Before we part ways, Ed Madec issues one last request: "Don't make it about me."
The Fresno City College men's basketball coach wants his players to be the subject of this column. He wants them getting all the credit.
They're the ones most responsible for the Rams' 28-2 record and their No. 2 seed and first-round bye in the Northern California Regional. (Fresno City hosts No. 15 Foothill on Saturday night at 7:30 in the second half of a doubleheader with the No. 2 Rams women’s team.)
The way Madec tells it, he has little to do with any of this.
Little to do with the 235-40 record in eight seasons, a winning percentage of 85.4%.
Little to do with the two state championships and eight straight conference titles.
Little to do with the most impressive statistic of all. The one where 52 of Madec's 57 players have earned full scholarships to four-year colleges. That's a winning percentage of 91.2%.
"Make it about the kids," Madec says in the breezeway outside the Fresno City gym.
Keep in mind this is after Madec soaks a grey T-shirt in sweat during the first 20 minutes of a 2 1/2-hour practice that he interrupts constantly with hands-on instruction about positioning, spacing and fundamentals like how to drive from the set position without traveling.
This is after the Rams run through a series of drills you'll never see another basketball team do and at an intensity level few can match.
"Even at the four-year level, we didn't practice near as hard as we do here," says sophomore Chris Ashanti, who played at a Division II college in Nebraska. "Only the tough can make it through."
This is after Madec, on his knees behind the baseline, watches his players run new sets they'll unveil in postseason. He's leaning forward with palms braced on the hardwood yelling, "You need to get off those screens with reckless abandon! Like you robbed a bank and you're driving the getaway car!"
This is after player after player walks over to the Gatorade jug, bends over and guzzles straight from the drain spout. Cups? They don't need no stinkin' cups.
This is after someone makes a lazy no-look pass instead of dribbling toward the lane, as he had just been instructed, and the coach hollers "Do you want to end our season?" And, yes, that's the edited version.
This is after sophomore guard Rich Tesmer remarks practice isn't as intense as usual: "Because you were in there, he probably eased off a little."
This is after meeting at 6 a.m. in the small gym for pickup games, which Madec plays in, not to mention the grueling basketball conditioning class that weeds out the weak.
This is after the players head straight to the weight room following practice, just like they do following games. They perform sets of vertical rows, bench and squats (often Madec lifts with them) -- and no one cheats on the squats.
"It's a brotherhood, and we hold each other accountable," Tesmer says. "It's one thing to have coaches get on you. It's another to have your teammates get on you."
This is after everyone gets sent home for a rare day off with a lecture on the importance of sleep. Not just ample sleep, but early sleep. Be in bed by 10. No one makes a face.
This after Madec pulls six players into the equipment room and shows them how to mix vitamin supplements and water. "Shake it up, and take it to the head," he says with glee.
This is after assistant Mike Marcial, the point guard on Madec's 2006-07 state title team, says these Rams won their games by an average score of 73-60. Marcial's teams scored in the 90s, meaning the coach isn't wedded to any particular style.
"We're married to toughness and discipline," Madec says. "Those things don't change."
This is after the 41-year-old reveals a few poignant (and character-revealing) details about his upbringing and hobbies, then insists they not be included here. The man can be maddening to deal with.
This is after Ashanti, the team's leading scorer, shrugs his shoulders when asked if he has received any scholarship offers. He doesn't know, because Madec keeps all that stuff secret until season's end.
"We're more worried about winning a state championship than knowing the schools that are recruiting us," Ashanti says.
This is after you sit there wondering how such a culture of trust and accountability can be created at a junior college, where there's mass turnover every year and no scholarships to take away. And how long it'll take before an out-of-the-box thinking Division I athletic director finally whisks him away.
This is before Madec bursts his own balloon.
"Trust me," he says in his nasally rasp. "It's them.
"The only thing I can take credit for is I hire the best assistants and together we recruit the best players for our program. I can't take credit for anything else."
So, remember, this is not about Ed Madec.
It can't possibly be about him.
The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6218, email@example.com or @MarekTheBee on Twitter.