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NCAA Tournament Second Round - Press Conference Quotes

March 23, 2010

UConn NCAA Tournament Central

Connecticut Head Coach Geno Auriemma

Opening Statement:
The tournament is pretty exciting and pretty special, regardless of how many times you've been in it. Playing that first round game, there's some anxious moments. You know you haven't played in a long time, so we came out in the second half to play great. That's exactly what you want going forward. Secretly I was hoping Tonya's team would win, not because that's who I want to play, but you're always rooting for your assistants to do well in the NCAA Tournament. I know my players are far excited about tomorrow and I know our coaching staff is as well.

Does it take a while to get used to coaching against a friend or a mentor?
I remember my first experience was when I was in the Final Four for the very first time in 1991 and we happen to draw Virginia. I wasn't feeling bittersweet. I wanted to beat them so bad in the Final Four, win a national championship. I would think afterwards you would feel, man, we have to go through them to win. The first time I did it as a head coach, it's hard because you know you're going to beat them. That's the hard part. It's not like well they may win, so there's a little bit of edginess. It's hard because you know going into the game you're going to win, so you hope they play really well, for her, for the program, for everyone. If we were the underdog against one of my assistants, I wouldn't feel like that. I would hope they play lousy and we beat their butt, but because every game we've gone into we've been so much better and then talent-wise, and they were all in the building stages of what they were doing, I root for them to play great. I root for them to make every shot, make a great account of themselves, be proud of themselves and feel good about themselves and then go home.



Do you know you're going to win tomorrow?
Do I know we're going to win tomorrow? Well the NCAA Tournament is a little different. You don't assume anything in the NCAA Tournament. I go into every game thinking we're going to win. Yesterday's game, tomorrow's game, every game I go in thinking we're going to win.

When you recruit these kids, do you look for those who can handle playing for a program like Connecticut and how to deal with the celebrity-status of being on this team?
Part of the recruiting process at Connecticut is what the person is, who they are as people and how they conduct themselves on the court and off the court, and that's a huge part of what we recruit. Obviously if there's a really good kid out there who does everything right and can't play a lick, we're not going to recruit them, but if we're trying to evaluate this player who's really good and that player who's really good, and I like the way this kid carries herself as opposed to the way this kid carried herself, I want to make a decision based on a lot of those factors. When you do that, then it's easy once they get there. Now I'm not saying it's always perfect, and I'm not saying every kid that comes there automatically understands, but when you approach recruiting the right way, and you're recruiting character kids within that who they already are, then it's easy once they get there to say, look this is the way we do things, this is the way you're going to have to handle yourself and they go okay, it's kind of who I am already. And there's some that's a little bit of a struggle, but I think overall, we do a pretty good job of indentifying who those people are and want to be like that and want to be around other players that are like that. It's not like we're trying to take a square peg fit it into a round hole. We're just getting kids who just want to be like the kids who are already there. When they visit on the recruiting trip and they're not like that, they look around and go I don't fit in here and they leave. Some of the work is done for you. People watch us play on television and they look at us and they automatically make a decision without even saying it in their mind, that's where I want to play, or nope, I'm not going there, because there's things about me I want to hold on to they won't let you hold on to.

On differences in former assistants, but commonalities among them...
They all have one thing in common. They all think they know more than I do, so that's good. I'm glad I passed that along to them. Jamelle and Jen are probably closest in personality types and they both experience the same things at Connecticut, playing for me. Tonya's personality is a little bit different. She was much more laid back, much more introverted. The one thing watching their teams play that I noticed, is first of all, all of them are really, really involved in coaching their team from the sidelines. They're all really animated, really passionate with their teams. All their teams are really good defensively. They really get after their players to play a certain way and they make demands on them that I like that the kids have responded [to]. It's easy to see how Jen has built that program. It's easy to see how Tonya's been in the NCAA Tournament both years and won a game yesterday and Jamelle will be doing the same thing in a couple years. I'm really, really proud of them, really thrilled for them that they've been able to do it in their own way and not try to be me. I think when coaches get jobs for the first time, they try to be like the head coach they worked for or played with or played for and it never works. Jamelle is Jamelle, Tonya is Tonya and Jen is Jen and they do it their own way.

If you're Temple, what do you do to get your program to the next level?
I don't think there's anything that you can do more than win, so if they were to win the game tomorrow night, it puts them in the history books. I don't think Tonya would take advantage of it by all the sudden becoming a celebrity coaching guru. She would still stay grounded to her roots. If they come out tomorrow and play basketball, and play the way they're coached, and play with a sense of purpose and execute whatever it is Tonya wants them to execute, you'll be able to tell that whether they win, whether they lose, whether it's close, whether it's not close. You'll know and everybody watching will know. They'll know they're a well-coached team and they'll know they're playing at a competitive level and they'll make their mark. More people will watch Temple tomorrow then have ever watched Temple in the history of the program. Matter of face, more people will watch Temple tomorrow than have ever watched their program. After tomorrow, they're going to be on a whole other level. Win, lose, draw - doesn't matter.

Are you concerned about the growth of the women's game?
There are more good players now, than there were a few years ago and they're going to a more variety of schools. They're not all going to a couple places as much as they used to. That's helped teams from say 5 to 45 or 35. All those teams are much more competitive than they used to be. That's why you had some of the upsets you had yesterday, somewhat mild, somewhat bigger than normal, even teams losing on their home court. It's slowly getting there. What hasn't happened unfortunately is enough school's athletic directors or presidents haven't made a commitment to the women's game, so they don't any pressure on their coaches. They don't put enough money into the program and they don't demand from their coaching staff that they play a certain level. Until that changes, there's nothing we can do about it, but once they start putting those demands on coaches and demanding certain things that they be held accountable for wins and losses, because it's been proven if you do that people will come out and watch you play. Every place that's done that people have come out to watch the game. It's getting better and better every year. That's all you can say.

Is this the level of success you thought Tonya would have so soon?
She was taking over at a place that already had enjoyed some success. When Dawn Staley was there, they had started a culture of winning. Sometimes when an assistant coach gets their first head coaching job, they maybe don't get the level of respect they deserve, so it's harder than an established head coach from a program that they're used to winning. Maybe Tonya coming from Connecticut, they said we better listen. It happens pretty fast, but she's got a good staff and she does a great job coaching them and they can probably build more on this. They're in a great league for them. They can win the league or come in the top-2 or 3 every single year. They've got three teams in the tournament that are all still alive. It's pretty good. All of the elements are there and I'm sure they're going to keep getting better and better.

When can the women's game do to get out of the shadow of the men's game and establish its own identity?
Nothing. The one thing that has to happen and it might be happening in most places, you have to stop comparing yourself to the men's game. Coaches have to stop comparing themselves to men's coaches, stop comparing your records to the men's records, stop comparing what you make to what the men make, stop comparing our game to their game, and stand on our own two feet. If we can do that to the best of our ability, that's the best we can do. How we're perceived and the media perception of who we are and what they want to write, it's a women's team sport. There's not women's team sport in America that gets respect anywhere.

Senior Center Tina Charles

What is it like to play against someone who has coached you?
It's a little bit emotional. When I had to go up against Jamelle Elliott, just the face I had a great relationship with her and how much she had into the success I had at this program, it was kind of emotional. The fact that she's doing well, and to see Tonya doing well and bringing that program where it is now, it's really good to see.

Talk about Tonya Cardova's personality when at UConn...
She was really laid back. If I was getting chewed out by Coach, I could just go in her office, I'd be fine. She would joke around with me, she was really laid back, but she would always give me pointers, just always telling me I always have to have my hands up and little things like that. She was good to be around and joke around with.

Do you ever feel you're involved in something bigger than just basketball?
Like Coach always says, the greatest challenge before you get to Connecticut is just signing here when you're in high school, when you're a senior. Before being recruited, the people who build up this program, that was already going on. I knew what I was getting myself into, so I was already prepared seeing that on TV, seeing the way they carried themselves, so I was already prepared for that.

Junior Forward Maya Moore

What is it like to play against someone who has coached you?
Once the game starts, you just play. It's always good to see, like Coach said, Tonya win and any of our former coaches win. Once the whistles sounds for the game to start, we're ready to play.

Talk about Tonya Cardova's personality when at UConn...
She was tough. I remember some of the first individuals I had with her as a guard coach, we couldn't do any work out without our beloved goggles that prevent you from being able to see while you're dribbling. It creates a feeling like `you've never played basketball before goggles.' It made it more difficult to dribble, but she always makes us wear them, make us wear them at the individuals and expected just as much out of us. She's tough and she'll push you.

Do you ever feel you're involved in something bigger than just basketball?
It's absolutely bigger than basketball. One of the aspects of coming here and being part of such a great program is that you can always learn from experience and how you have to represent all the time, because we're at a place now where women's basketball is gaining more attention. People are trying to recognize female athletes in the everyday world and it's great. I think this team does a great job of embracing that and being pretty aware that we have to represent ourselves, treat people nice and not to be rude just because they want an autograph off the court. I think this team does do a great job of embracing that role of having people recognize us off the court.

Where do you see the most attention?
Definitely when we're traveling or out somewhere together as a team, it's very obvious - a lot of tall women. If we're in our gear or in warm-ups, it's pretty easy to spot us. People ask us for autographs and get excited for our season, so probably when we're together in our basketball gear is when we get recognized the most, you know eating as a team.