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UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH WOMEN'S BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 19, 2018
HEATHER LYKE: Good morning. Good afternoon. Welcome, everybody.
I told EJ, I was trying to think of something clever to say because we were back here, and normally, he gives me all good advice, but he said, you you know, there's not a lot of action after March Madness but we've had quite a bit of action here. We're really thrilled. Thank you guys all for being here to meet our new women's head basketball coach. We are thankful for you guys to come out and show your support for our women's basketball program, and the excitement about where we are headed in the future with our new leader.
You know, leadership matters, and people matter. I often say that what you do is really important. Where you do it is next-most-important, but who you do it for and with every day is really the most important factor, and I'll just tell you, I'm really grateful for the leadership here at our university, the chance to work with Chancellor Gallagher every day and our board of trustees who support our athletic program in a very meaningful way.
I get notes, texts, e-mails, calls, and really sound advice from these leaders at our university, and I'll say that because I believe that they care deeply about the university and every person and every student here at Pitt. They know that people matter.
As soon as this job opened, I got a text right away from Coach Capel, and I know he's on the road recruiting today, but he said right away, "How can I help?"
And Coach Narduzzi called and said, "Let me know how I can help."
And I tell you that I feel just very fortunate to be part of a team within this athletic department, and throughout all these transitions, our staff and our coaches have worked incredibly hard and provided great leadership during the transition, and I'm just thankful for the team that I get to work with every day, because people do matter.
As we went on this process, and I know I've said this before, but there's really no more important job that I do than the people that we bring into our organization, and particularly, our head coaches. You know, they impact the lives of other people's children every day, and we have great expectations for them.
You know, we wanted to find a coach who coaches for all the right reasons and a coach who will make coming to be a student athlete here at Pitt one of the most extraordinary experiences in your life. And you know, to have a positive impact in your lives is what we are looking for, and that was most important to us.
When I first met Lance, I was running in from the rain, and I'll just tell you, I felt his instant positive energy, his warm smile and his genuine desire and excitement to be here at Pitt.
Lance has prepared his entire life to become a head coach at the right place at the right time. He tells a story, and he can tell it better than I, but growing up in Texas as a young child, this story is kind of priceless.
He had created this kind of imaginary league of players and teams and coaches, and he didn't just recite an imaginary league for a men's team. He created an imaginary league for a women's team, too, as a young kid. Lance knew he wanted to be involved and coach women's basketball, so he did what anyone would do who was persistent and determined and hard-working.
As a student at Texas Tech, he went to the legendary coach, Marsha Sharp at Texas Tech, and offered to do anything to get involved in that program, and as I mentioned earlier, who you work for, matters.
Lance has worked for two extraordinary head coaches in Coach Sharp and Coach Sue, who have given him the opportunities to grow and develop and be prepared to be a head coach. Lance is more than prepared. He's coached at the highest levels and he knows the ACC extremely well. He bring great integrity and character and a plan and work ethic to build our program to be a contender in the ACC and the NCAA. Lance is coaching for all the right reasons at the right place now at the right time. His genuine personality will connect with our student athlete, connect won our department, our university and the City of Pittsburgh. I'm confident we are going to win with Lance White.
And so we are excited to welcome Lance and his wife, Melanie, who probably has just as much energy as he does, and their awesome kids, Quentin and Vivian, to our family.
So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, it is my privilege to welcome and introduce you to our new women's basketball coach, Lance White.
COACH LANCE WHITE: Wow, I am extremely honored and humbled to be named the head women's basketball coach at Pitt. What an amazing honor, and I can't even tell you how excited I am to begin this journey with all of you.
I have to start by thanking Chancellor Gallagher, Heather, Bethany. You guys who put your faith and trust in me, I take that with a lot of pride, and I'm going to do everything I can to make this program something that all of us can be proud of.
A little bit about me, like Heather was saying, is that I started in a small town in west Texas, Spur, Texas, population about a thousand on a good day, sometimes things happen. So as Heather was saying, I made imaginary leagues. There was no one else to play with so you had to.
But in that small town, it really was about work ethic. My dad ran a gym. My mom was a nursery schoolteacher, and in them, I learned the work ethic that it takes to be big time in life. The smallest of things then lead to bigger things, and in that small town, I played basketball. I shot hoops all the time at night. Drove my neighbors crazy. But in those moments, I've quickly realized that I'm probably not going to be good enough to do this in college.
So I had to find an avenue that I could continue my love for basketball. I loved it. I knew it's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so I did. I wrote Coach Sharp at that time at Texas Tech a letter and said, "I'll do anything, whatever you need me to do."
So I swept floors, did laundry, anything I could, rebound, and this was in 1993. In that year, that was the year that Texas Tech won the National Championship.
