The life of a mid-major basketball coach means that opportunities to get in front of a large group of media are few and far between. Hence Billy Donlon always making sure he takes the chance to make a point or two when he gets that opportunity.
The Wright State coach walked into his postgame press conference with a few points to make on Sunday afternoon. Points about the Horizon League tournament format and points about the fact the second-place Raiders were left with no players on the Horizon League First or Second team.
The following is a transcript of Donlon's postgame presser which begins after players Grant Benzinger and J.T. Yoho went back to the locker room. I asked Donlon about his team playing the best of any of the eight teams that have taken the floor in the first two days of the tournament.
Donlon: Is that the media's opinion?
Oren: It's my opinion.
Donlon: So the media. I don’t know if I would believe anything out of the media’s mouth right now with our league. Because I sent an email to Elias Sports Bureau to see how many times a team finishes in second place in Division I conference history that doesn’t have an all-conference player.
I waited to get to this game. I thought if I was going to talk, we had to get to this game. If we’re really about student-athletes, I’ve been in this league 10 years. Do you know how many times the difference between second and third place has been a one-game difference? Seven of 10. Of those seven, do you know how many times there’s been a tie for second place? Three times. 30 percent of the time there’s a tie for second. We made the decision for third place to have to win two games in our league to get to the semifinals to get to play the team that it tied. That's fair to our seniors who never get another season? How come that question, I haven't seen that question asked? I get asked all kinds of tough questions as a college coach and rightfully so. APR's bad, graduation is bad, go 3-13, 11-20 last year, lots of tough questions. I want to know why no one is asking the decision makers about the tournament and let me say this because I'll probably get in trouble for this and I'm ok with it because I'm standing up for my team.
The way this tournament has been run for this first year is off the charts good. It’s everything you could've hoped for from the league. Its organization, where we stay, how we're doing, the fan support for the first year. Obviously if we hadn't won and it would've been Detroit/Oakland tomorrow it would've been packed. From that standpoint it's been great, but if we're about the well-being and the integrity of competition for the student-athlete, I want to know why people didn't do their history. Been here 10 years, they don't like it, but I get criticized and here's why: I was outspoken in the room in October when this was thrown at us. I was outspoken, I said ‘this was not right’. Then Jerry Slocum turned to me and said 'You're going to finish third this year.'
So I don't know Paul, I'm always honest; I don't play the political correctness. We're excited to play Oakland tomorrow. What their team has done is outstanding, to lose some early home games. Kay is outstanding and their other guys are really good.
We were like an also-ran when we came here. That's how we were treated. Like an also-ran, like just another blimp on the screen. We didn't go 13-5. By the way, doesn't the No. 1 team have two losses? Who beat them? Again, Oakland beat us twice. They hit us hard in the mouth both times. We're going to have to play a lot better to beat them. No question, I'm just so proud, college sports is about teaching young people to handle adversity and my team has handled adversity with an A+. I couldn't be more proud of what these kids have done through two games.
Question about whether players are as fired up as Donlon is
I swear I didn't talk about it (All-League snubs). I saw people voting. I brought them in and I said ‘fellas, no players are going to be on All-Conference, I can tell you that right now.’ I didn't say let's go show them. I didn't say anything like that; we talked about getting better for basketball. We did not use this as fuel we did not, whether they did or not, I'm sure, but we didn't talk about it, we didn't use this as a message because I thought you couldn't win the championship with this as our message. We had to focus on basketball to try and win the championship.
Question about finishing in second place and winning, why does it matter.
Have you ever tried to play four D1 basketball games against two opponents that are playing their first game, you're playing your third. Oakland and Valpo have sat. We're playing our 120th minute when they're playing their 40th. It matters. That's not excuse making. The human mind is capable of a lot. We are capable of winning the game tomorrow. That will not be a crux with our team. If we don't win tomorrow I won't say boo. But it matters.
Question about style of play keeping voters from picking WSU players
That's excuse making for voters. I think if you really wanted to delve into it look at what JT Yoho did against Matt Tiby this year, and I don't want to take anything away from Matt. Look at what our guys did head-to-head against other guys. Get into that. I voted two Valpo players… and winning matters to coaches. I can't vote for my own players. Eight of my 10 came from the other best four teams in the league. That's not to disrespect to guys that didn't do well or were really good players on teams that didn't finish well. We were 3-13 last year, we had some guys that put up numbers; they didn't deserve to be on All-League. Winning matters. I'm scared for our culture because I can't wait to get back and see how many second place teams didn't have an All-League guy. J.T. Yoho is a senior and doesn't get another crack at it; deserved to be all-conference. I'm just fighting for my players. Sorry, I'm not mad at you. I'm Irish.
Question about what kind of format Donlon wants
Look at all the 10-team tournaments in the country, how many of them do this? Especially when you look at the history of our league. One year when I was an assistant we tied for second with Cleveland State. They had Norris Cole we had good players. We had to go down, the only metric we could use was a coin flip to get to third and I get Oakland beat us twice, but as I will rebut, the three best teams in this league are all 2-2 against each other. However you want to draw it up. I think there's other ways to do it. I think we should reward winning. Whether you have 7 through 10 play to get it down to eight. I don't know. I'm sure the league's going to be mad at me, but I wanted to get to this game because and I want somebody to say, ‘It's not right.’ Look at the history of the league. I get held accountable by my bosses all the time and justifiably so.