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March 28, 2002

April McDivitt

Michelle Snow

Pat Summitt


COACH PAT SUMMITT: Obviously we're excited to be here. This is I think another step for women's basketball to have the opportunity to play in the Dome in front of 30,000 fans and fans of the game, and this event has grown tremendously certainly over the years. I'm just proud of our team, thanked them yesterday for getting us back to the Final Four. And you may not believe this, but it never gets old. And every team that I've been fortunate to be with at a Final Four has been different. And this team has improved tremendously, and had obviously two great defensive games at the regional level to put us in this position.

Q. Coach, Diana Taurasi had some success against you this year.

COACH PAT SUMMITT: First of all, I know when she sees orange she lights it up. If we could change uniform colors, that might be an option. But as far as her game in Knoxville, she's a type of player, that if she can get good open looks, she can create so many of her opportunities, whether it's posting up, reading screens, she certainly can stretch her defense out and shoot from NBA range, terrific scorer. While we weren't really pleased with how we defended Diana in Knoxville, I think she's a player that has the ability to go off at times. And we just have to do the best job that we can do. And I think we're obviously more aware of her game. But they're not just one player. They have so much balance, and they score as a team, but certainly they have capabilities of going off with one or two or three players or bringing all five of their starters, as well as their bench can score.

Q. When UConn was in here, they asked Geno to describe his relationship with you. So now we'd like you to describe your relationship with him.

COACH PAT SUMMITT: We're competitors. I have a lot of respect for the job that Geno's done in Connecticut. We don't have weekly phone calls, but certainly I think the rivalry in terms of Tennessee and Connecticut has been good for women's basketball, and again, I have respect for the job that he's done and the fact that we can play each other and have such a great impact, the matchup nationally for our sport.

Q. Would you talk a little bit about being in the unaccustomed role of underdog, especially against a team like UConn?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: We've been the top dog, and we are the underdog, and UConn obviously is the top dog. And it's a different role for this team, but I think this team has handled it well. I think we were motivated by our loss at the SEC tournament in LSU when we absolutely guarded no one except the foul. We gave up 81 points, and we learned a lesson. If you don't play defense at this time of the year and rebound the basketball, then you don't stand a very good chance of winning and advancing. And we've done that. But I think the two seed and the loss really motivated this team, and I hope they don't feel pressure. I don't. I was asked before the Regional Championship Game if I felt pressure, and including the AIW now, this is 17 playoff opportunities for a championship for our program, all I felt was that this team deserved to be here. And they deserve an opportunity to play the best team in the country. I have felt we have been in the top four all year, and Connecticut has been the best, game in and game out. But if you're a competitor, and we do have a few of those on our basketball team, then what is the ideal matchup? To play the best, and we get the to play the best. That is something we're inspired and excited about.

Q. I'd like to ask what memories are left from your January meeting with Connecticut and where do you feel you have improved the most since that time.

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, from the first game clearly I have a fond memory of Diana Taurasi and every shot that she took. She was in other zone, and we didn't have an answer. As a basketball team I thought Connecticut's front line people really stepped up big. Swin Cash did. Our defense didn't have that much of an impact. And we did a decent job on the boards, but we fouled. And a lot of the times when you're not committed to being the kind of defensive team that we're committed to right now, it's what I call false effort. We had a lot of false effort and we bailed them out with fouls, and yet they made the plays. They finished plays. They're going to score points. And I think our basketball team now is just better defensively. So that's a reason for us to be excited about going out and giving it another 40-minute effort and see what happens.

Q. Pat, Geno was saying before that he's discovered that the success he's had and the envy that that's created has affected relationships that he's had with other coaches in the country. And I was wondering, is it your experience, since your success is even greater than his, that that does happen and how does that make you feel when people start to relate to you differently because of what you represent?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I really haven't felt that. I think as a head coach how you handle winning and how you handle losing is really important. My take on winning and losing is winning doesn't make you better than anybody else, absolutely not. My parents taught me a long time ago it's a game. If you win a game, you win a game. If you lose, it doesn't make you bad. I don't think that a coach or coaches out there that lose should think, well, we're less than a Tennessee or UConn in terms of the type of people we are. And I've tried to always be mindful of how important it is to network and to have your door open to help other people. And perhaps what he's referring to is it can be lonely at the top. People don't always call you up. They may think you're not approachable, or they may think they're bigger than the game. But I've never felt that. I've just never felt that. I felt really fortunate and blessed to be at Tennessee and to speak in as many clinics, and talk to as many high school coaches, and just help grow our game. And I just think that if you would really approach people and let them know, it's not that big a deal. Now, on the other side of it, everybody wants to see you lose, they're tired of you winning. People are tired of Tennessee winning, I know that. But that's okay. You can cheer all you want to for the underdog, but in the end people follow the top dog.

