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April 4, 2009
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
THE MODERATOR: Pleased to have up here on the podium head coach Jeff Walz as well as student-athletes Angel McCoughtry, Deseree' Byrd, and Candyce Bingham.
Coach, when you're ready, an opening statement and then we'll take questions.
COACH WALZ: We'd first like to thank everyone that's involved that's put this wonderful event on. The hospitality that we've received since we arrived here has just been outstanding. I know our players have enjoyed the experience to this point and we're really looking forward for the opportunity of playing on Sunday.
It's a group of players from day one we had some goals, we put some things out there in front of them and they've just continued to rise to the challenge day after day. And to be able to say we're playing on the last weekend of basketball is quite an accomplishment for all of these players, and I'm very proud of them and excited to be able to say I'm their coach.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Angel, the comments you made about Kara Lawson the other night after the game, just curious why you said what you said and what you think about it looking back now?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: I was very excited during the time and like I told her it was all in fun and I was enjoying myself. And I wouldn't take back anything I said because it was all in fun.
Q. Angel, talk about this team this season and why you think this particular team was the one that made it in terms of the program for the first time, the program's history, to a Final Four, and was there a key point in time, a game or a moment where you saw something happen that propelled this team to this point?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: I think it was just because this is our time. Truly this is our season, we all believed it. We've been saying since last year we were going to get to St. Louis. Everybody said it, and now we're here.
Q. Angel and Candyce, Coach Walz has been here for two years and now you're in the Final Four. And I'm kind of curious, what did he have to do for you guys to accept him and believe in him and get you to play at the style you've obviously learned to play?
CANDYCE BINGHAM: Well, we already knew he came from Maryland and won the national championship. So that speaks -- that in itself tells us that he knows what he's doing and can get us to the same spot.
So he just came in and had us work hard and be disciplined and obviously it helped. We're in the Final Four now?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: You know, it takes time when a new coach comes in to funnel the program in what he wants us to do. But we all believed it. That's why I think we're so successful within two years.
Q. Candyce, talk about when you were growing up you saw the program not get a whole lot of publicity, play for less than a thousand people; now you're at the Final Four and you're on the national networks. What's it like and what's it like to be here for someone from Louisville who grew up watching the program?
CANDYCE BINGHAM: Again, I never thought this would happen. But, I mean, it's history again. And it's an amazing feeling to be a part of this. Because I think no one ever thought that this program could rise to -- get to this point. And we've proven that we could. So it's an amazing feeling.
Q. Candyce, talk a little bit about the Paris twins, defending them.
CANDYCE BINGHAM: They're great players. Courtney Paris, four-time All-American. That in itself speaks -- that speaks for itself.
But they're great rebounders, great players, and we're going to have to come out and make sure we're boxing them out and just follow the game plan.
Q. Angel, can you talk about how you've changed personally since you came to Louisville, kind of how you've developed and if your teammates could talk about that, too.
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: When I first came to Louisville I was younger, and if you don't mature in four years something's wrong with you. I've matured, and I'm a woman now.
DESEREE' BYRD: Being here just two years playing with Angel, last year coming in I was obviously recruited by Louisville, but watching the game she had a kind of attitude problem.
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: A little bit true (laughter).
DESEREE' BYRD: She had an attitude problem. With Coach Walz coming in he got on her enough and he kept it real with her. He's an honest man and whether you like it or not he's going to tell you. And he basically told her. I think it's been -- it's just watching my knees go up -- I've been here two years with Angel, just watching the change, seeing the attitude problem to just it's just an inspiration to many people around the world. It's respectable (laughter).
Q. Angel, how are the nerves holding up? It's a big week. Deseree' and Candyce, what makes Angel so good?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: Well, I'm very relaxed right now. This is a business trip; we're not here for a lot of fun. So we're ready to play.
CANDYCE BINGHAM: Just her dedication and her competitiveness. I mean, Angel's always wanting to win, always in the gym, wanting to get better. I think it's her dedication and competitiveness. And it's rubbed off on the rest of us.
DESEREE' BYRD: What Candyce said, her work ethic running up the court. Trying to keep everybody up. We are the sisterhood, and she try to keep us together as a sisterhood. She try to do things. On the court, she ain't always happy with what we do on the court, and she yells that, that's because she wants to be the best and she wants this team to be the best, and off the court she try to do things to keep us together.
