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March 26, 1998

Tamika Catchings

Chamique Holdsclaw

Pat Summitt


COACH PAT SUMMITT: This is obviously a weekend that we put on our calendar early on, and we're glad to be here. Certainly it was not an easy regional final for us. And I think it makes this even more special. If you talk about it in October, that's one thing. If you have to really battle to get here, I think it makes you appreciate being here even more. So we are very excited about it, and very proud of our basketball team. I've had more fun coaching this year than I've had in 24 seasons. So I'm glad I at least have an opportunity to coach one or two more times.

Q. What did you learn as a team in the last game, how important was it to face that adversity, if it was at all?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think we learned from our game against North Carolina, first of all, that we have to be a 40 minute team. It's a 40 minute game, and I know this team has played its spurts. I was really disappointed, and I told them when I went back, and I saw their lack of commitment to transition defense. Yes, we got caught some with our full court pressure. They handled it well early, but we didn't respond off of rebounds and made baskets to their up tempo. And these two young ladies up here learned a lot from that, because it was a different style of play, other players bringing the ball up as opposed to a point guard running the team. I think the other thing we learned is you can't give up. We had our backs against the wall, and we knew we had to make our defense our offense. I thought that the team came away from that game much more determined and more confident. They're very focused. They have to feel good about themselves. We'll take it as a learning experience, but we'll see if we learned the lessons that we talked about when we take the floor tomorrow night.

Q. There are very few teams that you go undefeated, can you talk about the concept of perfection, and what it is to attain it?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: First of all, when you go into a season I think realistically you go in thinking that you want to make the big dance, you go in wanting to be conference champs, that was certainly two goals we talked about. Realistically in our program, we've not ever talked about having an undefeated season, because of our schedule and the difficulty of our schedule. It seemed as we progressed through the regular season and we started approaching the end testify that all of a sudden we were reminded that we had just a few games left and it might happen. It says to me that these players are truly special in their ability to step out every night and know that they're the target of everyone else, and have the intensity and the focus, game in and game out, and the commitment to make plays and to come up with wins. I'm really proud of them, regardless of what happens. I think that they've been the best team in women's basketball this year, and they've demonstrated that on a consistent basis. That's not hard to do, when you look at the fact that we've now played 37 games. At times I know they felt like we were a pro team, particularly when we got into playing so many consecutive road games.

Q. You didn't have one of your best games against Arkansas last year, and this year you stepped up quite a bit, what was the difference in those two games, and what do you have to do tomorrow to have a better performance?

CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: I think when you play anyone the first time around and you don't perform well, you're just motivated to go out there the next time and prove to them that you've improved. When we faced them this year I was motivated by the fact that I didn't have a good game down in Arkansas the year before, and now I think for our next matchup, we have to come in prepared as a team, and want to go out there and play well.

Q. Coach Summitt, you've talked about this year being such a good one for you in terms of coaching. Can you compare some of your expenses and feelings with this years team to last years team?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Certainly in terms of the regular season quite a contrast. This team is a very highly motivated team, full of competitors. They're much more vocal than last years team. And I guess because of my personality I enjoy coaching teams that are vocal and aggressive and just get after people. Last year's team, and I've said this, they have to be one of toughest for us to coach, because they were passive, at times very laid back, non-aggressive. It was hard for our coaching staff to relate to the personality of that team, although I learned an awful lot from that team, because while they were one of my least favorite teams to coach in the regular season, they were one of my favorite teams to be with in post season. It was like all of a sudden they take on this personality of we're going to win a championship, and they were focused, they understood their role, they were aggressive, Elzy steps up and plays her heart out and everybody responds. And today I can tell you I have so much respect and admiration for that basketball team. It's not so much what we didn't do in the regular season, it's what we did in post season that stands out in my mine. Both teams are very special and both teams obviously were very successful.

Q. Chamique, could you tell about the extra demands on your time and the teams, as the season went on, because it's increased so much this year.

CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: The media has increased. There's a lot of hype around the team. I think it's prepared us for what we're going to see this weekend, all the attention we're going to get nationally. We had a good group of kids. We have level heads, and coach keeps us down to earth and enables us to go out and handle things pretty good.

Q. How do you balance the attention, and when is too much too much?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think you have to keep it in perspective and understand that part of the responsibility now to the game is that you do invite the media in, you're accessible, you want to promote the game, while you're obviously promoting your own program. I think the big picture is that you promote the women's game. When is too much too much? I think the demands on our players for autographs became a little bit overwhelming, and that's why I said in post season, no autographs. Obviously the NCAA this afternoon has asked us to autograph, we'll be happy to do so. But with that exception we're just trying to keep our team very focused on what they need to do. And then when it's all over then this team will be happy to sign autographs or do whatever they need to to promote the game.

