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October 11, 2017
San Francisco, California
SCOTT RUECK: What a privilege it is to be back here. This is always a day everyone looks forward to because it's done so well. The Pac-12 treats us like gold and provides an awesome opportunity not only for the coaches but certainly our students. I don't know. Just it's just a feel-good day, and it's always exciting.
Here we are starting another year in what all of us I know believe is the best conference in the country. It has been the last two years at least.
We're excited about our team. This is a team that just a year ago lost some really important people and found a way. This group has that same opportunity this year. We lost a few really important people to our program, and now it's their turn to step into those roles.
I love this team. They're tight-knit, they're tough. They realize they've got to adapt to a new environment, a new demand, and they're ready for it.
So we're excited.
Q. Marie, now you're a senior and you're going to be stepping into that leadership role, not that you weren't already, what do you see in this team that's mostly veteran players in terms of what you guys can accomplish this season?
MARIE GULICH: I see a lot of hard work and a lot of heart going into practices. Everyone is dialed in and focused. Scott already said we're missing some players who were very influential last season, and everyone knows that. Everyone is willing to take on the role. And I'm super excited to see that and also to feel how everyone takes it on and embraces it.
Q. Sydney Wiese was such a center point to that program from a leadership standpoint and everything that she did. How have you guys adjusted to that, and how have you taken that role on? Just point guards are super important, I don't know for your program, Scott, too, but specifically moving forward on a basketball standpoint.
SCOTT RUECK: Do you want me to answer? Is that to me? Who do you want to go first?
Obviously that's a great question, and that's one that I have been asked the most since the conclusion of last year, is how do you replace Sydney? She meant a lot not only on the court, but off the court in our community. She was a standard-bearer on how we conduct business in many ways and go about things. She had a joy about her that made every day fun. That is hard to replace.
But she's no longer here. So what has happened with her is the same thing that's happened with our program. The culture is in place, the standard is in place, and now you have that incredible model.
So not one person can do that, just like nobody's going to control the ball like Sydney did for 35 out of 40 minutes. Which was the way that we played. It's going to be a collective thing. We have incredible students in this. I think this team has the ability to have the best culture to this point. And that's saying something. That's saying a lot, actually.
They're winners. They're selfless. They come in every day and want to be coached. That's Sydney. And so she rubbed off, and it's all of our responsibility to keep that going and build upon the example that she set. And you're right. That goes for Gabby, too, to be honest. Gabby had a big say in the way this team competed.
So we're so fortunate to have had those examples. You're looking at two people sitting next to me right now that are more than capable of stepping in and fulfilling that. So it will be done collectively.
MIKAYLA PIVEC: Like Scott said, I think it's going to be a collective effort. I think she was a great role model and great teacher, and the values she put in place here in this program, we have to continue that going forward.
But I think the biggest thing was how she communicated with people and treated people going forward is how all of us will strive to act as well.
SCOTT RUECK: And for the coach, that's really a fun challenge. Honestly, to help them, to teach them, to put them in positions to really shine in leadership roles. That's the joy, to me.
Q. As you guys transitioned with major role players leaving over the last couple years, you've really relied on what you do defensively while you all figure out what people's new roles are in the offense. Do you anticipate the same thing, that you will rely on defense while you get yourself settled offensively with new people in new spots?
SCOTT RUECK: That's a great perspective. That's what being a great defensive team allows you to do. It buys you time and keeps you in games while you're figuring things out.
And certainly we had some questions to answer, just like we did a year ago. I remember sitting here picked fifth a year ago, having lost four or five significant seniors, and wondering: Man, how are we going to do it? And not knowing quite yet.
So we did have to figure those things out. This is similar. The standard of our program is to defend like crazy. It's what's made us who we are. This team embraces that, they understand that. It is our DNA. And we're going to have to grow in that area as well.
So coaches, we need to put them in place to be successful, but we have willing participants that can't wait to step into those roles. So I agree that is going to be necessary.
Q. In looking at the teams from before that we were just talking about, I think of Gabby, and when I think of Gabby and what she brought, just scrappy and hard-nosed and tough, just taking care of business, and then you had Sydney who was a fan favorite and lighthearted. So that, when we thought of your team, is what we kind of thought about. Now I'm thinking: What is this team's personality going to be about? What are people going to think about when they see some of your individual personalities?
MIKAYLA PIVEC: Yeah, I think each player is different, but they're definitely great role models. Gabby is one of the toughest people we played against. I remember when I came in first as a freshman, I was a little scared of her. But that's what you need to -- you want to be a tough competitor. She was a great role model for that. And Jamie too.
We need toughness and we need competitiveness going forward. And you also need a joyful, lighthearted kid like Syd to balance that out.
MARIE GULICH: I think what you'll see from us on the floor will be unique. We'll play as a team. We show that we love each other and play to inspire not just each other but the community around us in Beaver Nation. I think you for sure will continue to see that from us. And for that maybe some people rise and stick out. But right now the roles haven't really been established yet. So we'll see.
Q. I know this is really early, but Civil War, okay, and obviously Oregon has risen a lot quicker and higher than maybe many people thought, maybe except them, okay. So the game is not for a while. How is it -- are you guys talking about this recruiting-wise, or how does this affect your program in any way?
SCOTT RUECK: This conference is No. 1 for a reason. It's well coached. There is a lot of talent. Talent is staying West now, the reason we're where we've been and where we are. We've done that exact same thing.
To me, my personal opinion is I'm not surprised. It makes us all better. It's another really good team in our conference.
As far as recruiting goes, it's every day. You know, it's every day. We work against the Pac-12 every day in recruiting, and that's just the norm.
For me, I look back on my career, and I think of my greatest growth in great rivalries. I can look back as a D-III coach and say Suzy Barcomb and a guy at PLU named Bill Rigell were two people that made me grow and challenged me. They were heated rivalries, and they were so fun. I respected the heck out of them, and I'm grateful for it.
I look at what Tara's done. I mean, who doesn't want to try to compete with that. I mean, are you kidding? That is the greatest thing that a competitor can try to do. So to be in the same sentence as them or near them in the standings, even, you're doing something. How phenomenal.
Well, Oregon, they've done the same thing. They've worked their butts off. They've gotten really good. Another great team. Awesome.
We're all getting better. We're all rising. There are no negatives to it.
Q. Mikayla, I was wondering if you could tell us about your experience with the track team last spring, throwing the javelin. Coach, if you had a chance to watch her out doing track & field and your thoughts on that?
MIKAYLA PIVEC: I participated in track & field in high school, and I went home for spring break and saw my sister competing in track, and it sparked my interest again.
I knew competing in track would keep me motivated to work on my strength, work on my speed, and that would help translate well to basketball. So I did it as a way to get stronger, stay competing, stay competitive. It was a lot of fun.
SCOTT RUECK: My perspective on track is I love it. I love it. The reason I love it is every single individual sport student that I've coached in my career has a mental toughness advantage over anybody that's not competed individually. They know they've committed. It matters. They've been out there on the island having to come through. Succeed or fail, you have to live with it. And you can't look anywhere else. It's on you.
So when she approached me with that, we talked about, well, you're here for basketball. How are you going to manage your improvement in the off-season through basketball? Can you during this? Just do you believe it's a good decision for you at this time? And she said yes, and I said, I agree. So go, go do it and win the Pac-12.
MIKAYLA PIVEC: Thanks for letting me compete.
SCOTT RUECK: You're welcome, Mik. Yeah, I'm all for it. It's amazing.
Q. (Off microphone)?
MIKAYLA PIVEC: I think for one meet we had a get-together or something.
Q. (Off microphone)?
MIKAYLA PIVEC: We'll see how this basketball season goes. Take it a day at a time. But basketball is my main priority, and that's what I love most.
Q. Seven years ago, Coach, you were one of the upstarts trying to make a mark with your team. Now we look around the conference and there are several newcomers. Some of them had some success. Looking at them, do you see or do you feel any -- do you see yourself in any of them, and does it remind you when you first came to the Pac-12?
SCOTT RUECK: I don't remember details. I remember what we had to accomplish during those times and how hard it was. I don't know the details completely like I knew that. I know that it's a grind.
I know the number one thing you have to change is a mentality. It's a mentality more than anything that we can, and there is a toughness that is demanded. There is no other word for it, it's a demand. You have to match this toughness every day, and you have to be so resilient and you have to fight so hard, and it's worth it.
So I admire those that have taken on those challenges. You look at the conference, and there are just great coaches everywhere. There are great people doing great things in every program in this conference, 1 through 12.
So I admire it. I'm a fan of it. Certainly we'd like to keep them where -- no, I'm kidding. But I can relate to all of them. So when you see them on the recruiting trail, those are fun conversations. I say, yeah, I can relate exactly where you are and this is what I did at that point. Not that it's the right thing for them. Who knows. But this is what worked for us.
So, yeah. I'm excited for our conference. It truly is the best.
Q. I'd like to ask a question about the national picture. UConn has four starters back. They've got a terrific player from Duke in Stevens. They've got the No. 1 recruit in the nation, Megan Walker. Are you all playing for second place across the country this year?
SCOTT RUECK: (Laughing.) Of course not. Of course not. Who knows what's going to happen throughout the year. I do have an incredible amount of respect not for the talent they have but the program they have. We've felt it, we've watched it, we've observed it.
You know, Geno doesn't just acquire talent and win because they're talented. He's won because he can coach and he puts them in position to be successful. So will it come together again? There is no one in here that can predict it, of course. I see them taking a step forward from a year ago, however. So that means everyone will need to rise as well.
Q. Marie, for you, your increased presence in the lineup on the floor for Oregon State, how did that translate for you in international basketball with FIBA and Germany this summer?
MARIE GULICH: It definitely made me more comfortable and more confident. Going back to Germany, I was a little nervous. I hadn't played European basketball for a while. It's a little different.
It was a lot of fun, though. I was the youngest on the team, so that was new for me, too, because I'm, here, the oldest. So just like stepping into the role, seeing older players coaching me, too, and seeing leadership and learning from that. It was a lot of fun. I think it will help me transfer that back to here too. So I benefited in both ways.
Q. Some of your new faces, you see 6'8" on the roster, and it piques your interest in how developed she is. And do you expect her to be able to contribute this year?
SCOTT RUECK: Yeah, well, you know I love those ones. So we're really excited about Jo. Jo is neat. We had our team retreat this past weekend, and each of the students got to share. We all did. Everybody in the room got to share. Got to tell about their story a little bit.
We all got to hear her motivation for coming to the States. She knew if she wanted to be the best she could be, she had to come here to develop. That was met with some adversity at home.
So her story is one where she wants to be elite. She wants to be great. And anytime you have someone that wants it that bad, good things are going to happen.
She obviously in some ways will remind you a bit of Ruth because of her size. She's an imposing presence. She has a lot to learn. She hasn't played at this level yet. But she's very intelligent and adapting quickly. Even in our first week of practice, you just saw incredible growth and her just becoming comfortable within a new system. So I have big hopes for her that she's going to have a big impact on our season this year.
Q. Mikayla, what has been the biggest jump for you in terms of leadership, from coming in and being young and contributing, to knowing now what your role is going to be before you step on the floor?
MIKAYLA PIVEC: Yeah, last year we had great examples in Sydney Wiese and Gabby in what good leadership looks like. I think going forward new roles have to be established. I'll have to be more vocal. I'm not the loudest, but I know if I lead by example, that's a good way to lead as well.
Just to continue to encourage the underclassmen. If they have any questions, they can come to me and ask to get good advice.
But leadership roles have to be established going forward.
Q. (Off microphone)?
MIKAYLA PIVEC: One of the things I have to improve on is being louder and being more vocal. In high school I was the captains of the cross country and track and basketball, so I think that leadership there will help translate to this as well.
SCOTT RUECK: Mik tends to be a bit understated.
MARIE GULICH: I agree.
Q. (Off microphone)?
SCOTT RUECK: Yeah, she was telling us about Lynwood High School and how they won a state championship. And I said, What sport, Mik? I'd ask her. Girl's basketball. Just to make sure everybody knew.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports