March 29, 1998
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, first thing I want you to know is that I'm going to smile for you, okay? You can ask me anything you want to ask me. But the first thing I'd like to tell you is the best team doesn't always win, but tonight I thought the best team won the Championship that they deserve. And they've been the best team all year long. But I kept saying, let's see what happens when we get into post season and March Madness. I am so happy for this team because of their love for the game, their competitiveness and their chemistry and love for each other. And it has just been an incredible year. I cannot imagine this team not getting what they deserve. They deserve a National Championship. They came out in the opening minutes clearly ready to play. I felt good about it. I told them I've been to 15 of these, I said I've never felt better going into a Championship game than I feel tonight.
Q. Chamique, you said all year you're going to come back next year. Can you tell us tonight your decision stands and it's firm, final, not subject to further consideration?
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: It's firm and it's final.
Q. Chamique, can you say if this is one of the best feelings you've had at a Championship because you shared the responsibility with the other players?
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: I really enjoyed it. It's exciting. I mean, I guess I'm used to kind of winning right now, and everyone is "Meek, you're not really excited." You've kind of been there and done that. I was excited to be there and win this with this team. But I've been there, so I'm not going to be crying or anything like that.
Q. As good as your team is, do you sometimes surprise yourself? Considering the way you started the first ten minutes of this game, do you even surprise yourselves?
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: I think at times we do. No one expected us to do as well this season. They said we were young, we didn't have enough balls to go around. So it feels good at the end that we finally proved everyone wrong, and we went out and won a Championship. And everyone in the team has participated.
Q. Kellie, you could see that you were excited when you came out of the game. Could you talk a little bit about your career high and your performance tonight?
KELLIE JOLLY: Pat told me before the game started for me to be aggressive offensively. And I had some open looks and was able to knock them down. It's hard to guard the players that I'm on the floor with. And sometimes I'm going to get some good open looks.
Q. Chamique, can you describe -- can you try to describe, anyway, for those of us who were not on the floor, but watching, what those first ten minutes felt like when you guys were doing everything it looked like you wanted to?
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: It felt good, because we saw our game going to work. We wanted to come out intense and aggressive. When we were up by 15 points, we knew we had came out to take care of business. We knew we had control of the game, and wanted to continue to play hard.
Q. This is for Kellie. Coach Barmore said that your two three pointers really shut the door on them. Did you have that impression when you hit the back-to-back three pointers, that that was the ultimate feeling there?
KELLIE JOLLY: For me, yeah, it was. But I thought that those baskets were pretty big. Two back-to-back 3s, that will hurt another team. But like I said, they just came to me.
Q. Pat, you've coached a lot of good teams. What about this team made you so comfortable to start this game? Why did you know they were so ready? What gave you that feeling?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, first of all, just being with them today in practice and the film session, and tonight just seeing them on the bus and the locker room, they were loose. We were all loose. Even Coach DeMoss was loose. And I just felt like they were ready to play. I thought they'd done an excellent job of comprehending the gameplan and what they needed to do. And for me, going in and going in with this particular team, they played both ends of the floor. And they play a tempo unlike any team that I've coached. And I felt like for 40 minutes we would make it an up-and-down game if we needed to. We had done that for 38 consecutive games. I was confident in a 40-minute game we could win this game.
Q. In Nashville Pat said that you were waiting for your A game. Do the players feel like they played their A game tonight?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Yeah, I think we played very well today. We had ups and downs at times, but we came out for the most part and played our game the way we knew how to play it.
Q. Tamika and Kellie, you seem a little more excited than Chamique at winning it. Is that surprising that she's so subdued or is that just her personality?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: I'm excited, just because this is my first -- I'm just excited to be here. As far as Chamique, she's been here. But, I don't know, she's happy. You can tell she's happy.
KELLIE JOLLY: It's her personality.
Q. Chamique, Pat said yesterday this could be either an ugly game or full of razzle-dazzle. Could you talk about your team's razzle-dazzle?
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: We were excited. I think it was two athletic teams, and we got up and down the floor. A lot of exciting plays. And for the people watching the game at home and the fans, it's women's basketball at another level.
Q. Chamique, you're just a junior. What do you do for an encore? What's your next goal?
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: Come back as a better player, win another Championship and leave here in style.
Q. You guys didn't want to talk about being the best ever because you guys hadn't won it. Now that you've won it and you have your three in a row, are you guys the best ever?
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: You know what, next year's team will be the best ever.
Q. Chamique, obviously a lot of help from everybody tonight. But in the opening minutes, I think you had 12 the first 21, and that's obviously when you took control of the game. Can you talk about how you mentally came in the game and were able to execute?
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: That's what I think Coach expects me to do, is come out with a lot of intensity. She told me my role before post season started, and stressed it throughout the season, to look to get the ball up. Once I get up, it filters through the team, and everyone else goes out and starts making big plays.
Q. For any of the players, can you try to explain to us how it's possible that you could do all this and not apparently feel any pressure? Did you feel you were so much better? It sounds easy to talk about, but I don't know how you get through it like that.
KELLIE JOLLY: I think we've maintained focus throughout the season; had a lot of attention this season. And we were just really mature in handling that. And I think that we just went out and we're just taking this game one possession at a time. It was just another game for us. Just happened to be one for a National Championship.
Q. Pat, they think that you've delayed on this a little bit. Are you now ready to say this is the best women's team ever?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I tell you, I really think that it's probably the best for the coaches that are out there that played against us. I can tell you it's the quickest, the best defensive team I've coached and the best transition team overall that I've coached. I also can tell you it's a team unlike any that I've coached in terms of their competitiveness and their will to win. Also their willing to prepare to win. A lot of players say they want to win. But this team, their preparation was tremendous. As far as all those coaches out there that coach a lot of great teams, this one is a different style. But I like this style probably best of any I've seen.
Q. Pat, was this the A game you were waiting for?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: You know, I got my degree in education. I couldn't give this team anything but an A tonight.
Q. Pat, your slogan for offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounds wins championships. Does it need to be revised at all because of the style of this team?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I'll be honest with you, I think our fans -- we increased our fan support to about 15,000 this year. And I think offense had a lot to do with it. I'll think on that. I might be able to come up with a new slogan. I did call this team America's hustle team. That was our slogan in most season. We wanted to be America's hustle team. And I truly felt like they committed to really coming up with hustle plays and keeping the heat on, both offensively and defensively.
Q. Coach, talk about Kellie Jolly and her ability to step it up in final games. Last year 11 assists, this year, career high 20 points. What does that mean to you guys?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Only two times in Kellie's career have I gone to her right before the game and said you have to be offensive-minded tonight, you have to be aggressive offensively. Last year in the regional Championship game against Connecticut, I think she had 19. And then tonight in this game. From watching film, and I watched a lot of film, I really felt like Kellie would have an opportunity to get some shots off, because you have, obviously, to be concerned about other players on our basketball team that put up numbers, particularly Chamique, Tamika and Semeka. I said you're going to have a chance to do this and you have to be aggressive on the offensive end. Now, you might wonder why I'm not smart enough to do it all the time. But I felt tonight she really needed to do that.
Q. With so many freshmen on your team, is this the start of a Tennessee dynasty?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, I don't know. You don't always win when you're supposed to. But I tell you, certainly with this freshman class and Chamique coming back, and Kellie will be a senior, we should have a terrific team. You never know about the injury factor. We've lost Kyra Elzy or I think we'd have been a better team even this year. If we stay healthy and our two freshmen will come in and do the things, I think they're capable of doing it. I think you're going to see an exciting team next year, as well.
Q. Coach Barmore said earlier that he knew that Chamique was going to get her points, but what hurt was Tamika's performance, especially in the first half.
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Tamika, she plays so hard and plays so quick, that a lot of times she will quick shoot the ball. I watched our game against Arkansas. You play as hard as you're playing until you catch the basketball, then you no longer have to play quick. It's like Coach Wooden always said, be quick, but don't rush. She rushed some shots. But tonight she had a lot of poise when she was in a position to shoot the basketball and drive it.
Q. Coach, if there is a possible higher ground for you in this game, would it be in the men's game? Would you ever consider that?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: No. I'm having the time of my life. I don't think I've ever been happier. And I've said this many times, I think the women's game obviously needs to continue to grow, and we need exciting teams. A team like this is going to be great for women's basketball. And hopefully we can just elevate our game. I love doing this. The men's game, they have plenty of great teams and great coaches, and I don't think they need any help from the women's side. And this is my passion, right here.
Q. Pat, a lot of people have said this team has changed the way that women's basketball has been played. How has it changed you being with them this whole year as you look back on it?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: It's changed me in a number of ways. First of all, I haven't had the coach effort, and I've been able to really use my energy to plan practice, and go in and try to be a better teacher and better coach for this team. I've not had to motivate this basketball team. They've taught me an awful lot about transition and defensive -- different defensive schemes, because of their quickness and their commitment to be a pressing team. So we're running -- we ran a lot of multiple defenses. We ran a lot of different looks offensively, because we were very smart. So they've helped me expand my Xs and Os and certainly had a lot of fun in the process. Vice-President Gore called and said he watched the game and loved it, and we made all of Tennessee proud. He talked about how we came out and played in the opening minutes. And he also talked to Chamique, and she asked him -- I think her question was, are you going to get tired of seeing me at the White House? And I'm sure he said no. And he said we'll look forward to your visit and just want you to know how proud we are for you and the team and the staff. And with that, before I leave, I just -- I want all of you to be aware that this is not only a great team, this is a great staff. Mickie DeMoss, Holly Warlick and Al Brown are second to no one when it comes to game preparation, and I certainly shared this with them. And I feel like the luckiest head coach in America. I have the best team and the best staff. Thank you for being here.
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