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Mitch Henderson, Princeton Tigers Men's Basketball Head Coach

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb
The Truth Network Radio
March 17, 2023 6:33 pm

Mitch Henderson, Princeton Tigers Men's Basketball Head Coach

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb

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March 17, 2023 6:33 pm

Mitch Henderson joined Zach to discuss how Princeton was able to take down No. 2 Arizona and where the team's confidence comes from. 

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So get comfortable in your shoes. Get to know the wool runners, pipers, and loungers at Allbirds.com. That's A-L-L-B-I-R-D-S dot com. The horn is going to sound. The Princeton Magic is alive and well. The Princeton Tigers upset Arizona. You're listening to the Zach Gelb Show.

How about that? That was Ryan Rachie on the Westwood One NCAA Radio Network. The Princeton Tigers are dancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament as a 15 seed yesterday.

They did take down number two Arizona by a final score of 59 to 55. And now joining us is the head men's basketball coach of the Princeton Tigers. And that is our pal, Mitch Henderson. Coach, congratulations. Really excited for your program. Thanks so much for doing this again this week. This is a pleasure.

Thank you. We're absolutely thrilled out here. It's so fun and I'm so proud of our group and look forward to chatting with you. When you hear that the Princeton Tigers defeated Arizona and you guys are now playing tomorrow night in the second round of the NCAA tournament against Missouri, just what goes through your mind? Well, you know, you prepare your team to win and we did that. But we were down the whole game and when you get to the end of the game and you're like, okay, that was incredible. You know, you take a couple hours and all of a sudden you realize something really big happened.

Then you start looking at Missouri and you got to dive right back in. So, you know, I know it looks like an upset and it's 15 versus 2, but I have a really gritty group and they've always believed they could do it. We're playing the best basketball we've played all season right now, which is what you need to be able to do if you want to keep winning. What did you guys do so well down the stretch?

Because you look at Arizona in the last 8 minutes, they only had 4 points and in the last 4 minutes and 45 seconds you held them off the scoreboard. We struggled to score. We didn't shoot the ball very well, 4 for 25 from 3. We had 11 turnovers. I thought we'd have to have single digit turnovers to be successful, but I thought what we did best was we limited their transition opportunities. Coach, it's unbelievable how they're like 35 foot passes right to the front of the rim, but we did a great job getting back in transition and fighting with their bigger guys. We've given up a lot of size too, but I just thought those last 4 minutes was a real example of what we've been able to do this season. The guys played with such grit and toughness. We really got all the loose falls, those things that I think matter when you're playing in a big environment. The crowd helped.

The incredible sports town out here in Sacramento, we really benefited from the energy from our crowd. Mitch Henderson, the head coach of the Princeton Tigers are dancing on to the second round of the NCAA tournament here with us on CBS Sports Radio. We know you bleed Princeton and the iconic moment where you were celebrated and jumping for joy when you were a player in 1996 when your squad did take down UCLA in a 4-13 matchup and then all these years later to be a part of a 15 beat and a 2 and you being the coach of it. Just what is those two moments, the two of the biggest moments in Princeton program history, you playing a part and a big part in both of them just mean to you all these years later and then what you guys were able to accomplish too yesterday? I appreciate it. There's these pictures of me around our gym and I'm glad we're going to take them down now because we can put some new photos up. When you're the coach here, not only Coach Carrillo, we're honoring him this season, but there's a long history of winning. It's a lot. You want to do the best and you feel it just in a particularly different way when it's your alma mater, but I can't talk about my time as a player.

At least I don't. I'm so proud of this and this is, for me, miles more enjoyable than that win because it's really hard to get here and you just understand. I know from just time how unusual that win was way back then and this is really special and you need to have a really special. You live one kind of special life in the tournament and you got to raise a really good group. We are a very tough group. These things can happen and I'm just so happy for them. We were at dinner last night and I was like, do you have any idea what you just did?

They were all kind of to a person shaking their head no. We want to keep this thing going, not content, but just one. Coach, I'll tell you this. Just being around your program a few years ago, you guys are a close group and I'm talking about guys that came before the group that you're coaching now. I know that a lot of alumni are thrilled last night. Last time I saw you guys in the NCAA tournament, I remember being there in Buffalo in 2017. You had a shot to win the game up against Notre Dame and it just did not fall. Did you learn anything about yourself in that game? Were you at all able to implement it a few years later when you guys are now back in the NCAA tournament?

I did. I know exactly that moment. We were down big early in that game. I think what I've learned is just to soak in the enjoyable parts of it. They're doing the very best that they can. I just kept saying to them, smile, enjoy this throughout the course of the game. It is a very different feel than any other game that you play. You've got neutral court, you've got several different fan bases there. It's a real luxury to be back here. We're just so happy to be representing our school. As you know, Princeton, some people may not look at us in Arizona in the same breath, but we do. There's a lot of pride from our alums on us having a really good basketball team.

Where does that confidence come from? The last three years, we've seen a 15 seed beat of two. I've talked to Paul Mills after the game.

I've talked to Shaheen Holloway. Now we're talking to you. All of you guys share that thing in common where this may be a surprise to everyone else, but it's not a surprise to you guys because you guys expected to win. Where does that confidence come from, coach?

It's two parts. In our league, we were fighting for our life on Sunday to make the tournament. The only one team goes from our league. We had a really rough loss four weeks ago against Yale. We blew an 18 point lead. It really opened us up.

You sometimes need to have a real low moment to say, look, we can hang our head here or we can grow and really become something special together. That's the first part of the confidence. That's who you were all season. Don't forget that part now as you're in the tournament. The other part is, look, all these guys are playing AAU, shoe company, Adidas, Nike, Under Armour, on the same team as these other guys and against them. There's really no lines. Growing up, all those guys were in the magazines. You were on the same level just because they were separated, but that's not the case.

I think the world's a little smaller for them. Again, those schools in front of us before us, the St. Peterses of the world, they paved the way for something special like this to happen. You just believe you can do it. I know you're honoring the legendary coach, Pete Carril, who unfortunately did pass away in August. This season is for him.

Just share with me a little bit about your thoughts last night. I'm sure coach definitely was right in the front of your brain walking off the court and then when you were celebrating the win last night. When we beat UCLA, that was one of his first tournament wins. Last night, coach would always say to us, I'm preparing you to win the game. Against UCLA, the ball was thrown up and he told us, just run back because you're not going to get it.

So all five guys just ran back on defense. Coach was just so happy and the best piece of advice he gave me was be yourself. He loved Princeton basketball and I know he'd be so thrilled for this group. When you go through a moment like that, Mitch Henderson, and I know after the game it's just a blur and it's euphoric. When you got in bed last night, you just put that head on the pillow and you look up at the ceiling and you could really take a deep breath and process what you guys accomplished. What was going through your head last night?

Just had a huge smile and I was shaking my head and you think about all the little moments. To be a part of something with a group, you're 16 guys and trainer and coaching staff and a strength and conditioning coach. It's sort of a really tight knit group for a long part and everybody to a person is just, it's like the best moment you've had in your life. So just really thankful to be a part of it. Your parents entrust their kids with us here at the university for a world class life changing experience and that's what we do here at Princeton.

We take great pride in that. Mitch Henderson, I love the NCAA Tour and my favorite part about it is you get to hear stories and you get to really chronicle the stories of your players. Toson, how you guys got him, Brett McConnell going over to England.

He didn't play organized basketball until he was 15. How have you been able to see him grow the last three years? Not only as a player but a person because what he did yesterday was very special and a great moment for him. Yeah, we follow up on all those emails and Brett went over there.

It's almost always a little bit of a shot in the dark but sometimes you get lucky and for us, we've just been so fortunate. The main thing I would say about Toson is his humility. He allows you to coach him. He's accepting of all of that. He comes from a place of wanting to learn.

He's actually still improving right now. His best basketball is in front of him. Even during the game, I'm like, okay, start to figure it out.

This is what you need to do. He's nodding his head. There's never any moment where Toson's not learning and processing the game. He really is a special player. You guys made four three-pointers yesterday. Three came from Blake Peters. How about what he was able to contribute in his really important 15 minutes on the court yesterday?

Oh my gosh. We couldn't find the red. Blake was typical. He was knocked down. His minutes were so huge for us.

He had to pick one to cut it to three. He was just terrific. How about the scene in the locker room after the game? I saw the video that Princeton put out, Mitch Henderson, of you just getting drenched in a water bottle celebration but that just had to be such a thrill.

Water fights. Come on. There's nothing better. It's so cool. The tournament, as you guys know, it's just like the way they do it.

You slap your name up on the bracket advancing. It's just so special. There's a lot of media presence here. We're really feeling great. What's the first thought of Missouri as you guys try to go punch a ticket to the Sweet 16? They're tough. Really, it gives you a lot of different looks defensively. We're going to have to take care of the ball.

Dennis Case does such a good job. We know you catch your breath. We play back-to-backs in the Ivy League so this extra day of preparation feels like an eternity for us. It's kind of nice to have one day here and we'll be ready to go tomorrow. Last thing I'll ask you, Coach Mitch Henderson, and I really do appreciate you doing this. You talked a little bit about what you told the guys at dinner but when you were able to get the team together and just express your message to them after the game, what was that message? I'm so proud of what they did for one another and what they are for one another is very clear. The group has a really great will to win. Our alums appreciate that. They like seeing that and they relate to it.

It's a toughness, a stick-to-it-ness so to speak. We're imperfect too and we celebrate that. I just reminded them how happy they made their alums and their university. Did the win hit you in the moment?

Oh yeah, gosh. We were down the whole game. To get the win right there at the very end, I didn't feel it until the buzzer went off. All of a sudden I was like, oh my God, we just won. Coach, I'm so happy for your program and your assistance and the players and your family as well. Good luck coming up tomorrow and hopefully we see you in the Sweet 16. Really appreciate you doing this, Mitch. That would be great. Thank you so much, guys. Appreciate it.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-17 20:20:57 / 2023-03-17 20:26:49 / 6

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