University of San Diego coach Bill Grier nodded with a wry smile.
The question was about expectations after his Toreros upset 2oth-ranked Gonzaga 69-62 Monday night to win the West Coast Conference tournament final before a full house of 5,100 fans at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.
The Toreros are going dancing to the NCAA tournament in Grier’s first season as a head coach after 16 years as a Gonzaga assistant.
“Yes, maybe I’ve set the bar a little too high for us,” Grier. “But I’d rather have it that way then the other way. I’d rather have expectations and all that. The pressure isn’t external; it’s what you put on yourself. What we imposed on them as a staff was to set the bar higher, and they stepped up to the challenge.”
USD junior guard Brandon Johnson was named the tournament MVP and joined on the all-tournament team by junior forward/center Gyno Pomare and sophomore guard De’Jon Jackson.
Grier and his staff hardly missed a step during a year of convincing their young team to buy into what they we’re preaching.
When USD won at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena on Dec. 29, Grier and his staff wouldn’t let their players settle for the moment that drew national attention as a high-water mark.
“When we beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena (on Dec. 29), we talked to our players about how this was not going to be our defining moment,” Grier said. “I talked them before the game tonight and said this is your defining moment. You’ve been battled tested with a tough schedule. You’re ready for this moment. They did a terrific job of sticking to the game plan and getting the thing done.”
He wanted USD basketball to bigger than a December win at Kentucky. They woke up this morning big enough to begin planning for the NCAA tournament.
— TOM SHANAHAN