March 26, 1998
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
COACH LEON BARMORE: I think as a team that was unfolding, and I watched the teams that might make it and the coaches that might make it. I became very attached to two, and that was Kay Yow and Gary Blair. And I came this close to wishing them well on ESPN. Especially Gary, who was going to play later that night. But, anyway, my point is very simple. I think Kay Yow and Gary Blair are two of the very best that ever coached this game, and they are so deserving to be here. I think Louisiana Tech, the players, it's their first time, too, along with Arkansas and North Carolina State. Our players are very excited, and Coach Barmore is excited. When you get to my age, you really don't know if you'll ever do a lot of things again. And I didn't know if we'd every get back to the Final Four. And we're here, and we're just as excited as any team, I want to assure you of that.
Q. Coach, I was wondering if you could talk about the game and the matchup problems.
COACH LEON BARMORE: North Carolina State presents us a problem we haven't had in our three playoff games with Clemson and Alabama and Purdue. Basically Clemson and Purdue, they had a back court that we had to be concerned with. I thought LaQuan Stallworth and Tamicha, they all did a good job. Now we're playing a team that's stronger inside. So it's a case where it's a little different style of play we faced in the last game. But Amanda Wilson and Alisa Burras and Bowman are going to have to step it up. Not that we don't respect their outside game, because we do. But North Carolina State presents us and a lot of people problems. You beat Old Dominion and Connecticut in three days, you have to be a very good basketball team.
Q. Gary touched on a little bit a little while ago about those early years with the two of you and Sonya at Louisiana Tech and what he came away with. Can you talk about those years the three of you were together?
COACH LEON BARMORE: Louisiana Tech has been very fortunate. We haven't had a lot of coaches through the years. This is my 21st year. I don't say anything to brag, because I don't need that. But I say it to compliment our program and to be very proud of our program. When you talk about Gary Blair, he's one of the real cornerstones of the foundation of Louisiana Tech basketball. He came in in the early years when we were trying to get it going, and was there with two national championships, and left a mark there that will always be known and remembered by me. So Gary Blair, I'd say this, nobody works any harder. Gary will outwork me ten to one. He's just a person that leaves no stone unturned. He gets the job done. Love the family, but Gary Blair was big for us when he was at Tech.
Q. This is new for everybody on the team. But at high school you've been to this point, the championship game so many times. What can you draw on that to help your teammates this weekend?
ALISA BURRAS: I think the preparation of getting ready to play in these playoff games, like you said, high school and junior college, I've been here, so I know what it takes to get ready for these playoff games. And as for my team, you know, just to tell them how to get ready to come out and play.
Q. Leon, I know this is the first trip for all these kids to the Final Four. But you've been here many, many times. Does the fact that the program has been here a lot and has the mystique that Louisiana Tech has, does that help against a first-time team? Does that give you anything that you can draw from?
COACH LEON BARMORE: I never won a gold medal. Kay was a 1988 gold medal winner. She coached Teresa Weatherspoon on that team. I thought our workout today, I thought our kids did a nice job. I think they understand that it's the Final Four. But I don't think they are in awe, to be honest with you. I think they're not in awe, because I think in a way they realize that they had to be good or they wouldn't be here. And they also respect North Carolina State. And so when you have that, then you've got something going as a coach. So I feel very confident that we will perform well. I do not know who will win. But the players, in another reference to what you're asking, they take a lot of pride in playing for Louisiana Tech and wearing the uniform, as any school should.
Q. Leon, you managed to get it done at the regional, basically with all your contributions coming from the five starters. Are you going to have to get some help off the bench tomorrow night?
COACH LEON BARMORE: We've been saying that in the entire playoffs. And you start at five. They've been magnificent this year, they remind me of North Carolina, because they're on the verge of being in the position to win the National Championship. And they don't go very deep in the men's program. They're all averaging double figures. They all are good basketball players. Yes, I wish we were deeper. Yes, I wish our bench was better. But I know when called on, they do the best they can. It does concern me that we would play -- I'm glad it's not back-to-back, like it was a few years ago. So at least we know that what got us here was our basic starting five. And I'm sure if we win this one, they'll carry us.
