Highlights from the post-game news conferences Saturday night after the University at Buffalo defeated the University of Toledo, 76-66, for the Mid-American Conference championship:
Q: Coach, we haven't seen a run of titles like this since I think 2002 with Kent State. How much pride do you take in this consistency you've had the last couple years?
Nate Oats: It started with Coach Hurley, I was his assistant. We really got it when I came out of Romulus, I told him when I interviewed, look, if I'm going to leave a program like Romulus, I'm not trying to bounce around every two years in college basketball as an assistant, so we've got to do this. He was with me, like yeah.
So in two years we got it going, so Justin Moss played for me at Romulus, he was pretty good. We got it rolling with him, he did a great job. Having Coach Hurley came in really boosted the program's profile. I thought Danny White did a great job with that. He left.
And I've got to give Danny White tons of credit. I love him for giving me a shot. I was a high school coach two years before he hired me as a Division I coach. Most people won't do that. Give him a ton of credit.
He hires me and all of a sudden three guys go to Arizona State that were supposed to play for us, Navigato and commits to Toledo, which worked out all right. We ended up with CJ Massinburg, he's not a bad player. Justin Moss gets thrown out of school and all of a sudden we're down five guys. That first group, you've got to give them so much credit with Blake. Even last year's team, we finished second in the league.
We maintained it enough where we could really recruit a kid like Jeremy (Harris) because we had been winning. Jayvon (Graves). Let's not act like I'm some genius coach. Sometimes coaching is a little overrated. You get the best players, you get them to play hard, you win a lot of games.
Well, if you go to some NCAA tournaments, it is easy to recruit the best players, and you can keep this momentum rolling. And the recruiting class we've got coming in next year is a big reason along with Jeremy, Nick, CJ. All these guys are back next year, why I really wanted to, like, let's get a contract and stay here, we've got something building.
So I credit the administration now, and we've really had some great people in administration just from Danny to Allen. Allen's like the best AD I've worked for, it was no surprise he went to Auburn, and now Kathy was able to get this done with President Tripathi.
Kids want to go to the NCAA Tournament, so Wes Clark played three years at Missouri, never played in the NCAA Tournament. They made it to the NIT one year. I told him, we had a good talk this morning, like bro, like I'm telling you right now, like the NCAA Tournament is like nothing it's the best sporting event on the planet. You can't put thousands of hours into your game and be 40 minutes away from an NCAA Tournament and not get there because we didn't give everything we got. You got to play in this thing I'm telling you, I've been in two, like you got to do it.
And he made sure we did it. So now he gets to play in the greatest sporting event on the earth and I think it will help recruiting down the road. You keep getting the best players, you're bound to win a few games.
Q: Wes, you had to sit out last year, they didn't get here. Was this kind of what you envisioned when you decided to come play for Nate, your old high school coach?
Wes Clark: Definitely, man, we pride ourselves on winning so we knew as long as we stuck to the grind and we went out there and was the tougher team, not with any kind of extra stuff, we got a saying, what is it, TPWC?
Nate Oats: P-P-T-P-W-C, which is player plays tough, player wins championship.
Nate Oats: He struggled, he had three points yesterday so we were texting I was at the game scouting, we sent him back to get some rest. He texted me. Like I made the shoot around at this point optional. I said if your legs need a break, don't come. Like you know your bodies better than we do. So Wes said, I'm showing up, I'm not ending my career like this. I said, well, you're not going to end your career, we're winning whether you play great or not. We ain't losing together. It's just a matter of how well you play in the game. I said, I'll see you there at 8:30.
So we were up late, Coach (Jim) Whitesell, I don't know if he got any sleep, I got to bed about 2:00 or 3:00, got up early and came in, all three of these guys were in shooting.
So I said to Wes, like we just got to get back because I watched the Toledo game the first time and he killed them. That was maybe his best game, he had 25 and they couldn't do anything with them. I told our video guy Tommy, get him on Just Play. It's our video thing that he can watch. I told him this morning, take a peek at your Just Play because you destroyed them.
He took 22 months off, he was just happy to play. We had to get the academics straight. He drove over the day of the Syracuse game, he was just happy to be on the floor again after almost two years. Have fun playing basketball, forget all about trying to make money afterwards, let's forget that and win a championship here tonight. I think he had a lot of fun tonight, at least it looked like he was having fun.
Q: Nick, obviously people that follow the MAC know what Buffalo's all about, but for people who haven't seen you around the country, how would you describe what Buffalo does best?
Nick Perkins: We're a team of many traits, fast paced, we can run and we hard-nosed. This is blue collar, that's our thing. We tough. Got a lot of guys that can score, so all around just a really good team 1 through 15. I think one thing that makes us so good is our depth. If we really want to, we could play about 11, 12 guys, so we really deep and I think that's something that's probably our best trait.
Toledo Coach Todd Kowalczyk: Well, I'm obviously disappointed we didn't win. I'm disappointed we didn't win for our players, first and foremost, because I really believe that they deserved as good as they've been all season long, they deserved something special at the ending. Just because you deserve it, doesn't always mean you're going to get it or have luck on your side.
I thought tonight, couldn't have played any harder. Really proud of how we played. You know, I thought we just had some stretches where we just couldn't quite get over the hump. We were right there, two-point game, two-point game, we had two really bad turnovers back to back, one by Marreon (Jackson) and one by Willie (Jackson). Right behind our back in the middle lane, and they would score in transition. That's the part of the game where they got a little bit of separation.
But the one aspect that we weren't very good tonight is we didn't handle their ball pressure very well, and for a team that has been unbelievable in assists all season long, you know, 13 turnovers is not a bad number by any stretch. Not great but not bad. But seven assists for us, that's just not how we play, and when you don't have the Player of the Year, who is also your top assist guy, you know, you play through. That's the reason why.
Q: Just with how this team came together this year and how much you looked forward to this second match up with Buffalo, will the what could have been game with Tre'Shaun Fletcher always be part of your career?
Todd Kowalczyk: I don't know if I don't define that as my career, but yeah, I mean, yes. I mean, just catch a break, stay healthy. You're the Player of the Year. But you know, our training staff and doctors were tremendous all year.
Tre now being out during the most important stretch. Yeah, I mean, just couldn't catch a break with that, to be honest with you. Because I really thought they were a little more athletic, a little deeper. I thought we were more skilled and a little more disciplined, and I thought we were the better team. But we didn't get a chance to show that. Over time we probably could have, but we didn't get a chance to show that tonight without Tre.
Story topics: UB men's basketball