Sunday, April 03, 2005

Coach Summitt and the Lady Vols take on the Spartans Sunday at 9:30 p.m.


DEBBIE BYRNE: We're going to have an opening statement from Coach Summitt, your questions to the student athletes so we can let them go back during the open locker room period and then we'll continue with questions for the Coach. So Pat, without further adieu.

COACH Pat Summitt: Well, obviously we're all very excited to be back at the Final Four and to our senior class for this to be their fourth trip. I think that speaks to the impact that they have had on our program. To have our two Indiana players be able to come back to their home state, of course Shyra in her hometown, it doesn't get any better than that when you think about the stage that they're on right now. I'm really proud of not only these three, but the entire team.

DEBBIE BYRNE: Questions for the student athletes.

Q. Shyra, they announced the sites for the Final Four action several years in advance; did you see this and think, "I want to go"?

Shyra Ely: I didn't know until last year or something like that. And I was really excited and from that moment on I knew that it was definitely a goal to be here my senior year and play in the Final Four in Indianapolis.

Q. Loree, I would like to ask you, were you ever fearful this season that you were not going to have a healthy day and be healthy, your best for this time of year?

Loree Moore: No, no doubt in my mind. I kind of went with it. Everything kind of got thrown at me and I didn't really know how to handle it. But I stuck with it and I knew that some time it will come together and it will work out for me and I'm glad it happened at this time.

Q. This is also for Loree. Loree, through all the injuries and so forth, the different things that you do on the court; the defense, the rebounding, the passing; did they go in progression? Did you learn one thing well and go to the next or did they all kind of pick up a little bit together? Describe how that came together.

Loree Moore: Kind of those things were I was already good at and it kind of progressed as my years went on and I kind of got better at each aspect of my game and I just always wanted to stay aggressive with that. I'm known for defense and pushing tempo and creating for my teammates and now I'm adding a part of being aggressive on the offense end and looking for my own shots as well.

Q. Shanna, shooting is such a big part of your game, have you gotten acclimated to the dome, to the rims; do you feel pretty comfortable out there.

Shanna Zolman: Yes, I do now. Coming in, the depth perception of everything is so vast and wide. That's what these shoot arounds are for. Just being able to get acclimated to the rims and being able to adjust to the lighting as well.

Q. To the two Indiana players, could you just talk about the demands for tickets and what sort of delegations you'll have here?

Shyra Ely: Well, I had people coming out of the woodwork. I really it was so I just left it up to my mother to deal with and she's done a great job and she's been just as busy as I am with phone calls and everything. I'm really expecting a lot of like a ton of family and friends and, yeah, I didn't want to get involved with it because it's just too much and I got too much on my plate right now to be focusing on rather than tickets. Shanna Zolman: Same with me, I left that up to my parents to handle.

Q. Shyra, you've been here quite a few times. Could you reflect upon the value, maybe it's a cumulative value of Final Four experience and having performed on this stage before and will that possibly give your team an edge this weekend?

Shyra Ely: Well, I think our team has a lot of experience in the Final Four. Obviously with the senior class being here for the fourth time, and I think that that will just allow us to not get caught up in the whole Final Four experience, but rather stick to what we came here for, and that's to win a national championship and I think that our maturity will help lead this team through as far as our six freshmen and just getting them focused on the price as well.

Q. Shyra, when Sidney got hurt you seemed to move inside more. How has that changed things for you this season the last 10 games or so?

Shyra Ely: Well, playing the floor is pretty natural to me and it's always been what I've played throughout high school and here. Certain things happen whether it's injuries or just a different feel for the game. And I think that one of my strengths is that I'm versatile and I can play where Coach needs me.

So in the beginning of the year that's where she thought I should play and with Sidney going out that kind of opened up the floor spot for me. But it's pretty natural and I feel like that's my bread and butter and I'm really happy that that's where I'm playing at this point in the season.

DEBBIE BYRNE: Final question? Okay. Ladies, I'm going to let you go back to the locker room and we're going to start with questions for the Coach.

