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April 2, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with a opening statement from Coach Summitt and then take questions for the student-athletes.
COACH SUMMITT: I'll be very quick. Obviously delighted to be working today. It was an incredible finish for us. I was asked if we had been in a situation like that, and it was -- it seemed a little ironic that the '98 team in order to get to the Final Four in Kansas City we were down with 7:19 going, 7 minutes 19 seconds, we were down 12. And against North Carolina.
So it's hard to come back against a team like that that is playing the way they were playing. But really proud of our basketball team and their composure and execution to finish out that game. So we're delighted to be here and preparing to play against a great Rutgers team.
THE MODERATOR: Take questions for the student-athletes.
Q. For Nicky Anosike, seems appropriate that two of the best defensive teams are playing for the title tomorrow night. Can you talk a little bit about defense and why it matters so much at this time of year?
NICKY ANOSIKE: Coach always says defense wins games, and I think it's evident that the two best defensive teams are the in championship game. Especially Rutgers, who, like Vivian said, didn't even expect to be here, but their defense carried them through. So I think it only makes sense that the two of us are in the championship game.
Q. Candace, Rutgers obviously knows the challenge that you present them, but can you talk about what you think they're going to do that will challenge you?
CANDACE PARKER: Rutgers is a great defensive team. Hadn't really had the opportunity to really focus and see the different looks that they have done against their different opponents. I got to see briefly on the highlights of the LSU game on how they collapsed on Sylvia Fowles and really wanted to make other people beat them.
I think it's just us, we played one of the toughest schedules in the country and we have seen a lot of different looks, so I think it's just coming out and playing Tennessee basketball is what's going to help us in that game tomorrow.
Q. Candace, Nicky Anosike was saying last night that she considers herself somebody that's always going to have your back in games. Just want to know, what is it like to know that you have that kind of support that you don't always have to be the show every single minute you're on the court?
CANDACE PARKER: I don't feel like I ever felt like that, to be honest with you. Because at Tennessee we're different people who are able to step up at different times. And it may not always be on the offensive end. I know Nicky was huge for us last night, playing 40 minutes and just having that warrior mentality and always leading by example. And as well as Alexis and Sidney as well, and Shannon coming in and really frustrating the point guard and creating trouble.
So I think that it's really good for me to know that I have a lot of people that have my back. And I'll have their back as well.
Q. Nicky, can you talk a little bit about you picked up two pretty quick fouls, but you never looked to the bench and of course Coach never even took you out, which she did with several other players. Can you kind of -- is that normal? She had mentioned afterwards something about that.
NICKY ANOSIKE: No, it's definitely different that she left me in with two fouls. But I was focused on the game and I was really set on not getting into foul trouble and not getting that third foul. I think she just trusted me and I trusted myself not to get that third. And I just wanted to do it for my team. I think I'm a lot smarter than I used to be.
Q. Alexis, this is now the third year in a row that you'll see Rutgers and I guess try to end their season. What's different about this team from the previous two?
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: I think they have a lot more offensive weapons as a whole this year than the previous two. Cappie led their team the first two times that I played them in the tournament and I don't think that Matee's game was as developed then as it is now. And Essence has elevated her game as well. So it's like they're having a more balanced attack.
Q. Why is that so dangerous?
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: Well, obviously it's hard to stop five or four, even four people from scoring. It's easier to concentrate on one or two, but when you have a balanced scoring option it's a lot harder to continue to get great stops.
Q. Nicky, at one point last night it looked like Shannon was just screaming at you and you had a kind of quizzical look on your face. Is that -- she obviously is an emotional player, but is she always that emotional and does it amuse you or do you have to calm her down sometimes?
NICKY ANOSIKE: We all yell at each other. Nothing different. I yell at Candace, she yells back. Alexis yells at me. I might yell back. We just yell at each other. But we all know that we have the same goal and we're just here to help each other. So I might have looked confused when she was yelling at me, but I love her to death and I'm going to listen to what she has to say, and I hope she will listen to what I have to say also.
Q. Shannon, what can you tell us about Epiphanny. How is she different from high school? Are you excited to go up against her or pretty sure you got her number, since you're older?
SHANNON BOBBITT: Oh, it's definitely going to be a great game to watch. And Epiphanny is a great player. I'm just going to respect all of them and not fear any of them.
