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March 30, 2000

Tamika Catchings

Kristen Clement

Semeka Randall

Pat Summitt


Q. I know you've faced Rutgers in the past and they keep getting a little closer. Is there any specific that that team based on what you've seen on the tapes worries you?

KRISTEN CLEMENT: We haven't watched them too much yet on film, but as far as playing them last year we know they are a very athletic team. They have got great post play. They are very quick and I think the key to their team is they play very physical, too, so I think that we are going to have to come out be mentally ready and be ready for a battle out there. It's going to be very physical.

Q. Semeka, can you please talk about Carol and what she's meant to the team this year and how important it is to be at the pointguard for you?

SEMEKA RANDALL: Kara brings a lot to our basketball team, she opens up the court for people like myself, Tamika, to penetrate, she's a huge factor as far as putting her at the pointguard position, because you can't really -- she's definitely a scorer and she can take it to the hole.

Q. For Tamika, we want to know basically how you felt after practice with your ankle and what you did during the week to help you get back on to the court and also to Semeka and Kristen and how you felt when she went down, how you feel now that she's back playing again?

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: I feel fine. This whole weekend I've been rehabbing like crazy and icing it and elevating it. I came out today and I felt really good and I'm really excited about being back on the court.

KRISTEN CLEMENT: As far as -- as far as Tamika going down obviously it's quite scary when you see one of your teammates, especially someone like Tamika go down but the thing about our team is we sort of knew that we had to rally around her regardless if she came back into the game we knew that the team was going to win this, not just Tamika. She came back strong and thank God she came back in, but at times like that it's a team effort and we have to sort of rally around situations like that.

SEMEKA RANDALL: Just like Ace just said, we've tried to rally around her and I know how Tamika is, she's a fighter and she's going to get back in there and I know she's going to be ready for the game Friday night. For Ace, I know you've been back here for the St. Joseph's game before but can you talk about the feelings of coming back to the Philadelphia area I can't for the Final Four.

KRISTEN CLEMENT: It's great obviously -- this is a little more special, not that the St. Joe's game wasn't but there's a lot more on the line here, a National Championship, sort of a dream. Who wouldn't want to come back to their hometown and win a National Championship in front of the people they grew up around and have an opportunity to watch me grow as a young athlete. I'm very excited but we've got to play Rutgers tomorrow and it's strictly business.

Q. Could you just talk about what it's like to be out there and kind of see all the young kids especially the young girls chanting your names and getting so excited about this event what it means to you?

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: It feels good. It's not often you can go somewhere and people are calling your name and holding up signs. It just shows you where women's basketball is going. You've got a lot of young athletes out there, getting excited about playing basketball and that's why we want this game to grow. We want everybody to play and everybody to participate.

Q. After the disappointment of not repeating last year's champions was the pressure to get back to this point this season a burden or an incentive for you?

SEMEKA RANDALL: There's really no pressure as far as us. We just wanted to prove something to ourselves, that we belong here and we worked hard each day. We have practices and we got up at 4:00 AM in the morning to practice, so this is something a little special to us, to really comeback and redeem ourselves from the disappointing loss to Duke last year and we're just looking forward to this opportunity to be here and not just the fact that we're happy to be here; we're here on a mission and we want to get a job done.

Q. Pat, your reaction to the fact that a lot of people are assuming a Tennessee/Connecticut final on Sunday?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Our basketball team is not assuming that. I think we are certainly focused on playing against Rutgers and understanding the challenge that lies in front of us. I think our basketball team knows that they have one of the best defenses in America, and we think we have a good defense and we know it's going to be a real battle. And physically, athletically, they are a very imposing team. I told our team in our team meeting yesterday, it's so important this time that you remember three Ps: First of all, people, there's a lot of people here and a lot of distractions and I think we have to keep our focus. And then certainly with our families, our parents, our peers, all of our friends that are here, we have to keep our focus there. And then no offense to you guys, but the press, what you read. I think when you read and you read quotes and you read speculation about what will happen, you can listen to it or you can focus on the team or the task at hand and that's what I expect our basketball team to do and we just have to try to survive in advance at Rutgers.

