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April 8, 2013
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
MODERATOR:Â Joining us now on the dais we have UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and student‑athletes Caroline Doty, Kaleena Mosqueda‑Lewis, Breanna Stewart, Stefanie Dolson, and Kelly Faris.
We'll start taking questions for the student‑athletes.
Q.Â Caroline, I don't know if there is such a thing, but are now in official final game of your career mode?
CAROLINE DOTY:Â I don't know if there's a mode to get into it, but definitely crossed my mind.Â It's been five years.Â I don't know what I'm going to be doing next year.Â It's a long time.
I'm just happy to be here and I'm glad the national championship is my last career game.Â Hope to go out with a bang.
Q.Â Who's got Shoni Schimmel assignment tomorrow?
UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT‑ATHLETE:Â We haven't gone over that yet.
MODERATOR:Â That might be a better question for Coach at that time.
Q.Â How much has it helped you guys having played them already and there's a familiarity of an opponent so in scouting reports it's fresh as opposed to seeing a team for the first time that you may not know as much about?
UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT‑ATHLETE:Â It helps.Â Obviously they're a Big East team, so we've seen them a couple different times and played them once earlier this season.Â But at the same time, that was a while ago.Â And you know they're going to change, just as we've changed over the season.
So there's some things that are gonna be the same about them that we know, and then we just have to make sure that we're focused and prepared for the type of play that they're putting on right now.
Q.Â Stef, sort of the same lines there, I mean, this Louisville team seems to be loose and feels they have nothing to lose tomorrow night playing the national championship game.Â They've been doing that all through the tournament it seems.Â Whereas you guys, expectation every year is you come to win a national championship and compete for it.Â Do you feel there's more pressure on you guys to win tomorrow night, or is it you guys are loose and ready to just play?
STEFANIE DOLSON:Â I think that exactly.Â We're just ready to play.Â Louisville has done a great job beating Baylor, beating Cal, beating Tennessee.Â They've come a long way, and I don't think a lot of people expected it.
But, like you said, they're going to come and play like they have nothing to lose, and we have to go out there and not really focus on them and focus on working hard in practice today and then come out tomorrow ready to play and have fun.
Q.Â Kaleena, what do you think the most important moment of the season has been?
KALEENA MOSQUEDA‑LEWIS:Â Up to this point I think after our Big East Tournament and just the turnaround that we've made this season as a group, you know, the confidence level has risen and just our mindset has gotten a lot better as a unit.
Q.Â Kelly and Caroline, you guys obviously have a lot of experience playing in the NCAA Tournament.Â What would it mean for both of you to bring another national title back to Connecticut?
CAROLINE DOTY:Â It would be a great team win.Â It would be a great ending to a great four years for Kelly, five years for me.
We come in every single year with the mindset and the goal to win a national championship.Â So for it to be the last go‑around to be with the teammates we have, who are playing unbelievable, that would just send us off on a great note.Â We wouldn't be more happier.
But we just gotta take care of business and prepare and really work with the game plan Coach has for us.
KELLY FARIS:Â I would agree.Â For us it's our last opportunity, and each year is special and different in its own way, and this year we've had our ups and downs.Â And we've had to work really hard to get to the point where we're at.Â So I want it just as bad as anybody on this team.Â And I know we want it for each other more than anything.
So like Caroline said, it sends us out on the right note.
Q.Â Breanna, while you were going through your stretch between the first ten games and the start of Big East Tournament, do you remember anything particularly funny or insightful that Coach Auriemma or Coach Dailey said to you that resonated with you either as a‑‑ in funny way or in a serious way that got you going?
BREANNA STEWART:Â I was about to say no, not particularly.Â I don't really have anything in particular, no, but they always seem to be busting my chops.
Q.Â Kelly, I was reading up on the last game against Louisville, and I think you had seven turnovers that game, seven assists.Â And it was interesting that Coach pointed out‑‑ he said you were really upset after that game, you were really hard on yourself.Â What are your memories of that game even though you won?Â Seems like at least individually you were not happy with your performance.