But it's been great playing with her in high school and I'm sure she's gotten better and smarter. But we definitely are going to stay tuned on all of them and play our hardest and leave everything out on the hardwood.
Q. Did she try to convince you to come to Rutgers with her?
SHANNON BOBBITT: Yes, she has. But I had to follow my heart and do what's best for my career.
Q. Candace, you guys haven't won a -- Tennessee hasn't won a national title since 1998. What would it mean not only for the team but for you in particular to win a national title for your legacy, not only at the school but in the women's game.
CANDACE PARKER: Well, I think that it would be huge for us. That's something that we came to Tennessee to do, to win a national championship. And I remember in the locker room yesterday earlier in the season some members of the '87 team came back. I didn't know what year it was. '87 team came back. And the first championship team. And they were sharing their stories and different things like that. We were just like, In 20 years we want to be able to come back and have our banner in the rafters and be able to celebrate and tell famous Pat stories and things like that. Roll her in in a wheelchair.
COACH SUMMITT: That was my suggestion. I just want to be there.
CANDACE PARKER: She will be there.
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: Yes, she will.
Q. Sidney, you're the only senior up there, can you talk a little bit about how special it is to get back to this game? You were there as a freshman and now you're back as a senior.
SIDNEY SPENCER: Just to be able to contend and play in a national championship game as a senior it's a dream come true, and I wouldn't want to do it with any other players than the ones we have on this team. And I think that this team has worked extremely hard in the summer, fall and up to now and just getting better and just being committed to one another. So it's definitely a dream come true.
Q. For any of the players up there, do you ever think about the history of the game with the two coaches that are in this game, Coach Stringer and Pat Summitt, and what it means to have these two coaches going up against each other for like the future of women's basketball?
CANDACE PARKER: I get to answer it. It's -- our game has grown a lot. And it has to do with the two coaches that are going to be facing each other in tomorrow's game.
Coach Summitt and Vivian Stringer, they have meant a lot to women's basketball and its growth. And it wouldn't -- the game wouldn't be where it is at right now without those two women. So it's just a great thing and we're really excited and I know Coach Summitt and Coach Stringer are very good friends, so it just makes it all better.
Q. For any of the players. Can you talk about the aura that is Tennessee women's basketball and do you feel like not necessarily you have a advantage with that, but it kind of is tough playing against Tennessee because who you guys are and the tradition and everything like that.
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: I think it's not as tough as it used to be because the parity in women's basketball game has grown so much that people don't really fear Tennessee just because you have Tennessee written on your chest. But at the same time it is a advantage to play for a school such as Tennessee where you have great fan support which helps us and makes it difficult for our opponents in post-season. But I don't think it makes it any harder to play us now.
Q. What was the most impressive thing you saw Rutgers do yesterday?
NICKY ANOSIKE: I think how they stopped Sylvia. A lot of teams haven't been able to do that. Even as good of a defensive team as we are, we still didn't hold her to five. They did. So I think that's just a tribute to how committed they are to defense and how great of a defensive team they are. But that was the most impressive thing.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you to all five of you. We're going to take questions now for the coach.
Q. Do you see Shannon as being kind of a missing piece of the puzzle and how many junior college players have you ever had? I assume it's very few.
COACH SUMMITT: First part of your question, Shannon has really been terrific as a competitor, as a teammate, and she has been one of the most coachable point guards in my career. I think she came in just wanting to learn the system, wanting to do things the right way.
I've just really -- I've just watched her day-to-day develop into a very heady point guard and she obviously is a very fierce competitor. She came out of the junior college ranks having to score a lot for herself and to create for her own game. But what she's been able to do is to create for others on our basketball team. Which has made us a much better not only transition team but I think specifically in the half court game.
I've had three junior college players. Obviously Alberta Auguste and Shannon Bobbitt came in together. The only other junior college player I had was Zandra Montgomery. And Zandra was from Tennessee. And actually when she came to play for me she was 26 and if my memory serves me right, I was 26 also. So it has just been a situation where we haven't needed to do that, we had some transfers which obviously triggered we got to have more quickness and speed in the back court and we definitely need a point guard because I think Alexis benefits and we benefit as a team when she can go the off guard.
