March 26, 2023
Greenville, South Carolina, USA
Bon Secours Wellness Arena
Elite 8 Postgame Media Conference
LSU 54, Miami 42
Q. Angel, I saw you a few times late in the game point to your ring finger quite adamantly and then the Sharpie on the broadcast?
ANGEL REESE: Coach Bob Starkey before our game started, he put a Sharpie mark on everyone's finger that they wanted and he told us that every missed shot you had, every back door, if you missed a lay-up, anything, look at that finger and know next play this is what you're built for, and this is what we want.
So he wrote that on everybody's finger, and we pointed at that every single time we messed up, did something wrong, or even just the good things. So we were just super happy and super excited and had a lot of fun tonight.
Q. Alexis, I know you said you wanted your LSU career to end in Dallas. What does it mean to finally get there?
ALEXIS MORRIS: Everything, my journey, everything I've been through with this sport. I love this game. I'm just happy to be able to do it with Coach Mulkey and my teammates and for this program and the people who came before us.
I said it and just spoke it into existence. God did. Texas, I'm coming home, baby.
Q. Angel, I saw before the game you were kind of during warm-ups standing to the side and you're spinning the ball in your hands and kind of had a moment to yourself. I'm curious can you share what you were thinking, your mind set at that moment?
ANGEL REESE: I pray before every game, so that's my time to get my prayer together by myself. I pray in the morning when I wake up. I pray -- I read my demotion every morning, then I pray with Auntie ChantÃ© on staff, then I pray by myself and then I get one more going up before the game.
This year has been something that I've been a lot closer to God, and I think that's why I'm here right now in this position. A year ago -- it's crazy how my life changed in a year. I was back home by this time. So just being able to be in this moment, like Alexis said, God did.
ALEXIS MORRIS: God did.
Q. Angel, in that moment when you hugged Lashae after she had gone down injured, what was going through your head in that moment? What took you out of the game to go give her a hug?
ANGEL REESE: Me and Lashae cool, we go way back. We was talking trash. I don't if y'all saw during the game, all of us was talking trash. So we know each other. This game was fun. We knew what it was going to be in the beginning of the game. Just being able to -- I know she went down and that probably was my fault, so just being able to be there for her and I hope she recovers healthy.
Q. Angel, what did you see from Sa'Myah tonight on the big stage?
ANGEL REESE: Confident freshman. I mean, LaDazhia got in foul trouble early, and for her to come and just being able to be who she is. All year we knew what she was. Those big moments, even coming to the Utah game, she came in and got two big rebounds for us.
So I think Sa'Myah is in a really good place right now. We need Sa'Myah. She knows that we need her. So just keep putting confidence in here every single every moment. I just told me when we were in halftime, I said, no matter how much time you get on the court, make sure you maximize it. And she does that every single time she gets on the court, so I'm super proud of her.
Q. For both of you, just the maturity needed to get through a game like this. Angel said you knew what you were getting into. I'm guessing a defensive slugfest. Even if the offense isn't there to continue to defensively, play your game.
ALEXIS MORRIS: I just think we needed to just relax and calm down and just let the game come to us. We wanted to win so bad. We've dreamed about cutting the nets and I think at first we were just anxious, everybody just wanted to win.
Yeah. I mean we didn't shoot the ball well. We haven't been shooting the ball well in our last two games, but only thing we can control is our defense and our effort. And that's what we did tonight and we let that dictate our game.
ANGEL REESE: Agree with Alexis.
Q. Lex, Miami's Coach Katie was saying you were reason why y'all were cutting the nets and she was sitting in here. Is that vindicating for you to hear from the opposing coach after tonight?
ALEXIS MORRIS: Oh, yeah, she told me when she was walking off, you were the X factor tonight. It's always cool like getting credit, a little recognition. But it wasn't just me, it was also my teammates, my coaches believing in me. Thank you. I appreciate it.
