April 4, 2005
DEBBIE BYRNE: We're going to let Kim make an opening statement and then let's direct your questions as a group to the athletes as we're going to have plenty of time in here with Kim after we release them. So Kim, if you would like to talk about tomorrow's match-up at all and then we'll go to questions for the student-athletes.
COACH KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Well, the opening statement is there will be a new national champion that hasn't won one before, one way or the other, and two teams will be wearing green. How is that for a little bit of -- I'm trying to wake up here.
Q. Chameka, y'all were probably both, Michigan State and y'all, considered underdogs coming in. Who is the underdog now?
COACH KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: It would have to be us, they got a 1 seed.
CHAMEKA SCOTT: I guess we still have a 2 in front of our name but I think the match-up is going to be good no matter what. It's the national championship and you want to consider that the best two teams in the nation so no one is really the underdog. It's just about going out and making the big plays and seeing who comes out on top.
Q. Stephanie, I know you have seen some strong front courts in Big 12 play and other parts of this tournament; how does their inside tandem of Roehrig and Shimek compare to what you played against?
STEFFANIE BLACKMON: We're looking at them, and they look pretty physical. Both of them are, Kelli Roehrig is a big wide body and Shimek is a pretty physical player so they have definitely have different games. Shimek can shoot it outside as well. So we got to look and see what their strengths are and guard them toward their weaknesses.
Q. Chelsea and Chameka, even last night after the national semi-finals you guys had that even demeanor to you as you have during the whole tournament and during the whole season. Before the season started did you guys expect to be here tonight on the eve of the national championship?
CHELSEA WHITAKER: Yeah, we expected to, but there's a long road in between our dreams and actuality. So it's a blessing to be here and we just know that we have more work to do.
CHAMEKA SCOTT: I agree with Chelsea. In the back of your head you've been thinking about it as far back as June and as it got closer we started to realize more and more that it could actually happen. So I think that part of the success that we have had is just focusing each game one at a time and not looking too far ahead. Now that we're finally here it's so close and it's too close to lose focus now. So we're just going to consider it as just another game and come in with our heads right.
Q. Stephanie, when you were being recruited, Baylor was in the middle of a 20-loss season. Can you talk about what Coach said, what she said to you to convince you to come to the program and from that point could you have believed that you would get to this point four years later?
STEFFANIE BLACKMON: She just kind of basically embraced me and said it's not going to be easy, you're going to have to roll your sleeves up and work, coming from where the program was to where it is now. But I definitely felt that it was a possibility and I believed in what she said and what she -- well, I believed in what she could do. I knew that she could do it and I just wanted to jump on board and try to help.
Q. Sophia, could you talk a little bit about your basketball background, just how long you've been playing, maybe what you consider your strengths and weaknesses and how much maybe further you think you can go.
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Don't tell him your weaknesses. (Laughter.) We have got a game tomorrow. (Laughter.)
SOPHIA YOUNG: I've been playing basketball for six years now. I don't know, I guess my strength is just my athletic abilities and I don't know, hopefully I get to go farther. I don't know how far I'll go, but, I don't know.
Q. Maybe the seniors could address this. When the season began people were picking Texas and K State to win the Big 12 and Kendra Webber and Tiffanie Jackson as Player of the Year. When did you guys sense or really feel like this was a national championship caliber team? Has it been just recently during this 19-game win streak or was it early on something you believed and it's sort of developed.
CHELSEA WHITAKER: I felt like last year when we made Sweet 16 and we still had some loose ends to get together but I felt like we were going to be a competitor next year and we had potential to make it to the national championship. But as far as Texas and K State and everybody else being ranked in front of us, we kind of liked the view from the back seat. It takes a little pressure off of you and when you do upset someone, it's bigger news. So we're used to being an underdog and just like we'll finish the season being the underdog, so we're comfortable with that.
Q. Chelsea, this is for you. You said at each one of the regionals you just really can't believe that you're here. This is like a dream. It really hasn't hit you. Is it pretty much the same now that you're on the eve of the national championship game.
CHELSEA WHITAKER: It's the same now and that's why I feel like we're playing good basketball because we're real humble about our situation and we're appreciative of each round that we make it to. And we don't ever underestimate the opponent that we're playing and we think that puts us in a position to win the game.
Q. For all the ladies, if you had one word to describe your coach, what would it be?
STEFFANIE BLACKMON: Tenacious.
CHAMEKA SCOTT: Intense.
ABIOLA WABARA: Intense.
SOPHIA YOUNG: Intense.
CHELSEA WHITAKER: Intense. (Laughter.)
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I'm waiting for the last. (Laughter.).
DEBBIE BYRNE: Four out of five. (Laughter.)
Q. For Abby. Wednesday morning the season is over. You guys are almost -- you have that demeanor again, that you want to continue playing? Do you want to go on even after tomorrow night?
ABIOLA WABARA: Yeah. But, it's over and if you finish in a good way maybe we'll rest a little bit. But, yeah.
SOPHIA YOUNG: Good answer.
Q. Chelsea, what do you guys do with that intensity that Coach brings? How much does that drive you?
CHELSEA WHITAKER: It drives a lot because if it doesn't drive us then we'll be sitting next to her, so -- (Laughter.)
CHELSEA WHITAKER: And she's, she doesn't, you know, she only accepts the best from us and if we're not putting our best out there I'm sure she will tell us, she will tell y'all also screaming at us. So it just makes us a better team. And it just drives us to want to do better.
DEBBIE BYRNE: If there are no further questions for the girls I'll let them go to their break-out sessions. And now we'll take questions for the coach.
Q. Who do you feel wears the destiny tag better tomorrow night, yourself or Michigan State?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I'm not sure how to answer that. I can just tell you both teams deserve to be in the championship game. It's good for women's basketball that you will crown a new champion tomorrow. And both teams are similar in that they play with a lot of energy. They dive on the floor for loose balls, they never get rattled. The difference is they will play zone and we'll play man.
Q. Could you -- I know you probably told this story a hundred times but retell the story about how you discovered Sophia. Was she a junior or senior in high school when you first saw her and what were your first impressions?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: The first time I saw her was the beginning of her senior year, she played her sophomore year in high school and because of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Foreign Exchange Rules she had to sit out her junior year and her senior year she played. Jennifer Roberts, my assistant, is from the same high school, the same area, Shreveport, Louisiana. Her father was an AAU Coach there, her brother was in school with Sophia, and when Sophia came over as a foreign exchange student, everyone at that school I guess recommended to Sophia that she play basketball and she wanted to learn the game. And she contacted Jennifer's father and he turned her down three or four times because he wasn't coaching anymore. And he said after about the fourth phone call his heart just told him he needed to go meet this young lady. And he went out there and he casually mentioned it to his daughter. And she said, "Dad says we need to go it to Shreveport, this kid's a diamond in the rough." And we drove over there and it took me about five minutes and I said, "Let's don't say one word to anybody." I said, "We need to sign her before anybody knows anything about her."
Q. What was it about her?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Just athleticism; run the floor, block shots, leap out of the gym. She didn't know the game, she probably didn't know one post move at that time. And to watch her progress the last three years we have had her, she now knows post moves, she can shoot facing the basket, she has tremendous leaping ability. Her speed and quickness, her lateral speed and quickness, as you saw in the LSU game last night, she will bait you into throwing it to where you think an open player is and she will quickly get over there and deflect a pass or steal a ball.
Q. A little bit off the game, but looking to the future, how do you feel about the three-point line and the talks of moving that, what have you, particularly in regards to international play, which you have some history with and it seems like all of this is directed towards that as opposed to the college game.
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I think three things have changed the women's game from when I played. One is more television exposure, two is going to the smaller basketball and three is the three-point line. I like it where it is. I don't particularly care if they change anything. So if that answers your question. I don't think there's a need to change. I think that Ed Stites put the three-point line in and what a great gentleman he was. I got to know him through USA Basketball. And none of us thought at the time when he brought that subject up that it would be something we would all encourage and now that it's been brought into the game, both men's and women's game, it's a welcome addition.
Q. Could you talk specifically about Abby's story, about how you got her and then how you have sort of put this team together from some unusual roots?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Abiola Wabara is from Parma, Italy. Her aunt Phoebe, and I'm not seen even sure of Phoebe's last name, but Phoebe was in Truitt Seminary, she was in school at Truitt Seminary at Baylor University, she emailed my assistant Coach, Johnny Derrick, as you can imagine, we get a lot of emails from parents and grandparents who think their children and grandchildren are the greatest things since sliced bread. But something about this email stood out with Johnny and he arranged that when Abby came to the States to visit her aunt, to just please bring her by and let us meet her. And she brought her in our office, because of NCAA rules not allowing you to have a tryout, and she had no game film with her, I shook her hand and her hand was very large and I thought, "Hmm, that's a good sign." And then when she stood up, she was cut and just had a great body. And we got more information out of her. I then picked up the phone and called Janice Lawrence, who played with me at Louisiana Tech and in the Olympics, she played professionally in Italy for 15 years. Abby did not play professionally; she played club ball and I thought surely she has to have heard of this young lady if she's any good. And Janice did know her and Janice said, yes, you need to sign her. That's how Abby got to Baylor.
Q. It was easy to see last night when a question came up about Baylor's background that you were just tired of the question, you didn't want to hear it. What is it about these questions that bother you right now?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: It's old news. It happened two years ago. Nothing else can be written that has not already been written.
Q. Does not what's happening now feel good for you?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Oh, we would feel good rather that happened or not. And I just think the focus needs to get away from there. The focus needs to be on what we're doing now without mentioning that. That's old news. It's just old.
Q. Everybody's saying that since there are two new teams in here this is a sign of parity. But what is the parity formula? How much of it is talent getting spread around and if talent is getting spread around how much of it is the fact that y'all have become better pitchmen and salesmen and is there some other ingredient in there that's helping talent get more spread out?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I think it's the universities are emphasizing women's basketball more. They're paying higher salaries, they're getting better coaches in there. And as you well know in any business that when you have higher salaries, you have higher demands and coaches are working extremely hard to build programs now. Players see now that they don't have to go all across the country just to go to the powers to be, that they can stay at home in a regional area possibly and let their families see them play. And that's good for women's basketball. Parity is good for any sport, but it's especially good for our sport right now.
Q. With the WNBA more and more part of the equation now of basketball, what do you think Sophia's time in the tournament has done for her stock there?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Well, I think her tournament and hopefully her career will basically help Sophia make a living doing this some day. And to think that she's only been playing her fifth or sixth year of basketball, you have to believe she's only going to get better and better. As I said earlier, you don't coach speed and quickness; you recruit it.
Q. You and Joanne both are mother's with two young kids, son and a daughter, you both took over your programs in 2000. This seems like a lot of similarities. I wonder how well do you know her and if you could sort of talk about maybe the similarities between the two of you.
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I don't know what her state of her program was in. I would think Michigan State was not as far down the totem pole as Baylor, but I stand to be corrected. I would think Michigan State had had a little bit of success in women's basketball. So I don't know what kind of program she took over. I know the job that she's done there has been remarkable. It's just great. There's no greater feeling in the world as a mother than to turn around and have your children and your husband sharing in anything good that happens in your career, because they certainly get the brunt of anything that's bad when you go home or when you're, you know, at a loss for words after a defeat. Joanne, the first time I met her, she was an assistant at Auburn under Joe Champion. And then I followed her career as I do and as anybody does for each other in this profession on where she was and when she went to Maine and the job she did there. And she just is a very personable person. The first time I met her she is just bubbly. She's got a lot of energy and you would think that you had known her all your life when you first meet her.
Q. What's your routine today and how close are you able to keep it to any other day before a game this season?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Well, spending from 11:00 to 1 o'clock doing all this stuff is not close to routine for us. We won't get on the practice floor until 1:00, something, but we were required to be here at 11:00. So that's not routine. We will do what's asked of us. We will get off our feet this afternoon. We will watch more film this evening and have a dinner. We'll try to keep it as routine as possible, but you know that this is a happening now, this is an event. And we're going to do our part to promote the women's game.
Q. Speaking of watching film, how late were you up last night or this morning watching film?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I went to bed at 3:30.
Q. Did you get a chance to watch the second half of the Michigan State game?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: No, sir, I did not.
Q. Did you see it on film yet?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Yes, I did.
Q. What was your reaction to their comeback?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: It was very similar to ours. They never got rattled. I thought that they played with a lot of purpose. I thought that their energy, even when behind at a moment when they might have doubted themselves, they never let it creep in or happen. And just commendable. I was out in the parking lot doing a live interview and they hollered that Michigan State came back and won. And that's how I found out about it.
Q. You've had a few other things on your plate the past month but has anyone in your world been talking about the new Title 9 policy that's come out from the education department?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: No.
Q. The other day you talked a little bit about coming over from Louisiana Tech to Baylor as far as Leon starting that. Can you talk about the role that Sonja Hogg played over at Baylor, because that was the other piece?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: When I was being recruited out of high school Louisiana Tech had made its first appearance in a Final Four. Sonja Hogg was the Head Coach and Leon was the assistant coach. When they began recruiting me they quickly told me their roles. And Sonja was the most wonderful recruiter, she worked hard at it. She stayed on the telephone, she called so much I had to tell my mother to tell her I would call her back. Back in those days you didn't have the limited phone calls; it was unlimited. And she did her job and was one of the best recruiters in the women's game back in the early '80s. When we signed at LSU Tech and all of us that played there will tell you, they did a remarkable job, both Sonja and Leon, at understanding each other's strengths and weaknesses and making it work. Leon did the majority of the coaching, Sonja did all of the recruiting and we went to four Final Fours and won two national championships. So I got a dose of two very, very good people that were legends of the game.
