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April 8, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Okay. I'm going to do a quick introduction, and then we'll start with an opening statement. We're joined up on the dais by Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt as well as student-athletes Shannon Bobbitt, who will be here momentarily, and Candace Parker and Nicky Anosike.
Coach, when you're ready.
COACH SUMMITT: Obviously this is a very special night for our program and for our basketball team. Extremely excited for what these seniors left. They put obviously up another championship win, back to back, which is certainly no easy task.
And I particularly like the way they committed to each other on the defensive end. I thought our defense, this is one of our best defensive efforts, which gave us a chance, obviously, to beat an outstanding Stanford team.
I'm just really proud, and obviously it's a happy but sad time with the seniors leaving. But I will always have tremendous respect for the mark they left on our basketball program.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Candace, it seems like your intensity level, your team's intensity level picked up another notch. And they just weren't prepared for that. Was your experience in a game like this a key here, and did you guys actually turn it up a notch tonight?
CANDACE PARKER: I believe it was experience, but I also believe that a lot of people underestimate our defense. And when you get on the court with us it's a little bit different than what you see on TV or anything like that. So I think we did a good job collectively defensively, just making them work for shots.
And then we knew that our full court press really would bother them and take some time off the clock. So they had to rush into their sets.
Q. Candace, can you just sum it all up, now that two national championships, two most outstanding player awards, this is your last game unless you change your mind between now and tomorrow, sort of sum up what you're feeling, what the whole experience has been like?
CANDACE PARKER: My experience here at Tennessee has been great. I look back at my growth, not only as a player but also just as a person. And I feel like it's been the best four years of my life. I wouldn't change anything about it. I love my teammates, and I'm just very, very fortunate to have won two national championships. But we worked hard for it. And we deserved it.
Q. Candace, early in the second half you missed a shot. You thought you were probably fouled. Felt you were probably fouled but your team got the rebound you went out to the free throw line, got the ball, went to the basket, made a 3-point play. It almost seemed like you were imposing your will on the game at that point; that you really wanted the ball and nothing was going to stop you. Did you have that feeling that you really wanted to do something to make a statement at that point?
CANDACE PARKER: Well, I feel like, you know, our team does a good job moving the ball and getting in sets and all of that, but when the girl to my right whispers in my ear I need to take over, that's what I do. I just try to get my team -- bring energy offensively, whether I'm scoring or whatever. But it's just making the defense take me away or -- and I kick out and my teammates hit a nice shot. So that's just what I try to do.
Q. Nicky, can you talk about particularly the early going for you in the first half, the six steals and just your thought process coming into the game, with defense, you talked about yesterday how that was going to be so critical. And, Shannon, can you also talk about a big girl taking, getting those steals the way she was doing it in that game?
NICKY ANOSIKE: I just know for me my mind-set coming into the game, I wasn't going home without a championship. If we lost, I was going to live here, because I wasn't going back home. (Laughter). No one was going to deny me a national championship. And I did whatever I needed to do to make sure that we won.
SHANNON BOBBITT: I thought you forgot about me.
Nicky did a great job, and she's one of our best defensive players. And like she said, nothing was going to stop her. Nothing was going to prevent her from winning this national title. And she showed it tonight. And got after it and got six steals. I'm proud of her.
Q. Nicky, did you think right away they were just unnerved because they couldn't get into their triangle? I mean, you pushed them out so far beyond mid-court that they could never -- did you feel they were unnerved from the beginning?
NICKY ANOSIKE: I think our defense takes a lot of people out of their sets when we decide to play. And tonight we had no choice but to decide to play defense. So we took them out of everything they wanted to do and they just didn't know what to do against our defense.
Q. Candace, you guys are the defending national champions and seemed like a lot of people today were picking Stanford to win. How did you take that and was that an extra motivation?
CANDACE PARKER: It's been our motivation all year to be honest with you. All year, somehow as defending national champions we've flown under the radar, not lived up to expectations and been criticized for not playing a 40-minute game. But all of that stuff doesn't matter as long as you pull it together at the end and we did that, and I think that we used our criticism as motivation and it fueled our fire and I think the reason why we're here today is because of that criticism.
Q. Can you talk about the scoring from your teammates early, get the two 3s from Shannon and the points from Nicky and what that did? This is a game where you only had to take 10 shots.
CANDACE PARKER: I feel like Shannon did a great job of stretching the defense early and just looking for her shot. And obviously Nicky, you know, she's a capable scorer. She had one-on-one defense, and she's capable of scoring all the time from the high post, from the block. And just getting her to do that and getting her to be confident in that, and I feel like she came out ready to play and she was the reason why we won the national championship, because we looked at her eyes and we knew we weren't going to lose after that.
Q. Candace, now that it's over, how much was your shoulder bothering you? Was there any point where you wondered about getting through this and were you more comfortable tonight than you were Sunday night, because you looked that way?
CANDACE PARKER: You know, obviously my shoulder is a little sore. But winning the national championship is making it better. So obviously I've been rehabbing, had a lot of time in between the games to rehab. Spent a lot of time with Jenny Moshak. She's the healer, and I'm just happy. From here I just wanted to get past these two games and deal with my shoulder later.
Q. Nicky, Candace said that when you whisper in her ear she has to take over. What exactly do you say? Was that what you said?
NICKY ANOSIKE: I think Candace has a lot of respect for me because she knows I want the best for her. And I'm not going to tell you exactly what I said. But whatever I said it worked. And we just try to inspire each other throughout the game and I think it's worked.
Q. Shannon, why is that corner so comfortable for you to shoot the 3?
SHANNON BOBBITT: I have no idea. I have no idea. My teammates think it's the hardest shot to make. I actually think the top of the key is the hardest for me. But I master it. In practice I shoot it. And I don't know, I just got comfortable with it. I have a lot of confidence in my shot so every time I release it --
COACH SUMMITT: Go hide in the corner.
SHANNON BOBBITT: I try to hide in the corner so the opponent can't see me, but I just master the shot and been good at it ever since.
Q. Candace, when you were taken out of the game with a minute to go, you were yelling eight, eight, eight (titles), holding up your fingers and sharing a long hug with Pat Summit. What's the moment like that like and can you just describe the joy that you feel kind of capping your career with a moment like that?
CANDACE PARKER: I think all of us put our trust in Pat Summit when we came to the University of Tennessee, and she's been obviously more than a coach to us and she'll be more than a coach to me for the rest of my life.
And I think it just -- you play for her, you know what I mean? Because she's been such an inspiration and just for the game of women's basketball. She's been there for the growth. And I just feel like it summed it all up. We got two championships together. And it's a remarkable feeling to walk off the court for the last time and hug your coach. I'm completely different than I was when I came in. And I feel like she's a real big part of that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Congratulations.
Questions for Coach.
Q. Nicky brings a lot of energy to the court almost every time now. But tonight she never seemed more energetic than that. Do you think the game plan, knowing the role she would play and how much you would press got her all psyched up?
COACH SUMMITT: I think this game inspired her. She's one of the most fierce competitors I've ever coached. She works hard on every possession. Probably takes very few possessions off. And tonight I don't know that she took more than one.
But she inspires this team. And she's the one that gets them together. She's the one that comes up with our plan of attack a lot. And I know they meet a lot. And she's the one that's always calling the meetings and really holding people accountable. I think that's what she does. I don't care if it's Alexis or Candace. If she thinks we're jump shooting too much, she's going to express it.
I just have so much respect for Nicky because of just the commitment she makes every day to getting better and she is one of the most fierce competitors, as I said, that I've ever coached.
She's going to be very successful in life because that's who she is.
Q. Shannon Bobbitt was obviously the smallest player on the court by a large margin. What was your plan for her defensively tonight to make sure she didn't become a defensive liability due to her lack of height?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, one thing we wanted to do, we wanted to switch a lot on their screening action, and I was a little concerned that Shannon might get caught in a mismatch. But I never thought it was really a factor.
We used a lot of our switches, and there were times when she was on Wiggins. The one thing I said is you're going to have to hard hedge on the post action, because I didn't want her to obviously guard Jayne Appel.
But she really did a nice job, I thought, of putting pressure on the basketball. And while she's small, that seemed to be effective for her. I don't think there was really a situation that she was taken advantage of, just because of the pressure that she applied. Even if she had a height disadvantage.
Q. Pat, watching the end of the UConn-Stanford game when Stanford struggled against that press, did that make you more confident coming into this game?
COACH SUMMITT: Absolutely. You know, I thought as soon as Connecticut went to the press, it really bothered them. And, you know, I felt like that our size and just having Nicky on the ball and being able to extend our defense would be a good option for us. Not only when we pressed in the full court, we went a little bit more -- we gambled a little bit more.
When we dropped it back to a half court or three-quarter, we really just wanted to take time off the clock because they are such a pattern-oriented team and they do a great job. They've got a lot of great sets, and obviously a lot of people that can make shots.
But I thought we did a nice job of taking some time off the shot clock, which I thought was effective for us. I'll have to watch the tape. But that was the feeling I had throughout the game.
Q. Over the last three games you haven't given up 50 points, but tonight you went over -- your defense went over seven minutes with only giving up four points over the last second half of the game. Just talk about what rotations and all worked for you as far as finishing?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, I think the big thing was changing our defense. And obviously we all talk about playing in four-minute segments, and we had a four-minute segment right at the beginning of the second half, I think it was, and they only maybe scored only two points.
But we're always talking in our huddle about what we did in that segment and what we have to do that might be a change-up in the next four minutes.
And I thought that we did a pretty good job of keeping them off balance by changing, switching up our defenses. But our man defense was the best thing we had going for us.
And I anticipated playing a lot of zone. But it was quite the opposite.
Q. Did you press them the first time?
COACH SUMMITT: We pressed them at their place, yes.
Q. It wasn't effective, though?
COACH SUMMITT: It was not as effective. I think probably our defense was not as strong that night. That was the night we didn't defend the high-low. You know, we gambled a lot, even in our press. And they got inside of us. They got inside of our defense. I thought their post game played really, really well.