Q. Pat, between Chamique and Nicky, how active have you tried to be recruiting in New York and if it appears to be not very or sporadically, what would be the reason for that? And also could you tell the story of recruiting Nicky Anosike and what you saw in her and why you think she came to Tennessee?

COACH Pat Summitt: Well, first of all as a coaching staff, we try and identify the players that we think can keep us at a certain level and hopefully give us a chance to continue to compete in Final Fours for national championships. And certainly Chamique was a no brainer, she was the best player in the country and obviously was the most influential or impact player on our program of the history of Lady Vol basketball.

But Nicky Anosike was a little bit different in that I knew that she was a great athlete and I had heard a lot about her. The afternoon I went to see her play, I had to look at the potential of a Nicky Anosike. I really admired her drive and intensity and competitiveness. And when I made a home visit and met her mother and it was a done deal, I just fell in love with the family and a strong mother of eight children, a single parent. And I saw in her mom and in Nicky Anosike something that I thought was really, really special. She's very very committed to her academics, she's obviously a great student. But there's something special inside of her and I said last weekend, she's just cut out of a different cloth. And when I put her in the starting lineup I went to each one of my staff members and I said, do not let me take her out of the lineup. I'm going to want to, because I want to see her turn it over and I'm going to see her miss easy shots, but don't let me do it. And sure enough, when I even thought about it, they said, you can't do that.

Q. Did you take a walk with her?

COACH Pat Summitt: We did. We walked out we were on Staten Island and went out and watched the ferry coming across and just talked about her life and it was interesting. She couldn't look at me. We did a commercial yesterday and she couldn't look at me. I said, "Nicky, why aren't you looking at me?" And she says "Coach, I can't look at you, I couldn't look at you in the visit, I didn't look at you on campus." And I said, "Well, that's okay, just keep playing the way you're playing, you don't have to look at me. Maybe one of these days you will."

But just getting to know more about Nicky, and convincing Nicky that we would take care of her and provide her with a great family environment at Tennessee and that's no different from recruiting anyone else, that's how we have really disciplined our program in a lot of ways. But the family model has been key for us when kids are willing to leave from New York or California, and come to Knoxville, Tennessee, that's a big change for them. And we want them to know we'll be their family and their home away from home.

Q. I had one original question, but something since you just hit on, Nicky, how much did her mother play into that; it sounds like she recruited you as much as you recruited her maybe?

COACH Pat Summitt: I didn't know. Her mom told me that she watched a lot of games on TV and she liked the discipline. She's a woman of small stature and yet she's extremely disciplined and very demanding and challenging of her family, of her children. And when we talked about academics and we have a no mess up front rule, you go to class; you don't go to class, you don't play. You're there at the university first and foremost to get a degree. I just remember Ngozi saying, "Now, when Nicky gets to Tennessee," and Nicky looked at her like, "mom?" And she just kept on. She said, "No, this is the place you need to be." And I think she had a great influence on Nicky, but fortunately, when Nicky came to campus I thought she really liked the teammates that she would be joining and trusted the coaching staff, but I think her mom had a, obviously, a big influence on her final decision.

Q. What's it like, and I know you've done this obviously several times in your career, but now in a Final Four to look down at the opposite bench, you got two coaches over there that you're probably pretty close to, particularly with Semeka being so close to your last national championship?

COACH Pat Summitt: It was great to see Semeka Randall and also Al Brown and obviously two people that spent a lot of time at the University of Tennessee and had very positive impact on our success while they were with us. And I'm just really proud for them and I am sure they have had the same impact at Michigan State and been a real asset to the program there and they really seem to be enjoying it. Semeka, you know, is really I was curious to see how she was going to be as a coach. She was always a real competitive player and tough and I just, I was anxious to see if she could put those tennis shoes aside and really think about being a coach. And she said she really likes it. She said that this is something that she thinks that she could do for a long time.

Q. We were up at the concourse earlier for the autograph session. What's it like having so many fans, not just from Knoxville but you talked to some of these fans and they're from all over the country, and then to hear them talk to you and talk about how you've been able and the Lady Vols have been able to touch their lives.

