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NCAA WOMEN'S FINAL FOUR MEDIA CONFERENCE


March 28, 2012


Kim Mulkey


THE MODERATOR:  We're joined by Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey.  We'll ask for an opening statement from Coach Mulkey and then we'll take your questions.
COACH MULKEY:  I'll tell you, I really don't have an opening statement other than we're excited and ready to get to Denver.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions?

Q.  You had a men's team at Baylor make it to the Elite Eight, a women's team in the Final Four and a Heisman trophy winner.  What's going on in Waco right now athletically to address that success?
COACH MULKEY:  A lot of good things are taking place.  In fact, I just got a text message from Robert Griffin asking me about coming to the game.  So we're excited that he will be able to come and enjoy it with us.  It's just a good time at Baylor.  You have the right coaches in place.  We've got the right administrators.  We have great facilities, resources.  We're in a great conference.  And it's just a fun time for all of us.

Q.  Quickly, at the end of the Tennessee game, and I watched the replay three times.  It appeared as if a couple of Tennessee players also came on to the court and perhaps that was not shown on the monitor when the officials went to the monitor.  Is that something that you noticed as well?
COACH MULKEY:  I actually did not realize it at the time.  I was on the airplane flying back and one of my assistants showed me the replay of the incident.  And you are exactly right.  Two Tennessee players should have been ejected from that game as well.  They left the bench area.
I am probably going to bring it to the attention of the NCAA or if we haven't already, it needs to be.  Because in protection of our officials, if the monitor is all they have to look at, then why wasn't that shown?  I defend the officials here.
We need to have a situation that whatever monitors are being used, because in a tight game or a game that's tied and it's early in the game, you want to make sure that everybody that's supposed to be ejected is ejected.
But I did not notice it at the time because I was concerned about my own players.  But it's quite clearly from the angle that I had on the plane that two Tennessee players left the bench as well.

Q.  It seems like all year long we've been talking about Baylor, Stanford, UConn and Notre Dame.  And these are the four teams that made it to the Final Four.  Can you just talk about the strength of the teams that are going to come here to Denver and how they've been the strengths all year long?
COACH MULKEY:¬† First thing, not just talking about this year, all four programs have national championships, and that speaks volumes for each institution's commitment to their women's basketball program.¬† And I think‑‑ I don't know if it's correct in saying but all four number one seeds is a rarity.
And it may be the first time in a long time, if my memory serves me, you usually have 2 or 3 seed sneak into the Final Four, I shouldn't say sneak in there, but earn the right to be in a Final Four.  But all four No. 1 seeds are in there.  So I know Greg Christopher is listening, so I guess they must have done something right when they had all the right No. 1 seeds.

Q.¬† Kim, from knowing you‑‑ and I have a two‑part question for you‑‑ from knowing you and having read your book, it's clear you've always been a very intensely driven person, whether it was sports or school or your famous 24‑hour roller skating contest.¬† Where does that come from?¬† And second, you also have a fashion sense that's as bold as your personality.¬† And who influenced you in that area?
COACH MULKEY:¬† My personality‑‑ I guess I would just have to attribute it to the way you are born.¬† You are born a certain way and your personality is probably developed through the association with coaches.¬† And throughout my career I've played for very intense coaches.
I had a high school coach my last two years that was very intense.  Summer coaches with U.S.A. Basketball that were intense coaches.  And then my college coach.
And I guess the fashion sense, I can remember just young age, about two weeks before school would start every year, my mother and I would make a trip to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and we would spend the entire day clothes shopping because I wanted to look clean, neat, didn't have to be the best dressed, but I just wanted to be someone that took a little pride in how she looked.
It wasn't looks in glamour or looks in winning any fashion contest, but just nice clothes.

