Georgia State will play Xavier at 6:10 p.m. Saturday in the third round of the NCAA tournament in Jacksonville. Here’s a transcript of what the Panthers players and coach Ron Hunter said:
Q. Guys, you’ve won the past four games, all pressure-filled games, important games. At the beginning of the year, Old Dominion, Colorado State, some of those games you had leads and couldn’t hold on. What’s changed the past four games or what did you learn from those losses that you’ve been able to apply?
RYANN GREEN: We really just wanted to learn from our mistakes, and I know early on we were a young team, we were still learning together. And I feel like later on those lessons that — we lost early on in the year, that really taught us to win these games late in the year, and that’s what Coach told us, just stick through it, and it’ll all work out at the end.
Q. What were the mistakes that contributed to those losses?
RYANN GREEN: Late-game turnovers, mistakes, not rebounding the ball, a lot of mistakes really cost us, and we really tried to fix those down the stretch.
Q. Ballpark estimate, how many times have you seen the shot?
R.J. HUNTER: I’m going to be honest, I YouTubed it like 50 on my own, and just watching TV, around 50 more, so I’d say roughly around 100 times.
Q. Kevin and R.J., do you guys have anybody in the Sun Belt that’s as big and as tough inside as Matt Stainbrook, and any impressions of watching him?
KEVIN WARE: If we had to compare him to anybody, it would be Long from Lafayette. He’s a great player and he’s got great moves inside. He’s a great passer, so we’ve got to apply a lot of pressure. We can’t just let him get in his sweet spots. We watched a lot of film on him, and we’re going to continue to watch a lot of film on him.
Q. Ballpark figure for any of you, how many times have you seen the video of the coach and his chair?
KEVIN WARE: The memes are crazy. I’ve probably seen 100 different memes from Coach. They’ve got him falling outside of the White House. That’s probably the funniest one I’ve seen. But they’ve got real creative with it.
Q. If I could do a follow-up, where was the chair last night? What happened to it?
R.J. HUNTER: I haven’t seen it. That’s crazy you asked that. Where did it go?
RYANN GREEN: I hope they retired it because that one wasn’t working.
Q. R.J., just curious, your career and this shot, has it been harder being the coach’s son or has it made it easier growing up your entire life next to a basketball court?
R.J. HUNTER: You’re talking about just in reference to the shot or just in general?
R.J. HUNTER: Well, at this point, it’s great because my whole family is here and this is something my family has worked for. When you have that and you have something that you worked for and your family worked for together, it makes it that much more special. I think the shot just — I mean, it just put the cherry on top of all of it.
Q. Dee Davis said he knows you, you guys are pretty good friends. Can you talk about your friendship? Did you meet each other playing AAU ball and did any of you guys know any other players growing up?
KEVIN WARE: I used to watch Myles Davis when he used to play with the players, him and Kyle Anderson, all those guys. I’m from New York so watching them play IS-8 and things like that, they were always the younger guys that were next up for us. We’ve seen Xavier play numerous times just on TV being that they’ve come on TV a lot, but they have a great team. It’s going to be hard for our game tomorrow.
R.J. HUNTER: I know Dee Davis. He’s from Indiana and he’s on a two-time State Champion team, and we’re friends, but I’m not too fond of him beating me every time. He’s a real good high school player, man, and we had a lot of battles. I think I won one out of three. And Trevon Bluiett, that’s one of my best friends. We played AAU growing up since I was like five years old, and he’s really becoming a good player, and he had a great high school senior year, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes forward in his college career.
Q. If you could go into more detail about the success you’ve had against Sean Long and some big men this year, what has made you so effective?
KEVIN WARE: We just know how good of a player they are, so it’s just the utmost respect that we’ve got to give them when we play them on the court, honestly.
Q. What do you guys think is working well, not just yesterday for yesterday’s game, but the last few games for you defensively as a team?
RYANN GREEN: I think it’s trust, and it took us a long time to kind of get that trust as a unit. But it really came together at the right time for us, and down the stretch it’s really played a big part in our success, knowing that we can get stops whenever we want to and just knowing that our teammates will have our back if we gamble or if we make a mistake. We know we’ll have each other’s back.
Q. It’s been now almost a week since Coach injured himself. Are the jokes now — have they stopped or do they just keep coming? Are they going to ever get old?
R.J. HUNTER: No. And especially if he’s falling out of his seat every time something happens. He’s only adding to — we’ve got some more jokes now. We’ve got him falling out — of the White House. There’s a Life Alert thing with him and his leg up. We have way more heat now, trust me.
Q. Do they just keep coming?
R.J. HUNTER: It’s all fun. He’s a jokester, too, so he’ll say something to you back.
Q. Ryan, you’re the one giving him the most grief?
RYANN GREEN: No, definitely his son.
R.J. HUNTER: It’s Kevin.
RYANN GREEN: Before yesterday it had started to die down. Everybody was like, all right, but we was all interested to see how he would coach with the leg. Just for that to happen, it was like, oh, here we go, we’ve got something else to get on him about.
Q. Do y’all prefer the stationary Ron Hunter or the running around waving his arms —
KEVIN WARE: Stationary.
RYANN GREEN: Well, I like him to be there in the corner because it creates another defender for us.
R.J. HUNTER: I hope y’all saw when we were pressing yesterday he was sliding up, so it was like six on five yesterday.
Q. I know it’s been 24 hours now. I’m not sure if it’s sunk in, but you have a chance to make history. Very few teams seeded where you’ve been seeded in the tournament have reached the Sweet 16. Have you had a chance to think about what a win tomorrow would mean for your legacy and for the program?
KEVIN WARE: We’re not so worried about our legacy. We just want to go out there and win the game. We’ve got a good opportunity to get to LA, play in the Sweet 16, and that’s all we’re worried about. We’ve got to face a good Xavier team, and it’s going to be tough, but I kind of feel like if we do what we’ve been doing all year, we’ve got a good chance.
Q. Kevin, you’ve kind of had some NCAA experiences. I think that’s an understatement.
KEVIN WARE: Yeah, yeah.
Q. Two years ago, break your leg, you’re on a team that’s supposed to win and wins. Now, you’re on a team that wasn’t supposed to win and won in pretty unbelievable fashion. Which one is more fun?
KEVIN WARE: Definitely this one. I love being the underdog. Nobody is picking us to win these games, and that just gives us a bigger chip on our shoulder. We’ve just got to go out there and have fun and play how we’ve been playing.
Q. R.J., did you have more fun doing the imitation of your dad falling out of the chair or getting on him about all the criticism in good fun that he’s gotten for the Obama bracket?
R.J. HUNTER: There’s a lot going on there. I would definitely say the imitation because the Obama thing, he’s kind of taking a swing in the ballpark. But I think the imitation was fun. I didn’t even know it was going to be aired. They just told me to do what I saw, and it kind of hurt, so I imagine it hurt him yesterday, too.
Q. At halftime of y’all’s game yesterday, they announced the UAB score and I saw your eyes got big, your mouth got big, and you turned and started talking to some of your teammates. What was it you told them?
R.J. HUNTER: I said we’re here. I mean, we played Iowa State and I could swear there going to get to at least the Elite 8 because that’s one of the better teams we’ve played. That actually gave me confidence. It’s funny you said that because once I heard that score, I was like, okay, it’s March now, you know what I mean? I told one of the coaches — the coaches looked at me like let’s do it now. So that’s what that was.
Q. There’s a certain stigma about being a 14 seed and a certain connotation about being a Cinderella team. Do you feel like you’re a Cinderella team at this point?
KEVIN WARE: Not a Cinderella team at all. If you ask guys in the Sun Belt, we’ve been playing good all year. Back-to-back regular season champs, we just won the actual conference. I wouldn’t say Cinderella. If you look at seeding as being Cinderella, then that’s cool, but we just feel like we can play with anybody in this tournament.
Q. Kevin, does Xavier remind you of any team that you’ve played this season, and what do you think you guys’ advantage is against a team with so much length like they have?
KEVIN WARE: Any team that we’ve played? I wouldn’t say team, but like I said, they definitely — definitely their big man reminds us of Long from Lafayette. What was the rest of the question?
Q. Against their length, they have a lot of length, what gives you guys an advantage, do you think, in a game against a team with their makeup?
KEVIN WARE: I kind of feel we played the longest team in the tournament in Baylor. That’s definitely frustrating for us yesterday. We’re going to watch some more film and see where we can pick our points and attack them.
Q. Ryann, you guys don’t have Harrow, and for about 37 minutes yesterday, R.J. was struggling, but you guys were still there, despite not really having those two guys. What are you guys doing to, first of all, make up for the absence of Ryan, and then when R.J. struggles, what do you guys do to keep him up, keep him going?
RYANN GREEN: Well, first of all, R.J. knows he’s a great player. We know he’s going to get shots, he knows he’s going to get shots, everybody in arena knows he’s going to get shots. We know he’s going to knock them down eventually. As a team we’re doing a good job of stepping up in different roles and just taking on our roles with full throttle. I made some big plays, Isaiah Dennis made some big plays, Markus Crider stepped up, Caleb played well. But we all just tried to play as a team and just tried to get there to the end. We knew R.J. was going to make a big shot at the end. We just tried to get it there.
COACH RON HUNTER: Where do I start? We’re happy to be here. I’m really shy doing this right now. This isn’t something I’m very comfortable with, talking, so I’m going to let you guys ask me some questions because I’m kind of uncomfortable here with this mic and all you wonderful people out there.
Q. What are your initial impressions of Xavier and are they a team that you watched even casually during the year?
COACH RON HUNTER: Well, of course I know a little bit about Xavier because I played at Miami-Ohio and I’m originally from Dayton and — great basketball tradition, unbelievable coaches who have come out of Xavier. My personal record, me as a player, I had some fun beating up on Xavier at Miami-Ohio, and they got me maybe one time. Tremendous program. It really is. To me this would be a bigger win for me personally than the Baylor win, just because being a Midwestern kid and understanding that and knowing it’s Xavier, and from the Larkins and everything that’s come out of Xavier. This is kind of a special thing for me and my family because my family all still lives in Ohio, so for us, this is a big game for us.
Q. And your thoughts on Xavier?
COACH RON HUNTER: Xavier is a good team. They’ve got some kids from Indiana that we know. Of course R.J. has played with a lot of those guys. Very talented, very well-coached, they shoot the ball well, change defenses, unbelievable length, their length, and just a solid basketball team. I just told my guys, they’re not going to beat themselves, we’ve got to go beat them. They’re not going to just do crazy things. We know we’ve got to go win the game, they’re not just going to give us the game.
Q. Y’all had a lot of close losses early in the season, games in which you had a lead and just couldn’t hold on to it. What did you learn from those losses that you’ve been able to apply, particularly in these past four games that were all very, very important?
COACH RON HUNTER: Well, as you know, I’ve always said, a season is a process, and you’ve got to go through the process of figuring out who you are and what you are, and I think we were able to do that. But I’ve also said that I don’t care what team you have, at some point of the season, you peak, and once you hit the peak, there’s only one way to go, and that’s down. Fortunately for us, we’ve started playing our basketball about 14, 15 days ago. That’s when I thought we really started to play our best basketball, and that’s why we’re playing well now. Fortunately or unfortunately, we had to play without Ryan Harrow, so since Ryan has gone down with his injuries — I think our record is 10-0 now without Ryan Harrow. So we’ve kind of peaked and we’ve done some things differently, and we’ve had some injuries throughout the year early, trying to get some guys back, and we’re just in a great rhythm right now. I love the confidence. This morning when I saw our guys for breakfast, the confidence level of our guys right now, it’s unbelievable. They’re enjoying this. I told them we’re not going to be one of those teams that you get here and you get nervous and all that. Man, we’re going to go to the beach, we’re going to enjoy this. If we win Saturday, we’re going to bus to LA. We’re just going to take off, and this is going to be like the Brady Bunch, Partridge Family. This is fun for us. We’re enjoying this. But make no mistake about it, now, I’ve got a good basketball team. I’ve got a really good basketball team. I’ve been saying that from day one, and this is the stage to be able to show that.
Q. I can’t imagine you handling the ribbing of a bus ride with those guys, but maybe. How are you feeling? You fell yesterday, and with your foot, any pain there?
COACH RON HUNTER: You know, I try to keep it a secret. As you know, I love to talk so I can’t keep if a secret. My doctor is on her way here because I cracked the cast so I’m getting recasted today, because I cracked the cast on the fall. And when I got to the locker room, I started pulling some of the stuff away and it just opened up, and she looked at it, she said this is wrong, you’re making it worse. I’ve got to recasted. I don’t even know what recasted means, and she said something about a saw and oh, my goodness, I don’t know. This has been an interesting, interesting week. We’re winning, I’m getting banged up, I’m getting cut on, I’m getting everything. The players are absolutely just killing me with all this right now. I’m rolling around in, not even a wheelchair, in a scooter that’s half broken. The thing I sat in yesterday, I have no idea what that little circle thing, that stool that I think you sit in if you’re typing something. Just been an interesting week, but I won’t trade this for the world. It’s been great.
Q. And your fame continues to grow. How are you handling that, and have you watched replays of the shot and yourself falling?
COACH RON HUNTER: I’m still trying to get fame in my own house. I don’t know what you’re talking about. My daughter is here. She’s getting married in a few weeks, and we had breakfast this morning, and all she asked was for another check to write out for this wedding thing. I don’t know what fame you’re talking about. I’m writing checks out for a wedding right now. My son is not listening to me. My wife is doing interviews. I tried to talk to her this morning, and she said her people would get with my people. I don’t know what fame you’re talking about. I have no fame.
Q. What about the shot and the fall? Have you watched it?
COACH RON HUNTER: No. I actually saw — about 2:30 this morning, because I haven’t been able to sleep, but I actually saw the shot, and you call it the fall. I don’t know what to call it. But yeah, it was great. I heard a lot about it. I haven’t been able to catch up with my texts and all those other things. The great part about all this, about all this, it takes the pressure off my guys, and that’s what’s great. They’re joking at me and laughing at me and wheeling me around. They had to bring me some breakfast and I said, guys, I was hungry, and they brought me seven grapes. Seven grapes. That’s what they brought the coach to eat this morning. I had a list of stuff I wanted to eat and the freshmen brought me seven grapes. They’re enjoying this, trust me.
Q. I read where you consider yourself a pretty good athlete. Are you honing your technique for using the chair tomorrow? Is there a little technique? And are you going to use that same chair?
COACH RON HUNTER: I’m definitely using the same chair. That chair has been locked and covered right now. That chair has more protection than the President of the United States right now. I want that chair back. I don’t know where they got it from, but that chair, it will stay with me for the rest of my life. Whenever we leave, I’m taking that chair with me. Win, lose or draw, that chair is going to be in my house with me the rest of my life.
Q. Did the doctors sit you down — I know you said I’m coaching, we’re in the NCAA Tournament — but from a medical standpoint, was there any kind of serious discussion like hey, look, here’s what can happen, maybe you should have surgery or they cleared you?
COACH RON HUNTER: Well, I did get cleared. They said surgery, and you might as well have cleared me because I wasn’t doing surgery. I wasn’t going to miss any of this. I’ve got a terrific doctor and our team doctor has been terrific. She said, I won’t do surgery if you just promise me you’ll sit down and you’ll rest. That hasn’t worked quite yet. We might have surgery when this thing is done.