KELLY FARIS:Â Yeah, I've had a few too many of those games this year.Â The turnovers are huge, and you can't have seniors contributing the most to that.
So, yeah, of course after that game we won, but there's times that you can win and still feel like you lost a game.Â It's not all about winning here‑‑ and we said that multiple times‑‑ it's about how you win.Â And so as a team you're happy that you get the win, but individually there's times that you're gonna be unsatisfied with how you play.Â And that was one of them.
Q.Â Can you quantify how unsatisfied you were after that game versus, let's say, another game this season?
KELLY FARIS:Â I don't really remember exactly.Â But given the fact that I had seven turnovers, I'm sure I was pretty disappointed in myself in that.
Q.Â Stefanie, how difficult has it been for you to play through this pain?Â I mean, in a realistic sense to‑‑ I know you haven't been practicing as much, but how much pain are you in and how much mental stress does that put you under?
STEFANIE DOLSON:Â It's definitely frustrating to play with this, but my team and the coach has done a good job of just supporting me and helping me through it, because I've never had to do anything like this.Â Rosemary has done a great job of taking care of me and treating me, making it feel better every day.
So I'm just working through it.Â Like I said, my teammates are helping me out and doing what they gotta do.
Q.Â This is for Kaleena.Â Very few programs have such legendary figures as a Diana Taurasi or a Maya Moore, and sometimes I think it can be hard when you're the player that comes in and is inevitably compared to these great players.Â How have you sort of dealt with that and tried to just be yourself, not necessarily get caught up in being compared to legends in your program?
KALEENA MOSQUEDA‑LEWIS:Â It's easy with our coaching staff and with my teammates to not really get caught up in stuff like that.Â Especially playing on a team like this with so many good players and so many people that are capable of so many things.Â You don't really think about yourself.
Last night was a perfect example of what a great team we have and how many great players are on this team.Â It wasn't just one person making everything happen out there; it was a team effort.Â So it's not hard at all to look past that stuff.
Q.Â Breanna, people have expected so much of you since you were like 14 years old in terms of playing.Â Do you ever surprise yourself by what you're able to do?Â Do you ever come out of game and go:Â I didn't think I was capable of something like that?
BREANNA STEWART:Â To think that I wasn't capable of doing something?Â I don't know if I have ever surprised myself just because you would think that you would be the one person that actually knows what you're capable of doing.Â But I think there's been moments where there's been like certain plays that you've been‑‑ or I've been surprised about, I guess.
UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT‑ATHLETE:Â Awesome answer (laughter).
Q.Â Stefanie, good to see you smiling.Â You usually come into press conferences smiling, and you looked a bit in pain.
STEFANIE DOLSON:Â What?
Q.Â Usually when you come into press conferences you're always smiling.
STEFANIE DOLSON:Â I'm always smiling.
Q.Â Anyway, my question for you, just talk about the three seniors and what they've meant, not in terms of leadership this season, but since the end of Big East Tournament.Â How key have they been to just bringing everybody back together, getting on this new page that you've done through the NCAAs?
STEFANIE DOLSON:Â They have meant a ton.Â They have since then spoken to all of us, saying it's their last year.Â And we're all going out fighting for them.Â We know they want a national championship; we want a national championship for them.Â And they've all given up so much and worked so hard for all the years that they've been here.
So for any of us to give anything less than our best out there would be a disappointment to them.
Q.Â Stefanie, do you think you guys should be favored in this game?Â Do you consider yourself the favorite in this game?
STEFANIE DOLSON:Â I don't think so.Â I mean, we can't really think about that, to be honest.Â We gotta go into it‑‑ like I was saying before, Louisville is going to give us a great game.Â Every team we've played in this tournament has given us a great and tough game.
And to go into it thinking that we're the favorites‑‑ I mean, they beat Baylor.Â So we gotta go into it knowing how hard they've worked to get to the point that they are and, like I said, focus on ourselves and just executing offense, defense, and playing together as a unit.
