Buzz Williams loves to talk about "edge." His own edge. His players' edge. Playing games on the edge. Recruiting more players with an edge. Keeping the edge. Edgecetera, edgecetra.
Photo by Adam Ryan Morris
But just in case any Marquette fans were worried that unprecedented success might dull things a bit, fear not and sleep well, kind citizens.
Because right after his team's Sweet 16 win over Miami, mere minutes after his most successful moment at Marquette and the school's first Elite Eight berth since 2003, that edge was sharpened to Ginsu-like perfection.
At the Sweet 16 postgame press conference, with all the deliberate discipline that his team displayed in winning the game, Williams whipped out his rhetorical blade and swung it in the direction of Marquette's doubters and detractors. It started with this exchange, while media members were wrapping up their questions for Golden Eagles players Vander Blue, Trent Lockett and Jamil Wilson.
Q: From Patrick Leary, Marquette Tribune. "Vander, you mentioned on Tuesday the ESPN article that ranked you guys dead last among the Sweet 16 teams -"
Patrick didn't quite get to finish his question to Blue, because Williams started speaking into his own microphone.
"We'll be dead last when we wake up on Saturday, too," Williams said. "I guess we'll be eighth out of eight."
Leary, in fine young journalistic form, picked up where he left off, continuing his question to Blue: "Um... how big was the revenge factor, the sort of chip on your shoulder, no-one's-giving-you-credit factor, in today's game, that fueled sort of the blowout nature of the game."
But Blue wouldn't yet get a chance to answer the question. Buzz was jumping in again.
"It was Myron Medcalf that wrote it," Williams said, jumping back to the ESPN article. "Did you know that?"
"I did," answered Leary, who, perhaps not coincidentally, had sent a Twitter missive to Medcalf earlier noting just how wrong he was.
Williams nodded, then added one more nugget about Medcalf. "He lives in the same town that Trent lives in."
"Sure does," Lockett said. That would be Minnesota's Twin Cities area.
And with that, a smiling Blue finally got his turn. "Well, we're so used to people not giving us credit..."
Blue finished his answer. The players left the stage, giving Williams a couple slaps on the shoulder as they walked by, so they missed the rest of their coach's verbal fencing.
He was asked about the Sweet 16 game against North Carolina two years ago, and after giving due respect to the Tar Heels, he delivered this little stab.
"We finished 9-9 in the Big East that year," Williams said."According to most people that are sittin' out here, we shouldn't have been the 11th team that went to the NCAA tournament from our league. So yeah, I distinctly remember the game."
On to the next question from the people sittin' out there.
"Buzz, uh, obviously you guys fed off winning a couple of close ones, but psychologically -"
Another interruption: "I think they were 'lucky' is what everybody said."
"Well... however they were perceived, what's the psychological boost of winning a game in a more comfortable fashion?"
Williams shook his head. "None," he said. "You play to win the game, as coach [Herm] Edwards said. I don't think you play to win the game by the line. You play to win the game to win the game, whether it's one or two or 10."
On it went. He bristled at Vander Blue not getting enough recognition when it came to postseason awards. He noted that, "despite what's been written" because of Marquette's close calls in their first two tournament games, "I do think we're playing pretty well. That doesn't mean that we're gonna win on Saturday, but to get to this point, obviously, you have to play well."
And then, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Michael Hunt, noting that Buzz seemed "a little bit edgy," wondered "if that's just a reflection of how much you think that this team still has to do." And finally, the coach softened a bit, sheathed his blade, and delved into a bit of philosophy.
"I'm really proud of them. I'm really thankful to coach them. I love who they are. I love how they're maturing. I respect how they work. I have admiration for the hours that our staff puts into our program. And because of my path to this point, I do have an edge. And I probably need to have better wisdom in how I handle that edge.
"But it's really delicate. Because our edge is why we win. And so, it's just hard for me at 40, to... 'OK, this is how I'm gonna be during the game, and then I'm gonna shut that down until we play again.' So I'm really not good postgame.
"Actually, I'm not really good at all day of the game. To you, my wife, my kids. Because I do want to win, and I don't want to win for the outcome. I want to make sure that I and our team learn the lessons from what the day is gonna give us."
The latest lesson?
The edge is working.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter, where I tweet as howiemag. And listen to me chat sports with Mitch Teich monthly on WUWM's "Lake Effect."