Q. Angel, because of your stature, awards and accolades and people have been talking about Candyce the past couple of weeks, can you talk about the rest of the parts like we talked last week and how everybody else has stepped up in the NCAA tournament when you struggled a little bit shooting a couple of games and everybody else has really stepped up?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: Well, I have to say for Des, Deseree' Byrd, she played a tremendous game against Maryland, and Becky Burke stepped up a lot. And that's what you need, for the girls to step forward a little bit if you're struggling. And Des put the team on her shoulders. She said, I got you all. That's the type of attitude she play with, like, I've got the team. And it really worked and I'm just proud of everybody stepping up. And if one of us are having a bad shooting night, then we know it's okay because somebody else is going to step up.
Q. There's a perception that your semifinal game is for second place because UConn has handled both of your teams. How do you feel about that?
CANDYCE BINGHAM: I mean, yeah, they beat us. But it's a new day. If we do get to that game, it will be another game and we're going to approach it like another game.
DESEREE' BYRD: Like she said, yeah, they beat us, any given day. Third time's a charm. I'm not saying anything. But, you know, like I told some other people, we've been playing as the underdogs all year and now there's four.
And we're one of those four. So like Angel said, this is a business trip and we're on a mission and we're here to handle our business.
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: We better get past this round first. We're focusing on Oklahoma. We need to do that and we'll see what we've got in the next round, once we try to get past Oklahoma.
Q. I know you guys just mentioned doubters. Is that something that you have had something, do you want people maybe in a sense to keep doubting you guys because it only makes you want to prove them wrong even more?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: I mean, of course. If you watch the commercial, the commercial strictly says Oklahoma is on a mission to win a championship, but Louisville is trying to fool with that. We're trying to win a national championship too. It's even in the commercials. So for God's sakes, I mean, I don't know what else we have to do to get some type of respect to say they're good, too, they can win on any given day just like the other teams can.
But, hey, I think that does fuel our fire.
CANDYCE BINGHAM: It's okay, they can keep doubting us. We love it.
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: Watch the commercial tonight, you'll see it.
Q. Can you talk to me about, there's been a lot of talk about this is the first time you've ever been to the Final Four but now actually getting here I know you still haven't played that first game. But can you talk about actually being here now?
DESEREE' BYRD: It's an amazing feeling. I never ever in a million years thought I would be here. I couldn't ask for a better group of girls to be here with and coaching staff to be here with. We bust our butts all year and, like I said, we're on a mission. And that's all I'm going to say.
CANDYCE BINGHAM: Again, we're excited to be here but this is a business trip. And we don't want to get too caught up in all the hype or whatever. So we're going to go out and practice hard and try to win a game tomorrow.
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: I'm not on cloud nine anymore. So, like I said, it's a business trip. I'm ready to play.
Q. Angel, are you at all curious about once we get past this weekend how you're going to be evaluated by the WNBA, whether you're going to be the first pick and how your life is going to change at this point next week? Do you spend any time thinking about it? Do you daydream about it, anything like that?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: Right now this comes first. This is what we have to take care of right now. But like I told people, I'm going to go where I'm wanted to play, where I'm needed to help the team and to help the program win a WNBA championship. So whether it's for No. 1 or 20, wherever I'm needed, that's where I'm going to go.
Q. Angel, why do you think you guys haven't received more respect?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: I guess because we're the newcomers on the block. We don't have as much tradition as the other schools. But I still feel like we can still -- we've played hard to the point we need to earn a little bit of respect.
We've had the hardest road to the Final Four. We've had to play LSU. All of the other squads basically played at home. Especially when California, Oklahoma was at home. UConn was at home. We were at LSU somewhere with the alligators.
So we had the hardest road here and I think that's why it's so special right now. I think this is our season. I truly believe we can take it all the way.
Q. For any of the players. You've got national media here, what should the world know about your coach? Tell me about the job he's done and what he's like away from these cameras.
DESEREE' BYRD: He's a hard-working man. Like I said, he's going to keep it honest with you, whether he thinks you'll like it or not. Because he's not here only to make us better players but he's here to make us better people.
I think once everybody believes in him, then everybody is willing to make a change. I mean, it took me a long time to really believe it. And I do. And I appreciate him. He's one of my fathers and I really look to Coach Walz as a father figure.
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: He's one that's done a lot for us. And he really cares about us. His first year he took us to the Big East championship. This is only his second year and we're in the Final Four. Enough said.
CANDYCE BINGHAM: Again, he's brutally honest, but I think that's a good thing, because some people don't like that. But in the end I think you do pay attention to it. And so, I mean, he's a great guy.
I mean, he wants us to be great players, but, like Des said, be good people. So I'm glad that he's been here.
Q. Do you or does the coach have any superstitions that you do or not do before your game?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: I don't really have a lot of superstitions as far as basketball. I just go out there and play. But I do have one superstition: Never split the pole. I don't like that. As far as that's said, no.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Have you ever coached or seen a team that kind of came together the way this one did with so many different players who originally were going somewhere else and then came together and did it present any particular challenges?
COACH WALZ: No, actually. This is the first time that I've worked with a group of players that four of them I think had signed out of high school with different schools, but they all ended up at the same place.
And they even talk about it, just fate. Angel at the time with St. John's, Chauntise Wright I think at the time with Seton Hall, Candyce Bingham played two years at Xavier. We just had some players that came together and found a common ground, and they've been great to coach.
They're right, I'm honest with them. Sometimes they like it. Sometimes they don't. But at least, like I tell them, I sleep well at night because I tell them exactly how I'm feeling. If they're doing well, I tell them they're doing well. If not, I tell them they're not.
So they really learned my philosophy of coaching, and I've gotten to know all of them. So I don't coach each player the same way. But we're fair with all of them. So it's been a great two years and looking forward to many more.
Q. Did you see the commercial that Angel's referring to and what did you think when you first saw it?
COACH WALZ: You know what, the one thing I love about her is she'll just say the truth. She just speaks from the heart and some people don't understand her.
But, yeah, it's not a big deal. They take the schools that they thought were going to have a chance to make a run for the Final Four and those coaches say their spiel, and we're the one that we weren't supposed to be here.
So they weren't prepared for it. Which is okay. And it's understandable. When it comes down to playing, the commercials and all that stuff, it's not going to make a difference either way. It's whoever shows up and plays the best. And at this time of the year a bounce here, bounce there, a call here, call there, can make a difference of if you're going home or if you're advancing.
Q. What concerns you most about Oklahoma and how do you defend Courtney Paris?
COACH WALZ: It's probably easier if I said what doesn't concern me. Because there's about one thing that doesn't concern me. I mean, there's a bunch of things that concern me. I mean, the way Danielle Robinson has been playing at the point. She's been outstanding. Whitney Hand has been shooting the ball lights out. Then you've got the Paris sisters inside.
They've just got a very good team. Sherri's done a great job of putting players around the twins. And it's going to be a challenge for us. We're going to have to come out here tomorrow night and defend well and rebound.
If you look at Courtney Paris's stats, I think she's made 219 shots and she's got 203 offensive boards. It's an unbelievable stat when you look at it. For a kid to rebound the ball as well as she does at the offensive end we've got to make sure we've got a body on her and sacrificing someone so she can't get offensive boards.
Q. Your experience with the Final Four a couple years ago, how does that help you now?
COACH WALZ: I think it's helped with the fact that at least I've been able to share with the players what to expect each day. When it comes to when we get here, what to expect when we get to the hotel, our practice the other day off site and then we come here today, you know we've got practice and an autograph session afterwards.
Just the small things. Just trying to get them to understand the routine to make sure we don't get too caught up in what's going on, but at the same time I want them to enjoy every second of it.
It's something you don't want to take for granted. We've got two great seniors here that I want to make sure that they remember the entire trip. So we're soaking it in. They're having fun, but when it comes to prepare and practice they're focused. I've been pleased with things. So I expect us to come out tomorrow night and play hard.
Q. When you went home the night you got the job, if you were being honest with yourself, what did you think your time line might be? What were your expectations about how long this job might take you to get this program where you wanted it to be?
COACH WALZ: You know, when I took the job, I knew they had some players. Angel McCoughtry, I've watched her play in high school. And Chauntise Wright. So I knew those two kids before I even took the job. And once I got on campus and had a chance at doing about four days of workouts before we were actually finished with school, I was able to see that they had some talent, especially with the way we wanted to play.