For a small town boy who really didn't even have any idea what college athletics was like, I got a front row seat to watch Sheryl Swoopes score amazing points and do amazing things. First time I had ever been on an airplane was when Coach Sharp allowed me to go to Missoula, Montana for the regional. That was the first time I had ever been on an airplane. Again, the game of basketball gave me an opportunity and a dream I never even new existed.
Again, the last -- after that year, whenever we won the Championship, I was like, This coaching thing is a breeze, man, you could just sit and watch a great player run up-and-down. Then I've spent the last 25 years of my life trying to emulate that success, knowing how hard it is, how determined you have to be, how you have to get a group of young women ready for the challenges ahead, but not only in basketball, but in life.
And so that experience, you know, again, propelled me to my next opportunity at Florida State. I was there -- I've been there for the last 15 years. Coach Sharp gave me the opportunity to be a part of a successful program and build that program and maintain success, which is extremely hard to do. A lot of time it's easier to climb up the mountain than it is to stay on top of it.
Coach Sue gave me the wonderful opportunity to try to build, whenever I went to Florida State, we were having to make hard choices and we had to win quickly. I was a part of being able to build Florida State into a perennial Top-15 basketball team, and again, that was the thing I really wanted to do there.
And so in my life, again, I'm a teacher, I'm a builder. My wife always tells the story is that whenever we got married, she thought, "Okay, I'm going to marry a coach, we're going to bounce around, I get to travel, I love to travel" -- she does, I don't. She was real excited about that opportunity. We've been in Lubbock, Texas and Tallahassee, Florida. So my life has been about building; I want to build great things and I want to finish those things.
Then everyone's been asking me, why Pitt? Why now, why Pitt?
You know, I think it's such an amazing academic institution. It's a great city that loves sports. I wanted to be a part of a community that loves people and everything, whenever I came for my visit here, I could tell right away that these were the type of people that I wanted to build something great with.
The unbelievable administration; what these people have done to propel this university into being visionaries for athletics. You could fill it. You could see it, the things that Heather is doing, Chancellor Gallagher. You could tell athletics is important, and especially on the women's side. They are doing amazing things and I wanted to be a part of that. And so I think for me, it was a great fit.
I've had two great mentors with Coach Sue and Coach Sharp in my life to guide my life and my career. For me, my parents, again, they are horse-loving, west Texas cowboys. My dad is going to come in a big 'ole hat and some boots. They are Texan -- you think my accent's bad. You'd better get ready for them.
Again, they taught me a work ethic that I think in this position, you have to have; in their position, they have to have, in order to succeed and do great things.
Finally the biggest influence on my life out of everyone is obviously my wife, Melanie. She is my copilot. She is the love of my life and I'll probably get a little emotional here, but that's all right. And then these two amazing kids. They are -- they have made me a better coach, a better dad, a better husband, because they are in my life.
Whenever I go recruit, I know what it feels like to have a daughter to sit in a dad's home, a mother's eyes and look at her and know what I'm telling you is exactly what I would want to hear from somebody that wants to take my daughter to college. So that's whenever I'm going to be able to talk to y'all's parents and say that same thing, is that, I've got you, and I'm ready to move us forward.
Finally, that leads us to you, and that's why we're all here, is the players at Pitt. I told them we had a great team meeting this afternoon, and I told them is that they did not choose me; is that now it's my job for them -- for me to re-recruit them and have them feel my philosophies and where they fit into all of that.
These young women are what juice me up. They get me so excited about the future of Pitt. They are young women who work extremely hard in the classroom, extremely hard on the court and I want to give them a vision for what we can be together.
We are going to work like crazy. I'm going to roll up my sleeves. This tie is probably going to come off pretty quick and that's not me. I'm a guy who is going to roll it up and let's work and let's work every day to do something great.
I'm going to tell you a funny story. So like many of you, a couple of weeks ago, Coach Capel was giving his press conference and I was so juiced and excited, and obviously, you know, Pitt being on the national stage, you watch those things. But he said something that was -- so, you know, that he likes to take time. So whenever Heather offered him the job. He says, "I'm going to sleep on it."
I thought, you know, at that point, Pitt was never even an option for me, and so I thought, if that ever comes around and I get an opportunity, I'm going to sleep on it. That will be great.
So then a week later, I think it was, maybe a week and a half, then we go through this process and then I get the call. And all of that meant nothing as I started crying (laughter) I'm so glad we weren't on face time or Heather wasn't there because it was just the immediate of, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" (Laughter) so I couldn't get it out.
But again, "Principal, all right, I'm not Coach Capel but it's going to be really, really fun and I'm so excited about this opportunity."
I always think it's amazing that this little orange basketball up here takes us amazing places. It took a boy from Spur, Texas around the world from somebody who in high school had never been out of the State of Texas to on an airplane.
I've been all the way around the world. It's given me amazing gifts, and my job as their coach is to challenge them and allow them to dream. We want to dream about things that they don't even know that's possible. I didn't even know I could go to Italy and go on a foreign tour. I didn't know I could go across the country and teach young kids how to play basketball, and all the different things that I've been able to do because of the game of basketball.
I want to instill that into them so that in these four years, we can do amazing things, dream higher, go farther than we ever thought possible. But in order for that to happen, it takes work ethic. I always say is that basketball is a vehicle to life.
At the end, you've got to get in the car, you've got to push the gas in order for it to go. Otherwise, it's just a really pretty car that just sits there. I want to go places and I want them to go places and I'm going to challenge them every day to go somewhere.
So again, I'm extremely excited about this amazing opportunity, and I'm so excited to begin this amazing journey at this amazing academic institution and today, that starts. Hail to Pitt.
I think now, if you have any questions of me; I didn't talk a lot about style of play or any of that stuff, basketball-related, but I'd love to if you'd like to hear more Spur stories or any of that, I'm game. I'm an open book.
Anybody have any questions they would like?
Q. First of all, in terms of recruiting, having only coached college in your career and Texas and Florida as you've said, what do you think are the areas where this program sort of has the most potential in terms of going out and getting players from your standpoint?
ALVARO QUIROS: Well, that, too, is one of the things that really excited me about Pitt, where it's at. I think this area is a hotbed for women's basketball. You have so many bordering states and states that are within six, seven hours that are major women's basketball potential recruits, so I'm really excited about getting out and being able to attack those areas really hard.
But also, I think Pitt is a school that can recruit nationally and internationally. I think it's draw, great academics, is where it's at, is something that we can draw from everywhere. It has a name-brand that you immediately know, and I think that's something that I can recruit wherever I need to.
But I am; I'm going to start pretty locally. Ohio is going to be one of the major, that, with Michigan and through New Jersey, New York, some of those are going to be the first spots. But I do, I think we can recruit nationally and internationally.
Q. Coming from Florida State, what do you feel like you learned and gathered from your time there that you feel like you can successfully and realistically implement here?
ALVARO QUIROS: Yeah, there's so many amazing things that I was able to do at Florida State, and Coach Sue, the sign of a good leader is whenever leaders allow their staff to have tons of freedom and allow them to go do it, and she did that.
She allowed me to really be someone who is just like a head coach, and so again, being in the best conference in the country I think is so exciting, and being able to know those teams, how they play, styles of play, obviously helps me.
And now being able to know what we have to do here in order to compete against them, and that's one of my first challenges is, you know, to be able to get these players ready to attack and succeed at that level.
But it is, it's a different style of play. I love the ACC because it is, it's a fast conference. It's players that want to get up-and-down and run and defend, and that's what I like to be able to do, and within this area, I think we can get those athletes and players that for the future can really play well in this conference.
Q. What makes Pitt's women's program different from the other opportunities that maybe you didn't take advantage of?
ALVARO QUIROS: And it is. I've been in this business a long time and again, it's twofold. I think really, whenever I started checking boxes and all of that, Pitt had so many of the things that I was looking for.
I was looking for a challenge and obviously a challenge in the ACC is great. I think geographically, this area, being in the northeast, I think it's got great potential, and then the facilities, the administration played such a key component in it, just their warmth, their -- you have so many administrations who want to be up above you and then just, and this group, everything is arm and arm and what can we help you do to be successful, and you feel that and you see that.
You talk to the other coaches and no question, they are ready to do big things here. The second part of it is my family. My kids are to an age where I feel like I could move and I want to get them to a point where now they are confident in themselves and they can go to a new school and start that.
Before I was a little bit -- where I wanted to make sure they were taken care of and got to a point where they are going to be okay, and now we get to that next point and hopefully stay here a long time, and they can finish out and do what they need to from there.
Q. This being your first head coaching job, how much thought has gone into how you assemble your staff and who you want to contact?
COACH LANCE WHITE: Absolutely. That's been every bit of it. Again, it's been a whirlwind. Again, they first contacted me on Friday and offered me the job on Tuesday, so it's been a little bit of, okay, whoa, tons of research, and again, being in the business as long as I have at this level, you know, I've got an extensive contact in people that are ready to align with me.
I've got some people that I think I need to complement my weaknesses, and I've got a staff, though, that I really want to align with my core values and who I am as a coach and people that I trust.
Again, as a coach, I need people that are better than me, and they have to be able to do certain things and go do it, and that's going to be the success of my program.
Q. Have you had a chance to talk with Coach Capel yet, and if so, regardless, how excited are you to kind of both venture into this new opportunity with a similar kind of background?
COACH LANCE WHITE: We haven't -- he's been recruiting. Obviously he's been crazy busy but we've text and done that back and forth.
You know, I'm extremely excited. I think we have very similar paths, very similar decisions to be here and why we're here, and I'm so excited to be able to do this with him. I think he's going to be a huge -- I mean, I've already made a joke about him. He's got to be okay with me. I'm really excited about that.
Again, that was something that was huge in my decision, someone that's just like me and that we're going to be able to do this together and make Pitt basketball something that can really compete and be really, really good for a long time and I think he wants the same thing.
Q. You mentioned you wanted a staff that would complement yourself. What do you think is your most important strength as a coach, and you mentioned a weakness, before. What is your most interesting weakness you have?
COACH LANCE WHITE: Weakness -- no, no. Well, my strengths are -- it's so funny you asked that.
Yesterday was a very emotional day. I was telling our players back at Florida State and players that I recruited that I'm leaving and coming here, and so in this -- and again, I'm not a cryer, not an emotional guy but it was just -- so I'm trying to get them, so what do you like about me best and what we miss; and then what are you so glad that is gone (laughs).
And so, you know, and so the thing they all said was my energy and consistency; is that every day I'm going to show up and I'm going to go to work. I'm going to challenge them. I'm going to be the same, every day, and I'm going to be in their face and again, I'm trying to tone it back, and in my head right now, I'm saying, all right, dial back, dial back.
But I am, I'm an in-your-face and energetic guy, and so that's the thing that I think every day I'm going to challenge them to do.
Weaknesses, there's a couple. Obviously my wife does all of our banking, anything with that. I don't tally a budget sheet. And so I just always know we've withdrawn our money; if my credit card is gone, I've spent too much, she's cut me off.
So I'm going to have to find people that can balance budgets and do some of that stuff, and I'm great to make decisions on it, but I do not want to -- they start saying spreadsheets, I get nervous. That's obviously not -- but that, for me, is -- and then, you know, I can be scattered and I have to have people that are focused who can keep me on task, and that's really, really going to be somebody that can -- recruiting.
Because this job is, I'm going to have to be the CEO and make sure that everyone manage people and build relationships. Because, again, I think that's what -- my enthusiasm and my ability to build relationships and set a standard that we all have to meet is what I'm going to do and what I'm best at.
I love X's and O's, too. I like that, as well.
COACH LANCE WHITE: He asked, obviously playing Pitt at Florida State and against them what I thought of them from the outside, and then hypothetical if I ever thought of what I would do if I was here.
Obviously the second part of that question is, I'm going to put my head down and grind. Again, that's why I've stayed as long as I have at different places is whenever I'm in this job, I am in -- I am at Pitt; it that right now, I'm going to duck my head and work as hard as I can, and I don't care what anyone else is doing. I'm going to make this better than whenever I got here, and that's my goal.
So whenever I was at Florida State, exactly the same. I don't look for the next and the next. I'm worried about what we're doing at that time.
Obviously playing against them, you saw that they had potential, is that, again, they played us extremely well here, the senior night, whenever they had a chance to be in it until the last two or three minutes and we were probably just a little bit more athletic, and so again, we've got to make some of those things.
But you saw their capabilities. You saw that they had some great leadership. They were a team that could be good. They just couldn't put it all together and that's what I hope I can do is bridge some things for them. Obviously it's going to be -- we've got some work to do but I'm really excited about the challenge and ready to get to work with you guys.
Q. Have they given you advice or more congratulations?
COACH LANCE WHITE: Every day, and it really is. People that come into your life, you want to keep them, and that no matter what happens, we try not to burn bridges, and in my career and in my life, I've tried to do that and treat people the right way.
Obviously Coach Sharp is all the time with me, and any time it's going to be day-to-day. Coach Sue, absolutely. It was the last text I received before I came out here, and another one, Cori Close at UCLA, who I worked with at Florida State is the one who I've asked every question so far: Would you do this, would you do this, would you do this, and then bounce it off, and then we can come to a decision.
Right now, I'm a staff of one, and so it's trying to gain some ideas of what I have to do until I can get my staff in here to go. But it is, no, those are -- and they want me to be successful, because I truly believe Coach Sue and every part of her, she knew this was the right opportunity for me, and she was the first one to say, you've got to go.
And so, again, as hard as that is, she knows, is that now -- as these young ladies, I'm going to have them for four years, some of them shorter, some of them shorter, some of them a little bit longer.
But at the end of that time, I need to have prepared them for this moment; for that moment that they need to release and fly, and that's my job. That's what I need to do. But it's still sad, you know.
Awesome, I'm so excited to be here. I can't wait to meet all you guys, and anything we can do from a women's basketball team, staff, we're there, and we're there to get in this great community. I'm ready for my family to dive in and we're all-in, and so excited to be here. Thank you guys so much for coming.
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