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April 1, 2000
COACH PAT SUMMITT: We're really excited about this opportunity, and certainly I am
proud of our basketball team and really appreciative of their willingness to grow as the
season has progressed, and also told my staff how proud I am to have a collection of
knowledge and loyalty and a work ethic which has obviously impacted our team. But the
players did it. They put us in this position and we're just excited about the opportunity
to play for a championship.
Q. How much did your loss to Connecticut take a toll on your team earlier in the
season, and how much did the victory later give a boost to your team?
KARA LAWSON: I think the first loss really exposed a lot of weaknesses on our team and
we were able to learn from that loss. And we were really excited about the chance to play
in Connecticut and to get a win there at Gampel, which is one of the toughest places to
play in the country was a big boost for us. We kind of rekindled our team spirit at the NC
State game. That was our third game after the NC State game after we had our team meeting
and decided to really turn around our year and so that was obviously a big step in the
Q. When you were coming out of high school, did you perceive UCONN and Tennessee as
your first two choices before you looked at anything else, and do you think that's still
the situation nationally?
KARA LAWSON: Well, UCONN didn't recruit me, so --
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I'm glad.
KARA LAWSON: So I guess, no.
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: No, it wasn't for me. I think my last two choices were between
Tennessee and Illinois, whether to come here or to play with my sister.
SEMEKA RANDALL: Obviously, Tennessee, UCONN were my Final two choices, and I'm wearing
orange, so that should tell you where I'm at right now (laughter).
MICHELLE SNOW: Mine was between Tennessee and North Carolina.
KRISTEN CLEMENT: Mine was the same as Semeka's, between Tennessee and UCONN, but I knew
I wanted to go my junior year, and I'm glad I followed my heart.
Q. Since we got here, the talk was about UCONN Tennessee matchup and now you have this.
Can something this highly anticipated help elevate the women's game in terms of its
exposure more so than just being in the Final Four?
KARA LAWSON: Well, I think this is a tremendous stage to showcase women's basketball,
and I think that to have this, the greatest rivalry that we have in our game, I think the
best two teams in the tournament, and just some tremendous players. You have Tamika
Catchings and Semeka Randall and Shea Ralph, I think just match-ups right on down the
line. Each position I think it's just going to be a fun game. I think our team is very
excited about being able to showcase our talent on this type of stage.
Q. For any of the players, did you come out of high school, in your high school
experience, did you have male coaches or female coaches, and if you had a male coach, how
did that experience differ from what you've gotten from Coach Summitt at Tennessee, any of
you, preferably one who had a male coach in high school first?
SEMEKA RANDALL: Well, I had a male coach and having Pat is like having a second mom.
Tough love. (Laughter).
KRISTEN CLEMENT: I had a male coach, also, and I agree with Semeka totally; it's tough
love. But I think that having a female coach, they understand more of the female, how
we're sensitive and yeah, coach will get on to you and she'll make you feel really bad at
times but I think she brings out the best of you, and you really grow to love her.
Q. All of you have been battle-tested in big games. How much has that helped you, and I
guess UCONN as well, you've both been battle tested, how much does that help prepare you
for Sunday night?
KARA LAWSON: Well, I think our team has been in every type of situation you can be in
this year. I think we've been up and lost leads late. I think we've been down. I think
we've been in close games coming down to the wire. And so I think we feel comfortable in
any type of situation, that we can come out with a win, and I think we have several
players that are capable of taking the big shot, and so, you know, we have players that
have confidence when it comes down to the end of the game whether the score is tied,
whether we are down. So I think for us it's all about execution in these type of games
because we know we have the personnel and the players that can get the job done.
Q. So you don't feel left out, Semeka, you seem to be Public Enemy No. 1 in the State
of Connecticut. How did that start and what do you do with it?
SEMEKA RANDALL: I don't feel like I'm public enemy, but if you want to classify me with
that, that label, that's fine. All I do is try to give to my team the best of my ability
and that should take care of the rest.
Q. Can you address playing against Sue Bird tomorrow. She had a great game last night
and has played well both times this season against you. What are you going to do to try to
stop her tomorrow?
KRISTEN CLEMENT: Obviously Sue Bird, she's a great player, but I think tomorrow it's
going to -- it's going to go more beyond, you know, we played against them twice, and she
came into our house and embarrassed us, obviously, and at their place, she played a
tremendous game, also. I think it's just going to come to wearing her out for 40 minutes.
