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March 30, 2012

Geno Auriemma

Carol Callan

Swin Cash

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you for joining us today.  We're going to get right into it pretty quickly.
As you know we announced 11 members to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team, and with me right here is Coach Geno Auriemma to talk about the team and answer your questions; and our Women's National Team Program Director, Carol Callan, is also on the line to answer any committee‑related questions.
Coach will answer questions for 15 minutes, and then we've got Swin Cash, who is now a two‑time Olympian, to follow up with questions after that.

Q.  Were there any other players that you had brought to the attention of the committee that you thought you might have liked on?
GENO AURIEMMA:  Well, I think from that final pool, I think we had 21, I would say that that encompassed pretty much everyone that I was thinking of.  Certainly the committee kept looking at more and more, and it just kept coming down to those 21 and I was very, very comfortable with that group.

Q.  Going along with the '76 Olympic Team, that was the first time that they had five players from North Carolina; you have got five players from Connecticut.  Certainly there's a great rapport and the players are familiar with you; everybody is familiar with you because they have played for you.  Talk about what it means to have those five players from your college team on this Olympic Team.
GENO AURIEMMA:  Well, first, it's a great honor for them to be selected.  You know, I would venture to say that whoever was the coach, those five would be on the team, and their accomplishments speak for themselves.
Given the lack of time that we have to prepare, it's extremely beneficial to me, personally, to have players that I'm familiar with, that are familiar with me, that understand what it is that I'm trying to do; but at the same time, the other six that didn't play for me, most of them I've had a chance to coach since I was announced as the national team coach four years ago.
I'm really comfortable with this group, and I'm really, really proud of the five former UCONN players, and I'm anxious to get started.

Q.  Could you please say something about the three Lynx players on the team and why you picked those three or why the committee picked those three, and the benefit of having teammates on the team like that.
GENO AURIEMMA:  Well, you know, you're talking about Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore, are three of the best players in the WNBA.  And they do have great chemistry together and they did have an unbelievable season and they won the WNBA Championship.  So you can see not only the talent, but they are unselfish and competitive and they know how to win.
Again, I go back to what I said earlier; the fact that we have so little time to prepare, I think any added advantage that you can get where players know each other, play together, and are comfortable with each other, I just think that makes our job so much easier. 
       And those three, they earned it, because they are great players and because they know how to win.
So, congratulations to them, and I'm thrilled for them.

Q.  You lost some of the veterans, Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson, Katie Smith; how do you see Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings stepping into those roles?
GENO AURIEMMA:  I think it's their time.  They played a very pivotal role in the last Olympic Games.  The difference now is some of those older players that you mentioned won't be there.
But there comes a point in time where you have to move on, and Sue, Diana and Tamika, they have been through this routine.  They know what it takes to win.  They are ready for this.  This is their moment; this is their time.
Just like when Lisa and Tina and Dawn and those guys replaced the Olympians from '92; it's just part of USA Basketball.  You know, the names are going to change; the numbers are going to change; the faces are going to look different, but the results are going to be the same.

Q.  Unquestionably, these are some of the best basketball players in the world, but part of picking the team isn't just picking the 12 best players, but the 12 best who play best together.  So from what you've seen so far in your training camps and your exhibition games, how do you see the chemistry between this group?
GENO AURIEMMA:  Well, one of the unfortunate things is that we have not had this group together ever.  You know, that's just the way it is with their schedules and the WNBA and their foreign commitments.
We were at the World Championships and we won that tournament, and there's a couple of players that were in that tournament that helped us win that are not part of this 11, and there's a couple that are on this 11 that were not at the World Championships for whatever reason.
So our first training camp with this team will be May 11, 12 and 13 of this year.  So I'll get a chance to see them and be around them.  But I don't anticipate the chemistry will be any different than it was at the World Championships, where I thought that was one of the best teams I've ever been around and I would expect the same sort of result from this group.

Q.  With 11 players being picked, what is holding up the one other player?  Is Brittney Griner in that mix?
CAROL CALLAN:  I'll be happy to answer that.  Yes, Brittney Griner is still in the mix.  We had 21 finalists and we picked 11, so the other ten are definitely still in that mix.  And so I guess that's the quick answer is, yes, she still is in the mix.

Q.  Well then to follow up if I could, what position for you right now, looking at that one position open, who you like to fill?
GENO AURIEMMA:  You know, that's a difficult question to answer, because of the 11 that were named today, if we did not add a 12th player, I would feel pretty comfortable going over there with just 11 and thinking we could win the Gold Medal; there's no doubt in my mind.
That 12th player is not necessarily going to be anybody that puts us over the top in a sense, but someone that may be just adds to what we already have and gives us even more flexibility than I think this team already has.  And should it be Brittney, then obviously we're getting something that is pretty special; as well as some of the other people that are in the mix.
Again, I think we would just be adding to the great team that we have already announced.

Q.  If you could address the short turnaround time that you have to prepare, how important is it to have an assistant like Jennifer Gillom to help you in preparing for the Olympics?
GENO AURIEMMA:¬† Well, again, we have spent an awful lot of time together in the Czech Republic, and we have spent a lot of time together in one of the training camps.¬† I've known Doug for 20‑some years; and certainly Jennifer, having played, and the experiences that she has with some of the players that have already been announced is huge.
And same with Marynell; being able to call on the experience that she had coaching in the WNBA Finals and all of the other years of experience that she's had at all different levels.
I'm pretty fortunate that we have got a coaching staff that has kind of been through an awful lot, and they have experienced winning the gold medal at the World Championships.  They are exactly what I would be looking for.

Q.  Is there any little thing that you are concerned about because you don't have that much time to prepare that you really want to hone into and be preparing for the London Olympics?
GENO AURIEMMA:  Yeah, we are going to have to keep things simple.  We are going to have to rely on the players and their experience, and they certainly have that.
I'll probably lean on a few of them for their help even, because the teams that we are playing are very familiar to these kids.  They have played with some of those kids overseas; they have played against them.
Obviously they have competed against them on the world stage so I think that gives us a little bit of a head start, but I'm going to rely on the players.  I trust them and I believe in them, and I think the lack of time is an issue, but it is what it is and we can't change it.  We'll win in spite of it.

Q.  Can you talk about the job that Swin Cash has done putting herself back in the mix, and what have you seen from her that makes her one of the better players in the world?
GENO AURIEMMA:  I remember when Swin came out of college and made the Olympic Team, Athens, I believe, and the immediate impact that she had on that team, on the Detroit team in the WNBA; and the fact that they won two WNBA championships; and the injury that happened to her, the ACL injury and then some back issues, I think people forgot about Swin.
And Swin has worked incredibly hard to put herself back in the mix.¬† Going to Seattle I thought was the best thing to happen to her.¬† Winning another WNBA Championship; I think she might be the only one that has three, except maybe Katie Smith does, too, because she was on that Seattle team, as well‑‑ I think; I'm not sure.¬† But I know for sure Swin has three.
And you don't get those by accident.  She knows how to win.  She's a winner, always has been, ever since day one at the University of Connecticut.  She brings an energy and a passion for the game that is unmatched.
So I'm thrilled for her and thrilled that when everybody counted her out, there she is back again.
THE MODERATOR:  I'd like to thank everybody and thank Coach, and we'll take questions for Swin Cash.

Q.  Talk a little about what Geno was talking about, missing 2004 and the injuries and how hard you worked to get back, and why is this 2012 Olympic Team so important for you?
SWIN CASH:  For me it was really difficult going through the injuries and really being out of the mix, especially when you know how hard you compete and you play.  I really came into USA Basketball with Sue and D and Catch, and just having those feelings that we had back in 2004, it was hard.  It was hard to be at NBC and watch the game and call them and talk about basketball and not be there.
So I just really focused, and I said I wanted to be on the London in 2012, and I have to give a lot of credit to Andrea Hudy, who was our strength and conditioning coach at UCONN.  After the back injury, I went to Kansas with Perkins, who was our head AV at UCONN, he just invited me and I went back to work.
It was a grind for next couple of years of playing in the WNBA; I played in China; and I just really had to make a sacrifice and it was a sacrifice for a lot of different things in my life to be back here again. 
       I'm just really happy the committee is giving me an another opportunity to finally finish up my USA Basketball career with these wonderful women and go for gold.

Q.  Having to play for a new WNBA team and also with the Olympics, what is your mental preparation going to be for the next few months?
SWIN CASH:  Really to stay in the moment.  And I think that's going to be the thing for all of us that are playing in the summer.  When you're on the WNBA team, that's the focus of getting better and competing.
When it comes time for USA Basketball, a lot of our roles change.¬† Like the role that I'm going to play in Chicago is different than what I'm going to play for USA Basketball.¬† Being able to switch from one mind‑set to the other is going to be very important.
I think with having the experience that I have, that it will be an easier adjustment for me.

Q.  Geno talked a lot about just the turnaround time and the importance of you and other veterans on the squad; do you sense any concerns among you and the others in terms of having to switch back and forth with your WNBA focus and then getting ready for the Olympics, and will there be any kind of obstacles that you foresee or have to deal with in getting ready for the Olympics?
SWIN CASH:  I think there's something that coach really touched on that is important for our group, and that's that a lot of players play internationally.  So having some of the women in other countries on the team or competing against them, I think will make us very familiar with the competition.
It's really going to come down to everyone's adjustment to their roles.  And this group of ladies that we have here, just like the World Championships, we all were so selfless that it really didn't matter.  The goal was just about winning.
So the excitement in the locker room, on the court, I mean, you could just be around our team and you felt that energy.  And I don't think it's going to be any other way.
I can remember back in 2004, that was one of the things, being a younger player that we really learned is that when you step on the court, you know, it's all business.  It's all USA that's on your chest and it's not really about you.  I think everyone that's on this team will have the same mentality.

