March 25, 2023
Greenville, South Carolina, USA
Bon Secours Wellness Arena
Elite 8 Pregame Media Conference
Q. I know it was a short turnaround, but what did you see in Miami?
KIM MULKEY: Athleticism, multiple defenses, a team that's excited, a team that has -- I don't like to use the word Cinderella because Katie has been there a long time and has had good teams. But when you beat the No. 1 team on their floor like they did Indiana, that grabs your attention. Just got to prepare for a lot of things because of athleticism, quickness. They push the ball up the floor.
In a lot of ways they're very similar to what we do. We just don't play as many defenses as they do.
Q. Coach, Katie said that she's very tight with Lisa Stockton, Tulane gave her an opportunity. And also she said she watched you at Louisiana Tech and bought one of those jerseys.
KIM MULKEY: She didn't need to tell you that. That just tells you how old I am.
The funnest thing happened to me. I was hungry last night -- I'm changing the subject. The dude asked me for my ID to go in and get a hamburger. It was a bar. And I said, are you serious? Look at this face.
Katie was a great player herself. I got to watch her play. She's a Dukey, and I'm happy for Katie. I'm not going to be happy for her if she beats me tomorrow, but I just like her. She's a good gal.
Q. Going through the SEC grind, is there an SEC team that plays similarly to Miami?
KIM MULKEY: I can't compare. You've got Ole Miss that's athletic, and they do a lot of great things defensively. Tennessee has athletes -- no, I couldn't compare them because they really are -- they play a lot of players. They play with excitement and energy. That would be hard for me right now to think of somebody similar in the SEC. There probably is a little bit of two or three teams put on one team.
Q. When you have a team that's won as many games as this one has and you've talked about overachieving a little bit as far as early in your tenure, how quickly have they been, in terms of learners, of what you're trying to teach or absorbing what you're trying to teach, the messages and the lessons to do what they've done? It seems like they've done everything you've asked them to do and asked for more.
KIM MULKEY: Well, with nine new pieces, your concern is can you piece it all together this quickly or through the course of the season. And I think you have some veteran transfers that have been to Sweet 16s. You have high school kids that this is their first, and they are just like deer in the headlights excited. They just want to please. They want to compete.
Even last night with foul trouble, Angel off the floor the first half for a long period of time, I think you saw opportunity. LaDazhia Williams look advantage of that opportunity, and here we are in an Elite 8.
They allow me to coach them, and I've got some strong personalities on this team. I've said it all along; I don't care, just bring me a competitor. I can handle a strong personality. A lot of coaches don't want to coach strong personalities. They don't want to deal with things. I've been doing it long enough, I've seen it all. If they love basketball and they're a competitor, I can coach them.
We've got some competitors.
Q. Coach, you said earlier in the week that the better defensive teams will prevail in the NCAA Tournament. How would you assess your team's defensive performances over the past couple games?
KIM MULKEY: Well, let's talk about last night. I said it best, two heavyweights were going at it last night, and it wasn't just on the offensive end. I think everybody looked at how many points LSU and Utah scored, and it wasn't a high-scoring games, and it was because both teams took away things from each other.
Sometimes that can be ugly, but neither team really turned the ball over a lot. I think the teams that have solid defense and are committed to what they do prevail. Either one of us last night could have won that game, and I would attribute it to both teams playing good defense.
Q. You talked about piecing it together and incremental goals. Like you spoke a lot of last year, win one more game than you did. Are you big on imagery and putting goals up on the wall, like the Final Four, or this or that? Do you all do that? I remember when Bob was an assistant, they always had a picture of where the Final Four was, the arena on the wall. Do you do stuff like that?
KIM MULKEY: Yes. You start your first meeting, and you have a notebook about that thick. And throughout the course of the year, we sit in the film room and they bring their notebook and you have pictures of where the Final Four is, but inside that notebook you have realistic goals.
Our goals were not to talk about a Final Four immediately. Our goals are to talk about finishing in the upper half of the SEC, win one more game than you won last year, stay ranked all year. Those are the goals, the baby steps you have to take before you can talk about the possibility of being in a Final Four.
I don't think you throw that out there unless you have a team that has won and has returning starters and is supposed to win it again.
Yeah, and then in the Playoffs, I think you use that same notebook and you remind them of the goals, but you also have to keep motivating. I believe that 70 percent of what we do as coaches is continuing to motivate people. And our players, we find little things that after every game, they look forward to the next film session because we're going to do something to reward individuals on their play, and we'll do that today in film session.
You have to kind of be creative. Some of it's corny to people. Some of it's internal. We know what we're talking about, and some of it's pretty cool.
