Following an unsightly eight-point home loss to Colorado on Jan. 12, which dropped the Wildcats to 12-5 overall and 0-2 in the Big 12, the subject of the team's potentially disastrous fall into the NIT came up.
"This is my last go-around," he said at the time. "I'm not going to the NIT. I won't play basketball in the NIT. I'm saying that now. if we lose, and we have to go to the NIT, I will not play."
Six weeks and one stunning turnaround later, it's now all but guaranteed that we'll never know if Pullen would have eaten his words or not.
The latest step in K-State's rise from the ashes was a 75-70 upset of No. 7 Texas in Austin on Monday night. Pullen scored 20 points in the win and gutted out the final few minutes while playing essentially with one hand.
"I don't think I have to play basketball in the NIT now, so people can just leave that comment alone," Pullen said over the phone on the team's bus ride back to the airport late Monday night. "People wanted to make that comment into something bigger than it was. At the time, it was me challenging my team."
The challenge took a couple of weeks to affect Pullen's supporting cast, with the season's unquestionable low point coming in a 90-66 blowout loss on the road against rival Kansas on Jan. 29. The second half of that game featured an uninspired performance by the team that was ranked third in the nation to start the season, with starters getting benched early and K-State having the look of a team ready to pack it in for good.
They left Allen Fieldhouse weary, dragging a 2-5 Big 12 record behind them like a ball and chain.
"It really made us look at ourselves in the mirror and question ourselves and whether we wanted to go into hiding," Pullen recalled. "At the same time, it was us realizing what direction we wanted to go in. We took it upon ourselves not to let that game end our season."
That game led to an out-of-the-blue rebirth during a tumultuous season that also has included Pullen and fellow senior Curtis Kelly drawing suspensions, then big men Wally Judge and Freddy Asprilla opting to transfer not long after.
The driving force behind all of it is Pullen, who figured out how to most effectively lead.
He needed to be more selfish.
"It was me understanding that I have to be more aggressive and put the team on my back — I had to bring my confidence back up and realize that nobody in the country can guard me," he said defiantly.
The numbers of late — on top of the wins — verify his success with new approach.
Pullen's current hot streak kicked off with the signature performance of his collegiate career in the 84-68 upset of the Jayhawks two weeks ago. He scored 38 points that night and hit a season-high five 3-pointers. Including that burst, he's averaging 27.2 points an outing during the Wildcats' current 5-game win streak.
His signature moment, though, came in the closing minutes of Monday's win in Austin.
While falling hard under the basket late in the second half, Pullen's right wrist crunched into the floor as he tried to brace himself. He was down for a minute, then was shown wincing on the bench while being examined.
Pullen came back into the game not much later, still appearing to be in pain, but couldn't do much with his dominant hand.
K-State was up by five with just over three minutes remaining, and after losing Cory Joseph around a high screen by freshman Shane Southwell, he took the ball from the top of the key, stormed down the left side of the lane, and, with his off hand, flipped in a bucket high off the window.
He'd later sink free throws in the closing moments to polish off K-State's third consecutive win against Texas in Austin.
"I thought they would have tried to make me go right, because I didn't really want to go right," Pullen joked.
Pullen said he was told that the likely diagnosis on his wrist — which he said 'feels fine' — is a sprain. He'll have x-rays on it in the morning once back in Manhattan.
Barring a significant injury, there's no way coach Frank Martin would be able to hold Pullen out from his swan song at Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday night against Iowa State.
It'll be a night of celebration that hardly appeared likely less than two months ago.
As it now stands, K-State is 21-9 overall, 9-6 in the Big 12, one win away from potentially clinching a first-round bye in the conference tournament and now safely back in the NCAA tourney's field of 68.
The Wildcats are now also destined to be that team in the middle of the bracket that no one wants a part of in the tournament's first weekend.
K-State certainly took the circuitous route in doing so, but is at last living up to the lofty expectations it faced coming into the season.
Its timing couldn't possibly be better.
"With the pressure and the hype, we didn't understand what it took to win games," Pullen said. "Our team morale is now through the roof and we believe in ourselves."