April 5, 2003
COACH AURIEMMA: Obviously, any time you are in the Final Four it's tremendous accomplishment for the team and a tremendous opportunity to do something that is very, very difficult to do. I couldn't be prouder of our coaching staff and what they've done to prepare, our team, all year long to get us to this point. And we are anxious to get on the court and play tomorrow night.
Q. There is no need to apologize for your success and how well UConn has done. At the same time is there a problem or perception that too few teams keep coming to the Final Four and winning at all?
COACH AURIEMMA: Yes, I would agree with that. I would agree with that. It is somewhat predictable. I'm sure there is a couple of reasons for that. But it will become less predictable I think. Not less predictable in the sense that certain teams won't always be in the mix but I think less predictable who the four teams will be. You had Oklahoma last year, never been there. Texas this year who hasn't been here in a long time. Rutgers, a couple of years ago. Southwest Missouri State a couple of years ago. Notre Dame. It's going to become less predictable who the Final Four teams are. But you will still have one or two teams out here every year that everybody one goes, oh, yeah. I don't know if you can ever get away from that.
Q. There are probably some matchup problems with Schreiber and Stephens, pretty good post players. What do you do to come back to rebounding scorers like that.
GENO AURIEMMA: Try to guard their guards. I don't know if we match up really well with their big kids. Sometimes you just have bad matchups. There is nothing you can do about it. We have been fortunate, the last couple of games. We had to guard pretty good post players, Purdue, Boston College, both sides, TCU. I think we have to do so things at the offensive end to make sure that they are under the same amount of pressure that we are. So as tough as it is for us to guard them, have to try to counterbalance that.
Q. How good are those two?
GENO AURIEMMA: I think Schreiber is the key, she does so many things; she is inside, outside, good passer, she moves well with the ball. Stacey you pretty much know where she is going to be. You won't have to look hard to find her but Schreiber, she is a lot more difficult to track down.
Q. I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit on what you said earlier. You mention there are a couple of reasons why the same teams keep popping up and you know a lot of people didn't expect you guys to pop up this year at the beginning of this year considering that you lost four starters, but what is it that makes these particular teams seem to be here every year?
GENO AURIEMMA: You look at the men's side for a while there. Carolina, they have been what to 12, 13 Final Four's. Duke. I think talent. We are able to get really, really good players. The expectation level is really, really high. Sometimes it's as easy as that. We get better players than everybody else. We expect more of them, maybe. They expect more of themselves because of the way they play, the program that they are in. Maybe that's why we are here all the time. But I think this year is just a set of circumstances for us where you know we have the best player in the country. After she leaves we might not have the best player in the country and we might not be here, then again we might.
Q. Can you discuss Diana's personality. I think you talked about that during the season. Is it kind of the way she carries herself, is that unusual for the women's game?
GENO AURIEMMA: Her personality has changed a little during the course of the season. You know Diana is a junior in high school now so -- I mean a junior in college -- slip there. So over the course of three years she has really undergone a transformation, so to speak, she is not completely finished yet, but coming out of high school there is a not-so-serious side of her and everything was a joke, and everything was a lark and whatever I want to do I will do it. Whatever I want to say I will say. There is something refreshing about that. There is something also very disturbing about that as a coach. Because you want to be able to have kids that have a personality but you also want to be able to have them use common sense sometimes and that's all part of growing up. And now I think she is much more mature, she has a better understanding of the people around her. The situations that she is in. I don't think she is as impulsive as she used to be. She still wants to hold on to a lot of that free spirited kind of, you know easy going in that California mentality that everybody probably talks about. But the one thing that hasn't changed is that she is a fierce competitor who physically and mentally I think will do anything to win. That hasn't changed. Although that's grown, that's gotten better. She is even more determined and more competitive than at any time I can remember in the past.
Q. The other day in a teleconference you said when you began you wanted to pattern your program after the Carolina men and Texas women; what in particular did you admire about Deane Smith's program and what did incorporate into your program that you saw in his program?
