March 27, 1999
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
COACH CAROLYN PECK: We're excited about being here. We've worked really hard to get to this point; excited about this team and the things that they have accomplished thus far and their focus. Now, I'm going to ask a favor of you. These players on both teams have worked really hard to deserve the positions that they are in. And we will answer questions about the players that are on our team right now, okay? If we can keep the focus there. Because everything for both teams are moving very strongly in a very positive direction.
Q. If you guys could talk a bit about the key in going up against them tomorrow, what do you see as the one aspect; will it be continued rebounding?
STEPHANIE WHITE-McCARTY: I think rebounding is always a key. We have to keep them off the guards. Michele VanGorp goes to the boards. Peppi Browne -- the guards rebound well also. I think that's going to be the key. And also communicate defensively, know where the 3-point shooters are. And also help down the post when we can. But also communicate defensively and box out.
Q. For Carolyn and for one of the guards, can you talk about how important the guard matchup will be tomorrow night? And how tough is this guard matchup compared to the ones you've had this season?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: I think it's going to be an interesting challenge both ways. Both teams have extremely talented guards on the perimeter; so, the matchups will be extremely competitive. Both team seniors guards that can penetrate, that can shoot the 3, that can cut, that can rebound and that can run in transition. So it will be extremely interesting to watch that matchup. They are seniors. We have the sophomore, and she plays very experienced.
UKARI FIGGS: Like Coach Peck said, I think it's going to be a very interesting matchup. I think that any time you have people on both sides of the ball that do similar things, it makes the matchups unique. And I don't know if I can really compare it to any matchups we've had earlier this year. But it's definitely going to be a challenge to stop their three-point attack.
Q. For the experienced sophomore, Katie, how has playing these different positions helped your overall game? And has it held it up or hurt in any way?
KATIE DOUGLAS: I don't think it hurts in any way. I'm flexible to whatever position, whether it be the one, two, three or four. I just come out and do any job defensively, and, you know, just try to do whatever it is that I can to help this team be successful.
Q. Ukari, have you given Camille any tips on how to guard VanGorp? And, also, can you talk about the center matchup?
UKARI FIGGS: I usually don't give post players advice on how to guard people. I don't know. I definitely think it's going to be a good matchup between Camille and Michele. And, you know, Peppi Browne and Michele Duhart are going to have a tough matchup inside; so I think the matchups all the way around the court are going to be very interesting.
COACH CAROLYN PECK: I think it will be a very good matchup. It will be a big challenge, because Michele VanGorp, as you saw yesterday, can shoot the 3 as well. It's -- she's got great sides, inside, good hand, a nice touch around the basket. So we're going to have to change up and do a couple of different things in guarding her.
Q. Along with that matchup, especially on the guards, how you are going to match up player to player with Duke?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: With Duke? Player to player? Yeah, we'll put our scouting report in the paper. Ukari will have Nicole Erickson. Steph will be on Howard. CT will be on Schweitzer. Michele will be on Browne. And Coop will be on Michele VanGorp.
Q. Stephanie, you've earned a lot of honors for your play over the years. Is it at all special that you were the GTE Academic All-American of the year?
STEPHANIE WHITE-McCARTY: It's a very special thing. I take great pride in my academics, as does everybody else on the team. It's nice for people to know that we do take pride in our academics. We are not just players, we are students as well.
Q. Coop, if you could talk specifically about your matchup with Michele. And if -- sorry. Well, yeah with Michele. Could you talk about Peppi -- I'm sorry.
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Cut her off.
CAMILLE COOPER: I think it was definitely going to be a challenge inside. She has really good sides. And she can run the court well. She has a good touch. So I have to mainly concentrate on defense and limiting her touches to the ball.
MICHELLE DUHART: Peppi plays the run on both ends of the court. She runs well. She penetrates, gives 150 percent defensively as well. She is going to take a strong effort by me and by everybody else on this team to try contain their team.
Q. Carolyn, you are going to be only the second African-American to coach in a final, and the second in the 17 years. Can you talk about the significance of that, and also the general coaching opportunities for African-American women?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: I'm extremely blessed and extremely fortunate to be in the position that I am. I am most fortunate to have the team that I have. I can't say that it's because of the color of my skin that I am where I am. It's because of that team. And that's what it is about, getting here for the team. I hope they can be a good role model for all women, little girls, little boys, not gender specific. And so that everybody can -- see, if you just set your mind to something and you work together as a team, you can accomplish things.
