April 8, 2003
GENO AURIEMMA: I really don't. I don't even know where to begin to be honest with you. To beat Tennessee and to win the National Championship with this group is truly one of the more remarkable things that has ever happened. Maybe they are a lot better than I thought, you know. Maybe they are tired of listening to we're too young, we're too inexperienced, we are not talented enough. We are not deep enough. But we're tough enough. We really are. We really are and we got Diana and they don't.
Q. Ann, is it 19 years old; is that right?
ANN STROTHER: Yes.
Q. How is it somebody 19 years old can show up in a situation like this and do what you did tonight, hit those free throws in the end?
ANN STROTHER: I think it's just the fact that you know we have great players that Diana and Jess take the leadership of this team and without them, I wouldn't even be here playing in this game, so the fact that they just, you know, took all of the pressure off of me especially as a freshman I just came out and played.
Q. Diana, the Connecticut people can probably attest to your exploits in big games more than everybody here but can you talk about maybe relishing the opportunity to play Tennessee in the title game and to play like you did tonight?
DIANA TAURASI: It was unbelievable just to be in the championship game. It was against Tennessee. As a little kid you growing up, you watch it on TV, to be in it and play well and come out with a win just feels really good especially doing it with people that have been through the system, that everybody has been really hard and it's just feels really good.
Q. Also for Ann, were your surprised how many open looks you got from 3-point range after you hit a couple?
ANN STROTHER: They keyed in on D and down low, so I just found a spot to be open. But I probably should have knocked down a few more than I did.
GENO AURIEMMA: And has what's called -- she has good basketball karma. She is always open. There is never a time when Ann Strother is not open. She is always open, always. It's just one of those things in life that you can't explain. No matter who we play or no matter what the situation, no matter what defense they are in, Ann Strother is always open. So is her man when she is on defense; that karma goes both ways.
DIANA TAURASI: We will take it tonight.
Q. Congratulations to you all on a great season. Diana on Sunday, Sue Bird presented you with the State Farm trophy, can you tell me how much that meant to you?
DIANA TAURASI: It was great, just to be honored with that trophy was tremendous and coming from a good friend and an ex-teammate, really my first two years I looked up to her a lot. She's everything that this program is. She is a leader, she does everything the right way, that meant a lot to me, it really did.
Q. For Diana, I know you had a lot of confidence in your team from the start of the season, but after losing everyone and looking at the team and before the season started, even in your wildest dreams can you imagine sitting up here?
DIANA TAURASI: What did I tell you from the beginning of the year? What did I tell you?
GENO AURIEMMA: Tell them.
DIANA TAURASI: The coach kept asking me are we going to be okay? I was like we're going to be fine. We need a little time. Six months and it worked out. They are babies, they grew up. I did too.
GENO AURIEMMA: She actually told me we were going to go undefeated.
DIANA TAURASI: I told him it's going to be the ugliest undefeated season ever.
GENO AURIEMMA: She told me that.
Q. For Jessica Moore, Gwen Jackson was having a good first half, controlling the middle. What did you decide or talk about at half time to bring her back under some contro?
JESSICA MOORE: I think we had to do a good job of containing her once she gets the ball in the middle so D can't stop her so we wanted to push her a little bit, tried to be more physical with her.
Q. Diana, nobody is graduating from this team; can you talk about how that is a different feeling and what it means for next year?
DIANA TAURASI: A lot different from last year. It feels good that we begin the year with the same nucleus. We can build on what we did this year. Hopefully we will continue to get better.
GENO AURIEMMA: In Connecticut they are going to expect us to be good this year.
DIANA TAURASI: We have to play WNBA in is summer.
GENO AURIEMMA: When we get back you're still young, next year you guys will be really good.
Q. Diana you said the babies grew up, when did you see the maturity during the season and what was their demeanor coming in tonight?
DIANA TAURASI: They showed flashes the whole year. Ann at Duke. Barbara against Notre Dame. Wil grabbing those rebounds. It's consistent coming and going, coming in to this game there was a sense of a lot of confidence. It came from coach. It came from all of us. If we play well we play together, that we should win this game because as a team we're really good. Everyone was just calm and when it happened, it just was awesome.
Q. Geno, was there a point when you felt that you did not still have control of this game?
GENO AURIEMMA: Yes, when Brittany Jackson ducked under and banged in that 3, you know, that's when I started to think, you know, that's the kind of goofy stuff that happens, especially when you live in New England, that's the ball between the first baseman's legs, that's the wild pitch, but we called a time-out and we said to the kids, it's supposed to be that way, they are suppose to bang them in and get those calls inside. It's just the way it's going to be because nothing has been easy this year. But we did have control of the game for the longest time. The play of the game, I think is when Diana took that little jump shot, hit the front of the rim and got her own rebound, that was a huge play by D.
Q. Coach, before the Final Four you said that Diana's accomplishment of carrying a team this far was Larry Byrd, what can you compare it to now?
GENO AURIEMMA: I don't know that it gets any better to be compared to Larry Legend. She can't be Michael Jordan because she can't run and she can't jump. So she has got to be Magic Johnson or Larry Byrd as her role models. I think what Diana did through most of the season, I said this the other day, I think she went through a transformation that most college kids go through except she does it in the public eye. They grow, they learn more about themselves. They learn how to handle situations better, how to deal with other people, how to handle expectations, responsibilities, demands placed on you. So basically Diana just became a 21-year-old college kid who is starting to mature into an adult, into a woman. But she does it in front of thousands and thousands of people and carrying the wait on her shoulder with a lot of young kids looking up to her, and I couldn't be prouder of her. I couldn't be prouder that, you know, Connecticut can produce a kid like that.
Q. Geno, this goes along to the Larry Byrd question but does this performance tonight cement her status as one of the all time great college women players like Cheryl Hiller (phonetic), Lieberman, that group?
GENO AURIEMMA: Yes. I would venture to say those 2 never had to win it under these circumstances. You look at who everybody else played with that won a National Championship, you know, and look at where D is. I would venture to say nobody has ever done it the way she has done it. It's never been done like this. Absolutely this puts her right there, you know. If not above anyone who has ever played at this level.
Q. Coach, I understand there is a lot of chapters to be written here, but at the same time is there some historical perspective tonight, is really the sky the limit for your program?
GENO AURIEMMA: I don't know what the limit is anymore. Honest to God, I really don't, I don't know. I watch my good friend Jim Boeheim win a National Championship and he's been coaching 100 years, and he finally got what every coach in America dreams of. Here I am sitting here, for us to have 4 of them and thinking, you know, now I got to do more than that. It's like when you have already gotten more than you ever think that you would ever get, or what, you know, more than some people will ever get. It's hard to think about more, getting more, wanting more, doing more. Because it's just hard for me to fathom all of that, it really, really is. But come next October we will give it a shot and see what happens.
Q. Looking at the three freshman that had a very solid game tonight, from our perspective it didn't look like they were nervous hitting big shots and getting rebounds, what's your perspective on their performance.
GENO AURIEMMA: Barbara took a shot right in the face right in front of our bench and, typical me, all of the kids and coaches, Barbara, stop being such a big baby, her mouth is all full of blood, a big cut on her mouth, it stunned her a little bit because she was off to a good start. It gave us an opportunity to put Wil in there and Wil has just been spectacular these last couples of games. And Ann, as I said, she put so much pressure on herself to play really well that sometimes it gets the best of her. I think tonight she just relaxed and just played baseball and had fun out there. I saw the shoot around today, they had that look. Usually we walk through stuff and go through things and today there seemed to be a little bit of a crisp, a little bit of an edge, a little more of an intensity level. I didn't have to say anything. It wasn't one that I'm nervous, it's like let's get this thing going because I really want to play. They don't play like freshman. Sometimes they do, that's expected. But they're mature, these kids, and they just continue to amaze you, they really do. I couldn't be prouder of them.
Q. Can you remember who you were and what you hoped for when you took this job?
GENO AURIEMMA: The Connecticut job? Well, you know I was a young assistant coach. I was 30 years old and it was 1985 and I thought, you know, let me go up there for a couple of years. Let me see what happens, and hopefully we will be good enough. We will win some games and get better. People will come to respect the job that I do and maybe at some point I get an opportunity to coach someplace where winning a National Championship could be a possibility. So that was my mindset going in and, obviously, you know, after five or six years things changed and Connecticut became the place where I felt like we could do all of those things. But the day I took the job I never envisioned that it would be like this. I never, ever envisioned that it would be like this.
Q. Coach, when you lost that game to Villanova, knowing you have the young team, did you think that you can be here and win it or were you doubting your team? And also one other quick question, you can just talk about the rebounding, how you guys got thoroughly dominated but still won the game?
GENO AURIEMMA: That's famous last words by me, I said in the locker room if we out rebound them by 10 we will win. If they kill us on the boards we're going to lose. So what can I tell you. Yes, they really hurt us bad on the backboard, really really bad. We have not been a good rebounding team all year. I'm kind of not surprised. They are just so big and so athletic. What else did you want to know? The Villanova loss. That Villanova loss was more of a -- it was more of a lack of us being able to handle -- like I think if we would have won the Villanova game we would have lost to Texas or maybe even before that. So maybe what it did is it gave us a sense of, okay, look we are starting to take a couple of things for granted. We are starting to let things slip a little bit and we need it to be, really slapped in the face with reality in a huge game, the Big East Championship game, by a team we have beat for 10 straight years every single year, so I think it was a real, real kind of wake-up call for us and it kind of refocussed us when we got back home so maybe that loss was exactly what we needed to get us to this point.
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