Fordham head coach Tom Pecora's opening statement:
"Well, you know, I'm proud of our effort. You know, we held them to 30 percent from the floor. Some of our game goals, we achieved. One thing we did talk about was their ability to hurt you on the offensive glass, and you know, they had 18 second chance points and we had 12, in a six-point game, so I think that kind of speaks to...their 20 offensive rebounds hurt us a great deal, but you know, we played and we competed, and I think a couple of the guys were gassed, you know? Christian was, Sengfelder, was gassed, and also, you're a freshman, go meet Mr. Graham. There's a reason why he's such a good player, Treveon, he did a great job for them, as Melvin did, so their veterans stepped up and did a good job, as our one senior did here, Bryan, (Smith) and obviously bittersweet. I just talked to him about, you know, a lot of guys would love to finish their careers playing, you know, 10 minutes from home in a big-time arena, and he's been able to do that, and as I've said before, I'm indebted to him for coming; because when he came to Fordham, he had a lot of other options, and we weren't the flavor of the month. It's a little bit easier for guys to come now because I think they see that the future's bright and we're about to turn the corner, and I truly believe that with all of our young talent, but when we do, I'll refer back to Branden Frazier, and to Bryan, because they helped us build this thing, even though they may not have been here in the year where the record showed that we turned the corner. So, if you said to me, 'hey, you're gonna hold VCU to 30 percent from the floor, and you're only gonna have 16 turnovers,' I would say we're going to win the basketball game, but the difference maker was them on the boards, and Graham was tremendous and (Mo Alie) Cox, he's a beast, you know? (Ryan) Rhoomes battled with him the whole night, but not quite good enough today."
Bryan Smith on gratification of playing some of his best basketball at the end of the year:
"I mean, it's very gratifying, but honestly, I wish we would have got the win. I mean, me and my brothers, we left a lot out there on the court, and we competed the whole game, so the only thing more gratifying would be if we had got the win today."
Mandell Thomas on his maturation at the point guard position:
"It's helped me mature a lot, you know? I've got to be more of a vocal leader on the court, and next year, I'm going to be the senior like Bryan Smith was this year, so I think it will help me be a better leader on and off the court, and to work on my skill as a point guard, that's the number one thing. I'm going to be a point guard, not a shooting guard. I think that's one of the reasons Coach (Pecora) put me at the point guard position, so I think it's helped me be a better, vocal, leader."
Smith on Fordham in the future:
"I think Fordham's going to be a great team, you know? I mean, we're headed in the right direction, all the young talent. You've got (Ryan) Canty coming back, you've got Ryan Rhoomes and Mandell in their senior seasons. It's going to be a great year next year, I'm pretty sure."
Thomas on second half strategy:
"We wanted to drive the ball, you know, force the bigs to guard, fake off the layup, fake it to a body, get some fouls and kick out for a three. That's our best offense, so that's what we tried to do."
Smith following up:
"We've just got to stay aggressive, especially against a team like them that presses all game."
Thomas on confidence going into next year on playing three guards:
"I think it gives our team a whole lot of confidence. As you said, he (Eric Paschall) is Rookie of the Year. It also gives other people on the team a chance to step up, so in a close game like that with one of the top teams in the country, we competed the whole game, it gave us a whole lot of confidence."
Smith on why he believed in Fordham basketball:
"When I was getting recruited here, it was a bunch of honesty. The head coaches and the assistant coaches, they were just very honest with me. They told me that right now, Fordham basketball isn't in the best of states, but they told me in the future, we're going to come in here and turn the corner, with me and Branden, and everybody else that was here at the time. As you can see, we're headed in the right direction with all the young talent, and everybody else that's becoming seniors."
Pecora on Manny Suarez's 13 points and 8 rebounds:
"I think it's great. You know, he's playing with a broken heart. His aunt, who is basically a second mother to him, passed away Sunday evening, 37 years old. She had a sudden heart attack, so it's been an emotional week for the guys and for him, and you know, those are the things people don't see, you know, that as a coach, a teammate, an assistant coach, you deal with. But from a basketball standpoint, you know, Manny's always had great talent. It's just a matter of his maturation process, you know? But I'm very pleased with the way he's played the last couple of weeks. He's really responded. I had a meeting with him a couple of weeks ago and just talked to him about his maturity level and preparing, and not even preparing for games. I'm talking about preparing for practice every day, you know? And that's what young guys, they don't realize how intense practice is going to be, and you're going to get what you earn, you know? You're going to get what you deserve, and if he has a good practice, you're going to get minutes. He's been playing well in practice, and in turn, he's gotten some minutes, and I thought he's responded. So, I'm excited about him. He's a freshman, you know? He's big and long, he could make threes, he always gets a couple of blocked shots because of his timing, so you know, I think he's going to have a big spring, summer and fall, and I think he's going to be a major contributor next year."
On turning the corner:
"Yeah, and I mean, look: Earlier in the year, you know, people know wins and losses and all of that nonsense. When you're building a program, there's stages of winning, and you know, one of the things that we did this year that we'd never done, and I don't think has been done for quite a while at Rose Hill, is we didn't get blown out of many games in the A-10. We lost a lot of games that we were in right down to the nitty-gritty, you know, as I said yesterday, we lose to Rhody by one possession two times. Well, Rhody's one of the premier teams in this league. We go to Richmond and lose by three, and you know, they always say, if you lose by five, it's the coach's fault, so I'll take it. But I could see the talent, and I could see them moving in that direction, and that allowed us to have the ability to close out a game at Mason, and then to win another game like last night. I mean, look: Mason, like I said yesterday, I have a long history with Mason, but I don't think we've lost to Mason since they've been in the league, so I can see it coming. I can feel it coming, and then when you have these two bookends, and you know, they're puppies, you know? They're 18, 19 years old, him and Christian, Eric (Paschall) and Christian, and you're going to be locked up at that three and four spot, and then you've got Rhoomes and Canty, who's now practicing with us and playing great, and they'll compete at the five spot, and you've got Mandell coming back at the point, and we'll see what we could get out of the shooting guard position next year with various guys, so I feel really good about this team. I'm excited."
On the difference between playing VCU today as compared to January 4:
"Well, a little bit of both. Look, (Briante) Weber is a dynamic player. I hugged him at the end, the poor kid's on the crutches, I told him how hard I was rooting for him, and to get himself healthy, and he'll get ready to play a whole lot of professional basketball at this level, so he's a tough kid not to root for, because of the intensity and the way he carries himself. I'm a big fan of Briante Weber, but moving Mandell to the point helped us a great deal because we were playing with two freshman point guards earlier in the year, and that became an issue. I'm not easy to play for if you're a point guard, because I just make...there's a lot of demands on it. It's like, in my opinion, being a college quarterback, and I've had some great ones, so the bar's been set pretty high, and I think Mandell's done a really good job. Against them today, he made a couple of mistakes that a veteran point guard wouldn't make, and I think at this time next year, he won't. He turned his back to the basket and had a turnover late in the game, and a couple of other minor plays like that, but I just feel good about it. I'm bummed about not going to practice tomorrow. A lot of guys are like, 'Damn, thank God that's over.' Trust me, I've been doing this a long time. A lot of coaches are like, 'hey, man, I couldn't wait until my season ended.' I do not feel that way. I'll be lost tomorrow from 11 to 1:30."
On gratification in Bryan Smith playing his best basketball at the end of the year:
"It's been great. Like I said, I love him. His father's an alum. His dad didn't play ball at Fordham, but he's a Class of '81. Big-time family, classy family, went to Midwood High School, I saw him score 67 points in a high school game. I kidded him his freshman year, I said 'you didn't have 67 all year, kid,' and he used to laugh about it, but no matter what, he stayed steady, you know? He's just legit in so many ways, and when he has bad games, he feels it, you know? He feels, you know, it's a family thing. He feels the pain, and like I said, he had a lot of opportunities, and he believed in all of us at Fordham, and I don't think he has one regret. And as I've said more than once, what we tell kids when we recruit them, is it's not about four years, it's about 40 years, and if you come to Fordham, you will be hooked up the rest of your life. You're going to have a Fordham degree, and I cannot tell you...I've been at seven universities. The alumni base at Fordham University is so impressive the way they take care of their own, and kids get a wonderful education, so when they come out, they're prepared to be successful when they're done playing ball, and he's going to be big-time. You could see that. I mean, I've been in press conferences with teams over the years where you're just like, cringing, worried about what they're going to say, and that doesn't happen with our guys. They're good men of Fordham."
