NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - UNO basketball head coach and Southland Conference Coach of the Year Mark Slessinger is truly a humble winner. Rather than reflect on the Privateers' past and the rocky road to return to the NCAA Tournament, he's enjoying the moment, as he should. But those around Slessinger know the dedication it took to return the program to glory.
"Every year, he builds this team around who we are," says senior forward Erik Thomas. "And that's being blue collar and working harder than everybody else. That's what we've been doing over these past few years. We build this program up, and it just feels great to be a part of history."
"He's one of the most determined and committed men that I know," says UNO President Dr. John Nicklow. "He saw what could be. A lot of people could have walked away from it and not had the dedication necessary. He did, and he's one of the most determined people I know."
That determination was on full display for a national audience last Saturday, as Slessinger led the Privateers out of a 10-point deficit in the conference title game. But that comeback doesn't compare to what he dealt with when he began his tenure on the lake front in 2011. From academic performance setbacks that were out of his control to a lack of funding, his commitment to working hard, no matter the circumstances against him, had no limits.
"It's so indicative of our campus, and then if you want to think about it, our city," says Nicklow. "He focused on working hard, getting the job done and not worrying so much about self."
And there's no time to worry about self right now either. The Privateers quickly turn their attention to Mount St. Mary's tonight. And should they win, they'll look to continue making history as a 16 seed against the top overall seed Villanova on Thursday.