We don't -- Keshia Hines has done a nice job for us in the post, especially with Chauntise out. We don't have a true post player, per se, but the way we like to play by trying to press and making it an up-tempo game and scoring off of turnovers, our length and athleticism plays well into that.
So if I'm to tell you we expected to be here when I took the job in two years, I'd tell you I was lying. But we knew we had some players and I told them when I took the job that once you get to the Sweet 16 I really believe anybody can win. It's just the best team might not win. It's the team that plays the best that day.
And we've been playing some really good basketball the past three weeks.
Q. Just talk about this full game round, I don't think you would term Angel's play as vintage Angel because she hasn't shot the ball very well at all. A, do you think at some point she's sitting on a big game, and then, B, what does that say about everybody else?
COACH WALZ: You're exactly right. I don't think Angel's had a superb four games. Now, she's played solid. She'll get her 23 points. She gets her 12, 13 boards, three or four steals. But she hasn't had the games that we're used to seeing.
And it's exciting for me. It's exciting for our staff to see the rest of our young kids stepping up the way Monique Reid played in our regional games, the way Becky Burke has been playing. We've really relied on everyone on this team. And we've got three solid players each night with these three that were just up here.
I've told them, we need two more. And I don't care which two, because they all get a chance throughout the game and Keshia Hines has been playing well and Monique Reid and Becky Burke have been playing solid for us. Actually we've been getting three of them to show up. If we can continue to do that, plus we've got to get some minutes from Gwen, that we'll have a chance to compete.
Q. Can you talk about what kind of -- your brutal honest it took to get Angel where you wanted her, kind of more than talking about her attitude and all that, what you had to do to get her where she is now?
COACH WALZ: She's a great kid. She's fun to coach. You never know what's going to come out of her mouth. You know, she's great. Now, when she competes, she wants to win. And sometimes, you know, she'll show some disgust at a call, disgust at some teammates.
And we just took some game film, our assistant, Steph Norman, just went through and we pulled out about seven minutes of game film from the previous year before we got there of her reacting to her teammates, to calls. And it wasn't hard. It's simple. You can sit there and tell someone they're doing something wrong but until you show them, they really don't buy into it.
And then as soon as we showed her on film, she was upset. She was like, I can't believe I do that. So she's gotten better. Now, she's still got some room to grow, but from where she was before we got here to where she is now, it says a lot about her character.
Q. You mentioned this a little bit earlier, maybe, but just how good has Candyce been? Angel gets so much attention, and rightfully so, but what kind of a player is she, person, and how good has she been this year?
COACH WALZ: She's been a rock. Angel gets a lot of the press. It's very thorough. Because she's a fantastic player but Candyce is the one that every night I know what I'm going to get. We don't have to run a bunch of plays for her. She just understands the game. She's in the right place at the right time. She goes hard. She can defend in the post on the perimeter for us.
She means as much to this program as Angel does. So without her we wouldn't be where we are right now and I tell her that every day.
Q. I know this is putting the cart before the horse, but did you spend any time thinking about if you win this game, UConn, the next step?
COACH WALZ: You know, I think we did a great job. I mean, because obviously if we play them they're way overconfident. When you lose by a 38 and 28, which we planned that. So, I mean, it was good coaching on my part. It's not easy to do.
You know, we're going to come out here. And it's like I tell them. You can -- it's one game and that's what it's going to take. We're going to have to come out here tomorrow night and beat a very good Oklahoma team to even have a chance to play the next game.
And if we can come out here and do that, then we'll worry about that tomorrow night after the game. And then, hey, you never know what can happen. If we can get to that game and if UConn can get to that game, then we'll throw it up on Tuesday night and see what happens.
Q. Going back to Courtney Paris, have you in doing all your scouting seen anybody defend her in a way that you think you might try to defend her and what is your defensive plan there?
COACH WALZ: Well, we're going to have to throw a lot of players at her. She's so strong and does a great job of getting position. And Keshia Hines, our post player that comes off the bench, probably is our best match-up with her, and that's still not a great one.
So we'll have to go small at times. We'll have to throw the entire team at her. We just don't have enough fouls in the post, I don't think, to be able to just send one at her and try to stop her.
So it's going to be something where we'll clog up and try and make it difficult for her to score. But at the same time I'm just as concerned about Whitney Hand and the way Danielle Robinson gets to the basket.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts