Big East Tournament Postgame Presser: DePaul
Big East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament
Thursday, March 8, 2018
DePaul Blue Demons
Marquette - 72, DePaul - 69
THE MODERATOR: We have Marin Maric with us and Coach. We'll take an opening statement from Coach.
COACH LEITAO: Anytime in tournament play, as everybody is right now, it's must-win basketball. And for their own reasons, Marquette needed this game. And for our own reasons, we needed this game.
And obviously we were a little bit short, as we have been a number of times this year. So that makes it a little more painful to endure when you know you have chances to win and you don't.
So they advance and we don't. But proud, extremely proud of our guys. This is a different atmosphere than when I first came on campus. And we've got to ride that.
But that being said, from Marin and the other four seniors who have put a lot, a whole, whole lot into this turnaround that we're in the middle of. And this understanding of what it takes to be successful and not just in the game of basketball but in life is really admirable from my standpoint.
With that being said, the game was nip and tuck. We talked at halftime about our energy. And I thought other than probably Rowsey and a couple of guys here and there that neither team was putting their best foot forward. We were making mistakes and we cleaned them up for the most part almost totally in the second half and put ourselves into position.
And we got stops. We got rebounds. They weren't offensive rebounding anymore. We got more confidence. We got more energy. Offense was clicking more and put us in a position to win.
So for that, you've got to be proud of our guys.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. The last play, can you just go through what was going through your mind? Did you want to go for 1 or were you happy with Max's shot?
COACH LEITAO: Yeah, I mean -- down one, we just needed a basket. And we ran a stagger to open Max up and then we wanted him to draft, to hopefully create a vacuum that potentially Eli could go to the basket with.
And the good thing for us when we did draft, they got a little confused on their communication and left Max wide open. And whether it was a last shot of the game or with 10 seconds to go or 10 minutes to go, or start of the game, that's the shot that anybody that's been around us would happily have. We've seen him knock down anywhere from 25, 30 of those in a row.
So Marin or anybody else would trust Max taking that shot.
Q. Coach, especially in the second half you guys were able to get to the free-throw line and slow the pace down to your liking in terms of setting up your defense as well. Is there anything that you saw going into the second half that was able to put Marin in a position to get to the free-throw line and really put you guys in a position to put points on the board?
COACH LEITAO: Yeah, I mean, we mentioned it at halftime. We talked about it during timeouts. It's the point of our theme is getting paint touches and getting paint touches.
And we knew that especially our perimeter players had some size advantage. So if we can go downhill, you know, maybe we weren't going to face as much resistance. And I thought in the second half especially that we did a much better job of going downhill.
And especially as the game wore on and late, Max going downhill and Brandon going downhill and Eli did a really good job of going down and making decisions. The fact that he had a double-double today was indicative of what he's done and helped us as a point guard, which is not his actual position.
But, yes, that's something -- along with Marin, just dumping the ball down low and having him play one-on-one and attacking the glass, all those things that happened around the basket are good for us.
Q. How instrumental has the new facility, the Wintrust Arena, been or going forward how instrumental will it be in helping for your program to actually grow and for y'all to attract talent to come play for DePaul?
COACH LEITAO: We've been asked that question since we broke ground almost three years ago. There's been nothing short of monumental in the name that I've always mentioned as a game changer, because in today's world when you're dealing with young people you want to make sure that their life is comfortable and we have an arena that represents comfort to them.
It represents what we need to compete on a day-to-day basis with everybody else, not just in this league, but everybody in the country.
For us, Chicago is really important. So the location is ideal. And it gives us an opportunity to show ourselves in a much better light than we ever have before.
Q. Marin, can you speak to, I know this isn't the result you wanted, but this season coming in as a transfer, what it's been like playing for Coach, this program and kind of a new era for them?
MARIN MARIC: It was real interesting. I'm so happy I came to DePaul because these guys made me feel like I was here for four years, not just one year.
They took me in like I've been there for a long time. I want to thank all my teammates, all the coaches, all that believed in me. I started off kind of slow. They kept sticking to it, keep sticking to it and they keep believing in me and they keep encouraging me to be what I am now, and I'm extremely thankful for the opportunity. And that's pretty much it.
Q. On top of that, Coach has talked about this through the season that Max sort of added, not only a new dimension to this team but just his overall attitude as well. Who is Max Strus and what are those qualities that come out in him?
MARIN MARIC: Max is a workaholic, definitely. Always first two guys in the gym, always getting shots up, always working to improve his game, always staying on top. I don't think he made one mistake the whole year, like when we have curfew or on time or anything. He's just perfect as anybody can be.
Q. Coach, can you describe the bittersweet dynamic between the close losses but no results? Is it good or bad? And moving forward next year, what lessons will you teach your team?
COACH LEITAO: I talked about this a lot. And one of the joys of being around this group is for people like Marin. Marin, what you see as a basketball player pales in comparison; he's an intellectual. He's a man that you can have conversations with about anything. And he's understanding. And I think that's a great quality, and I think that's what our school produces.
And so part of the results, I always go back to the base. And the base has been in the locker room with guys like Marin and the rest of the guys that we have.
There are two parts to a team. And you mentioned results and we're in a results-based business. But I look at reasons. And so the definition of a win, when you see it on the ticker at night is sometimes results-based and sometimes reasons-based. And there's a lot of reasons to be very, very proud and to be very, very optimistic about not only what we just completed as a season but as the five seniors move on, what lies ahead.
We build character. We build more toughness. We build sustainability. And there will come a day very, very soon we'll get some payback on all the games that we had that were just like today.
And so I look at it a little bit differently than everybody else. And I understand the business that we're in. As you mentioned, results is what people judge you by. But with this group, especially, and moving forward, I judge it on reasons.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.