Q. How much is having won six times before since 1998 helped you through the last nine years and when Vivian -- and not having won for nine now. And when Vivian says that she just wants to know what it feels like ones, can you imagine that void of never having won?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, we were in seven Final Fours and four championship games before we cut down nets. So it's not like Tennessee just won championships and it was easy. It is one of the hardest things to do in sports.
After we won six and in looking now at not having won, I think that is a reflection of the parity. If you just look at what we are seeing in women's basketball in terms of the caliber of play and the caliber of go-to players and just how our game has grown, the landscape has changed. And we have better post play, we -- you had to think back when -- somebody asked me this the other day, who was the best post player we faced, it was Lucia Harris, and that was back in the late '70s. So the game has now evolved into more of a power game as well as outside shooting, the 3-point shot has been great.
But I certainly will tell you that winning a championship is special for any team and any coach, but I don't think it necessarily defines that you are better than anyone else. You just usually it means you have better players.
Q. Can you just -- when Nicky says that she's a lot smarter than she used to be, can you just sort of trace for those of us who are ignorant just a little bit of the evolution of her game over the last couple years?
COACH SUMMITT: Nicky Anosike is very bright young woman. She's the type of person that when you challenge her, whether it's to work on her low post game, which she has done, this past summer she devoted the majority of her skill preparation to her face-up game. I think that you have to really credit her because whatever she wants to do -- I mean, academically she's one of the best students I've ever had in the program. She's very serious about her academics, very serious about her game.
I think now her composure, she used to get -- she picked up two, three fouls, I couldn't get her out fast enough. Why I left her in last night is because of her maturity and her composure and I knew she knew when Candace went out that she had to keep herself on the floor. And that's where her basketball IQ came into play. I just felt like she would do what she needed to do to help this team and to keep herself on the court so we would be able to at least hold our own. We just wanted to hold our own by half-time.
Q. Back on that evolution of the game theme, you were in the first NCAA Final Four. How was it different then than it is now?
COACH SUMMITT: When we went to the first NCAA championships, I thought that the people involved, the players probably didn't realize, the coaches realized, I'm not sure the fans realized, that going under or being taken under the umbrella of the NCAA was the best thing that ever happened to our game.
We got instant credibility, exposure, and respect for our game. That to me was just the very beginning of what you see now in women's basketball. And without the NCAA, I mean, we would not have made the great strides at a relatively fast pace. It seemed a little slow at times, but just having that opportunity for the national championships to be on national TV and for our players to be seen and our coaches to have a chance to really help showcase the game with the help of the student-athletes.
Q. Can you talk about the genesis of your friendship with Coach Stringer and having knowing what she's gone through personally over the years, what she's put into this through the decades, how difficult it's been to beat her in decisive moments, truly decisive moments in the tournament and what it might be like to have to do it again tomorrow night.
COACH SUMMITT: Well, Vivian is someone that I consider a great friend first, a colleague next.
When obviously Vivian was at Iowa we visited for a long time. I remember she called me one night -- Vivian can talk. And I don't mean for a few minutes. I think that we were on the phone for like three, three and a half hours. And it was in the wee hours of the morning. And she was talking about making the decision whether to leave Iowa.
I just know when she made that move, it took a lot of courage. But what she's been able to do at different programs, it just speaks volumes for who she is. It doesn't matter. You could take Vivian and put her in three more programs and in the next 15 years, and she would be successful.
She has great passion. And I think that the woman has handled adversity better than anyone else I know in this profession. And just the personal adversity that she's faced, and I know at times even professionally. And she just keeps the student-athletes first. She's obviously given back to this game. A lot of coaches give back to this game, but Vivian certainly has.
I'm excited for her. I really am excited for her. And as I go into this game, I just -- it has to be Tennessee and Rutgers, not Pat and Vivian. We're going to work hard for our teams, but the players are the ones that will have to lay it all on the line.
And obviously I remember when she lost her husband and we played them in Iowa as a No. 1 seed there. And the building was absolutely packed and it was -- the volume was something that I haven't probably heard before or since.
Her team obviously advanced to the Final Four, and I just remember that moment. And I think the people were there because of Vivian and what she had meant to the program and to the community. And she's a special lady. She's had tough times, but let me tell you, she's a tough lady. And she's also a great person.