Q. A question first for Chamique and then Pat. When you look at Tamika, does she remind you of yourself as a freshman, and then later for Pat, do you see any similarities?

CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: Definitely. She probably runs the floor better than I probably would ever. But she does do that good. And she's a competitor. She goes out there, she's quiet. I probably was a quiet player my freshman year, also, but she gets the job done, and I've enjoyed playing with her so much.

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think when you look at their numbers there's a lot of similarities in what they've meant to our program and our team in their freshman season. When you look at their style of play it's very different. Chamique has the style with poise and grace, and makes things look easy at times, although she is a competitor, and she does work hard, I think she just -- her on the court demeanor is very different from Tamika. Tamika plays a hundred miles an hour. If anything, we try to slow her down. I'm hoping Chamique, her little bit of I won't call it necessarily laid back, but poised style, Tamika can rub off. I think she thought if I don't run the floor, I won't touch the ball. If you look at numbers, Tamika has been a big play maker for us. She wants the ball, she's a fierce competitor, and she's very committed to both ends of the floor. They really compliment each other. I'm just glad they're both with us this weekend.

Q. Pat, your sideline demeanor is very intense, but at the same time you seem to strike a good balance with your players and value their input. Can you speak to the importance of incorporating their input into your coaching philosophy and style?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think first and foremost it's important that you understand each other. The coach understands players. The players understand the coaches. We really work hard at that, even before we take the floor. I want to know what's important to Tamika and Chamique, I want to know their goals, I want to know how they play this game. I want them to understand my personality and my intensity. And you just hope that they are mature enough to be able to take the message and not be upset because of the tone or the intensity at which it's delivered. And I think once we understand each other, then hopefully I've matured as a coach, just like they have as a player, and I can help them when we get in pressure situations, like we were the other night. I was trying to think as a coach, how can I best help Chamique, because she was struggling. And I'm glad she got that out of her system. And it's happened with the rest of the players. You just -- that's my role. I've already done the X's and the O's, but right then psychologically I could give them an edge if I know what buttons to push. I think they pushed each other's buttons the other night. But they know each other as well, and that's important.

Q. This is for either of the players, and then Pat. A lot of people have wondered outside of basketball how this team would react in a close game, a tough situation. How elevating was if for you all to have gotten the job done and to do it before you got to the Final Four?

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: I think playing North Carolina, it kind of opened our eyes a little bit. We've been winning game, not at ease, but we've been winning them, I don't know what the word is, but I think the North Carolina game proved that everybody was always ready to play against Tennessee. And we were prepared for it, but we weren't prepared for them -- the kind of game they came out playing against us. And I think we came out and after playing against North Carolina, we all know that we have to come out every game and play as hard as we can, and get the job done.

Q. Pat, I noticed some of the reporters call you Pat, and some call you Coach.

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I've been called a lot of things, I prefer those two.

Q. Some of your players call you by your first name and some call you Coach. How does that come about? Do you have a preference or is it a comfort zone?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think it's a comfort zone with the players. I got the job at Tennessee when I was 22. I told the administration that I'd like the players to call me Pat. And it would not affect the respect factor, that we would work through that. And I really arrived at that from playing internationally, and playing for Billy Moore and Sue Gunter, and they went on a first name basis. I liked it because off the court I felt like I could approach them and talk to them. They could be more than just a coach. And I think players need more than that. You're a mom or a counselor or you wear a lot of different hats. It's whatever they're comfortable with. With Chamique it's usually Coach Summitt. I'm sure behind closed doors there's other things that come out. But that doesn't matter, I don't have a preference.

Q. Pat, is there a hidden danger in having played Arkansas earlier in the season and having beaten them so easily?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, I think first of all Arkansas is a different basketball team right now than what we played earlier. Christy was not a hundred percent and Christy Smith is right now playing terrific basketball. I think our team understands when you get to this level anything can happen. We will prepare for them like we've prepared for everyone else. There's one thing about playing someone in your conference, it's family. There are really no secrets. I've watched Coach Blair and admired his intensity and his ability to prepare players for big games, and so we'll go into that game understanding that we know them, but at the same time we have to go out and compete against them, as if they are really not family. And we'll take this the way we have every other game.

Q. This question is for Tamika. The question is twofold. First off, I saw a little segment on ESPN about you and your sister. And she said she knew you always dreamed of going to Tennessee. When did you know that that was a dream of yours and how satisfying is it to be on a team like this, that is undefeated and poised to win a National Championship? And secondly, what's it like to play under a player like Chamique, what kind of influence has she had over you?

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: To answer your first question, I wanted to come to Tennessee in 8th grade. I think I saw Pat, I don't remember what game it was, but I remember seeing her and from that time on it was like just her intensity, and just the focus that she showed, I just knew that's what kind of coach I wanted to play under. And then for Chamique, playing with her, I don't know, it's great. It's cool playing with this team, nobody is cocky. Chamique just gets the job done, and just being a part to play, it's neat. To me it's just -- I don't know, it's just a feeling that's overwhelming.

Q. Pat, Arkansas has never been here before, NC State has never been here before, Louisiana Tech has been here many times, going for your third straight championship, what type of advantage does Tennessee have, just being here, and you being able to relay that sense of familiarity to your players, particularly your four freshmen?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Ten years ago it would have been a tremendous advantage. Today I think kids are different. I think they've had more exposure to big crowds, all the media, and I think that coaches are definitely better across the board. So I don't see it as a great advantage for Tennessee, although I would tell you I would have preferred to have had some experience. And I think the experience in particular that Chamique and Kellie have will help our basketball team, if nothing else, just to give them some confidence, our freshmen, and yet I'm not sure that's what they need right now. We may have to tone them down a little bit. But for our coaching staff I can tell you from my experiences, every Final Four is very different, and yet having been here it helps us to better handle the schedule and the time demands and the fact that you can be pulled in a lot of different directions, and hopefully we can keep our team focused.

Q. What is the game's relationship with the pro leagues right now? Can you foresee a day when they would come after underclassmen?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think certainly everyone is really excited about the professional leagues, and how it is really having such a positive influence on our game. And I think it's been a great motivation for collegiate players, because you have that carrot out there, and as coaches we definitely can dangle it and say, look, first call they're going to make is to ask me. I remember last year with Pashen Thompson, when they call me after the Final Four, what do you want me to tell them? She rattled off all these things. I said good, take care of business, and I'll be happy to take that call. But as far as the pro leagues coming after our players, I don't think any league right now has any intention of going after players. I think they're wanting to build a very successful league themselves, and I think what would happen, I think a player would have to go after the pro league. There would have to be obviously, I think, something that would create an opportunity and I think it would have to be initiated by the player not the league.

Q. One of your teammates told me that you enjoyed rapping, and that you have a neat rap. Could you indulge us?

CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: I joke around a lot, and Tamika does her singing and Semeka does her dancing, but I don't think I could say it right now.

Q. This is for the players. Coach Summitt said you would see if you learned your lesson from the North Carolina game this weekend. Can you talk about what you learned from that game?

CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: I learned that we better come out and put teams away quick, because North Carolina came out and they were fired up and they ran on us, got too many transition baskets. These next two games, we want to go out there and play great defense, kind of start off great, so we don't have to worry about anyone as the game progresses.

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: I think I learned how important it is for somebody just to step up. I think with Teresa stepping up at that last play and putting that bucket in made me realize that our team, anybody can come out any night to play and do what we need to do to win. And I think that's mainly what I learned.

Q. Coach, what got you involved in coaching and what keeps you in coaching?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I got involved in coaching, I had an ACL injury my senior year in college, and I never thought about coaching. It was the first time I'd been without the game since I started playing in the third grade. And I panicked. I thought -- I can't do this. So I didn't get to play any senior year. And I rehabbed so I could train for the Pam Ams and the Olympics. I took the job at Tennessee while I was rehabbing. I knew then when they offered me the job, it was a great opportunity to stay? The game, and I had to take it, although I still had playing in the system. What keeps me in the game are the players, the relationships, the challenges of working with young people, of trying to help this game. I think to see what has already happened and to know that with great players and with a commitment from a University like we have at Tennessee that a lot of good things can happen. I'm excited about the growth of women's basketball. I've felt fortunate I've been able to be a part of this process, and coach all these great young players.

Q. Pat, some people have said that this team is the best women's team ever, not just the record, but the way they play and the style, and the evolution of the game. Can you talk about how the women are different now physically and off the court than when you started? And do you think that this really, truly is the best team ever?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, the game has changed. This team has obviously demonstrated through their playing the significant changes that we're seeing, not only from our basketball team, but from a lot of other teams, in that players are no longer one dimensional. The game is no longer a half court game. We have players, and obviously here are two great examples right in front of you, with players that can handle the ball, bring it up the floor, take you off the dribble, shoot the three, post up, they can defend and play the game in a much quicker tempo. All I have to do is go back and pull out some old tapes and watch some of our early teams, when everybody talks about Tennessee handles the ball, and they have two low post players that never move, never handle, and you know there's a lot of truth in that. I think what we're seeing in the women's game certainly is exciting, particularly the tempo at which we now can play. And basically we're here not only because we love to play the game, but we're promoting our game. I think this team as well as some other teams have been very good for the game, because we're entertaining fans. We're getting the talk right in women's basketball, so we're going to sell a lot more tickets, hopefully, and get the attention of even a greater number of fans.

Q. Pat, another aspect of perfection, in the past the best you could play some teams and concede that they were better in this area and that area, if you lost a game it wasn't so much you did something wrong, and they did something right and you knew it going in. With this team so well versed in so many areas, can you think of anybody going into a game this year that you thought might give you trouble in a certain area?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, certainly every game as a coach I think, well, I'm always concerned about the strengths of other teams. I don't think that will change, because I'll always want to be mindful that at any point in time you can get beat. The important thing is you don't want to be the ones to self-destruct. I really felt like the North Carolina team matched up really well with us in terms of their athleticism and quickness. But I wasn't prepared for our team to be slow in transition. And I'm not prepared now. It best not happen again, and I don't anticipate that it will. But there are different matchups. Alabama was a matchup in which I didn't think we matched up well with them. They had three players that could make shots, and certainly they had size that physically we didn't handle their physical play as well as I would have hoped. Other than that, no, I think in most cases we prepare ourselves and I feel like we've been the best team in the country. And we could mess up and beat ourselves, but hopefully no one is going to come out clearly with an advantage when the game starts.

Q. I'd be interested to know if you and the players have had an advance screening of that HBO special on last year's team. And if it's something you would want them to see or not want them to see heading into the games?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Actually we had a premiere showing in Knoxville, and I made it mandatory for our freshmen. I had gone to New York to do some voice-overs, so I had a chance to see it. And I really thought it could be a motivational film for them, for our freshmen. I think what surprised them is probably the scene that they saw the most was our locker room scene, and in most cases players were crying and upset. They hadn't lost a game, they've not been in that situation, and I thought it might be a good reminder they don't want to experience it. So I made it mandatory for them to go. But I think it's a great piece for women's basketball. It's real life. It shows how you have to handle adversity, and if you do and you persevere and you play together and you're committed to the team concept and you're really working in unison, you can accomplish anything in the end.

Q. Tamika, you've seen the HBO special, you've seen the banners hanging in the gym, what kind of things do Chamique and Kellie tell you to expect when you got here to Kansas City, and how does that compare with the feeling that went through you when you actually got here?

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: I think Chamique talked about her freshman year, her first year coming here, and how she was excited, and Pat had to pull her to the side and tell her she needed to focus. And I think the main thing we have to be concerned about in coming here is being focused. We got here yesterday, and I was excited just to be here. But now we're going to start practicing and things, and I think now I'm starting to get focused and I'm ready to play.

Q. For both players, give us a sense what it's like to be the hunted team every game, all season long, when you go into another gym, the crowd is a little bigger, the other team is a little more fired up. Every time you go into an arena somebody is out to get you. What's that like, every game to go out there and be in that situation?

CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: I think it's exciting. You just have to go out there and prepare. You want to go out there and put on a show, so you can prove to everybody that you are, you know, a good team, and that you are excited.

Q. For the players, if you can talk about playing against Arkansas as a team that also likes to press. Does that make the game any different, you guys like to press, they like to press, does that change anything about the game?

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: We just kind of go out there and play. We know they like to press, we like to press. Both teams, I guess that's our bread and butter. We're going to go out there and press, they'll press us, too, and find out who wins in the end.

Q. Pat, can you talk a little about Chamique, how much she's changed over the last couple of years, especially since last year she was a little passive, that doesn't sound like the case this year.

COACH PAT SUMMITT: It's been an enjoyable process watching Chamique grow as a person and as a player. And just like her freshman year, the other day when she shared with the team that when she got to the Final Four she was just proud to be there. And I saw it. And we discussed it and fortunately she responded. But she's matured tremendously. I think the USA National Team experience was a positive one for her. I think the thing that hasn't changed is that she's always been a big play person for us. She's always wanted the ball under pressure. She's always been a very confident player, which I think is -- it doesn't come along very often in your career to have a player like that, and now I have three of them that like to make plays. But Chamique, her greatest improvement outside of just maturing as a person, I think, is that on the court she is running the floor better, and she's committed defensively. She's always put up points and gone to the boards for us, but I think the other night late in that game her defensive play was really big for us. And when she puts her mind to it she's a terrific defensive player, and just her transition game is so much better. She's got the all-around game, now. Even ball handling, although we have -- I can't say bet, we have a little agreement on the side about Chamique not passing the ball, that she is not to really look for assist in the post season.

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