They had a sell-out crowd. Great environment. You know, we had been on the road, played at UCLA. Went in -- I'm not making any excuses -- they were a better team than we were that night. They definitely executed better on the offensive end than we did. And we didn't close out the first half. That's why I was just -- I was so concerned that we close out the first half, and we did that in the game tonight. Because that really wound up costing us in the end.
Q. I'm not sure how often you've been able to use the underdog speech lately in your career, but when everybody picked Stanford, did you use that as motivation for your team? Did they take that to heart?
COACH SUMMITT: I'm telling you, they took it -- it was a personal thing for them. The fact that all of the ESPN talent, we got Kara Lawson who played at Tennessee, not giving us a chance, really. I mean, that just really -- that fired them up. And it was probably the best thing that could happen to us, if you think about it. Because it wasn't like they felt pressure to win. They just had a little chip on their shoulder and they said we're not leaving out here without a championship.
And I just sensed that that took the pressure off of, oh, we gotta win back to back. No, we gotta show everybody that didn't pick us that they should have picked us. So from a psychological standpoint, it worked well in our favor.
Q. After Sunday's game, you mentioned that Candace was emotionally exhausted. What's the difference between the emotional exhaustion and physical exhaustion for her?
COACH SUMMITT: I think she was really worried. That was the emotional part, and I think that that drained her emotionally. Worried if I could play, worried what if it goes back out. You know, she's like, I finally get here and now I'm dealing with this.
And I think she just was worried about that as opposed to physical exhaustion or emotion. You know, she can fight through that. She can fight through that because she mentally is very tough. But when you're dealing with something that's emotional, sometimes that really zaps your energy. And it did. At halftime she said, Coach, I gotta have your help. I'm really -- I just need help. Emotionally, I'm just really drained.
And I knew it. And Dean was great with her. Dean Lockwood, who coaches our post, he stayed in her ear the whole time and we just kept encouraging her.
Q. Can you talk about Vicki Baugh's game and also her status?
COACH SUMMITT: She was terrific for us tonight. I mean, she was the player that came off the bench and gave us the biggest spark and was very efficient in what she did. I loved her aggressiveness. And, obviously, if you look at her stat line, she's 3-for-4, 2-for-2 from the line, has four rebounds. Eight points. That's a matter of 13 minutes. She made the very best and got the most out of her minutes.
Don't know the status right now on Vicki's injury. Did not look good. But I just hope and pray that she's healthy and doesn't have to deal with anything serious.
Q. Do you think there's girls who watch this game tonight that have been told they're too small to play and they see Shannon Bobbitt not only playing but playing for Tennessee in a national championship game and five-foot-two or whatever and playing so well?
COACH SUMMITT: I'll tell you, Shannon has changed my mind. I'm sure she probably has changed some kids out there watching that may only be five-two or five-three or -four. I've got a freshman coming in that's five-two. Reminds me a lot of Shannon. And one thing I've learned from Shannon, size is not really that much of a factor.
I don't know of anyone in any of our games in the last two years that have taken advantage of her size, which has surprised me. But they haven't gone in and tried to post her up. It's been amazing. But she's so tough-minded. She thinks she's about six-five the way she plays.
And she's been a joy to coach. She and Alberta. We don't beat LSU if we don't have those two junior college players. And what they did to come into our program and be willing to learn and compete and the team embrace them, they've really been significant in this championship run.
Q. You've obviously coached a lot of great players at Tennessee. Can you talk a little bit about Candace Parker and what she brought to the program?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, Candace, she's the best all-around offensive player I've coached. She makes everyone else on the floor better because of all the double teams that she's had to play out of. She's become a better passer. More composure. Worked on her face-up game. The versatility -- and I've said she's got the best skill set of any six-four player out there.
And I think that makes her much more effective in being able to play off the dribble, shoot the hook shot. And she was limited here in going left. But I was just really proud of her for not getting frustrated with the injury and just really staying focused and getting other players involved as well.
The balance that we had tonight was key to our victory.
Q. Coach, you now have eight national championships, congratulations. That's only two away from tying John Wooden's record of 10 with UCLA. Does that milestone ever reach your thoughts? Could you talk about your thoughts on that?
COACH SUMMITT: You know, I hadn't really thought that much about it. People will say all the time -- it is so hard to win a championship. Last year was hard. This year it was hard. I just feel I've been so blessed to have an opportunity to coach at a university that really cares about our program, all the programs. Dr. Petersen is here, Joan Cronan, our athletics director, Mike Hamilton, the men's athletic director, the commitment they make and the resources in place has allowed us to obviously recruit nationally and to build a great program.
Our fan support is awesome. I think about things like that and how that has allowed so many of these student-athletes come here because of the environment they know they can play in at Tennessee and Thompson-Boling Arena.
I guess I'm along for the ride. They took me on a great one this time. And as long as I love the game, I'll stay in it. Do I have a desire to try to beat Coach Wooden's record? No. I just want to help the next team, next year, get back to the Final Four. That's always our goal every year.
And as long as I can be effective as a teacher and coach, that's what I want to do. The day I walk in the gym and I don't have the passion is the day I give it up.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts