Kennesaw State coach Amir Abdur-Rahim was in tears after losing to Xavier in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday.
But he was not out of grief. The fourth-year coach shed what the fourth-year coach described as “tears of joy” when talking about KSU's first NCAA tournament bid. Explain after Abdur-Rahim was asked if “this is the beginning of something big:”
“With all due respect, the beginning was four years ago,” Abdur-Rahim said. “We're here today, man, because…”
That's when the waterworks started flowing.
“The beginning was four years ago,” he repeated. “These are tears of joy, man. Because we made a commitment to this university; we made a commitment to these guys sitting next to me that we're going to show up for them every day.
“When you get to a place like this – again, these are tears of joy. Because it takes a special group of people to commit to something and see that vision through. So the beginning happened four years ago Was. You better believe this is our standard. This is our expectation. And we'll be back.”
The Owls Were 1-28 Four Years Ago, They Would Never Have Made The NCAAs
Abdur-Rahim, 41, gave his answer sitting next to senior guard Terrell Burden, who has played all four years since Abdur-Rahim took the job. Fellow seniors Alex Peterson and Spencer Rodgers were also on the podium, as was junior Chris Youngblood.
Abdur-Rahim did not get off to a good start as an NCAA head coach. The Owls finished 1–28 in 2019–20, his first year on the job. Kennesaw State has since posted 5-19 and 13-18 campaigns. But this year the program went off the rails.
The Owls finished the season at 26–8 and a 15–3 conference record, securing a tie atop the Atlantic Suns in the regular season. They then won three straight games to win the conference tournament and secure the program's first NCAA tournament bid. Kennesaw State Joined Division 1 in 2005 and had never posted a winning record in conference play until this season.
The 2022-23 season was indeed a success. And the Owls almost took it a step further. As the No. 14 seed, Kennesaw State led No. 3 seed Xavier by 13 points on Friday before the Musketeers rallied for a 72–67 victory. While there's certainly some sadness in the loss, there's a lot to celebrate for a new program that just turned into a huge success.
Tears of happiness were flowing.