Q. With all the attention that Candace gets, how do you feel the other girls on the team, particularly the starters, have handled that? And also could you give us maybe a couple of off-the-court anecdotes about Candace that kind of describe her personality and what she's like as a person.
COACH SUMMITT: It's interesting. A year ago I think that we probably did not have the kind of chemistry that we have now. Because we had a lot of high-profile players coming in. And then here comes Candace Parker back from her injury and I'm not sure that they were committed as a team to really accepting what each person could bring. Candace included. And we just didn't have good team chemistry.
Losing last year to North Carolina was a defining moment for this team and all the players that were returning. Because I think they realized how much they needed each other. And then in the off season they went to work. And I think that they respected Candace at a different level because Candace has changed her work ethic.
They talked about calling each other out. After the SEC game in which Candace only had four points in the tournament and we had our meeting, I mean they just spoke their mind. And they just said to Candace, and I said to Candace, if you pull this in post-season we lose, we can't win. And the big thing that Nicky challenged her to do was to be a defensive player. She said, You have got to step up and be a defensive player.
So I think that the fact that they hold each other accountable because they respect each other, they respect the fact that every one worked on their game in the off season.
It's just a great thing to see them have the maturity and obviously the confidence and the communication across the board as a team. And, I don't know, with Candace off the court -- Candace, I think she is the type of player she doesn't necessarily want attention. And I think she likes just being with them and hanging out and having fun and taking the spot light and turning it off. That's pretty much how this team has been.
Q. Can you remember when you first met Coach Stringer? Was it at the first Final Four in '82? And how do two people from two different corners of the earth and two different types of programs develop a friendship like that?
COACH SUMMITT: I think it was through our USA basketball. We had the sports festival and all that. And we served on a committee with USA basketball. I know we went out to -- I think it was actually the University of Illinois and we roomed together on that trip. And that's when I really got to know her and we were there to select a team from that particular area of the best young players in the game to play in the sports festival. If my memory serves me correct. And that's when I first really got to know Vivian and I spent time with her.
We just stayed in touch. It was a lot just through the USA basketball experiences at that particular time.
Q. A year ago Coach Stringer told us that one of the most encouraging things that happened after losing in the Big East tournament was your phone call. She talked to us about how this season was her bleakest and she expected the worst. Have y'all talked a lot this season? When was the last time you talked? And did she really say to you, What am I going to do with these freshmen?
COACH SUMMITT: No, we didn't talk early on. But we talked -- I guess it was right after the Big East tournament and right after the SEC's. And it's never a short conversation, as I said.
(Laughter.) And when she called me, Girl, what are you doing? And I thought, well, hopefully nothing for the next hour and a half but talk to you.
(Laughter.) You know. But we had a great time and we just kind of caught up. And she was talking about her team and now I tried to call her after both her big wins and I called even before the final horn sounded and her voice mail was full both times. So I told my assistant, Nikki Caldwell, who is great friends with Jolette Law, I said, Tell Jolette to tell her congratulations, and I at least tried to call. But she's got a lot of people, obviously, that have her phone number.
Q. When you spoke to her after the Big East tournament, did she express pride? Did she saying, My team's going to do something?
COACH SUMMITT: She was excited. Just unbelievable. Unbelievable. Couldn't believe it. You wouldn't believe what they were like, and even she said at the Salute dinner she sent all her assistants to go out to recruit. She said, Go get me some players, these people can't play. And obviously they must have heard her.
Q. Can you talk about the drought between championships, has it motivated you, frustrated you, and are you hungrier now like back when you were for your first title or are is it different?
COACH SUMMITT: I think it's really different for me. Obviously at Tennessee we have a goal every year of winning the SEC championship. And winning a national championship. And the fact that we hadn't won one since '98, you know, the one thing that I just tried to evaluate is why.
I think you have to have -- in order to win a national championship, I think you have to have a go-to player. And that's -- that's something that we didn't always consistently have. We had balance and we have won championships with balanced teams. But I do think it makes a difference when you have someone that can step up and make the big plays and make everyone else better on the floor.
That's what Chamique Holdsclaw did. She's one of the best I ever coached at that, but that's what Bridgette Gordon did. I went to four Final Fours with her and we tested her heart in every game. She made big plays for us. And we won two championships while she was there.
For me, it's not about me feeling pressure, I just want to help this team. I just want to help every student-athlete that chooses to come to Tennessee, I think they come therefore a reason. And I think they come there believing that they will have a chance to win a championship. And I feel like my job now is to be the best leader and the best motivator and put together the best staff, which my staff's just been incredible, to try and help these young women win. Because that's why they came to Tennessee.
Candace Parker could have gone anywhere in the country, so could Alexis Hornbuckle, Nicky Anosike. We won recruiting battles because they felt like they would have a great chance to win at Tennessee. And because of the great fan support and the environment that they would play in.
Q. Just to get back to Shannon, she really hasn't been the typical Tennessee recruit with her size and the junior college aspect. Can you talk a little bit about what you saw before that made you decide, okay, I'm going to offer her a scholarship and bring her on board.
COACH SUMMITT: One thing I learned is that it's not about the size of the body, it's the size of the heart and the toughness and the mind and the skills.
When I saw her play at the junior college tournament of course I had seen her on film, and Dean Lockwood had been the one to go down and watch her play and just watching her on tape. I mean, you can't really appreciate what she brings in terms of her speed and her quickness. But watching her play in the national championship, I just felt like she was a player that could get other people the ball. She was a hard player to defend. And in the open court I really liked what she did with the basketball and that she was in the attack mode. Very confident. Self-assured. A self-assured point guard. And I just felt like this is a player that could make a difference for us. It was just a matter of -- it wasn't a matter of how hard she would work, it was a matter of how long it would take her to really fit in and learn the system both offensively and defensively.
And she -- I mean, she would watch film with me every day. If I would let her. She would just -- we watch film on our North Carolina game before the North Carolina game last night we watched in the afternoon. And she really is a very committed player to learning and trying to do it right.
Q. Since '98 have there been any years that haunt you, that you feel like you should have won as opposed to teams that you ran into and just ran into better teams?
COACH SUMMITT: It's always tough to be on that stage and lose. But quite honestly, I don't know that we had a team that was really favored during that time. We got some teams to a Final Four and to a championship game that a lot of people didn't think could get there. And in a lot of cases we overachieved. But the missing ingredient was just having the players that on that stage could step up and make the big plays. And that's where maybe we got -- we lost out on a couple of those players in the recruiting, but that's why when Candace Parker said I'm going to Tennessee, I felt like we got -- we got a different situation now just because of what I had anticipated she would bring along with obviously Alexis and Nicky, and in particular those three.
Q. You've had a lot of great players come through Tennessee. Where does Candace rank among them, what makes her so special, and does she need a title to validate her career at Tennessee?
COACH SUMMITT: She would tell you she definitely needs a title to validate her career and her place at Tennessee because people compare her to Tameka Catchings and Chamique Holdsclaw. If I had to say today who has been the player that's had the greatest impact on championships, it's Chamique Holdsclaw. And Candace knows that and understands that and she said, Don't talk about Candace Parker along with Chamique and Temeka until Candace Parker's a part of a national championship. Which I think is -- I think that that speaks volumes for who she is and she's willing to put it on the line and right or wrong, that's how people will most likely define her career.
Q. Little bit out of left field, but would love to get your thoughts on this. The use of the term lady, the adjective lady, Lady Vols. Of course there's no Gentlemen Vols and it is 2007 and with all due respect to the brand and what you have created there, is it time to get rid of that adjective and just have every one be Vols or Wildcats or whatever, understanding that it could be seen as a bit demeaning or somehow having to need a adjective as making it somewhat less than the whole.
COACH SUMMITT: I don't think that will ever change at Tennessee.
Q. Should they?
COACH SUMMITT: That started back in '74. No. No. Because that's who we're known as, as the Lady Vols. I think our players would be the first to say we don't want to change it. That's who we are, that's how people know us, and most of these players up here -- Nicky Anosike would be the first to tell you that we're proud to be called ladies and Lady Vols.
Q. Do you understand though at least the --
COACH SUMMITT: I understand.
Q. -- the conversation?
COACH SUMMITT: Yes, I do. I understand the question and the conversation. But, I mean, I just think within the state of Tennessee and nationally, that logo, the Lady Vol logo, is known throughout this country and throughout the world. And I don't know. I just -- I can't see that changing.
