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July 11, 2012Stanford's men's basketball team hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 2008, but the 2011-2012 Stanford men's basketball season marked the return of major optimism to The Farm.
After an up-and-down regular season, the Cardinal gelled in the postseason and rolled to an NIT title.
With most of the team's key contributors back in 2012-2013, expectations are once again high for the
In this 10-part offseason series, we first look at some of the top moments and accomplishments of Stanford's 2011-2012 campaign, and later preview the 2012-2013 season.
Season Review No. 5: "Pissed off for greatness"
Perhaps more than any single play or game, Ray Lewis' memorable pre-game speech to the Stanford
team before the Cardinal's NIT semifinal game against UMass was a defining moment in Stanford's
season. In the video, which now has upwards of 738,000 hits on YouTube, Lewis talked about the importance of striving for excellence. "If you ain't
pissed off for greatness, that mean you're okay with being mediocre," Lewis said.
The Cardinal was far from mediocre in its 74-64 win over the Minutemen, overcoming a pro-UMass crowd and a 50-49 deficit with around eight minutes left in regulation to advance to the tournament final.
Lewis' speech itself was a long time in the making. A few games into the season someone on Stanford's
staff - which is big on using various motivational tools and techniques - came across some videos of Lewis
preaching the importance of defense. Given the emphasis the 2011-2012 Cardinal placed on the defensive side of the game, Lewis' message hit home.
"We showed the video to our guys and the guys loved it, they loved it," Stanford assistant coach Mike
Schrage told Cardinal Sports Report. "[They] loved it so much that we brought it back a few times during
the course of the season to show the guys. It kind of became a rallying cry for us."
Little did the team know how Stanford's coaching staff was working behind the scenes to bring Lewis himself to the Cardinal locker room.
Stanford assistant coach Charles Payne, who originally hails from the Washington DC area and has connections to Baltimore, set about trying to coordinate an appearance from Lewis as the season progressed.
When Stanford's NIT semifinals appearance coincided with an appearance by Lewis in New York City, the Stanford coaching staff extended Lewis an invitation to deliver a pre-game speech.
Lewis had no reservations about accepting, although his appearance nearly didn't happen at all. The coaches planned for Lewis would arrive approximately 45 minutes before tipoff, but city traffic and other logistical impediments delayed the NFL star.
"We were worried there for a while that it was not going to come together," Schrage said.
The coaching staff even prepared a video - the same one they showed the team earlier in the season - in the event Lewis would be too late to deliver a speech. But mere moments before Stanford was set to take the floor for tip off, Lewis arrived.
"So as we're watching the video we know he's kind of coming down the hallway," Schrage recalled. "Really right when the video wrapped up he walks in, and without any reservation, without us saying hey, it's time, we pretty much send him out.
"Our guys think coach is going to talk to them, huddle them up like always, we break. He walks in, so that was a complete surprise to our guys. He gave a great speech."
Lewis didn't just deliver the speech and run, either. He sat behind the Stanford bench and followed up with the Cardinal coaches after Stanford's win.
"Unbelievable guy," Schrage said. "I tell you what, he sat behind our bench during the game, followed up with Charles and our staff about the championship. Whoever wasn't a Ray Lewis fan after watching his video definitely was after getting to know him as a person and being a part of that."
How much credit - if any - Lewis should receive for Stanford's NIT title is debatable, but there's no doubt his pre-game speech will go down in Stanford lore.
Up Next: Season Review No. 4 - The Injury Bug