Q.Â Geno, you guys are‑‑ you guys are 7‑0 in title games in your career.Â This is the first time that you're here that you haven't won a title a Big East title beforehand.Â Does that make this one different in a sense that there's been sort of nothing accomplished this year as far as championships that may be goals for the team and now you have a chance to sort of right that by winning the eighth one?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â I don't know.Â I mean, I guess that's kind of stuff that when you guys have to come up with‑‑ but I think we won something like 13 or 14 Big East championships in a row, and I don't remember anybody at the Final Four saying, well, you know, you won the regular season and you won the tournament so that should prime you for the national championship.
I think what happens‑‑ I've always said this.Â What happens during the regular season and what happens in the tournament, you kind of have to put all that behind you.Â Winning the Big East championship is a lot harder than winning one game.Â Winning the regular season Big East championship is a lot harder than winning one game.Â I'm sure if Louisville had to play Baylor four times during the regular season, it would be a lot harder than playing them one time one night.
So tomorrow night Louisville plays Connecticut.Â What happened leading up to that I don't think is going to have any bearing whatsoever on that.
MODERATOR:Â Thank you, Coach.
At this time we're going to excuse the student‑athletes to go to their breakout rooms.
We'll continue with questions for head coach.Â Start right here.
Q.Â Geno, do you remember a team that's made a bigger jump mentally, meaning mindset‑wise, from the end of a Big East Tournament to the start of the NCAA Tournament more so than this group has?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â Maybe not.Â Maybe not.Â There's been other times when we've had to readjust how we do things, who we are and recalibrate, I guess.Â I remember in 2003 and 2004 we lost in the Big East Tournament, one time in the finals and one time in the semifinals, and after that we had to go back and kind of switch gears a little bit and ended up coming out and winning the national championship both of those years.
But, again, I'm kind of torn about all this, you know, because I know we made some changes and I know we changed a little bit, but, like I said yesterday‑‑ and I know a lot of you guys weren't here‑‑ we didn't have a ten‑game losing streak during the season and then we had to like fix everything and then come in as a 9th seed and shock the world and here we are:Â Holy shit, how did they get here?Â You know?
We won 30‑some games and we beat the ACC champion by 30, the Big Ten champion by 30, the Pac‑12 champion by 26, and the Southeast Conference champion by 30.Â So we didn't sneak into the tournament.Â We just had to make a couple adjustments to how we thought and get a couple kids to kind of step outside their little world they lived in that was not helping them.
So in terms of how much we've changed as a team, it looks like a lot on the outside to what you're seeing, but internally it wasn't that much.Â It was just a few little things that had to be adjusted.
Q.Â Geno, assuming that there was quite an excitement from winning last night, are you concerned that the beginning tomorrow night may take a little while to get back to where you should be?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â It always does.Â It always does.Â The great fallacy in coaching and in everybody's‑‑ it's just another game.Â No, it isn't.Â It's the national championship game.
So you can try to spin it any way you want, but for both teams those first five minutes‑‑ look at last night, the first ten minutes, it was hard to get anything done.
It's really, really hard.Â I think tomorrow it will be the same way.Â I think it's going to take both teams a little bit of time to get comfortable.Â I could be wrong.Â One team could just start off like gangbusters.Â But my experience has been that it's a hard game to play in early on.Â You really do need to kind of let the emotions wear off, and that's going to take a little bit of time tomorrow night.
Q.Â Geno, the question I try to get Breanna to expand on regarding if she ever surprises herself, if you had the time to text that answer to her, what would you have provided her with?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â I don't know.Â I mean, I think the really good players‑‑ I think the really good players, they expect to be good.Â So whatever they do, they expect it.Â I think the players that aren't that good‑‑ it's like Shaq in the commercial when he comes out of the car and he goes, That's like how I felt when I made two free throws in a row:Â Wow.Â That's a lot more than I hoped for.
The great players, everything they do, they go like, Uh‑huh.Â I can do that.Â Because that's what makes them really, really good.
So I'm not surprised that she said, you know, I know I'm a good player so when I play well I'm not surprised.