Q. Alexis, what's it like for you to have a front row seat to watch Angel rebound the way she does?
ALEXIS MORRIS: Most of the times I'm just like in awe. I'm like, wow, because it's like -- I can't even describe it. I'm just grateful to have Angel because I don't have to go rebound. Even though Coach Mulkey be like go grab some rebounds. I'm like, for what? Angel is in the paint. Angel is amazing. She's our star. She is who she is.
Q. Angel, what was Coach Mulkey's message to the team ahead of the game, and Alexis, what was the message at halftime?
ANGEL REESE: Just being able to be disciplined throughout the game. We have five goals: Make sure we focus, execute, leadership, defense, and rebounding. If they do all five things, that's when we cut nets and get rings.
So being able to dial in on that, they put their all into us and now it's just time for us to play. When the ball threw up, we knew it was time to go. They just prepared us and then we just executed.
ALEXIS MORRIS: At halftime, we all just talked to each other and just said we've got to believe. Keep believing, keep fighting. We felt like we were destined to be where we are today. It was all about our energy and coming together and being on one accord.
Q. Alexis, as the only returning starter on this team, how did you embrace that role, and how did you see the team kind of gel and come together over the course of the year to get here?
ALEXIS MORRIS: Just being a leadership piece for the team, having that experience, having Coach Mulkey believe in me and push me. Because sometimes being a leader is hard. Having to be the bad guy sometimes and the pressure, the responsibility, sometimes it's really tough.
I've embraced it this year, and it's honoring, and it's paid off. I'm heading to Dallas. I'm ending my senior night where I wanted it to be. Hopefully we can go cut nets in Dallas.
Q. Alexis, just to go off of that, what's it mean to be able to do this in your home state and also in your final year of college ball being able to get here?
ALEXIS MORRIS: At one point when I left Rutgers, I wasn't even going to play basketball anymore. So this moment is literally everything to me. I am the comeback kid. I went through so much adversity. The world counted me out. Media writing bad posts, portraying this image of me.
Now I can just let it all go. I beat it. I beat the odds.
Q. Culturally speaking, what Kim has been able to do in a very short period of time -- you guys have played in a few different college basketball programs throughout your careers so far, what is that catalyst? What has gotten you guys wearing a net around your neck? What's got you guys wearing regional championship hats right now?
ANGEL REESE: Just believing in the coach and then putting in the work. I think it just started when I got here in July. I had a plan just for me and then going within the team, they had a plan for the team. Coach didn't know what we were going to get ourselves into.
We had nine new pieces. This s year two for her. So just being able to be the underdogs all year, and played that role. We were underdogs all year. And then now to be in this moment, it's just so joyful and exciting because it's like we worked hard and we did everything that Coach said and now look at us.
ALEXIS MORRIS: Angel pretty much answered it. You've got to buy in. When you've got a coach like Coach Mulkey who's proven and she's been doing this, you've just got to buy in and commit to the system and the plan. That's all we did. This is the outcome. This is the results.
Q. Angel, you talked about how different or mentioned how different your life is from last year. And kind of following up on this last question, when you came to LSU, what were your expectations, and did you really envision that you guys could get this far in this one year?
ANGEL REESE: A fresh start, that's what I came to LSU for. I just wanted a fresh start. I've done things in my past that I kind of regret. I mean, there's things that I've done. But I came from Maryland and I succeeded at Maryland, but I wanted more. And more was to get better every single day and then cut down nets one day.
So just being able to be within a program where like with Kim Mulkey where she was going to push me every day and keep my humble and to get me to the next level, I think what was important for me. And I needed Coach Mulkey and that's just what I needed. I needed Coach Mulkey.
Q. Coach Mulkey, Final Four; what does it mean to you in just year two?
KIM MULKEY: You know why they are saying that? They believe that. I'll answer your question in a minute. We have morning devotion. We have devotion every Sunday when we play, and in the SEC we play a lot of Sunday games, so we have two people that do our devotions for us. One is Shaeeta. Shaeeta is our radio person who also used to play basketball at Duke and she was an assistant on the previous staff at LSU. She's remarkable, a woman of faith. Also our president's wife -- Dr. Bill Tate's wife Kim Cash Tate.
Those two women did our devotion this morning, and it was so touching, so good, and that was part of what Kim Tate was telling them. When you do things, you say, God did.
These two kids have some history behind them, and I remember when I took those transfers, a lot of my coaching friends said, man, you got a locker room full of personalities. How are you going to handle that? And I said do you know me very well? Bring them on.
What they need is tough love. What they need is to be held accountable. What they need is a real woman. Boy, have they had a remarkable year.
To answer your question, I just wanted to come back to the state of Louisiana and come home. My mom lives 40 minutes away, my son flew in here in the third quarter, trying to get him here. He finished spring training with the St. Louis Cardinals. Mackenzie, my daughter, has been on my staff for years, played for me. My grandchildren, my son-in-law Clay. That's what it means to me at the age I am now.
But what really makes me smile is not cutting that net down, it's looking around out there at all those LSU people, looking at that team I get to coach experience it for the first time. This is the first time any of them have ever been to a Final Four, unless Lex went during her journey. I can't remember, but none of the others have been. That's what it means to me is to do things that you're not supposed to do as quickly as you're supposed to do them.
But my life is like this, and my coaches will tell you, I want things done yesterday. If what you did today still looks big to you today, then you haven't done much. I want things quick.
It will hit me tonight when we're on that plane going back to Baton Rouge, and I'm sitting with my feet propped up tomorrow eating crawfish and go, I've got to go back again, to go back to the state of Texas. I'm going to see tons of just dear friends in the 21 years at Baylor that I made. I still have a home in Waco. I have a home in Baton Rouge. My grandchildren live in Waco. I guess they said, God did it, right?
Q. Some of the Miami girls were talking about what you had said to them in the handshake line. What made you take that time to give them that encouragement in that moment?
KIM MULKEY: Several things. One, when you win and you beat a lot of people in our profession, you want to beat them bad because you don't like them. I like Katie. I just have always liked Katie. I liked to watch her when she was a player. I like to watch how she coaches. I like her personality. I like how she appreciates the older coaches in the game. She says all the right things. She just is a kind and easy person to talk to.
I've been in that handshake line as a player, and I've been in that handshake line as a senior that's going to take that uniform off for the last time. And they had a remarkable run in the Playoffs. They were in an Elite 8 for the first time. Just basically encouraging them not to forget that. While it hurts and it's okay, if you don't hurt, you didn't invest much. But keep perspective, and tomorrow when you wake up, celebrate what you did.
Q. Coach, for Alexis Morris to have the game she had tonight, 21 points, and now she gets to end her LSU career in her home state, just what was it like to watch that performance tonight?
KIM MULKEY: Well, she'll tell you it wasn't a good performance. She'll tell you she complained every time-out about too much air in the balls. Isn't that funny? But it all seriousness, we need to check those balls out, because it's not even fun for me to watch them the men play. I mean, knockdown shots is normal for the men, and they're just rattling all over the rim.
It's happening to both teams, so it's not like one team has an advantage. But I know Alexis Morris's ball handling skill and she'd bring the ball up, and all of a sudden you'd see that thing just jump off the floor.
She had to be -- when it got down five minute or less, 12, 14 point game, 13, whatever it was, you look at someone that has had that much experience in college and you tell them, this is where point guards have to lead and control the flow of the game. They're going to press. They're going to take chances and trap you. Take care of the ball.
It makes you more comfortable knowing that you have an older player out there with the ball in her hands.
Q. What would it mean to win a championship in your home state, and what would it mean for the community to have that?
KIM MULKEY: We don't have to win a championship to see how much they love us. I think they're going, what are we doing in year two. Are you kidding me? The greatest thing right now for me is we've got two SEC teams in the Final Four. Write that story. Two. That's 50 percent last time I checked.
The top two finishes, the champion, South Carolina is going. I'm just telling you flat out. I'm getting ahead of myself, okay, but you write it. They're going. That's nothing against who they play. I just know how good they are. I have to play them. I have to see them.
But when we do get two there, you write that story. Because all we heard all year, the SEC coaches, was how down the SEC was. What is down? We had seven make it, four of the seven made it to the Sweet 16. How down is that? Now I'm giving my plug to the SEC right now, but wait and write that story after Dawn wins her next one, okay?
What would it mean for me personally? I just like to win. I didn't go to LSU. I want to Louisiana Tech. In the early '80s, it was the dominant women's program. It broke my parents' heart because they could have driven 40 minutes to see me play, but they had to drive four and a half hours to see me. They knew I just wanted to win.
I had seen from a distance the Seimone Augustus days, the Sylvia Fowles. I had to play against them in the Final Four in 2005 when I was at Baylor. They were so good. And so at this last juncture of my career, I felt the love, I felt the value, I felt the appreciation that if you will just come home, that's a positive in itself. And I did.
I didn't put parameters on the team. I didn't say anything except at the press conferences. I want to put a championship banner up there some day. Now we get to put another Final Four.
South Carolina, I've said it from day one, is an unbelievable team and should win it all. But I'd sure love to be in that championship with them because then y'all could write 100 percent, right? Two SEC teams, right? But we're going to enjoy this.
That's what you play for, to get to Final Fours, to win championships.
Do you know how many coaches -- do a little research. How many coaches coached 25, 30, even 40 years never ever made a Final Four and never won a championship. It's so hard to do.
Q. You've talked about doing it for other people. You talked about wanting to win for yourself. What does it mean personally to you. And when Alexis says you're the plan, and when Angel says I wanted her to push me, to know that they want you being the one to do it?
KIM MULKEY: Well, who knows you better than your family in life? Who knows you better in athletics than your players? They see you at your best every day. They see you at your worst. They see you at your weakest, and vice versa.
I think they can answer it better than me. I think it is a perception out there about me that everybody has that's so not real. But I'm okay with that because these kids that play for me, the coaches that coach for me, my family that knows me, you can't control what people want to perceive about you.
What I love about coaching is I want that kid to think she can't go any further, but man, when she does, she looks at me and goes, my God, thank you for pushing me. I want to look at that kid that everybody says will be an academic casualty or somebody that's really going to struggle academically, and I can watch that kid get a degree and a diploma. Every kid I've coached that finished playing for me has a degree. Do you think they're all 4.0 students?
That's what I will remember when I sit in the rocking chair some day, is that I took teams, players that maybe others didn't want to coach, couldn't coach, and we competed, and we won.
But they have to buy in. They have to say, I love this woman's personalities, man. She laughs with us, she cries with us, but she's tough as nails and doesn't ask us to do anything that she wouldn't do for us.
It's been a great year. I mean, to this point, we've lost two basketball games. That great non-conference schedule I played wasn't so bad after all, was it? Golly.
Q. I'm curious what went into the decision to bring Bob Starkey back to LSU and what he's meant to you and this program this year?
KIM MULKEY: I wish Bob was sitting up here because y'all asked the question about the black dots on the fingers. Bob has coached on the men's side. He coached Shaq and all those guys at LSU back in the day. Then he's on the women's side and he's coached with Sue Gunter, he's coached at Auburn. The list goes on. And I always watched Bob from afar, never knew him personally.
When I had an opening on my staff, my secretary -- they're now called administrative assistants, okay. She's dear friends with him, and I said, do you think Bob would want to come back to Baton Rouge? He had just gotten Auburn. Had only been there a year. She said well, if doesn't, his wife will divorce him.
But he really struggled initially with the offer because he's really a good person and loyal. And he said, I can't do it. I gave Johnnie my word that I would -- and then within 24 hours, he called back. I called Johnnie at Auburn. I don't have to do that, but I said, Johnnie, I'm going to reach out to Bob Starkey and see if I can talk him into coming back.
When I tell you it's such a natural fit, you would think we've been coaching together for a long time. Examples: Some of you asked to interview Bob and he was freaking out. He goes, Coach Mulkey will let me interview? It's like, what are you talking about? It's like, yeah, you interview.
I wanted him to do every scouting report. I didn't want to hear a lot of voices. I wanted him. He's a junkie in the film room, and I wanted him to do every scouting report and then communicate with me.
He just -- we think alike. It's really strange. We think alike. He'll say something and I'll show him my practice thing and go, what does that say right there?
It's been very easy, very comfortable. That man took LSU as an interim coach to a Final Four. People forget that. Interim. He doesn't want to be a head coach. This is his calling.
I sure am blessed, and I am so grateful. He should be sitting up here because this thing on the -- Coach, I have something I really want to do before the game. I said, tell me what. I said, do it. Interrupt me. When we go in there, you interrupt what I'm getting ready to tell them and get them fired up, Bob. And he did.
Q. Just what makes Angel such a dominant rebounder?
KIM MULKEY: Positioning. First of all, she's strong. She's a strong kid. She doesn't jump half the time. If she ever just jumps, I think she could do even more. Positioning. She misses a lot of shots. She actually misses too many shots. She will tell you that. She gets her own rebound. I've had one other player in my career that was like that. She would always get her own misses. So that's one thing.
The second thing is she's got a nose for the ball. When somebody else is shooting, she's very hard to block out. She's not going to give up just because you put a body in front of her. You'd better get some position, you'd better get some strength because she's going to fight you in there for it.
Q. How crucial was Sa'Myah Smith tonight, and also hearing Angel say that she needed you, what does that mean to you?
KIM MULKEY: Well, Sa'Myah Smith was on the all-freshman team in the SEC, deservingly so. Sa'Myah, I've watched her for along time, de Soto High School there in Texas and was recruiting her when I was at Baylor and then came here and was able to change and get her to leave the state of Texas. She won so many championships in high school. She knows what it feels like to wear rings.
She is the quiet kind, will talk more now than she did when she first got to LSU. She has skills you don't teach. She's a quick jumper. She's tall, lanky, she'll time a blocked shot. What she lacks is just experience, getting pushed, getting shoved. But altering shots, scoring big in there tonight when LaDazhia came out of the game.
But even before tonight, I stopped in our shootaround today. She had two big moments as a freshman in the last game. Had three sitting on the bench and they fouled out. The first big moment in the Utah game, she didn't get but about seven minutes. But these are the moments that help young ones grow. She contested the shot on the last three. She was the one out there contesting. I asked her how close did you think you needed to be because you knew they were going to try to kick their legs out and get the foul? And you talked to her and say, you can't put a dollar value on that moment right there.
The second moment in that Utah game was when she was blocking out on that rebound, and boy, are we lucky because she got shoved and pushed underneath. So we go back, we show her the film and say, you just had two of the biggest moments of the Playoffs of your freshman year and you don't even realize it.
Your second part of your question was -- well, it touches your heart because I know what Angel needed. The public doesn't need to know that. I know what she needed. I know what I said to her on her recruiting visit, and I don't sugar coat it.
I think what helps, they will call former players. Let me make it clear. Do you think every former player I've ever coached loves me? Are you kidding me? They'll bash you in a heartbeat, and they'll usually bash you because you disciplined them or you dismissed them or they didn't get enough playing time. That's the nature of being a head coach.
But I encouraged them, talk to the current players, talk to those kids I inherited at LSU last year. Let them give you the good, the bad and the ugly. We needed Angel. The program needed a quick start with the transfer portal. Same thing with Alexis Morris.
It touches you as a coach because they allow me to coach them, and they know my heart is in the right place.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports