April 7, 2003
GENO AURIEMMA: Not much I can say other than obviously, you know, we are pretty anxious for the game tomorrow. Obviously, like you would expect, coming off of last night's game, I'm glad the format has changed from a few years ago. I'm not sure we could have played a game today. And I know everything is going to be blown out of proportion tomorrow because it's Tennessee and Connecticut, but it's a National Championship game and I know these five kids have worked unbelievably hard this year, with the hopes of being in that situation tomorrow night, and I would expect that they are going to continue to play like they have been throughout the tournament.
Q. For all of the players, can you sort of talk about at the end of a game when Diana is putting up the shots; were all of you convinced that it would go in? What is your feeling about her when she is taking the shots, important moment, do you always think they are going in?
JESSICA MOORE: I think because you know Diana works so hard during practice and she really puts pressure on herself to be that person that we go to in those clutch times that we just have full confidence in here and every time the shot goes up we believe that it's going to go in. And I think she said it all. I think we all have the confidence in her that it's going to go in, she makes those shots every day at practice. We pretty much know they are going in.
Q. Barbara, you sort of have had a little bit of an up-and-down freshman season but you came up big in games when Diana has struggled, the few games she struggled; what is it about you that you are able to step up.
BARBARA TURNER: I don't know, I think it's just a coincidence. It's got be more than that. It just seems to happen that way. I can't really explain it.
Q. For all of the players except Diana I have been interested in hearing on how your coach has talked about your growth as a team this year, how do you all feel you have grown as a team this season?
MARIA CONLON: I think that we have had a lot of ups and downs. We had consistency. She is the best player on our team, the best player in the country. She has done a good job bribing everybody together to court to complete our common goal.
BARBARA TURNER: I agree with Maria, I think we have grown a lot with the help of our coaches and Diana and for the freshman class especially with the help of her upper classman.
ANN STROTHER: Every time someone is having an up or down game someone else is stepping up. Someone else steps up and takes the game on their back. The way we come together and the way everyone does their part is pretty amazing.
JESSICA MOORE: I think that overall our trust in each other and ourselves has really changed over the course of the year. From the beginning of the year having all of the players that don't know each other and each other's styles of play. Then you know over time we really get a chance to get to know each other on our likes and dislikes and that's become one of our strengths.
Q. Diana, what is your mindset going into this game with Gwen Jackson playing the game she is playing.
DIANA TAURASI: She is on a roll now. She is playing well. It's carried on through the season and carried on through the tournament. We are not going to change much. Obviously we will pay more attention when she gets the ball. Like every game, whoever that team's hottest player, we have done a good job of taking away touches and making them work for every shot so that's what we are going to do.
GENO AURIEMMA: You weren't insinuating that Diana is going to guard Gwen.
DIANA TAURASI: Yes, I don't think I'll be guarding her.
Q. How would you describe your role on this team?
BARBARA TURNER: It's kind of hard to describe my role on this team, I really don't know. I guess to step up and play when anyone is not playing as well as they usually are. Just attack offensively and attack the boards.
Q. At this time for Diana, how do you keep the weight of the Connecticut tradition from burdening your play?
DIANA TAURASI: I don't think right now we understand how much the tradition is alive, we just go out there and play. That's the biggest thing about this team, every time we are in a big game or we should have all of this pressure on us, we find a way to not pay attention to that and pay attention to what we have to do as a team, I don't think we have any added pressure, we will play the way we have the whole year.
Q. The coach asked how they planned to stop you, is that extra pressure going to the games and is this something where you may look for your teammates early and look for your shot maybe later down the clutch?
DIANA TAURASI: Yes, depending on how they play me, they play a team obviously; if they are going to try to throw double-teams at me everyone else will be open and they will get the ball and make plays. Why would they play how it will dictate how we play.
Q. Barbara, Coach said you all have been suffering and that good teams need to suffer before they can win, is the suffering over.
GENO AURIEMMA: For them or for me? How can they be suffering? The two of them haven't made a shot in a month and we are still winning? Come on, they are loving life.
Q. Are you ready to win, do you deserve to win if you haven't really suffered yet?
BARBARA TURNER: Yes, we deserve to win.
DIANA TAURASI: It doesn't determine whether you should win or not. The work we put on these six months, yeah, we deserve to win, we go out every game wanting to win. Yes, we deserve to win.
Q. For any of the players, the game last night proves to everyone that has ever played any sport or watched any sport that you play a full game, you play a full 40 minutes, and you guys proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt, can you talk about, not just for tomorrow night or for anyone watching people could have turned it off, down 9, five minutes left, people said, the game is over, you go out and said you really do play a full 40 minutes.
DIANA TAURASI: Yes, they pretty much controlled the game the first 35 minutes, they really did. Those last five minutes we found a way to make a couple of plays. Hit a couple of shots, AB took charge with a couple of loose balls. You got to play 40 minutes. You can't relax the last couple of minutes and let it get away. If you stay patient and stay relaxed, once it comes you take over the game.
Q. Diana, could you talk about what Maria brings to the team; she is the only starter not in double figures?
DIANA TAURASI: "Cool Conlon," she is cool. Always cool. When she is on the court she gives everyone the sense of just relief out there, she never gets too whacked out, She'll hit a 30-footer and put her head down and said "I just hit that." She never gets too excited. It's good for this team. It keeps it even. She gives the young guys security out there and it's nice knowing when she has the ball in her hands everyone has 100% confidence in her plus she makes the right plays.
Q. Diana, what makes this team so special?
DIANA TAURASI: I don't know. We find a way, if we are not playing well, we find a way to just make plays at the end. I don't know what it is. It's destiny. We just won't go home.
Q. For Diana and Maria, are there things you can point to for Barbara and Willnett that show that they have grown up this year, things they are doing differently now than they were doing at the beginning of the season?
MARIA CONLON: Last night, the way Willnett played throughout the whole game showed a lot of maturity on her part. She came out and made a lot of big plays. When people were in foul trouble or weren't playing as well as they could have been.
ANN STROTHER: Barbara and I have been stepping up, when people couldn't make shots or rebounds. All year long there has only been a few times where they really played like freshman; for the most part they played like seniors.
Q. Geno, last night with Diana at the end, is that still standard operating for her to win a game like that for you?
GENO AURIEMMA: I guess she has done it enough times to expect it. But you know at some point she is going to miss those shots. I think the sign of greatness, I guess, is that you make those shots, but the majority of the people in the world don't want to take those shots. So it starts with having the confidence and the ability to, No. 1, want to be able to. And she is not going to make them all. Maybe tomorrow night it's a tie score with two minutes left and she misses, but she will take the last shot. She will figure out a way to get the ball up on the rim. Whether it goes in or not that's out of our hands. But to have a player that wants to be in that situation, that's worth everything.
Q. Geno, at times this season Barbara has stepped up when you needed her scoring high teens or even into the 20's a couple of times, can you talk about offensively what she brings to the team you need her most?
GENO AURIEMMA: We got to get Barbara off and running early. She is one of those young players, like most young players, she feeds off her confidence. One of the reasons why I put her in the starting lineup for the NCAA tournament, she is a tough matchup for most people. We tried really hard to develop another scorer and she has been there most of the time. I would say tomorrow night if we can get her some good looks at the basket early on if we could get her in on offense early on it will do wonders for her confidence and certainly will take a lot of pressure off of what our players are going to have to do.
Q. Geno, last night you talked about how -- this is the matchup that everybody wanted: Tennessee, Connecticut. Is this rivalry good for the women's game in your opinion?
GENO AURIEMMA: Well, it can't be bad, people like matchups like that. They like that feeling of two teams that have been there a lot. Both think that they are better than the other guy. It's two programs that most of the country recognizes, and a lot of history between us in a short period of time. So strictly for good theater you couldn't ask for a better matchup. I'm sure a lot of the basketball coaches in the country would prefer to have someone else play tomorrow night. And I know that. I'm sure Tennessee knows that. But I think for the average person out there watching TV, I think this is what they were hoping for when the tournament started.
Q. Coach, do you take anymore pleasure in beating Tennessee than maybe someone else particularly in this venue, this atmosphere?
