Photo Credit: Associated Press
The Western Washington University men’s basketball team won their first national championship, defeating Montevallo (Ala.) in the title game. Longtime Vikings head coach Brad Jackson was nice enough to spend a few minutes on the phone with me to discuss their championship season.
SeaTown Sports: Overall, what’s the reception been like back on campus?
Coach Brad Jackson: It’s been great. I think it’s just been an accomplishment that our community is excited about. They’re proud of players. This is a great basketball area and we’ve had great fans for a long time and I think it has just been really gratifying.
SeaTown: How does the team feel overall by winning the first national championship in men’s basketball in program history?
Jackson: They feel great. This is a team that got better as the season went on. I think they showed a great deal of mental toughness and determination. I told them after the game this is something that’ll get bigger and bigger as time goes on, but it’s a tremendous accomplishment, one of which they can be very proud. I think they’re really enjoying everything that’s gone with it and that they can represent their university and community in our area.
SeaTown: Going back to the title game, Montevallo was able to take a lead early in the second half. How was your team able to respond so well and pull away in the final stages?
Jackson: I thought that was a key time in the game. We had a lead; they came back and went up by five or so. The first part of that is this team was very mentally tough. They very rarely got rattled. I think we were able to mentally weather that storm. And then we came back and hit a couple of big shots. I didn’t sense any panic or concern on their part. But when we did retake the lead, and it was maybe only a couple of minutes, I felt like that was a big turning point in the game emotionally. Once we did that, it seemed that our guys gained even more confidence and began to stretch it out a little bit.
SeaTown: In the final couple of minutes, there were a couple of slight miscues that kept Montevallo in it. How was your team able to stay composed and knock down some key free throws down the stretch?
Jackson: I’m not sure how necessarily, but that was kind of the way our team operated. Throughout the course of the year we had quite a number of games that were fairly close. We were not a team that blew people out. I think we were pretty comfortable in that situation. We were concerned with a couple of those turnovers. But I think we felt that if we could get the ball in the hands of the right people and get to the line, we had a pretty good shot at it. John Allen is usually the guy we look to go to and he did a great job. Once we got into that position when we were getting to the free throw line, our players were pretty comfortable.