March 30, 2010
CONNECTICUT HEAD COACH Geno Auriemma OPENING STATEMENT
"There's really not much I can say. We're in the position we wanted to be in since we got back home last year from the Final Four. I think it's every kids goal to be this close to getting back to the Final Four, to have to win one game. The other 30-some games that we've played this year are all meant to lead us to tomorrow night. I told the team yesterday after our game that whatever it is that we're doing, whatever it is that we're thinking, whatever our approach has been, we're not going to change it. We are going to try to carry it through to tomorrow night and see where that takes us."
What do you remember about the previous matchup with Florida State?
Geno Auriemma: "One of the downsides is we watched Florida State play before we're playing them, so you get to feel pretty comfortable with their personnel. Then, after that, you don't pay attention to them anymore until all of the sudden you see that they are in our bracket. Watching them play a little bit, you know that they're still as incredibly gifted. They're one of the few teams left in the tournament, they and Duke, that can beat you in a lot of different ways. They're big enough in the half court that you really have your hands full. They're quick enough that they can play full court and extend their defense. They can score from a lot of different areas. They proved yesterday that they can win a close game in a game that they've never won before, to go to the final eight for the first time. Obviously, this is a team that is well run. I know they've had their ups and downs this season. They've had some huge wins, and some losses where you went, 'how did that happen?' Whatever team we played against in December is probably not the same team we are playing tomorrow night."
On the hiring of Anne Donovan at Seton Hall...
Geno Auriemma: "I think it's a great hire for Seton Hall. You've got a lot of different ways to go. Go get a young, up and coming assistant, go get an established head coach from college. Now you get somebody who has been a college coach, who's been a pro coach, who's been an Olympic gold medal winner as a player, as a coach. You talk about filling the whole box score, the whole stat sheet with one person, Seton Hall has certainly done that."
On contact with legendary Hall of Fame Coach John Wooden in the past ...
Geno Auriemma: "When I was playing high school basketball, I think everybody's favorite team was UCLA. If they weren't, it's because they were either lying or they were just jealous. I loved UCLA, loved everything about them, and probably the fact that they won all the time and the way they played. They were exceptional at every position. I enjoyed watching them play. I rooted for them to win all the time, and I never wanted to see them lose. I'm the same way in a lot of ways. I'm not a big fan of the underdog. I've been the underdog a couple of times, certainly earlier in my career. We've been the 'overdog' for so long. I like the favorites. I root for Tiger to win every golf tournament. Freddie Couples, I've gotten to know him, just won his third straight. I hope he wins ten in a row. That's just the way I am. "I was in California years and years ago, I would say at least 15 years ago, I think after we won our first national championship. I happened to be at a clinic speaking. They told me to go up to this hospitality room, and I went up there and all of the coaches that were speaking at the clinic were there, and John Wooden was sitting on the couch. That's the first time I had ever been around him. I said to the guy running the clinic, 'I want to meet John Wooden.' He brought me over and introduced me to him. Like a grandfather would, he told me to sit down right here. He put his hand on my knee, talking to me about the game and coaching. We spent about 15 minutes. I just listened to what he had to say. It was really neat, really a great experience. Then we won a national championship in 2000, and there's a thing in Sports Illustrated about how John Wooden really loves the UConn women because of the way we play. We had like 97 backdoor layups and all this stuff, and we played so pretty. An article on John Wooden talking about UConn basketball in Sports Illustrated. And I thought, 'Wow! That's really cool.' And he makes a comment that I'll never forget the rest of my life. He says, 'You know, I've never met their coach, but he seems like a wonderful young man.' So, that's my fondest memory of John Wooden."
advice would you give to Florida State Head Coach Sue Semrau to stay at this level?