Q. I'd like to direct this question to Michelle. Michelle, I'd like to know if you feel that Tennessee has an advantage because of the play of especially some of your young players, if it has an advantage of depth in the post, and whether this can come into play if there's fouls that are called both ways?

MICHELLE SNOW: There's definitely an advantage in the post. I think we have six players that can come off the bench to start that are tremendous players. They bring their defensive effort, they bring rebounding, and you're just trying to bring a great intensity. Our young players are one of the reasons we're here. They have really committed to this team. They believe and have become a vital part of this team. And we've told them that, and they stepped up to the challenge.

Q. Pat, every year about this time some of the gender debates about coaching and women's basketball comes up. Last week in Milwaukie Renee and Geno kind of got into it. As the game continues to grow, and the jobs become more lucrative and attractive, is that issue going to contract or expand and is it good for women's basketball one way or the other?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: First of all, I think it's ridiculous that it keeps coming up. I don't even understand it. I can't relate to it. It's all about people wanting to work with young student athletes. And if they desire to be in the women's game, gender should never come into play. And the thought of that is disgusting to me. I'm disappointed about it. If you're going to complain about it, then go coach in another environment. Get out of the women's game or embrace the women's game. I don't think it's going to affect the decision making of an administrator across the country or administrators, because they're professionals and they make decisions and obviously the jobs that we have now are much more appealing in terms of the level of resources that are there, and the contract opportunities, job security, all of those are in place. And if I'm an administrator, I don't care whether it's man or woman, it's who can get the job done. And if I'm on a committee, I only look at the players, take the coaches out of it. The players are the ones that create opportunities for their institutions when it comes to seed. So I hope I answered that.

Q. A couple of the UConn players were saying that this -- UConn/Tennessee rivalry, really transcends them, it's way deeper than before they even got here. I wonder how you guys feel about that rivalry and if you sense the same thing.

APRIL McDIVITT: The UConn/Tennessee rivalry is big. You look at the past of both of these programs, and -- but this year, this team it's a total different -- every year is a total different team, with new chemistry, new players. And I look at last year, as far as where we're coming from, we have a total different team with our freshman. They are a huge part of our success. And I don't really think you should get caught up in the past, because then you'll miss what's going on in the present. So, yeah, it's a huge rivalry, and I'm excited for the challenge tomorrow, and it's going to be fun.

MICHELLE SNOW: Honestly I just think that, like April said, we're not playing in the past. We don't have the past players, they don't have the past players. We have what we have now. We have team players that are committed to coming out and playing hard, and they have the same thing. We're going to come out and lay it on the line.

Q. Your thoughts on Asjha Jones, particularly defensively, where do you see her, and how has she been able to defend bigger players successfully this season?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think Asjha Jones has really improved her game. I think the entire front line in the off season obviously worked hard. But she's got quickness and mobility, and obviously she plays great position, plays really hard, and has a presence. Anytime that you can take a post player and defend a perimeter player, now you've got a presence that's significantly different from what you typically see. I like obviously her game and respect it tremendously.

Q. I had the opportunity to see your game against Connecticut, and I remember the disappointment in your faces when you came and talked about the game. Do you have to be careful tomorrow night not to obsess about want to go play better, against them a second time?

MICHELLE SNOW: You can't come to the game worried about what you did the last time. First of all we come to the game worried about the last time, that's negative. We can't go anywhere but up from where we went last time. We did not have our A game, we didn't play defense, we did not commit to a system. The only thing tomorrow is we're thinking if we execute our game plan we'll be fine.

Q. Coach, when you had a team as dominant as UConn has been this year, was it difficult for you to get your players to respect the fact that on any night they could lose? And considering the rivalry between the two teams, and having gotten this far, do you see any opportunity there that they could be over confident?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think as a coach you're always concerned about the team and what they're thinking, because we're always thinking, well, we've got to do this, this, this, this. Is there a sense of urgency in your team? I mean I felt that way with the '98 team. They were very dominant and played the toughest schedule in the country. Only one team throughout the regular season played us to a single digit, and we still managed to figure out a way to win. But there wasn't a game that I wasn't concerned. I think as far as this game at this time, I don't anticipate any team would be here and overlook anyone else. While Connecticut knows that they handled us in Knoxville, I just think they've got four seniors -- Taurasi is not your typical sophomore. She spent two summers with Geno in USA Basketball. That makes her at least a junior, don't you think? And so they've been together. I mean they just play solid together, and I can't imagine they would not come in ready to play because they've got great leadership as well as everything else.

Q. You've had a lot of changes in the lineup over the course of the season, I'm wondering if it was difficult to get your chemistry together or did that work in your favor?

APRIL McDIVITT: The question is about the lineup changes, I think that's a tribute to our team and our depth. And I don't think that -- all of us want to be out there in the starting lineup. There's a lot of competition. That that's what made practice very competitive. I think that helped us more than hurt us. I'm privileged to be on this team and be a Lady Vol, and I think that it really did help us, our depth helped us, especially in preparation in March. We had knock down, drag out practices, and it was good for us. I think we're prepared.

Q. We've been hearing comparisons all year about this Connecticut team, how it might compare to your '98 team, and I'm wondering if you see any comparisons in style and the way they play, the personnel, anything at all?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: It's interesting, I thought the 2001 Connecticut team played a lot more like our '98 team, we played more like they played. This team is a little bit different in that they pass the ball so well. I don't think that we pass the ball as well in '98. We created off of our defense. We scored probably 75 percent of our points in transition, and this team certainly is capable of doing that. But I think that what has been to impressive about this team, aside from their great rebounding and commitment to defense is that they just -- their offense, as you see it, there's no way to describe it unless you just say, I said it looked like a Swiss watch. But everything is click, click, click. They play well together, and they read well. But they're passing on the back court cuts. They're passing obviously in transition, but their ball movement and player movement is just really so defined within their system. And it's really the best passing team that I've seen in the women's game, and I've been in it a long time. And I think it is the best I've seen, when you get in the half court game.

Q. How do you feel about being such a big underdog, and what type of motivation is that for you?

MICHELLE SNOW: If you're the underdog you have no pressure. That means we have no pressure, we come in, play, execute, and play our game.

APRIL McDIVITT: I think I agree with Snow. I think that for 40 minutes you're at the Final Four, and for 40 minutes we're going to go hard and go at it. And you can't look at the pressure, because if you do that then the other team has already got you beat.

Q. April, from your perspective, and you probably have a pretty good one, what happened when Taurasi went off the last time you guys played?

APRIL McDIVITT: What happened? She hit some shots. She hit some key shots. And we know that she's a great shooter, she's a great player. And what happened is we didn't defend her as well as we should have. But, you know, she made some big plays, and I give her all the credit. She's a great player, and we'll hopefully defend her a little better tomorrow.

Q. Other than the game, and this is for the players, other than the game that you played against UConn this year, the fact that they have a chance to match your '98 team's record probably serves as a little extra motivation for you guys to protect UT's turf, if you will.

MICHELLE SNOW: We're in the present right now. We're all about this year's team. We're a whole new team. We can't play in the past. We don't want to get caught up in what happened in the past. I think if we come out and play our game plan, we'll be fine, we don't have to worry about it.

APRIL McDIVITT: I agree with Michelle. We're playing for the present. UConn's been the best all year long, and they have a perfect record, and I'm just excited about the challenge.

Q. I want to ask you the same question about Diana. Why do you think she's been able to have her best games against Tennessee? And two, do you think she represents an evolutionary step in the women's game? Do you see anything about her that you haven't seen before in a female player?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: The first part of your question?

Q. Why has she been able to have such great games against you?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think clearly, Diana Taurasi, you can see it on the court, she's a great competitor. I would anticipate that Tennessee is a team that would bring out the best in a great competitor, if you look at the matchup and the rivalry, and certainly she knows that stakes are usually high, whether it's for seeding or if it's for a Regional Championship or a chance to win a National Championship. We bring out the best in her. We have to live with it. As far as the whole evolution of guards and her style, I think you have to look across the board. And I'll speak first to guard play, guards are bigger, stronger. They are obviously more versatile. They can elevate. She's a player, like a Holdsclaw that you can defend, but she can elevate and get her shot off. In most cases, and Chamique played at the three, and Taurasi playing at the three or two or one, wherever, she can play all three spots. And a lot of times it's a difficult matchup, because not every team has players that can match her size, and also defend her skills, the fact that she can shoot the three and put the ball on the floor and post up. But I think you look at another part of this game that I think has been huge in our development is post players that can play like guards. And certainly I commend Geno for taking really three big players and two guards and being as successful and dominant as they've been. I look at Michelle Snow, who can take people off the dribble and shoot over people, and typically when I first started coaching a post player was a post player. It's like you would warn them, you get off the block, you're in trouble, and we're in trouble. And now we've seen those players develop their ball handling skills, their passing skills, three point shooting ability. Look at Asjha Jones, she can step out and hit a three or put it on the floor. And I think that is very significant as we have watched the whole evolution of this game, as to where this game is headed. And it's going to resemble the men's game more and more. It already has, but I think it will continue to in terms of skill and the abilities that players bring to the court.

Q. Michelle, what do you remember about your 2000 Final Four experience, is there anything you can draw from that to help you tomorrow?

MICHELLE SNOW: The only thing you can draw upon to help you is how much better the players that played in that game have gotten. They've gotten extremely better. They're playing on another level. And the motivation is you lost. You came and you got embarrassed. So it tells you just to come out tomorrow and just put everything on the line. We didn't do that in 2000.

Q. Would it be mean more to beat Connecticut given everything that's been said and written about them this year, how they're undefeated, rather than beating any other team?

MICHELLE SNOW: We don't care who we beat to get to the championship. It doesn't matter. It's the Final Four. It's -- we're not going to remember who you beat down the line or whoever, they're just going to say the winner of the 2002 championship was. It doesn't matter who you had to beat to get there.

APRIL McDIVITT: I was going to back up Michelle, and it is right. Down the line in 10-15 years, they're not going to remember who won the Semifinal game, they're going to remember who won the National Championship. And it's a game we have to play to get there.

Q. Michelle, I know you have a lot on your plate, a lot of things to worry about tomorrow, this probably isn't one of them, but if you get the opportunity are we going to see you dunk? And how do you feel about that just in general? What you've been able to contribute on that level to the women's game, I think you have half of the known dunks in women's competition, how does that make you feel?

MICHELLE SNOW: That's all great and fine. It's fine and dandy, like I say it's not nothing to worry about now. The opportunity presents itself, we're up, definitely I'll go for it. I want to -- I don't want to put my team in a position where that could cost us the game. But as far as what it's done for the women's game, that's why I wanted to do it. I wanted to take the women's game to a different level, and be a part of it. The coaches have been very supportive of that.

Q. What has Connecticut done to limit you in games in the past? Do you need to try to change your approach tomorrow night to what they may throw at you?

MICHELLE SNOW: It's kind of like my coach is always telling us in practice, it doesn't matter what the other person does, it's what you do. Flat out, when I watch those films, I'm just standing, I'm not working hard. And I can't come in tomorrow and tell my team, look them in the face and not be able after the game to tell them I gave all I had, and I busted it to do all I could to help the team, be it rebounding or scoring or whatever.

Q. Coach Auriemma said this team and your team in '98 do well for the women's game, these dominant teams. Others argue that parity is what is needed. Can you see any changes from the '98 team that would be a result of whatever happened that year?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: A result in terms of --.

Q. Of the game.

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Let me correct myself when asked about comparing this team and your '98 team, and I mentioned, I think I said the '01 team, but it's the 2000 team that I thought played much like our '98 team. So they pressed a lot with that team, they haven't had to this year, but they're certainly capable. But I think the '98 team, and obviously we were fortunate enough, that was our third consecutive championship, but I think because we had such success that year, and there were a lot of eyes on our program and Holdsclaw and the great freshman class, I thought it was really good for women's basketball. I think what Connecticut has done has been good for the game, because look how many people are watching to see now are they going to go undefeated, and is this one of the best teams ever or the best team ever, and that's good. But it hasn't held back parity. I think you have to look at all the matchups in post season, and there are a lot of upsets. And we are seeing those upsets because we are developing all these other teams. And will there be a team next year like Connecticut. There may be, but I would anticipate it may be a while before we see a team dominate the way they have dominated and the way the '98 team dominated.

End of FastScripts...

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