Q. Ace, you talked a little bit about Tamika and her impact on the team but can you talk about Tamika's impact especially in big games and what kind of a lift she gives your team?

KRISTEN CLEMENT: She's obviously a blessing. She's a very talented lady. She brings a lot to this team a lot of energy, a lot of emotions. You can tell she's a competitor. She hates to lose even if we are playing pick up games in practices, she's constantly yelling, trying to get the teammates around her rallied up and she's constantly got a smile on her face very rare that you see that she doesn't, just because she loves the game. A great quality about Tamika is she makes people around her better. As you can see in a lot of the big games this year, it came down to the last shot and she was ready to stand up and take those clutch shots. As we all know she is an all-American, but she deserves it she works hard. There's not a day that goes by that she doesn't. She may be struggling but that's when we come into play, her teammates. But I'm just very good to be on her team. She's a true competitor, plays with her heart and she deserves all the glory that she gets.

Q. I actually would like for one player and Coach Summitt to address this as well. You've been to Final Fours before; to what extent do you feel in the shadow of the men's tournament this weekend and what would be the pluses or minuses of perhaps moving this tournament?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think probably the biggest disappointment has probably been the lack of coverage for the women's tournament, in comparison in there's only so much space and it's -- it certainly hasn't been a positive in terms of the coverage versus the men. We talked about it briefly. I was talking about it with our athletics director Joan Cronan on the way up here as to what would be best, should we move and take away the head-to-head competition for the coverage particularly from the media standpoint. And to be honest with you right now I haven't given a whole lot of thought just because I'm really focused on this basketball team but I do think we need to take a look at it in terms of, you know, the WBCA and certainly athletic directors across the country, and see is this the best format. Are we really gaining the type of exposure that we want to for the women's game? And we're all about growing our game; so we feel like if we feel like we don't want to compete, then I think we have to look at changing the calendar.


COACH PAT SUMMITT: They don't read the paper anyway at this time, I don't think.

Q. We wanted to talk to Tamika about what the coaches told you about Rutgers' defense and how you plan on attacking that defense?

SEMEKA RANDALL: Their defense is aggressive and we can't quick-shoot the basketball. We have to work the ball around for good open shots, just be patient.

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: They like to use their hands really well, like we've said, they are really quick, so, you know, really quick and active that that can be really effective as far as laying out and be able to deflect the balls, but we can't quick-shoot the ball and Semeka said, we've got to work it around.

Q. Coach, what specific problems does Rutgers matchup zone post for you?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think it's certainly a defense that brings great ball pressure and also really covers passing lanes. And I think it's just a different look versus man-to-man pressure. But I think it's more of an open-denial versus a closed-denial attack. Again, I think we have to be aggressive. I think we have to play smart. I don't think we can force things inside, and certainly we have to be able to move the basketball against them. It's very impressive in watching them and we've watched a lot of tape on them. They certainly have a system and they believe in it and they are all committed to it. And we have to have obviously a plan of attack on the offense and we have to all be committed to it as well.

Q. How does this Final 4 team differ from your other ones in terms of your characteristics in terms of the way they play?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: It's interesting. Probably a month ago, I would have said this team lacks the competitive drive and the mental toughness to be in Philadelphia. I didn't feel that we had the leadership. It's amazing what's happened in a relatively short period of time, and I think our schedule, and the situations we've been in, late-game situations, it's really brought out the true character of our team and the leadership clearly. Tamika Catchings since the SEC championship game has stepped up her play. While she's had a couple situations where she didn't shoot the ball particularly well, she's doing everything else she can to help this basketball team win. Semeka Randall has played big plays and obviously knocked down big freethrows for us. Ace Clement has accepted her role of being a defensive stopper for us. So I've really seen the team start to take on more responsibility, individually and then recognize that they need each other collectively. Kara Lawson and April McDivitt pointguards questioned whether or not we could get here and really have challenged both Kara and April and I've been pleased with their development overall. So to say what kind of team is this in comparison, we've had a lot of Final 4 teams and been very, very fortunate to be here, but this team right now, I would say their mental toughness. They haven't been a team to panic when they haven't shot well. They haven't been a team to panic if they have been behind and had to play from behind. And they have been a team that while they -- in a coach's mind, maybe reacted without any urgency when people made runs at us, eventually they recognized what they had to do and didn't panic in that situation. I think you have to make runs and you have to answer runs to be at this point.

Q. Coach, a lot of people think that Connecticut is a favorite here, and you've been in that position before. Can you talk about what it's like when everybody is gunning for you?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, we've been in that position a few times, and, you know, I just think that you know your basketball team just has to recognize what they need to do and how they need to handle being in that position. You know, you just have to go out and play your game. And again it's not about what everyone else thinks or beliefs believes. It's what you as a team can manage and what you believe and how you just handle being at the Final Four.

Q. Can you compare what this Rutgers team looks like compared to say the team that Vivian had in '82 and how her coaching style has changed since then?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: You're taking me way back. I could probably compare that 84 team that we played in the semifinals. I think Vivian does Vivian does a great job obviously in recruiting and that's what it's all about, having players. But I think comparing then and now, defensively, this team appears to be more imposing and overwhelming at times, and very committed and I think probably a little bit stronger in terms of the depth. Offensively they are a very disciplined basketball team and I think that's a credit to Vivian Stringer. They know what they want to do. They know their sets. They know where they want the basketball to go and they get it there with a great deal of consistency. But I think as a coach, you learn maybe new offenses or defenses, but with Vivian, she gets players and she can discipline her players at both ends of the floor, and that's consistency, regardless of where she has coached. Played against her in Iowa in the regional finals and we lost there against them and, again, they played hard. They had a system, and they had a lot of discipline.

Q. I noticed in the practice out there that Michelle was practicing her dunks and I was wondering does she have the green light for tomorrow night?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: She's had the green light all year. All I told her was "don't miss." (Laughter) But she has a green light.

Q. This tournament has a very local flavor and it's almost like -- and Tennessee is here, too. Does that in a way allow your team to relax and concentrate on basketball rather than being the focal point at this tournament?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: You know, we've been in final 4s and we've been the top dog, we've been underdog and we're just proud to be here. As I told our team, you know, I think that just a local flavor and obviously all three of the head coaches have fill I ties. I'm just glad we have Ace Clement because now all the four teams have Philadelphia ties. It's just about keeping your focus and not really concerning -- we can't concern ourselves with what everyone else is thinking or who the favorite team might be. The only thing we can control is how we handle being here and in preparing for Rutgers. I don't think this team feels the pressures that a lot of other teams that have been in the final hour have felt. Now will that influence our play in a positive, you hope it will, but you don't know until you throw the basketball up. Unless they put pressure on themselves I told them let's go out and compete and let's have fun and let's play Tennessee basketball and that's what I expect them to do.

Q. How important do you think your team's plea point three-point shooting will be against the Rutgers zone?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Certainly it would make life a lot easier if we were knocking down some outside shots. Obviously against Texas Tech we did not shoot the ball well. I believe you have one ugly night offensively, if you're fortunate only one and if you're fortunate, you can survive that and open fly we hopefully we got it out of our system. Again I don't put a lot of pressure on a basketball to say you have to knock down shots. What I will say is that you have to defend and you have to rebound and you cannot quick shoot the ball. You have to put yourself in a position to make shots and to get good, open looks and that's what we'll work for. I think if you put too much pressure on your offense in a poor shooting night they will go to the other end and worry about it instead of defend the opposition.

Q. How much is the game doing to miss ^ Lee on bar more ^ ^^?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I am not going to miss him when I have to play against Louisiana Tech, but Lee on, he has been great for the women's game. Obviously, he is well respected in this game and he always has great teams. They are always in the hunt in March, I think the important thing here is that we recognize that we are losing a great coach and a great friend in the game of women's basketball. You know, I've really -- I think I'm a better coach because of Lee on bar more because when you prepare to play against his teams, you know you have to do your homework and you have to teach and prepare. And so certainly he has helped Tennessee. Our players are better because of Lee on bar more and what his teams bring to the court, so I'll miss Lee on, and I'll always be appreciative of his commitment to the women's game, but I hope he enjoys playing golf.