Q. Speaking of recruiting, you didn't have a lot to sell when you first got there, the last two years, should it be easier now for you to recruit?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: It will open some doors, but it's not going to walk in and say "Oh, I want to come to Baylor." I mean there's too many great programs out there. We have continued to get in doors that we couldn't get into five years ago. But we're still going to have to continue to be selective and we're going to have to make sure we're not wasting our time in recruiting. I don't like coming in second and third. Some coaches get a kick out of being in somebody's top five. That doesn't do much for me. I want to go in there and I want to get the players that can come and help us compete and win. Recruiting is the life blood of all college coaches. It is some of the greatest joys come from recruiting and some of the biggest disappointments come from recruiting. We will continue to do what we have done. I hope that this will open up some eyes on the national scene where maybe we haven't been able to go before.
Q. It seems like second best has never been good for you in anything; where does that fire and passion come from?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I think you're born with it. I think that -- I have a younger sister and she and I are 11 months apart and we're opposites. You're born with it. I was brought up in a family of middle income, self-employed parents that provided for their children, did not spoil their children, were very proud of their children, and I watched my parents work. I watched them leave their work and support their children at any of their events. I think back to the days when integration hit, when I was in the second grade and the greatest decision my parents ever made was to keep me in public schools. And from that day forward I learned a lot about life. It's a remarkable story, because when you're in second grade, what are you, eight years old? And you come home and you ask your parents what's going on? And they explain to you in as easy a terms as they can on what's happening in the world, that impacted my life far more than anybody will ever realize. It was absolutely the greatest decision they ever made for me.
Q. If a program decides it wants to get serious about being competitive in women's basketball, what advice would you give it?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: It starts at the top. You better have a president that knows athletics. You better have a president that understands coaches and then you better work for an athletic director that will give you the tools and the resources to get it done. And yet be patient and let you build it.
Q. Your players use the word "intensity," and I've heard you talk about your team playing with emotion and you coach with emotion, is that something that you teach when they get to Baylor or is it the kind of players you recruit or what combination?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I don't -- I think when I'm recruiting they probably know that before I walk in the door, my coaching style. I don't think it's something that you teach. I think it's something that rubs off on them because of the way we conduct our practices, the way we conduct our film sessions, the way we live our life. I think the greatest example a coach can be to young people is what you do. Let them observe you as a coach, don't tell them what you want them to do; let them observe you. They know I'm intense, they know that I'm going to challenge them, but they also know I'm going to love them and hug them and I'll do anything in the world for them. But we have a job to do on that floor and I'm going to fight for them too. I'm going to fight for our program. That's the way I was coached, and it brought out the best in me and that's the way I coach.
Q. A sort of recruiting question to dovetail the last question. There's apparently legislation in the pipeline that would potentially restrict the contact that college coaches can have with high school athletes during the high school year; do you have any reaction to that?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I'm not sure of all of the legislation, honestly. I leave that up to my assistant coaches, my compliance people and just tell me what I need to know. They got legislation out there to get rid of practice players for the male practice players. There's so much -- I don't even give it a thought until it comes across my desk honestly.
Q. Considering these teams had participated in two of the three greatest comebacks in a Final Four game from deficits, we may not have a winner until Thursday. In your mind what has to happen tomorrow night for Baylor to be successful?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: We got to attack their match-up zone. They got to be very patient and aggressive in a taking their match-up zone.
Q. How about defensively?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Well, I think we got to continue to do what we have done. I think it's those defensive principles in our man-to-man that got us here. They're not going to play a whole lot of players. We may play more players than they play, depending upon the flow of the game. But we're going to have to guard staggered screens, we're going to have to guard big girls inside. We're going to have to rebound.
Q. What is your biggest concern about Michigan State?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Their match-up zone. Just it's very good and we see a lot of it in the Big 12 with the Iowa States and those guys that run it a lot. But Joanne learned that probably from Joe Champion, I thought he was one of the masters at teaching a match-up zone defense. And the thing that I respect so much about them is they stay with it. I'm not a zone coach, I tend to want to pull them out if they hit a three or something like that. But they're very disciplined with their match-up zone.
Q. Emily had struggled in the post-season, even starting with the Big 12 tournament, particularly from the three-point line and I know your strategy has been just keep shooting it, but was there any strategy involved in moving her inside more last night?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Well, Seimone Augustus was guarding her and if you go back to the very first play of the game, we went right at Seimone with Abby. I just felt like that we need to challenge Emily, we needed to challenge Seimone Augustus inside. I feel like Emily, she's a true post player. That's what we recruited her to be. She has accepted her role when you got a Blackmon and a Young inside, she's accepted her role that I'll do whatever to help the team. So she's been asked to play the three and shoot the perimeter shot more. Last night we put her inside and realized that she could get some space between herself and Seimone because that hook shot is Emily's shot. And she got on a role with that and we were playing the zone defense, which allowed her to stay in the game longer and she was very effective for us.
Q. Could you talk about Emily and just kind of relishing that sixth person role. She started some last year, but she seems to really like to come off and give you a boost?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Those kids, they all want to play. They're the happiest bunch to be around because they love winning. And Emily would do anything in the world to be a part of it if it's one minute, 20 minutes, 25 minutes, she is the first one on the court at practice and she's the last one to leave. And it's become kind of comical because when we go on the road, Emily is like got her shoes on before we get off the bus, and everybody else has got to get their shoes on and take their sweats off and it's like she's sprinting out there because she's got this little routine that "I'm going to be the first one to take a shot on this floor." So she's a gym rat. There aren't many girls that have wrist action like that and that strength from the perimeter at that size. That's many hours of labor in a gym with her dad rebounding for her.
Q. Both you and Michigan State showed yesterday that teams without Final Four experience can come back from deficits and beat teams more experienced and all that; what is the biggest reason that a team can succeed in spite of not having that experience that people love to talk about?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: I think it's just parity. You've got teams that have talent on them now. You've got coaches that prepare their teams and what to expect and you've got coaches that regardless of the score they're going to keep coaching and challenging their players. I've always said this: The best teams don't always win, do they? How many times have you seen that? I've seen it in our conference. We have had teams in our league that have an All-American at every position. And they don't get out of the first or second rounds of the playoffs. It's team chemistry, it's believing in each other, it's believing in what the coaches put into place and the game is just really getting good for women.
Q. As a player you've won championships, been to the Olympics, had parades thrown for you; how does this compare personally for you to this?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: The joy I get out of this is watching those Baylor fans last night and watching my team. That's the most enjoyable moment for me is just to watch those people experience something for the first time that I've had the privilege of experiencing in the 12 times I think I've been to a Final Four. That brings a smile to my face. And not just the people here, but the people that can't be here back in our community and in our state.
Q. Can you talk about Kelli Roehrig on their team, just kind of problems she will present inside.
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Let's just talk about both of them inside. Big body, we saw it in the Minnesota team. Just strong, never gets rattled. If you scout those players you don't leave a gym and go, wow, they leap out of the gym, they get up there and I think hang on the rim. But you leave a gym and go, I would like to have players like that on my team. They know how to win and they know what to do to win. And when I left the floor at the end of the first half last night, I thought that Joanne has two special post players in there.
Q. Do you see a lot of yourself in Joanne in terms of where you have come taking programs that have gone nowhere, five years in the Final Four the first time, you both are a little animated on the sidelines to be, you know, charitable?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Well, now Joanne will tell you that's her Italian culture. That's what she told me the first time I talked to her. I said, "I love your personality." She said "Coach, I'm Italian, we talk with our hands." Well, I don't know what I am, I need to go back home and check. I don't know the state of Michigan State's program when Joanne took over, and I apologize for that. I know the state of our program was seven wins. I do know what she's done the times she's been there. And it's remarkable. And it's very similar to what we have done. She's done it in a fantastic conference as we have. She has energy, as I said earlier, when asked about Joanne, the difference in our two philosophies is she's more zone-oriented on defense, and I was coached by a lot of man-to-man coaches.
Q. The national champions recently have been kind of built around one sort of superstar Player of the Year type of player. Are these two teams here kind of an example of team over that one sort of star or does Sophia kind of fit into that sort of role?
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: Well, with Sophia being a Kodak All-American, I would think of the two teams that she's probably going to get the most attention. But I think what you're seeing is two up-and-coming programs whose coaches have put in their own philosophy and style of play and their players are playing so hard and you don't have a Player of the Year on the floor, you don't have a power to be on the floor as far as those teams that have won numerous national championships, and I think that's exciting. I may not have thought that when I was at Louisiana Tech and we were in the Final Four every year, but I think that this generation, this era, for people to turn the TV on tomorrow and watch Baylor University play for a national championship is pretty awesome.
DEBBIE BYRNE: I'm letting her go then if there's no other questions.
KIM MULKEY-ROBERTSON: All right. Thank you.
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