Q. Both teams are so good in the quarter court at both ends of the floor. When you get a tight game like this down the stretch, what kind of things are going to be the difference?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: I think composure. I think rebounding. Again, I think rebounding was extremely important for us yesterday. And it will continue to be tomorrow.
Q. Coach, everyone just assumes Duke will win the men's national championship. But you guys have won 31 straight games. Should you not be as prohibitive a favorite as Duke on the men's side?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Other people have opinions on streaks and that kind of thing. We have got to play 40 minutes of basketball. That's what it's about. The record doesn't matter. It doesn't matter to this point. These two teams are stepping onto the floor. And as far as we are concerned, the score is 0-0. And we've got to step out and play the game for 40 or maybe even 40-plus minutes.
Q. Can you talk about the courage of Stephanie and Ukari to stick with the program when it was really in down times, and how that's manifested itself into leadership now that they are seniors out on the court.
COACH CAROLYN PECK: I think that their leadership qualities and their characteristics, personality didn't come it from coming to Purdue, but from their home training, from their parents. They have phenomenal families. They both have very strong fathers that have challenged them starting at a young age, and mothers as well that have been completely supportive of everything that they have done. And I think that's brought the strongest characteristics that these two young women have exhibited in their four years as Purdue. It has carried over in the challenges that they have faced in Purdue and they will even be more of a success when they get out of college.
Q. For people outside of Indiana, what can you say about Stephanie's popularity within the state?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Well, some people say that her name is in the same category as Bobby Knight, Larry Bird and God in Indiana. She has been a phenomenal player within the state. She came out the same year that Chamiquea (ph) did. Sometimes I think people forget that. And she was a player of the year some categories when she came out of high school. She has done a phenomenal job for the team not so much her talents on the court but what she's done in the classroom and also in the community.
Q. By the same token, Ukari's performance on national TV introduced her to a lot of people. Do you think that she does not get enough of that piece of the pie when it comes to recognition and credit?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Absolutely. I think that she doesn't get the recognition that she deserves and kind of been a secret all year long. I haven't minded because some teams haven't been ready for her and then she comes out and plays like she did last night. I think a lot of people don't pay attention so much because she not always is the top scorer. They forget about the little things she does, the defense, the assists, just the emotional leadership that she shows on the court and like I've said before, Ukari might turn the ball over or might miss a shot but she's on the other of the ball and coming back. Her quickness. She is at the front of our defense, and I think she sets the tone for how the rest of this team plays defensively.
Q. Could you guys talk about what it's like having somebody on your team who people put up there with God and Larry Bird? Do you tease her a lot? Do you see her that way?
KATIE DOUGLAS: You want me to answer this truthfully? You can go to her when whatever you need her to talk about. She's a normal person like everybody else on the team you can't say enough as Steph and Ukari as leaders on this team. They are great people and we appreciate that they stuck around and stuck with it.
MICHELLE DUHART: I'm from Virginia. Before I actually heard about Purdue, I saw Steph's picture in the magazine for player of the year and when I came to Purdue I was terrified to play with Steph. She was player of the year coming out of high school. She was so helpful to me just getting involved in the game, she's been help foul to me my whole three years. She's been very involved, very caring and just an incredible all around person.
CAMILLE COOPER: I agree. They are incredible players but incredible people. I have grown up with Ukari in high school. She's always been a mentor and role model on and off the court; so it was great to come to college and both Steph and Ukari provide so much leadership. She set the tone for us and they are a good act to follow.
Q. Who are some of the players that you looked up to, since you've got your admiration society? Who are some of the players that you've looked up to?
UKARI FIGGS: I think maybe one person would be (inaudible). I think she exhibits one of the best point guards probably the country has ever seen, and I just always thought should she was such a great player and a tough player and she seemed like she was a really good person.
STEPHANIE WHITE-McCARTY: I always used to watch Jennifer Azing (ph), just the way she plays. I went to a lot of Final Fours when I was young and just like to watch different types of people and the things that they do well on the floor.
Q. After what you guys have been through, how gratifying would it be to cut down the nets tomorrow night?
STEPHANIE WHITE-McCARTY: I think it would be gratifying to cut down the nets no matter what, not just because we've been through a lot but because it's a great honor and we've done a lot on this team. We have stuck together all year long and played together and it's just a very special team to be around.