So yeah, you do.
Q. You might have just answered this by saying that it's like 70 percent motivation, but I'm curious with someone like Angel who is such a good rebounder, how do you make her take that next step? Is it that motivation and feeding that competitive drive, or are there little things as a coach that you're saying, position your body this way, watch this film, watch this rebounder?
KIM MULKEY: Absolutely, there are a lot of things to Angel's game that we continue to stay on her about. Jump a little bit higher, don't bring the ball down, get more and-ones, quit missing so many shots and getting your own rebound. There's all kinds of ways that we continue to challenge Angel.
That kid technically could be just considered a sophomore even though this is her third year in college. She's really, in my eyes, growing and understanding the game.
Let's talk about the defensive end, getting in a stance, staying in a stance, don't rely on your talent to make up for things. Imagine how good you can be if you do things before they happen.
She is really a person that I would put on anybody on the opposing team. I haven't had many post players -- I'd have to think long and hard -- that I would say could guard any position on the floor. I wouldn't have any problem putting Angel on a point guard or any player on the floor.
A lot of times she wants to go out there. But she just gets better and better. The double-doubles, we see a lot of that, and it's great and it's absolutely phenomenal. But the little things that Angel has improved on, from practice habits to jumping just a little bit higher to finishing and getting her field goal percentage up higher.
Free throws -- when the season started, she wasn't making her free throws, and she looked at me and she said, I will make them when they count, and I will make them when we get to SEC play, and she has. She has.
Q. Your friend Lil Wayne shouted out Angel, shouted you guys out last night after the game before he spent a little time with Miami's team on FaceTime. Just want to make sure you can clarify things that he will indeed be cheering for the home team tomorrow night.
KIM MULKEY: Well, you understand I don't know the connection to Miami other than it's a pretty big rap scene there. Maybe that's what it is. I would think he's from Louisiana. I don't know him well enough to speak for him, but he's Louisiana as far as I know. I don't think that we have to worry about Lil Wayne.
But it's funny you say that because after the game, I could hear Flau'jae going, oh, no, I know he didn't, Miami. We'd better hear from him. I'm like, who is she talking about. They said, Lil Wayne, and I'm like, oh being okay.
They keep up with things. Y'all know that social media world better than I do.
Q. Your guards offensively, is it a matter of them, hey, relax, keep shooting, it's going to fall? What do you tell them?
KIM MULKEY: Just keep being who we are. Just keep being who we are. I didn't see Miami make a whole lot of perimeter shots, either.
Listen, I've read some of y'all's articles, and y'all think you've got to have all these perimeter shots to keep going. Do you know how many three-point shots in my last National Championship that we took through the entire Playoffs and made? Pretty positive of this, but I should look it up again. And we won the National Championship.
Now, that doesn't mean we're not going to shoot it. That doesn't mean we may have a game that we have a lot.
But I'm not going to blame it on bouncy balls. Isn't that what's going on? Those new balls, everybody has got them, and they are bouncy if you ask me and they do (sound) in and out of the rim. I don't know. Maybe there is something to that, but everybody is playing with the same ball.
But just keep shooting it. Keep feeding the post, keep running the floor, keep guarding people.
Q. Kind of in that same vein, talking to the girls last night after the game, they didn't feel like they played their best game. Obviously Michigan seemed like a step up, last night seemed like a step back. How much do you think is left in this tank?
KIM MULKEY: Oh, it's not a step back. The competition is just tougher. It's not a step back. I thought it was gutsy, grind. It wasn't a step back. Now, in their little world, each of them individually thinks I could have done this a little better. Maybe I should have made that shot, maybe I shouldn't have let her drive. But I don't look at it as a step back. I just look at it as Utah was good defensively and took some things away from us, got in foul trouble.
They're happy. They're running around here, and you get that many of them happy this early in the morning -- but they're tired. We're going to go back and sleep. Yeah. No, they're fine.
Q. I know you're not big on social media, but it seems like this year there are a lot more eyes on women's basketball. Have you kind of seen that, and what's your perspective on that?
KIM MULKEY: I know nothing about social media unless you send me something or my coaches show me something or -- I don't have time for that. It reminds me of going through a grocery store line and you look over there and there's a National Enquirer and you believe everything that's in it. That's what social media is.
What I've noticed, and I'm sure it has to do with their social media platform and their brand, is when we go on the road -- guys, we take a police officer with us now because after games, win or lose, there are young people and a lot of people waiting either at the bus or at our locker room for our kids. I'm sure it has to do with winning and our play, but I think you've got to attribute a lot of that to Angel Reese and Flau'jae and Alexis Morris and what they do with social media, what they do with NIL.
And those young ladies take every bit of time that they can to sign an autograph, take a picture, which makes me proud, and I'm sure makes their parents proud because people don't have to do that.
Because of it, I think it helps our team and women's basketball be recognized.
I'm only speaking for our team. I imagine it's that way with a lot of teams. But it's not just because of the play on the floor.
Q. Angel, quick turnaround now to turn your attention to Miami. Did you get a look at them last night or is it going to be all today?
ANGEL REESE: Yeah, we got a look at some of their defense, of course. They're a really scrappy team, something that we've seen before. I think they're really great on defense for sure. We're going to have to guard them driving downhill, not as much as yesterday playing the Utah team where we had to guard the three. Being able to stay down in a stance and just guarding.
Q. Both of you might have an answer for this. Coach was just talking about the fact that you guys do a lot outside of just basketball and do a lot to promote the sport and your personal brand, all those things. Is there a downside to that or a hard side to that because you do get so much interaction on social media, some of which is not from the nicest people, if you will, and how do you both deal with both the ups and the downs of that?
ANGEL REESE: I think you just have to take the good with the bad. I love all the positive things that I've gotten all year and being able to grow women's basketball, of course. I don't think I would be able to do this anywhere else other than LSU. Just being able to be here in this moment and embracing it.
But of course the negative, I don't really listen to a lot of the negative. But of course my coaches and my teammates have my back when it does come down to a lot of negative things. Just being able to have such an amazing support system behind me through everything is just something that's always been important.
FLAU'JAE JOHNSON: I would say like in the space that we are in, that we're kind of like trailblazing in a way, so like -- Coach Mulkey, she really allows us to do a lot of this stuff. Like she allows me to rap, she allows us to be lit on social media. I think certain stuff is going to come with it.
But you've got to look at the overall impact, good going to come, bad going to come, but at the end of the day, you're just focusing on what the mission is.
Q. Angel, I'm curious if you can talk a little bit about your evolution as a rebounder. I feel like when little kids are growing up, the tallest kid gets the rebounds. I know you were playing with boys so maybe that affected it, so how have you upped your game as a rebounder over the years?
ANGEL REESE: When I was younger, I was a point guard so I kind of could see the ball, I had a good eye for the ball at the beginning. I don't know if you know, I'm ambidextrous, so I write with my right hand and I shoot with my left hand. So I think that kind of also plays a part.
And just I have a really good eye for the ball and just being able to be where the ball -- I have a really good eye. When I know the ball is going up, I know which side it's going to go to. And then I don't let my defenders kind of box me out. So I've kind of learned that over the years. And my mom was also a great rebounder at UMBC. So take a couple things from her, as well.
Q. When you have a coach that's won multiple National Championships and she's telling you guys, this is what you have to do to be successful in March. I mean, it's early in her tenure, only second year, and you're already in the Elite 8, how much are your ears perked up and you're dialed in to what she's telling you guys?
ANGEL REESE: You'd better listen. Kim Mulkey not playing. We listen to her, we respect Coach. She knows better than anybody else. We're just all embracing it. She knows that this is an exciting moment for us and she lets us be excited about it. But also she knows what it takes to get to that Final Four and get to that National Championship game.
Just being able to take it one game at a time and paying attention to detail about everything that they're telling us, I think that's really what's important to us right now.
FLAU'JAE JOHNSON: Most definitely. Me being a freshman, I'm just all ears trying to figure out where I can learn, how I can get better and how I can help the team. I mean, it's Coach Mulkey, you can't really say too much. She's a winner and I want to learn how to win. So I feel like that's what we're doing, so I just listen to everything that she says.
Q. When do the eyelashes take off and become a thing? Have you always worn them?
ANGEL REESE: Probably my freshman year. Yeah, it became a thing.
Q. What sparked it?
ANGEL REESE: During COVID. I think all the girls was wearing it last year, so I was like why not be cute on the court? Yeah.
Q. Flau'jae -- both of your moms I see at most of the games -- but your mom is really important in your life, I guess. Kind of like talked about earlier making sure you make the right decisions in business and on the court, as well. How important has she been to you as far as building your brand?
FLAU'JAE JOHNSON: Very important. Like all my life it's just been me and my mom. She raised me and my brother, but she like had a knack for -- she knew what I should do. And then my love for basketball and her being able to like just have a vision for me really just sent it all the way.
Like having a parent that really believed in you and that's going to support you 100 percent no matter what, that's all you really need to become successful, and that's what I have.
