The man newly tasked with leading George Mason basketball seemed to go through a range of emotions in his introductory press conference.
When talking about the transitions facing his own career and family Dave Paulsen almost choked up when giving thanks to his wife and family for their support of his 21-year ongoing coaching career, his nerves showed when he was on the podium as his left hand was firmly in his pocket for almost the duration of his remarks but Paulsen showed the confidence and charisma that impressed Mason officials to select him for the job when speaking about his vision for bringing a successful basketball culture to Mason.
“We’re going to have a team that plays tough, plays smart, that’s skilled, that’s fundamentally sound and with great character. We’re going to be a team that plays with passion and energy every single night. We’re going to be a team, that really is a team, where every guy is excited for their teammate’s successes and works together,” Paulsen said.
From his seven seasons at Bucknell University, Paulsen brings an impressive resume to back up his words with two NCAA Tournament appearances, two National Invitation Tournament appearances and four of the last five Patriot League regular season championships.
Paulsen was formally introduced Wednesday as the 10th head coach in Mason basketball history, after the school’s announcement on Monday, in front of a small crowd of fans, staples of basketball game days like the Green Machine and with some of the returning players in attendance. It was his message to the latter group that Paulsen echoed throughout the press conference.
“You didn’t choose me, but I chose you. And I chose you because of your potential, because of your ability and because we’re going to build great things together,” Paulsen said. “There’s going to be some bumps in the road — transitions are hard — but there’s great character, there’s great potential, there’s great resolve here. And we’re going to work together to put a team on the court that Mason Nation is proud of, to put a team in the classroom that Mason Nation is proud of and to be a team in the community that can galvanize this campus once again.”
The message to rally his new team is important as the Patriots have only two outgoing seniors in guards Corey Edwards and Vaughn Gray. Edwards was the team’s shooting guard for the majority of the season, so a large portion of the core of the Mason team that finished 9-22 this season will remain in tact, barring any transfers.
Paulsen’s hiring came after multiple reports on Sunday that Mason had University of California, Irvine coach Russell Turner tabbed as the next coach — even going as far to make Turner the initial offer before he turned it down.
Turning around this Mason team immediately will be an uphill battle following back-to-back 20-loss seasons, but President Ángel Cabrera, who gave the opening remarks at the press conference, stressed the vitality of a successful basketball team for the university as a whole now and in the future.
“For George Mason, basketball is clearly the front door to our university. It is what many people see first, so the brighter the spotlight on our basketball team, the brighter the spotlight is also on our faculty and the tremendous work they do,” Cabrera said. “Basketball really amplifies what we are and what we do.”