Catching Up With SMU
Key Mustangs and Coach Matt Doherty Talk Hoop Success & SB XLV
DALLAS – The SMU Mustangs knocked off Rice in Houston on Saturday for their third straight league win, their second straight on the road. SMU now sits one game back of a log-jammed first place in C-USA.
Leading the Mustangs’ surge are senior forward Papa Dia, junior forward Robert Nyakundi and senior guard Collin Mangrum. After Wednesday’s practice, all three - plus head coach Matt Doherty -stopped to comment on the team’s recent success, as well as Super Bowl week in North Texas. Dia and Nyakundi were interviewed together; Doherty and Mangrum, each alone a short time later.
The Mustangs (13-8, 4-3) face East Carolina (12-9, 4-3) at SMU on Wednesday.
Talk about your overall impressions of the win streak, especially the back-to-back road wins.
Coach Doherty: “I think it’s a real credit to our kids because we got down early in both [road] games and fought back to win. I think it shows the character of the guys and hopefully the direction of the team.”
Nyakundi: “I think [the Rice win] was just a total, complete team effort. … Coach said he wanted to start out fast. It didn’t happen but we showed great hard work and togetherness as we came back and fought through.”
Mangrum: “We came out a little flat [at Rice]. But we ended up picking it up and played well. They’re a good team. We’re fortunate to get the win. Anytime you get a road win it’s big. We’re looking to build on that.”
Rob, you had the hot-hand at Rice, with 29 points, seven 3-pointers.
Nyakundi: “It’s a credit to the system we run. We always get good shots. Pop, he’s the focal point of every [opponent’s] defense, so it opens it up for all our shooters outside. My teammates, they found me open on several shots and I just did my job: knock ‘em down.”
How about those bus rides home, after winning at Tulsa and Rice?
Nyakundi: “They’ve been great. We talked about that coming from Tulsa, that we were gonna [be] ‘Road Warriors’; to take two big road wins to get us going in conference play. I think these are a great two wins … to help us build momentum.”
What do you do the bus after a win?
Nyakundi: “We do a little celebrating, just talking about what happened throughout the course of the game. Some of us read a book or we just laugh, just joke it up, good team camaraderie.”
(Dia walks up.)
Dia to Nyakundi: “Don’t start lyin’.”
Pretty enjoyable last two trips, Pop?
Dia: “Oh, my god. That was the best feeling ever. Because the past three years, we didn’t have a lot of away games we won.”
Nyakundi: “We never won like two road games in a row.”
Dia: “It’s so addictive. It’s like I want more. That fact that we won, and the feeling - everybody was happy. Four hours of bus ride, it was very enjoyable. We really had fun, talking, listening to music, dancing and everything. It felt real good.”
You’ve been on plenty of not so happy trips in the past.
Dia: “Yeah, I’ve been on one, I’m like, ‘I don’t want to get back to school.’ Because you know when you get back, oh, practice the next day.”
Collin, talk about having just this one year at SMU as a transfer from North Texas and having contributed in such a big way.
Mangrum: “It’s been great. It was a dream, literally, to come here to SMU. And I’m glad I’ve been able to fulfill that. Coach Doherty has given me an opportunity and I’m very grateful. I feel like I’ve been here, honestly, four full years. It’s been exciting and, this year, we feel like there’s a lot more to come and we’re looking forward to it.”
Packers or Steelers?
Nyakundi: I want the Packers, but I think the Steelers are gonna win.”
Mangrum: “I’m an Aaron Rodgers guy. I like [Packers quarterback] Aaron Rodgers. He’s a great competitor.”
Coach Doherty: “I’m going with the Steelers. I got to know the Rooney family when I was in Florida at [ Florida Atlantic University]. They’re a class organization, as are the Packers. But I’m gonna go with the Steelers.”
Any Super Bowl watch parties planned?
Dia: “We haven’t talked about it, but we’re supposed to have a watch party at Rob’s apartment.”
Nyakundi: I didn’t get that memo.”
Dia: I’m going to make the world know: Rob is having a Super Bowl watch party at his apartment.”
Nyakundi: I don’t know about that.”
Dia: “A lot of nachos.”
Mangrum: “I’m not a real social butterfly, but I’m sure I’ll watch it with a friend or two.”
Any Super Bowl plans, Coach? Has AD Steve Orsini come across with some tickets for the coaches?
Coach Doherty: “No, but I’ve got a couple of feelers out there for a couple of tickets for my son and I. But if not, my son and I will be watching that game. He’s pulling for the Packers. I’m pulling for the Steelers.”
Why should celebrities in town for the Super Bowl come see SMU play ECU on Wednesday?
Dia: “It’s going to be a lot of fun. And we guarantee a win so they should come.” (laughing)
Mangrum: “We’re gonna compete, we’re gonna play hard and you’re going to get entertained.”
Coach Doherty: “Well, it would be a great opportunity for them to see college basketball in an intimate environment. And I think while you’re here, if you like sports, you’d love this atmosphere on Wednesday night.”
So this would be a good mid-week celebrity stop?
Nyakundi: “Exactly. It’s great basketball. It’s a great city, Dallas. And it would be a good chance to watch a good college basketball game between two competitive teams.”
Papa, is the Super Bowl well known your home country of Senegal?
Dia: “I didn’t know about football until I got here. And the first time I watched it I was like, ‘What’s going on? What are they doing? Why are they just hitting one another?’ I didn’t really understand what it was. But then I really liked it, the fact that it was so physical. But in Senegal, they don’t even talk about it. The Super Bowl is something out of the ordinary. They don’t even know about that stuff.”
Rob, you’re from nearby Arlington, Texas. Have a favorite Super Bowl memory?
Nyakundi: “Of course, 1995. That’s the last [season] the Cowboys won it. Growing up, I was a big Cowboys fan. So in ’95 we had a big party. We had Deion [Sanders], [ Troy]Aikman, [Michael] Irvin, Emmitt [Smith]. It was a big time for the city.”
Which sports celebrity would you most like to meet this week: Terry Bradshaw, Michael Strahan or Jimmy Johnson?
Nyakundi: “I would say Strahan.”
Dia: “Yeah, I want to see [Strahan.] Just talk to him and see what he likes. Stuff like that.”
Mangrum: “Terry Bradshaw. He’s hilarious.”
Of three big concerts/events this week, Prince, Snoop Dogg and P-Diddy, which would you most like to attend?
Mangrum: “That’s an easy one: Prince. I’m an R&B guy.”
Dia : (laughing) “I pick Snoop.”
What about Prince?
Nyakundi: “That’s a little before our time.”
Dia: “Yeah, that’s ‘old school.’”