NCAA Tournament Interviews: Murray State's Steve Prohm

March 7th, 2012
CHN writer Jon Teitel was able to catch up with Murray State head coach Steve Prohm as part of his NCAA Tournament interview series, following up on the Racers' OVC tournament title and automatic bid. Prohm's Racers are 30-1 in his first season at the helm, and this veteran group has the potential to go a long way in the Big Dance.

Jon Teitel: You spent five years as an assistant to Billy Kennedy at Murray State. What makes Kennedy such a good coach, and what is the most important thing you ever learned from him?

Steve Prohm: He taught me the importance of having a balance in your life and staying even-keel. His faith is also extremely strong.

2010 NCAA Tournament (as an assistant at Murray State)

JT: Danero Thomas scored 11 points and hit a 15-footer at the buzzer in a one-point upset win over 4-seed Vanderbilt. Where does that rank among the most clutch shots you have ever seen?

SP: It is high up there, as is Jewuan Long's shot from the other day. It was an unbelievable moment.

JT: Isaiah Canaan scored 14 points but Gordon Hayward deflected his pass in the final seconds of a two-point loss to eventual runner-up Butler. Where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career?

SP: It was the most devastating just because we were leading with two minutes to go and on the brink of making the Sweet 16. However, I credit Butler for being able to win.

JT: You lost to Missouri State in the 2011 NIT. What did your team learn from that loss that you think will help them this month?

SP: First off, it is nice to just accomplish our goal of getting to the NCAA tournament. Missouri State had a good senior-oriented team last year. The biggest keys to winning in the postseason are defense and rebounding.

JT: This is your first year as a head coach after Kennedy became head coach at Texas A&M. What sort of expectations did you have coming into the season?

SP: With Canaan and Ivan Aska back, we had the same expectation that we do every year: to win a conference title. I did not know how good we would be, but the older guys were good leaders and the new guys continued to grow and buy into the system. Great seasons do not just happen; they slowly develop.

JT: You set a conference record by winning your first 23 games this season before a four-point loss to Tennessee State in February. Could you have ever imagined that you are literally five points away from having an undefeated season?!

SP: We had the ball down by one with three seconds left before Isaiah lost the ball, but the loss helped re-focus us and get us back in line to finish strong.

JT: You beat a pair of ranked teams in Memphis and Saint Mary's. Does a win over a tournament-caliber team give you extra confidence when facing a team in the actual tournament?

SP: We also had some great wins on the road against UAB and Western Kentucky, so we are battle-tested and have five guys who have each been to the tournament before.

JT: You were recently named OVC Coach of the Year. What does it mean to you to win such an outstanding individual honor?

SP: It means that I am at a great school with great players and a great staff.

JT: SR Jewuan Long scored six points and made the game-winning floater with 4.4 seconds left as you held Tennessee State scoreless for most of the final four minutes in a two-point win in the conference tournament title game. Did you think the shot was going in, and what was the feeling like in your locker room afterward?

SP: We did not get back to the locker room for quite awhile because we were celebrating for so long! That floater has been Jewuan's shot his entire career. There was a lot of emotion in the locker room to see the kids so happy.

JT: Long was also named OVC Defensive Player of the Year. How important has defense been to your team's success?

SP: Our program has been built on playing great defense and scoring off of turnovers. He does not get all the accolades on offense, but he is the heartbeat of our team.

JT: What seed do you think you deserve, and what kind of team would you matchup against the best?

SP: I think we deserve a 3-5 seed based on what we have done. Matchups and proximity are big in the tournament. Everyone in the tournament is good, so I am not sure if there is such a thing as a good or poor matchup.