Q. Leon, if you had to -- you talk about building a program. If you were just coming in now, how much tougher would it be to get started in today's environment in women's basketball as opposed to 15, 20 years ago?
COACH LEON BARMORE: I think maintaining is just as hard as getting started. Maintaining something is very draining and very difficult, and you've got to have a lot of help around you. And I have a wonderful staff. I always have had a good staff. And you've got to have players committed. You've got to have talent. If you don't have talent, you can forget all the rest. We've been fortunate to have good talent in our area and also on our team. You'd have to ask a younger coach about getting started, because I don't think I could start a program from scratch right now. I think it can be done. I think that there's so many schools out there that are trying to do it. And I would encourage them to continue, because you don't know who the next Arkansas or North Carolina State might be next year. And that's really good for this game. And I'm excited to see it. And it gives hope for a lot of people.
Q. This is for the two players. Being at Louisiana Tech, given the program's tradition, do you hear a lot about you're expected to make the Final Four, you need to make the Final Four, that kind of pressure?
ALISA BURRAS: Well, not really. But we know the tradition, that Coach Barmore and Pat Summitt have always been at the Final Four. It really hasn't been the pressure. It was just a goal of ours to be here.
Q. Coach, could you talk about NC State's Summer Erb, how to deal with her?
COACH LEON BARMORE: I'll take any tips you've got. I have not been able to see a whole lot of her, except now I've seen some film. And I did watch her in the game with Old Dominion. The first thing that stood out to me was her size. I haven't seen her in person. But if the height is correct, 6-6, she's a very big basketball player. And the second thing I thought was her aggressive nature. She even got on the official. She thought she made a bad call. And I like that about a player. So, evidently she's playing very well right now. Believe me, she concerns me. Even though she didn't start, which she may against us, she plays about 30, 32 minutes. She is a player that does concern us. And then when you've got Melvin in there, too, that's quite a lot to go. All of a sudden we're really going to have to do a good job defensively inside or we'll be home sitting watching the men play.
Q. What would you say are the keys to the game tomorrow night against NC State?
COACH LEON BARMORE: Well, the first thing is when you play, you better rebound against Tennessee, against North Carolina State, because of their size. If we get beat on the boards, and we got beat against Purdue, we're going to have to rebound. Tamicha Jackson had seven rebounds. Just think, if she had six or seven a game, how valuable that would be. Number two, it's obvious with our starting five, if we go out here and get two or three quick fouls. So we need to stay out of foul trouble. Rebound and play our normal game would be fine.
Q. Alisa, it had to be a goal of yours, coming into this season, not to be a member of that senior class that didn't make it to the Final Four. What was that rush that went through your body when you walked through the tunnel to go to practice this morning?
ALISA BURRAS: It was an exciting feeling because I was just -- I'm still -- I still haven't got over it that I'm here in the Final Four and I'm about to play a game in the Final Four. So it's very exciting. And I'm very happy that I'm here because, like I've been telling everybody, I'll never have this chance ever again, to walk through the tunnels or play in this type of environment. So I'm really happy.
Q. Ladies, in that same vein, can you talk about the fact that every player that's stayed there four years has made the Final Four. Was that a big draw for you in deciding to be recruited, in deciding that if I'm there, certainly we have an opportunity to be the best team?
MONICA MAXWELL: Yeah, I think it's very exciting to know that we will leave something behind when we leave Louisiana Tech. We walk in the gym and see banners, National Championships, Final Four, Final Four runner-ups. And it would be nice to look up there next year that we helped hang one of those banners.
