As part of his 2010 NCAA Tournament Q&A series, Jon Teitel chats with Bob Williams, the coach of the Big West champion UCSB Gauchos. Williams discusses being named Coach of the Year in the Big West and their chances against Ohio St:
Jon Teitel: Prior to coming to UCSB, you coached for 8 years at UC Davis and won the 1998 D-2 title: why did you leave Davis to go to UCSB?
Bob Williams: I left Davis for a D-1 job that I thought had great potential, and I was right. It was the right time in my career to make a change and go to a place that was not only a good basketball, job but also a great place to live. I loved my time at Davis and I loved that community: I still do.
JT: What was it like to win the title?
BW: Winning the national championship at Davis was amazing. That was a great group of young men: they were so close and had really grown together as a team. It was a fantastic culmination of amazing effort.
JT: Orlando Johnson redshirted last year after transferring from LMU, and became the conference’s leading scorer and POY. Why did he choose USCB, and how has he been able to contribute so quickly?
BW: When Orlando decided to leave LMU, he visited a couple of different schools. He felt very comfortable with our guys, the staff, and the school: it was a good fit for him. His contributions have been huge. With Orlando, it’s more than stats: he sets the tone by how hard he works every day, both in practice and in games. He is also such a great young man with a great personality, so while his contributions on the court are obvious, he brings so much more than that.
JT: How does it feel to be named Big West Coach of the Year?
BW: It was an honor for our entire staff: they work so hard and are so prepared, and the result has been a tourney bid. It means a great deal to me, but I do not consider it an individual honor: it is the staff and the players that made it possible.
JT: You got into the tourney after James Powell made 4-of-4 FT in the final minute to clinch a 5-PT win over Long Beach ST. How clutch a player is Powell, and what was the feeling like in your locker room afterwards?
BW: It is funny: we were on the court for so long after the game and then we went straight to the press conference. By the time we made it to the locker room, it had pretty much calmed down. I will say this: the feeling after the game against Long Beach was very emotional. This group worked so hard and improved so much during the year that it was a real reward to win the tournament. To go from an 0-1 start in conference and trailing by 11 PTS at half in the 2nd game to a regular season title and tournament title was huge. As for James, he has been doing that all 4 years. He always comes through at the free throw line late in games: in fact, he made clutch FT late in each of our last 5 wins. In the last 5 minutes of games this year, he is 31-of-32 from the line: that is big time.
JT: Your team is a #15-seed and will play #2-seed OH ST on Friday. How do you like your chances, and how on earth are you going to try to stop Evan Turner?
BW: I guess I like the fact that we can be a pretty good 3-PT shooting team. We are a little streaky at times, but we have several players who can shoot the ball. OH ST is so good, and Evan Turner is probably the best player in the country. Right now, we are not sure how we are going to defend him. I do not think we can stop him, but I am not sure that anyone else can either.
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