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NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 28, 2007
RICK NIXON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Rick Nixon with the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championships. We welcome you today to today's telephonic news conference with North Carolina head Coach Sylvia Hatchell leading her team to the 2007 Women's Final Four in Cleveland.
To get things started, I'll ask Judy Southard, chair of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee to make some welcoming remarks.
JUDY SOUTHARD: Thank you, Rick, and thanks everyone for joining us for today's teleconference. We had a couple of great calls this morning with Coach Starkey from LSU and Coach C. Vivian Stringer from Rutgers, and certainly I can tell you that all of us are very excited about the coming championship.
You know, when you crunch the numbers and look at this, when the season began, there were 324 teams who were starting their season dreaming of an opportunity to play in the 2007 women's Final Four in Cleveland, and of course that number was cut dramatically to 64 when the bracket was announced. And now we are down to the Final Four.
So I certainly want to take this opportunity to express my congratulations on behalf of the committee, particularly to you, Sylvia and your team; what a great job North Carolina has done. We are looking forward to seeing LSU, Rutgers, Tennessee and North Carolina vie for this year's National Championship.
Once again, we are looking forward to a great championship in Cleveland, we hope all of you who are on the call are planning to join us there.
And with that I'll turn the call back over to Rick.
RICK NIXON: Before we do that, I'll ask Coach Hatchell, thanks again for joining us this afternoon, for some opening comments and we'll go from there with the questions and answers.
COACH HATCHELL: Well, you know we're just real excited to be going back to Cleveland. We already there last year for the regional and when we left there, we said that that was our goal to get back there this year, because we knew the Final Four was going to be there in the same arena and everything. So we've been talking about it all year.
In fact, when we were at the regionals last year I had some shirts made up in Carolina Blue, and on the front I put: "Rockin', Rollin' and Reboundin' in Cleveland, Ohio." And you know, we wore those while we were there, and it's because of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and everything and, you know, so that was -- of course we knew we had to rebound to win and go to the Final Four.
So you know, that's a shirt that I've been wearing all year. And our players had those from last year, so that was something that sort of motivated us to get back to Cleveland. You know, last year we had a great experience there.
In fact, right now I'm sitting in my office and I'm looking at a yellow, green and sort of burgundy stickers of the Q and Quicken Loans Arena, and these are the stickers that we had to wear last year. So when we came back, I put them on the file cabinet right here by my desk, so I see them every day when I walk into my office.
But again, it's a great honor to be going back there. I've been coaching a long time and I'm sure that Pat and Vivian would tell you the same thing. It's so hard to get to the Final Four now. The regionals are a lot like the Final Four used to be because there's so many great teams, and I think we see that because there's so many of the great teams that have been eliminated before you get to the Final Four. So it's just so much more difficult to get there.
So it's really an honor, and we're just really excited. We're tired. We got in about 5:00 this morning from Dallas, but we're excited, but we're a little bit tired. But we'll be ready come this weekend.
Q. Last year's Final Four had three ACC teams, and this year you are the last ACC team standing. How does it feel to be the best in the ACC?
COACH HATCHELL: First of all, we have a great conference and we are known for basketball, men and women's. And again, it's sort of unusual, I guess you would say that we're the only team left in men and women's because I really thought our guys were going to be there, too.
Of course, with the other teams in our conference, men and women -- you know, you would have thought maybe some other ones would have been there. But again it goes back to what I was saying about there's so many great teams out there now; the parity on any given night, any team can win and any team can lose.
But it's an honor to be representing the ACC. I think I'm a little surprised, along with a lot of people, that we are the only ones still left. But I'm counting my blessings, trust me. It's so difficult now to get to a Final Four.
Q. You handled Tennessee pretty easily at the Elite 8 last year and you beat them by a good margin again this year, what difference do you expect and does that give you any advantage, the two victories that are impressive?
COACH HATCHELL: I mean, I don't get that we handled them easily. I don't know about -- I don't agree with that. I don't think anyone handles Tennessee easily.
Last year when we played them, they weren't as strong at guard as they are this year. I mean, they just didn't have the ball handlers last year.
Of course this year, Bobbitt is out there now, and she's doing a tremendous job for them. And then we played them in December, I think it was December 4th or somewhere along there, we played them here in Chapel Hill. It was a great game and it could have been either way, but we won that game.
But every time we play them, it's a great time. I think, you know Pat and I are real good friends, and you know, I was there as a JV coach when I was in graduate school, and Pat and I are the same age; I'm about two months older than she is.
So we have great games with Tennessee. We both have great athletes, play good defense, and go up and down the floor. I mean, I tell you, when we play them, it's just a great game, and I'm hoping we can have that kind of game on Sunday.
Q. Watching on television, Erlana had a fantastic game, has she really taken over to become kind of the go-to player on your team?
COACH HATCHELL: Well, I don't think we have a go-to player on our team. I think it just depends on how the other team is playing us, what they try to take away or those type of things, because we've had some games where Erlana has played like she did last night. Some of it is because of the way the other team is playing us. We've had some games where LaToya Pringle has been our best player or our star player, and that's because the other team is trying to double Erlana. So if they are trying to double Erlana, then LaToya will have a big night.
We've had games where Camille Little, where she has been our leading scorer, or Rashanda McCants or Ivory Latta; it just depends on what the other team is trying to take away from us, and then we try to concentrate on the other players. Because if you try to take something away, there's got to be a weakness somewhere, and I think that's the strength of our team is our balance. But I really don't think we have a go-to player.
Q. Wondering what your thoughts were on these predetermined sites, neutral sites that we've gone to the last couple of years. I know a lot of coaches were eager to go to them, but it seems that it might have hurt attendance. I know if watching TV it didn't seem like you had a lot of fans at your game. Can you comment upon that, please?
COACH HATCHELL: Yes, I'll say a couple things. You know, first of all, I was not one of those coaches that wanted to go to those, okay, because I felt like it was too early. Because most of the time, we got to host because we were one of the Top-16 teams when we got an NCAA bid, and we had great crowds. You say, well, that gives the higher-seeded teams a home-court advantage.
But you know what, you play the whole season for that. I mean, that's something they earn through their play throughout the season is to play on their home court. I think it's great to have the fans in the stands.
I know we went to the predetermined sites for several different reasons, and again I think it's what you're trying to accomplish here or what your goals are. I think some of it was for the convenience of television, in which television has helped us tremendously, but yet it's hurt the attendance.
And you're right, as much as I love being in Dallas and I love Texas, the people were great to us. We have a tremendous experience out there. And you know we had some people there; it was a long way for the Carolina people to come. We did have some good fans there, but the big arena, 4,000 people is not many.
So you're right, I agree with a lot of the things you're saying, but again, it depends on what you're trying to accomplish. I was not one of those coaches that was pushing for those predetermined sites. I thought we made that move too early.
Q. I believe you had some 9:00 p.m. or later games, do you think that affects the attendance at all having such a late game?
COACH HATCHELL: Yes, we had the late game all the way through. I mean, let me tell you, every game we had was the last one. We had started staying up late and skipping breakfast and start about 10:30, 11:00 in the morning with the tee because that's what we had to do.
But you know what, do you what you have to do especially for the TV exposure. It's late but we've sort of gotten used to it. I see our game Sunday night is going to be about 9:30. Well, okay, the last two, three games we played, that's what time they have been so, that's probably pretty good for us.
But I do think it's awful late, and especially on a school night because to me our fans are senior adults and families with young children. And when your game starts at 9:00 or 10:00, they are not going to be there. They are just not going to be there. And so I do think that it hurt the attendance, for especially the crowd that the sport of women's basketball draws.
But again, it's whatever you're trying to accomplish, and I do think it's for the convenience of probably television.
(OPERATOR CUES CALLERS).
Q. You don't have a go-to player on your team and clearly Tennessee does and she seems to be taking games over by herself. The first half last night was an amazing exhibition. Can you sum up the difference in the Candace from last year and beginning this year to the Candace you're seeing at the beginning of the tournament?
COACH HATCHELL: When she said no more questions, I was saying to myself, "I can't believe no one is asking me about Candace Parker, I just can't believe that."
I agree with you. Candace got my vote for Player of the Year. She's having a tremendous year. She is a great player. She is so versatile. She can play outside; she can play inside; she can just do so much for that team.
But you know, I was talking about our team, we don't have a go-to player; I think that's a strength of our team is balance. And as good as Candace is, and I've been in this situation myself and seen this with other schools as well, I think maybe when Duke had Alana Beard, this happened some. And sometimes when you have a player that good, and you call them your go-to player and you go to them so much, sometimes if they are not having a great game or they are having an off-night or something like that, the rest of the team can get caught watching them, you know, standing and watching them. When I had Nikki Teasley, we used to do that. My other players would watch Nikki play. And I've seen that happen to other teams.
But I think right now, Tennessee, their whole team is playing well together. They just walked right through the Dayton region. They have not even had a close game. But Candace, I agree with you, she's playing phenomenal.
Q. How do you think your team has evolved since that early December game against Tennessee?
COACH HATCHELL: Well, I think my younger players have really established their identity with our team, like LaToya Pringle and Rashanda McCants. They joke among themselves. They call themselves the X-Factor, LaToya Pringle and Rashanda McCants.
When I walked in the locker room last night, I looked at Rashanda I said, "Way to go girls, you had a great game especially the first half."
LaToya she was across the room, she said, "Coach, it's that X-Factor." She said Rashanda, and I think probably Alex is in that group and Jessica Breland because she's coming off the bench and playing really well for us. The ACC Tournament, think I think she made the all-tournament team at the ACC Tournament.
Those kids are, like I say, joking, calling themselves the X-Factor, but I think that's one thing that our team has gotten better with our younger players establishing their identity of the team.
But you know, again, we continually talk about that our objective is the beauty of the game is five players out there playing as one. And we talk about the five players on court playing as one. Because you know, we were wild and crazy at times with our defense and with our offense, and if one person breaks down then we probably have a turnover or the other team gets a layup or something like that.
So we are constantly talking about how we depend on each other and how everyone out there is so important with the role that they have to play. And again, like I say, I think that's the beauty of the team and that's sort of been our theme.
Q. You mentioned how it's really difficult to get to the Final Four now and I was wondering why you think Tennessee has been able to get there so often.
COACH HATCHELL: Well, I would say Pat Summitt. I mean, Pat knows how to get it done, I'm telling you. You know, I don't know anyone that's done more for the game than Pat Summitt.
And just the tradition of Tennessee, they have been there more than anyone else, and I think back, come tournament time, there's lots of teams that win throughout the season and some of them at certain times of the year play really well. But Pat gets her team ready for tournament time.
And that's one thing that we really gear for every year. I learned a long time ago to do that. Don't worry about early losses too much and get them ready for tournament time. That's why we are really proud that 12 of the last 14 ACC championships we've played for because we gear everything to start peeking at the ACC tournament time and continue on through the NCAA.
You know, Tennessee is Tennessee, and it all starts with Pat Summitt.
Q. In last year's tournament game against Tennessee, Candace Parker had eight turnovers; is ball security the one thing that you can hope you can disrupt in her game? Is that the forefront of what you want to do with her?
COACH HATCHELL: Well, if you have any suggestions, I'll take them. I tell you what, Candace is playing so well right now, I think you've got to try to throw a lot of different things at her as far as maybe looks, combinations, people, sets. I think you've just got to throw a lot of different things at Candace because you know, she's such an intelligent player and she's so skilled.
But like I said, if you've got any suggestions, I'll give you my cell phone.
Q. Just to follow up and I think you sort of touched on it earlier about Tennessee's point guards and obviously that directly relates to how much Parker can score and everyone else when you're doubling on Parker, did you know that Shannon Bobbitt was going to emerge this year? How has that impacted Candace's game?
COACH HATCHELL: Well, yes, I think Bobbitt, she does a lot for them what Ivory does for us, as far as just running the team, the little general out there, I call Ivory my little general, so she does a lot of that for Tennessee and directing, you know, where they go, what they do and everything. I think she's really come a long way and Pat's really done a great job with coaching that kid.
And I'm going to tell you, Tennessee's not known for junior college players, just like -- I'm trying to think if we've ever had one. I think we may have had one in my 21 years here at North Carolina. But if they were in a situation where they had to get guards, and they went and got a good one and Pat's done a really good job bringing her along.
But she knows what Pat wants her to do, and a lot of time, that's get the ball to Candace Parker. Pat is telling her and running the show, and a lot of it is to get the ball to Candace Parker. And that's what she does, and as they have come through the season, she has learned how to do that. And, you know, just doing an excellent job.
Tennessee, like I said, that region, when you looked at it at the beginning, you thought, wow, that's really tough. But they have just walked right through it. A lot of people, I think they thought they were going to meet, have lost earlier like Oklahoma and Maryland, maybe Ohio State. They didn't have to play any of those people. I mean, I don't think anyone ever would have expected it to come out like it did. But they sure looked good.
Q. As a person who has been coaching for several decades, I wanted to get your insight, in light of the situation at LSU, how fine of a line does a coach walk in terms of being a mentor versus a friend?
COACH HATCHELL: Well, I've been coaching a long time, I think that maybe the younger you are as a head coach, you're more the kid -- the players, I think their age. I think you maybe have a little more in common -- I don't know, music and different things like that.
I know when I first got out of graduate school at Tennessee with Francis Merion, I actually had a player older than I was. I had just turned 23 and I had a player older than I was; that's a little difficult.
I think again, you have to draw that line there. My objective has never been to have the players as my friend. First of all, I'm the coach and they must respect me, and they must realize -- we're not friends. I mean, it's not that I don't want to have a great relationship with them, and we work very hard at that, on having a great relationship with the players. But you know, my objective is never to be friends with my players. It's for my players to respect me, and like you said, as a mentor.
You know, so I think you've just got to -- and I know in the past, there have been several times I've had to have conversations with my assistant coaches, at no time in my last few years in my coaching, as I've had younger assistant coaches, I've had to talk to them about, look, if you're joke around, when you're friends off the court, when you get on the court, it's hard to separate that. It's hard to separate those things when you get on the court if you're like that off the court with them. You know, so again, I think you have to identify those roles and then you have to make sure that you don't cross that line.
But I tell you, I've been doing this a long time, but being a positive example nowadays is priority on my list. To be a positive example and to be the right kind of role model, because there's so many role models out there for the young people, that's not the right kind of role model. I mean, so many aspects.
So I think more and more it's just so important that you are a positive role model in these young people's lives, and that you do -- you've got to establish who you are in your identity.
And again, like I said, you want them to have a good feeling about you and all, but you've got to be careful about crossing over that line.
Q. You said that when you were younger as an assistant coach that that was something that was a little more difficult just in some of the players maybe looked at you more as their peer than maybe their coach?
COACH HATCHELL: I was never -- I was talking about more when I had younger assistant coaches. I think like I said, some of it has to do with there's not that much differences in their ages. Just like a lot of the kids that graduate from college, you know, they become graduate assistants or a year or two later an assistant coach in a program, and there's only a year or two separating their ages there.
Again, I think at that age, it's a little more difficult probably, because now my players see me as more of a mother figure than anything else, and that's more of the way I talk to them, like they are my daughters and they see me more of a mother figure I think. And a lot of my relationship now with my players is like that, but I think the younger age, you can maybe have some crossovers there, and you have to be real careful about that.
Like I said, if you're buddies with them and friendly with them and socialize and do those things off the court, then it's hard for them to separate those things on court whenever you're having to discipline them and you're having to correct them and you're having to -- you know, it's a completely different thing, and it's hard for them to separate that.
RICK NIXON: We're just about of time for this first part of our conference call this afternoon. Coach Hatchell, thanks for taking the time this afternoon to be with us.
COACH HATCHELL: Do me a favor, tell Pat it's an honor to play here, and congratulations.
RICK NIXON: Thank you, we appreciate your time this afternoon.
We welcome you to our news Conference with Pat Summit who will be leading her team to the 2007 Women's Final Four here in Cleveland.
To get things started this afternoon, I'll ask Judy Southard, chair of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee to make some welcoming remarks.
JUDY SOUTHARD: Thanks, Rick, I appreciate that, and at the risk of repeating myself for those of who you may have been on the first half hour of the call, how happy we are to have everyone join us today for the teleconferences. We had a great teleconference this morning with Coach Bob Starkey and C. Vivian Stringer, and of course we have just finished with Sylvia Hatchell.
When you crunch the numbers on this, there were 324 teams who started out their year dreaming of the opportunity to play in a National Championship, and of course that number was dramatically reduced to 64 when the bracket was announced. We have seen many great games, some great competition, we've seen upsets, we've seen characteristic games by some teams, we've seen people really come out of nowhere and just really catch the attention and capture the imagination of our basketball fans.
And so certainly, finally, getting this number down to four is a very exciting thing for all of us, and the opportunity to go to Cleveland for the Final Four is just around the corner.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Coach Pat Summitt. Pat, your kids played absolutely tremendous. I had an opportunity to be in Dayton, of course, for the regional semifinals and certainly we wish and you all of the teams a great deal of luck, and we are looking forward to a tremendous Final Four with LSU, Rutgers, Tennessee and North Carolina, and we hope that we are going to see everyone who is on the call in Cleveland this weekend.
So have a great tournament, and Pat, again, congratulations.
COACH SUMMIT: Thank you, Judy, appreciate it.
Q. Can you talk about how different, if at all, your team is from the team that played North Carolina in early December?
COACH SUMMIT: Well, obviously I think we learned a tremendous amount from our game at North Carolina. It was -- it taught us a lot about what we needed to improve upon in, particular, I thought that on the offensive end, we didn't execute very well. They had an awful lot to do with it.
Certainly we learned a lot about the importance of transition defense. I remember after the game, I just basically took responsibilities for what had happened because of our lack of commitment to defending the ball in the full court.
Offensively, we weren't ready. They were just so much better than us. It remains to be seen how much we have improved. But I do think the schedule we've played and having played North Carolina earlier in the season, I'm glad that we've at least had a game so we understand just how good they are.
Q. Obviously this is your 17th Final Four and you've won six National Championships, but 11 times you didn't get it. What is the greater emotion, winning a National Championship or not winning it; getting to the Final four and coming up short?
COACH SUMMIT: Well, no question, the greatest feeling emotionally and the greatest high for a team and for coaches is to be able to win a National Championship. On the contrast of that, obviously getting there and not winning it can be a great disappointment.
I think it all depends on, you know, what happens. There have been times we've been there and made it to a National Championship game, and really in the end not winning, you know, because we lost to better teams. There's been very few times that we've lost in those games, and I felt like we absolutely gave this one away or had to have it. I think we just played against some of the best teams in the game. We started out with Southern Cal with Cheryl Miller and Cynthia Cooper. I remember that loss vividly, but I also thought our team did a great job of staying in there.
Certainly our games against Connecticut when they had Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi on the backcourt and the great front line, you just had to accept it for what it is. And then we won some games; we won some championships we probably shouldn't have won. But it's always emotional, win or lose, you have to deal with it.
Q. If I could, two questions. First could you sort of comment on how good the defense is of all four of these teams when they are playing the best, I would say North Carolina and your squad are higher-caliber offensive teams, but just how good defensively all four are. And also just about Coach Stringer getting back to another Final Four, somebody who has been there now four times and just the longevity and success of her career.
COACH SUMMIT: First of all, all of these teams that are going to the Final Four have demonstrated a great commitment on the defensive end. I could speak first of all to the SEC folks and clearly when we played against LSU and in the tournament, they were just absolutely terrific on the defensive end, and we struggled because of that.
I thought when we played them at their place, our defense was at a different level, and you know, certainly in postseason, I think it's imperative that you have to have it. If you don't have your defense, you're going to struggle because there's no guarantee that you're going to shoot the basketball well every night, and in particular, when you go against teams that really bring the pressure defensively, and certainly North Carolina and Rutgers do that very, very well.
And having played against North Carolina this year, they really took us out of what we wanted to do in a lot of situations, and we just rushed shots. And that was to me, the big difference in the game was our inability to have the composure against their defense at that time of the year to really execute and get the type of looks and knock down the shots. Our defense wasn't as near as good as North Carolina's defense early in the year, and I do think that that is a place where we've got to do significantly better.
With Rutgers, Vivian's teams, they always, always bring the pressure on the defensive end, on the defensive end of the floor. I'm really proud for Vivian. You know, she has a running and still has a young basketball team, but she's got them believing in each other and just their toughness and never-quit attitude I thought was apparent throughout the tournament.
Q. With a player like Candace, there's a tendency for everyone to stand around and watch what she's doing. Throughout the season, she really only had one game where she was dramatically held down and that was the LSU game in the SEC tournament. Are you even more amazed than ever that despite all of the defensive attention on her and despite the fact that some of her teammates stood around earlier in the season, that she has had the consistently astonishing season -- particularly the first 25 minutes last night was unbelievable?
COACH SUMMIT: Last night was clearly her most impressive performance of the year at both ends. She's had some really great offensive games and adequate defensively, but she took it to another level off the defensive end.
The thing about Candace is she's very composed out of trap situations and we've seen a lot of traps and just her ability to handle that and find open teammates; incredibly unselfish player, and I think that's what has allowed us to stay together as a team offensively and not feel like we're all watching Candace Parker play and do all of the work offensively. She certainly takes great pride in involving her teammates and as I said, she's really good out of the trap situation and just a very unselfish player overall.
Q. And just to follow up on a different question, it looked like this bracket that you were in was going to be an unbelievably hard one, and then Maryland went down and Ohio State went down. Are you surprised at how easily you were able to get to this point?
COACH SUMMIT: Absolutely. It's been a different road than we had anticipated. But you look at Old Miss's play, and particularly their play against Maryland and Oklahoma, I just felt like that was going to be a real challenge for us.
Sometimes for me it's more favorable not to play an SEC school. Certainly we are both familiar with each other, but watching them, I just felt like they were a very hot team at the time. And offensively they were doing a good job. Defensively they were creating a lot of scoring opportunities off their defense and turning people over.
Yet last night, I just felt like that our basketball team from a defensive standpoint went out and did exactly what they needed to do and our offensive execution was really sharp in handling their different defensive schemes, their zone and their man and their trap.
It was a different road and a different path than I ever anticipated. Hopefully that won't hurt us and maybe even help us as we go to this Final Four and get ready to face a great North Carolina team.
Q. As a person coaching for several decades, I wanted to get your insight in light of the situation at LSU, how fine of a line does a coach walk in terms of being a mentor versus a friend?
COACH SUMMIT: Well, having been in it 33 years, I think the one thing that was important to me when I started my career was to understand that I had to be the coach, the teacher, the person that really understood that I'm not their friend; I'm their coach. At times you wear a lot of different hats, I'm their parent if need be. And at the same time, you pretty much just have to draw that professional line and understand that they are -- they are young and they are kids and very impressionable and they are role models and you're a role model.
I always tell our student athletes, you have to decide what kind of role model you're going to be. Certainly from my standpoint as a role model, I have to set the professional example and be their teacher.
Q. Some of your peers have talked about how that line seemed especially difficult to draw when they were younger, I was just wondering if you could give me maybe an example and if you found that was the case when you were a less veteran coach.
COACH SUMMIT: The interesting thing with me is that was never -- never an issue as far as being a friend because I knew at age 22 with four players 21, that I had to maintain a professional distance and make sure that I never, you know -- that they never look to me as a peer, but as their coach and as a professional.
And I think probably that's why a lot of people sometimes criticize my style because they thought I was too tough, too hard, and I think that was just a matter of making sure that they understood that I was the coach and the teacher, and not the friend.
Q. I know it's been mentioned this is your 17th Final Four, but I wonder what do you think has allowed you to be this consistent where you've been able to go to the Final Four over so many years?
COACH SUMMIT: I don't think there's any big secret to it. I think it's about surrounding yourself with great people and obviously having a great staff. I told my staff today, I feel like I have the best staff in the game. I have three people working with me in Dean Lockwood and Holly Warlick and Nikki Caldwell that could all be head coaches themselves.
I've been fortunate over the years to have a lot of very strong, talented assistants and very knowledgeable in the game.
With that said, it's all about having the players, and the assistants are a big part of the recruiting process. Once we bring student athletes into our program, just the development of each and every student athlete in trying to develop and bring out the absolute best in the players that we recruit to Tennessee.
And then lastly is the support that we've had here at the University and I've said many times, I think we got a jump start on a lot of programs because the University made such an early commitment and gave us the financial resources to be able to recruit nationally, to play a nationally competitive schedule and to market and promote and generate the kind of fan support that we've been fortunate to have here at Tennessee for many years.
Q. You've been to the Final Four several times since '98, and you mentioned you felt like this year you had some ingredients for a championship team. In the past years, do you think there's been something missing from that?
COACH SUMMIT: Well, I think that in the previous years, I would say we've had some very fine teams, but we also played against some of our competition that had better, way call go-to players, players that could make plays. You have to have that. You have to have that, and we didn't have a Candace Parker. When we lost to Michigan State, we didn't have that anchor on the inside.
Candace has made a tremendous difference in how we play, and I think she's certainly made everyone else on the floor a lot better, and we have a -- obviously bringing in Shannon Bobbitt, the play of Sidney Spencer, our starting five as been strong. We've had some good play off of our bench, but we had not had that. When Connecticut was winning their championships, Diana Taurasi was a huge part of the puzzle.
I know Geno (Auriemma) said many times, "We have Diana and nobody else does," and it does make a difference. Look at what Sylvia Fowles made to the LSU program, and it's just -- it is what is it in this game. And it's true for the men's game and it's true at the pro level. If you have Kobe Bryant playing the way he is right now, they are going to win more times than not; they have got a go-to.
Q. We talked earlier this month about Nicky Anosike, and you said that you didn't think that you could win a championship unless you got very good front court play in a tournament. I just wanted to know what is your assessment of the way Nicky and the front court have been playing and what do you see her role and the front lines role in against Carolina?
COACH SUMMIT: Well, Nicky has played her best basketball postseason. That's good for us because she has been more efficient offensively. She's been on board for us and at 6-4, she's defending on the perimeter. That is -- to me, that has been a key to our success is to be able to have the size and the quickness on the perimeter that Nicky has, and she can defend like a guard. It allows us then to play Spencer more inside defensively, than outside, and I think that, also, has been a good defensive lineup for us.
Q. What about offensively, Coach?
COACH SUMMIT: I think Nicky is -- I think she's much more composed offensively. I thought at the beginning of the year, she was not playing as well offensively as she's playing right now, and certainly she has really developed her low post game, but also added some face-up options and I feel like she and Candace play well together.
Candace recognizes when people are looking to double-team her which she needs to do, and I think that's really big for us. In the postseason right now, she's shooting I think about 52, 53 percent and that's where we need her. That makes all the difference in the world when we are more efficient in our front line game and our three front line players have been terrific. Obviously Parker is shooting over 73 percent, and yet I think with Alex Fuller and Nicky Anosike both being over 50 percent, we know our inside game is has given us a great presence.
Q. I understand the concept that you can't always win because as you said earlier, sometimes you just run up against a better opponent, but as a coach who has been as successful as you have, can you ever grasp the concept of not having the will to win, and does that separate the champions and how does that help you in life and not just sports?
COACH SUMMIT: I think it gives you an edge, there's no doubt about it. I tell our teams all the time that we have to have the will to prepare to win, and then on the court, you have to be able to do whatever it takes. You have to have that desire and that will and that toughness to be able to win in postseason. You have to be able to handle the pressure and see it more as opportunity. I think that's a big part of it. Your mind is incredibly powerful, and what you're willing to do in the heat of the battle. And then to me, that's all about, you know, your will to prepare to win and your will to go out and do what it takes to win.
Q. I believe there's a difference between teams getting better and teams having more experience. Obviously your team is a lot better this year than last year. How has the experience you gained from last year's tournament been evident this year?
COACH SUMMIT: Well, I think the fact that we were there last year and played in the regional championship game, was a big benefit for us in our preparation. I do think that you could see that. For me that's familiar territory for us. We understand what we have to do, what it takes, and we have players a year older.
And our players, one thing that has allowed us to be better this year is our off-season workout. I just think that made a commitment in the off-season to get better individually, and then the schedule we play, I know people all the time say, you know, why do you play, have the toughest schedule in the country every year. We do it by design.
First of all, we started doing this more to promote the game and generate the fan interest here at Tennessee, which our fans have come to expect us to bring in some of the best teams and travel and play some of the best teams.
But the other reason and just as important, is we wanted to play the best teams so we would see all the best teams or as many as possible in a variety of styles of offenses and defenses that are out there in different leagues so that we would not be caught off-guard in postseason.
I mean, we have pretty much seen it all by the time you get through playing the people that we have played in the Southeastern Conference. And it's been a tremendous benefit for our team. They made mention of it last night. We had not talked about it but they made mention of the fact that we've seen it all, we've played the best and we're better because of it.
Q. There's so many very high-profile job openings now for a variety of different situations that's all happened. I wonder if you're thinking now is a big year in terms of the landscape of women's college basketball with maybe people stepping into positions and becoming much more prominent head coaches and how that may all shake out by the time we are into next fall and these slots have all been filled.
COACH SUMMIT: Well, this is going to in my opinion be the most interesting year ever in terms of the jobs that are open and will be filled. I think it could greatly influence our game as we move forward in a number of ways, not only obviously we may see head coaches moving to different schools but also top assistants having a chance to become head coaches.
I think you're going to see the salaries, the pay scale increase more than ever, and it's obviously going to become in my opinion very competitive in regard to the people that are pursuing these jobs and the administrators will have to really step up to the plate and decide how important it is to get the best person they think it is for the job.
I can't wait to see what happens. It's never been like this as far as I can remember in my time as a coach, as many high profile schools that have openings and the potential for a lot of moving of head coaches as well as top assistants.
Q. I was reading some of your previous comments that you made in many tournament and one that stuck out was you said you had really liked some of Drake's flex offense and you might try to incorporate it into some of what you guys do; did you run some of that in Dayton?
COACH SUMMIT: No, we have not. That would be something that I would look at next year.
We ran some baseline screen action which I could see where you might think it does resemble some of the flex action that we saw, but no, we haven't specifically put in any of the motion or the flex that they ran.
The picks that we ran we have used since the first of the year, just went back to it.
RICK NIXON: That will wrap up this afternoon's call. Coach Summitt, thanks so much for being with us.
COACH SUMMIT: Thanks, my pleasure and thanks to all of and you the interest in the women's game.
End of FastScripts