Tourney Talk: CHD sits down with Notre Dame player Jack Cooley

On Friday Notre Dame lost to Louisville in the Big East tourney semis, but still earned an at-large bid to this week’s NCAA tournament. The Irish had a four point loss to Xavier in the 2012 NCAA tourney, and won 25 games this year to get back there in 2013. Earlier today Jon Teitel got to speak with Jack Cooley about what it feels like to make four straight NCAA tourneys.

In the 2012 NCAA tourney you scored 18 points (8-8 field goals) in a four point loss to Xavier. What did you learn from that loss that you think can help you this time around? The game is never over until the final buzzer. We were up late in the second half and some of us relaxed a little bit. You also cannot let the referees affect you, as they have their own pressure to deal with.

Jerian Grant’s brother Jerami plays for Syracuse: how does his father Harvey watch both of his sons play in the same tourney? He usually switches off, he did not make it to all of our games this season because he has to pick and choose.

In addition to basketball, Pat Connaughton also pitches for the Irish baseball team and was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2011, which sport do you think he is better at? That is a tough on: he throws a 97 MPH fastball, but I do not know the basketball equivalent. He is a heck of a basketball player, but I will go with baseball.

You have beaten bunch of Big East teams this year that made the tourney (Cincinnati, Villanova, Louisville, Pitt, Marquette): how does your conference play help prepare you for postseason play? During the NCAA tourney you only play against good teams, so to play in a league where half of our teams make the NCAA tourney is incredible.

You fouled out in regulation during the five overtime win over the Louisville Cardinals in February, what did it mean to you to see your teammates able to get the job done with you on the bench? It was incredible to see us come together like that and fight through adversity. It will go down in history as one of the greatest games of all time.

You are one of a handful of players this year who averaged a double-double: how are you able to balance your scoring with your rebounding? I like to get on the offensive glass, which helps lead to scoring. I have focused a little more on scoring as of late.

Your father Jack has sat in the same seat in the same row in the same section behind your bench for each of your 73 regular-season home games: how close are the two of you, and what sort of influence has he had on you either on or off the court? We have the best relationship possible: we talk every day about everything. He will be at all of our tourney games.  I could not have accomplished all that I have done without him.

You play Iowa State in Dayton on Friday, what do you know about the Cyclones, and how much trouble will you be in with your girlfriend if you win?! They are explosive on offense and make a lot of threes. My girlfriend will be way more upset if we lose, even though both of her parents went to Iowa State.

Coach Mike Brey’s birthday is this Friday, what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you ever learned from him? He is such a good players’ coach and is great at Xs and Os: it is rare to find someone who can do both. He taught me that no matter what happens you have to put it behind you and keep going, which works for both basketball as well as life.

You will turn 22 on April 12th, how great a birthday present would it be to get to celebrate early at the Final 4? I actually thought about that the other day: it would be the best present of all time.