UKARI FIGGS: Ditto.
Q. Last night Duke was able -- they played the way they wanted to play, and I assume you did the same thing. Early in the game this is going to be a battle of wills, what should we look for to see which team can impose its will on the other team?
STEPHANIE WHITE-McCARTY: Well, I think just you know composure like Coach Peck said, it's going to be a battle. Both sides are going to come out and they are going to battle on the outside and on the inside, and I think it's just who takes care of the ball who does the little things it takes to win the boxing out the playing defense the communicating, and the little things it takes to win. And see we'll go out and execute and both team also come out and play hard for 40 minutes.
UKARI FIGGS: I think about the same thing as Steph was saying. I think that everybody's emotions are going to be hot early, and it's going to be key. I'm sure that one of the two teams might make a big run at the beginning, but like Steph said, composure is going to a key for both teams but whoever is going to come out winning the game. It's going to be whoever keeps their composure throughout the game.
Q. Of all the teams you've played this season, which team do you think is most similar to Duke and then maybe why?
MICHELLE DUHART: We play a lot of strong post players being in the Big-10, but I think Michele VanGorp is in a class all by herself. She has got a nice touch around the basket and she can step out and hit the 15-footer. I'm not sure we have played a team like Duke. Tremendous three-point shooters and it's just going be to be entirely new for us tomorrow.
COACH CAROLYN PECK: I think Michele answered that correctly. I think they are a combination of different types that we have played with their attack with their perimeter. But there are other teams with their attack from the post area. So it's a combination of the different teams. I can't say that there is one single team that is similar to Duke.
Q. Last night your shot was not on at the outset and eventually you got slammed to the court at one point. What's your take in general on physical play?
STEPHANIE WHITE-McCARTY: Yeah, things weren't going to well on the offensive end for me. That's why we've got teammates. Ukari just carried us and we played great defense and rebounded in the second half and that's what won us the game. As far as the physical play, it's been physical all along in the tournament and we knew it was going to be this way and we are just going to go out and battle do the little things that we can do to win.
Q. What problems does Duke present for your team?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: They can shoot the 3. They can penetrate. They have got phenomenal post players inside. I don't think it's one concern in particular. If you had to narrow is down to one, I think it's the versatility of the team.
Q. Stephanie and Ukari, you guys have this bond not just from what you've been through, but just from your natural friendship. Have you ever gotten to the point of not only you know where each other is the on the court but you can finish each other's sentences; and is it that close? What do you do together off the court?
UKARI FIGGS: I don't think we've ever really finished sentences for each other, but that would be kind of scary. Michelle said that. Every now and then we do make some of the same comments about something, but I think that happens when you're around somebody so much. Off the court, I think you know we have a lot of the similar interests. We like to watch movies and I don't know, just go to bowling or, you know, stuff like that. And I think that definitely for this whole team and Steph and I, I think the bond off the court has really just helped so much with our success on the court and knowing where we are on the court. And as far as I think this team, you know we're so close off the court that we just go out there and play as hard as we can for each other and whether or not, you know, things are going well someone on our team is going to pick us up and that's been the great thing about this team.
STEPHANIE WHITE-McCARTY: She said it very good.
Q. How important is that as a motivating factor and to give the conference a little more visibility? You see two men's teams in the Final Four.
COACH CAROLYN PECK: I'll take this one. I think that you know it would be great for the Big-10. I think that as the year has progressed a lot of recognition has come to the Big-10 conference and the talent within our conference. It has been extremely competitive all season long. We're not caring any additional pressure though for something to prove for the Big-10. We are coming to play a ball game, and really, it's between Purdue and Duke.
Q. There has been a lot of discussion about your leaving. Is there any mentality starting to creep in now?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: The focus right now is we've got a ball game for 40 minutes. We take it one session at a time.
Q. Georgetown, Kentucky. Can you tell me a little bit about your background? Has there been a tradition of basketball in the town you're from? Did it start with you?
UKARI FIGGS: I think Kentucky is definitely one of the best places for basketball, period. I think the Indiana-Kentucky and Indiana All-Star Game is such a historical matchup basketball talent and our county is -- has great basketball tradition, both male and female. And we were able, you know, my senior year to go and get to the first Sweet 16 and win the first state championship. And you know after that I think the gods won two state championships and it's just a great basketball tradition and I've had a lot of fun playing with Camille and seeing her both through high school and all that stuff. And it's just great to be able to grow up with somebody and have a chance to get an opportunity to play in the national championship game with them.
CAMILLE COOPER: I think it helped. It wasn't my main reason, but I knew that she would be here and that would be a friend on and off the court. She is always someone I'll look up to and go to for advice.
Q. Coach, when Duke knocked often see there was some concern that they were knocking out -- really the marquis attraction for the Final Four a major program. But subsequent to that has developed a pretty good story line of Cinderlla team and coming out of the shadow of a big program there and maybe two national championships. It's also become a symbol, more of a parity in women's basketball, programs that are coming on strong. No matter what happens tomorrow what do you think Duke's move this year, vis-a-vis the twin national championship talk, vis-a-vis a new face on the scene has done for women's basketball; and secondly, does it affect your psychology all? Are they a sentimental favorite versus professional favorite in terms of Purdue?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: I have to compliment Gail Goestenkors on the job she has done with her team. It has been a battle all year long for other teams to be noticed outside of Tennessee and Connecticut. They have gotten a lot of media coverage. That has been very well deserved. I don't want to take anything away from those two programs, but the nation has come to learn that there are other good teams that are playing. And with Duke's men and women being in a Final Four, I think that that is causing people to talk about women's basketball in the same breath as men's basketball. It's a great thing. We are very excited to be here. We don't play a lot of attention to what other people think and other people's opinions of who can do what, because when it comes to game time both teams have to step out on the floor and play. I think you can defeat yourself if you go out and you put too much stock in what other people think you should do or where you should end up. The only thing that matters is what you believe and how you convert that on to the floor when you play the game.
Q. Coach you, can you talk about your bench a little bit? Because Tiffany played a great game and pretty much it has been the five starts was a little help from Kelly. (inaudible)?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: It has not been five players. It's been about 8 players. At different times different players have stepped up and done some good things for us. The best part about this bench, they are -- the best way to describe them, do what they need to do when called upon. You've got Kelly that started the year off in the Tennessee game and was a great spark for us. Where were times when Mackenzie has done good things gore us and candy Crawford and then you see Tiffany Young last night. They are just willing to do whatever it takes to make this team successful.
Q. He after this game, do you go back and start cleaning out your office?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Right now, I haven't gotten that far. I'm getting ready for practice. That's as far as I'm thinking right now.
Q. I may be assuming something here, but could you talk about the European trip maybe setting the tone, and was that an occasion for you and the team to resolve any issues of the fact that you would be leaving?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Well, when we first planned the trip to go to Europe, every coach that I talked about doing it said it's the best thing for bonding when you're going to try to make a run, when you feel like you've got the team to make a run; so, that's what that European trip was about. We got together for ten days. We worked on things, because I got everybody back this year that I had last year with the addition of Kelly. Unfortunately, Mary was not able to play this season because of stress fractures. So in the trip, we took what we had done last year. We fine tuned it and we were able to add a few new things for this year. That's what this trip was about.
Q. When you were coaching with Gail at the Jones Cup, did you guys ever talk about possibly meeting in the Final Four and it seems kind of ironic that now you're in this situation.
COACH CAROLYN PECK: We never did. But I tell you, that was a great trip. We had a lot of fun together. I think that we have similar senses of humor and we had a good time.
Q. Any stories?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Well, we took the team, well I'm probably going to get slammed for this, but we took the team called to a place called Snake Alley in Taiwan. It was a very interesting place. It was very educational. It was fun. I really like Gail's coaching style and her demeanor with the players. I don't know if she realizes this, but I learned a lot from her. She's very specific on what she needs them to do. Not real complicated. And have fun with them.
Q. Awhile ago when Coach Goestenkors was in here, she was talking about a conversation she had with you at some point where you said that your ambition was to some day coach an NBA team. Could you talk about that and also what your ambition as a coach ultimately is? What you hope to do through coaching and in coaching?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Well, absolutely. My ambition to win a national championship.
Q. That's as far as it goes?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: That's as far as it goes.
Q. Against Louisiana Tech you controlled the tempo a lot. You walked the basketball up the floor and really tried to slow things down most of game and every once in awhile they would get going and make a run. Are you looking for a particular tempo in this ball game against Duke? Anything you want to do?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: You think we walked it up last night? I can remember the Figgs save behind the back, push it up to Steph who missed the layup followed by Camille. That was not walking it up. But I think that we run smart and comes from a decision from our seniors. I think that's when we'll run when the opportunity is there. I don't think we'll try to force things. I think that we are similar with Duke, they do the same type thing. They run under control. They take the opportunities that are given this and I think it's going to be kind of like a chess match of our guards deciding this is a good opportunity to run or this is a time where we should shut up and really take advantage of having possession of the ball.
Q. You've made the point the several times over the last week or so, and the players have echoed it and not playing to other people's expectations, to set your own goals. I'm wondering where you trace in your own experience that philosophy coming from? And also one of the things that people in the arena have talked about when they see you the first time, so many people are shocked at how tall you are and how you tower over people. I'm wondering if those two things -- maybe I'm assuming something here, but I'm wondering if those two things are at all tied together. You must have gotten tall in very early in your life.
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Born with it.
Q. If you could talk about that experience and maybe in your learning to handle that situation with other people that's part of what you're talking about.
COACH CAROLYN PECK: I think that growing up, I got a great family and you know my parents and my grandparents and the rest of my family around me have always really pushed -- be proud of who you are. It doesn't matter what size you are or what you look like. The only thing you've got to know is that you feel good about yourself. My grandmother always used to poke me in the back and tell me to stop slouching over and pull my shoulders back because: "God gave you the height, be proud of it. You can't change it and stand tall." I think that the thought of not worrying about other people's opinions has come from my family as well, that a lot of people will say you can't do something. Well, when growing up as a kid in swimming, softball, basketball, track or whatever, if somebody said Carolyn: You really probably can't win this one or you can't do that, that's when really -- I would set my mind to try to prove them wrong. So, then I think that that can work to an adverse condition to where you work too hard on trying to prove somebody else wrong and not take care of the matter at hand. And I think through the years we have all learned that it doesn't matter what everybody thinks. Everyone has opinions. What you've got to do is stay focused on the dreams that you have and then move forward from there.
Q. At what point did you become proud of your height so nobody had to push you in the back? And also what kind of comments do you get now versus what you might have gotten when you were younger I talked to Michele VanGorp about it -- the two of you the more striking figures here, and you do seem to have the good posture.
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Except for right now because I've dog tired. I think that I never realized really that I was that much taller than anyone else because I've got two brothers that are 6'5 plus and then any dad is 6'4. My mom is 5'10; so in my house hold I was sometimes the runt in the family next to my mom. I really didn't realize until I was in college that I was taller than most people. I was looking at a video that my dad took at a Christmas program, and I am standing head and shoulders above everybody else. I think that all young girls that are growing up to be tall, be proud of it, to take it to heart. To walk into a place and people turn and look, be proud of the height that you have. I really -- I've had a lot of people ask me to talk to their young girls about the -- how do you handle being tall; and it's a good thing. Right now with their being different opportunities for women in sports in particular, height and size has its advantages. Also, a lot of models are tall. You look at Lisa Lesley: She's a beautiful, tall woman. There are a lot out there. Comments, you know, they go both ways you've got the ones of how is the weather up there. You have little kids that say: You're as big as my dad. That happens. Also, you have that say when you walk in a place, people notice. My team likes to walk behind me in the airport because they like to see people's expressions when they walk by. Another tall, striking beautiful figure is Camille Cooper on our team. She -- I look at her every day and I think she has the world in her hands because not only is she tall and beautiful, but she also has a 4.0 and she has a terrific personality.
Q. Just following up on that, you said that you had talked -- have you talked to some young girls and have you been able to bring them around?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: I don't know if I've been able to bring them around, but you know just to -- if they can see the opportunities and the things that you can do, it doesn't matter what size you are. It doesn't matter if you're five feet or 4'5 or six feet or 6'8. I remember Honey Gillingham that played at Vanderbilt and really had a tough time when she got to college with her height. When you start comparing yourself of how you look to other people that can really lower your opinion of yourself. It's not a matter of how you compare to somebody else. It's how you feel about yourself and I think that that has been helpful, that, was the advice given to me and extremely helpful.
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