NCAA Tournament Interviews: Saint Mary's Assistant Rick Croy

March 8th, 2012
In his latest NCAA tournament interview CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Saint Mary's assistant coach Rick Croy, as the Gaels followed up their WCC regular season title with a tournament title. This season marks the first time in more than 20 years that the Gaels have won both titles, and led by seniors Matthew Dellavedova and Rob Jones they could be hanging around the NCAA tournament for a while this year.

Jon Teitel: You hold the San Francisco State school record with 167 career made three-pointers. What is your secret for three-point shooting?

Rick Croy: A whole lot of practice and a whole lot of belief. There are only a few guys in the country who are not streaky...and they are getting paid in the NBA.

JT: In 2002 at age 25 you became the youngest Division I top assistant coach in the country for John Masi at UC Riverside. Did you feel your age was an advantage or a disadvantage on the sideline?

RC: I felt it was an advantage because I had a really good relationship with our players. I was previously a grad assistant with John, so I was familiar with his program. We were in a tough situation as we were making the leap to Division I, so there were some great challenges.

JT: You won the 2008 California state title as coach at Citrus College. What did it mean to you to win the title?

RC: It meant that all the players we recruited from the first year that I got there in 2005 had made a lot of sacrifices, as did all the assistant coaches we had. Success is a cumulative effect: we stood on the shoulders of those who came before us and we got a little better each year. It was a special season, as we went about three and a half months without getting beat.

JT: Coach Randy Bennett is the winningest coach in school history. What makes him such a great coach, and what is the most important thing you ever learned from him?

RC: There are two things that make him great: he has a tremendous work ethic and has great patience and poise. He never lets the team get too high or too low, and our work ethic comes directly from him.

JT: Despite winning 25 games last year your team was not given an at-large berth by the NCAA selection committee, and you had a one-point loss to Kent State in the NIT after Justin Greene made a go-ahead layup with three seconds left: how devastating was that loss, and how excited are you to not have to sweat out another Selection Sunday?

RC: It was a tough loss. Some people thought that our heads were down after not making the NCAA tournament, but we were excited to try to get to MSG and win the NIT. We played pretty well against Kent State but had a real nasty three minutes to finish the game. It just shows you how fragile a game can be. It hurt our seniors a lot, but it has motivated our current group of players and has been in the back of our minds all season.

JT: You lost a pair of road/neutral games earlier this year to ranked teams (Baylor (in Las Vegas) and Murray State). What did you learn from those two losses that will help you in March?

RC: They were very different losses. We came out of the Baylor game thinking that we had a great team that could compete against the best teams in the country. I think we hit a wall against Murray State. We count on a few guys to do a whole lot of things, and we had some roles in flux with Stephen Holt out with a knee injury.

JT: In the past few weeks Matthew Dellavedova has been named Academic All-American, WCC Player of the Year and WCC tournament MVP. What makes him such a great player, and where does he rank among the best you have ever coached?

RC: He is a very unique person who sees the game about 2-3 plays ahead of anyone else. I never saw Larry Bird play in person, but Matthew has a tremendous work ethic and is a very tough leader. He is the kind of kid who will come in on a Monday morning and tell you about the finance book he read; not for a class, but just because he was interested in it. He is the best competitor I have ever coached.

JT: You had a four-point overtime win over Gonzaga in the WCC tournament title game. What did Coach Bennett tell the team to help them stay focused after Elias Harris made a three with two seconds left in regulation to send it to overtime?

RC: It comes back to our leadership. That game was a grind with both teams playing great. It was tough to be up by five with 15-20 seconds left and then have some tough plays go against us, but we still had our confidence and felt pretty good as a coaching staff. By the time we got to the huddle Dellavedova and Rob Jones had already talked to the team and they were ready to get back out there. We have created so many special memories this year.

JT: Your wife Jamie played basketball and volleyball at Saint Mary's. Who is the best athlete in the family?

RC: She is, so I am hoping that our two kids get her athleticism. It is not even close!

JT: What seed do you think you guys deserve, and what kind of team would you matchup against the best?

RC: I think we deserve something in the 4-7 range. One of our strengths is that we can play at different paces. We can play inside or use our guards, so we are not too concerned with who we end up drawing: we are just pumped to be in the tournament.