having that day off is we were able to celebrate and have fun and enjoy the moment of winning the MAAC Championship, which I said, doesn't happen all the time. So we all are focused. We're all done with that, it's all over with. Now this is a whole new tournament. You're playing against the best teams with the best players and the best coaches in the country. I'm happy to say that Siena is one of those teams right now. But we've got to go out there and prove it and compete to the best of our ability, and hopefully the outcome can become good.
Q. I want you to follow up on something you were talking about with Vanderbilt: Can you compare them to any of the teams you faced this year? Do they remind you of anybody in conference or out of conference that you played on your schedule?
KENNY HASBROUCK: They remind me a lot of Stanford, with the dominant big man, and an outstanding shooter on the outside with a guard that likes to push the ball and get the ball to the better players on the team. So in that regard, I think they're a rhythm team, and we're going to have to try hard to get them out of their rhythm. We're going to have to really press them, change defenses on them, and keep mixing things up for them so they won't stay in rhythm.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen. We'll continue now with the head coach of Siena with Fran McCaffery. Questions for Coach.
Q. I know you've only been here three years, and I know obviously you weren't there in '89, but how many times if you had to guess, that Siena Stanford game of '89 is part of lore up there, and this would obviously be comparable. This time of the year do you hear about that game and the memories of that game from the people around the program quite a bit?
COACH McCAFFERY: They talk about that often. A lot of people who were at that game are here this weekend. We have a very solid basketball tradition at Siena going back to the '50s. But it was that game, it was the culmination of a lot of years of having a good team and making the decision to go Division I. Went Division I in the late '70s, then in the late '80s, they're knocking off a team of the caliber of Stanford. Our following is very unique for a school our size. Very few programs at our level can average 6,200 people a game. There are a few other games that they talk about with a lot of fond memories like that one. It's constant, it really is.
Q. You've seen all the film, if you could pick one team that you've played this year that Vanderbilt reminded you of the most, which team would that be and why?
COACH McCAFFERY: You know what, they're actually not like anybody that we've faced, in my opinion. I think when you look at size, you would look at Stanford, Boise, Loyola, for example. But there's no other team that we faced has what I consider to be a lottery pick in the middle. You've got the SEC Player of the Year on one wing. You've got a tremendous shooter in Gordon on the other wing. You've got skilled post players that are 6' 9", 240, and you have two very good point guards. You have a great freshman class with some versatility, the 6' 7", 6' 8" athletic player gives Kevin the opportunity to play different styles if he wants to. But I think if you look at this team, this Vanderbilt team, I don't know that there's another team that's that complete certainly that was on our schedule with the possible exception of Memphis, who is obviously one of the favorites to win the National Championship. But I don't think they play like Vanderbilt.
Q. When you look at the film and try to break down Ogilvy's game, what do you see and what problems uniquely does he present?
COACH McCAFFERY: Well, he's obviously much bigger than anybody we could match up with him. But I think the thing that I like about his game is he's not a block to block player. He can run the floor. He can face the basket, put it on the deck. He can make a left handed jump hook, he can make a right handed jump hook. He makes all his free throws. So when you have a player like that, you know, you're obviously looking for the chink in the armor, and he doesn't have many.
Q. This is the third different program you've taken to a an NCAA Tournament, could you first talk about that achievement? And secondly, how does that help you in dealing with the players, NCAA Tournament week they are very excited. How do you use that experience to get them ready for this game?
COACH McCAFFERY: Well, I think every one was special in its own way. The first time was 20 years ago, so I was at a different point in my career. So I had a lot of fun. But the one thing I always say, and I mean this sincerely, it's not about me, it's about these players and them having that type of experience. This is a group that, for me, I'm very fond of the players that we've been able to assemble, because as year three of a rebuilding process, and some of those players opted to come to Siena. The only thing that I had to sell them on was, I'm going to get this thing turned around. If you believe what I'm telling you and you follow our plan, we're going to win. Because I signed two classes at Siena before we ever played a game; a late group after I got hired in April, and then an early group in November. Now we added Ronald Moore to that class and Cory Magee late after we had some credibility with a 15 win season. But to answer the other part of your question, along with myself, who has been here a number of times, three times as a head coach, three times as an assistant, Mitch Buonaguro has been here I think nine or ten times; two times as a head coach, and eight times with Villanova. So we have tournament experience. We've both been to the NIT a number of times. We understand how to prepare for postseason play. What I've tried to do is get our players to understand just how special this tournament is, and how different it is. Because you can get caught up in that and lose focus on the fact that we're going to try to win a game tomorrow. I think we do a pretty good job of making them understand, follow the game plan, try to keep it as consistent as every other game that we've played so that there's not a lot of deviation. But it's just very unique. The way you enter the building, and the amount of media that were at practice yesterday, and the amount of media that were at our practices last week. It's a wonderful experience for each one of them they'll remember for the rest of their lives.
Q. Josh Duell is your one player with tournament experience. Have you encouraged or discouraged him trying to talk to the other players about what to expect this week?
COACH McCAFFERY: I trust that they've spoken with him and he would say the right things. I've not encouraged or discouraged him from saying anything. I would hope that he would share what he went through, because it's a different perspective. I was very fortunate, also, I had a chance to go three times as a player. The amazing thing is every one, I just can't emphasize that enough, how special it is. How thrilling an accomplishment it is to have the chance to play in the greatest sports extravaganza in this country. The exposure, the excitement. And what I've tried to do is make sure our players know and understand that I legitimately want them to have fun. They're not down here under lock and key, stay in your rooms, study the game plan. I'm trying to let them enjoy this experience, and that's what they're doing.
Q. When you guys come into this as a 13 against a 4 and such a wide gap, when you're at that point at that seed, do you come in with sort of a carefree attitude like, we don't have anything to lose anyway, so let's just play our game? Is there a freeness that comes with it with a lower seed like that?
COACH McCAFFERY: I don't know if that's the case. I think when you look at any seed from 12 on down, getting here is a major accomplishment. I think the challenge for us is to make sure our players know and understand that we feel like we can win the game. We feel like we'll put a game plan together that will enable them to win the game. At the same time being respectful of a team that won 26 games in the SEC, with the SEC Player of the Year. So our players are smart. They're going to be able to watch the film and see how good Vanderbilt is. But we're coming into this game feeling like we have a legitimate chance to win.
Q. There's been talk about Vanderbilt feeling somewhat slighted, perhaps, that they're really the true underdog, even though they're a 4 seed because everybody's picking Siena, and a lot of people like Siena but it's a 13 seed. How much does all this talk even matter come game day? Does any of it factor into what happens on the court?
COACH McCAFFERY: I really don't think so at all. I think a lot of there's probably too much talk about seeding. For example, our tournament was done on a Monday, and the decision didn't come out until Sunday. That's all that was in the paper, are we a 12? A 15? Are we a 14? A 13? I remember the time when we didn't have a bracketologist, and Joe (Lunardi) has sort of quantified that. So everybody would get up and look and okay, where are we going today? Today we're going to Denver. We're playing Xavier. We're playing Vanderbilt, going here or there. The bottom line is when the tournament starts, everybody is zero and zero, as simple as that sounds. Doesn't matter what our seed is, doesn't matter what Vanderbilt's seed is. What matters is what happens at 7:20 tomorrow night.
Q. I think to be fair, you inherited a bit of a rebuilding project, obviously. I know there hasn't been a lot of time for reflection since you're still in the midst of this season. But do you think three years and getting to this point was maybe too much of an ambitious timetable? If somebody had said to you three years when you took the job that you'd be here with this sort of program and these kids and this sort of youth in it
COACH McCAFFERY: To be honest with you, I thought it might take a little longer. But I think that's the beauty of building a basketball program. I was fortunate that we had a few players at Siena when I got there that were very good players, but more importantly had tremendous character. And I hope they feel a part of this. And that's Antoine Jordan, David Ryan, and Michael Haddix in particular, along with Mike Beers. Those guys were part of the building. Then obviously Tay Fisher is the only one in that class who stayed. And he's a phenomenal character. So I had some good players with character. And the first step was Kenny Hasbrouck. You sign Kenny Hasbrouck in May, and he's the rookie of the year. Two years later he's the MVP of the conference tournament. I think one practice in I could tell that he was special, probably be the preseason player of the year in our league next year. So that gave us a little bit of momentum. And we were able to convince Ubiles and Alexander Franklin, hey, we've got some good players, we are going to win. I think when it's all said and done that's what players want to experience. You can't guarantee them they're going to get here. But I think I felt like I could guarantee them that we'd be knocking on the door to get here, and that's what we did.
Q. Kevin Stallings said that you guys have known each other for a while coaching in the Midwest. Can you just fill me in on your relationship professionally? Or how you've known each other over the years and what the connections are there?
COACH McCAFFERY: I got to know Kevin when he was an assistant at Kansas and I was an assistant at Notre Dame. So periodically we'd go head to head in recruiting. Then see him on the road. As you all know, he's a very engaging person. I've always been impressed with Kevin's success. But I think more importantly the way that he has remained humble despite all of the tremendous success that he's had in this profession. So, you know, we see each other on the road. I knew Tom Richardson, one of his assistants, when he was a high school coach at Nazareth in Chicago. So there is some connection there. And I think a mutual respect.