Q.¬† Kim, the story line probably all season is‑‑ you've been asked this a gazillion times, if you had to, how would you stop Brittney Griner.¬† But I would like to expand that a little bit.¬† How would you, if you had to game plan against your team, how would you stop the entire team?¬† Because it is more than Brittney.
COACH MULKEY:  Now, you know as soon as I tell you that you're going to have it in your paper and Tara is going to read that, and then I'm at a disadvantage.  So I'm going to decline to answer that.
I can tell you we've seen every defense in the country.  We've seen zone.  We've seen presses.  We've even seen somewhat of a box and one, diamond and one on Odyssey.
We've seen a half court 1‑3‑1.¬† We've seen it all.¬† I'm not sure coaching them every day in a private conversation that I could really tell you the most effective defense, because each kid on this team is very talented.¬† And you're going to have to pick your poison.¬† We've been exposed and challenged to shoot it from the wing.¬† We have two kids at Florida that can flat out shoot it.¬† And we've been challenged and let Brittney get it all she wants and guard everybody else.
So I'm not sure that in a private conversation I could tell you the best way to defend us.  I just know that it's hard for me to go into a meeting with players and watch film and get a true assessment of the opponent's defense because 70percent of the time we don't see the defense that they play normally against other opponents.  We usually see something different.

Q.  Is it a little bit frustrating that there's been so much attention on Brittney that people forget that this is a pretty dang complete team?
COACH MULKEY:  It's frustrating because the people who continue to write that just see a 6'8" phenom that plays above the rim and they only play the game casually.
If you follow our team and you're really in women's basketball you quickly know, wow, that team's loaded at every position.

Q.  I was talking to Gary Blair, he said the biggest difference with you guys is Sims has really improved over the last year.  What areas has she made the biggest improvement?
COACH MULKEY:  She's healthy, first of all.  Last year, coming out of high school, she was still somewhat reluctant with her ACL injury.  This year she doesn't even remember she's had the surgery.
The second thing I would tell you is the mental approach to how you need to run a high, high level DivisionI basketball team with the ball in your hands.
And it doesn't just start with the games.  It starts with practice.  Odyssey's had to change her practice habits, her approach to practice and making sure that she stays intense throughout practice, and that she understands she's an extension of me on that floor.
And neither one of us can have bad days at practice.  Our worst days have to be hidden for two hours on that practice floor.

Q.  Secondly, some people I talked to said that Brittney Griner has done for the women's game what Alcindor did for the men.  You've been around a while, played at the international level, what changes has she made in the women's game?
COACH MULKEY:  I think she's made all of us change.  She's made me change as a coach in that I can do some things, some quick hitters and sets to where she gets, looks above the rim.
I can't do that with‑‑ our game's pretty much predominantly played below the rim.¬† I can do some things defensively that aren't good principles and aren't what I really believe in, but because we have Brittney back there to help, we can gamble more.¬† I think she's made officials have to understand you can't treat Brittney Griner differently.¬† A foul is a foul.
And while she has this beautiful body and this big presence in there, we've had to keep educating ourselves on if it's a foul on the 6'2" kid it needs to be a foul on the 6'8" kid.  And I think she's changed the game, thirdly, by how people have to approach their offense against her defensively.  You just can't run your normal sets sometimes against Brittney Griner.

Q.  Some people have said go straight at her, try to get her into foul trouble, but she's been really good at not getting in foul trouble, right?
COACH MULKEY:  She's only fouled out once in her career at Baylor.  I'm sorry, I think it was like the second game of her freshman year.  And she's not foul prone and going right at Brittney, all you're going to do is get your shot blocked.  You'd have to take your body and throw it into her.  Well, if she's standing still that's going to be an offensive foul on you.
So, you know, she's not‑‑ I can tell you this:¬† You can't go into a game against Baylor and hope Brittney Griner gets in foul trouble because that's not going to happen.

