Tobin Anderson’s locker-room speech may turn out to be one of the most famous called shots in sports history — at least, since Joe Namath’s guarantee of victory in Super Bowl 3 or Babe Ruth’s “called” home run in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series.
After Fairleigh Dickinson’s First Four victory over Texas Southern on Wednesday, Anderson addressed his team in the locker room. The message he gave the 16-seed Knights was nothing less than bulletin-board material for 1-seed Purdue:
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“I want Purdue to see this,” Anderson told his team with cameras focused right on him. “The more I watch Purdue, the more I think we can beat them. Let’s go shock the world.”
“I want Purdue to see this. The more I watch Purdue, the more I think we can beat them”
— The Field of 68 (@TheFieldOf68) March 16, 2023
Anderson and Co. did exactly that Friday, upending Sporting News Player of the Year Zach Edey and the Boilermakers 63-58 — just the second victory for a 16-seed over a 1-seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
Anderson declined to double down on his famous call, however; in fact, he walked back his First Four speech.
MORE: Why FDU’s upset of Purdue was more unlikely than UMBC’s 16-1 upset of Virginia
“That speech got overblown,” Anderson told Turner’s Jamie Erdahl after the game. “We just have faith in what we do and our guys are so tough and so competitive, you know. I’ll do a better job in this locker room speech than last. … It was the right message, maybe the wrong audience.”
That’s certainly curious, considering Anderson said he “wanted Purdue to see this.” Regardless, Anderson was true to his word in his postgame locker-room speech. He was much more complimentary of Purdue:
This postgame locker room speech from FDU head coach Tobin Anderson:
“For the rest of our lives this will be something special” 💙 pic.twitter.com/22pw1C0xK2
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 18, 2023
MORE: History of 16 vs. 1 upsets after Fairleigh Dickinson joins UMBC
Anderson downplayed his locker room speech further in his postgame news conference, saying it was not his intent to disrespect the Big Ten champion.
“I’m not sure how I meant it. I wanted our guys to believe. As a coach or a leader, you’ve got to try to get them to believe in what we’re doing, how we’re doing it,” Anderson said. “So if I walk in there and say, I don’t say anything, I would’ve preferred there was not a camera in there. It was the right message, wrong audience. That’s what I would say.
“I would have said that with no camera in there. I didn’t mean to get Purdue upset, so that was not the idea at all. But that was going to be the message: we’re trying to win the next game. We just can’t be happy to be here. And the guys got to believe.”
MORE: Fairleigh Dickinson latest Cinderella to upend Boilermakers
Anderson added that part of the reason for his motivational tactic was that his team had heard criticism considering it didn’t even win the Northeast Conference Tournament: Merrimack did, defeating the Knights in the final, but Merrimack was barred from the tournament by the NCAA because the program hasn’t been in Division I long enough. That gave FDU the opportunity instead.
The Knights, to this point, have made the most of it. But even Anderson jokingly admitted after the game that he wasn’t sure how much he believed his team could beat Purdue.
“I’ve got to go do some laundry, but we’ll get prepared for Sunday,” Anderson said, laughing. “Listen, I had belief, but I’m not sure I had that much belief. I’ve got to go do some laundry.”