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PAC-12 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL MEDIA DAY


October 10, 2018


Lindsay Gottlieb

Asha Thomas

Kristine Anigwe


San Francisco, California

LINDSAY GOTTLIEB: I will say our opener is on November 6th. A lot of you are here now, so I hope you can get to the game that day. But more importantly, and I think every coach should be telling their players, vote on that day first. We should all show up and vote, especially women, and then start the NCAA season. Just my shout-out for that, so go vote and then see us play on November 6th.

Q. Lindsay, you've had teams in recent years where maybe there was a lot of youth on the team, maybe short bench, short on depth. This year it seems like the pieces are kind of all coming together. Do you feel like with these first few weeks of practice, you see a team that can really compete for a Pac-12 championship this year?
LINDSAY GOTTLIEB: I do. I think these guys would say something like we're coming different. Is that how you say it? It feels different. You know, I've said, we have a chance to be really good. That doesn't guarantee anything, but it puts you in the conversation.

I think it's our most depth and capable pieces since the Final Four team. I think that team, as I can see Layshia sitting here would tell you, had also a really special focus and chemistry. I think this team in their own way is reminiscent just in terms of every single day wanting to show up for one another, but yes, we do have depth. We do have veteran leadership and youth, and I think that's the formula.

I think layering kind of different pieces and different classes together often gives you the chance of having a winning team. I think we have those things, and I think our aspirations are those of a championship and to really be one of the top teams in the country.

Q. Asha and Kristine, just talk about what it's like being seniors now on this team and just kind of -- is there any additional pressure? I talked to Lindsay, but is there any additional pressure you guys are feeling to get over that hump and make a deeper run in the tournament than you have before?
ASHA THOMAS: I think we're excited to be seniors. It's been a long journey. We've been through a lot. I think now we feel, like Coach G said, we have the pieces to do something special this year, and I think we're excited about that. I mean, we're ready to get this thing going. I'm sorry, but we are. We're excited with our team, our team dynamics, how we feel personally, individually, trying to get our bodies right, our minds right for a long season that we're trying to prepare for.

But yeah, excitement is probably one of the few words that we're feeling right now.

Q. Coach, congratulations on getting married over -- I guess it was about a month ago or so. Just what stands out -- obviously big day, but what stands out to you? What was it like for you -- looked like the whole team was there. And then for Asha and Kristine, what stands out to you about that day and being at your coach's wedding?
LINDSAY GOTTLIEB: Well, thank you. I can tell you that I was never the young person dreaming about a wedding growing up. I was thinking about other things, ball movement and offenses and that kind of nerdy stuff. But when it came around, I think I've been pretty open that this team has always been part of my family, and so when Patrick and I chose to do a wedding, it was an absolute no-brainer that we were going to include the team. They are our family, not just my family, Patrick's family, too, and I wanted to have it be less about look at us or this is about us and more about a celebration of our family, including our son, Jordan, and the people that are really important to us.

And so it was beyond my wildest dreams, having the team there. They were part of it. They were with all the other important people in our lives, as well, and it was just unbelievably special, and that's something with this team I think I'll have that particular bond with for the rest of my life.

ASHA THOMAS: I liked how you were showing that ring off, too, while you were talking. But it was definitely a special day, and I'm happy that everybody on our team decided to come and experience this celebration for her. And as much as she puts effort into us, we wanted to show -- we wanted to be there for her, and her new journey, as well. So it was definitely an emotional day.

But we had fun, too. We have our dancing going, as well. She wanted that. She wanted to incorporate that.

KRISTINE ANIGWE: It felt like a movie. When I saw Lindsay and she was wearing those beautiful shoes she wore for her wedding, I saw her and kind of gasped super loud, I kind of got teary eyed, because that's like my mom. I look up to her. That's my mentor.

I was just so -- it's like weird, like this is my last time I'm going to be here in front of you guys on this stage with Lindsay and Teasy (phonetic). I don't know, I'm getting so emotional just because that wedding brings back so many memories, different memories, feeling, the vibe, the music, the laugh, Jordan playing in the dirt while she's doing her vows.

It's just like that's how our team feels. That's just one part of our family, of our team. And it was cool, like this year, Lindsay decides that she wants us to be in her wedding, and then you see like -- that's just a small part. Yeah, excited.

Q. Lindsay referenced presenting you with all the analytics of the Sweet 16 teams. Was that this spring during the tournament, and were you in your meeting room downstairs and it was on the big screen, could you take me through that? What did that do to sort of show you how far you can come to reach that level and maybe what was that like when she did that?
KRISTINE ANIGWE: For me, it's like, I was like, it's not luck. Like me and Teasy, we have experience now. Seeing that made me realize, we have to get better. It's not one game, it's not one practice, it's a whole entire season, starting from the off-season. Our off-season really started off just new and fresh, and that's what really kept us going. Now we're still fresh. We're still feeling new. Every practice feels different, and that's what we're just going to keep going throughout the season.

Q. Were there numbers all over? What did it look like?
ASHA THOMAS: A lot of numbers, and I know as for me as a basketball player, I don't really look at numbers too much. I just really try to work on my mental and my skill set, but seeing those numbers on the wall or on the board is very important. Everything you do contributes to just being successful, and I didn't really realize that, so I'm paying attention to the little things, as well. Wins and losses are very big, but shooting percentage, rebounding percentage, and all of those that go into it, it makes me really just dial in to what I need to do or what we need to do for the team to be successful.

LINDSAY GOTTLIEB: A lot of you know how good she is. I think I used her in control differently than some coaches. I said, MC, this is the message I want to get across to the team, and I talked about some things, can you help me with a visual presentation of that, and her ability to kind of take my basketball thought and put it into like a PowerPoint was pretty cool.

And also a lot of you know I'm sort of relentlessly positive, and so at a time when maybe the players expected, you know, not in a bad way, but for me to come in, it was the end of the season, and say, okay, we can do this, like we can be this team next year, I sort of said, let's check ourselves, we're not there. We weren't there yet, and I wanted to motivate them in different way.

And actually Kianna Smith, our sophomore, said to me just the other day as we've been going through practice, Remember the slide show? We need to look at that again. Just to kind of remind ourselves of are we doing the little things every day. Because I will put our players up in a competitive standpoint against anyone. Game is on the line, I'll put the ball in this kid's hands and have Kristine be out there. I don't worry about our ability in a big-game situation to rise up and try and compete. But what I wanted them to understand is it's the day-to-day grind that separates you, actually, and it's sort of the stuff that happens behind closed doors a little bit.

Q. For the players, can you talk about -- I'm assuming you both want to play professionally in some capacity when you're done. How do you balance staying present in the moment but checking draft boards or am I going to go in the first round, is my stock rising or falling? Talk about those emotions going in knowing this is the last ride.
ASHA THOMAS: I can go first. At this point, I'm really not thinking about it, but I know eventually I would have to. But I'm really just trying to stay in the present moment. When that time comes where it's like, okay, this is where you need to pay attention to it, I'll go to it. But definitely the anxiety is hitting of not knowing where my future is going to be. Of course I want to prepare for that as best I can, but I can't predict what's going to happen.

I try to keep that to a minimum, the anxiety to a minimum.

KRISTINE ANIGWE: Going off of that, for me, I don't really believe in draft boards or preseason predictions because it's somebody else's opinion, and my opinion that I have for myself might be different than someone else's opinion of me. Therefore I don't believe in that, and like -- of course it's motivating and -- it's just not real. I'm just excited for our team. I really want to win. I really want to go far in the tournament. I want a Pac-12 Championship. I want to do big things. I'm not really worried about where I land. I want this season to be for us.