I'm sure that the thing that surprises her, or any of those other really good players, is when they play terribly.Â That probably is a shock to their system more than like, wow, I'm surprised I just did that.Â I think the opposite is true.
Q.Â Coach, what on earth did you think it would take to get Heather Buck into last night's game?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â Why is that relevant?
Q.Â I was just asking about last night.
COACH AURIEMMA:Â Why?Â I mean, Heather Buck is one our players, so I put her in when I think it's time to put her in.Â No sooner, no later.
Q.Â If you go out and win the championship, what would be the most rewarding thing for you about this particular team?
COACH AURIEMMA: Â Hmm.Â Rewarding for me personally or rewarding for this team?
Q.Â Both ways, I guess.
COACH AURIEMMA:Â Whenever I talk about my team, and especially with my team, I always talk to them in terms of what I think they can be.Â So when we got together in October‑‑ actually when I saw them in September during their preseason workouts with Amanda Kimball, our strength and conditioning coach, when I would go watch them in the morning, I remember saying to them:Â I think this can be a really special group.Â You guys have a certain something.
And I saw it in their workouts, the way they acted, the way they behaved, the way they competed against each other, how hard they went just, the aura they had with them.
And they all made a point to mention it to me almost every other day in the office.Â They would come to me and they would say, Coach, this just feels good.Â It feels different.
So when I started to think ahead, I started to think of all the possibilities that this team would have.Â And then when things got a little bit out of kilter a little bit and players didn't develop like I thought they were going to, there was almost the sense of maybe I was wrong.Â Maybe what I saw wasn't really what was true.Â And I started to privately I started to like go, man, I hope I didn't overestimate what we have here.Â And I think some of the other coaches felt the same way, and we just didn't know what to do to get some of these guys to shake that little bit of doubt that they had in their minds.
So what would be most rewarding for me, that it wasn't easy, that they were able to conquer some things that are hard to conquer, which is mostly in your mind.Â And if we're fortunate enough to win tomorrow night, that will probably be my biggest takeaway from that.
Q.Â Coach, you've said‑‑ we've heard you say you can't win championships without great players.
COACH AURIEMMA:Â Uh‑huh.
Q.Â Well, two of them, Diggins and Brittney Griner, are leaving, and they have one between them.Â Can you talk about how hard it really is to do what you guys have done?Â Because I think we're starting to see it now.
COACH AURIEMMA:Â Well, I always thought that.Â I always thought that while we were in that run of, what‑‑ from 2000 to 2010‑‑ what did we win, six championships?Â Five?Â Six?Â We won six championships in ten years.Â I always thought during that run‑‑ I said, you know, someday everybody's going to look back and go:Â I can't believe that that actually happened.Â Because the more time passes and the more you see how many really good teams come up short, you start to realize how incredible that was and how hard it is to do.
And I guess this is a perfect time to address that, that having the best player in the country or having the two best players in the country‑‑ I don't thinkthe average person out there understands that this is what makes it so hard, is that Baylor didn't have to play Louisville in a best‑of‑five series.Â We didn't have to play Notre Dame last night and then again tomorrow night and then two nights later. Â You only have to win one game in this tournament, and then you have to win another one, but it's not against the same team.Â So all you need is one good night and the other team struggles just a little and it changes everything.
So to be able to go through that six‑game stretch in the NCAA Tournament year after year after year and put yourself in that situation to win it, I want to say it's more than just great players.Â But when it comes down to it, nothing else matters if you don't have great players.
Q.Â Coach, can you talk specifically about Bria and Kaleena of maybe some‑‑ I don't want to say necessarily ups and downs, maybe that's not fair, but just some of the struggles both of them have gone through this season and then how well they're playing now in the most important part of the season?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â Bria Hartley and Breanna Stewart?
Q.Â No, Bria Hartley and Kaleena.
COACH AURIEMMA:Â Oh, well, I think Kaleena has been pretty consistent.Â She's one of the few players on our team that hasn't been set back by either injuries or some kind of mental funk or whatever.Â She's been somewhat consistent.Â I can say that pretty much day in and day out for five months she's been the same.
Bria Hartley is just playing right now like‑‑ she's not even there yet, but hopefully tomorrow night she'll get there.Â But there was a level that Bria Hartley was playing in September that I had never seen her play before.Â I thought she was as good a player as we've ever had in our gym during September and October.Â And unfortunately things didn't pan out the way I'd hoped, but I'm a firm believer that when you're as competitive as Bria Hartley is and when you want to win as bad as she does, you just figure out way to be ready for the biggest games.Â And I don't know who's going to play really well tomorrow night, but she's going to be one of them.
Q.Â Geno, you've got a lot of great players that you've talked about over the years.Â Is there anyone that you could compare in terms of sacrifice and pain over five years and perseverance to Caroline?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â Probably the closest one would probably be Shea Ralph that I have had similar experiences.Â Shea, I think what Shea went through, you know, talk about somebody that could have won four national championships, the four teams that Shea was on her four years at Connecticut, at one time during those four seasons we were the best team in the country.Â And had Shea been completely healthy all four of those years, we would have won four national championships.
So I don't think anybody's suffered from a physical standpoint more than Shea Ralph has at the University of Connecticut or sacrificed her body more.
And with Caroline it's been‑‑ it's been maybe even harder, because with Shea, even when Shea was hurt, she was one of the best players in the Big East and maybe in the country.
With Caroline, her position is different.Â When she's not a hundred percent, it's very difficult for her to get the things done that she wants to get done.
But I know right now she does ‑‑ I think right now I don't think there's anybody that appreciates being here more than she does.
I still think back to the one year that she played the entire year when she was healthy and we went 39‑0 and we didn't have a point guard.Â It was her and Tiffany Hayes in the back court and we won a lot of games, and I wish I could have had that Caroline for the whole four years.
Q.Â Geno, two‑parter.Â First one, what it would mean to win an eighth title and tie the record tomorrow night that Tennessee holds?Â And the second part is:Â When you guys were here last for the championship, it was the end of the Taurasi era, winning the third straight in New Orleans.Â Is this the start of a new era with, if you do win tomorrow night, Breanna Stewart, who is having the best season of a freshman ever in an NCAA Tournament?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â Talking about things that haven't happened yet is never a good idea.Â I think tomorrow night when the game is over, if we don't win, it's a sad way for Kelly and those guys to graduate.Â If we do win, it's an amazing way for Kelly and Caroline and Heather to finish their careers at Connecticut.Â And if we do win, it's something that Kaleena Lewis traveled 3,000 miles from California to go to Connecticut to get.Â It's why Moriah Jefferson came from Dallas, Texas, to Connecticut, to get one of those.
So I think if we're fortunate enough to win tomorrow night, it's the first day of a new life for those guys.Â When I wake up Wednesday morning, win or lose tomorrow, I don't know that my life is gonna be impacted that much.Â I don't think it's going to be impacted much.Â When I go to the Masters Friday, because my son's down there, that will be impactful.
Q.Â Coach, Antonita Slaughter on fire from 3‑point range yesterday.Â If you could talk about the challenge of defending that shot tomorrow and how crucial that will be in order to win.
COACH AURIEMMA:Â I watched that game yesterday, and it's just‑‑ he's got to be a genius, that guy.Â Because every time I see that kid catch the ball, she's wide open.Â And I can understand if it's the first game of the tournament, but here they are now in their fifth game in the NCAA Tournament and the kid for 40 minutes is wide open every time she catches it.
So I'm going to have to watch their films really closely and find out how the hell he does that, because I want to try to do the same thing with Kaleena Lewis.
But she has made more big shots in this tournament than anybody I can remember in any five‑game stretch.
So all I can say is if we're there and we have a hand in her face and she still makes them, then God bless them, they deserve to win.
Q.Â Geno, what happened to Bria?Â Did she just lose her confidence?Â What happens to a player that's playing in an exceptionally high level and then seems to really dip like that?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â You have daughters?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â One.Â So you're just asking me that to piss me off, right?Â (Laughter).Â Because I got two of them.Â And I can't explain the stuff that goes through their heads.
