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One for the team

Fans rush on the court to celebrate the 49ers 49-48 win against the Tennessee Volunteers Dec. 17 at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Fans rush on the court to celebrate the 49ers 49-48 win against the Tennessee Volunteers Dec. 17 at Time Warner Cable Arena. DIEDRA LAIRD

Head coach Alan Major completed the interview, choked up as he was. Fans were still milling around, soaking in the joy of the 49ers victory over #7 Tennessee. The CBS College cameras had just recorded his post-game comments.His next request was simple. “Can I go back to my team, now?”Since day one on the job with the 49ers, head coach Alan Major has been all about the players.He met with them, talked with them, got to know them. He planned his schedule around theirs. He made it abundantly clear that the players came first.So after the program’s biggest victory since 2004, and its biggest home win since 1999, he wanted nothing more than to enjoy it with his players. To celebrate with them. To congratulate them.On air, he fought back the tears, as he told the national audience how proud he was of the players. The season was barely a month old but the team had been through a lot. Certainly, his first several months on the job had not been easy. There were injuries, suspensions, a dismissal. But Major refused to reflect on the difficulties, refused to make excuses for the rocky start. He kept his eyes firmly pointed forward. Deal with it, and come back and work harder and get better.He said the basketball gods would reward the effort.Now I don’t know if it was the basketball gods or a simple thing called discipline, but the effort was rewarded. Discipline. Not the hard-handed, my-way or the highway discipline you might expect from a first-year coach. Rather, the overall discipline of a team executing its game plan from minute one to minute 40. The 49ers defense forced Tennessee out of its comfort zone. The Vols put up threes (2-for-17) and shot just 34% for the game. They did not get to the free throw line (2-for-7) and they were held to a season-low 48 points. The 49ers, didn’t shoot any better – in fact they shot worse (30%), but they stayed the course. The best Tennessee could muster was six-point lead. Charlotte did not let them put together a run, and, when it counted most, the 49ers made a run of their own.It was the 49ers who scored the final seven points – and you want to talk about discipline. How about your junior shooting guard setting up the final play, not by firing away for the long range dagger, but by driving to the hoop, pulling defenders and dishing inside for a wide-open layup?That’s how the 49ers won the game: Simple discipline they had employed throughout the game won it on their final possession.And that’s what Major has been giving this team. He’s been believing in them, trusting in them and pushing them not to accept excuses, but to come back, work hard and get better. And after seeing the culmination of the early struggles, Major wanted nobody more by his side than his team.