CCU

NCAA Tournament Press Conference Transcript

No. 16-seed Coastal Carolina opens its NCAA Tournament play Friday against No. 1-seed Virginia at 9:25 p.m. on TBS

       

Coastal Carolina Head Coach Cliff Ellis

Coastal Carolina Head Coach Cliff Ellis

March 20, 2014

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The following is a transcript of the Coastal Carolina University men's basketball team's NCAA Tournament press conference previewing Friday's second round contest between the 16th-seeded Chanticleers and first-seeded Virginia Cavaliers at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. The game tips off at approximately 9:25 p.m. ET and will be televised live on TBS.

Transcription courtesy of ASAP Sports.

MODERATOR: Good evening. We're now ready to begin the Coastal Carolina portion of the press conference. Joining us for the student-athlete part of the press conference, Warren Gillis, Josh Cameron and Elijah Wilson.

Q. You've had a full week to look at UVA now. What stands out to you about this matchup and what gives you confidence that you might be able to pull off a surprise here?

Warren Gillis: The thing to notice is that they're a great defensive team and that they do not make mistakes on the offensive end. But one thing that they do is tend to slow down the game a little bit and that sort of is a similar style to the way we play. That gives us a good chance to win the game.

Q. Elijah, has it been as easy as you've made it look this year, and how has it been that you've been able to make such a smooth transition and play so well this year?

Elijah Wilson: My teammates made it possible. I give them all the credit to that. They welcomed me in and I guess they seen something in me. I just give them -- give all the team and the coaching staff all the credit for it. Like I said, none of this would have been possible without them for -- welcoming me in.

Q. You guys know the history of the 1-16 matchup. It's never happened before. What are your thoughts on what you're facing in that obstacle?

Josh Cameron: We know a 16 seed has never beaten a 1 seed before, but we feel confident as a team we're better than a 16 seed and we can win this game. We feel confident our style of play will help us against Virginia.

Q. Warren, the Big South teams have done well in the tournament thus far, Radford winning at Oregon State. Does it make you any more confident knowing the league's done pretty well so far?

Warren Gillis: Yes. It's a really underrated league and it's a lot of good teams in the league. And as you can see, getting some postseason wins. For us we're confident no matter what other teams are doing that we can come in and win this game.

Q. Elijah, how much more exciting is it playing in the NCAA tournament this close to home and how many people do you expect to come up from the coast here tomorrow?

Elijah Wilson: A lot of people back home said they were going to come to the game. I'm really excited for that. It's not too far away from Wilmington, so it's kind of a home fit. So it's very exciting.

MODERATOR: Any other questions for the student-athletes?

Q. To any of the three, have you seen much of Virginia? I mean, did you watch the ACC tournament last week? And what are your impressions of them, especially the way they played defense?

Josh Cameron: We've seen them play, obviously. We know they're the ACC tournament champs and the ACC regular season champs. So we've been watching a lot of film on them, noticing their tendencies, what they like to do on offense, what they like to do on defense. We're making our game plan around that.

MODERATOR: Any other questions?

Gentlemen, thank you very much. Good luck this weekend.

MODERATOR: Good evening once again. We will now continue the Coastal Carolina press conference with head coach Cliff Ellis. Coach, could you please make an opening statement.

COACH ELLIS: First of all, we're excited to be here. Having spent time in the ACC, I won't applaud Virginia, because I know how tough it is to win a championship. For them to win two championships in a year, when it goes outside the state of North Carolina, you've really done something. I applaud Tony and his team. Having seen film this week, they really are a good basketball team and he's done a tremendous job. This team is well versed defensively. They're long, they're strong. But offensively, they bring some dimensions in the fact that they can shoot the 3, get to the hole and they have power inside.

So we have a tough task at hand. We know that. But we're excited about being here and we want to make the most of the time that we are here.

MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Ellis.

Q. Hi, Cliff. Tony told us earlier that you and he have a relationship going back a long way.

COACH ELLIS: Well, we do. His father was a tremendous coach. Dick was a tremendous coach. But I played against Tony. My teams played against Tony. He was at Wisconsin Green Bay. A tremendous player. He was gutty. I remember the game in which he played. I can't remember how many he scored, but he was just a tough player. But he was feisty as a player. I mean, he could score.

He's brought that to the game and the coaching game. He's crafty. So I have a lot of respect for him. Takes me back to those days. But I remember him. I can see him right now. A very, very good player.

Q. Cliff, could you talk a little about Elijah and the season he's had and how surprised are you that he's been able to come in as a freshman and do some of the things that he has?

COACH ELLIS: He's a very skilled player. Freshmen have their ups and downs. He's been pretty steady. I've always liked his talent. You just don't know how freshmen are going to respond when the lights are turned on.

He's got the skill level. But the fact that he's been solid and consistent throughout the year has shown a lot about who he is and what he is.

He has game. He brings it on both end of the court. There's not a phase of the game that he's weak at. He can dribble, he can pass, and he can shoot.

Am I surprised? No. I'm happy. I felt that he had a chance to do something his first year, and he's met those standards.

Q. For those of us who covered you back in the dark ages in the ACC

COACH ELLIS: Those were the good days, back when the ACC was really the ACC, right? Lefty and Dean and all those guys.

Q. How have you remained so youthful, or shall we say retained your energy for the game?

COACH ELLIS: You're very kind. You're very, very kind to say that. Young people--I love to teach the game. I didn't get into the game for the money. I started out as a junior high school coach, high school coach. I love the game and I love teaching. I love working with kids. It keeps me young. I would have to say that that's the key. I love to compete. Some people like to go out and play golf, and I love to play golf. Some people like to fish, some people like to play tennis. I love to get a group of guys together, come, you get your team, and you bring it. That's kind of the way I grew up. Let's get a team, let's go play. I love the competition, but I love teaching kids and I love to see them grow, and I think that that's been the key.

Q. Cliff, you've been to a few of these tournaments, so I'm guessing you probably know how 1 seeds do against 16 seeds.

COACH ELLIS: Right.

Q. How do you approach your with that knowledge?

COACH ELLIS: Well, I've never been a 16 seed. So something in for the first time, it's about, I would say, the same scenario. At South Alabama, we'd not been in a tournament. Clemson, I think they'd been in one. Auburn, maybe one or two or whatever.

So it was always something you could go, hey, we've got a chance to make history. We got a chance to do that. I want them to enjoy the moment. First of all, what they've done for Coastal Carolina University, I mean, you're seeing it. This is huge. This is something that they will never, ever, ever forget. They'll look back on it and as they watch this tournament 20 years from now, they'll be talking about it.

I want them to enjoy the moment. At the same point in time, you have a chance to do something nobody else has done. Nobody has done. And somebody's going to do it. So let's make a point of doing everything we can to be the ones that do it.

Is it a difficult task? Yes. Is it impossible? No. Was winning the ACC championship at Clemson a difficult task? Yes. Was it impossible? No. It happened. Same's true at Auburn. Same at South Alabama. Same here. Same thing.

Calm under chaos when we start playing. One possession at a time. Don't look back. Don't look ahead because that's when, I think, people--I tell my players, I say if you do that--if you do this, you're going to choke. That might be a harsh word, but if you're going to win, you can't look back, and you can't look ahead. If they get up 12 and you start looking back, you're going to get beat. If you get up and start looking ahead, you're going to get beat because you'll choke. You got to stay in the moment. I'm a firm believer in staying in the moment. And that means calm under chaos. There's going to be some crazy things that happen.

Now, the difficulty is when you have an inexperienced team. We've got one player--we got nobody that's been to the NCAA tournament. We've got one player that's had one year of experience. So this is a moment they've not been in here. I haven't seen them react. This is going to be a moment.

But they sure have handled this year when there has been some chaos. They've handled it pretty well, so I'm hoping that we can follow that. That's what I try to teach them. You know how it is. We didn't always listen to our mommas and daddies, did we, a lot of times? Our teachers, we didn't. I think they will. That's my hope, that we'll do that. Let's just see what happens. But enjoy the moment while you're doing it.

Q. Just following up on that, has the talent gap narrowed from 16 to 1? You've seen the mid-majors rise. We've seen 15s beat 2s. Say 30 years ago, was the gap impossible and maybe now it's closer?

COACH ELLIS: I think that's a very valid point. I do think the game has improved because the game has been popularized. I mean, this is an event.

I will say this. You look at that tournament and I want you to look at how good it is. But look at the NIT and look how good that tournament has become. I mean, I watched it--that is great basketball that's going on. That's how many teams that are playing. And even the other tournaments.

Basketball has become so popular. I can remember when I started out coaching, our college players would win the Olympics. It was easy. College players. But as the game has become so popular and so international, everybody's gotten better. And the game has come beloved. It's not the sport that it was when I started as a college coach in '75. And back then, there weren't 64 teams. It was--people went --my goodness, when we went from 16 to 32, it was like what is the world coming to? Because is there that many good teams? There is room that if we had 96 teams, it would still be a good tournament.

When you look at the Florida Gulf Coasts and you look at the George Masons, you look at the Butlers, you look at the Gonzagas, and look at VCU who played the play-in game and went all the -- there needs to be more of those teams. I've been on both sides of the fence. The power conferences usually get most of the teams in. I've been on both sides and I've been able to be a beneficiary of being a team that wasn't the number one team in the conference to get to the tournament.

But now, on the other side, I do know the teams that we play are very, very good that people don't just get to see it. But the gap has changed because the players are better. There are only so many scholarships. And because the game has gotten popular and more kids are playing, there's an opportunity for a Coastal Carolina to get a good player, for a Florida Gulf Coast to get a good player.

It's become a national, international game and people love it. There's not a spectacle any better. I'm not going to say it's better than the Masters or better than this, but I'm going to tell you this, this tournament is a spectacle. Everybody loves it. Now you've got Warren Buffett putting a billion dollars up. You're going to take every housewife or every person who has a job that cares nothing about basketball; they're going to be watching these games, which popularizes the game because until that team's out, I got a billion dollars on the line.

So I think the chance--going back, I think the opportunity for a 16 seed to beat a 1 seed is better today than it was ten years ago. It's going to happen. And it shouldn't be an embarrassment to the number one team when it happens.

Now, you're going to have to do it right. You're going to have to play--right now, it's still got to be a perfect storm. But the perfect storm is getting to that point where it can.

Q. Josh Cameron was up here earlier and said he felt that you weren't a number 16 seed. When you got the seed, what did you think?

COACH ELLIS: Well, we were glad for the opportunity. I felt we were going to be a number 16 seed just from the standpoint of mid-major leagues, the RPIs, once you get in the leagues, once you get past the--we played the Clemsons, Ole Miss, the Minnesotas. Your RPI is pretty good during that time. But then when you're not in the power leagues, for whatever reason, the RPIs just go down.

I felt we were a 16 seed. I mean, I did. Just based on my knowledge and how committees work, I felt we were a 16 seed. I've been around. That's right.

Q. Cliff, the few teams that have had some success against Virginia this year have been able to get into the lane with penetration and hit some 3s. Is that how your team with three guards plays or is that something you could possibly exploit?

COACH ELLIS: Well, there's ways to get the ball in the paint. I think everybody wants to get to the paint. You either get there by pass or dribble. That's the only way you can get it there. So we'll try to exploit it both ways.

They're going to do the same thing. They're either going to get it there by pass or dribble. I think that's a common theme amongst all teams. And so when you get it in there, you got to do something with it. That will be the key. When you get it in there, what's going to happen.