Columbia, SC - Three-time All-American and two-time ACC Player of the Year John Roche returned to Columbia Saturday for South Carolina game against Alabama to join in the celebration of 100 years of South Carolina basketball and to honor Dave Odom. The following is some of what he had to say to the media prior to the game.
His opening statement:
"I am here for two reasons. One, to be a part of the celebration of South Carolina basketball history for 100 years, and on behalf of my teammates and the fine teams I have played on. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to be here today. Secondly, I am here to honor the very fine coaching career of Coach Dave Odom. You had a coach that lasted seven years and has won over 400 college basketball games. I hope you are very proud of his accomplishments. I feel privileged that he is the coach of this program for this many years."
On South Carolina basketball:
"I live in Denver, so it is kind of far away. I don't follow too many sports that closely. I am an active tennis player, so I do follow tennis closely. I also follow the NCAA Tournament when it rolls around. I do loosely follow the Universities. I think that South Carolina plays basketball in a very competitive environment, competing against many other fine schools for a very limited number of players. It is a challenge for any basketball coach for a school in this area to consistently recruit players who can play at a national level and be a nationally ranked team. It certainly is possible to put together some fine teams in a row and you get fortunate and you recruit some top quality players. Expectations can be a tough thing. Maybe the teams we played in South Carolina created some tough expectations."
On the need for confidence:
"I think you need confidence, that is for sure. Maybe you didn't always need the kind of confidence the way we would sometimes display it. But certainly to be successful in anything you have to have a certain confidence level. Confidence comes from being successful. We started to win some games and we gained confidence. We had a lot of talent in our program when I was here. It was a period of time where Coach McGuire was able to recruit some outstanding talent for the University over a short period of time. That is a little more difficult these days. Your next coach will find that challenging. Hopefully you get lucky a little bit, the 7-footer who grows up down the street. You need some good luck as well."
On his career at South Carolina:
"A number of moments [stand out to me]. I think the journey and the challenge to become one of the better teams in the ACC and one of the better teams in the nation, in retrospect, was better than the destination. I enjoyed some of the games where we began to realize we were good enough to compete on a national level and that we had the kind of team that we were hoping to have. I think a number of games early on in my career were really quite memorable. We had a desire to play on a top-notch team and some of the games early let us see that we would be able to accomplish that."
On today's game:
"I am enormously impressed by the quality of players today and how they work. Players today on a yearly basis work far harder than we were asked to work. When I was a player weight lifting was discouraged. We played a slower game of basketball. I am impressed by the work ethic that goes into college basketball today."
On playing for Frank McGuire:
"Coach McGuire coached in a way that gave us a great independence in decision-making. At the end of the game we would make a lot of decisions. Sometimes they turned out well, and sometimes they didn't. It wasn't great preparation for professional basketball, but in terms of after basketball, I appreciated the fact that Coach McGuire let it be known to us that he was going to put the outcome of the games in the players' hands. He let players promote independence and be self sufficient, which I think is a very good life lesson."
On the special nature of those teams:
"I understand that our team played at the university at a unique and special time where interest was very high. I am here with my daughter and she is shocked at the attention I receive when I come back to the University of South Carolina."
On following the program since he left:
"I didn't have the life opportunity to be in this area very much and I didn't have a personal connection with many of the coaches who took over the program in the years since I left. Somehow there was really no conscious decision that I was not going to get involved in the university basketball program. Dave Odom made an effort to involve me and the others in the program. It has been a pleasure to get back when you have asked me to come back and be a part of South Carolina tradition. The years that went by when I didn't come back to the state, it wasn't because I had any feelings that I didn't want to come back. In fact, my memories at South Carolina are all fond memories."
"After Coach McGuire passed away, they had a celebration of his life. I did come back for that event. I came back in 1980 for the game honoring McGuire when he left as coach. I have come back on other occasions and connected with the university. I am delighted to come back now."
On leaving ACC:
"I thought it was a terrible idea, at the time, certainly, for the basketball program. I certainly, coming out of high school would not have come to South Carolina if it was not in the ACC. Tommy and I decided that we wanted to play in that league at that time. I think if South Carolina was independent or even in the SEC at that time, when they didn't have a basketball reputation, at least to me, playing in the ACC on the basketball side was a very important aspect of recruiting. From a basketball perspective, it was a terrible idea. Now, over the years, it turns out fine, but I think most people would look back and say it was not a good decision to leave the ACC at that time."
On his career in Denver:
"I played there for three years. I did participate in an ABA reunion. I played five years in the ABA. They did have an event in Denver. I still work full time as a lawyer, and so you get pretty busy. But, I did go to an ABA reunion, which I enjoyed very much. I think I have the distinction of the only licensed lawyer to play in the NBA, while I was licensed."