Thursday, March 31, 2005

Weekly Teleconference

Coach Summitt addresses the Final Four

Lady Vol head coach Pat Summitt

"Obviously I am really proud of the basketball team in their effort against a very determined Rutgers team. Certainly it was a 40-minute battle and I thought both teams played great defense. Our board play and ability to get to the free throw line was key in being able to survive that game and advance to the Final Four. One thing that is appealing to me is that we are not having to face an opponent that we have already faced this year. The up side of that is that you do not have any former issues, as far as incentives and someone else having motivation. It is two teams that are meeting for the first time in a long time, we have not played them since 1977. Just watching this Michigan State team, they are very impressive with the balance they have, with really solid guard play, a good high-low game and good post action."

On whether or not Shyra Ely was uptight because of the chance for her and Shanna Zolman to return home to play in the Final Four:

"I think without question that she was probably a little over anxious at times. She had been to three consecutive Final Fours and on top of that Shyra (Ely) was trying to get back home. Combine that with Rutgers' defensive intensity and I think that without question, she might have forced some things. Now that we have made it there, I think that it should give her a chance to relax and play without being in some type of panic or mental anxiety of making it back to her home state and home town to play in the Final Four. I thought Shyra, as far as being able to do other things, since at times she didn't shoot the ball well or might not rebound the ball as well but I thought her defensive board play was significant. Shanna Zolman just made big shots. When she read the defense, going under the screen by Fluker in the second half to knock down that three, that was one of the biggest shots that she had made all night. It was very timely for us. Obviously she is playing with a great deal of confidence."

On what Shanna Zolman has added to her game:

"In the off-season I think she did two things, she extended her range and got very comfortable with extended her reign and got very comfortable and efficient in her step-back move."

On what it means to have all Final Four and Elite Eight teams being coached by women:

"I have not even thought of that. That did not even register with me. I am trying to figure out if we are going to play defense in a couple of days. It has been a long time, I do not know. Obviously, you are seeing a lot more administrators throughout the country look at some of the top females that have either played the sport or been involved with the game. Not that they are opposed by any means to hire men as there are certainly a lot of successful men in this profession. I do think that more and more women are being given opportunities for head coaching jobs."

On if her success at Tennessee has influenced more female coaches:

"I do not know if the success we have had here has had anything to do with it. I do not know if I can take any credit for any of that."

On the play of Alexis Hornbuckle during the NCAA Tournament:

"Well, I think Alexis (Hornbuckle) has really stepped up her game. She is playing the one-two-three, all the perimeter positions. I think that when Loree (Moore) went out late in the Rutgers' game, she was really key for us. If you look late in the Texas Tech game she stepped up and made plays. She is certainly playing like a veteran, there is no question right now and she has every reason to be a confident player for us. She has definitely been put into some big roles for us with Loree going out this year and the Sa'de (Wiley-Gatewood) injury earlier. She really has provided the leadership from the point when she needed to. When Loree came back she went back to the 3 and now we are playing a three-guard lineup in our staring five. She has done whatever we have asked her to do, 'Ok coach, I will do it'. I've been really pleased with her development."

On if parity has arrived in the women's game:

"I think that we have talked parity for years, but we have not always been able to say that it is absolutely here when you talk Final Four. I think now with Joanne (P. McCallie), Pokey (Chatman) and Kim (Mulkey-Robertson), they are three bright young successful coaches that have obviously taken their teams to a different level. Pokey getting them back for the second time is not an easy task. You look at MSU and the fact that they actually went head-to-head with teams that had final four tradition and had won championships. Now we can really talk about parity and look at it from that regard. Baylor has proven themselves over and over in big games this year. In only five years for Kim to be able to do it speaks to her abilities but it also speaks to parity."

On the role Shyra Ely plays in molding the personality of the team:

"I think Shyra has really stepped up and taken on more of a leadership role and shown more emotion as a leader for this team. While typically throughout her career she was a leader by example, I just see a different look in her eyes. I just see a toughness about her in her fire on the court and in the huddle. Just watching the play backs from some of our games, she was the one that really inspired our post people to get on the boards."

On the coaching staff connection with Michigan State:

"Obviously there is a Tennessee connection with Al Brown being an assistant coach along with Semeka Randall who played here when Al was on our staff. They are very familiar with our program and our philosophy. When you have been in the game as long I have and been on television as much as we have I think everyone knows pretty much every move they make. It will be great to see them and I am proud of them. I am sure they have had their own influence on the Michigan State program as well."

On if she feels it is unacceptable that the team has not won a national title in six years:

"No, I am proud of the teams that have been there and have played in championship games, and got us to the Final Four. That is no easy task. I think sometimes when you are in the role we are in, people think that if you do not win a championship then you somehow fail and that is not true. Last year's team, I thought if anything, people said they probably over-achieved. There is no shame to playing in a national championship game and losing to a team that has been really dominant for the last three years like a Connecticut. I think you have to accept it for what it is and try to keep getting back there, because if you get back there enough times, hopefully you will win."

On how the team will prepare on playing a team they have not played this season:

"If we have not played a team, which is the case, we just get as much game tape as we can possibly get and maybe talk with people that have played them, just in terms of size, feel and quickness. We just study Michigan State like we would any other team."

On if she has talked to any other coaches outside of her staff about Michigan State:

"Actually we have. The feedback that we have gotten is that the guards are really a lot quicker than you may think. They obviously can play off the dribble. Their posts can get up and down the floor. They have a strong inside and outside game and really good balance"

On what Alexis Hornbuckle's play has meant to the team during the NCAAs:

"She is a player that I feel like has made a big difference for this team. She has been instrumental in our success. I can not imagine not having her. You talk about a freshman of impact and influence, and you look at Tennessee and Alexis Hornbuckle comes right to mind, along with Nicky Anosike. They have been difference makers for us this year and the postseason as well."

On what kind of difference Alexis Hornbuckle has provided this year:

"Obviously a number of ways, she is one of the best rebounding guards that we have ever had. I think her board play has really given us an edge. Not only can she rebound on the defensive end of the floor, I think her and Loree Moore are two very good rebounding guards, but some of the rebounds she has come up with on the offensive end of the floor. Then her ability to create open looks in the paint. She can get in the paint to finish and with her size she can score against a lot of guards she plays against."

On how the team has overcome all of the injuries this year:

"If you had told me going into the year that come March we would be without the following players (Candace Parker, Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood, Sidney Spencer and Alex Fuller) I would have said that it was going to be a long and very challenging year for us. With each situation that we were in, learning that Candace was going to redshirt, determining that Sa'de was not going to be able to play through the pain, the really tough blow to lose Sidney Spencer because we knew the others arrived here with complications. When we lost Sid, that was probably the hardest one to take because of the timing of it and because of all of the dimensions to her game. She can play multiple positions. Yet this team just handled it so well and just pulled it together. All of a sudden, Dominique Redding is a better practice player and contributes more in the SEC Tournament than she had all year. She scored seven points in the championship game. Players step up. I think coaches sometimes, behind the scenes, sometimes panic but it is all about the players handling adversity, and they have done it very well and played with maturity."

On what kind of a game she expects between Baylor and LSU:

"If it reflects anything like the first game, I think it is going to be a great basketball game. They are two extremely talented teams with a lot of punch offensively, both inside and outside. I think it is going to be interesting with obviously the match-up with (Sophia) Young and (Sylvia) Fowles. The one thing that I see with LSU is the fact that they really run the basketball more than they did a year ago or even earlier in the year. I do think that this game will be a great basketball game between two teams that are very strong offensively and defensively. Both can get up and down the floor. It is a great match-up."

On the team's last couple of days and getting in late from Philadelphia:

"We actually landed about 5 a.m. We have had a really tough turnaround here so we took the day off and they (the players) were in class. We will practice today at 5:30 and fly out tonight about 8:45."

On her relationship with Joanne P. McCallie:

"Obviously I met Joanne from when she was an assistant at Auburn, visiting with her during the summers when we were recruiting. I saw a lot of potential there, a lot of desire and drive, someone that was really passionate about the game, so this does not surprise me at all. I just felt like her aggressiveness in recruiting has helped her be very successful in a relatively short amount of time. She has put together a great staff. She is, to me, one of the more aggressive recruiters and committed to whatever it takes. Her work ethic is tremendous."

On the importance of the ability of Alexis Hornbuckle being able to play all three positions:

"Well, it has probably been bigger than I had anticipated. Coming in I thought she would probably play the two or the three. She wound up being the starting point guard for a little bit. Now she is playing at the three more, but is spending some time at the point. She has such a great mind for the game. When we were working offensively early on putting in a lot of things, she was the one that picked it up quicker than anyone else on the perimeter. She understands the game and has a really good feel. It is not like you have to teach and re-teach, show her what you want. She understands it. She has the ability to be a very instinctive player, which you want. You would not want an athlete with her skills to be like a robot and I never have to worry about that. She has a looseness to her game, sometimes I tell her it's a little bit too loose, but she does know how to break down the defense and veer away an offensive set to take advantage of a mismatch."

On any advantages in going to the Final Four before:

"I think, as a team and a coach that has been there, you do know what to expect. But every trip for me has been different as I am sure as it has been for players. It seems like now at the Final Four there are so many different time demands, but I think that the one thing you do as a coach is try to prepare your freshmen, your first-timers for what to expect and how to avoid a lot of the distractions. You can get pulled in a lot of different directions. Shyra, going back home, has all of her family there and Shanna will be very excited as well. They have to be mindful of really keeping their focus, having been there before they should be better prepared in what to expect and how to handle it."

On if she tries to controls the team schedule or just go with the flow of events:

"There are times you have control and there are times when you have the media obligations and the NCAA events which I always look forward to. It is great for the student-athletes and it is really special. Of course you have your open practice so you try to figure out where you are going to go to practice either before that or after that. You do have a lot of time with your student-athletes to get away from basketball and other demands that life has placed on them. We want them to enjoy it but at the same time not lose sight of their goals."

On if the team will practice at a Ben Davis High School:

"No it is a dead period, we are not allowed to be in a high school because of the NCAA dead period. There are recruitable student-athletes at the high school. I had put in a request to go there but I had not thought about it being a dead period. I knew immediately it would not be a possibility for us."

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