GENO AURIEMMA: I don't think so. If we were to win tomorrow night, other than the circumstances of the kind of team that we have this year and what it's taken to get here, I don't think it's would be that much more special for me than let's say last year's win against Oklahoma. It's just ironic that, you know, we are playing for our fourth National Championship. We are in the National Championship game for the fourth time and three out of the four times it happens to be Tennessee. You don't get anymore satisfaction or any less from playing Nebraska in the championship game. They are all the same. They all mean the same. Now if we were to lose tomorrow night that would really bug the hell out of me.
Q. Geno, after Nicole's injury, that's when Maria stepped into the starting lineup, has she given you everything that you expected out of her?
GENO AURIEMMA: Yes, yes. Maria is Maria. I think she doesn't get sometimes the recognition or the respect that she has earned, but she does give us a kind of a calming influence like Diana said. She has the ability to make big steps in the basketball. She just has a knockout on the court, you know. She has got that wonderful combination. She may be short but she is slow. (Laughter).
Q. Coach, you know the needle that you sometimes like to apply, do you think it maybe got to Pat a little but she is immune to it now?
GENO AURIEMMA: Early, when?
Q. When you all first started playing each other?
GENO AURIEMMA: When I first started playing, on no, I never brought the needle out. That only came along later. Because I don't want people to get bothered with us playing Tennessee. So you just try to keep things light and lively, I know how you guys love that stuff. You all love the little sound bites, you know. It would be great wouldn't it, you know, if we would go out to the game tomorrow and everybody is having, you know, big seances and we are all holding hands and wishing each other luck but that's not what you all want. You just want two people going at it tomorrow, two programs that just hate each other. We want to kill each other. That's not the case either. I was just talking to Pat 15 minutes ago. Sense of humor is a rare commodity in America today, I'm just trying to do my part.
Q. High coach. Let's talk about the atmosphere in practice, practice isn't is the most fun place to be; was that different at shoot around?
GENO AURIEMMA: We haven't gone yet. We are going this afternoon. I don't know how much and I believe we will be get able to get done this afternoon. I think we really need to be fresh tomorrow. We need to be really, really fresh tomorrow because I just think that they have the ability to run so many players out there. It was such a late night last night. By the time we got back to the hotel it was after 1:00. So I think the atmosphere since the whole NCAA tournament has started has been drastically different than it is during the regular season. This team is so young that the last thing I wanted to do was to make them feel tense or edgy, nervous going into the tournament so pretty much the whole tournament it's been pretty laid back, our practices and our approach compared to say what it would be like during the normal season. I'm sure today will be the same thing.
Q. Geno, where does this willingness by Diana take over or be so confident; does it have anything to do, you are overachievers, does any of it have to do --
GENO AURIEMMA: What are you saying I'm not talented to be where I am. That I've overcome a lack of talent? Typical New York Times shit; you know what I'm saying?
Q. Does it have anything to do with being the children of immigrant parents and that kind of thing?
GENO AURIEMMA: Yes, I think there is a lot of that. The difference is Diana, you know, I think when you are the product of immigrant parents like she is and I am, I think you always walk around with two things that are with you all the time. One the sense of you are different than everybody else. Well, I don't know about today. At least it was 40 years ago when I came to this country. But today it might be different. But there is a sense that you are different. And the sense that you have to prove yourself all the time. You also carry around this tremendous sense of self-confidence that your parents gave you that you can do anything and you can do it against whatever odds. Then the other one: I better not screw this up because. I'm going to let a lot of people down. So you got all of that going on. And Diana seems to be immune from the part of "I'm afraid. What will people think of me?" She doesn't care, now that's the person that she presents but deep down inside when you get her in her private moments there is this tremendous sense of "I don't want to let people down. I don't want to let anybody down. I want to shoulder the whole responsibility." I want to be what everyone expects me to be.
Q. Geno, could you comment on your relationship with Pat; some ups and downs that you have had over the years and where things are currently?
GENO AURIEMMA: You know, they are where they are. We recruit the same players. We play against each other. We both want the same things. We are both very competitive. I think sometimes -- not sometimes, most of the time, the story gets to be too big. The whole, you know, whether it's Geno, Pat, Harry, Pat, it's just stupid, to me it's about the players, and I always try to keep the focus on the players. I could care less about my relationship with Pat or any other coach, you know. There is only about a handful of coaches that I have a relationship with that I would want to have, or that I would want to continue to have and it's impossible to have a relationship with every coach specially when you get to the level that Pat and I are at. So I have tried to keep the focus on the players.