COACH Pat Summitt: Well, it's obviously a tremendous compliment to our student athletes and to our basketball program. All of our student athletes understand that they're role models and they have to decide what kind of role models they want to be. And they're the first to sign autographs and talk to kids and you just never know whether it's an elderly person or a child, what something like that means to other people, and to me that's just part of our responsibility.

Basketball is one thing, but being able to touch lives is far more important when you look at the big picture. And I think that our student athletes understand that now better. I hope they never turn down an autograph. And I hope they take the time to really speak to the people that they make a difference for.

Q. Outside of the fact there was a pretty good team in the northeast, New England, has there been something about getting this 7th championship that has seemed so elusive, and has it begun to take on the characteristics of trying to win your first championship?

COACH Pat Summitt: Well, I'll say this: I think I've managed to put things in perspective as a coach, and I think that's important to do, because as a friend of mine said the other day, this is not always a happy profession. And sometimes if we're unrealistic about our chances or what we accomplish in the end for us a national championship or absolutely nothing, I think I would be miserable at what I do. And I think I have to be realistic so I can be happy and enjoy the process. The journey is so important, and for that, as I've walked off the court while I've been disappointed, the disappointment is for the student athletes because I know how much they want to win a championship, every year, every team. And yet the fact that they haven't been able to do that doesn't mean they're not winners, doesn't mean they haven't been competitive.

If you look at in the last three years what Connecticut has accomplished, I think they have had the best talent in the country. I really do. And so sometimes you just have to give credit where credit is due and continue to persevere and try and get back here and get on this stage where who knows what can happen. You got to be here for it to happen.

Q. Joanne P. McCallie yesterday said kind of jokingly that when she was at Northwestern she played you guys and scored 20. My question is do you remember her as a player, do you remember that game and how is your relationship with her changed now that she's in the coaching ranks?

COACH Pat Summitt: Well, to be honest with you, I don't remember her as a player. We didn't do a lot of scouting reports. Obviously she got 20; I don't know how I could not remember that. I think I was more upset with Dawn Marsh that day than anybody else if it's the day I'm recalling, but she's done a great job as a coach and I certainly know her as a coach and will remember her and obviously Joanne's done a great job, so you think about the impact she's had. I don't think many people would remember my playing days either, but I am a little older than Joanne so let's don't offend her, don't mention that.

Q. Seimone Augustus is named National Player of the Year today and you faced her many times; can you just talk about the impact she's had on the women's game?

COACH Pat Summitt: Seimone Augustus is she's had a great impact on the game. And I'm not at all surprised by that. Watching her in high school, and I went to her last home game in which was standing room only, and she literally just scored in a variety of ways and at will, I mean just with no real effort.

She is she reminds me a lot then of Chamique Holdsclaw and still does. The pull up jump shot, her ability to put the ball on the floor. She obviously can go in and post up. The impact she's had on LSU obviously has taken them to two Final Fours now. And certainly she is one of the most talented players to come out of our conference and that says an awful lot.

Q. Pat, it seems like every time you reach a coaching milestone the chatter begins about maybe you should try coaching on the men's side. Does part of you find it, I don't know if "insulting" is the right word, that seems to be this thought that the only way you can validate yourself is if you try to coach males?

COACH Pat Summitt: Well, it's not an insult. I mean it's the reality of the society we live in and I'm not I don't think that I have anything to prove as a coach. And a lot of people think, well, if a female coach is in the men's game, then you've arrived.

I love this game. I love the women's game. I do feel like that I can have much more influence here on the lives of these young women and that's what I want to do. I want to continue to help these young women understand life as well as basketball and learn to compete and to be able to leave here as confident young women that can make it in the real world, not just on the court.

Q. Obviously the Women's Final Four has grown in stature since the first time you were here. What do you remember about your first visit and as a follow to that, do you think there is a little bit of a shock for first timers?

COACH Pat Summitt: Well, my first visit to the NCAA was obviously in Norfolk and I just of course going to the AIAW Tournament, just to take you back, there were 16 teams there. And our first trip was my third year of coaching and we were in Minnesota. And we had a consolation game in AIAW and we finished third. We lost in the opening game to Delta State. And when we went to Norfolk, I just remember it was not a happy ending for us. Louisiana Tech clearly took care of us in that game. But I could tell the difference. We had a nice bandwidth, there was a lot more media there, just NCAA Championship meant that we had instant credibility now in our game and we had a lot more attention from the media and from television and so it just took it to a whole different level. It was a level of respect, which the women's game had not had up until that point.