Q.  Stanford, their best players are from Houston, obviously.  And your team is loaded with Texans.  And a couple of coaches down here say that high school basketball in Texas is probably second to none.  How would you rate the high school game, the girl's high school basketball in Texas, and has it changed any over the last ten or so years?
COACH MULKEY:  Well, you know, I will be a little bit partial when I say this, because I live here.  But we're our own country here.  Our state is so geographically big that we are going to have bigger numbers of high school basketball players that can play the game at this level.
And that's why you see a lot of Texas kids throughout the country playing on different teams.  I am certainly so impressed with how the high school tournaments are, the tournament games are attended in the state of Texas.  We have a Texas Coaches Association that the high school coaches are proud of.
And you don't see things like that a lot in other states.  And we're very, very fortunate that we have good high school coaches.  We have good players and we're committed to our game.

Q.  Has it always been like that, or is this more of a trend?  Like, for example, in high school football everybody's throwing the football because they've got seven on seven now where everybody's throwing the ball in summers.  Is there anything along those lines that has made the girl's game better?
COACH MULKEY:  I don't know that having been in Texas the last 12 years myself if it's really any different than it was for the 15 years I was at Louisiana Tech, because we were recruiting Texas kids as well.  I just think because our state is so big, you're going to always have your fair share of tremendous basketball players come out of the state.

Q.¬† When the incident happened at the end of the game the other day, did you immediately know that when Brittney walked out on to the floor that she would not be suspended for the game, or were you leery‑‑ didn't know exactly what the rule would be in that situation?
COACH MULKEY:  I didn't know immediately.  But I immediately, after wondering that, asked the official on the floor that two were at the monitor and one was standing there and I asked:  If you eject a player, is that an automatic suspension for the next game?  And they said absolutely not; that you're only suspended for the next game if a fight breaks out and you throw a punch or something like that.

Q.  Did you have your heart in your throat a little bit before you learned that?
COACH MULKEY:  Initially my heart wasn't in my throat, because I didn't think of that.  Initially I was pretty upset, and I chewed those three kids out sitting on the bench and just laid into them.
Then after I calmed down a little bit, I thought:  I wonder if this has any bearing on next game.  And that's when I went to the official.
They did it, Rick.  It's perfectly clear on the tape.  Those three kids did not go out there to engage in any violence or in a fight.  You can see Griner like:  Come on, it's cool, y'all, let's don't do any of this.  And I understand that.  But I have to make sure they understand, don't leave the bench area under any circumstances.

Q.  What concerns you the most about Stanford?
COACH MULKEY:  You start with their strengths and their strengths are the Ogwumike sisters.  They're just so talented.  And then you start with the history of the program and Tara's ability to get to a Final Four year after year and understand how disciplined they are, how well coached they are and how talented they are.

Q.  What does your squad do better than anyone else in the country?
COACH MULKEY:¬† I don't know that we can do anything better.¬† But I can tell you one of the things we're most proud of is Baylor and Connecticut guard people and we're very proud of the fact that those two schools are back and forth on field goal percentage defense.¬† And there's no reason‑‑ I shouldn't say no reason, but there's a reason that Connecticut and Baylor are in the Final Four.¬† Certainly it's talent.¬† But the other thing is defense.
We really, really think that we're pretty good on the defensive end of the floor.

Q.  Have you always considered field goal percentage defense as a stat that really tells you which teams are the elite teams in the country?
COACH MULKEY:¬† I just think that those‑‑ yeah, we're very much through the years, if you'll look through the history of the 12 years I've been here, that's a stat that jumps out at you about our teams because we're going to guard you.¬† We may not always have the most talented teams but we're going to have teams that are consistent on the defensive end of the floor.

Q.  If you look at the matchups you're going to have two programs that have met, I believe, only four times in their whole history in Stanford and Baylor.  And then two have met four times this year and play regularly.  You were in that position last year of having to play somebody that you played all the time.  Can you just talk about the contrast between having those two different kind of dynamics going in the semifinals?
COACH MULKEY:  First of all, having played A&M four times last year what I was so upset about was that game should have been played at a Final Four.  If I had been playing them the fourth time in a Final Four, I wouldn't have been as upset about it.
Now, in answering the rest of it, I think that as you‑‑ I don't know this, Greg Christopher, he's on the line, he can answer it better than me, but I don't know how you set it up, Michelle, on us playing Stanford and Notre Dame playing Connecticut unless it's a seeding thing, probably.
They're just two of the best teams.  Notre Dame and Connecticut having to play the fourth time, in the Final Four is where you want to play the fourth time.  So I would imagine it worked out the way it did because of seeding.