I know coach is probably going to put me on her just to pick her up full court and make
her work with the ball, sort of try and tire her out but she'll probably tire me out, too.
But I think the key tomorrow is just to, like I said playing her full court and making her
handle the ball or trying actually give up the ball and let someone else handle it
tomorrow. But it should be a great matchup and I'm sure that she'll have a great game, and
we're very excited.
Q. If I'm not mistaken, the series with Connecticut is now tied, I think at 5-5 and
this is sort of the rubber game of your contest this season. How do you view facing
Connecticut is it your biggest rivalry, what do you think about the Connecticut team?
MICHELLE SNOW: It's a big rivalry, and we're not going to go into the game intimidated
or we're not going to come into the game passive. We're going to come out and play their
game like they did at their school. We've proven that we are just as good as they are.
They are going to come out ready to play and we're going to come out ready to play and I
think tomorrow we'll be able to see who the better team is.
Q. How would you compare and contrast the styles of Connecticut with the SEC teams that
you played during the year?
KARA LAWSON: Well, I think their transition game is similar to Florida. They really get
out on the break well and on missed shots, and even on made shots I, think they really get
up the court well and they force you to get back on trenches in defense. They are like
Georgia in some ways where they have such a solid perimeter attack from all three
positions. Any three of their perimeter players is capable of putting up big numbers and
they have just great depth. I'm not sure there's any team in the SEC we can look to
compare to the type of depth that they have, but they are just a tremendous team with
tremendous players, 1 through 10.
Q. This is for Tamika and Michelle, what do you guys like best about Semeka's game?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Like her defense. I think she's a great defensive player and a lot of
people can learn from her. But she's turned into a great offensive player this year, too,
and so I think she's got an all-around game.
MICHELLE SNOW: I like the fact that she came in this year, she knew she was a defensive
threat and she came in. Now she's an offensive threat. But the thing I like the most is
how she's able to spark the crowd and get the crowd involved that way we get the momentum
going our way.
Q. Kara, I'm interested in knowing how or why you became such an enthusiastic player
and such a talker. And your teammates, I'd like to get your take on that you all seem kind
of amused by her sometimes, the way she plays and the way she kind of takes the stage
KARA LAWSON: (Laughing) Well, I just try to go with how the game is going, and the
emotions and if I think our team needs on emotional pickup, I'll try to, you know, pick
somebody up or if I think we need to calm down, then I try to be a calming influence out
there. But I really just go by how the game is going, how the flow is going and just try
to keep our team level-headed.
KRISTEN CLEMENT: Kara, I mean, she's a great player, but also, it's kind of -- we all
chuckled up here because Pat will sit there and chew us out and Kara will come right over
to us and say the same thing coach said and she'll be like "okay" with a
straight face, we're like "okay, we got it." But I think Kara, she's sort of
like the second coach. She will basically reiterate what coach says but with a straight
face, different demeanor, I guess you could say.
Q. What will you do with your Player of the Year awards? Where do they go? Does that
inspire you, do you like knowing that you have just won those awards when you go into a
game do you think about it at all?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: No, no. I don't think about it. Because I know that I wouldn't have
got any of my awards if it wasn't for my teammates. So I just go out and I play my game
every game. As far as where they go, right now, I don't know. Somebody -- well, we're just
trying to find a way to figure out a way to get them back to Nashville, and then I'll
probably take them to my house later on.
Q. Do you have a specific room for all your awards?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Specific room? Maybe when I grow up and get my own house. (Laughter).
Q. Do you have a sense of the importance of this game, just within the history of
women's basketball in terms of this is the first time in 11 years the No. 1 versus the No.
2, the two marquis programs in the game etc.?
MICHELLE SNOW: I think it's great for the women's game because right now, it's the eye
of attention, everybody is watching. We're on the rise now with the WNBA being
implemented. I think No. 1 and No. 2 should be in the Final Four. They should be the final
game of the season, and it will be a great matchup tomorrow.
Q. You came in with that camera, have you been taking video the whole time you've been
SEMEKA RANDALL: No. (Laughter). But thank you for asking. Oh, this is for the ESPN,
behind the scenes of the Tennessee Lady Vols, you know, the secret stuff, what we do
before the game, stuff you want to know about but you can't know about; (laughing) sorry.
Check it out on ESPN.
Q. Do you like Connecticut?
SEMEKA RANDALL: Can you explain that?
Q. What do you feel about that Connecticut team? You've faced them so often; what are
your emotions when you think about Connecticut?
MICHELLE SNOW: I think first of all you have to realize we all have friends on that
team. Most of us played on the All-American game. We played on the USA basketball team
together. We all respect each other, but when the jump ball goes up you don't respect
anybody. I don't care if it's your mom on the opposite team, you can't respect that. We're
talking about the National Championship here. We worked the whole season for this. But we
definitely have friends on that team, but at the same time when the jump ball goes up, you
have to put those things aside.
Q. How much does it mean to have two teams that are so comparable? What I'm trying to
get at is like with when the UCLA men dominated for so many years, there was no one at the
same level. Does having a Connecticut bring the best out in in you? Does the rivalry make
you a better team?
SEMEKA RANDALL: So much is built up on the game, and obviously if you're a player and
you're a competitor, you want to come out and be able to compete for this -- this big
game. And right now, you can't get any bigger than, this the National Championship. So
everybody is going to come out sky high.
Q. Would you have been disappointed if UCONN had not made the Championship game?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: No. I think when you come into a tournament like this you just want
to make sure that you're playing on Sunday and we were just happy to be playing on Sunday.
So I mean, we were just going to get ready for whoever we had to play. You know, it didn't
Q. Can you just talk about how Tamika grew into her role and has become the dominant
player of the year?
MICHELLE SNOW: A lot of people ask that question, and I've said pretty much the same
thing. I think she had the same role last year. I think now with the absence of Chamique,
I think you'll again to see she did the exact same things last year; she hustled on
defense, great rebounder, offensive game in there, and now that Chamique is gone, people
are starting to see and her role is starting to stand out now. She is the ideal player and
person off the court; humble. She has gotten credit for everything she has done. That's
the ideal player that you want to have. She did the same things last year as she did this
year, it's just now you can key in on it.
Q. Define "tough love"?
SEMEKA RANDALL: Just like Ace said, sometimes you have good days, sometimes you have
bad days. And Coach came over to me and hugged me and told me that everything will be
okay, and I told her, no, it wasn't, but she assured me it will get better. This year has
been definitely a lot of tough love and I had to learn a lot of things, and she's helped
me. I've asked her to help me numerous times and I'm trying it grow from it and learn
basketball and just learn the whole system, it's not just about going out and bouncing a
basketball. And there's life skills involved in it just by being responsible as an adult.
Q. You are a Philadelphia native so I'm going to put you on the spot here in the entire
area of Philadelphia; who has the best cheese steak?
KRISTEN CLEMENT: Jim's. I don't know if you know where that is, it's down in Center
City Philadelphia. They have got great cheese steaks, if you all want to grab one.
Q. Directions would be great?
KRISTEN CLEMENT: You know I haven't been here in about three or four years. All I
remember is Jim's is in Center City. South Street. So if you just want to find out about
it, ask about it. I'm sure anyone can tell you. Ask somebody on the streets. They can tell
Q. What are your weaknesses in the loss to Connecticut?
KARA LAWSON: I think our transition defense was terrible that game. We gave them a lot
of easy opportunities and we weren't getting back. I think offensively, we weren't -- we
didn't have a lot of movement. I don't think we were playing together as a team. Both
offense and defense, I don't think we were helping each other out, I don't think we played
with a lot of intensity, I don't think we came out in that game in an attack mode and they
were really the aggressors in that game.
Q. Could you compare and contrast the pointguards, Kara and Bird and also, did you know
that the names of the two most famous cheese steak places are Pat's and Geno's?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: No, I'm going to Jim's because I think we ought to get free food.
I'm talking our whole team there. No question, Sue and Kara are two of the best
pointguards in the country. I think probably the difference right now, I think Sue has a
little more experience on Kara, and a little bit more active on the defensive end. But in
terms of the ability to shoot the 3 and break down the defense, very similar. Kara can --
and she did last night, she can really ignite our team offensively, whether it's to create
for herself or to create for other players and I think certainly Sue Bird does that for
Connecticut. And she has a -- she has a little more experience right now than Kara, but I
just think they are both great, great pointguards. You know, we are very fortunate that
Kara Lawson chose Tennessee because that's been a real key for us has been her
contributions as a leader. She brings mental toughness and confidence to our basketball
team as well as obviously great skill.
Q. Is that something a freshman pointguard rarely has?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think it's very difficult for a freshman pointguard to have the
impact that Kara Lawson has had on a team of this caliber, and carry a team to a
championship game. And quite honestly, I shared with her in the regional final that that
was a question mark I've been asked a number of times, if a freshman pointguard could
direct a team to a National Championship, and I have a great deal of confidence in her. I
believe she can. But I think that this is, in our game, it's not something that you -- you
see frequently. I think it's rare and very special and Kara Lawson is a very special to
our program and obviously, we're here.
Q. At what point did you notice Tamika taking on the leadership role, and did you have
to say anything to her if it was before that SEC championship game, and if so, how did she
respond to coaching?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Tamika, sometimes she's her own worst critic, and as Michelle said,
she's very humble, and I think I constantly try to tell her, you are the best player in
the country. You have to step up and make plays for us, but you don't have to do it all.
What I've seen from Tamika this year is really a maturity more in her mental game. She's
much more poised. I think she's much more confident. She's making better decisions, and
she's making players on our team better. She's second on assists. And that tells you a lot
about her ability when she is -- usually, she's in a position where there's two or three
people on her, she's being denied or the physical play that people have brought, very much
like they did against Chamique. That's the only reason Chamique ever started lifting
weights because she felt she had to defend herself. And Tamika has gone through a lot of
that, but rather than panic, she's had mental discipline and poise and she's been able to
identify the open player and deliver the ball. She's become a better passer although I
don't want her passing the ball that much. But that's been the big change. She's been very
coachable. She's wanted to listen and to learn and take it as something that will make her
a better basketball player.
Q. Specifically, how important is Tamika going to be in this contest against
Connecticut? You look at the past games this season, your fortunes have sort of risen and
fallen with her?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think she's going to be better prepared now than she has been in
the first two games. I think even in January, mid-February, or early February, I think
Tamika was still working daily to try and determine how she could best handle her role and
all of the attention that she was getting from the opposition. It's not about the
attention she was receiving through the media. She was just trying to handle all of the
different defensive schemes that she faced game-in and game-out. I think the big change
came in the SEC Championship Game. I really felt that that was a turnaround for her and I
thought in the regional games, in those two games, she took her game to another level. Her
rebounding, her defensive play, her hustle plays as well as her ability to score and she
can find a way to score some points. I feel better about her game right now than I have at
any point in time in the season.
Q. What are some of the ups and downs of reliance on a freshman pointguard? I imagine
on the upside she plays with reckless abandon but maybe there are growing pains a long the
COACH PAT SUMMITT: It really hasn't been that difficult for me. Kara might have a
different answer, because she's been on the receiving end. I think the thing that I just
really had to sell Kara Lawson on was committing to defense and moving without the ball,
because a player like Kara Lawson and rightfully so, in her high school program, she's
going to have the ball in her hands, but that's true with all of our players. Last night I
thought we stood early in the game, and she used to -- they are accustomed to either
having the ball in their hands or having offensive sets designed to get them the ball in
their hands and after that then they just -- they play with the ball and I think for her,
it's learning to move without the ball. I said you are no secret to women's basketball
now. Everyone will know where you are, and you are going to have to work for your 3s and
work harder and really do a better job without the ball and then you have to commit to
defense in this program. You know, that's a really important aspect of what we want to do
on the court and I think she's really improved in that area.
Q. Two teams that know each other very well, does it come down to execution or is there
some intangible that we don't know about that may determine the game tomorrow tight?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Oh, I think the players will determine the game. We know each other.
They will be ready to go and play and big games, big players have to make big plays. They
have to execute their game plan. While we will try to influence their game plan, I'm sure
they will try to influence ours, and it's how you handle the different schemes that you
may face, different look, and adjustments that you make during the course of the game I
think are so important and I think a basketball team has to be able to take information
and use it throughout the course of the game. But the players will be responsible for
making those -- those adjustments and plays with the help of obviously the coaching staff.
This is what it's all about. This is what I love. I love coaching in big plays. I love
watching players get into that setting and see how they will respond. It's so much fun, I
just think that it's great that it's 1 versus 2, and now you get to see some of the
greatest players in the game go play at this level with a National Championship on the
Q. What are you seeing or not seeing at the time you made the switch with the guards
and what about that switch has worked that you have now won 20 in a row since you did
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think what I saw with our team that really convinced me we needed
to make a change, I really felt as a team that we were playing too fast, and we were
turning the ball over too much. We weren't -- we really just -- there was no real rhythm
to our halfcourt offense. And at the point I think you'd have to be able to get to this
level. And secondly I felt that Ace Clement to really do better things for our team
because of her athleticism, and she's a high-energy kind of player. If we put her at the
off guard and Kara Lawson's personality is a great fit for this team. You have Tamika,
Semeka and Ace, you know, if you wanted to go out and run a road race this afternoon or if
you wanted high-energy people to come entertain you, pick those three, because they are
full of life and they are ready to go and they go all out. They run one speed a lot of the
time. Lawson is a much more settled offensive player and she is a director. She wants to
be in charge and she doesn't mind telling other people what to do. They told you that up
here. And that's what we needed. Ace is actually in transition, when she was at the point,
we were a better transition team, but I recognized the fact when we played at Connecticut
when we played at Georgia, certainly -- I'm sorry when we played Connecticut at home and
when we played at Georgia, that we spent a lot of time in the halfcourt game. You do that
against great teams. They are not going to allow you and get easy baskets for 40 minutes.
With that in mind and three consecutive turnovers at the beginning of the second half of
the Georgia game I knew when we got on the plane, I knew we were going to make a change.
Q. You mentioned just now the fun of No. 1 versus No. 2 for. For so long you've been
No. 1 and now the sense that you get around Connecticut, they think they are, what extra
-- what extra does that bring to this game, and is this a message game for both teams?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I don't know that it's necessarily a message game. I just think it's
what a lot of people want to see. It's what all you guys want to see. It's what the fans
want to see. It's what television loves. We have respect for Connecticut. I have great
respect for their players and their staff and just the way they run their program. And
certainly, the matchup has really, I think been healthy for Tennessee and for Connecticut
but it's been really valuable for the growth of the game. I don't know that there's been a
better matchup particularly since we started this series. Earlier in women's basketball
there were other great match-ups but now that we have the attention of the media and we
have television exposure I just think that it doesn't get any better than this and then
you just go play the game. And it's two great teams. One will lose and one will win. It's
two great teams but also don't forget it's also two great programs. This is one game and I
think certainly you have to just look at the big picture right now and people certainly in
the sports worlds recognize these two teams but they recognize these two great programs.
Q. Sue Bird always seems to be alone when she gets that 3-point shot, do you have a
player who can actually guard her?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I don't know, I'll tell you, she's terrific. She's mentally tough.
She's active. That's the thing about Sue Bird, she's a very active player. She's not going
to stand. She will find an open look. But you have to credit that team. Connecticut does a
great job of passing the basketball, and they do a great job of finding open looks. That's
a real challenge for us. I don't know that we have one player -- I think as a team we will
have to be very mindful of personnel, and certainly identifying Sue Bird will be a
priority for us. But even at that, she manages to get open looks and she can create open
looks. But she gets them because she works really hard without the ball and they deliver
the ball to her as a team, very, very well schooled on that.
Q. Regarding dream matchups in all of sports, sports fans usually get into it because
they are so rare, you don't have to play Connecticut during the season but you played them
twice. Could you talk about the motivation, why do you do that?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Am I crazy? Is that what you're saying? Well, I really thought long
and hard about it and Geno and I talked about is this being good for both programs. We
know it's great for the game. No question that playing them both home and away is good for
women's basketball. And the ideal is if you play a team throughout the regular season and
you elect to play a team of this caliber twice, what's the worst thing that can happen?
And I said, well, is it to be 0-2 or 2-0? We felt like the best thing that can happen is
to be 1-1 and now we're in the sugar game. So I think as a look back it was a good
decision now. If I was sitting here 0-2, I'd be telling that you it was not a really
intelligent decision on my part. But we talked about it and both of us, I think at that
time we just said, well, maybe we'll split games. We're thinking we'll win at Tennessee
and they will win at Connecticut and then hopefully we'll play the third time. We got 1-1
but it was a little different the way it unfolded. But we will continue that series next
year and then we'll rethink it, I'm sure both program also rethink it.
Q. Recruiting wise, coach, do you cross paths often out there and have you lost any
players to them that you can think of historically?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think the toughest -- probably the most intense recruiting battle
that we had was for Paige Sauer. We recruited Shea Ralph as well, but we did not get into
the home visit and the campus visit situation with Shea. We did with Paige Sauer. Semeka
Randall was another player that we both recruited, and I'm trying to think -- as far as
making campus visits to both Connecticut and Tennessee, those two players stand out right
now, and Swin Cash.
Q. Just to sort of follow-up on that one if there is an outstanding high school
prospect in the country and you're interested in her, do you feel like you've got a better
than average chance of getting her to Tennessee?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think we have a lot to sell at Tennessee. I think when players
look at opportunities we've never had a player not go to the Final Four. All of our
players have graduated that have completed their eligibility, so we can sell the fact that
you come to Tennessee, you've got a great chance of going to the Final Four and you're
going to leave here with a diploma. At the same time I think we have a lot to sell to the
kids who are in the Southeastern Conference and because of our conference schedule and
because of television exposure; it's usually 20-plus games. So I think that we do. And our
fan support, there's a lot to sell. Connecticut has a lot to sell. So it just comes down
to a lot of times, it's timing. Certainly for Kara Lawson, I think Kara Lawson felt,
certainly, the timing probably was right for it, the opportunity there. I think a lot of
times it becomes what do you need. I mean, you know, do you need me, can I play this. They
all want to play immediately and then when they get there they say, "Coach, don't put
me in right now, I'm not ready." I think we have a good opportunity to go after
players from coast to coast, but there's no absolute in recruiting. And it never ends.
Never. It's the hardest, most demanding part of this job.
Q. A lot of people attribute their rise in popularity of the game to that game you
played in '95. I was wondering what your expectations were when you agreed to play that
game and how surprised are you with how your planets have sort of aligned since that day?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I wasn't really thinking when we played that game that this will
become what it is today. I didn't know, in my mind, I didn't perceive it as this will be
the great matchup in women's college basketball. I looked at it as an opportunity to play
a program that I thought had one of the best teams in the country. We always have
positioned ourselves at Tennessee in our non-conference schedule to play against the best
from coast to coast. That's why we wanted to play Stanford. Stanford, obviously, they were
winning championships and they really had great players and great coaches and we wanted --
we wanted that challenge. And the same was true. I mean, I know Geno does a great job. And
I don't want any surprises in March. I want to go compete. In November, December, January,
February, and I want to look at contrasting styles in play or different defensive
alignments, and play against the best players, and that is one of the reasons we wanted to
play Connecticut because we really believed that they had a great team and a great
program, and, you know, I wanted our players to play against Rebecca Lobo and Jennifer
Rizzotti. If you play the best, you just get better. Certainly, you get more information
and you know where you are and where you need to be. It's a good measuring stick for us,
and obviously for them.
Q. You and Geno are so strongly identified with your programs, I was wondering what you
admire about him as a coach and do you feel a sense of personal rivalry with him when you
go against his teams?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I really admire the fact that Geno has built a great program and
it's year-in and year-out. And I think to do that, you really have to be dedicated, very
committed as a coach in recruiting. And then just his ability to really develop a great
offensive and defensive team. They do it at both ends. They are a great passing team.
Really, people talk about -- they are fun to watch. They are not necessarily fun to play
against -- no, I take that back, they are. I enjoy it, because it's a real challenge for
us. But I think he's just an excellent coach. Fundamentally they are very drilled and
skilled, and I think that it's a challenge for us, because you know you are going against
the best right there. As far as a personal challenge with Geno, you know I've never gotten
into that; it's Pat versus Geno or any other coach. You know, it's players and just going
and playing. I just have great respect for Geno and I know he will have his team ready.
When you play against coaches like that, they make you better because you have to be
prepared when you go into the game, but it's not a coach versus a coach situation. It's a
team versus team and players competing against players.
Q. Do you believe you are as tough as your players say you are, and the fact that
coaches are supposed to be tough when people find your legendary toughness remarkable, do
you see any sexism in that?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Probably so. You know, I've often said if I was Rick Pitino on the
sidelines, they'd probably go, wow, she has got great intensity. You know, it's just -- I
have to be who I am. And am I tough? Yes. Tough in the sense we have a certain way we want
to do things and did you do not commit to that system, if you are on your own agenda if
you're selfish, lazy, Tennessee is not the right place for you. And players know that up
front. But it's all about teaching these young people life skills through the game of
basketball. And I really believe they want discipline, but you can only be, in my opinion,
it's like being a parent. You can be tough if you have love. You have to love these kids.
You have to let them know you genuinely care about them. You have to be there for them
when they go through personal crisis or adversity. And I am always there, they call me at
times and I do love these kids. And I want these young women -- I call them kids but they
are really young women, my goal is that when they leave Tennessee, because they have been
through this basketball program and they have developed a valuable life skills that they
can leave here self-sufficient. You want them to have a diploma. You want them to have a
National Championship. But most of all, I want them to have that degree and leave there
self-sufficient and feel like that they will always be a part of our family. So they will
tell you I'm tough. I think they like saying I'm tough. But they will also tell you I love
them and I care greatly about what happened to them, not just on the basketball court, but
more in life.
Q. You were asked earlier about the game at Gampel in '95; can you compare your
emotions and this atmosphere the game tomorrow to the '95 championship game?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I tell you the '95 championship game in between the semis and the
championship game, I can't tell you just how much film I watched and I was trying to
figure out, it was a really, really tough team to defend, and obviously this is a tough
team to defend, but I didn't know Connecticut then. I do feel like we have a better sense
for Connecticut and their system and their players. You know, I only had that one
opportunity to see them play. And so if was all about getting familiar with them. Now I
think we are familiar with Connecticut and they are familiar with Tennessee. And so it's
-- I have a different feeling about this game. I feel better prepared, and I feel like
they are probably better prepared. Both teams are, because it's not like we're in the same
conference, but we play as if we're in the same conference. We've already met twice, so
it's become a little bit more like family. We know them; they know us.
Q. Are we making too much of this thing with the freshman pointguards, with bird and
Lawson, because obviously, they don't play like typical freshmen, but is it a sign of the
times that these girls coming out of high school are more talented and more equipped to
play at this level right away than maybe in years past?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think you're right on target there. I think players, they have
better coaching. They certainly have the talent, but I think they have the mentality. I
think that they have been to summer camps and they have competed and been in all-American
games and they have watched the game and they know what's expected. And I think coaches,
high school coaches are doing a much better job, and I think really, in a lot of cases,
you know -- and obviously Kara was in a great situation, so was Sue, because -- I think
both of their coaches and their programs prepared them to go to that next level, with
maybe less difficult than some other players. And certainly, we at Tennessee expect our
freshmen to play. I told our team right off in October, we can't get to the Final Four, we
not be in Philly unless some key things happen and one in particular was that our freshmen
had to help this team get to filly.
Q. You said that you learned from your team two years ago that no matter how great a
team is, they can't dominate every game, they can't dominate every minute of the game, you
have to do it in spurts. Can you put your finger on a spurt this season that you think
made this team a national finalist?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I really can't tell you that there is just one spurt, but I can tell
you that I think this -- and as crazy as this may sound, I think the Georgia loss and the
win at Kentucky. We lost to Georgia, and the team would tell you probably the win over NC
State and the team meeting and all of that. But we go to Kentucky and they have a sellout
crowd and our basketball team, we were a little wounded. We go in and we have a lead and
they cut the lead and they have to foul us, and we go to the freethrow line and we make
freethrows. After that game, I remember thinking, you know, we did not play well. We did
not play with the emotion that I thought we should, coming off a loss, and yet, inside, I
really felt like our team had mental toughness, because they could have missed those
freethrows. They could have thrown in the towel and we could have really had a chance to
pull together. And normally, I would have gone off on the team after that win, but I just
said, "Good job, you hung tough, let's go home." And I really think that was a
Q. Could you just talk about how hard it is to get here? I mean, I think we all think
that because you've been here --
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Can't you look at me and tell how hard it is to get here?
Q. It's like you're supposed to be here, but no one is?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I will tell you, when I look at how many times we have been here I
am amazed myself because I do know how hard it is, because I think you have to have
players, you have to have special players, not only talented players, but players that
have the same goals that you have for your team and your program. And they can stick to
it, and they can do things when they are not supposed to do them, and they can do things
when they are supposed to do them. And we've been in that situation. But the main thing is
that you have to have players but then the players have to have the mental toughness and
the discipline to play at this level and to win tough games. I mean, the last two
basketball games we have played, I tell you, the defensive play that we went against was
tenacious. Texas Tech, Rutgers, there is nothing easy for us on. On the other hand -- and
we shot the ball very poorly. We went back down the floor and we did the same thing. We
set our defense, we made it tough, and we were able to grind out two wins. And while I
might look at the stat sheet and think oh, what's wrong, I want to look at the stat sheet
and say this team is tough. That's why they are playing for a championship.
Q. Is the fact that two teams that have been so dominant in the past five seasons in
this title game good for the growth of the sport, and do you see more and more teams
becoming more like yourselves and the fact that maybe the gap that you guys have posed a
few years earlier has decreased considerably?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think a Tennessee UCONN matchup in a championship game, I think
it's good right now. I see nothing wrong with that. I think we'll have a lot of people
view this game, perhaps for the first time that they have really seriously watched women's
basketball, and I think you have great players. The talent obviously is very appealing. I
think the intensity of this game will obviously, you know, favor support, more support for
women's basketball. We keep talking parity, and we have it. Let's not forget, you know, a
year ago the favorite teams were not -- the favorite teams were not in the Final Four.
Look at this year. We had upsets. And so I think you'll continue to have that, but yet I
think the two teams that are playing -- I think that will be good. I don't know where we
are in terms of parity in women's basketball. I think it's better. It's tougher to win. I
mean, Arizona for us was a really tough second round opponent. And there have been times
when we in first and second round play, we didn't have that type of challenge. So I think
we're getting there. But you've got to recognize, it took the men's game awhile to get to
that level and now they are clearly there. I think we'll get there. I don't know if I'll
be a part of it when it happens, but I do think in the future, we will have the parity and
we will have clearly a situation comparable to what the men are seeing right now in their
Q. Your players were just saying that the big difference between Tamika in the first
game and in the second game was that she handled the until play of Connecticut much better
the pushing, the shoving, that kind of thing. She said that it got pretty rough. I mean,
to your mind did it ever cross the line, not necessarily dirty, maybe but just a little
too much maybe?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Oh, I don't think it's -- I didn't view it as dirty. I viewed it as
physical. They are a physical team. They have six players they can rotate in their 4 and 5
positions, and they have a lot of fouls to waste. If I'm looking at it and that's the
makeup of our team, then I say let's go at it and let's be physical. In Tennessee, now
it's different Tennessee than, say, when we played back in '95. We had more physical-type
players, and we were known for being very physical. And now we've got Michelle Snow; she
couldn't eat enough in the next 24 hours to be real physical. I just think that we have a
contrast in style, and with Catchings, it's a lot like with Holdsclaw, you go after the
best players and you play them as hard and tough as aggressive as you can and that usually
winds up being physical.
Q. With all the awards and stuff, is there some extra reassure, pressure on Tamika to
have a great game as Player of the Year tomorrow and do you think that's something that
could affect her?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Only if she thinks she has to go out and have a great game. I don't
think Tamika will take the court like that at all. She's just excited about competing for
a championship. And the thing I'll have to keep her focused on is I don't think she'll be
out there trying to prove that she's the best player in the country. Just keep her
focussed on maybe what she needs to do, and maybe adjustments we'll need to make during
the course of the game. But she doesn't think that way. Even throughout the season, I kept
trying to convince her, "You are the best player in the country." She just loves
to compete and I just think she's going to be excited about competing for a National
Championship and not trying to move anything about Tamika Catchings.
Q. We read something in Connecticut about that men's teams played about how you were
invited to speak to the men's program, and I was just wondering how you feel on a men's
program would respond to you as a head coach and if yourself or Vivian Stringer or any of
the other major coaches in the land have ever aspired to that and what the end result
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Tennessee, I really think we have a great working relationship, and
I really like those guys. And I was very happy for them. I think when you have two
programs competing in March Madness, it's even more exciting. And going in and talking to
those guys, I walked out thinking, you know, it's really know no different. They are
people. It's all about talking to people and coaching people and motivating people and
dialing people up. And yet, you know, I've said this over and over, I don't know if anyone
would approach me to coach on the men's side, about you what you all -- maybe some of you
thought about this, but you may not realize, my commitment is to women and women's
basketball. We've had a lot of tough growing pains and we have had to clear a lot of
hurdles. I have three older brothers and they competed they all got scholarship offers,
and my mom and dad paid for me to go to college; and that's when I realized, this isn't
fair. And I'm all about promoting the women's game. And I love men's basketball. And I
think -- could I do it? Well, you know, I'm probably the type of person would tell you,
sure, I could do it. But what I want to do is to continue to help grow our sport and make
a difference for these young women so that they can go out and feel that they are prepared
for life, and that they have had the same opportunity on the women's side that the men
have enjoyed for years.
End of FastScripts