Q. What about the first timers now?

COACH Pat Summitt: The first time, obviously I think now it's, I'm amazed at being back here a number of times, how much more comfortable I am. I can remember I didn't understand what I was going into and at that point I was nervous. And obviously you try and keep that from your players and just try to prepare them. I think I probably overprepared. I think I we probably practiced more than we do now. We don't prepare any less in terms of our scouting, but on the floor it's more about getting used to the floor and the rims and the lighting, same thing that Shanna is talking about, as opposed to putting in one more play or trying to change things at this point in time. So it is much better now because I'm not as confused about anything. We just have our routine.

Q. You were just talking a little bit about the importance of your players acting as role models. It seems that particularly of late people have been talking about you as a role model, not just for women in basketball and in coaching but sort of women in sport as a whole and is that something that you sort of constantly keep in mind and think of as an important responsibility of yours?

COACH Pat Summitt: I don't think about it that much, no. More than anything I just want to be Pat Summitt. I want to make sure that I always understand being successful and winning doesn't make you better than anyone else. I've been really fortunate and very blessed to have the job I have and be able to work with the young people that I work with and have the coaching staff. My coaching staff just doesn't get the credit that they deserve.

From that standpoint it's am I aware that I'm a role model? Yes. But all I want to do is be a good person and a good coach and hopefully a good ambassador for this game. When I'm thinking about what I do and the role that I play.

Q. Kim Mulkey has talked a lot about your story where you called her when she was pregnant and becoming a mom. I was wondering if she's so competitive if you'll talk about the mom side of Kim and what you see with that.

COACH Pat Summitt: Well, I'm sure it's changed her a little bit. It changed me a lot. But I see her with her kids and they're a big part of this. Tyler, I mean he's just grown up with the game. He was 14 days old when he took his first trip with us. And I think he was born on Friday and at practice on Tuesday the next week. But that's a great life for kids. And why? Because they're around kids and they're around the game. And he's learned so much. And I know Kim's children have probably benefited tremendously from it, just to have the role models that they have. Certainly for her son as for my son, I mean he has a whole different level of respect for women and for what these young women have accomplished.

Q. You mentioned that Semeka and Al earlier, for a program that doesn't play you regularly, do you think it helps in preparation to have a former player and a former coach from your staff on their team?

COACH Pat Summitt: Well, I think just the fact that they are familiar with our team and our style of play. Of course there's not a lot of secrets when you're on TV as much as we are, but I think it may be just more what to expect from our team as an insider's look. But I think as far as the X's and the O's, I mean everyone knows what we're going to do, and it's just a matter of execution of players and I don't think that hopefully it's not going to be an edge that we can't overcome. I know they're going to be very prepared. I'm extremely impressed with Michigan State as a basketball team, the balance. They got four starters in double figures. They didn't just get here because they were a good team; they got here because they were a great team. We played Stanford. I know what they did to Stanford and I have tremendous respect for this team coming in, our players as well.

Q. Two questions. One, what impresses you about Kristin Haynie, their point guard, and also with their match up zone, is more important for Shyra to start off and get off to a good start or just let Shanna need to start hitting shots against that early?

COACH Pat Summitt: First of all to speak to Haynie, what a great point guard. You know obviously she can put it on the floor, she can catch and shoot. I think that the thing that I've been so impressed with is is that she makes great decisions whether it's to get the ball inside. When she gives it up, she moves extremely well without it. Or obviously to make a play herself, she just, to me, she's physically strong and very heady. And I told our basketball team I think she will be one of the best points guards they have faced this season and obviously we have faced a lot of good ones.

We didn't get here with one player having to step up early and play and I think that Michigan State can say the same thing. It's not like they don't have an All American and we don't have an All American. But we have players that can make All American plays and we rely on the team.

With the match up zone, the one thing I can tell you, I'm just glad we have Vanderbilt in our conference. We have played their match up three times and they're very, very good at it and a lot like Michigan State. I think you cannot get impatient. You have to be patient if you want to play against the match up. And certainly they have a lot of patience and we'll have to demonstrate the same patience offensively.

Q. Is there any aspect of tomorrow night's game that you do not want to see Michigan State dominate?

COACH Pat Summitt: The boards. We want to be real stingy when it comes to who gets the ball off the glass. I think that at this point in time in particular we understand typically games at this time of the year, or throughout the season, they're not won on first shots. And we have to be mindful of really controlling the board play. That's not anything new. Everyone knows. Defense and board play has just been the trademark of who we are and of our program year in and year out. So that's going to be a strong focus on the part of our team and our coaching staff.

Q. I was wondering if you were, if you had to leave the game and retire or something, not that I'm trying to push you out

COACH Pat Summitt: Well you wouldn't be the first.


Q. Are you pleased with the direction of the women's college game right now and would you feel like with coaches like Kim and Pokey that it would be in good hands?

COACH Pat Summitt: Well, certainly I'm excited about the direction that the women's game is taking and has taken over the years. I get real emotional sometimes just when I turn on the tube and I see all the fans and just see the level of play and to see players like Kim and Pokey that are now coaching the game. To me that's what it's all about. You got a lot of great players, that have played this game. And they were two great, great point guards. We didn't have the success I wish we would have had against both of them as players. But certainly as coaches they have already been difference makers. What Kim's done in five years just it speaks volumes to her talent as a coach, a communicator, a teacher. And then you look at Pokey, and I think that it would be very, very difficult to lose your mentor to illness and then have to turn around and take over the team who obviously was very emotional, you know, stressed and upset about Coach Gunter and do what she did a year ago. And now this year it's more of Pokey's team and again, they're on the same path, on the same track. And she's just done an awesome job with this LSU team. So I think that if you take those two, they would be good examples of that great players can in fact become great coaches.

DEBBIE BYRNE: Pat. Thank you very much.



Tennessee Forward Brittany Jackson

On Michigan State's run this season: "They are playing great right now. They've beat some great teams. They play great as a team and we really respect them. We just really have to go out and play our game tomorrow night."

On the keys to beating Michigan State: "We have to go out and play our style of basketball. We are playing really great team basketball right now. We need to get it inside and our post players are doing a great job. We need to play our game and stop them right from the start. Defense and rebounding are key as well."

On Shyra Ely: "We are so happy to bring them home (to Indianapolis). We are so excited for this team and especially for them."

On Coach Pat Summitt: "She's the greatest coach in the country in my opinion. She's taught us so much. We are happy to bring her back in the Final Four."

Tennessee Forward Dominique Redding

On being in Indianapolis for the Final Four: "It has been great so far. The banquet last night was fun. We are just really excited to be here and ready to play tomorrow."

Tennessee Center Nicky Anosike

On Michigan State's inside play: "They are big and physical. We are going to try to run hard and they do the same thing, so we are going to have to concentrate on getting back in position. Overall, they look good and I think we are going be challenged this game."

On keys to beating Michigan State: "I think the key is not rushing and keeping our composure. We need to play our game and not let their style affect us."

Tennessee Guard Alexis Hornbuckle

On NCAA tournament experience: "I am excited and ready to get on the court. Everyone plays to make it to the NCAA tournament. The tournament starts with 64 teams and now there are four who are going to battle it out. I think it's great that we are one of those teams. I've been thinking about a day like today since I was in eighth grade. I told my self I want to be a Lady Vol and I am going to win a national championship. These are my goals and hopefully I can live my dream out. So far I have by just coming here, but I want to take it all the way."

On role on the team this season: "My role has changed this season. When I came in I was running a lot and just adjusting to the collegiate game itself. When Loree (Moore) went down, I had to step up and play point guard and had to learn a lot about leadership as a freshman. Coach pulled me aside and told me that the team needed leadership and everybody had to take ownership. As a point guard you already have to do that. So, I had to do that and step up. You have to be able to call the plays, see the defense, call out the defense, and get your team ready. It's helped me out and helped me grow up a little quicker."

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