Q. For the both of you, I asked Kim this and wanted to ask you guys, as well. Just for confirmation, Lil Wayne will be cheering for LSU tomorrow night as opposed to Miami and what's your connection there?
ANGEL REESE: He told y'all that? I'm on him because he's from NOLA and he called them before he called us. So luckily he did tweet it out last night. Hopefully he comes to the game.
But being able to grow women's basketball like that has just been amazing all year. If you've seen all the different kinds of celebrities and NBA players and people that have reached out to us and showed that they were supportive. I think Magic Johnson last night tweeted at me. Just being able to see that just makes me happy because I'm able to grow women's basketball. So Lil Tunes, you better come pull up tomorrow.
FLAU'JAE JOHNSON: Yeah, I need the feature, too.
Q. Angel, last time I spoke to you was in the locker room and you said, I want to get past the Sweet 16. Now you're in the Elite 8. What's going through your mind and what's your mindset as you get ready for tomorrow?
ANGEL REESE: The sky's the limit. I think we just believe. We keep believing and keep believing. We've been through so much throughout the season and just being able to be in this moment right now. I'm having so much excitement, but knowing that there's more. There's more that can be done.
I don't think that many people believed that we could even be past the Sweet 16 or even be in the Elite 8 right now. All year we believed in each other, and I think that's what's important. And the 12 of us in that circle, as long as we got each other, I think we go as far as we can.
Q. You guys have both talked about how LSU and Kim specifically are really supportive of the opportunities you have outside of basketball. She's very vocal about the fact that she knows nothing about social media or NIL. I'm curious, have you guys tried to explain this to her, and if so how do you explain social media to Kim?
FLAU'JAE JOHNSON: She won't understand either way. She doesn't have Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, nothing. She tries to understand, but no, she'll be like, y'all got all that NIL money. I never got no NIL money.
ANGEL REESE: She always says that and you know what she does, she puts it on me. Angel you know you've got another year. You know that NIL.
Like, Coach, all right, I got you.
Yeah, she's been super supportive of course, but she doesn't know much about. That's why we have Jennifer Roberts on the staff and she handles all of that stuff and she does a great job with that.
Q. Talk about belief, Angel, going back to your first practice in August, y'all didn't -- a lot of you didn't know each other. Maybe you had a connection with Kateri and that's come out, but Flau'jae coming in as a freshman, lots of transfers, when did you really think this could be special? Could you envision back then 31 wins and' Elite 8?
ANGEL REESE: I knew we had the talent for sure. I didn't know how we were going to piece it together and that was our theme for the year, piecing it together. I don't know what game I saw. I knew a couple games got chippy and we had each other's back and we were going at it. Because Coach is really intense and she's going to have our back through everything.
And then seeing each other, ride for each other through everything, through thick and thin, I think that has been a point in the season where this is the closest I've ever been to teammates. Hanging out with them outside of basketball and just doing so much, loving them actually like these are my real sisters.
FLAU'JAE JOHNSON: I knew in the summer. I knew it. I felt it in my soul in the summer when we was playing pickup and everybody was talking crazy to each other. That's what I knew we've got some hoopers on the team. You got hoopers on the team, we're going to be straight.
No, that was just like me being a freshman and me being delusional with what it takes to have a Final Four team. But I just knew that a key was hoopers, and I knew we had that. And they're like first practice, Angel, we did a scrimmage I remember, we was playing against the men. And Angel grabbed like 10 boards in one position. Like would you all be seeing, pick it up, put it -- no.
She got like 10 boards and I said oh, yeah, we're going somewhere.
Q. Putting aside what Kim does or doesn't know about social media, how beneficial is it to have one person you can go to for your NIL issues and social media and things like that?
ANGEL REESE: Ooh, it takes a lot of relief off of us a lot of times. Bringing -- having Jennifer just do an amazing job on that, I think she's helped us even put ourselves out there a lot more. My platform has grown because of LSU. I came to LSU with 70K followers. Now I have 480 something followers on Instagram.
Just being able to have someone -- you don't have many places that has an NIL person that actually just takes that relief off you. And she tells businesses and companies, no, we can't do this right now at this time. And not having us have to go through that -- I think she does a really good job, and Coach lets her be her. Jennifer, she's amazing.
FLAU'JAE JOHNSON: Yeah, Angel said it all. It's a lot of -- we have a lot to do as student-athlete, we've got class, we've got tutoring, we've got practice, we've got study hall. I think keeping the main thing the main thing is important. But just having somebody to help you navigate, Jennifer does a great job, but also my mom does a lot of my deals and stuff like that.
I'm not ever really stressed about anything NIL related. Really just focused on basketball.
Q. Last night's game for you, how much of a learning experience and a growing experience are you utilizing that as?
FLAU'JAE JOHNSON: Man, we're watching film right now of the game. I couldn't even sleep last night really. I was like, what can I do this time to help my team win. That game is over with, it's flushed, we won, Elite 8, baby. But what can I do to cut some nets and help my team get to the Final Four. Because I am a big part of the team. And I realized that last night when I was out of the game, like I really could have been doing something useful in the game rather than being on the bench.
Man, just learning, not making many mistakes. I feel like last night was a game where I really played like a freshman, and I haven't really played like that all year. So it was just like a wake-up call like being locked in and ready to play at a different level.
Q. Miami plays similarly to you guys. What do you expect to see from them, and are you excited to go against a team like this?
ANGEL REESE: Scrappy? They give me Georgia vibes. They like to get down to it. They play downhill, they get downhill a lot, rebounding. They talk trash, too. We know a couple of the girls on the team. I'm cool with the twins, a couple girls on the team. I think it'll just be a fun game. I think both of us are just really excited for the game for sure, and both of us are going to do anything it takes to win.
FLAU'JAE JOHNSON: I feel like it's giving me Ole Miss vibes. I feel like they play like that, really aggressive, really trying to get downhill. They got some hoopers on their team.
ANGEL REESE: For sure.
FLAU'JAE JOHNSON: I know a couple of the girls. So it's going to be a fun game. But I think that us playing a team that plays like us is just going to be like a little bit better for us. Because playing teams like Utah and stuff like that, I hate guarding that, know what I'm saying? So just being able to sit down and guard is going to be fun. It's going to be a fun game for sure.
Q. Jasmyne and Kateri, I guess more specifically, them being able to handle at least a slight shift in roles at this time of year, what's it say about them as people, as teammates, and how important has it been for you guys to make this run potentially to a Final Four to have players on the team that are willing to kind of make some sacrifices?
ANGEL REESE: I mean, just to have teammates that are very unselfish, and you don't hear them complain about much. And just being able to know people on the team have a role, and whenever your name is called, when you step up and you get out on the court, you do what you're supposed to do.
Just being able to -- even from the first game when Kateri started and Jas came off the bench, Jas came in and hit three threes. So just being able to see -- sometimes you see teammates, they might be negative about a change like that because all year you've been starting. But just being able to come out there and be really resilient and being able to be locked in. It's bigger than her, it's bigger than Kateri, it's bigger than Jas.
So they know what the goal is, and at the end of the day, they want to contribute as much as they can. Of course everybody wants to start and it's a tough role and a tough shift for sure, but they put the team before everybody else, and I really appreciate them.
Q. My wife wants to know why the one leg?
ANGEL REESE: Well, first, I had surgery two years ago on my shin. I have a rod in my leg. Many people don't know that. But I cover my scar, for one, and then my two players that I really admire, Te'a Cooper and A'ja Wilson, they also wear it, too, so it's swag, but it's also I've got to cover my scar.
Q. I'm curious if you guys are wondering what Kim is going to wear tomorrow.
ANGEL REESE: We know she's coming with something spicy. She don't pick her outfits out, though. She puts on whatever -- it's a surprise to her, as well.
FLAU'JAE JOHNSON: I be rating her drip. I liked the feathers last night. We're going to see what she comes out with.
Q. Angel, you talked about your idols. What does it mean to you being an idol for these girls looking up to you and want to be you now?
ANGEL REESE: It's crazy. I don't even believe it. Like y'all want to be me? It's crazy to me. But I don't know, just being able to see this Seimone moment. Like I had that picture on my locker, like it's just so surreal for me just being able to know one day that could be somebody else.
So just being able to try to set a great example for everybody because I think everybody in the country is watching me and everything I do. Just being able to be a good example for them and have somebody they can look up to, because I've had somebody look up to not really where I'm from, but just being able to have somebody like me and I just want to be an inspiration for the youth.
Q. I know you want to win every game, but when Kim comes out in an outfit like that, do you all feel the pressure like we can't let her lose in that?
ANGEL REESE: Yeah.
FLAU'JAE JOHNSON: They're going to drag her on Twitter and she ain't going to know.
ANGEL REESE: They're going to say something about her outfit every game. They have something to say. But you've got to realize it's not just Kim. The whole staff comes dripped out. They all coming. Yesterday Jennifer was saying she was going to dress better than Kim, and they both had on the pink. I think it's a little competitive over there for real.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports