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October 10, 2018
San Francisco, California
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Talent, depth, experience, that definitely defines the PAC-12 conference. Last year we had one of those. We had talent. We didn't have depth, and we did not have experience. And we just could not be more excited this year because we have all three. And don't get me wrong, these young women did amazing last year, and to be in the Top-25 most of the year and second round NCAAs is definitely good, but it's definitely also not our standards. So we always do a joke. Do you guys want the joke this year?
Okay. So all right. So elderly couple, Monty and Esther, okay, in their 80s, tradition, every year for their wedding anniversary they go to the state fair. Every year Monty asks Esther if he can ride the helicopter. Every year Esther says no, it's too expensive. $50 is $50. So finally this year they're in -- I think Monty is 86 and he's like, Esther, please, this is probably my last state fair; can I please ride the helicopter? And Esther says, no, $50 is $50. But this time the pilot overhears them, and he comes over and says, hey, I'll make you a deal. I'll let you ride for free as long as you don't make a sound. You guys make a sound, then you're going to have to pay. Monty's like, "please, Esther," and Esther acquiesces. So they get in the helicopter. They take off. So of course, what does the pilot do? Loop-de-dos, 360s; ones he's all over the place. Not a peep. Lands, goes to Monty, man, I tried everything to get you guys to say something, and Monty says, well, when Esther fell out, I almost said something, but $50 is $50.
So the point of that story is, you know, for our consistency at ASU everybody usually has a sell-out point and for our team we don't. It's who we are that really speaks to us. That's our secret sauce at ASU. No matter what, the players kind of come and go. We do have amazing talent right now. But that's kind of what we rely on. So questions?
Q. First of all, I can't believe you've been at Arizona State for 21 years. You're amazing. And I want to know how you look exactly the same?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: 22.
Q. How do you look exactly the same as you did 22 years ago? Seriously, you look exactly the same.
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: You're awesome. Thanks, Elise. Check's in the mail. Actually, my hair is probably better now because some of those 90s hairdos were pretty brutal.
Q. When you inherited the program where it is two decades later and like you said last year you weren't full strength but you managed to get into the second round of the tournament. Why? What is it you have as a coach, as a system, as a program that no matter what your team is extremely competitive?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: It's the type of people that we recruit. It's what I spoke to in my introduction, Elise. Thank you. It's our staff. It's the culture. It's the type of people that we choose to -- that I choose to work with. I have an incredible coaching staff, and then the young ladies that we choose, we're very selective, and it is very much who they are before what they do. Our saying is performance character before performance measures. And so that's -- we look at that really hard in the recruiting process, and I think it shows up. It shows up with how amazing these young ladies are and their competitive excellence.
Q. Actually, for the players, can you guys talk just about where you think your hunger level is this year and hunger for what?
REILI RICHARDSON: We didn't do as well as we wanted to last year, and this year's off season we really focused on getting back to Sun Devil defense and making shots and stuff like that. So I think -- and also building our culture from last year. And we really take pride in our culture.
KIANNA IBIS: Yeah, like what she said, just being a senior and all of my seniors, we have four now, just bringing the sense of urgency, because we know we want to do better.
Q. Charli, anytime you have ten players that come back who played in the last ten games, there's always the saying about experience speaks volumes. How can you guys be doing a little bit more and maybe be a little bit more dynamic with that experience? Might we see something a little different or the same feisty, competitive team that is always ASU?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Oh, you might see something different. I'm not going to tell you what. But I mean we have a lot of options. And we can actually practice this year. I mean like last year, we had to -- we compromised. We did really well because of who they are, because of who these young women are. But we had to compromise what we like to do in terms of being a dominating team. So we're excited.
Q. Charli, the veterans that you have back obviously have spoken volumes for you. If everyone stays healthy, off we go. Any of the youngsters that you have coming in, not a lot of freshmen, but any youngsters coming in where you're already seeing some adjustments being made and perhaps an ability to count on them early on in the season?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Oh, our freshmen can play.
Q. Talk to me. You guys jump in, too.
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Absolutely. Thank you. I mean we have four freshmen. They all are going to play. They are all going to play. They all are going to be impact players for us. It's a lot like actually Reili's class, the junior class we have now. They all came in and everyone was like, wow, oh, my gosh.
So yeah, we have Iris Mbulito comes from Spain, coming off a great summer, MVP of the U20 championships, gold medal, just very versatile, dynamic guard, can do a little bit of everything. Taya Hanson from Canada also competed for her country this summer. It's just college ready. Okay. Beep test. We do the beep test. It's a little conditioning test we do to gauge it. First weekend, summer, she set our all-time record ever. And she came back in the fall and she broke her record. So we have freshmen that are -- you know, they're a little overwhelmed. They got some stuff to learn, but strong, fit, college ready, which is half the battle, as everybody in this room knows. So Taya looks great. Jayde Van Hyfte, 6'1 forward, same thing with her fitness and her strength, just I mean off the chain. Both those two made our elite status fitness wise. We have a special -- they didn't get the play book. They're not up on the wall yet, but fitness wise they were up on the wall.
And Jayde has played for the same club team as Sophie Brunner. She's very under the radar because she hurt her ACL and her parents held her out of club and everything so she could get strong and healthy and ready for us because she committed really early. And then Jamie Loera. She had a sister at Oregon, she's got a sister right now at Gonzaga. She's a really talented combo guard, and they can all shoot. Hint hint, wink wink.
Q. Reili, happy belated birthday, by the way. My source in Tempe tells me that you have been working so hard on strength and finance that you actually asked for a larger size short. What's up with that?
REILI RICHARDSON: Just off season I didn't go home. I wanted to stay in Arizona and get stronger and work on my fitness level and little things in my game. So I really took pride in that in the off season and I worked on that.
Q. When you check your list of what you wanted to improve on over the summer, what have you already checked off?
REILI RICHARDSON: Definitely my three-point shooting, and really been focusing on defense.
Q. And Kianna, you don't get off the hook. How are you?
KIANNA IBIS: I'm great.
Q. Everybody knows you can shoot the heck out of the three-point shot. You proved that last season. But what folks in this room may not know is your ability to dance.
KIANNA IBIS: Oh, God.
Q. I have video proof of golf cart karaoke in Tempe. Are you the best dancer on the team?
KIANNA IBIS: That's a hard one because a lot of us are dancers. I'd say I'm up there with Kiki.
Q. (No microphone).
KIANNA IBIS: Well, it just helps us get loose, get rid of everything and it helps us relax and connect with each other. It's also a really fun thing to do before practice or games.
Q. Charli, I know you pretty well, but I've never seen you more confident. Be frank, which I like. I really like that. Knowing that you've got a lot of players coming back, your one thing has always been for you guys, and correct me if I'm wrong, is your defense, and your head-on defense. But you said there are some things that may be in your toolbox that have changed maybe with the players returning, your new kids coming back. I need to know more what's going to change with ASU.
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: I'm not telling you, Joe.
Q. I'm going to ask the players.
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: No, I'm just kidding. They're not going to tell you anything. Yeah. I think every top program in the country hangs their head on defense. I do. I think we play more aggressive style.
Q. Maybe not like yours, though?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Well, we like to win. Everybody thinks, oh, Charli loves defense. Charli loves to win. Right? We love to win. That's the constant that we know we can bring every game. That's without the depth last year. We couldn't do everything we wanted to do. And we might be more diversified than we've been because we have so much talent and depth, but yeah, we're going to be, I hope, an amazing defensive team. But our top teams, teams that have made deep runs in the tournament; Brian January, Diamond Simon in the back court. Our best teams have been great offensive teams. They've had great field goal percentages. They've been very, very efficient. So we feel like we have a team like that this year that's going to be great on both sides of the ball and we're going to have a lot of options. And Reili, I mean, yes. We know -- I think the thing that -- we have these unselfish players that don't care who gets the credit. And so they are willing to just dig down and play great defense for 40 minutes and share the ball. And that's, I think, what we're known for. Maybe we don't tell, hey, Kianna, you shoot 50 times, and yeah, you're an all American, but what did we accomplish together. So we're just really excited about having options this year, and being like some of the teams in the past that have been able to make those deep runs. And if everybody remembers, if Diamond Simon hadn't gotten hurt those teams probably would've been Final Four teams. We went on this run without our leading scorer star point guard. So we are. We're very excited.
Q. Can I follow up just with the players? So a month and a day from now you're going to play a pretty good team. Hard to believe. It's a month and a day, with Baylor. I know you win the day and you work on every day, but what do you guys have to do to beat Baylor? And I know that's the first game coming out of the gate. What are you working on as a team? Because I know you're thinking about?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: We have Incarnate Word on Tuesday. It's our second game. So we have a little bit of a tuneup game.
Q. Okay. But we're talking about Baylor. What do you guys have to do?
KIANNA IBIS: Well, we have to take every practice seriously and just focus on the control, controlling effort, rebounding, just everything that we can control.
REILI RICHARDSON: I think this last month is important for us and to keep building from where we are right now and just taking practice by practice and focusing on team and our culture.
Q. Asked one of the other players this. So Reili, you're down crunch time. Which one of those that you can count out now is going to step up? Who do you count out today, you got a game right now, who's going to step up?
REILI RICHARDSON: I think they all have a chance to step up.
Q. Come on, now.
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: I think that's a good answer.
Q. Really? It doesn't always work out like that?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: No, it doesn't, but today --
Q. Do you really think -- (No microphone). That's why Charli is smiling.
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: I usually smile.
Q. You had a great orthodontist. The logistics involved with that Baylor are kind of daunting. Because I was like, oh, I'll just get in my car, drive to Tempe. No, that Indian reservation is really far, five hours. What are the logistics pulling off, not just a game but an event like this?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Yes. Thank you, Cindy. If I can just fill everybody in, does everybody know on December 11th we're playing the University of Baylor on ESPN, and it's a -- the game is two fold. First of all, it is a game to celebrate Native American culture, traditions, but more importantly their love of basketball, the passion for basketball on the res is incredible. And to give you a sense there's 6500-seat arena, amazing that we're going to play in, they've never presold a ticket, and they sell out every single high school game at Window Rock High School. That's how much they love the game of basketball. So it's going to be completely sold us. We're preselling, like hey, if you want to go to this game, you better buy a ticket now because it's going to get flooded the day of the game. So we're shining the light on that. And we have four guest coaches all who played for ASU women's basketball, all with amazing stories that I'd love to talk to people about. I don't know if we have time today. If we do, I'll talk about it.
And the other big part of the game is our absolute to service game as well. It's on Veterans Day. And we're going to celebrate all of our troops, current and past, but we are putting a huge emphasis and celebration on Vietnam veterans. There were over 40,000 Native American Vietnam veterans, and everybody in this room knows that none of our veterans from Vietnam got a proper welcome home. So what we're doing at this game is we are going to give the Native American veterans a proper welcome home. So we're super excited about it, should be really powerful. So lots of moving parts just with all that. But yeah, I'm doing a site visit Monday with ESPN and the people up there and the veterans centre, and it's a lot for our university. I mean Arizona State athletic department obviously cares about women's basketball. They care about all their sports. So we are -- it's a bit of a cost to get everybody up the hill. It's a good five-hour drive. So but it's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. It's going to be an amazing experience. And.
I just want to share this with you. So Ryneldi Becenti, who's one of our guest coaches, who's in our hall of fame, who's dedicated her life to running camps and clinics in reservations, mainly in Arizona but across the country, basically to show young people how they can use basketball as a vehicle to create opportunities in life. She's dedicated her life to that. She says to us, she goes, Charli, this is going to be the greatest thing that has ever happened to us.
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: I know. I got goose bumps. I think there's probably been plenty of great things. But that's how much this game is going to mean to her community. So it'll be special.
Q. Cal is taking on UConn later this year. You guys have Baylor in the nonconference. Given how tough the PAC-12 is, how much does it help you to prepare for the PAC-12 by playing a quality out-of-conference opponent like Baylor so early in the season?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Right. That's a great question. We have four BCS schools in November. We play Baylor on the 11th, then we play Arkansas and Louisville in Vegas, then we've got Alabama at home. So we should be prepared. That was a joke. But yeah, I think it's really important to play a tough schedule. We've always -- you guys that have been around, we're always playing a really tough schedule. I mean I think you have to be a little careful now. I wasn't planning on Louisville. We just got matched up with them in Vegas because I the thought we had a pretty tough schedule, but it absolutely is going to show our freshmen this year, okay, this is the standard, like where are we at if we're not beating them in November, this is where we need to get to by the time we get to conference.
Q. What are those shoes and what do you think of your team's get up?
REILI RICHARDSON: We were in the Hardens so we got them last year.
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: You got about how many pairs of Hardens?
REILI RICHARDSON: Maybe like five.
Q. What are your thoughts on the outfit? I really like it?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: I'll plug Adidas. They've been incredible for us in terms of their shoe technology and taking care of our team, and I think the players really love -- and you know, the colors. Yeah, I mean you know, gear and food, they're happy; right? (Laughs).
Q. Bobby has made a big deal about Guard U, what he wants the men's team to be known for. What do you want your women's team to be known for?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: I think we've talked a little bit about it and Wie said it, but we're not just Guard U, we are collectively an unbreakable, unstoppable, amazing group of young women. And that's who we are striving to be every day. And I think every team defines itself a little bit, and I know I do appreciate Joan's comments about our defense because that's, you know, again, all the top programs in the country, whatever style they play, it's a good defense. But we want to be not just that, and we're not.
Q. Given the trajectory of that PAC-12 women's basketball over the past five years, I mean it's incredibly competitive and given your experience with the conference, can you talk a little bit about what it takes for a coach to remain competitive in such a cut-throat atmosphere, especially I mean with Oregon State with their three towering players and other teams coming up?
CHARLI TURNER THORNE: Yeah. I think in any industry, not just coaching but we're all replaceable. Right? Same thing we teach our players. You gotta keep getting better. You gotta keep learning, you gotta keep growing, you gotta keep working. For all of us. And I think I'll end with what I started and stay true to who you are. Anybody see the "Star is Born?" Yeah. Good movie. Right? Okay. So we're going to wrap up. Right? I don't know. I'm wrapping up. But we can take more questions. I had my annual date night. We had our once a year date night. Good job, mom. I think last time you had one we needed a baby-sitter. And he's 14. So that was sad. But we went on one and we saw that movie and it's a movie about song writers and it's all about basically staying true to who you are. And it's also about having something to say. So I'll just say that I think if we stayed true to who we are, we're going to have something to say this year. It was a good movie, kind of a sad ending.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports