HOUSTON -- Brian Dutcher has been a college basketball coach since before the sport had a 3-point line. He won a national title as an assistant at Michigan, has coached players who became NBA All-Stars and has won nearly 77% of his games in six seasons as SDSU's coach.
But when it came down to arguably the most critical coaching decision of the Aztecs' 72-71 win over FAU in the Final Four on Saturday, there were no decades-old coaching philosophies going through his mind. When Dutcher opted not to use his team's last timeouts in the final seconds before Lamont Butler's game-winning buzzer-beater, the reasoning was really quite simple.
"I ran out of plays," Dutcher bluntly told Tracy Wolfson on the CBS broadcast after the game. "So I decided not to take the timeout."
Brian Dutcher on the buzzer beater:— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) April 2, 2023
"I ran out of plays so I decided not to take a timeout" 😂 pic.twitter.com/5HEVEm83sM
Instead, with a defensive-oriented lineup that did not include leading scorers Matt Bradley and Darrion Trammell, Dutcher decided to let the final seconds of the game play out organically after the Aztecs came up with a critical stop while facing a 71-70 deficit with under 10 seconds remaining.
"I figured we'd get the ball somewhere around seven seconds if we were lucky," Dutcher said. "I thought at that time let's just go downhill."
The leading scorer on the floor, Lamont Butler, validated the approach by hitting the first game-winning buzzer-beater of the 2023 NCAA Tournament, which sent the No. 5 seed Aztecs on to their first national title game appearance in program history.
"I always say March is for players, not coaches," Dutcher said. "Lamont made a play and made an old coach look good."
Micah Parrish trailed Butler on the play as the Aztecs' only other perimeter threat. The other three players on the floor were all frontcourt players under orders to run to the rim.
"In those moments, a timeout is kind of like a momentum snapper," said Keshad Johnson, who was among the SDSU bigs jockeying for position beneath the basket when the final shot went up. "We just had to push it and get down the court. Thank God it was bottom of the net."