Q. I don't have statistical data to back it up, but I suspect teams shoot better the second game inside of a big dome; do you expect both teams will shoot better tomorrow night just in general?
GENO AURIEMMA: Well, the NCAA, the way they set up the Final Four it's impossible to shoot well. First of all, they run you ragged the whole week that you're here so you don't have any time to really concentrate on the game. Second of all they bring out a brand new court that's never be played on, so you know right away the kid's footing is not as good as it is during the course of the year. Then they bring in brand new baskets never shot on and the rims are hard as ice, then you have the Dome atmosphere so it's impossible to shoot well in the NCAA tournament. Then you add tournament pressure. So is everybody going to relax and shoot better tomorrow night? I don't know. At the Alamodome last year we were 0 for 9 from the 3-point line. Oklahoma made a bunch. So I don't, I would venture to say that there is more of a comfort level. You have been on the court more, you shoot more, you are more accustomed to the surroundings. So I think people will be a little more relaxed. But that might also be a function of how old you are, too. Maybe if you are a senior, and you have been through it before, or a junior you relax more. Maybe if you are a freshman you are caught up it's the National Championship, oh, my God. I don't think it's going to be '90 to '85 tomorrow.
Q. Geno, I know when you take the team on the road you like to give the girl's a perspective of their surroundings like you took them to Ground Zero in New York. Is that possible in Atlanta, have you looked around or does being in the championship tournament preclude any extracurricular activities?
GENO AURIEMMA: Well, I mean, you know it's not like we are in New York, or Boston or Philadelphia. We are in Atlanta. So it's not as easy to get around. Everything is kind of like out there. So it's not as easy for us to get to places and do things. Then we have so many demands and requirements and obligations, whatever, associated with this thing, so it's very, very difficult. So I tried to keep the sight-seeing and extracurricular activities to the basics. We have found the best restaurant, the best wine list and they found Lord and Taylor and Macy's and all of that stuff so we are all happy.
Q. What made you want to recruit a player who had that wonderful combination of shorted and slow when you watched them? Most people were saying there is no way she can play at UConn, what were you seeing?
GENO AURIEMMA: Well, I have no idea. Because when I watched Maria play in high school, she has got a miserable court demeanor. If she was a doctor, she would have no patients. Because when I watched her in high school she was never happy on the court. There was no sense in playing the game. But they won all the time. And she was double and tripled-teamed all the time and I am thinking how does this kid do this? She doesn't look like she is having any fun doing it. So I was really worried about her. So I just went on a gut feeling: Anybody that can win that many games at the high school level without a great supporting cast -- what she did in high school is kind of what Diana is doing here with us even to a greater extent than she did it in high school, that I just thought, you know what, it's a gut feeling and hopefully it will pay off. It's like you are betting on an hours race. You go to a horse race and you say I like that horse. I don't know, why, I just think they are going to win. For two years it didn't play out that way for Maria because of who else we had. But I think I underestimated her toughness, her internal toughness, but inside she has this quality about her that is starting to come out now. She also surprised me that every other kid on the team loves her. In high school I thought she was separate from the rest of the team. I have been rewarded really because I have gotten to see a side of her that I didn't know existed.
Q. Being from New York also, I wasn't there when you made the evil empire remark, and I don't know your sense of humor that well. Base on your comment today, as I understand it, is it to say you were kidding when you said it a week ago?
GENO AURIEMMA: I live in Connecticut. I'm a Red Sox fan. If you talk about Tennessee they are the Yankees and Pat is George Steinbrenner. We make fun of it. It's just a way to have fun. There is nothing evil about them unless you live in Connecticut. They don't do anything wrong. Her program speaks for itself and her reputation certainly speaks for itself. Throwing snowballs is part of what you do in a tournament. We are just throwing a couple of snowballs at each other.
Q. With that being said when you spoke to her 15 minutes ago did you guys arm wrestle, did you place a bet, did you congratulate each other, what did you all say?
GENO AURIEMMA: No. You think I'm evil she said. I said no, come on. No. We talked about a lot of things. We did. We talked about a lot of things.
GENO AURIEMMA: Basketball, basketball. Just kids in general. Some of her kids, some of my kids. After you break it all down she can think what she wants about Connecticut. I can think about what I want about Tennessee in our darkest moments, but you can't help but respect each other.
Q. Obviously the statement doesn't apply to you, but as you look around the women's basketball game there seems to be fewer and fewer men's coaches every year, are men a dying breed as far as coaching in the women's game?
GENO AURIEMMA: As head coaches, yes. It's over for men as head coaches at the big schools. Because no president or no athletic director is going to have the guts to hire the best coach. They are going to have to go out and hire a woman whether she is the best coach or not. But there is plenty of opportunities for men assistant. There is a million men assistants. Every woman in America wants a guy to be an assistant. There is still life. It's not a great life. But there is still life.
Q. Coach, in the past few weeks it seems like you spin the TV dial and all you see is the war or basketball, whether it's the men or women's tournament, do you get a sense, that when I talked to so many people, they say hey, I never really watch basketball but I can't watch the news anymore. You guys are kind of a nice distraction to what is going on in the world right now?
GENO AURIEMMA: Yes, you know, that's why I think, you know, you got to have so fun with this because there is a war going on and there are people dying both on our side and their side, and there are families at home in America who really don't care about a 2 -3 zone, or about Diana Taurasi's 3 point shot. They are worried about their sons and daughters overseas. Anything we can do to make it fun and take people's minds off of that. So we should never treat basketball, you know, like it's a war. It's a war out there, or what a battle it was, or how courageous these kids are. It's a battle. Common, it's the NCAA tournament. You are 18, 19, years old. You are staying in the best hotels. You are eating great meals. People are calling you the greatest thing since sliced bread. Let's have some fun with it. Let's enjoy it and let's give some people some entertainment so when they want to turn the channel they don't have to see more dower faces up here compared to what is really going on over there. I am having fun with it. The person I'm having the most fun is my mother. She refused to fly down here and we talked her into it. She grew up in Italy in World War II. You don't fly during the war, bad things happen to a plane when you fly in a war. We got her down here and we played a game like we did last night and she came up to me and said, you need to get out of this business before I die. I said you only got to worry about one more game.
Q. Coach, everybody talks about Diana on the court and how great she is, one of the things that seems to strike me this year is how she taken the roll as leader especially with the younger kids, can you talk about how she has gone about that and also what you have seen them pick up from her or what they gained from being around her?
GENO AURIEMMA: Well, Diana has made a huge transformation as a person since September. See Diana is whatever woman's basketball player would love to be like but she is also going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. She is arrogant, cocky. She is obnoxious. She is all of the things that people would hate in a person. But at the same time you really love that about her. Now, she does all of that when nobody is watching. And she did it to her teammates last year, the year before, and she tried to do it with this group early on and it didn't work. Because this group didn't know how to respond because they are all intimidated by her talent. Last year's group wasn't intimidated by her talent. This year's group was intimidated by her talent. Even without saying I'm Diana Taurasi and you are who? My daughter is in arts and in acting and theater. It would be like taking a bunch of those kids and putting them with Robert DeNiro saying you are going to be on stage with him. It's not going to work unless that person makes you feel like you are part of the deal. It took Diana a couple of months to realize I can't say to them what I use to say to Swin and Tamika, and I have to treat them a little bit different. I can't say to Ashley Battle the same things I said to Swin. So she's learned the same thing Jen Rizzotti had to learn, the same thing Shea Ralph had to learn. How do I say it? When do I say it? When do I put my arm around my teammates? When do I really prod them and push them? How do I treat them off the court? That's a lot. And still go out against Tennessee and get 30 when we really need it. It's a lot to ask a kid. As I said, it's not like we are asking her to cure cancer.
Q. Coach, how would you compare Diana's impact on the team to what Sue Bird's impact was last year?
GENO AURIEMMA: Well Sue -- we had a term for her up in Connecticut, Susie the cruiser. She just cruised through most of the season and when the NCAA Tournament came along Sue took over and showed everybody she was the best player in country. Diana had to do that all year long. And when Sue didn't feel like it, Tamika, Swin, so Sue had the luxury of taking days off mentally or physically, not that she did, but she had that luxury. Diana never had that luxury in any big game that we had this season. The emotional wear and tear, psychological, wherever you want to take it, was very demanding on her this year plus the injuries, you know. I said going into the season this was going to be the toughest year for any kid to ever play at Connecticut, because you got to do it by yourself, and you have to do it right every time and she did and here we are.
Q. The three times that you have won your semifinal wins have been by somewhere 20, 20 and 20. Are you concerned that last night's game was so -- was the way it was?
GENO AURIEMMA: Well, let's put it into context here, Mike, the last three times we won we had the best players. I don't necessarily mean the best players. We knew and everybody else knew you had to play well because we had the potential to whack them pretty good. I don't think anybody is afraid of us this year. We don't have the best players. We don't have the best talents. We don't have the most talents. So you weren't going to get a game last night like the Stanford game in '95 or the Tennessee game last year. Forget it. We knew last night was going to be a real, real struggle. So does that help us or hurt us? I don't think there is any way we can win tomorrow night if Tennessee places their A game. We are worn out in some sense. But I think if the game is played a certain way, and if the things fall the way hopefully they'll fall, I think we're going to win in spite of it all. Tomorrow's game will not be a 10, 12 point game. Tomorrow we will either lose by 30 or we will win the game. I'm convinced of that. I'm prepared for either one, too, don't get me wrong.
Q. Going back to a year ago at this time you had 4 players up here that were not up here a year ago, when you walked out at 39 and 0, at the start of the season did you say enjoy all of this, it might be a couple of years before we get back?
GENO AURIEMMA: I had a comment up in Connecticut that I used to run by my player when Tamika, Swin and Sue, whenever I would have them out of the game and have this crew out together, and I tried to do that a lot to get them ready, I would say to those other guys, listen, I know you guys are going to be busy, if you get a chance, watch us play in November and December because in March we will probably be in NIT and not on television. Those guys heard that every day in practice and every day in games. I didn't think we would be back. But then you know what October 12 when practice started, it was business as usual. We are Connecticut and we need to be in the Final Four and we need to play for the championship and that's the way it is.
Q. Geno, you are trying to talk to Harry before the game tomorrow and what would you get from him?
GENO AURIEMMA: What would I want to get from Harry? As far away as possible. He keeps calling me on my cell phone. Pat thinks he is going steady with her. He calls everybody. I mean he called me like 5 times the other day. I'm trying to tell him it's over, you are out of the tournament, go the hell home. He wants to still be part of it but I'm not going to let him. He is done. He is on his own now. Do you ever see the way he dresses? Why would I want to be seen in public with him. Never shaves, he has no hair, wears a baseball hat. Goes to nice restaurants wearing shorts and sneakers. I have an image to uphold.
Q. Coach, earlier you talked about you didn't bring out the needle in the UT rivalry until later, so is there a conscious concerted effort to maybe get at Pat a little bit?
GENO AURIEMMA: It's not personal. It's not personal at all. I do think sometimes they take themselves a little too seriously, you know, but that's just me, you know, everybody does it their way. Plus you got to understand where we are coming from, too. There is 14 people to cover our team. They are bugging me every day with stuff. They don't want to hear the same old thing, so I have to make up stuff so they will be happy and leave me alone. Pat just happens to be there. It's not personal. Besides she took this whole thing the wrong way. It wasn't about Pat. I wasn't trying to get at Pat. I was just trying to slam Harry. The guy is in the tournament for the first time in 30 years, and he wants to make it look like he just landed on the moon. He's driving me nuts that guy.
Q. If Tennessee is the evil empire, what would you call UConn?
GENO AURIEMMA: That's probably a question that you would have to ask somebody else and not me. Not really the evil empire. They are the Yankees. They win all the time. They won 6 National Championships. We are not exactly the Red Sox. Don't get me wrong. We are not the Red Sox. We are kind of like -- I don't know. We are just kind of those guys that are there. We hang around. We are good and really good. You got 2 programs that think they are the best in the country. They think they are the best. We think we are the best. We don't have 6 National Championships though. They do. I'm jealous of them. So I make fun of them.
Q. Geno, I wonder what you remember of Kara Lawson from having seen her in high school how hard you tried to recruit her and what you see in terms of her leadership that she brings to the floor?
GENO AURIEMMA: I have always loved Kara Lawson as a player and more so as an individual, the way she conducts herself. I think she has been a great college player. I think she has had a great career. I think she embodies a lot of what we would hope that college basketball -- college student athletes are supposed to be like. I'm sure she feels like there is a missing piece right now that she has not won a National Championship. But I have always liked Kara's toughness and I always liked her intensity and how she approaches everything. Did we try to recruit her out of high school? No. There are a lot of issues involved in that, I don't want to deal with.
Q. I think a lot of people perceive you as sort of a regular guy. What do you think it will take to get more regular guys to love this sport?
GENO AURIEMMA: If there is a line on the game. If they could bet on the games, look at the NFL. Guys are just a weird audience to attract, you know. They are so stereotypical in some ways they won't watch it. I'm the same way. There is a lot of women's basketball I won't watch. There is a lot of men's basketball I won't watch. So I think you got to have guys that come in with an open mind, you know, let me go watch the game and see what it looks like. I think you need a couple of more Diana Taurasi. I think you need a couple more Alana Beards. I think the NCAA needs to do some things to change the game. I think the NCAA needs to move the 3 point line back to The International line because the line is too short. That goes for men and women. That would open the floor a little bit. I think we need to make the lane wider so kids become better ball handlers in the post, better with their foot work, that is men and women's college basketball. I think the women need to go back to the men's ball. I think it's stupid that we play with a small ball. The rest of the world plays with the big ball but the American girls have to play with a small ball. It's stupid. The kids are too big, too talented, too skilled. I think if we made some of those changes we would eliminate more and more each other reasons for people to say, you know I don't want to watch that and give them an excuse. But there is a segment of the population that you are never going to get. Actually if you ever been to a men's game in some places, there is a segment of a population that I'm sure I never want at my games.
Q. You can talk about how this Tennessee team changed since the January game and the Tennessee team that you see now, do you see a different team that when you all won an overtime game back in January?
GENO AURIEMMA: Well, that game in January was kind of like last night's game. I'm sure like Texas thinks this morning we didn't have any right to win that game. I'm sure they are saying if they didn't have Diana we would have killed them. I know that. So how are they different? Well, obviously, they are much more comfortable with each other. I think they are getting more contributions from more people. Gwen Jackson has just played horribly against us and she seems to be playing great now. Loree Moore improved tremendously as a point guard. I just think there is much more of a comfort level that they had, you know. None of that nonsense about Harry's motion offense. They scored 17 points with 5 minutes left in the first half. So I don't buy any of that nonsense. Tennessee is still Tennessee. Transition baskets, score off of their defense, pound you on the boards, rebound the ball. That's who makes them who they are and they seem to be better at it than ever.
Q. When you recruited Diana could you have seen her ability to come through repeatedly in the clutch the way she has, is that something that you can identify in a player? And kind of the second part of that, if you were having to coach against her right now would you be almost fearful of her in what she might do in the last couple minutes of a close game?
GENO AURIEMMA: Well, those people that know me know that when I was recruiting Diana Taurasi I think I'm recruiting the best player in the country and the best player ever to come to Connecticut and I am recruiting a player who has the chance to be the best ever. So those things were obvious when I watch her play. There was a tournament that she played in, in California where I want to say 5 games in a row she either tied the game or won the game on the last shot of the game. So you didn't have to like figure out is she going to be able to do that. She just did it right in front of your eyes. I don't know what else to tell you.
Q. Would you be fearful of her?
GENO AURIEMMA: Would I be fearful of her? Yes, it's like anything else. Who do you want to face with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Some guys you are hoping it's their turn in the order. Some guys you hope you duck those guys. In the last 2 minutes of the game you are going to have to defend Diana Taurasi. If I was defending against her how would I do it? I don't have to answer that question.
Q. Loree Moore, do you think she is a silent threat for Tennessee? Loree Moore, yesterday, she was pivotal; do you think she is silent?
GENO AURIEMMA: I coached Loree for two summers on the Junior World championship team. Loree has grown in a way that she is spectacular or awful. There is no in between. Now I look at her and she is consistent. She shoots when she has to. She makes plays she has to make. I think she has become a real pivotal person in their offense and their defense. Because it would be easy to say well you know Kara Lawson is the heart and soul of their back court. I'm sure a lot of teams are spending a lot of time defending Kara and Loree has been hurting them. Again, Loree played on her high school team, Crockett, and when I saw Loree she was one of the most talented kids at the high school level. I'm not surprised what she is doing.
Q. This is a selfish question, I have to pick a couple of keys to this game for the Atlanta paper?
GENO AURIEMMA: I haven't read the Atlanta paper. Have you guys done a good job with the coverage? Are you happy with it?
Q. I think some of the people are. I'm not speaking for myself. Any way I want to do it in an educated way. All I hear is defensive rebounding and I know that's great, but for you to not lose by 30, what sort of things do you think you guys need to do to beat Tennessee?
GENO AURIEMMA: This is going to sound simple. It is simple. I was listening to Jim Bayheim this morning, he was talking about he doesn't think he can stop Kansas from running their break and getting on transition and he thinks they they're going to have to out score them. I think we have to out score Tennessee because I don't know if we can stop them from doing what they do well. So I think we have to convert on offense. We have to get Ann Strother and Barbara Turner, Ashley Battle. We have to get them involved in the offense. They got to have really good games. We have to play defense. We have to rebound, but everybody has to do that. Everybody tells you defense and rebounding, you're right. We have to score points tomorrow night. We have to make shots. If we can do that, we will be fine. If we struggle shooting tomorrow night, the lights out.
Q. Geno, in hindsight has the switch from playing them twice during the regular season been good or bad for your program and then has it been good or bad for women's basketball in general?
GENO AURIEMMA: Good or bad for our program? No, I don't think it affects our program one way or the other. We are going to do what we do regardless whether we play them once, twice, three times a year it doesn't matter. Has it been good or bad for women's basketball? It's allowed Duke to get in on rivalry week with us instead of Tennessee. So has it hurt women's basketball. It's helped Duke. We played them this year. We are going to play. We are going to play big games on national television regardless. If it's Tennessee, great. If it's Duke, great. It will be somebody. Is that good? It's good to see good games on TV. Would I have liked to have played them twice? Sure, because it's a great game. Does the rest of the country want to see it? Yes, probably, you know. But this opens the door for more people to get involved, to create more rivalries. Duke is coming to Connecticut next year. That will be fun. I mean it's going to be great. Our students are ready. We got the tents outside and everything. I'm going to live in one of them.
Q. Geno, I want to follow up a question I asked you about an hour ago, the men's coaches in the women's game. Why is it that you said a man can't get a head job at a major program anymore? What about the fairness of that, what do you think about that?
GENO AURIEMMA: I wish I had a dollar for every athletic director who has said to me I'm not going to do what I did the last time I hired a coach, the last time I went out and I tried to find the best woman coach. This time I'm going to find the best coach. If it's a woman great, if it's a man fine. So I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard that. If I put myself in their situation I understand. I understand the pressures that you're under from a politically correct standpoint. I have got a couple of coaches on my staff that are going to be unbelievably good coaches if they chose to. Jamelle Elliott is the best coach on our staff maybe and she really wants to be a head coach. I would tell any athletic director in America to hire her tomorrow. I just think that until the pool is big enough that you don't have to look far and wide to find who you are looking for. Athletic directors are really in a tough spot. But it's going to change. It's going to change. Because there is more good coaches. More players that have played at a high level. More kids that are willing to go into it and pay their dues. Is it fair? If I was an athletic director and I had a choice between a woman who was really, really good and I thought they were equal, I would hire the woman every time. But I would not cheat my players and hire somebody that wasn't as good simply because they were a woman. I would not do that. I think that has happened and continues to happen.
Q. You are a well rounded sports guy, is there a parallel that can be drawn between yourself and Steve Spurrier?
GENO AURIEMMA: As far as Tennessee is concerned, absolutely. As a matter of fact I get emails all the time whenever we get back from playing down there that's the first thing that shows up on my email. I love your program. I love the way your kids play but I hate you, you're the Steve Spurrier of women's basketball. That one made me smile. I like that one. I think it's well and good. Rivalries are well and good. I used to coach at Virginia, I was an assistant. I used to love going to the games. Dean Smith would come in to town, Jim Valvano, Lefty, the fans used to have a ball at the games. When some guy comes in and is vanilla, you don't give the kids something to get excited about. So we have some fun with those people.
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