Q.  Looking at the roster, what signature statement does this team have in terms of what your trademark will be as you enter the Olympics?
SWIN CASH:  I think versatility.  I think there are a lot of players that can play a number of positions.  I think one thing that's great about Couch Auriemma's system and having five players that are familiar with it, it's going to take us talking to the other players and not just the coaches coaching, but us really communicating with each other.
And that's the one thing that really helped us in the World Championships is even if you have Angel McCoughtry playing in one offense or Catch is playing in a different offense at Indiana, just their athleticism and their ability and intellect about the game will help in transition to Coach Auriemma's offense.  And it's all about read and movement.  And we have the athletic ability, and I feel like we have the size.  It's really the versatility I think that's going to give us the upper hand.

Q.  Curious your thoughts on having an opportunity to team up with Sue again.
SWIN CASH:  You know, I just can't get rid of her.  Bird and I have a long history together, dating all the way back to high school and then roommates in college and then Seattle.
So for me, this is really special, because like I said, I came into USA Basketball with Sue and Catch and D, and now to be at this point that I feel is my last go‑around with USA Basketball, I hope that we can do the same thing we did at Seattle and that we did at UCONN, and that's bring back the Championship.

Q.  To paraphrase Geno, I don't know if you heard his comments earlier, he thought that coming to Seattle turned out to be great thing for your career.  In retrospect where you are now and as an Olympian, could you talk about that?
SWIN CASH:  Yeah, Seattle, I have no regrets in regards to playing in Seattle.  The fan base there is amazing.  The love and energy they bring to the WNBA is very important.
But for me, when you're playing with a player like Sue, also, with Lauren Jackson and then we had Tanesha Wright and Camille Little, we just had a special chemistry and everyone had a mentality about working really hard.  My experience was great there.  I was able to go back and go back to the drawing board and let me just reinvent myself and go back to work.
You can't complain when you come out of there with a championship.

Q.  Is there anyone among these 11 players, the ten others you've never played with before, who you're particularly looking forward to being a teammate with?
SWIN CASH:  It's going to be interesting.  I would have to say probably Candace is the one player that I really haven't had the chance to really play with.  I think we did some stuff with USA Basketball in the training camp in Vegas, but actually being on the floor and going after a championship; she's a phenomenal talent.
So I think it would probably be Candace out of everyone.  I think everyone else on the team I've actually played with.

Q.  Arguably you're the 11 best players in the world but the reason you're picked, also, is partly that you're seen as the 11 best who can play the best together; so sort of how do you see the chemistry among the group so far and whoever the 12th player will be added?  Good chance it will be Brittney Griner.
SWIN CASH:  Well, I don't know who the other player is going to be, but I can tell you this much:  With the leadership that we have at the top, and I think Sue and D and Catch have done a wonderful job of really taking and bringing that gap between the players that retired, like Lisa and Tina and Katie Smith from the 2008 Olympics to the World Championships, it really was all about one team, one goal.
And you could feel that energy in our practices; you can feel it when we are just on the bus.¬† Everyone just has the respect, not just of the veterans‑‑ but people who win, I've always said that it doesn't matter who the best player in the world is or the best players or position, it's really about everyone looks at, if you win.
And we all understand that, and it's all about the goal and I think that mentality goes from the top to the bottom.

Q.  Just talk about the pride in having five former UCONN players on this team, and the fact that it really isn't just a coincidence that these are people who all deserve to be there in their own right.
SWIN CASH:¬† Of course.¬† We always get that comment or that question about, why do all of the UCONN players have to be there, and I think Coach said it earlier.¬† We don't just go by the university we went to.¬† We all worked really hard in our careers and our resum√©s speak for themselves.¬† There's no knock‑‑ there could have been a different number‑‑ other women that could have made the team, and I don't think it comes down to the university you went to.
But there is ‑‑ in saying that, there is a tremendous pride, I feel, because if you look at the age range from Sue and I to Diana, and then there's Maya and Tina.¬† Sue and I have been playing in this league for over ten years, so it's not like we are some young chickens and we are picking all of the fresh UCONN girls.¬† These are some established veterans, and then you have some of the younger players.¬† It's just very prideful I think for a university.

Q.  Can you compare when you made the first Olympic Team, you were out of college and now you have to do the comeback thing.  Can you compare the emotions when you made the team to where you are now?
SWIN CASH:  You know, when I got the call, it was really emotional for me, because I knew about the sacrifice and I understood what it took to get back there.  And I remember in 2008 at the NBA studio sitting there with Teresa Edwards and talking about basketball and just telling her, like, I'm going to get back; that's my mission and my goal, I want to be playing; I'm going to be in London.
Just joking about it and just talking about it, but the last three years after back surgery and going through some personal things and being able to still be traded in the same year and be on the Olympic year is very special to me.
Back in 2004 when I got the call, I was like, you're young, you and think, I've got five more medals to go.  You never  that nothing is guaranteed.  So just really seizing the moment is very important.
THE MODERATOR:  I'd like to thank everybody again for calling in today.

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