Geno Auriemma: "By doing the same thing John Wooden did and Geno Auriemma did, go out and recruit the best players in the country. That's the easiest way, and then you've got to coach them, honestly. I think that's the hardest thing there is to do, and you've seen why when you see so many teams that get here and then can't get back here for a long time. And then you see some teams who are here all the time. Having been here now, it's the best thing that ever happens. I talked to her a lot last year when we played them, and we talked a lot about how far she's come and where their program has gotten to. She coaches the hell out of those kids. They play so hard. It's the best thing that has ever happened to her and the worst thing that has ever happened to her because from now on, no matter where they finish in the NCAA tournament, if there not at the final eight or beyond, she's going to be disappointed. That's just the life that you put yourself into. They're at a school that they can attract good players. They have good facilities. She's a heck of a coach, one of the best young coaches in the country, like Kim Mulkey [Baylor] or like Sherri Coale [Oklahoma], coaches like that, I'm not surprised they're here year after year after year any more. It's not the first time they've won a big game. They beat Stanford at Stanford a couple of years ago. It's not like they came out of nowhere. She's good, and they're good."
What is your single biggest concern tomorrow night?
Geno Auriemma: "The streak has never been my concern. I don't recruit kids and say if you come to Connecticut we are going to try to win 90 in a row. That's not the plan. I worry about things that I can have a little bit of control over. Same thing I worried about yesterday. How are we going to keep them from making 15 3's, cause if we do that, I think we can win. At the other end, I know we are going to get open shots, but what if we go 5-for-30? I worry about all the things that most coaches worry about. The outside world thinks, 'Well, what do you got to worry about? You have the best team. You never lose.' If I start thinking like that, I wouldn't be setting up here right now. I worry about the same things every coach worries about. Tina [Charles], you better not get in foul trouble, but Tina you can't give up a layup every time because you don't want to foul. Maya [Moore], don't do anything dumb on defense. Okay, I'll just let my guy score every time he touches it. You worry about the things that can happen during the course of the game, but at the same time you are confident going into the game that you are going to do the things that you are going to do. Remember that Tom Petty song they use on Friday Night Lights, 'I'm always confident, but I'm not really sure."
When will the parity in women's basketball match the parity in men's basketball?
Geno Auriemma: "Never. The reason it's happening on the men's side is a simplistic reason. You are always trying to put together a new team. So, you mean to tell me if all those kids stay at Kentucky, there is any serious doubt who will be in the Final Four for the next three years? That's not what happens in the women's game. You get players who go to college. They're really good. They stay together for four years, so all the best teams are always the best teams. There are no surprises in the NCAA tournament because you very rarely get a number one or two seed where you go, 'Gee, they've not been in this situation before. I wonder how they're going to handle it?' Sure they have been. The flip side is that every team you are playing is an experienced, good team. We'll probably never have 6-7 seeds make the Final Four on a regular basis. It might happen, but it's so difficult until players start leaving early, maybe. Until women's players start acting like men's players and they don't feel like showing up sometimes. Generally speaking, the only nonparity, is between 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and the rest of the country. From 5 to 35, it is as tight-knit as it has ever been, ever. Look at Xavier, look at Kentucky, those guys were no where a couple of years ago, and now they are on the verge of going to the Final Four. So, it's happening, but it just doesn't happen in volumes every year. And it doesn't get enough of a story. If there were men's basketball, do you know what kind of story Xavier would be? They would be Butler. But it's women's basketball, so it's not. Butler's Butler, and rightly so, but Xavier's Xavier. But Xavier is the Butler of women's basketball. And their coaches like look twins. They both look like they are 12."
Which team do you think has the advantage when you've played Florida State twice over two seasons?
Maya Moore: "It's tough playing a team multiple times in a season, but over a couple seasons it is different. You graduate certain players and the dynamic is a little different each year. Either way, we're going to play a tough team at this point in the season. Florida State has a lot of weapons so we're going to have to prepare for them just like in the last game. We fought hard against them last time and it's going to be a battle."
Geno says he coaches you different, much less barking and much more freedom to let you play the way you play. Do
you notice that and do you like that?
Maya Moore: "Yeah. I'm supposed to. This is the time of year when you want to be your most confident. You don't want to think about too much. It's the end of the season and it's his job to critique us and constantly challenge us in areas that we're weak in. And that's why in this point of the year we are so confident and getting better and growing the whole season. The way he approaches the whole season is perfect. We're all in a really good flow right now."
It's been a long season, but what do you remember about the Florida State game earlier this year, specifically style of
play Florida State had?
Kalana Greene: "Florida State is a very athletic team. The guards are really quick and physical and aggressive. It was a hard fought game after Christmas break when you've had a couple days off and have to come back and play a really good team. I just remember it being aggressive and going 100 miles per hour."
Even though you're busy trying to win a National Championship, do you have any sentimental moments knowing that
your careers are coming to an end. Do you give yourself any time to reflect or any sentimentality at all?
Kalana Greene: "Yes, definitely. After the first and second games, we were in my apartment, sitting there, talking about how this is our last go round. We just have to do this. No matter what it takes. We had a meeting with Coach before the tournament started. He was telling us that, at this point in time, it's not about the right and wrongs, the x's and o's or anything like that. It's about getting it done and bringing home a W. We talk about that all the time."
Tina Charles: "I'm just trying to enjoy every moment. No matter what happens this year, we're done. I'm just trying to enjoy every second I have because these are the times you cherish the most with your teammates. I just want to give it my all and do whatever it takes to get the next win."
Is the winning streak getting to be a weight or a burden?
Tiffany Hayes: "No, it's not a burden on me. We just go out there and play as hard as we can. No matter what happens, we play our hardest. The streak isn't weighing on us because we know that if we lose we played our hardest. We're not worried about it. We just have to go out there and play and not put pressure on ourselves."
You recalled the last meeting with Florida State as being played at 100 miles per hour. Is that a speed this team is
comfortable playing at or would you like to stay within the speed limit?
Kalana Greene: "I think going too fast and playing quickly are two different things. I think our team knows how to control the tempo. If Florida State wants to play full court, we're very good at that. If they try to force us to play half court, we are good at that too. I think any style of play that is thrown at us, we know how to play it."
What speed are you more comfortable with?
Kalana Greene: "I don't think it matters. I think a lot of the games that we were forced to play half court we played very well. This is a team that is a championship team. We get out and we score off our defense. If we play great defense, I'm sure we'll have a great transition game."
Have you been able to watch any of the tournament games on tv? What's your impression of how the Women's
tournament has gone and what has transpired to this point?
Caroline Doty: "It's been exciting. We'll go back to the hotel and we'll all be watching the games. It's interesting to see who brings their game further. With the games that have been going on, a lot of it has been unexpected, but that's the way March Madness goes. It's exciting and you just have to bring your A game to every single game you play in."
Has anything any of the results shocked or surprised you?
Caroline Doty: "It's always a surprise when a number one teams falls in the tournament, but it is March Madness. Anything can happen."
Can you describe Tina's development as a player? Is there anything she can do now that she couldn't do earlier in her
Kalana Greene: "Tina was always physically gifted. I think the last two years, mentally, she got a lot stronger. And I think the mental progression of Tina has guided her to where she is now. No one doubted how talented Tina was. They may have doubted if she could play in the big games. In the last two years, she's been huge in every big game we've ever had. I think that's where she's grown the most. "
Do you remember that match up against Jacinta Monroe from the game earlier this year?
Tina Charles: "Yes, definitely. She's an athletic type of player that likes to face up mostly, hit the bank shot. She's a lefty. She's quick. She always has her hands up on defense. She blocked a couple of my shots. She's always looks around, trying to be in the passing lanes. She can run the floor. She's one of the opponents I played against this year who runs the floor well who is trying to beat her man up the court. I remember that match up a lot."
FLORIDA STATE HEAD COACH SUE SEMRAU OPENING STATEMENT
"I'm glad to be here and I'm glad to have a little time to get back on the court again and prepare for UConn."
Do you prefer preparing your team to go into the game as a favorite or as an underdog?
SUE SEMRAU: "I don't think I have every been asked that question. I don't really think about it. We just go in and prepare regardless of whether we are the favorite."
Coach Auriemma talked earlier about a conversation that the two of you had in Cancun a year ago. Can you share any of that
SUE SEMRAU: "I remember talking a lot about what the reality of coaching was, and how difficult some parts of coaching are. I was very appreciative of his reality. What he is doing isn't easy, and what we are doing isn't easy, but we're both in the same position of coaching young women and trying to build our programs to the highest level we can. It was good to hear where he was with his program, and to talk about where we were with ours. I don't remember talking about a lot of specifics, but I do remember that and appreciate that."