Q. Coach, the depth you talked about with this roster, yea, and then a guard-heavy roster, how you've been able to use your guards to complement players like Anigwe. Help us understand your philosophy with this year's batch of guards. And also how did the Caldwell situation present itself and how were you able to get her to Cal, or how did she pursue that from her end?
LINDSAY GOTTLIEB: Well, to talk about the positional thing first, I think I would say that we have more skilled guards that can do a variety of things than in recent years. At times, a lot of times I think we'll have three players on the floor who are point guard types, right, meaning that they can score, pass, facilitate, and that's a good thing, right. You know, back when Layshia played, we played two WNBA point guards together at the same time, and that was really effective for us because people can't game plan as well for that. In addition, with the multiple guards, we've been able to take some of our big guards and play them at the 4 spot, so Jaelyn Brown, who jumps over the backboard to get rebounds, can play the 4 spot, or McKenzie Forbes, who's a little bit bigger and just really savvy. So we've been able to do some things where we can get four guards on the court at once, and at the same time, besides Kristine, we have post depth with someone like a CJ West, who is pretty, you know, formidable in her own right or Alaysia Styles, who is more of a true post player. We can do a number of different things trying to get those various guards on the floor in different capacities. And at the end of the day, just having more players who can make shots and make plays spreads the floor out. I think we will have more offensive fluidity than we have in a while.

In terms of ReceƩ, I'm very intentional with recruiting. It's not like we recruit all the good players out there. It's not like we go after every transfer. I try to fit -- think about who fits. And so I've known ReceƩ for a long time, since she was probably eight or ninth grade. She didn't come to us the first time. That's okay. You want players to find their paths. But when she decided that she was going to graduate from Texas Tech and decide to do a fifth year as a grad transfer year, I think we were on her radar right away because we had had a relationship already.

And I think her decision was not about this one year, although with a grad transfer you have to be very -- we're bringing someone in for a year, and she's only going to be here for a year, and it has to be the right fit. There isn't a lot of time to grow with someone. The year is important, but I think she was making a decision for 40 years and talked to me about personally how I could help get her to the next thing that she might want to do. I think she could be the first female GM in the NBA, and I want to help her get there. She wants to play overseas, and I want to help her get there. We talked about playing with these two and making a deep run in the tournament. So there were a lot of, I think, high-level conversations that happened, and it's funny because she's only been here for a month or two, but sometimes I'll look at her and say, how have you not been here for four years. It's so seamless, right?

And then on the court you have McKenzie Forbes coming in who is really talented and a normal freshman. You're a freshman. You're trying to figure out how to get to class and eat and get there, and ReceƩ is a grown woman who's telling us what to do. It's different.

So I think it's been really interesting to see those two newcomers just from different diametric experiences but both have really fit in so well. It's a credit to the returners because we could have thrown I think anyone in the mix now, and they're so solid, they're ready to welcome anyone, but both of those two young women have made incredible impacts in a short amount of time.

Q. Lindsay, it's very interesting listening to you, too, just your maturity the last few years, how you've grown and your confidence. I'm impressed. You can tell you have very good energy, what's going on here. You talked specifically, and it's really important, about what you learned in the spring from the other teams. Asha, for both of you, what do you guys have to do specifically -- because you talk numbers here, right? What part of your game do you have to improve on individually, and what part of your game as a team has to improve so that when you're looking up, people are looking at you next time?
ASHA THOMAS: Personally, I would say, like I said, I'm not a numbers person, so I'm not trying to have necessarily a double-double every game. I'm not trying to have just a statistical number every game. That's not my goal.

Whatever I can do consistently that's going to help the team, that's what I'm going to do, scoring, getting steals, assisting the ball, rebounds, however, if I get them, jump up and get them, whatever. But I think it's just being intentional with everything that I do. So whatever I need to do, whether it's being vocal, that's what I need to do consistently.

That's pretty much for my goal of being that player who wants their team to go far in the tournament.

KRISTINE ANIGWE: Ironically, I am a numbers person. For three years, I've been like, one more game. One more rebound. One more finish, we could have won the game. And now I'm like, Kristine, stay in the present. Stop thinking about numbers. Start thinking about like time just being relative, like again, being intentional.

I just want to stay in the moment and just realize that, okay, this is my first practice of this season, and I just want to have fun, and I want to be light, I want to be fresh, and I want to be happy. That's what I've really been focusing on this summer, just staying in the present and staying in the moment and not thinking too far ahead, not thinking about the next day, thinking about today, how I'm going to finish my midterm after this interview and just kind of staying day-to-day and what Teasy -- well, Asha, as you guys know her, said, just being intentional.

LINDSAY GOTTLIEB: With the numbers I showed them, it wasn't numbers up there to say, okay, we should be focused more on this category or that category, but more to show that if they want to finish in the top 16 or 10 or 8 or 4 teams, there are categories that happen all year that make you elite. It's not winning one game.

So I wanted to actually show them that being present and being in the moment every day in practice matters because now all of a sudden we have more points per possession or we have more defensive rebounds or we're not just hoping to win in March, we have set ourselves up where we're supposed to win.

Q. Since you guys first met with the media a few weeks ago, Coach especially, you stressed increased depth and the ability to hold full practices all the time or better practices. Since then, with the newcomers, especially ReceƩ, have you had any positive surprises or things that you noticed that you weren't aware of before to help the team, things that you just weren't aware of?
LINDSAY GOTTLIEB: Yeah, that's a really good question. So we've had 10 practices. Days off in between and all that kind of thing. So I'm really being diligent about cutting our time off. We're not practicing very long. This is a team I think that can go far in postseason.

As Kristine referenced, I want them fresh. I want them feeling good. Sometimes more is not always more. I'm very particular about that. So I think we've accomplished what I've wanted to accomplish every practice.

The things that stand out, because I think we spoke before we started real practice, the enthusiasm level and the focus level is, I think, exceptional. They're able to adjust on the fly in practice. When I change something, when I get on them, when I want something better. I think we've seen more guards who can do more things. So I don't have to design, hey, you cut here to get the ball here to get it to Kristine right in this spot. We're just like, okay, play, make the right read, make the right basketball play, and I think we've seen that fluidity come through.

I'll give you an example from yesterday. We were scrimmaging our male practice squad, and I had done several subs and several rotations, and so there was a group in that -- at the end of the game, or at the end of the scrimmage did not include Asha and did not include Kristine, for example, and I called a time-out, and I said, okay, let's run a play. I'm not subbing anyone in. You five right here, let's make a play. I kind of ran the thing through ReceƩ, I said you can do option one, option two, you can make this read, and we go through and we make a shot, and I don't know in the past if I had these two out if we'd have felt comfortable to run something in a last-second situation. That's an example of the team being a little bit different.

Just the maturity level, I don't think we've had too many bad moments of practice. I'm not saying we're perfect. We don't make every shot all the time, but in terms of the feel of practice, it's been at a higher level consistently. I do think they're taking advantage of every moment like we've been asking them to.

Q. Lindsay, along what you were just discussing, I know you were at Warriors practice last week, and what you said is a lot of what Steve Kerr is doing right now with a more veteran team. The younger players are practicing early on their own a little bit. Did you have a chance to discuss practice philosophy or did you share that with him or vice versa, or are these just separate ideas?
LINDSAY GOTTLIEB: So I was there last week, and he's always super gracious with his time and asks me how we're doing all the time, and I'm like, you're the Warriors, that's Kevin Durant, you want to talk about my team? It's funny, we were talking about training camp, and he is a "less is more" kind of guy. We talked about how long their season went and how you keep people fresh.

So I would say I'm sort of more aligned with that type of philosophy anyway. But in particular this year, the NCAA moved the practice thing up where you can practice 42 days before your first game, and they moved the first game up.

So exciting that it's November 6th, election day, where we'll all be voting and going to the game, but other than that, it's too long, right, like I don't want -- young people need to be excited. They need to be fresh. They need to feel a certain way in February when we're on a trip to Pullman.

So for me to grind them out now because I want one more rep or one more possession doesn't make sense to me. So it's nice validation to see that that's what the Warriors are about. Obviously they have a different system going on. But yeah, we want to make sure that we are thinking about their bodies, thinking about their minds all the time. It's not just what they can give me but what I can give them to be as fresh and ready for the whole season as possible. It's neat to see that alignment with the Warriors, as well.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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