A one-on-one interview with Coach Randy Bennett
Photo c/o AP Photo/John Minchillo
By Val Hill
Being West Coast Conference regular-season co-champions set the tone for the NCAA tournament for the Gaels. To participate again in the NCAA tournament is a tremendous accomplishment. Only those at large teams can compete, with only 64 teams eligible for the tournament.
“It’s just an amazing recognition for the great season we had, and being able to go back two years in a row. And being able to be recognized for having this season, and all those little accomplishments,” Head Coach for the Gaels, Randy Bennett, explained.“When the fear and anxiety hit, underneath is a sense of worth and accomplishment. Approaching things one step at a time and improving has been the Gael's strategy since day one. You have to approach things one at a time, coaches can say anything they want. But it’s about improving over time.”
However, tournament games are not as simple as in the regular season, with every game being fought tooth and nail. Even a one-seed going up against a sixteen-seed will not be an easy game. Despite that, Bennett says, “ It comes down to who is playing that game well, that's what it all comes down to.” For the Gaels, being the fifth seed was not seen as an obstacle in their path to victory against VCU.
For the Gaels, many working parts allowed the team to thrive, but the one that stood out the most was senior guard Logan Johnson. The fearless leader both on and off the court, he was a key asset for the success of the Gaels.
Bennett said of Johnson, “He had the biggest jump from starting this year, coming back from having shoulder surgery last year. Not being able to play much last summer was a setback.” Logan was the top scorer for the Gaels in almost every game in the regular season. He set the bar for the level of leadership allowing others as expected which includes seniors Alex Ducas and Kyle Bowen. Of the three, Bennett explained, “They have taught these younger players what it looks like. So they have left them in a position where they can be the next leaders. That’s the goal and the challenge that I gave them. And I think that they have truly embraced it.”
These seniors have embraced being the leaders and handed the reins to the younger players. Players like freshman Aiden Mahaney have started becoming the leader the team can rely on. Even though he is merely a freshman just now walking into this collegiate basketball world, he has stepped up. Coach Bennett talked about how he is more of a behind-the-scenes leader. “So being a freshman, you have to lead by example, because you’re already taking in so much as a freshman, on top of that you’re playing guys who are 23 to 24 years old. So he will become one of our key leaders.”
The Gaels had an incredible season, showing the college basketball world that Saint Mary’s is still a top competitor. Coach Randy Bennett has created a team that is a force to be reckoned with.
Madison Sciba '24,