On change in Fordham since moving Mandell Thomas to point guard:
"Well, I think that, I think the maturation process, you know, even though they're not all playing, we have seven freshmen. So that has a major effect on your practices every day, too, and how you go about your business, you know? Some of them are practicing hard, some of them aren't, you've got to be on them for that, you know, and I think the schedule was brutal, and I was kidding with Drew (Dickerson, from the Atlantic 10 office) that I wanted to be involved next year, but you know. out of the gate, VCU at home without students at our place, and then we have Dayton at home, a team that went to the Sweet 16, and we had GW, you know, a team that was projected to have a big year this year, so the January schedule was a bear. I knew if we didn't lose our faith, and if we continued to work hard and we continued to believe in each other, we'd have a pretty good February, I was hopeful of that; and we let a game slip the 28th of January against Rhody by a possession, that I thought we could have had, and then we let one slip with Rhody where we were up one with two seconds left and they made a play late in the game, but once again, I could see it coming. But I think Mandell, and I think, just the incoming tie, the positive effect of Ryan Rhoomes working hard every day, and Christian Sengfelder, you know? For a freshman, he became a force every day in practice, because if he didn't play hard, he'd hurt you. He's playing so darn hard, you know? Diving on the floor, and it's just contagious, and you know, obviously Eric will do things sometimes that all of us will look at each other and say 'wow, did he really just do that?' So, I think it all just started to build, and it really has to do with maturation, and then the other thing is, usually in February, they stop listening to me, so we usually play a lot better in February."
On Melvin Johnson and his shooting:
"Yeah, I wanted him to get it back tomorrow. He got really wide open, and the term we use is if you're 'X'-ing someone. That means we're going to stay close enough to him to where he doesn't get any looks, and Melvin is an automatic 'X,' and obviously, we didn't do a great job of that, because he was 4-of-7 from three, and especially that one down the end there, wide open when we were sprinting back into our zone. The tempo of the game was good. I liked the tempo, I wanted the game to be in the 60s. If this game's in the 80s, it's no good for us, so I didn't mind us taking some time off the clock getting it up the floor, and then, you know, running an iso cut late in the game and spreading them out defensively. One of the things that's difficult, they're so good and unpredictable at their, we call them blitz packages, the way that they double-team the basketball, you know? It could be dictated by a player, it could be dictated by location on the floor, it could be dictated by a number of passes, it could be dictated by movement, ball screens, dribble, handoff, all those things. So by spacing the floor, their slides to come blitz you are longer, and it gives you a little bit more time, better time to react, and then when you run a high ball screen; today, they were switching them, so when you do that, I like the idea of our guards driving it in on their bigs even though they're very big and very agile, and that was kind of the game plan, but I wanted the score to stay 50s, 60s. I was thrilled by that, and you know, once again: If it gets in the 80s against a team like this, we're not going to beat them."
On Jon Severe's intensity:
"Yeah, I mean, look: Jon can be a very competitive kid, and I think that this is the right environment for him to do that, and we obviously needed him to make some shots today, you know? He did a good job not only making a couple of threes, but penetrating, drawing. When we were having a hard time there in the first half, there was a stretch where nobody was getting to the rim except him, and by doing that, those are kind of like body blows, you know? They soften up the defense a little bit, so I thought he did a good job."
On having supporting pieces capable of offensive production:
"Yeah, I mean, I don't worry about that stuff, quite honestly. I mean, that's great. I think that if you looked at this team, and if you didn't think there was a bright future, you know, you'd be crazy, because of the youth and the enthusiasm and the veterans that are coming back, and the addition of Ryan Canty. So, yeah, but once again: First of all, what's happened in college basketball is conferences are so damn big, I don't know who the other guys are recruiting, I don't know who comes in, so when they tell us to do these polls, I kind of go to (sports information director) Joe DiBari, and I'm like, 'alright, Joe, help me with this! I mean, I was going to say call Lenny Robbins, but you're a pro guy now.' But you know, like this year, I saw Davidson at 12, and I started to laugh my ass off, because I worked for Bob McKillop, and I didn't think they'd win the league, but I knew they weren't coming in 12th. So, you know, there's just too many teams to know and keep track, and you know, there was a story a few years ago, one of the other guys in our league saw Paul Hewitt on the road, he said 'what conference are you in now?' and he said 'yours,' you know? Because as coaches, we can't always keep track with teams coming and going, and who's with who, so yeah, look: I think we're going to be fine, you know, I feel lucky to work at Fordham, to work at a university that's got the academic reputation, that's what brought me there. I thought the athletics in the A-10 and the academics could make it a special place if they were patient, and they have been patient. I think they know we're going to turn the corner here, and it's going to be exciting. It's going to be exciting when it happens. You know, I'm a New York guy, man. I'm not going anywhere, so I'm thrilled to still be here in the five boroughs and see all my friends here."