Q. Given Rutgers defense and their experience at guard, how important is Kara's play going to be tomorrow night?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I told Kara and April McDivitt at halftime of the Texas Tech game that they really had to step up. I really thought a lot of people doubted our ability to be here because we had to rely on the two of them. It's key. It's key. Kara's leadership, her competitiveness, her mental toughness, I think it's so important. But I have a lot of confidence in Kara. The reason I made that change is I thought it would make us a better basketball team, and it has. And so certainly, I want her to be able to keep her focus and hopefully her back seems or appears to be better today. Just hope that now she can really focus on what she has to do to lead our team, and I've challenged her in that direction and I am confident that she will respond.

Q. Sort of follow-up on the Lee on issue, there have been a lot of stories written in the last couple of weeks about male coaches lamenting the fact that their numbers are dwindling. What do you think the formula should be for hiring coaches in the women's game, because of the past discriminations of, do you think there should be an affirmative action for hiring women or just go with the most qualified? What do you think the formula should be?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I believe in hiring the most qualified. Although, if I applied for a men's job I'm not sure I would be given strong consideration. But I really believe that. I think that men and women alike in that game have given a lot to our game and we have had some great coaches, some great -- obviously men coaches and women coaches. So I don't -- if I'm an athletic director, I'm going to hire the best qualified person to get the job done at the University of Tennessee, and I would tell you that certainly I have two males on my staff, and I felt like in interviewing for those positions that those individuals were the best qualified for what we needed at Tennessee at the time. However, we've had 29 coaches come out of our program, either players or graduate assistants that have gone into the women's game and I am about promoting women and giving them an opportunity and certainly I think we have done that within the Tennessee program and I want to continue to do that, to see our players go on and have a chance to coach on the women's side as well. But if I'm an athletic director I'm going to hire the best person for the job.

Q. As you think about the growth of the game is it time to just stop playing -- go to neutral courts for the first two round? What are the issues involved in your mind on that one?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, I'm all about having neutral courts in all playoff games, conference tournament, certainly in postseason play. But I'm not convinced our game is ready for it, and I really -- I really have at this point in time to say that I don't think we're ready for it. You may say why, well you look at the men's first and second round games, you look at the afternoon crowd, and it was sparse. I mean, there was very few people in the stands, in comparison to a regional tournament situation. And I'm thinking, what's the difference? Well, obviously, television revenue. And I think in women's basketball, we don't have that, and we are still trying to promote our game and grow our sport and I think we need shows first those first and second round games to do so, on campuses of host institutions. Now I will say this, now my plea to everyone in this sport, every athletic director every basketball coach is that we have to be committed marketing and promoting at a different level. You have a few, and only a few programs in this country that do that when you look at the ones that are doing exactly what I'm talking about, marketing then you're looking at, right now, the attendance leaders in women's basketball. I challenge the rest of the country when that happens, now you can position off campus, first, second rounds and I think you're going to have, obviously, better fan support for those events. And that's when I'd say I'm ready. But I think we have to step to the plate. I think the athletic directors, the institutions from coast to coast and make a different commitment. You have to spend money to make money but you have to spend money to promote this game at a different level nationally.

Q. The Big East has got two teams here. Have they as a conference maybe caught up to the SEC from a national perspective?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, certainly the Big East has made great strides. I don't think you can take just who is at the Final Four and say top to bottom that that means that the SEC is not still the No. 1 conference in the country as you look game in and game out throughout the season. But certainly the Big East you can look at Rutgers what they have done, Boston College, certainly Connecticut, so it's more competitive now. And I think they have made great strides in the last five years to position themselves top to bottom of being a much better conference. They are obviously strong. They are here and have the best representation and that's a real credit to the Big East in terms of what they have done for women's basketball and growth.

End of FastScripts….

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