Q. Did you talk to any former players about going to the Final Four this week at all?
MONICA MAXWELL: Well, at the regionals Vicki Johnson was there, and she was around the team quite a bit at the hotel, and she was just basically telling us that, hey, it's they're for us to take. She was trying to keep us kind of composed and keep our head on level ground. But her advice was for us to just go out and play your game, and it's there for you to have.
Q. Leon, can you talk about Alisa's season, I know she had a little bit of a slow start, and how she's come on lately.
COACH LEON BARMORE: She was preseason first All-American in every poll. She got off to a slow start. Did not have a good December, and was really taking it personal. And I just told Alisa, and in front of the team and everything else, you've got to quit thinking that you've got to carry this team, because you don't. You are a part of this team. And I think, for whatever reason, whether that was it or what, Alisa has really been outstanding the last six weeks to two months. And she's a very good basketball player, and playing the kind of basketball I knew she could play. But she did have a slow start. But she has turned it around. And I think there's no question you will see this young lady play in pro basketball somewhere.
Q. For Alisa, coming out of high school when you had to go to the junior college route, did you worry at that time that maybe you would never reach this pinnacle, and were you kind of depressed that you couldn't go to a program like this from the start or did you ever think maybe I won't get to reach the Final Four?
ALISA BURRAS: No, I never had that thought in my mind. Because when I first got to JUCO, I was there with some players that I played with in high school. And I had a pretty good career at JUCO. I knew I was going to go to a good Division I school. And that thought just never went past in my mind.
Q. Leon, you talked about a couple of the other coaches. Could you talk about Pat Summitt a little bit.
COACH LEON BARMORE: Well, Pat Summitt is, without question, the very, very best basketball coach in the women's game. I don't think there's any doubt about that. When you consider every facet; recruiting, role model, ability to coach. I've thought about that for years. That's something I believe deeply. I think she could coach any program of any kind, men or women, and be just outstanding. I know that when you play, and I personally like to play against Pat Summitt and Tennessee. I have a feeling when I play, that I've got to be at my best, that our team has to be at their best. But when you do that and you beat her, then you have one of those moments that you will cherish for a long time. So, there's no question that Tennessee and Pat Summitt is the model that we all kind of look to. But -- and I could talk for hours on her. But just trust me, I think all of you realize how good she is.
Q. Monica and Alisa, could you both please address Leon's personality, what it's like to play for him.
MONICA MAXWELL: Trying to put us on the spot there.
COACH LEON BARMORE: Things were going kind of well until then. And the bad thing about it, that's a home boy right there. (Laughter.) No matter what you say, you're both going to play. But I don't know how many minutes. (Laughter.)
MONICA MAXWELL: I just know during the recruiting process, that the first impression I got was fear. Because he didn't talk a lot. And what he said, it was very straightforward, and he just laid it on the table. He wasn't going to beat around the bush. So I know he set his expectations very high and set his goals very high for us and for ourselves. I guess his personality, just to be on the safe side, is a good one.
ALISA BURRAS: You know, everybody has two sides to their personality. It's a good one and a bad one. But I got a chance to learn both sides. But playing for Coach Barmore has been exciting these past two years. I learned a lot and he taught me a lot. And playing for him these two years, I couldn't wish to play for a better coach.
Q. Alisa, could you comment as to why you got off to a slow start, what the factors were that were involved?
ALISA BURRAS: I really don't know. I came out, I guess I thought I had to do so much for the team, you know, because I was picked and all. And I kind of put a lot of pressure on myself. And then Coach moved me to the side and said Alisa, just go out there and play your game and don't worry about it, just go out there and play.
Q. For the coach, could you talk about the level of excellence that Tennessee has achieved. And is it good for the game or could it be bad if they win year after year. And people say we don't know anybody but Tennessee, and it's no fun to watch, like it was for UCLA in the mens.