Q. 1982, I hate to take you back that far, your recollections of the tournament and maybe any interaction you had with Vivian at the time.
COACH SUMMITT: My recollection of the tournament was we were playing against Louisiana Tech. And the biggest thing I remember is we could not make a entry pass into our offense. And we got killed in that game.
It was a long, miserable game. And I remember telling Sonja Hogg, I will stay in this profession until we beat Louisiana Tech. Count on it. Because they were pressing us, even in the last two minutes and, I mean, we were down. And down by a significant margin. And I just -- it was a tough -- it was just a tough weekend for us. It was really tough. And I do remember thinking that this is going to really change women's basketball and just a great crowd and great environment for women's -- for the women's game.
And it definitely did impact, but it wasn't a great weekend for Tennessee. And it's -- I hate to tell you, but that's what you remember so much is how you end and we know only one team ends with a victory. But we had hoped that we could make a better showing on national TV and we didn't do it. But I was proud for the game to be on that stage.
Q. Was there any interaction between you back then?
COACH SUMMITT: Oh, yes. Yes. Vivian and I, we certainly talked and I was really proud for her. I thought her team had played well and she's -- it doesn't matter. I mean, she could coach any team that someone wanted to sign her to and say, go win with this team. She figures out away to win.
Q. Along the theme of staying in the game until something is achieved, Bob Starkey was in here the other day talking about how he didn't want -- wasn't interested in head coaching job because of all the demands and the pressure and all that stuff. Was there ever a point in your career where you kind of felt, I'm accomplished, I've done a lot, built a program, and started to question how long you wanted to do it or even continue at all? And if there was a point in your career when you kind of had felt yourself getting a little sideways in it and how did you overcome that?
COACH SUMMITT: This may seem a little strange, but I've never thought about not doing what I do. I love it. I live for it.
My most favorite part of my day is the time I spend in practice. I prefer practice over games because it's -- that's where you teach. That's where you hopefully teach and lead and impact how these young women will then take over when they get on the court.
And I just -- when I go in the gym and it's no longer fun for me or I don't feel like I'm connecting with these student-athletes, then I obviously would make a change.
I will tell you, there was a time that I did not feel that I had the energy. And that was in 1985 after coaching the Olympic team and also playing for the national championship and losing to USC. And I went right from that experience to coaching the Olympic team in Los Angeles and I had never felt that -- now, that was pressure. That was -- in my opinion, I probably put more pressure on myself than I should have for us to win the gold medal. And it was even more pressure when the Russians decided not to come, to boycott. Then we had to win.
But when I came back I did not have as much energy then as I've had since then. And I think that was just because of the demands and all of the stress that I felt in winning the gold medal.
Q. Some of the kids upstairs were just talking about the manifesto that Nicky came up with before you guys played UCONN, the one that they signed, I guess it was something that they said that was done among players, not the coaches. I just wondered what your reaction was when you found out about it?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, obviously all I knew is that they -- they did it. But I don't -- I haven't seen anything. That's off limits to the coaches. I know that they pretty much made a pact for how they wanted to come together and stay together and play together. And that's been the difference this year. I think Nicky and Alexis have been probably the two players that have provided the kind of leadership that is necessary for a team to really have that chemistry and togetherness. And they have -- the two of them have been terrific in that area. Even when Alexis is struggling last night, and in there with -- at times in the past she would have thrown in the towel. Nicky wasn't going to let her do that. They just hold each other accountable. And I think that's probably where it all started. Because I think that was our big road game that they felt like, hey, we got to win on the road and we got to win against a great opponent.
Q. Coach Stringer last couple of weeks has used the words team of destiny quite a bit when describing their run through the tournament. Have you found through the years the concept team of destiny? Is that viable? Does it have any place in the game? And if so, how do you game plan against such an intangible?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, if you believe it and you make it happen, then it is viable.
And obviously with what this team has done I can see where Coach Stringer would go in that direction and inspire her team.
At the same time, I told our team we're not leaving here without a national championship. So I think you have two teams that really feel it and believe it. And that's why I think you're going to have a great game and obviously it's going to be the kind of game where players have to make plays. And they have to make stops. They have to score. To me, it's two teams that want this and in such a way that I think you're going to see a basketball game played with tremendous intensity and competitiveness.
Q. Was Cait's enthusiasm and exuberance easily accepted by the older players on the team? And even last night when she didn't play, she still kept that energy level up court side. Can you talk a little bit about that.
COACH SUMMITT: Well Cait's -- Cait's high energy every day. And I think this team just knows that Cait's going to speak her mind. She's probably been the one player on the bench that has inspired others more than anyone else with her enthusiasm and she's obviously speaks her mind. But I think that she's the kind of player that gets this team fired up. And she's willing to do whatever it takes. And she's handled the role very, very well.
We talked about the bench before we went out last night. And obviously when the game was over I talked about how much energy the bench gave the players on the court. And the players all responded. They felt it. And you have to have that. But it starts with Cait McMahan.
Q. I was talking to Sidney last night and she had mentioned this magic six running program that you guys do, I guess in the preseason. She thought that was very appropriate that because the last run of it is the longest and the hardest, and that now you're in the national championship game, which is the hardest thing to accomplish, could you talk a little bit about what prepares your players with this program and how they will go up, Rutgers is equally as conditioned?
COACH SUMMITT: Sure.
Q. And how does this make it better? Does this make you guys better than them or is it sort of just one more thing that will help you get over the top?
COACH SUMMITT: Heather Mason is our strength and conditioning coach. And the best I've ever worked with. And Heather designs her program so that it is -- it's very, very competitive and very tough. And within our sprint work you have an opponent. And your opponent might be Georgia, it could be Vanderbilt, we usually have SEC, we usually take outside opponents as well. I mean, with our schedule having played North Carolina and Duke, that's certainly names that come up. But it's like who we're competing against today. And we have to win this.
I think that the way she presents it and challenges this team and holds people accountable is, it gives them a mental toughness, if you will. Not that we're going to be physically stronger, but in the huddle last night we talked about we can do this. This is -- we're down the home stretch. And I felt like their energy stayed at the level it needed to and they do feel like they're the best conditioned team in the country.
There's something to be said for what you believe in. And they believe that. But it's -- we have obviously progressed significantly with Heather's -- just her discipline. If you don't -- if everyone doesn't touch the line the right way and turn the right way, then we start over. So and in everything she does -- I mean, you to have the discipline. She's better at that than I am. I'm learning from her.
Q. You addressed this last week, but in watching -- of course there was a great crowd here last week, Lady Vols enjoy tremendous support. But as you watched the other regionals last week there were a lot of empty seats. What does -- when this game is over, what does women's basketball do to address that?
COACH SUMMITT: I think we have great leadership in our game. And I do think that that is something that we have to carefully examine and try to figure out what is the best plan to implement to make sure that we have people in the stands in post-season. We have a lot of -- we have a lot of teams throughout the country that draw well. And I went and supported the neutral sites.
I now question whether or not our game is ready for that. But I do think that we can look at some venues that are regionally positioned to allow us to see teams and to seed teams and obviously we're seeding a lot of teams geographically to draw more fan support. And then marketing. Marketing is so key. And we may have to look at the marketing efforts not only for our respective institutions, but also what we're doing in the post season to try and generate more fan interest. And have people in the seats.
Q. Alexis said that this is the most balanced offensive team of the Rutgers teams that you faced in the last couple years. How much of a threat I guess does that pose to you when they do still play defense like a Stringer-coached team?
COACH SUMMITT: I think this is a great team because of that. Because they are committed to defense and board play. But they have a lot of confidence offensively and you've got the big four that are scoring. And they can make shots. We struggled last night offensively. And I am hoping that we got that out of our system.
But we also understand it's going to be very difficult to score against Rutgers defense. And also that we have to defend at all positions. But typically when you're, when you're in this position and you're competing for a national championship, you're going to have to guard people and you're going to have to make plays. And that's true on both sides of the ball. We have to do it.
Q. Shannon said she likes your swagger. And maybe we can relate. Do you see something about -- of you in her confidence level that she has?
COACH SUMMITT: I never thought of myself having a swagger.
Q. There's something New York about you too in there somewhere.
COACH SUMMITT: Hardly. I think that the one thing that I've tried to do to help Shannon is to help Shannon realize how good she is. Before the game last night when we talked I just told her, You're going to be the best point guard on the floor. And you have to believe it and you have to make these things happen.
I think Shannon has a lot of confidence. I think she came in with a lot of confidence. Candace Parker has a lot of confidence, Alexis, Nicky Anosike, those in particular come to my mind right off. And I do think that that's filtered throughout our team.
But with me, I just -- my objective is just to be strong for our team and to stay focused. And think of how I can help them. And the one thing is not -- and this is where I've changed over the years, is not to get frustrated because of what I'm feeling, but to try to stay in tune with what they're feeling and what they need from me at that moment. And with Shannon I tried to stay extremely positive. I can't really think of many times that I've ever been tough on her in a game.
Q. Along the lines ever fan interest, while there was intensity and good defense in both games last night, there was also an inordinate amount of air balls and turnovers and missed layups. Is it somewhat troubling to you that in this big showcase event that there would be bad basketball like that?
COACH SUMMITT: No, I think that's part of post-season. Watch the men's games. And you're seeing obviously struggles, particularly early on in those games. And a lot of the men's games and the women's games are very similar. And what happens is that you don't necessarily shoot the ball that well. There's a lot on the line, there's a lot of pressure. And for whatever reason defense goes to another level. And I think that just the defensive intensity that we have seen in the women's tournament as well as the men's tournament, that sometimes it's made for ugly basketball.
It's just a matter of just battling it out and trying to improve as you move through a game or as you go through a possession. Because that's -- teams are going to bring the intensity. Last night I thought with North Carolina, the intensity between our two teams was terrific. At times the game looked ugly.
Q. This question may have been asked, I've been floating around. Did you know about this manifesto or paper that the players signed? When did that come back around to you and what did you think of it and have you seen it?
COACH SUMMITT: I didn't know about it until the players wanted their time in the locker room before we met as a team. And this was when we were at Connecticut. So up until then I knew nothing about it. And I've asked nothing about it. That's their deal.
I'm not going to get all up in their business. I don't want them all up in mine. We do what we have to do as a staff. They do what they have to do as a team. I just trusted them. I guess over the years it's -- I pick and choose what I've really wanted to know. So they did this and that's their deal. That's their plan. But obviously it's been effective for them.
Q. I'm just curious how you would compare your coaching philosophy and your personality with Vivian Stringer. You are both legends in coaching basketball but you seem to have different personalities.
COACH SUMMITT: I think there's a lot of similarities because we both believe strongly in defense and rebounding. Very committed to it.
I don't know. I'm not around Vivian in her practices and -- but I think that she does a great job communicating with her teams and getting them to believe and I would like to believe that our players believe in our system. Personality-wise, I don't know, I'm obviously a -- I talk a lot slower but I don't talk quite as long. But that's okay. She's very effective. And I think she's a great motivator. And I think her kids just -- they bring it. And they bring it for her. I think they really -- they love their Coach.
Q. Can you talk about the aura that is Tennessee basketball and do you agree with Alexis that maybe it's not as intimidating as it used to be or what do you think about that?
COACH SUMMITT: I would somewhat agree that because we haven't won national championships in recent years that maybe we're not viewed as big of a threat.
But I will tell you, just having the schedule that we have and traveling across the country, I'm amazed at the number of fans that come out, Tennessee fans or fans when we travel on the road. So obviously I think Tennessee has been around for a long time. And I do think that our national -- not only our national schedule but our national exposure has allowed our Tennessee teams to enjoy a lot of support on the road as well as obviously at home.
But I don't think that when you get on -- you know, in this situation, competing in the Regional or Final Four, that teams are going to be intimidated. I think if anything they're going to be more motivated and focused.
Q. Coach Stringer has said that this is her best coaching job in her career. You've seen a fair amount of her teams. Would you go as far as to agree with that?
COACH SUMMITT: I've seen a number of her teams and it's hard for me to compare. Obviously she says it, I'll agree with her. But from where they started, absolutely. I mean, when I saw them play Duke I was like, oh, it's going to be along year for Vivian. If she can't get this young group to really step up and believe in her system. But knowing Vivian, I'm not surprised. She's very persistent. Very persistent.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.
COACH SUMMITT: Thank you.
End of FastScripts