GENO AURIEMMA: Well, for instance, we have a kid starting at point guard for us that nobody in the top 200 in the country recruited, Maria Conlon. I always remember Carolina always had a kid playing for them that wasn't necessarily the highest profile kids. We have had walk-ons play huge roles for us in the past. We have never had anybody be the leading scorer in our league. Enclose. One year I mean. I'm sure we could if we wanted to. We just don't believe in that kind of stuff. I always admire the way that he was able to get the best players in the country to get them to come play for him and put away a lot of their individual stuff for the sake of the team. And I always thought that that would be the way to do it.
Q. For Diana and Jessica, I would like to ask you both how your coach reacted to the loss you had in the biggest tournament. Did you use that loss to Villanova for motivation or did you get rid of it and concentrate of the NCAA tournament.
DIANA TAURASI: We didn't use it for motivation we used it as a loss. The way we approached that game and played that game was uncharacteristic of how we go into games and knowing that if we don't stay focussed and we don't have our lines right we can lose to anyone in the country. It gave us that sense from here on out we have to just intensity, mindset, we have to be at a different level.
JESSICA MOORE: I think that's what we got from it. Going along what Diana said, at any given moment we can play like anybody else can. Whenever we lose our mindset if we don't come ready to play and prepare ourselves in the correct way, bad things are going to happen. I think we probably overlooked Villanova and looking on to the tournament because we played them before. They are a great team and we didn't really prepare for them correctly.
Q. Diana, this year obviously more than the other two of you have had a different role on this team, I was just curious to know if you can talk about that comfort level that you seem to have and that role. Not deferring as much, this is really your team, how you found that this year?
DIANA TAURASI: Yes, it's definitely been different the last two years where we had upper classmen and you need to differ to them for leadership, in the HUD deals, to have court. This year having a lot of the four new freshman that came in and really being only the one that came back that played any big minutes from last year obviously I knew how to take more of that leadership roll. I was just trying to do it in practice, being the vocal leader and I know Jess has done a tremendous job as a vocal leader in practice. Just leading by example practicing in the middle of the court. Tidbits to the young kids, how you have to play when you when you wear our uniform. I think that's just the only thing that's changed.
Q. In the mid '80's you never played Texas obviously, but in the mid '80s, I'm wondering how you followed Texas, was that a team that you aspired to be like and just talk about that a little bit.
GENO AURIEMMA: I remember when the Final Four was in Texas and that had been my first time down to Austin and I remember going, you hear all of these stories about Texas, growing up, and where I grew up the only thing you know about Texas is you hate the Cowboys. So when you get to Austin you look around and you see the school, it's just bigger than life, everything they said about it was true. They have a beautiful campus arena, Irwin Center, the place was packed, fans were great, team was great and I thought how neat that would be to be in a situation like that where women's games are actually treated like it's a men's game. It had the same atmosphere as a big time men's game every night. And again I think Jody was way ahead of everybody else back then. She was way ahead of the curve. She had it all figured out before anybody else did. I think a lot of people modeled themselves after her including us.
Q. I'm curious at this level sporting event, I'm wondering as a young girl if you watched Final Four, if this was a goal of yours; what things did you look ahead to.
DIANA TAURASI: I was younger, I watched women's basketball when it was on. Growing up the only time I got to see it on TV was the Final Four or the last couple of rounds. I think the first game I really remember watching was Tennessee.
GENO AURIEMMA: '95.
DIANA TAURASI: That was the game that always stood out for me. It was a great game. We came down to the wire. That was the first time I watched a women's game and I was excited to watch it so that was probably the first time.
Q. I'm wondering if Gail had thanked you for beating them yet and what you think of Duke since you beat them in February.
GENO AURIEMMA: No, I don't remember getting a thank you card from Gail. After we played them they seemed to go on a tear. What most good teams do after they get beat. They respond to the loss. There pride is hurt. They are a little bit wounded, so to speak. If they are competitors like I'm sure they are, they respond exactly how you thought they would. They made changes in their lineup, they are playing players that weren't getting as many minutes as before and they changed the look of their team a little bit. But they are in a situation similar to what we are going to be in next year. A lot of players are back for the Final Four and the expectations are very high. But this is the first time that they have been in that situation. It will be interesting to go see how they deal with that this weekend.
Q. Do you remember the first time that you brought a team here to the Final Four with all of the media attention and all that goes into it. Obviously Coach Conradt hasn't done that in a while; do you feel that is a big advantage for your team and is there anything that you do to try to increase that advantage?
GENO AURIEMMA: Yes, sometimes I try to increase the advantage by saying stuff in the media that I know will get blown out of proportion goes. But I'm not going to do that this weekend. I only like to do that when we have the best team because then that way you won't be able to throw it in my face because I know we are going to kill them. But to be honest with you, I don't think there is anything that the media attention can could do to their kids unless their kids are immature which they don't seem to be and certainly, the first Final Four I brought my team to was 1991 and we played in New Orleans at the New Orleans arena or something, Lake Front Arena -- I forget what it is called, there was like 9,000 people at that game. We didn't really have to deal much with the media and whenever we did it was a lot of fun. Totally unlike today. I don't mean that it's not fun. There are a lot more of you today than before so it's twice as much fun.
Q. How important is tradition in a team's performance during a year and also have any of your former players addressed the current team this weekend?
GENO AURIEMMA: Yes, a lot of our former players are going to be here, but I don't let them talk to my team. They are liable to bring up something that I don't want them to talk about. But they are an around a lot. My former players are around a lot. My current players, I always make it a point that they get to know who those people were that they watched on television and get to know them firsthand and talk to them, but in terms of anything more significant than that, no, and in terms of tradition, I do think that tradition helps you establish what the framework is that you are working with, you know, so you look at your players and this is what the expectation level is at Connecticut. Can tradition help us this weekend, I don't think so. I don't think so. I think my kids are going to be just as nervous the first five minutes of the game as Jody's kids. Can tradition help us if there is five minutes left in the game and the score is tied? Only if Diana has the ball, then our tradition will help us a lot.
Q. When you see 500 people on line for an autograph session like I'm just estimating, but there were a whole lot of people there today, are you still blown away by that?
GENO AURIEMMA: It's like that way for every team, yes.
Q. Not everyone gets 500 people to autograph? Wasn't the autograph session for all four teams? There were 500 people in for all four teams.
GENO AURIEMMA: Well, I think, you know, a part of it is, you know, we have been on television a lot, and people see us, and they make their judgments whether they like you or don't and that seems to have a pretty strong influence on kids, so they all want to kind of been around that kind of influence, she is the kind of kid -- she has that kind of effect on people. And it's the Final Four. And the kids on all four teams are treated like celebrities. We live in an age when, you know, if you every appeared on television somebody wants your autograph. Whether you are any good at it or not. But there is a lot of kids and a lot of people out there that they get caught up in the whole excitement of the event and the people playing it. And you have a lot of great personalities in this event this year.
Q. Diana, for those of us who don't cover the team regularly we see from year-to-year in these situations Geno and you sit up there and Geno will make these little light-hearted jabs and you smile, I'm wondering though away from the public situations, could you characterize your relationship?
DIANA TAURASI: We fight all the time -- no. I mean as the year has gone by, our relationship has changed. Freshman year he never talked to me, never played me. Last year -- this year has been completely different. The coach over the years with his leader with his point guard has had a different relationship with them and this year has been no different. For the most part we had a really good relationship and when we are on the same page, that's when I think our team is playing the best. That stretch where we had a little slump during the year we were kind of off. We weren't on the same track and before the tournament started we sat down and we talked a little bit and just got things straightened out. I think it's helped the whole team so far. We have a great relationship. We like kidding around but I think the thing we have in common is we hate to lose and we want to win so bad. I think it carries to each other.
Q. My question is how losing the consecutive 70-game winning streak affects your team and you?
GENO AURIEMMA: The streak was not a big a deal to be honest with you. Because I never thought the streak -- once we got to 55 or whatever it was that broke the record, after that I mean I didn't care that much about it. I was hoping that we would lose because I don't think that we -- you are never going to be able to hold on to it forever. I just get that out of the way. And when we did lose it didn't worry me that much. The streak that bothered me the most was losing in the biggest championship game that bothered me a lot. Because any time there is a championship at stake we feel we need to win it and we didn't win it and that bothered me. The streak of 70 itself, that I was not worried about. That was a really good question would by the way.
Q. You seem like you are always emotional, always having fun on the court, I'm just wondering when you get to the Final Four can you take that to another level, how exciting is it to play?
DIANA TAURASI: There no bigger stage right now. A long year, six months of practice, being together, to be in the Final Four it's a lot of fun. Right now we are enjoying it. There is no better place to play right now. Everyone is watching. There is no bigger stage. I think we are really excited. To just go out there and play. You don't treat it any different. That is lot more at stake. You do what you do the whole year, play the same way with the same intensity and that's it.
Q. Coach, coming into the tournament there was a lot of concern about the predetermined sites and what affect they might have on the tournament outcome. Now, as you look back over that situation, what affect do you feel like there was, if any?
GENO AURIEMMA: Well, I think it had the absolutely perfect affect. It proved how stupid an idea it was. So I think it had the exact affect that a lot of us hoped it would, you know. Lower-seeded teams were in position to host higher-seeded teams on their home court which is ludicrous and there was nobody there watching them which was perfect. So both things that the people who made that decision hoped to accomplish failed miserably. So there is only two ways to rectify the situation: Either you go back to giving the teams that earned the top seeds the home court during the regular season, or on selection Sunday you give the top 2 seeds in each region the home court and send eight teams to each site and then only two teams have home court advantage. At least you will be guaranteed that a lot of people will be at the games. So it couldn't have played out any better to be honest with you.
Q. When you look back over the course of the season what teams do you think did things conceptually good on defense that you guys overcame or persevered through them?
GENO AURIEMMA: Where are you from?
GENO AURIEMMA: That's pretty good. Well, I thought you already heard this in the news, I thought Villanova played really great against us. They were fabulous. They made us miss every shot. We shot 30 percent against them and we lost. I just give you a description of what kind of team we are. We play as hard as we can for as long as we can. It's like horse racing, we come out of the gate and we run as fast for as long as we can, then we just stagger across the finish line. That's what we have been doing pretty much all year long against the really good teams. There is really like one thing you can do defensively. We had teams play zone where we had one or two places in the game. We had teams play man-to-man and we missed every shot. We scored 44 points in the first half against Purdue and we don't get a bucket the last eight minutes. So we are weird. We are a weird kind of team. When we are going good and things are flowing for us we hide the fact we are inexperienced and young. But when teams press us we handle it great. I really cannot describe what it is that works against us or doesn't work against us. Sometimes just stand there and wait until we are missing. That seems to be as good a defense as anything else.
Q. Geno, I'm curious, in the media that we don't deal with you all the time, I am looking back in November when you made some comments and all of this other stuff. We are not there to see how what you are saying, the inflection in your voice, we are not looking at your face, we don't know how you mean it?
GENO AURIEMMA: Right.
Q. All we can do is pick up a paper and read the quote. So do you want to tell us what we should deduce when you are trying to be funny, when you are funny, when you are being sarcastic or being serious; how do we know what's going on?
GENO AURIEMMA: I thought you guys were in the newspaper business. I thought you knew everything. You are admitting that you and your guys don't know what there is about everything. Where is ESPN? That should be on the news tonight. (Laughter) Look, with all of the stuff going on in the world you talk to college coaches and you think you are getting a Pentagon briefing sometimes. I mean give me a break. You know. There are kids their age fighting a war and these kids are out here playing a basketball game and you got coaches up here sounding like they are sitting in the Command Center. We are supposed to be out here having fun, enjoy the time of our lives. How do you know? Listen, whenever you ask me a question, think about the question you are asking me and when you get the answer you will know whether I'm making fun of it or answering it seriously.
End of FastScripts...