COACH LEON BARMORE: I think their team and collection of athletes have shown a greater level of play than we've seen. I've never been one to jump in the middle and say they're the best team ever. But they're on the verge, if they finish up and do it and so forth. I've always said Holdsclaw has surpassed Cheryl Miller and everybody else as far as the best player. I think it's good for our game at this moment. If they ran off five or six years like this, I'm not sure that would be good. But as we speak and this tournament unfolds, I think the excitement of Tennessee just gives all of us excitement, too. I'm certainly not the one -- I've never been jealous of anyone. And from the standpoint of what she's done and then if she -- I don't want her to win ten. I'd like to win one or two myself. But I think you credit what they do. But I think really and truly if it happened like five or six years in a row, no, I don't think it would be good.
Q. For the two players, talk about the lineup depth. When you go to a game like this, is it your mindset that if you have to go 40 minutes, you can or you may have to?
MONICA MAXWELL: Absolutely. Especially in the playoffs. You'd never want to go to the bench in the playoffs, because you figure if you pick up -- like I picked up two quick fouls in the first half of the Purdue game, and I felt like I was out for seven or eight minutes. And I thought I could have cost my team. So I think in the playoffs you're just ready to give 40 minutes if you have to or whatever Coach calls for you to give.
Q. This is for Coach Barmore. I was trying to find out from your standpoint how refreshing is it to see some new blood, I guess, in the tournament, even though they're tired, old faces, as Coach Blair said. And also, does that give you hope that there won't be one of those four or five-year runs that you fear so much?
COACH LEON BARMORE: I read a statement by the North Carolina coach that nobody else could do what they did. Well, I believe if a fourth place team at ACC can give Tennessee a run, North Carolina State finished first, I think they can give Tennessee a run. I think Arkansas can, I think Louisiana Tech can. So, believe me, there's hope for teams. I don't think any of us, we're going to give Tennessee the trophy on the way out the door. Sure, I think there's hope. I think kids, when they play together -- and I watched Arkansas, and I admire that team, when you play with the guts and determination they're playing with and you have that night as special, you can beat Tennessee or anybody else. There's a lot of teams other than North Carolina that has hope.
Q. Alisa, can you pinpoint when your season started to turn around? And Coach, could you address that, too, please.
ALISA BURRAS: I think I started playing -- it turned around, I guess, I could say during the conference, the last couple of weeks of our conference tournament and going into the playoffs.
COACH LEON BARMORE: Are you talking about the team or Alisa's season? You ask me to pinpoint -- I just know the second half, after Christmas, and us going back and getting in our conference, and playing Western Kentucky and Arkansas State and Western Kentucky are pretty good basketball teams. Arkansas State would have beaten half the field. But I think Alisa turned it around in our conference and had some very good games in our conference.
Q. This is for the players. I know a lot of games have been played since this, but you played NC State in the 1996 NIT preseason game. Can you tell us what you might be able to remember about that game that you think might be helpful at the game tomorrow night?
ALISA BURRAS: We have to guard their post players. We can't take any of the teams lightly. And I know they have a new outstanding guard in Lewis, I think. So we just really have to come out and play and get ready for them. They're not the same team we played in the NIT, they have some of the same players, but they're not the same team. But we have to come out and play our game.
Q. Coach, the WNBA are obviously off the ground and running, and with that has come agents and just all of that sort of thing. Have you had a sense even at the college level that through letters or contact or whatever that this sport is really getting more and more big time and that your seniors are going to be facing some major decisions?
COACH LEON BARMORE: I think all the deals I've had with both the leagues has been very good. I think they're all trying to do their job and yet at the same time nobody has been overbearing with me, with our players. Alisa has a stack of mail, when I get back I'll give it to her, there's a whole box of it. I spoke to Greg Williams a minute ago out here. I like what I see. I like the opportunity our players have. And we have several that can play. And it's just wonderful to see. I support both leagues, and I would think there's nothing but good days ahead for the pro basketball. And yes, giving these kids opportunity to play. And I just hope that in three or four years if that question is asked me again, we are not trying to hide out from agents and we're not trying to protect kids to stay in college. I like what I see at the moment. I hope it stays this way.
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