Q.  I'm saying it's sort of interesting regardless of how it happened.  It's sort of interesting that we have two different types of games between two opponents who know each other backward and forward and two who don't.  But the other thing I want to ask is you talked earlier about the No. 1s.  It's actually been since'89 since all four No. 1s made it and Louisiana Tech was one of those back in'89.  Are you surprised it's been that long, when you consider usually they get the No. 1 seeds right, that it's been that long that all four No. 1s have made it all the way through to the Final Four?
COACH MULKEY:  I'm not surprised.  I'm kind of glad in a sense because it tells you that women's basketball is growing.  It tells you that there's parity out there.  Back in the'80s, when I played and brackets were released, you pretty much knew what four teams would be in the Final Four.
Now, because of teams getting better, you are seeing teams even win national championships that weren't No. 1 seeds, including our 2005 championship at Baylor.  But you've had a lot of parity since'89 until 2012.  And that's a good thing.

Q.  If somebody says that Baylor plays with the intensity of a men's team, would that be a compliment to you?
COACH MULKEY:¬† I'm not offended.¬† We play man‑to‑man defense.¬† We don't play woman‑to‑woman or girl‑to‑girl.¬† That's the way we talk.

Q.¬† You play man‑to‑man defense like a man's team, though.
COACH MULKEY:  That doesn't offend me.  We've heard it all.  I mean, unless people mean it in an offensive way, I wouldn't take that as anything but maybe a compliment.

Q.  It's meant in a complimentary way.  A lot of people think that the regional final in both men's and women's in the tournament that that might be one of the most pressurized games, and obviously you had that last year and didn't get past it.  Was there any sense of relief or accomplishment winning that game against Tennessee that you got past where you didn't get past last year?
COACH MULKEY:  It would be if you had never been past that point.  But these kids, most of them, had been there their freshman year to a Final Four when we beat Duke in Memphis.
So if we had not, the last couple of years, gotten to a Final Four and gotten past that point, I could understand a little pressure there and a little relief.  But we didn't feel it.  Not this time.

Q.¬† And the sisters at Stanford, who I'm not going to try to pronounce their names, what kind of problems do they present to you guys, they both seem‑‑ they would fit in really well on your guys' team, right?
COACH MULKEY:  Well, I recruited both of them.  Outstanding people, first of all.  That's the first thing that I would tell you about the Ogwumike family.  They are wonderful, wonderful people.
And Neka and Chiney, their talents speak for themselves which you watch them on film.  They're outstanding scorers, great rebounders, great athletes, but more important what they are on the floor is they're great leaders for their basketball team.

Q.  I know you've approached this season as almost a national title or Final Four bus sort of mindset and I know you've embraced the unfinished business slogan after what happened last season.  I guess from a coaching standpoint when you do something like that, do you worry about how your kids are going to handle that pressure?  And will they have any fun during the course of the season?  I'm just wondering, is this team handling fun, and how has this team kind of embraced the unfinished business motto?
COACH MULKEY:  Actually, it's not my personality to just do a video like pregame video like we've done this year, but the truth is, Chuck, people like you and everybody else, you throw those expectations at us.  And I don't know how we could have hidden them.
And so I just thought that with encouragement from the coaching staff and knowing the personality of my team, they wanted coach to do that.  They wanted me to believe in them and they wanted me to throw that out there so that they could remain focused every day.  I can't tell you not one time, and we've played how many, 38 games, not one time this year have we ever felt pressure.  We haven't.
It's just a case of we want to win a national championship.  And if we lose it, what have we lost?  I mean, we have had a great year.  And so it wasn't to throw it out there to put pressure on them.  These kids, they know they're good.  And it was just a case of we didn't think we could hide what people's expectations were of us, and we can't hide the fact that we're older now and we have those expectations too.

Q.¬† People talk, obviously, about Brittney and the way she's changed the game and Odyssey, Gary Blair called her maybe the best point guard in the country.¬† But I guess when you look at it, people forget that Brooklyn Pope and Destiny Williams are high school all‑Americans.¬† Na‑Na Hayden has had some huge games for you, the NCAA tournament, throughout her career. ¬†Could you talk about the overall depth of this team and the contributions you get up and down the lineup?
COACH MULKEY:  I'd start with Jordan Madden.  Jordan Madden is to find the guard, the best player on the opposing team, and what a job she's done night in, night out and people don't talk about it.  That kid has a six foot body.  She has the wing span to alter shots on the perimeter.  Make it difficult, denying the ball.  Jordan Madden has just embraced that defensive stopper for us.
And Na‑Na Hayden is just quietly, like Destiny Williams, understood that all the attention may go to those other two on paper, but on that floor, they understand their value to our basketball team.¬† I've said it months and months ago that if we're to win a national championship, it won't be because of Odyssey Sims and Brittney Griner, it will be because of Na‑Na Hayden and Jordan Madden.

Q.  You talked about Odyssey and her improvement and how she's healthier this year compared to last year.  You played the point guard position.  How much of Odyssey Sims do you see in yourself since you talked about how she can't have a bad day and neither can you at practice?  Your thoughts about her aggressiveness, her drive, her passion, and her skills.
COACH MULKEY:  The one thing I would say Odyssey and I have in common is we hate to lose.  And if you hate to lose, I can coach you through whatever differences we have in personality.  Odyssey Sims coming in had to learn how to really work for two hours on the floor through good and bad.  She had to learn to take criticism.  She had to learn to take the responsibility of the position that you hold.
And those are things that she has started to embrace with the understanding that until you win a national championship, follow my lead and I won't guide you wrong.
And she's done that.  Odyssey is a player similar to me in that I think you almost have to really aggravate her and get after her to get the best out of her.  Don't let Odyssey get comfortable with you as a coach.  And I've learned that a little bit through my assistant coach that's been around her a lot Dam ion McKinney:  Don't let Odyssey get comfortable.  Keep her her on her toes, keep after her, make her get mad at you because it brings out the best in her.

Q.  Do you think of any time where you almost you broke her, kind of like you have to do with a horse, put it out there, let it run a little bit, kind of an example?
COACH MULKEY:  I don't like to use the word "break."  But when a kid comes to a program, they've been taught things differently.  You don't want to change the things that you recruited them to do, and that's to win ball games and the talents that they have.
But it's a system, a system will break down a kid's bad habits, because you're trying to retrain them on the way you want them to run your system.  You're not trying to take their talents away from them.  I don't want to put a control on my team.  I want my kids to run the floor.  I want them to show their skills.  It's an entertainment business.
But you have to really make sure they understand principles, understand when to run, when not to run, run an offense, know everybody's position on the floor.
Odyssey is a little bit different in this regard:  Usually if you want to use the word "break" you usually break them on the defensive end.  I've never had that problem with Odyssey.  She is so in to guarding the basketball and harassing the ball handler.  Where she's improved is on the help side defense and understanding I need to get more longer rebounds where I have an opportunity to push it up the floor.

Q.  Maybe more than anyone, maybe even including Pat, you represent the sort of bridge between what Title IX has done for women; you started maybe even before scholarships maybe, and before the NCAA started sponsoring the tournament.  Is that something you take grade pride in in sort of being that person who represents sort of the timeline of how women's basketball, women's sports have grown?
COACH MULKEY:¬†¬† Well, I don't know‑‑ I know this:¬† I'm blessed that I didn't have to fight the battles that people before me did.¬† We are reaping the benefits of those who didn't have what we have and those that fought the battles.

Q.  When you were a kid did anybody ever try to stop you from playing a sport?
COACH MULKEY:¬†¬† Yes.¬† Actually, I was 12 years old and I made the All‑Star team on my Dixie Youth Baseball career, and we went to the first round of the All‑Stars and had an incident where they told me I couldn't play and they tried to use the excuse because the roster wasn't filled out correctly, and of course other people said it was because I was a girl and there was that little incident.
But really other than that, I've been pretty much blessed.

Q.  Did you play, end up playing in the tournament?
COACH MULKEY:  I did not play in that game.  It was a decision that my parents let me make.  I stood outside the dugout.  I knew our team would win the game regardless, and I told my parents at that time that this could be fought at a later date, that the only people it was hurting at that time were the guys on my baseball team and that I was tough enough to handle it.  And it would be okay.  So I stood outside the dugout.

Q.  Did you coach?
COACH MULKEY:  Did I what?

Q.  Did you coach them?
COACH MULKEY:  No, I was crying but trying to hide those tears underneath my hat.  And, of course, now girls can play Little League, Dixie Youth, whatever baseball organizations.
Let me say this about that:  I'm the mother of a son and a daughter.  Title IX is a touchy subject in a lot of regards, with a lot of people.  I just know that if girls are going to play sports with guys, do it for the right reasons.  Don't do it for the attention.  Don't do it for any other reason other than that you're good enough and you deserve to be on that team because you can help that team win.  And that's the way I've always viewed it.

Q.¬† We were talking about the four teams, No. 1 seeds.¬† You're not only the No. 1 seed that made it but you pretty much ran rough shod over the rest of the country.¬† Besides the fact that you all guys won national championships, what else do the four of you have in common?¬† I mean, it's not superstars.¬† Connecticut doesn't really have an All‑American, what is it that binds you four teams?
COACH MULKEY:  Wow, that's a difficult question.  I guess not knowing any more than I would know on the surface it would probably be head coaches that understand what it takes to recruit and win it at the highest level.

Q.  Have you seen much of Connecticut and Notre Dame, at least Connecticut play defense?
COACH MULKEY:  I played them both this year.  So I've seen them up close and in person.

Q.  Seems like defense is the one thing that they've taken that to another level.
COACH MULKEY:  Well, Connecticut and Baylor are your two top field goal percentage defensive teams.  And we take great pride in that.  Notre Dame through the years has really been interesting because we played against them when I was at Louisiana Tech and she played a lot of zone defense in her career at Notre Dame and now she's mostly man to man.
And Tara, the history that she has with triangle offense now she's kind of gone away from that offense with the Ogwumikes.  So the coaches change with the times, with the personnel and just stay on top of the game.

Q.  You mentioned about coaching personalities when it comes to Odyssey.  And I wonder traditionally have your point guards generally shared more personality traits with you than not, or maybe is Odyssey normal in the fact that the personality of your point guards don't always match with your personality?
COACH MULKEY:  I think all the point guards I've ever been around have one thing in common is they want the ball in their hands and they want to win.  When I talk about differences in personalities, let me make it clear, none of the kids you ever coach are going to just live eat and breathe the game you do.  It's very rare this day and age that they're as intense as you are or they're polished like you want them to be when you get them.
So I think that when we talk about point guards, it's not a fight.¬† It's not a battle, it's just‑‑ it's breaking kind of old habits.¬† And things that you've been allowed to get away with that you can't get away with at this level anymore.¬† And it's not always on the floor.¬† It could be how you call out an offense.¬† You may have missed a layup and you aggravated it yourself so your body language shows to your four teammates instead of moving on to the next play.¬† Things like that.

Q.  Do you like the give and take, Kim, or do you want your point guard just to listen maybe more than talk back?
COACH MULKEY:  Well, she never talks back.  Now, they're very respectful.  I'm not a coach that allows players to be disrespectful to coaches.  There's a time and a place to talk and express yourself and I just think that we have such a relationship as a team that if I'm wrong, they know I'm going to be the first one to beat myself up and apologize to them and get in front of them and say, hey, coach was wrong, I didn't see this.  But now that I've looked at the film, here's how it should have been.
Just be truthful and fair and see if you can't take those kids to a level that they don't even know they have within themselves.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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