NCAA Tournament Press Conference Quotes :: New Mexico State Coach Chris Jans

CHRIS JANS: Obviously, we're thrilled to be here. It's what every young man that starts playing basketball dreams of playing in is March Madness, and certainly when you choose this profession as a basketball coach, this is the goal, to be in March Madness. I'm elated for our university, for the storied program, certainly to be able to give them another Championship in our first year is rewarding. They're used to winning. It's kind of an exhale moment when we won at GCU and we could add our team to the list.

Q. Chris, Gregg got a lot of questions about you earlier today. Your time at Wichita State. One of the things he said, I asked him what he learned from you or maybe what specifically he could remember.
CHRIS JANS: Nothing.

Q. That's not what he said. He said that in the Final Four run that you made a specific call on how to handle Aaron Craft and ball screens. Do you recall that? Was that indicative of the responsibility he allowed you to have as an assistant coach?
CHRIS JANS: Yeah, my nine years at Wichita State, I look back on them fondly. It made me the coach I am today. Blessed and fortunate to have worked for such an arguably, in my opinion it's not arguably, but the best college basketball currently. That run was awesome. The thing about Coach that people don't know unless you work for him is he wants coaches. He doesn't want clipboard carriers or just recruiters. He wants you to coach and teach the team, and certainly as a coach that gives you confidence when you have Gregg Marshall over your shoulder urging you to coach and teach.

Certainly over time I built some trust level up with him, and I had been with him for a few seasons before we made that run. Turnarounds are quick in March Madness and you've got to rely on your staff to do a lot of scouting and he trusted me with that. I do remember the Ohio State game and Aaron Craft is a great leader and an unbelievable basketball player and we picked up some squats and we drew a line at 17 and in and said we're not going to allow him in there. Normally we're hedging ball screens and trying to put pressure on the handler, but for that particular game we built a halo there at about 17 feet and we had to almost dare him to shoot and I think it took him out of rhythm a little bit and obviously we had really good players that ended up winning the game.

Q. Chris, what has this experience been like for you here in your first year? I read a quote that Mark had with Jemerrio saying he wasn't sure if you guys were going to be any good this year and here you are once again back in the tournament. What has the experience been like?
CHRIS JANS: It's been awesome. A heck of a ride and hopefully it's be not over. It just came together, a lot of factors have come into play. It started obviously with Mario Moccia and the New Mexico State administration giving me the opportunity and we rolled our sleeves up and got after it. When you look at the roster when you are trying to get a job of returnees, you get excited because of all the returnees we had. But when the dust settled it wasn't nearly as many guys returning and the best thing I did was hire an unbelievable staff. My guys are big time. Lou Gudino, my associate head coach is a head coach on my staff. Jeff Mailhot and David Anwar are power 5 level coaches in terms of individual improvement and dealing with the players and the relationships and when you've got a staff like that that's behind you supporting you, that gives you confidence to run a program and the most important thing that we've got going is our players. We're talented! I've been telling them that since day one. We've got enough talent to make some noise; and, you know, it's been talked about plenty of our struggles in the fall and the buy-in factor that wasn't quite there and finally we got on the same page and we kinda took off and obviously it's been a wonderful season thus far and we're hoping to continue it.

Q. The 12-5 match-ups in the NCAA Tournament, that's where people try to find an upset with those games. I think ESPN said 28% have picked New Mexico State to beat Clemson. How with you kept your team focused on the task at hand and how do you get them to embrace the underdog mentality leading up to the match-up?
CHRIS JANS: You can't control them. I have no idea how much time they've spent on their phones or how much time they've looked deep into the analysis and the build-up of each game. But certainly we addressed it last night that it's great to have Charles Barkley pick us to win. But he's not scoring any points for us and these other analysts and experts, certainly there has been quite a few of them that have talked about us being a possible trendy upset pick.

But at the end of the day it has no bearing on the outcome. Once the ball is tipped and once there is some activity, anything like that's going to go out the window. So we don't put much stock into it and I'm hopeful that our players aren't buying into that type of talk as well. I don't anticipate them doing that. They've been mature all year long and have handled the moment and the platforms that we have played on.

Q. You talked about the buy-in factor a minute ago. The win/loss record indicates that it was seamless, but it sounds like it took a little longer. How do you instill that culture with the guys coming from outside the program?
CHRIS JANS: It took a while to be honest with you. I've led programs in the past, junior college and Division I. This is the sixth time I've had to do that and it's the first time I've taken over a program that had won so much in a previous season. So that's a different animal. When you take over a program that hadn't won much recently with the returning players there's instant buy-in, so they're willing and able and wanting to look at a different path and culture. But when you have guys that have had a lot of success and they're strong-willed and tough minded and they got in their head how things should be done and here I come in as the third head coach in three years with a completely different philosophy and outlook and certainly I'm trying to build a culture like every head coach, trying to win games and have a good season.

But at the same time for the long haul get our expectations on the table and our culture on the table and it was a struggle. The fact that we had to recruit all summer and fall and we didn't have our whole team there until school started we weren't able to do any team stuff, so we were behind the eight ball a little bit in terms of relationship and building our team.

I remember telling my wife, Sheri, about a week before the first game that if we get to Christmas and we're above 500, remind me of this conversation because once the games start rolling in and we start losing games which we're gonna, I'm going to be upset and depressed and in a bad place, you need to remind me we should be happy if we're above 500 because if you looked at the schedule that I looked at, it was a tough schedule we put together and they bought into it. They really did.

We were lucky for whatever reason the stars aligned and our guys like each other. They really like each other. They didn't like me a lot for a while, but they like each other. They played for one another and we had an exhibition game in Midland Junior College for the hurricane victims of Houston and we got our tails whacked. Texas Tech and Coach Beard just whipped us, and I believe that was the impetus for change and helped us get on the same page and it took off from there.

Q. One of the players referenced that exact game and identified that game as a turning point as well. I would think from the outside that a big loss would make them believe in you less, but he said that it brought everyone together and made them believe in you more.
CHRIS JANS: Makes sense. I'll tell you why because they weren't listening very much. They weren't bought into the schemes that I was selling, the expectations that I had of them to, you know, play with their hair on fire.

That's what we mean by that, is that they weren't playing that style of basketball and they weren't having the daily focus that I wanted and it was a struggle. We talked until we were blue in the face about it and try to scare them and say it's going to be a long season. We gotta get on the same page and I'm not changing. You guys are the ones that are going to have to get on my side and I would tell them in practice, listen, when you guys win, meaning you beat me down and play the way you want to play, we lose. If you want to win, we gotta get over here and get on my side of the fence.

I really believe that loss, they looked around and said we better give this a shot because this isn't going to work and it's going to be a long season around Las Cruces and none of them wanted to do that. But I knew it changed because our practices were so much better we got home and on the court and it took off from there.

Q. Chris, a little bit more of a light-heard the topic, the WAC Championship after you cut down the nets you showed off your socks. I want to know the story behind that?
CHRIS JANS: It was fun. I brought them again. I'm not superstitious. We'll see. I let my wife dictate what I'm going to wear. I don't remember the exact game. Actually it was Grand Canyon at home, our AD, Mario Moccia hit me up and said he had a gift for me. I was expecting something nice, and he had a pair of socks. He said, hey I picked these up. I thought they were great. I thanked them and for whatever reason I wore them in the Grand Canyon game at home and we won that game, and I had those socks on and there are pictures of the socks and I thought it was kinda cool to wear those socks in that particular game.

Again, I'm not superstitious. But as I was getting ready for the Grand Canyon game, the Championship game, it just dawned on me, I didn't pack this way and I turned to Sheri and I said I have the same suit on that I wore at Grand Canyon and I have the same tie that I had on at home versus Grand Canyon and I was like, that's a good omen. It's a good start to the game. I'm not a superstitious guy but it worked out that way.

Q. I know you've had to answer this question a lot this year and some stories recently have been bringing attention to Jemerrio Jones as a rebounder. For people just tuning in for the first time and they're going to see 6-5 Jemerrio Jones who can rebound as well as anybody in the country, how do you describe why he's such a good rebounder?
CHRIS JANS: It starts with his competitive desire. You know, he's as competitive as any player I've coached in 26 years. He's special that way. He cares so much about winning, not just for himself but for his team. He's relentless. Rebounding starts with going every time and then he's picked up a knack of having sonar for the ball, and he tracks it down and he watches it. Like you said, he's 6-5, 195 pounds, and he's usually matched up with guys that are bigger than him and obviously on the individual scouting report it's the first thing that's highlighted on that report is check him out. And everybody knows he's coming and he just beats checks because he's so quick. The ball is shot and he has a flurry of moves and he follows the ball and he's relentless so it call comes together to make him an elite rebounder on the both ends of the floor and a lot of guys are good offensive rebounders, because they're motivated to score and maybe not as much defensive or vice versa. The bigger guys usually are better defensive rebounders because they're big.

But Jemerrio does it on both ends. The guys joke after games how many rebounds he stole from them. You took two of my rebounds, Jemerrio. I'm like he can steal all wants as soon as he continues to build the rebounding stats. He's not just a rebounder, though. His IQ is off the chart. He knows how to play. There are times at a scouting report and video significance I'm not sure he's paying attention and I ask him a question and boom he gets it right every time. So he helps us with his IQ and his ability to make plays and his instincts are really good as well.

Q. Was there a moment this year when he won you over, when you realized that he was more than just a 6-5 guy that wasn't paying attention maybe in film sessions? Do you remember one moment when he won you over?
CHRIS JANS: I don't. He's been really good in practice all year long. I was impressed with him this summer when his work ethic and how much he had bought into me and to the system we were trying to implement and I really don't have a moment that I said he's here, it was from day one. He's been really good about everything.

Q. Chris, I think Clemson is a top-50 as far as KenPom goes, defense has led you guys all season long. Is there anything differently you will do against an offense like that?
CHRIS JANS: First of all, if I'm going to do anything defensively I'm not going to tell you right now, but they're an awfully good team, top-50 offensively. Top-10 defensively. There's not a lot of holes in their game. Coach Brownell has a great reputation, a great teacher of the game and their staff has been around a long time and they've got a veteran team. Although those guys have never played in an NCAA Tournament they play in one of the best conferences in the country and they're playing against the best coaches and the best players there is to offer with the North Carolinas and Dukes and the Florida States and the Miamis. They've seen it all. They've prepared against the best. They're just a really good, sound basketball team and we'll have our hands full with them.

Q. Last year this team lost in the first round, has a history of getting here and losing in the first round. Why with your experience will that be different and what have you been saying to the guys to get them up for this?
CHRIS JANS: We'll find out if it's different tomorrow. I don't have a crystal ball, and we haven't predicted any sort of wins. I'm not that familiar with the past year's teams. All I know is this team has risen up to the platform, to the level when the stakes are the highest they play the best and I see no reason why they won't compete tomorrow evening and give everything they've got. The only thing I've every said is whoever beats us in this tournament is going to have to knock 'em out because they've developed a competitive spirit that I haven't been around that often and they believe in themselves. They like each other. They believe in themselves and obviously they've bought into what we have tried to sell to them and they're playing some of their best basketball of the season. So we are hopeful that we will get that on to the floor tomorrow night.