Q. How difficult was it for you to coach from that chair yesterday? I mean, I’ve watched you for four years now. What could you not do that you would normally do?
COACH RON HUNTER: I’ll be honest with you. I think the bad start, I really put on me, and I say that because of the injury. You know I’ve never sat down my entire life in coaching. That’s not who I am, and I couldn’t bark out the signals like I wanted. I couldn’t get comfortable. So something that they’ve been used to — especially when you think about our seniors, guys that have played for me for a long time, they’re used to hearing certain calls and signals that I would do, and I couldn’t get those calls. I couldn’t get comfortable enough or close enough to them, and then once I got comfortable and I started moving just a little bit, I felt a little bit more comfortable. Now, I think I’ll feel a lot more comfortable because we’re going to change up some things a little bit with our defensive calls on Saturday. It’s important I’m able to do that. What I didn’t want to do is I didn’t want this to be difficult for the players. I can sit down if it’s just for me, but they’re used to their coach coaching a certain way, saying certain things. I think you could tell they were turning and looking and didn’t see me at a certain spot. They understand — if I’m on the edge of the baseline, I could talk to the back line guys and say some things, especially in the first half when I could control our defense when I couldn’t get to the baseline side. So that was — we had to make a couple changes with that. That was one thing I worried about, but I think we’ll be a little bit better with that Saturday.
Q. If you wouldn’t mind a little Xs and Os, but Matt Stainbrook, not only is he a big guy but he’s got some real good ball skills, moves around the basket very well. Have you guys faced anybody like him and do you have particular — what’s on the to-do list to control this guy?
COACH RON HUNTER: Don’t make him mad. That’s the first thing, because he’s a big fella. But again, we can’t duplicate that. We’ve got 24 hours to get ready for a guy like that. He’s a tremendous basketball player, got great hands. I’ve seen him play in high school. He’s a tremendous, tremendous player. Again, we’ll try to negate the things the way we — when we play teams, we don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the other teams. We worry just about us. We have a system that we run. If you beat us with our system, then we’ll congratulate you. We spend most of the time — what we just did out there is work on our system. We’re going to pressure you, we’re going to get after you, we’re going to change defenses inside a possession, we’re going to give you seven or eight different zone match-ups that you’ve got to see. We want the disconnect between the point guard and the coach. We want them confused. We’re going to play aggressive. And if you can handle all that, we don’t worry about all the other things. We just worry about what we do.
Q. You mentioned Ryan Harrow earlier. How is he doing with the hamstring strain and is there any possibility he would be able to play tomorrow?
COACH RON HUNTER: You know, he could. We’re just in a situation right now where we’re in a pretty good groove. I don’t want to play him at 70 or 80 percent. I know as a senior this is a tough thing. He moved actually fairly well today in practice. If he does play, it’ll be one of those things where I would bring him off the bench in a special situation, but right now we’re playing about seven guys that are really in kind of a groove right there. But if we need him — he didn’t even dress yesterday, but he will dress for this game here.
Q. Speaking of the President and security, were you surprised, shocked, whatever adjective you’d care to use, that people actually thought you poking fun at the bracket was like some sort of violation of security laws?
COACH RON HUNTER: Yeah, and I know that camera is here. Let me say this. I was just playing with the President thing, man. I didn’t mean that. The guy has done a great job, man. He’s made one mistake since he’s been a President, and that’s choosing against Georgia State. But man, stop the emails and all the political stuff. I’m not a political guy. I could care less. I exercise my right to vote. But quit sending me emails about that, that I’m disrespecting the office. The office of what? I’m not causing anything. We’re talking about a basketball game. Please stop with the emails. I’m nervous. I’m thinking my taxes are going to get something. I’m not getting money back anyway, but I think I’m going to owe more money, and I’m looking for Secret Service guys coming to get me. So please stop. They got me so nervous about it. I was asked a question and I answered it, but President Obama, listen, you’re a great President, man. I’m sorry, I did not mean anything. Please get your people off of me. I am so sorry. Thank you for asking that question.
Q. Obviously I know you’re very proud of R.J. Harder on him than the other players as a dad and as a coach?
COACH RON HUNTER: Yeah, and I’ve said it before, that’s the hard thing. I’ll look back on this, and you always want the best for your kid. And I know that — I would let the guys go home, R.J., you’re going to shoot another 100 shots. Another guy would make the same play but I’d get harder on him, because again, you want the best for him, you want to do those type of things. Sometimes if I can see the frustration. I remember there was one time this year that he was really struggling with all the box-and-ones and I could see it in his face he was struggling, and I kind of snapped at him a little bit. And I look at those times now and wish I had been dad at that particular moment. That’s what was so beautiful for me about yesterday. I told you before. I spent the entire time being dad, and I’ll continue to say it, man. Next year or two years from now, you can win a National Championship, I can hit the lottery, there’s a lot of good things that can happen to me, but there’s nothing that’s going to happen better than the experience I’m having with R.J. right now. We’re having a ball as father and son. This is like an early Father’s Day present for me. We’re laughing and joking. This is something that, as I told him yesterday, we’ll be able to tell your kids and my grandchild about this 20 years in now. I want to make sure he understands that 20 years from now. Let’s get through some things first.
Q. Do you have a name for the chair, and some of the Georgia State fans want to know if y’all are going to wear the lucky black jerseys again tomorrow?
COACH RON HUNTER: We are wearing the black jerseys, and again, I just said that the chair is under security. We’re giving no names, we’re giving no information about my chair. R.J. actually got in a little trouble because he actually tried to sit in the chair. No one sits in the chair, including R.J., the wife, seniors. That’s my chair. That’s one thing — I don’t get a lot out of this. I think I got one goody bag from the NCAA since I’ve been here, but I’m taking that chair with me.
Q. I was curious. You have a chance right now to do something very few teams have done where you’ve seeded and reach the Sweet 16. I know Xavier is front and foremost, but in the few brief moments you’ve had in the past 24 hours, have you thought about what a win tomorrow could mean for you and this program?
COACH RON HUNTER: No, one of the things we’ve said from day one is we want to enjoy the moment. Control the things you can control. When I saw Chris yesterday — we had a meeting, and Chris said, man, wouldn’t it be great if we play each other and he was kind of half joking. Well, guess what, we get to play each other. I didn’t think — I’m pretty sure that they weren’t really spending a lot of time preparing for Georgia State. But again, they’re a good team, but we’ve come to play. I can’t wait for you to see this team play tomorrow, man. These guys are really, really excited to play. We’ll see what happens. But they’ve got a great program, and I can’t wait to see what happens.
Q. Did you bring the chair with you or did you request this from the host committee people here at the arena for something specific that you felt like you could get up and down on, be more comfortable coaching? Where did the chair come from?
COACH RON HUNTER: We had about seven or eight different things, including — someone flew this — it came to the hotel, and it was like a crutch, but you don’t hold it here, and it’s specially made for people that have Achilles or problems and you basically just kind of walk like — I’ve had like six or seven type of things and I’ve tried out all of them and none of them kind of worked. And then this chair, our trainer, Dinika, brought the chair out and said let’s try this, and I said this is what we’re going to go with, and it’s been great.
Q. Where did she get it from?
COACH RON HUNTER: I have no idea. I told her I don’t want to know. You guys are not listening to me. I’m not giving my secrets away about my chair because I think it’s bad luck. I really do. I’m a superstitious guy and I think if you start telling all your secrets, man, I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to tell my new son-in-law, although I’ve got some things I want to tell him but I’m not going to tell him about the chair, any of that. This is for me. This is for me, and it’s going back to Atlanta with me, in my office, in my house.