Is it unexpected to have to play UConn for the second time this year?
SUE SEMRAU: "It is probably more unexpected for them to play us and not for us to play them. You knew that they would be a number one seed, and that you would ultimately run into them if they were able to advance, which they have done a great job of. I don't think we've paid attention to them because we've paid a lot of attention to great teams in the meantime. Obviously, you can see by our first three games that we have had to battle. We haven't had time to pay attention to anybody except for Louisiana Tech, St. John's and Mississippi State."
Will it be hard for you to rest tonight knowing how far you have brought the program and what one more win will do for the status
of your program nationally?
SUE SEMRAU: "I think a few years ago I would have been. I feel like all we can do is what we can do. We are going to go and we are going to prepare. Obviously, we have to play the basketball game in order to understand who is going to win. If we didn't have to play the basketball game, then one would just walk home. That is why we play. We will go out and prepare the best we can today. I think because of who we are, we will rest with the confidence that we will give it everything that we have got."
What is it that sets UConn apart, aside from their winning streak? What is it that they do technically in a game that makes them
SUE SEMRAU: "Execution. They are the best execution team in the NCAA, in my watching of zillions of teams. That's what sets them apart."
How did your team profit from playing UConn earlier in the season?
SUE SEMRAU: "I said yesterday, and I will say it again today. If you want to be the best, you have to play the best. UConn has been the best team for the last 75 games. They are talented, they execute and going up against that gives us a measuring stick of where we want to be."
You recruit well in Ohio, can you address the success and the talent level of players in this state?
SUE SEMRAU: "We are happy to be in Ohio, because we know they care a lot about their basketball. At the high school and middle school levels, they care a lot about developing fundamentals. As a coach, you want players who are fundamentally sound. The Midwest has done some of the best jobs of preparing their players as overall basketball players. We have a lot of great athleticism. We have some programs that have high basketball IQ's, but the balance and blend between athletes we have in the South and the basketball IQ's that are developed here, and the fundamentals in the Midwest are exceptional. We have done a good job of being able to blend those two and we are really excited about that."
Angel, what do you remember about your last game against UConn earlier this season?
Angel Gray: I remember we didn't play our best. I know that we fought hard in the first half but we got down a little in the second half. They are a very talented team, very athletic and we ran out of steam and they didn't in the second half. It seems like you match up very well with Connecticut. As you look at their personnel do you feel that your starting five and your bench is a good match up for them?
Chasity Clayton: Yes I think we can match up with UConn very well, they are very talented, we are very talented and we are going to be ready to play.
How do you'll handle being a substantial underdog going into this game?
Alysha Harvin: Well, I'd like to say that I came to college liking to be the underdog in any situation because it gives you the mentality to know that nobody really believes in you and when you come up and you step up and you meet that challenge it's a great feeling. It's the best feeling of all because you are the underdog and you showed that you can you know achieve any goal that is in front of you.
Jacinta Monroe: Well just to piggy back off of Alysha, being an underdog is a good thing for us. I don't know if we are the substantial underdog we're just two seeds below them. But, like she said being an underdog is a great feeling for us, we like stepping up to the challenge and shocking the world or the media or anybody who doubts that we can step up to challenges and take on anybody we play.
Has any part of what Connecticut has done, not just this year but in the tournament surprised you? Especially the manor in which
they have beat teams, the margins has that been at all impressive to you?
Courtney Ward: I think most teams when they come out to play UConn they look at the name on the jersey and don't go out and focus and play together as a team and do their best. I hope that we go out and don't look at the name on the jersey and go out and play team basketball and just do our best.
Jacinta, can you talk about your experience playing with some of their players' this past summer, what you remember about them
as players' and people.
Jacinta Monroe: It was a fun experience. They are great people. They are human like everyone else. They are also talented and they are competitive, that is what I remember."
Jacinta, has having played them once already this season helps you know what to expect?
Jacinta Monroe: "It's hard not to know what to expect they are all over the highlights. We have to kind of have an idea of how athletic and fast they are. But yes of course it gives us an advantage having played them already. We are familiar with their sets, we are familiar with there personnel and we are just going to give it another shot and get after them."