Bria Hartley, one of the reasons why she was All‑American last year and one of the reasons why she's really, really good is she is really, really, really, really stubborn.Â Really stubborn.Â One of her greatest attributes is she's really determined, and one of her worst attributes is she's stubborn.Â And she's so cocky and she believes in herself so much.Â And one of her problems is she don't listen to anybody.Â I mean nobody.
So when she was hurt, she wouldn't tell anybody.Â So she kept playing on an ankle that was bothering her, and then it got to a point where she can't practice for a month.Â And during that month she realized how being stubborn and not wanting to listen to anybody‑‑ how much it cost her.
And when she came back, she tried to get it all back real quick.Â And when it didn't happen for her, she just collapsed.Â Because she puts so much of her life into it, she wants it so bad, that when she couldn't have it, it was just was a killer for her.
But through it all, you know what happened on the back side of that?Â At the end of it all, she's learned how to open up with people, tell them what you think, listen to what they're saying to you, take everything in, pay attention, say what's on your mind; don't just sit there, don't think you got all the answers.
So that's come out of this; that whatever happens tomorrow night, when next season starts, there's a whole new Bria Hartley out there now that didn't exist before all this.
Q.Â Coach, can you talk a little bit just about maybe how you've evolved or how you've been able to continue to reinvent this team year after year after year, you know, and keep them at the top?Â What's been the key for you?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â I think as you get to a certain age, it's really, really important that you have really young assistants, young, energetic, incredibly focused, driven people on your staff.Â And Chris Dailey is not as young as Shea and Marisa, but when he started at Connecticut 28 years ago, Chris and I had this vision of this is how we're gonna do things.
With me, it's gotten a little lax.Â Like I don't have the brain power or the discipline as much as I did to really kind of embrace that as much as I did back then.
Chris Dailey has not wavered one iota from that first week of practice 28 years ago and what our demands are on our team.
And Shea and Marisa just take it to a whole 'nother level in terms of their‑‑ the energy level that they bring and how incredibly passionate they are about what they do.
So because of that, as I've gotten older, I've been able to hang on to all those things, even though, me personally, it's hard for me to hang on to them because, you know, my life's changed a little bit, and I've been here and there the last four years with the Olympic thing.
But Tonya Cardoza, Jamelle Elliott before them, and Chris, Marisa, and Shea right now, the things that we think were important 28 years ago, the things that I thought were important when Shea played, those things are just as important now, and those three people make sure that it's done the same way.Â And every player on our team buys into it, and that's why every year we put ourselves in the position to be at this point during the season.
Q.Â Geno, this morning Jeff Walz announced his resignation so that he could go work for you at your new restaurant.Â Two questions:Â One, what do you think makes him qualified to work for you, and, two, when do you think he'll start at maÃ®tre d'?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â I heard about that, that he had said that.Â I ran into Shoni Schimmel's parents on the way over here, and they said they're all for it and the Schimmel twins are transferring to Connecticut (laughter).Â Even though they're not twins.Â So that's the plus side of him resigning or retiring.
He doesn't dress well enough to work in the front room of my restaurant (laughter), so he'll be bussing dishes and taking out the trash in the back until he fixes his attitude.
Q.Â Coach, can you talk about the energy level that Louisville is playing with right now?Â You said last night they're playing as if they don't think they can lose.Â And, also, can you just explain your relationship with Coach Walz?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â You know, I think that's a fallacy too.Â I guarantee you they're not sitting in the their locker room today before practice, today after practice, whenever they're watching film as a team, they're not sitting there saying:Â You know what?Â Let's just go play tomorrow.Â We got nothing to lose.Â They're not saying that.Â Because I love playing against teams that say "We got nothing to lose" because we usually beat them by 50.Â Because you know what?Â You know what's at stake tomorrow?Â National championship.Â So those kids and Jeff and the staff, everybody knows‑‑ we got nothing to lose tomorrow?Â Really?Â You got the national championship to lose tomorrow.Â They know that.Â We know that.Â Everybody that's watching the game knows that.
So what's helped Louisville get here is they want to win.Â I don't think there's this, well, we're just free and clear; we got nothing to lose.Â They want to win.Â Because when you watch them play, they play to win.Â They're not out there going, well, let's just see what happens.Â And they're not looking to just hang around and see if they happen to win the game.Â They're playing to win, and that's why they're so much fun to watch right now.Â And I've loved watching them play.Â I've watched every one of their games.
As far as Jeff is concerned, I see a lot of myself in him, being an assistant coach in a great program like he was, then getting your first opportunity to be a head coach and all that goes with that.
When I did it, no one was paying attention.Â He's doing it in a much bigger arena where lights are a lot brighter.Â When he started at Louisville and what he's done there in a short period of time‑‑ how many years he's been there?Â Six?Â You look around the country, who's done a better job than him in six years?Â I don't think anybody.Â I don't think there's another coach in America that's accomplished as much as he has from where they started in the last six year than he has.
And I've tried to‑‑ we spent a lot of time together at the Big East meetings.Â And I've tried to help him out a little bit.Â I told him‑‑ I said, You're so inexperienced, you don't even know how to get a technical.Â You say the wrong things.Â And I gave him a couple pointers on how to really get technicals.Â And he's taken me up on it, and pretty much every time we play them he gets one just to prove to me that he's a good learner.
Q.Â Coach, can you talk a little bit more about the defensive game plan for tomorrow night, please?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â Why, are you related to Jeff (laughter)?
Q.Â No, I'm with Louisville.Â I'm just looking at‑‑
COACH AURIEMMA:Â You're with Louisville and you want me to tell you what thedefensive game plan is?
Q.Â I'm with the Louisville media.Â I mean, I'm not ‑‑
COACH AURIEMMA:Â Oh.Â Oh.Â I'm just funning with you.Â That's what they say down South, right, funning?Â Yeah.
Well, I've gotten a lot text messages from a lot of my friends in coaching, and they all seem to start with:Â Yo, tomorrow night get a hand up.
So one of our strategies tomorrow night is every time one of those guys catches the ball on the perimeter, we're going to get a hand up.
They're really hard to defend.Â They really are.Â I don't know exactly what's going to happen tomorrow night, but I'll make you one prediction.Â At some point during the game Shoni Schimmel will make a shot that you will think she's closer to our basket than she is to theirs, because she does that all the time against us.Â She makes shots from ridiculous places against us.Â And there are things that Louisville does that you just can't defend.Â Because that's just what they do.
I'm more impressed and more amazed watching them defensively.Â I thought Jeff came up with the perfect strategy when they were playing either Baylor or Tennessee, I'm not sure, when the sideline reporter asked him about what defense they're running in defense, and he said I have no idea.Â He said:Â I have no idea.Â I have no idea what they're doing.Â I don't have any idea what defense we're in.Â He goes:Â And I guess that's good, because if I don't know what they're doing, then the other team can't figure out what they're doing, so we're going to stay in it.
So if they play that defense tomorrow night, we're going to be in big trouble.
Q.Â Coach, my question was going to be about their defense.Â Obviously you've beaten them in the past, but how concerned are you about the different defenses they play‑‑ which some coaches call it junk defense‑‑ and your team's ability to handle it?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â He's always got something up his sleeve.Â I remember the first time we played them he had his team line up and go the wrong way coming out of halftime so that we would shoot at the wrong basket.Â Who does that in a college game?Â That's something you do in CYO, right?
So he had his team line up and go the wrong way, and all my Phi Beta Kappas, they all went with him.Â And luckily the ref went, Whoa, whoa, whoa, you're supposed to go that way.Â He was so pissed because he had us and the ref stopped it.
So he's always coming up with something.Â He's always got something that's a little unconventional.
So we're not‑‑ our team doesn't‑‑ we don't try to figure out like every little thing that you're doing and then have something for every little thing you're doing.Â So with the 30‑second shot clock you don't have the ability to come down and go:Â I think they're in.Â Wait, no they're not.
So we just have a plan of attack, and we attack it.Â And whatever it is that they're doing, that's fine.Â We'll make adjustments as we're moving through the thing.Â Because in the end every defense is the same.Â Every defense is the same.Â It might start out looking a little bit different, it might take a different shape or form at the beginning, but after one or two passes, every defense is the same.
Q.Â Geno, will Kelly leave as one of your favorite all‑time players?Â And who would she likely to be guarding tomorrow?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â That's a good question, who she will be guarding tomorrow night.Â We've kind of varied that recently, like we did last night.Â Just move around a little bit.
Will she leave as one of my favorite players?Â Absolutely.Â Absolutely.Â I think she's going to leave as a lot of people's favorite player.Â Kelly's a product of her environment, her family, where she grew up.Â If somebody said, hey, where is Kelly Faris from?Â Miami Beach.Â You would say, No, she's not.Â Where's she from?Â Anaheim Hills.Â No, she's not.Â She's from Indiana.Â Yeah, she looks like an Indiana kid.Â She looks like a kid from a basketball‑crazy state who just loves to play basketball, who plays just for the love of the game.
And I don't think there's that much of that anymore.Â And she's touched a lot of people's lives up in Connecticut for sure.
Q.Â Geno, you mentioned how the spotlight has gotten a little bigger on women's basketball lately.Â You look big picture, it seems‑‑ from the President doing a bracket on the women's side now and the Vice President going to the Final Four a couple years ago and obviously supporting Delaware in their run lately and you have a great relationship with the governor of Connecticut, is it because some of them have daughters and they're following more?Â It just seems pretty neat that some of the top politicians in the country are big women's basketball fans it seems.
COACH AURIEMMA:Â Yeah, they're the future minivan voters, you know, soccer moms.Â And everybody's looking for that vote, so maybe they're hedging their bets down the road.
One of the few audiences that we don't have is that audience that all the advertisers really, really, really aspire to get, I guess, that 18‑ to 35 year‑old guy who buys trucks and Miller Lite and Bud Light and all that good stuff.Â We don't have that audience probably.
The audience that we do have is when those guys get a little bit older and they have daughters, then we get them to become women's basketball fans.Â And that's something that I think we have to keep doing a better job of growing our fan base.
Can we ever attract that 18 to 35?Â I don't know.Â I don't know.Â But the fan base that we do have, I think we have to do more to strengthen it.Â We have to do more to make them more passionate about it.Â Because as you mentioned, when they do get involved with the game for whatever reason, they kind of‑‑ they enjoy it.Â They enjoy the experience.Â They enjoy the attachment to the game.Â And I think we always have to be mindful of what we're going to do to strengthen that.
Q.Â You pretty well answered this question on Kelly a while ago, but Doris Burke the other day said she represented the heart and soul of the team as much as anyone she can ever remember playing at UConn.Â Can you give a couple of examples of that?
And last night, the sequence where she got the three offensive rebounds and then at the end of the first half too, is that what she is‑‑ does that sum her up?
COACH AURIEMMA:Â Yeah, I don't‑‑ you know, normally when you talk about players that have hadgreat, great careers at Connecticut, you can identify them by something that was great, a great skill that they had.
And I think Kelly is one of the few players that have come through our program that when she leaves, they're never going to introduce her as, That was Kelly Faris; she was a great passer, or she was a great shooter, or she was a great ball handler.
For Kelly, it's more‑‑ those three rebounds yesterday, they're indicative of what Kelly is great at.Â Kelly is great at putting you in a position to win.Â That's what she's great at.
We had no business last year in the semifinal of even having a chance to win that game against Notre Dame, and in the last two minutes she just single‑handedly put us in a position to win that game.Â She's done that so many times that I can't even count them.
So when she leaves Connecticut and people ask me, you know, Who's one of the best players you've ever had at Connecticut, and I say, Kelly Faris, they'll say, Why?Â She was great at making sure we were in position to win every night.
MODERATOR:Â Thank you, Coach.
COACH AURIEMMA:Â You're welcome.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports