Quotes from Coach Summitt and the players
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with a opening statement from Coach Summitt and then take questions for the student athletes.
COACH SUMMITT: I'll be very quick. Obviously delighted to be working today. It was an incredible finish for us. I was asked if we had been in a situation like that, and it was it seemed a little ironic that the '98 team in order to get to the Final Four in Kansas City we were down with 7:19 going, 7 minutes 19 seconds, we were down 12. And against North Carolina.
So it's hard to come back against a team like that that is playing the way they were playing. But really proud of our basketball team and their composure and execution to finish out that game. So we're delighted to be here and preparing to play against a great Rutgers team.
THE MODERATOR: Take questions for the student athletes.
Q. For Nicky Anosike, seems appropriate that two of the best defensive teams are playing for the title tomorrow night. Can you talk a little bit about defense and why it matters so much at this time of year?
Nicky Anosike: Coach always says defense wins games, and I think it's evident that the two best defensive teams are the in championship game. Especially Rutgers, who, like Vivian said, didn't even expect to be here, but their defense carried them through. So I think it only makes sense that the two of us are in the championship game.
Q. Candace, Rutgers obviously knows the challenge that you present them, but can you talk about what you think they're going to do that will challenge you?
Candace Parker: Rutgers is a great defensive team. Hadn't really had the opportunity to really focus and see the different looks that they have done against their different opponents. I got to see briefly on the highlights of the LSU game on how they collapsed on Sylvia Fowles and really wanted to make other people beat them.
I think it's just us, we played one of the toughest schedules in the country and we have seen a lot of different looks, so I think it's just coming out and playing Tennessee basketball is what's going to help us in that game tomorrow.
Q. Candace, Nicky Anosike was saying last night that she considers herself somebody that's always going to have your back in games. Just want to know, what is it like to know that you have that kind of support that you don't always have to be the show every single minute you're on the court?
Candace Parker: I don't feel like I ever felt like that, to be honest with you. Because at Tennessee we're different people who are able to step up at different times. And it may not always be on the offensive end. I know Nicky was huge for us last night, playing 40 minutes and just having that warrior mentality and always leading by example. And as well as Alexis and Sidney as well, and Shannon coming in and really frustrating the point guard and creating trouble.
So I think that it's really good for me to know that I have a lot of people that have my back. And I'll have their back as well.
Q. Nicky, can you talk a little bit about you picked up two pretty quick fouls, but you never looked to the bench and of course Coach never even took you out, which she did with several other players. Can you kind of is that normal? She had mentioned afterwards something about that.
Nicky Anosike: No, it's definitely different that she left me in with two fouls. But I was focused on the game and I was really set on not getting into foul trouble and not getting that third foul. I think she just trusted me and I trusted myself not to get that third. And I just wanted to do it for my team. I think I'm a lot smarter than I used to be.
Q. Alexis, this is now the third year in a row that you'll see Rutgers and I guess try to end their season. What's different about this team from the previous two?
Alexis Hornbuckle: I think they have a lot more offensive weapons as a whole this year than the previous two. Cappie led their team the first two times that I played them in the tournament and I don't think that Matee's game was as developed then as it is now. And Essence has elevated her game as well. So it's like they're having a more balanced attack.
Q. Why is that so dangerous?
Alexis Hornbuckle: Well, obviously it's hard to stop five or four, even four people from scoring. It's easier to concentrate on one or two, but when you have a balanced scoring option it's a lot harder to continue to get great stops.
Q. Nicky, at one point last night it looked like Shannon was just screaming at you and you had a kind of quizzical look on your face. Is that she obviously is an emotional player, but is she always that emotional and does it amuse you or do you have to calm her down sometimes?
Nicky Anosike: We all yell at each other. Nothing different. I yell at Candace, she yells back. Alexis yells at me. I might yell back. We just yell at each other. But we all know that we have the same goal and we're just here to help each other. So I might have looked confused when she was yelling at me, but I love her to death and I'm going to listen to what she has to say, and I hope she will listen to what I have to say also.
Q. Shannon, what can you tell us about Epiphanny. How is she different from high school? Are you excited to go up against her or pretty sure you got her number, since you're older?
Shannon Bobbitt: Oh, it's definitely going to be a great game to watch. And Epiphanny is a great player. I'm just going to respect all of them and not fear any of them.
But it's been great playing with her in high school and I'm sure she's gotten better and smarter. But we definitely are going to stay tuned on all of them and play our hardest and leave everything out on the hardwood.
Q. Did she try to convince you to come to Rutgers with her?
Shannon Bobbitt: Yes, she has. But I had to follow my heart and do what's best for my career.
Q. Candace, you guys haven't won a Tennessee hasn't won a national title since 1998. What would it mean not only for the team but for you in particular to win a national title for your legacy, not only at the school but in the women's game.
Candace Parker: Well, I think that it would be huge for us. That's something that we came to Tennessee to do, to win a national championship. And I remember in the locker room yesterday earlier in the season some members of the '87 team came back. I didn't know what year it was. '87 team came back. And the first championship team. And they were sharing their stories and different things like that. We were just like, In 20 years we want to be able to come back and have our banner in the rafters and be able to celebrate and tell famous Pat stories and things like that. Roll her in in a wheelchair.
COACH SUMMITT: That was my suggestion. I just want to be there.
Candace Parker: She will be there.
Alexis Hornbuckle: Yes, she will.
Q. Sidney, you're the only senior up there, can you talk a little bit about how special it is to get back to this game? You were there as a freshman and now you're back as a senior.
Sidney Spencer: Just to be able to contend and play in a national championship game as a senior it's a dream come true, and I wouldn't want to do it with any other players than the ones we have on this team. And I think that this team has worked extremely hard in the summer, fall and up to now and just getting better and just being committed to one another. So it's definitely a dream come true.
Q. For any of the players up there, do you ever think about the history of the game with the two coaches that are in this game, Coach Stringer and Pat Summitt, and what it means to have these two coaches going up against each other for like the future of women's basketball?
Candace Parker: I get to answer it. It's our game has grown a lot. And it has to do with the two coaches that are going to be facing each other in tomorrow's game.
Coach Summitt and Vivian Stringer, they have meant a lot to women's basketball and its growth. And it wouldn't the game wouldn't be where it is at right now without those two women. So it's just a great thing and we're really excited and I know Coach Summitt and Coach Stringer are very good friends, so it just makes it all better.
Q. For any of the players. Can you talk about the aura that is Tennessee women's basketball and do you feel like not necessarily you have a advantage with that, but it kind of is tough playing against Tennessee because who you guys are and the tradition and everything like that.
Alexis Hornbuckle: I think it's not as tough as it used to be because the parity in women's basketball game has grown so much that people don't really fear Tennessee just because you have Tennessee written on your chest. But at the same time it is a advantage to play for a school such as Tennessee where you have great fan support which helps us and makes it difficult for our opponents in post season. But I don't think it makes it any harder to play us now.
Q. What was the most impressive thing you saw Rutgers do yesterday?
Nicky Anosike: I think how they stopped Sylvia. A lot of teams haven't been able to do that. Even as good of a defensive team as we are, we still didn't hold her to five. They did. So I think that's just a tribute to how committed they are to defense and how great of a defensive team they are. But that was the most impressive thing.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you to all five of you. We're going to take questions now for the coach.
Q. Do you see Shannon as being kind of a missing piece of the puzzle and how many junior college players have you ever had? I assume it's very few.
COACH SUMMITT: First part of your question, Shannon has really been terrific as a competitor, as a teammate, and she has been one of the most coachable point guards in my career. I think she came in just wanting to learn the system, wanting to do things the right way.
I've just really I've just watched her day to day develop into a very heady point guard and she obviously is a very fierce competitor. She came out of the junior college ranks having to score a lot for herself and to create for her own game. But what she's been able to do is to create for others on our basketball team. Which has made us a much better not only transition team but I think specifically in the half court game.
I've had three junior college players. Obviously Alberta Auguste and Shannon Bobbitt came in together. The only other junior college player I had was Zandra Montgomery. And Zandra was from Tennessee. And actually when she came to play for me she was 26 and if my memory serves me right, I was 26 also. So it has just been a situation where we haven't needed to do that, we had some transfers which obviously triggered we got to have more quickness and speed in the back court and we definitely need a point guard because I think Alexis benefits and we benefit as a team when she can go the off guard.
Q. How much is having won six times before since 1998 helped you through the last nine years and when Vivian and not having won for nine now. And when Vivian says that she just wants to know what it feels like ones, can you imagine that void of never having won?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, we were in seven Final Fours and four championship games before we cut down nets. So it's not like Tennessee just won championships and it was easy. It is one of the hardest things to do in sports.
After we won six and in looking now at not having won, I think that is a reflection of the parity. If you just look at what we are seeing in women's basketball in terms of the caliber of play and the caliber of go to players and just how our game has grown, the landscape has changed. And we have better post play, we you had to think back when somebody asked me this the other day, who was the best post player we faced, it was Lucia Harris, and that was back in the late '70s. So the game has now evolved into more of a power game as well as outside shooting, the 3 point shot has been great.
But I certainly will tell you that winning a championship is special for any team and any coach, but I don't think it necessarily defines that you are better than anyone else. You just usually it means you have better players.
Q. Can you just when Nicky says that she's a lot smarter than she used to be, can you just sort of trace for those of us who are ignorant just a little bit of the evolution of her game over the last couple years?
COACH SUMMITT: Nicky Anosike is very bright young woman. She's the type of person that when you challenge her, whether it's to work on her low post game, which she has done, this past summer she devoted the majority of her skill preparation to her face up game. I think that you have to really credit her because whatever she wants to do I mean, academically she's one of the best students I've ever had in the program. She's very serious about her academics, very serious about her game.
I think now her composure, she used to get she picked up two, three fouls, I couldn't get her out fast enough. Why I left her in last night is because of her maturity and her composure and I knew she knew when Candace went out that she had to keep herself on the floor. And that's where her basketball IQ came into play. I just felt like she would do what she needed to do to help this team and to keep herself on the court so we would be able to at least hold our own. We just wanted to hold our own by half time.
Q. Back on that evolution of the game theme, you were in the first NCAA Final Four. How was it different then than it is now?
COACH SUMMITT: When we went to the first NCAA championships, I thought that the people involved, the players probably didn't realize, the coaches realized, I'm not sure the fans realized, that going under or being taken under the umbrella of the NCAA was the best thing that ever happened to our game.
We got instant credibility, exposure, and respect for our game. That to me was just the very beginning of what you see now in women's basketball. And without the NCAA, I mean, we would not have made the great strides at a relatively fast pace. It seemed a little slow at times, but just having that opportunity for the national championships to be on national TV and for our players to be seen and our coaches to have a chance to really help showcase the game with the help of the student athletes.
Q. Can you talk about the genesis of your friendship with Coach Stringer and having knowing what she's gone through personally over the years, what she's put into this through the decades, how difficult it's been to beat her in decisive moments, truly decisive moments in the tournament and what it might be like to have to do it again tomorrow night.
COACH SUMMITT: Well, Vivian is someone that I consider a great friend first, a colleague next.
When obviously Vivian was at Iowa we visited for a long time. I remember she called me one night Vivian can talk. And I don't mean for a few minutes. I think that we were on the phone for like three, three and a half hours. And it was in the wee hours of the morning. And she was talking about making the decision whether to leave Iowa.
I just know when she made that move, it took a lot of courage. But what she's been able to do at different programs, it just speaks volumes for who she is. It doesn't matter. You could take Vivian and put her in three more programs and in the next 15 years, and she would be successful.
She has great passion. And I think that the woman has handled adversity better than anyone else I know in this profession. And just the personal adversity that she's faced, and I know at times even professionally. And she just keeps the student athletes first. She's obviously given back to this game. A lot of coaches give back to this game, but Vivian certainly has.
I'm excited for her. I really am excited for her. And as I go into this game, I just it has to be Tennessee and Rutgers, not Pat and Vivian. We're going to work hard for our teams, but the players are the ones that will have to lay it all on the line.
And obviously I remember when she lost her husband and we played them in Iowa as a No. 1 seed there. And the building was absolutely packed and it was the volume was something that I haven't probably heard before or since.
Her team obviously advanced to the Final Four, and I just remember that moment. And I think the people were there because of Vivian and what she had meant to the program and to the community. And she's a special lady. She's had tough times, but let me tell you, she's a tough lady. And she's also a great person.
Q. With all the attention that Candace gets, how do you feel the other girls on the team, particularly the starters, have handled that? And also could you give us maybe a couple of off the court anecdotes about Candace that kind of describe her personality and what she's like as a person.
COACH SUMMITT: It's interesting. A year ago I think that we probably did not have the kind of chemistry that we have now. Because we had a lot of high profile players coming in. And then here comes Candace Parker back from her injury and I'm not sure that they were committed as a team to really accepting what each person could bring. Candace included. And we just didn't have good team chemistry.
Losing last year to North Carolina was a defining moment for this team and all the players that were returning. Because I think they realized how much they needed each other. And then in the off season they went to work. And I think that they respected Candace at a different level because Candace has changed her work ethic.
They talked about calling each other out. After the SEC game in which Candace only had four points in the tournament and we had our meeting, I mean they just spoke their mind. And they just said to Candace, and I said to Candace, if you pull this in post season we lose, we can't win. And the big thing that Nicky challenged her to do was to be a defensive player. She said, You have got to step up and be a defensive player.
So I think that the fact that they hold each other accountable because they respect each other, they respect the fact that every one worked on their game in the off season.
It's just a great thing to see them have the maturity and obviously the confidence and the communication across the board as a team. And, I don't know, with Candace off the court Candace, I think she is the type of player she doesn't necessarily want attention. And I think she likes just being with them and hanging out and having fun and taking the spot light and turning it off. That's pretty much how this team has been.
Q. Can you remember when you first met Coach Stringer? Was it at the first Final Four in '82? And how do two people from two different corners of the earth and two different types of programs develop a friendship like that?
COACH SUMMITT: I think it was through our USA basketball. We had the sports festival and all that. And we served on a committee with USA basketball. I know we went out to I think it was actually the University of Illinois and we roomed together on that trip. And that's when I really got to know her and we were there to select a team from that particular area of the best young players in the game to play in the sports festival. If my memory serves me correct. And that's when I first really got to know Vivian and I spent time with her.
We just stayed in touch. It was a lot just through the USA basketball experiences at that particular time.
Q. A year ago Coach Stringer told us that one of the most encouraging things that happened after losing in the Big East tournament was your phone call. She talked to us about how this season was her bleakest and she expected the worst. Have y'all talked a lot this season? When was the last time you talked? And did she really say to you, What am I going to do with these freshmen?
COACH SUMMITT: No, we didn't talk early on. But we talked I guess it was right after the Big East tournament and right after the SEC's. And it's never a short conversation, as I said.
(Laughter.) And when she called me, Girl, what are you doing? And I thought, well, hopefully nothing for the next hour and a half but talk to you.
(Laughter.) You know. But we had a great time and we just kind of caught up. And she was talking about her team and now I tried to call her after both her big wins and I called even before the final horn sounded and her voice mail was full both times. So I told my assistant, Nikki Caldwell, who is great friends with Jolette Law, I said, Tell Jolette to tell her congratulations, and I at least tried to call. But she's got a lot of people, obviously, that have her phone number.
Q. When you spoke to her after the Big East tournament, did she express pride? Did she saying, My team's going to do something?
COACH SUMMITT: She was excited. Just unbelievable. Unbelievable. Couldn't believe it. You wouldn't believe what they were like, and even she said at the Salute dinner she sent all her assistants to go out to recruit. She said, Go get me some players, these people can't play. And obviously they must have heard her.
Q. Can you talk about the drought between championships, has it motivated you, frustrated you, and are you hungrier now like back when you were for your first title or are is it different?
COACH SUMMITT: I think it's really different for me. Obviously at Tennessee we have a goal every year of winning the SEC championship. And winning a national championship. And the fact that we hadn't won one since '98, you know, the one thing that I just tried to evaluate is why.
I think you have to have in order to win a national championship, I think you have to have a go to player. And that's that's something that we didn't always consistently have. We had balance and we have won championships with balanced teams. But I do think it makes a difference when you have someone that can step up and make the big plays and make everyone else better on the floor.
That's what Chamique Holdsclaw did. She's one of the best I ever coached at that, but that's what Bridgette Gordon did. I went to four Final Fours with her and we tested her heart in every game. She made big plays for us. And we won two championships while she was there.
For me, it's not about me feeling pressure, I just want to help this team. I just want to help every student athlete that chooses to come to Tennessee, I think they come therefore a reason. And I think they come there believing that they will have a chance to win a championship. And I feel like my job now is to be the best leader and the best motivator and put together the best staff, which my staff's just been incredible, to try and help these young women win. Because that's why they came to Tennessee.
Candace Parker could have gone anywhere in the country, so could Alexis Hornbuckle, Nicky Anosike. We won recruiting battles because they felt like they would have a great chance to win at Tennessee. And because of the great fan support and the environment that they would play in.
Q. Just to get back to Shannon, she really hasn't been the typical Tennessee recruit with her size and the junior college aspect. Can you talk a little bit about what you saw before that made you decide, okay, I'm going to offer her a scholarship and bring her on board.
COACH SUMMITT: One thing I learned is that it's not about the size of the body, it's the size of the heart and the toughness and the mind and the skills.
When I saw her play at the junior college tournament of course I had seen her on film, and Dean Lockwood had been the one to go down and watch her play and just watching her on tape. I mean, you can't really appreciate what she brings in terms of her speed and her quickness. But watching her play in the national championship, I just felt like she was a player that could get other people the ball. She was a hard player to defend. And in the open court I really liked what she did with the basketball and that she was in the attack mode. Very confident. Self assured. A self assured point guard. And I just felt like this is a player that could make a difference for us. It was just a matter of it wasn't a matter of how hard she would work, it was a matter of how long it would take her to really fit in and learn the system both offensively and defensively.
And she I mean, she would watch film with me every day. If I would let her. She would just we watch film on our North Carolina game before the North Carolina game last night we watched in the afternoon. And she really is a very committed player to learning and trying to do it right.
Q. Since '98 have there been any years that haunt you, that you feel like you should have won as opposed to teams that you ran into and just ran into better teams?
COACH SUMMITT: It's always tough to be on that stage and lose. But quite honestly, I don't know that we had a team that was really favored during that time. We got some teams to a Final Four and to a championship game that a lot of people didn't think could get there. And in a lot of cases we overachieved. But the missing ingredient was just having the players that on that stage could step up and make the big plays. And that's where maybe we got we lost out on a couple of those players in the recruiting, but that's why when Candace Parker said I'm going to Tennessee, I felt like we got we got a different situation now just because of what I had anticipated she would bring along with obviously Alexis and Nicky, and in particular those three.
Q. You've had a lot of great players come through Tennessee. Where does Candace rank among them, what makes her so special, and does she need a title to validate her career at Tennessee?
COACH SUMMITT: She would tell you she definitely needs a title to validate her career and her place at Tennessee because people compare her to Tameka Catchings and Chamique Holdsclaw. If I had to say today who has been the player that's had the greatest impact on championships, it's Chamique Holdsclaw. And Candace knows that and understands that and she said, Don't talk about Candace Parker along with Chamique and Temeka until Candace Parker's a part of a national championship. Which I think is I think that that speaks volumes for who she is and she's willing to put it on the line and right or wrong, that's how people will most likely define her career.
Q. Little bit out of left field, but would love to get your thoughts on this. The use of the term lady, the adjective lady, Lady Vols. Of course there's no Gentlemen Vols and it is 2007 and with all due respect to the brand and what you have created there, is it time to get rid of that adjective and just have every one be Vols or Wildcats or whatever, understanding that it could be seen as a bit demeaning or somehow having to need a adjective as making it somewhat less than the whole.
COACH SUMMITT: I don't think that will ever change at Tennessee.
Q. Should they?
COACH SUMMITT: That started back in '74. No. No. Because that's who we're known as, as the Lady Vols. I think our players would be the first to say we don't want to change it. That's who we are, that's how people know us, and most of these players up here Nicky Anosike would be the first to tell you that we're proud to be called ladies and Lady Vols.
Q. Do you understand though at least the
COACH SUMMITT: I understand.
Q. the conversation?
COACH SUMMITT: Yes, I do. I understand the question and the conversation. But, I mean, I just think within the state of Tennessee and nationally, that logo, the Lady Vol logo, is known throughout this country and throughout the world. And I don't know. I just I can't see that changing.
Q. 1982, I hate to take you back that far, your recollections of the tournament and maybe any interaction you had with Vivian at the time.
COACH SUMMITT: My recollection of the tournament was we were playing against Louisiana Tech. And the biggest thing I remember is we could not make a entry pass into our offense. And we got killed in that game.
It was a long, miserable game. And I remember telling Sonja Hogg, I will stay in this profession until we beat Louisiana Tech. Count on it. Because they were pressing us, even in the last two minutes and, I mean, we were down. And down by a significant margin. And I just it was a tough it was just a tough weekend for us. It was really tough. And I do remember thinking that this is going to really change women's basketball and just a great crowd and great environment for women's for the women's game.
And it definitely did impact, but it wasn't a great weekend for Tennessee. And it's I hate to tell you, but that's what you remember so much is how you end and we know only one team ends with a victory. But we had hoped that we could make a better showing on national TV and we didn't do it. But I was proud for the game to be on that stage.
Q. Was there any interaction between you back then?
COACH SUMMITT: Oh, yes. Yes. Vivian and I, we certainly talked and I was really proud for her. I thought her team had played well and she's it doesn't matter. I mean, she could coach any team that someone wanted to sign her to and say, go win with this team. She figures out away to win.
Q. Along the theme of staying in the game until something is achieved, Bob Starkey was in here the other day talking about how he didn't want wasn't interested in head coaching job because of all the demands and the pressure and all that stuff. Was there ever a point in your career where you kind of felt, I'm accomplished, I've done a lot, built a program, and started to question how long you wanted to do it or even continue at all? And if there was a point in your career when you kind of had felt yourself getting a little sideways in it and how did you overcome that?
COACH SUMMITT: This may seem a little strange, but I've never thought about not doing what I do. I love it. I live for it.
My most favorite part of my day is the time I spend in practice. I prefer practice over games because it's that's where you teach. That's where you hopefully teach and lead and impact how these young women will then take over when they get on the court.
And I just when I go in the gym and it's no longer fun for me or I don't feel like I'm connecting with these student athletes, then I obviously would make a change.
I will tell you, there was a time that I did not feel that I had the energy. And that was in 1985 after coaching the Olympic team and also playing for the national championship and losing to USC. And I went right from that experience to coaching the Olympic team in Los Angeles and I had never felt that now, that was pressure. That was in my opinion, I probably put more pressure on myself than I should have for us to win the gold medal. And it was even more pressure when the Russians decided not to come, to boycott. Then we had to win.
But when I came back I did not have as much energy then as I've had since then. And I think that was just because of the demands and all of the stress that I felt in winning the gold medal.
Q. Some of the kids upstairs were just talking about the manifesto that Nicky came up with before you guys played UCONN, the one that they signed, I guess it was something that they said that was done among players, not the coaches. I just wondered what your reaction was when you found out about it?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, obviously all I knew is that they they did it. But I don't I haven't seen anything. That's off limits to the coaches. I know that they pretty much made a pact for how they wanted to come together and stay together and play together. And that's been the difference this year. I think Nicky and Alexis have been probably the two players that have provided the kind of leadership that is necessary for a team to really have that chemistry and togetherness. And they have the two of them have been terrific in that area. Even when Alexis is struggling last night, and in there with at times in the past she would have thrown in the towel. Nicky wasn't going to let her do that. They just hold each other accountable. And I think that's probably where it all started. Because I think that was our big road game that they felt like, hey, we got to win on the road and we got to win against a great opponent.
Q. Coach Stringer last couple of weeks has used the words team of destiny quite a bit when describing their run through the tournament. Have you found through the years the concept team of destiny? Is that viable? Does it have any place in the game? And if so, how do you game plan against such an intangible?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, if you believe it and you make it happen, then it is viable.
And obviously with what this team has done I can see where Coach Stringer would go in that direction and inspire her team.
At the same time, I told our team we're not leaving here without a national championship. So I think you have two teams that really feel it and believe it. And that's why I think you're going to have a great game and obviously it's going to be the kind of game where players have to make plays. And they have to make stops. They have to score. To me, it's two teams that want this and in such a way that I think you're going to see a basketball game played with tremendous intensity and competitiveness.
Q. Was Cait's enthusiasm and exuberance easily accepted by the older players on the team? And even last night when she didn't play, she still kept that energy level up court side. Can you talk a little bit about that.
COACH SUMMITT: Well Cait's Cait's high energy every day. And I think this team just knows that Cait's going to speak her mind. She's probably been the one player on the bench that has inspired others more than anyone else with her enthusiasm and she's obviously speaks her mind. But I think that she's the kind of player that gets this team fired up. And she's willing to do whatever it takes. And she's handled the role very, very well.
We talked about the bench before we went out last night. And obviously when the game was over I talked about how much energy the bench gave the players on the court. And the players all responded. They felt it. And you have to have that. But it starts with Cait McMahan.
Q. I was talking to Sidney last night and she had mentioned this magic six running program that you guys do, I guess in the preseason. She thought that was very appropriate that because the last run of it is the longest and the hardest, and that now you're in the national championship game, which is the hardest thing to accomplish, could you talk a little bit about what prepares your players with this program and how they will go up, Rutgers is equally as conditioned?
COACH SUMMITT: Sure.
Q. And how does this make it better? Does this make you guys better than them or is it sort of just one more thing that will help you get over the top?
COACH SUMMITT: Heather Mason is our strength and conditioning coach. And the best I've ever worked with. And Heather designs her program so that it is it's very, very competitive and very tough. And within our sprint work you have an opponent. And your opponent might be Georgia, it could be Vanderbilt, we usually have SEC, we usually take outside opponents as well. I mean, with our schedule having played North Carolina and Duke, that's certainly names that come up. But it's like who we're competing against today. And we have to win this.
I think that the way she presents it and challenges this team and holds people accountable is, it gives them a mental toughness, if you will. Not that we're going to be physically stronger, but in the huddle last night we talked about we can do this. This is we're down the home stretch. And I felt like their energy stayed at the level it needed to and they do feel like they're the best conditioned team in the country.
There's something to be said for what you believe in. And they believe that. But it's we have obviously progressed significantly with Heather's just her discipline. If you don't if everyone doesn't touch the line the right way and turn the right way, then we start over. So and in everything she does I mean, you to have the discipline. She's better at that than I am. I'm learning from her.
Q. You addressed this last week, but in watching of course there was a great crowd here last week, Lady Vols enjoy tremendous support. But as you watched the other regionals last week there were a lot of empty seats. What does when this game is over, what does women's basketball do to address that?
COACH SUMMITT: I think we have great leadership in our game. And I do think that that is something that we have to carefully examine and try to figure out what is the best plan to implement to make sure that we have people in the stands in post season. We have a lot of we have a lot of teams throughout the country that draw well. And I went and supported the neutral sites.
I now question whether or not our game is ready for that. But I do think that we can look at some venues that are regionally positioned to allow us to see teams and to seed teams and obviously we're seeding a lot of teams geographically to draw more fan support. And then marketing. Marketing is so key. And we may have to look at the marketing efforts not only for our respective institutions, but also what we're doing in the post season to try and generate more fan interest. And have people in the seats.
Q. Alexis said that this is the most balanced offensive team of the Rutgers teams that you faced in the last couple years. How much of a threat I guess does that pose to you when they do still play defense like a Stringer coached team?
COACH SUMMITT: I think this is a great team because of that. Because they are committed to defense and board play. But they have a lot of confidence offensively and you've got the big four that are scoring. And they can make shots. We struggled last night offensively. And I am hoping that we got that out of our system.
But we also understand it's going to be very difficult to score against Rutgers defense. And also that we have to defend at all positions. But typically when you're, when you're in this position and you're competing for a national championship, you're going to have to guard people and you're going to have to make plays. And that's true on both sides of the ball. We have to do it.
Q. Shannon said she likes your swagger. And maybe we can relate. Do you see something about of you in her confidence level that she has?
COACH SUMMITT: I never thought of myself having a swagger.
Q. There's something New York about you too in there somewhere.
COACH SUMMITT: Hardly. I think that the one thing that I've tried to do to help Shannon is to help Shannon realize how good she is. Before the game last night when we talked I just told her, You're going to be the best point guard on the floor. And you have to believe it and you have to make these things happen.
I think Shannon has a lot of confidence. I think she came in with a lot of confidence. Candace Parker has a lot of confidence, Alexis, Nicky Anosike, those in particular come to my mind right off. And I do think that that's filtered throughout our team.
But with me, I just my objective is just to be strong for our team and to stay focused. And think of how I can help them. And the one thing is not and this is where I've changed over the years, is not to get frustrated because of what I'm feeling, but to try to stay in tune with what they're feeling and what they need from me at that moment. And with Shannon I tried to stay extremely positive. I can't really think of many times that I've ever been tough on her in a game.
Q. Along the lines ever fan interest, while there was intensity and good defense in both games last night, there was also an inordinate amount of air balls and turnovers and missed layups. Is it somewhat troubling to you that in this big showcase event that there would be bad basketball like that?
COACH SUMMITT: No, I think that's part of post season. Watch the men's games. And you're seeing obviously struggles, particularly early on in those games. And a lot of the men's games and the women's games are very similar. And what happens is that you don't necessarily shoot the ball that well. There's a lot on the line, there's a lot of pressure. And for whatever reason defense goes to another level. And I think that just the defensive intensity that we have seen in the women's tournament as well as the men's tournament, that sometimes it's made for ugly basketball.
It's just a matter of just battling it out and trying to improve as you move through a game or as you go through a possession. Because that's teams are going to bring the intensity. Last night I thought with North Carolina, the intensity between our two teams was terrific. At times the game looked ugly.
Q. This question may have been asked, I've been floating around. Did you know about this manifesto or paper that the players signed? When did that come back around to you and what did you think of it and have you seen it?
COACH SUMMITT: I didn't know about it until the players wanted their time in the locker room before we met as a team. And this was when we were at Connecticut. So up until then I knew nothing about it. And I've asked nothing about it. That's their deal.
I'm not going to get all up in their business. I don't want them all up in mine. We do what we have to do as a staff. They do what they have to do as a team. I just trusted them. I guess over the years it's I pick and choose what I've really wanted to know. So they did this and that's their deal. That's their plan. But obviously it's been effective for them.
Q. I'm just curious how you would compare your coaching philosophy and your personality with Vivian Stringer. You are both legends in coaching basketball but you seem to have different personalities.
COACH SUMMITT: I think there's a lot of similarities because we both believe strongly in defense and rebounding. Very committed to it.
I don't know. I'm not around Vivian in her practices and but I think that she does a great job communicating with her teams and getting them to believe and I would like to believe that our players believe in our system. Personality wise, I don't know, I'm obviously a I talk a lot slower but I don't talk quite as long. But that's okay. She's very effective. And I think she's a great motivator. And I think her kids just they bring it. And they bring it for her. I think they really they love their Coach.
Q. Can you talk about the aura that is Tennessee basketball and do you agree with Alexis that maybe it's not as intimidating as it used to be or what do you think about that?
COACH SUMMITT: I would somewhat agree that because we haven't won national championships in recent years that maybe we're not viewed as big of a threat.
But I will tell you, just having the schedule that we have and traveling across the country, I'm amazed at the number of fans that come out, Tennessee fans or fans when we travel on the road. So obviously I think Tennessee has been around for a long time. And I do think that our national not only our national schedule but our national exposure has allowed our Tennessee teams to enjoy a lot of support on the road as well as obviously at home.
But I don't think that when you get on you know, in this situation, competing in the Regional or Final Four, that teams are going to be intimidated. I think if anything they're going to be more motivated and focused.
Q. Coach Stringer has said that this is her best coaching job in her career. You've seen a fair amount of her teams. Would you go as far as to agree with that?
COACH SUMMITT: I've seen a number of her teams and it's hard for me to compare. Obviously she says it, I'll agree with her. But from where they started, absolutely. I mean, when I saw them play Duke I was like, oh, it's going to be along year for Vivian. If she can't get this young group to really step up and believe in her system. But knowing Vivian, I'm not surprised. She's very persistent. Very persistent.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.
COACH SUMMITT: Thank you.
On choosing between Tennessee and Rutgers for college:
"My family moved from Staten Island to East Orange (N.J.) my senior year and everyone thought because it was close I would want to go to Rutgers. But I wanted to get away from the East Coast and move south. I needed something different where I could relax and focus on basketball and school."
"My mom keeps me updated on what they (Rutgers) are doing. She really likes to follow them. It is a joke in my family that I should have gone to Rutgers so I would still be close by to baby-sit and do chores. I looked at them initially because they are a great team right in my backyard. My two sisters graduated from there and I made a couple of visits. But when it came down to it, Tennessee was the best choice for me."
On the Lady Vols Pact:
"We didn't feel like we were playing up to our potential. So the night before the UConn game we came up with eight things that we felt like we needed to be accountable for to be successful. It wasn't all me. Everyone put in their two cents. It just felt more concrete to have it on paper. It was optional, but everyone signed it. It's just about the little things, like if a teammate offers help or advice, you listen. It seems like common sense, but not everyone was doing it. We didn't really want to lose to UConn and we didn't want to lose for the rest of the season."
On the Lady Vols being a vocal team on the court:
"Yes, we yell at each other all the time, but we are mature enough not to listen to the tone but the message. It really is an eye-opener when your teammate yells at you. You really know you need to get it done. We are all trying to be coaches on the floor. Pat (Summitt) gives us the strategy and game plan, but when the game starts it is up to us. We have had to learn this the hard way, but we have."
On bringing a national title back to Tennessee:
"This is a team full of competitors who flat-out want to win. And the coaches want to win just as bad as we do. This program is full of former players who visit and inspire us with stories to reiterate the tradition. Now it is up to us to fill those shoes and make them proud. Last year we felt like we let ourselves down. This year we feel like we are living up to the Tennessee name and tradition."
"It would mean everything to win a National Championship. My freshman year we felt like we let it slip away. We want to get back to the tradition of winning championships."
"Everyone knows Tennessee has won six national titles, but I have never won one. I don't even know how to explain what it would mean to win. This is something you dream about. If you told me when I was younger that I would be playing for Tennessee in a national title game, I never would have believed you. You never think a dream like that will come true, and here I am."
On the importance of staying out of foul trouble:
"I realize that the team needs me and I can't afford to let them down. It isn't fair to the coaches, fans or team for me not to play a smart game."
On her effort in the win over North Carolina in the semifinals:
"I am glad I was able to do a lot to help the team. I tried to be a presence on both the offensive and defensive ends. I knew I had to step up for my team."
On playing for Head Coach Pat Summitt:
"She knows how to get the best out of me. When I wanted to give up, she pushed me and that is why I am here today. I can't imagine playing for anyone else. She keeps me improving."
On the notion that Head Coach Pat Summitt has mellowed throughout the years:
"She certainly hasn't when it comes to me."
On the keys to being victorious in the title game:
"We need to play the way we have been- together. We played great team defense last night and we need to be a team on both ends of the floor. If we do that, no one can break us. Rutgers' guards are as good as any in the nation. They are very similar to North Carolina in that they like the transition game."
On being ready to play tomorrow night:
"I was up until 5:30 this morning. I was so wound up I couldn't get a wink of sleep. I still can't believe I am going to play in the championship. I will have energy tomorrow night regardless of whether I get two or 10 hours of sleep tonight. It will come from somewhere. It doesn't get any bigger than this."
On what it means to be one of the few JUCO players ever recruited to Tennessee:
"At first I had to make sure they were recruiting me. And make sure it was the University of Tennessee with orange and Pat Summitt. After that it was just an honor, and a pleasure, and I didn't want to turn it down."
On getting acclimated to Tennessee and playing for Pat Summitt:
"It's definitely an honor to play at Tennessee for Coach Summitt. I'm taking advantage of it right now and living a dream. I'm definitely living in the moment right now."
"Believe it or not, it wasn't a hard adjustment for me. I was born knowing how to play hard. I know Coach Summitt is defensive-minded and I have no problem with that."
"At the first couple of (team) meetings that we had, I was definitely stunned. And I sat there and watched and knew Coach Summitt was going to whatever she could to help me."
On what impresses her about Coach Summitt:
"She definitely has a great personality - that's what I like most about her. Out on the court, she's tough and that's great."
"I love her swagger. I guess I can relate."
On attending a JUCO coming out of high school:
"Everything happens for a reason and it was my destiny. It was meant for me to go the JUCO route. And I'm happy about that because it helped me as a player and a person."
On how it was coming in as a junior and a point guard and needing to be a leader:
"I definitely had to learn at first. Alexis Hornbuckle showed me the role. Throughout the season, I started to speak up, it's my personality. I had to do it to get things done."
On being more vocal last night against North Carolina:
"I didn't want to regret anything so I didn't worry about what I said whether it was right or wrong. I just wanted to show a lot of emotion to my team and let them know that we're not out of it."
On where she gets her toughness:
"My parents, my background, just being tough runs in the family. I live in Manhattan, in Harlem, in the projects. Just toughness - everyday you step outside you've got to be ready cause everybody's going to want to play you and want to compete. There's a lot of trash talking and that definitely builds you up. But I don't really talk trash - I just let my game show it."
On evolution of team defense:
"We've gotten so much better defensively since the beginning of the year, since October, since practice started. I think that a lot of the games that we lost were because of too many defensive breakdowns and we tried to rely on our offense. Coach made it a point of emphasis. One-on-one defense is important and everything else will fall into place."
On the team pulling together:
"We wanted to pull together as a team like no other Tennessee team has since all of us have been playing together. I know last year it didn't really feel like a team effort throughout the year, especially down the stretch. We didn't want to be put in the same situation. If anything came and we ended up falling short we wanted to fall short together."
On facing a balanced Rutgers team:
"Rutgers is a team similar to us. It's like pick your poison on who you choose to guard, who you choose to double-down on. They have a more balanced scoring attack and we just have to come out defensive-minded. We have to have great one-on-one defense. Matee (Ajavon) does great breaking down and getting inside your defense and if you leave her open she is going to knock down the jumper, as well as Essence Carson. They are so athletic and quick that you don't have time to relax and take a possession off."
On Rutgers three-point shooting:
"I've watched Rutgers since I've been a collegiate player and played against them the two previous years in the Tournament. They were not that great of a three-point shooting team as a whole, collectively. Matee Ajavon has developed her game to another level and you have to respect her from every position, every spot on the court. It definitely opened up my eyes, as well as their defense. It opened up so many things in transition for them."
On Candace Parker serving as the face of the team:
"When you have a player such as Candace Parker, who's so versatile and she's done so much for women's basketball, as far as the dunking and her versatility on the court. She's going to get that publicity. It's how you handle it. It's how your team handles it and I think we've handled it very well, as well as she does. She never puts Candace Parker in the spotlight. The media might, but she never does that."
On Tennessee title drought:
"It's been a nine-year drought and to have the '87 team come and share their stories and speak that spoke volumes to me personally as an athlete and as a competitor. You come to the University of Tennessee wanting to win a National Championship. That's the main reason that they were in your eye. To not be able to accomplish that, it's been disappointing, to be honest. If you don't come out number one your season is deemed a failure whether everyone else looks at it like that or not."
On team's bench play:
"Our bench play has been tremendous...Everybody is playing their role so well. When we sub we don't drop off. At times throughout the season that happened and now everybody knows what stage we're on. Every game can be your last and we're playing it like that. Our bench play has stepped up so, so well. I am proud of our bench."
On Pat Summitt:
"Before I came here and watching that documentary in middle school, seeing the type of coach she is, she's so intense at all times. And she has that Pat stare that's very deadly. Realizing that she's a motivator and the way she is able to get teams to play to the best of their ability. You never quite know her secrets until you get here, and then you are like, 'I don't know if I am made for this.' You kind of question your character and your mental strength. You have to be mentally strong to play for a coach such as Pat Summitt, but she molds you into a player and a person. She gets you set up for the outside world as well as court play."
On similarities between her march towards a championship in high school and now:
"There's a lot of parallels I feel like in my high school and college career - times where it really shows a team's character. Last night, I really felt showed our character. We battled through adversity. There were a lot of things that didn't go our way, but we hung in there tough, like we did in high school, and pulled it out."
On her legacy and what she wants it to be:
"I want my legacy to be that we won banners during my career. All the greats at Tennessee hung banners. All of us came to Tennessee to win a National Championship and we haven't done so since 1998."
On the pressure to deliver a National Championship:
"I don't feel like it's a pressure. If it is a pressure, it's been there ever since high school. Going to Naperville Central, people's expectations of us were high. I don't feel any other pressure or focus on outside people. It's just what my teammates and coaches think."
On her vocal leadership while on the bench against North Carolina:
"Although I'm a sophomore in the books, I've been here three years and know Pat Summit's program. I know what she wants to do in the game and I know her system. So, I just feel like although I was taken out of the game in the first half due to fouls, I just had to be an emotional leader on the bench and get the crowd involved. In timeouts, I had to talk to my teammates and motivate them. It was a semi-final game, so everybody's got to be involved as much as they can."
On whether she's as far along as she thought she would be in her third year at Tennessee:
"I'd be lying if I didn't think every year we should compete for a National Championship. But, the truth is, last year our team battled through adversity that I don't think many teams could have overcome. So, I feel like there's a silver lining. If you don't win a National Championship at Tennessee, your team is deemed a failure. In some respects, that's great because that's what we all came here for, but you also have to look beyond that and understand that you've accomplished a lot as a team."
On life beyond basketball:
"Basketball has given me a great foundation - obviously, a great education at Tennessee and a lot of opportunities and people to help me with things later in life. I would love to do TV broadcasting. That is one thing that I would like to do to give back to the game that has given so much to me."
On the history at Tennessee and understanding the history of Women's basketball:
"I think you can get a history lesson just by reading our media guide - there's so much history there. From Title IX to what Coach Summitt has done for the program, to everything in general about women's basketball. It has all, in some sense, started at Tennessee. And, I really respect the school's commitment to the Women's Athletic program. Not just in basketball, but across the board - softball, volleyball, soccer. You know, there are not that many institutions that would build a state of the art softball or soccer facility. I'm very blessed and truly understand that the game's still growing. But, luckily, Tennessee is growing the game. I'm very lucky to be part of that."
On her team's ability to yell at each other without anyone taking it personally:
"We try not to focus on the way something is said, but what is said. There are times in the games when you just can't be sensitive. Honestly, they (the coaches) are telling you something for a reason. Coach Summitt doesn't always sit us down and nicely tell us something. So, in some sense, I guess we've taken on the attitude of her and just tell it. We say what's on our minds."
On coming to Tennessee:
"Coach Summitt told me that our class was capable of cutting down nets. I think she really sold me on the program that I was coming to and the amount of support - both on the administration's part and the fans. I was going to be playing against the country's best players every day in practice."
On making it to the Championship Final:
"It's a great feeling. I know there are 360 other teams out there that would like to be in our position right now. I really feel lucky to be here, but, we've worked really hard to get where we're at. It was great to beat North Carolina last night and finally get over the hump and get to the National Championship game. But, I don't think we're satisfied yet."
On whether always being singled out bothers her:
"It does. It bothers me. I'm not going to lie. When I feel like we've had a great team effort and all the highlights are of me on ESPN, I'm like dang! Our team, however, doesn't focus on that because they know that's not me and that's not what I'm about. I'm about winning a National Championship because I feel like all the personal accolades can be disputed, but you can't take away a National Championship."
On Tennessee trying to win a National Championship after a draught since 1998:
"I think it's motivation for the program as well as ourselves. Nobody on this team has won a National Championship. We all came to Tennessee wanting a National Championship. I know I followed the program since I was a little kid and know the history behind the program. If you don't win a National Championship at the University of Tennessee, then it's deemed a failure. So, it's a motivation."
On what happened with eight minutes to go against UNC:
"I just looked up at the clock and was like, this is not going to be a repeat performance of last year's regional final. I just... I didn't know what I was going to do with myself if we lost. It just seemed like a lot of things weren't going our way whether it being blowing lay-ups or turning the ball over after we had just made a defensive stop. It just seemed like we couldn't get anything to go our way, but in that media timeout, Coach Summit said "we are not going to go home tonight. You have these final minutes (of the game) to prove what you are made of as a team on both ends of the floor."
On Rutgers and what she knows about them:
"They have a very balanced scoring attack. I know they want revenge so bad. When I think about Rutgers, I think about how they beat us on their home court. No matter what they do, we just have to stick to the game plan that the coaches give to us and play a complete game on both ends of the court."
On how they came from behind last night:
"That was a defensive team win. When our shots we not falling on the offensive end, we knew that we had to step up and get some stops and put a streak together. When North Carolina dumped the ball down to Erlana (Larkins), my teammates told me that they were going to help me out and I knew that Alexis (Hornbuckle) and Shannon (Bobbitt) would come down and steal the ball or knock it away and that helped me out a lot."
On what Cait McMahan means from the sidelines:
"She is the captain of our 'energy' bunch. Whenever there is something that seems so normal to us like a lay-up or a steal, she is up and off that bench and giving every one of her teammates support. Whenever there is a timeout whether it is a media or a normal one, she is the first one on the floor to meet us and give us high-fives. We can always count on her to show us her smile. She is always talking to us and telling us we have to get a stop here, or let's go down and get a good possession on the offensive end."
On how good of a cook Coach Summit is:
"I always tell this story. I think I was making meat, wait, I think it was pork chops. And to show how much of a mother figure she is to us, I called her and asked her for a recipe to use. She gave me a great one and it was some of the best pork chops I have ever made. But, in typical fashion, she was yelling at us the next day in practice. That is why I love her so much as a person. She is tough when she needs to be and the most loving and compassionate person in the world the rest of the time. I have been blessed to be a part of her program."
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with a opening statement from the coach and then go to questions for the student athletes.
COACH STRINGER: We're excited to be here. We have got a busy day today. We hope to get some rest tomorrow because we recognize that we're on stage with the biggest game in women's basketball.
It seems only appropriate that we would have a opportunity to play Tennessee.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Essence, I wanted to ask you about Katie Adams. Coach said the other day that she's been sort of a person who goes unheralded as kind of a great leader for you guys and do you think you would have I mean, it's kind of a strange question, do you think you would be here without somebody like her?
ESSENCE CARSON: Not at all. Katie, she's definitely she was a big help in the preseason. Throughout the entire year as well. Especially with the freshmen. There are five freshmen. So without any upperclassmen we would have never gotten this far. Without Katie especially, because she's just so inspirational. She shows you what hard work is all about. Even if you don't get a chance to come on the floor she never gives up. She's always on the sidelines cheering you on, telling you what you're doing wrong and how you can fix it: And those are definitely the people that you need on your team.
Q. Epiphanny, what can you tell us about Shannon from high school and did you talk to her about coming to Rutgers with you?
EPIPHANNY PRINCE: Shannon is a great point guard who likes to score, in transition and run the team. And, yes, I did try to get her to come to Rutgers, but I guess she liked Tennessee better.
Q. Any good stories about her?
EPIPHANNY PRINCE: No. Sorry.
Q. Have you ever taken her on in practice? Did you play her one on one?
EPIPHANNY PRINCE: No, we just used to shoot around after practice to get to try to help our jump shots get better.
Q. And who was the better shooter?
EPIPHANNY PRINCE: I don't know.
Q. Question for Kia. Your team did a good job, you and your team did a good job defensing Fowles. Can you talk about the difficulty you'll have with Parker?
KIA VAUGHN: That I would have? Or we will have? As a team?
Q. Well, the team, because she's a little more versatile player than a Fowles.
KIA VAUGHN: Well, the team, we're going to play her like we normally play anybody else. No difference.
Q. For Matee, I wanted to ask you, Candace has said that it wouldn't be complete if she didn't win a national title at Tennessee. Do you feel that same way about winning a national title at Rutgers? Do you need that to complete your career there?
MATEE AJAVON: Of course. I think that every one who comes to college has a goal of one day winning a national championship. So in her perspective, yes, you know, that may fulfill her. Yes, in my perspective it may fulfill us too. But we just look to play a hard 40 minutes and may the best person win. Best team, that is.
Q. You five and your teammates, how did you sleep last night? Have you talked about that? Did you get a full eight hours? Were you too excited? How did you sleep?
ESSENCE CARSON: We slept pretty well.
(Laughter.) The tournament isn't over yet. For us, yesterday was a great game for us. Yes, we can be excited, but we can't be overly excited because we still have a goal that's still ahead of us and we're still trying to reach that.
So we won't after tomorrow's game, you know, if the outcome is positive on our part, then we probably won't get any sleep. Probably be out celebrating amongst each other.
But we still have a job to be done. And we're looking to be well rested, bodies and mentally, and looking just to go into the game and just play the game, the game of our lives.
Q. Did anybody else not sleep well last night? Everybody got their eight hours?
ESSENCE CARSON: Yes.
Q. E, this is now the third year in a row that you'll play Tennessee here on this stage. Why are you more prepared for them this year, and how do you just feel about constantly seeing them?
ESSENCE CARSON: Yes, it's the third time that I've gotten a chance to play them. And especially in the NCAA's. I feel that we're well prepared this year as a team, as a whole. The players, one through ten, I believe that we're all prepared. We have all gotten the chance to experience some type of game time during this NCAA tournament. And especially since we're we have a more balanced scoring team and we are playing defense just as well as any other of Coach Stringer's teams.
And right now we're just working together. We're rolling and we're just believing in ourselves. And I believe that all ten of us believe in ourselves. And I believe that's something that we might have lacked in past years.
Q. For any of the players, curious how often or if there's times in which Coach Stringer has referenced the 1982 team that the last team she took to a championship game at Cheyney? Just stories or something she's pointed to. Is that something that comes up often for you guys?
ESSENCE CARSON: Well, Coach Stringer references a lot of things?
(Laughter.) But she has brought up the 1982 team. She has brought up the Iowa team that she's coached. She has brought up many things that has happened to her in her life to show us that no matter when you're struggling, or how much you're struggling, that there's still light at the end of the tunnel. So we're just as motivated. We have talked to past players and we use them as motivation as well.
But most importantly Coach Stringer's our motivator just simply because we exemplify her character. She definitely let's us know time in and time out that it's not where you come from, it's where you're going.
Q. Kia, can you give us an idea how tough Coach Stringer's practices are?
MATEE AJAVON: No.
(Laughter.) I think that's impossible.
KIA VAUGHN: It really is. You really can't tell. Each and every day is different. Very different. It depends on how you react and how you turn out and how you start the practice. So what she may throw at you there.
Basically we just go in there with an open mind and we're ready for anything.
Q. For any of the players, can you talk about the underdog role and do you guys sort of kind of like that role going into this game?
ESSENCE CARSON: Honestly, we never really pay attention to the seedings, rankings, or whichever you may call it. But we just look to go into the game and just play the best game on that day to be the best team on that day.
Throughout this entire month well, it's April now, and throughout the entire month of March, there's been upsets. Any day can be any team's game. And we're just looking just to take that and just to continue to play the basketball that we have been playing throughout the second half of the season.
Q. I talked to some people last night back in New Jersey and this morning, and they said there is no way this team can not win tomorrow night, based on the play of what they saw last night versus what Tennessee did with North Carolina. Do you feel that?
ESSENCE CARSON: You can't make a definite prediction at this point. It's going to you're going to be able to tell when the ball goes up in the air tomorrow. For me to say that, no, that we don't have enough power to face a Tennessee team, that would be wrong. And for me to say that, yeah, we're too strong for them, that would be wrong as well.
It's a 50/50 chance here. And it just goes by how well we play tomorrow.
Q. Last night Governor Corzine was here, Coach Schiano was here, Coach Fred Hill was here. Can you just talk about like playing this game for like for New Jersey and for Rutgers.
HEATHER ZURICH: It definitely meant a lot for us just to have such big people from New Jersey come to our game. It's just been a great opportunity and representing the state of New Jersey, we're just really proud. Even having like Coach Schiano here, what the football team did this year, we're just happy to carry on and be in the championship game.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you. You can head to the break out room. We'll take questions for the coach.
Q. Your teams throughout the years have developed reputations for not letting one player beat you. You did a great job on Fowles in the semis. Can you just talk about the challenge Parker will pose in the championship?
COACH STRINGER: Well, I think that Fowles is probably the most dominating center with all that she could do. And clearly Candace Parker is the national Player of the Year.
There's nothing that she can't do. I think everybody's always impressed with the beautiful athlete, the beautiful body. I mean she can rebound, dunk, shoot the ball, play the point. I mean, how many players in this world can do that? None.
She's Candace Parker all by herself. But maybe between today and tomorrow, whatever time the game is played, we'll try to figure out something to make it a little less easy, and right now I don't know what we're going to do. I've been up all night thinking about it and looking at some tapes and I'll be talking with the coaches.
But I think that people should remember though Candace Parker's a great player, but that's not that doesn't define the Tennessee team. I think the Tennessee team is a huge team. I mean across the board. Once you deal with Bobbitt, who is a 5 3 player, then you jump 5 11 and then 6 3, 6 4, 6 3 across the board. Remember, these are all select athletes that Tennessee picks. They have first choice on the blue chip athletes. There's not one player that's not a first team All American or a probably a national Player of the Year.
These young ladies have a great deal of pride, they're extremely versatile. They can flat out get it done. Some players are this and that players. They can either do this or they can do that. These players are this and that. They can do this or that.
And Pat, you know, is just the greatest coach in my opinion, period. So they have got the great players and a great coach and a great tradition. They're used to playing in pressure situations. They have been to the Final Four. This group of young people haven't been, but the team has. So Candace says that her career isn't complete, I imagine that that's the way she feels, and that should be.
But we'll have to figure out what we're going to do. I know it's not going to be just one person that's going to handle her.
Q. Can you talk about Shannon Bobbitt, the player you saw in high school to the player you're seeing now, how close you came to getting her. Just in general terms what she's added to the Tennessee team over the team that you saw last year.
COACH STRINGER: It's a much needed piece. I think that was the smartest move that Tennessee could have made. Because they have always had the giant players, what I call pro sized guards, and we all have seen that. But they have never had the quickness that they have needed.
So you add the quickness of Shannon, few people can take the ball away from her and what's so great about her is she's so extremely intense and fundamentally sound defensively. She probably went to one of the best junior colleges in the country that definitely emphasizes great offense and great defense, and it's a real tribute to Coach Landers. We were aware of Shannon earlier in the year and obviously she went to the junior college for a variety of reasons, so I'll say it like that.
But I remember my nephew sending me a tape because there was something online with her handling the ball. She was just as smooth as Allen Iverson. She's just a little itty bitty person, you know. And I sort of lost track of her. And then realized where she was in the junior college. And I would like to have brought Shannon to Rutgers. We did have her visit and I'll leave it like that.
A long story short is by Final Four time she decided to go to Tennessee. And that's good for them. Because she did improve her shot which she didn't have as consistently in high school. But she's doing it all right now and she brings fire and fight and she's a true point guard because she's unselfish and she doesn't care who gets the job done as long as they win. And that's what you want from a point guard.
Q. You talked last week about the six player game. Is that what you grew up playing or do you just you were aware of it? And also in the 25 years since your first Final Four, some of the things that struck you as how the game has evolved.
COACH STRINGER: Well, no, I always played with the guys down no, I always played with the boys all the time. And most of the time I was the one that was choosing the team. So I don't know. The six player game although, in my high school we didn't have sports for girls and that's so unfortunate. I was so excited to go to college because I figured I could put my talents to use and we started off that way. With the 3 up and 3 back. My reference had to do more with when I went to Iowa the entire state was a six on six and of course that's where they would average 15 to 20,000 people at the girls high school game. I was in awe of that. So it was difficult and I knew better than to try to get the state to change. E. Wayne Cooley, who was the head of the Iowa Federation, was the the politically correct thing would have been for he and I to get together. I was explaining why we needed to have these athletes from Iowa play for the University of Iowa. I thought they were the best shooters in the world and fundamentally sound, but when it came to facing up with the basket and seeing all this other movement that it was going to be difficult. So Pat Summitt called me and we talked about that because Tennessee was one of the few last states to change from the six on six game to the five on five game as well.
And Elaine and I continue to remain friends. But it was just a matter of things eventually evolving. And the statement was that girls couldn't run as much because they may have a heart attack. And they just couldn't their hearts couldn't take it. But we see now that they can and now they're even dunking. So the game has evolved quite a bit. Quite a bit. The athleticism on the part of the centers is incredible. So right now it seems like a center is not the complete player if she can't shoot the ball well at the three point range and go inside and pretty soon it's going to come down to, hey, how many players do you have that can dunk. And that's what it's going to come to.
Q. Between you and Pat, fuzzy math, maybe, I got 1,700 victories, 68 years combined coaching experience, is it a mistake to reduce this kind of a game, say that it's a chess match between two of the greatest coaches in women's history? Is there overemphasis on that at the college level or is that the correct way to look at the game?
COACH STRINGER: It probably is a chess match. She has her pieces and I have my pieces. And we're trying to, at the right time, make the move. There will be moves and countermoves. And as you may know, Pat and I are very good friends. And I've enjoyed coaching I just enjoy these kind of games. And I know that she does too as well. The players, I mean, there's a lot of things. That's why I thought Essence answered someone's questions brilliantly because you can't tell what's going to go on. It depends on how calm the players are and what moves they make and basically how calm we can be and the skills of the players.
But basketball is a game of chess. You just don't throw it out there randomly hoping and react to it. You hope to make a move and cause someone else to react and you look at players that are put in and you consider what you need to do with that. The decisions you make with regards to the patterns has everything to do with how well people handle certain kinds of offensive schemes. Whether it's a screen and roll or a post pattern or whatever.
So every time if you notice every time someone comes in, as for me, my coaches, I'll think more in terms of the patterns, my assistant coach, whoever did that game, will think more in terms of the matchups. And sometimes you get the matchups right and sometimes you don't.
Q. Just a quick follow up, there's a scene in a movie Patton where George C. Scott's character is having a battle with Rommel's Panzers and he says, Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book.
COACH STRINGER: I love it.
Q. Have you read Pat's book? Has she read yours? Is there anything that you guys do that the other doesn't know backwards and forwards?
COACH STRINGER: I can tell you this: Yeah, her book, "The Summit," to go into her mind and in terms of what was happening at the time that we were going to play them, I think it was for the it was either at the Elite 8 level yeah, it must have been. What was going through her mind. Yeah. Most coaches I think read or admire Rommel and Patton and all the great generals. I think it's appropriate that they call Bob Knight "the general." Because he is a general.
You move; it is a chess match. It is that very much. It's important to know the mind, the player. Sometimes you might even know from the clothes, the decision of the clothes that they might wear. It's really very interesting. You must know the mind because the players may change, the names and the faces of the players, but I study the coaches. Other tendencies that they have.
We say that all the time. Because you can't change. If you have been successful you may tweak and come up a little more here or there. For example, this year I tried to allow the team to run full blown for all out. We have never had offensive players and that's the mistake I think that so many times people think, well, Vivian just likes to walk the ball up the floor. At championship times we have been known to turn the ball over four or five times and that's an incredible statistic. But it's not that I want to walk the ball up the floor, I much prefer to run like I would much prefer to press, the problem is we have not had the players to run in too many instances and better still we haven't had people that have been consistent with their shooting.
But I couldn't it was against my own it was against my own grain when we were out there scoring a thundered points and other people were scoring 80 and 85 points on us, so someone should have known that pretty soon Vivian would go back to herself. You know. And not lose my mind and go ahead and do the things I'm most comfortable with. But it's great.
Q. You've told us in the past when Coach Summitt has called you at trying times and things like that. Can you tell us when she called you this season, when was the last time y'all talked and do you kind of feel like you owe her? That you're due a win?
COACH STRINGER: She owes me or I owe her?
Q. You owe her.
COACH STRINGER: Depends on what you want to say about that.
Q. It's been a long, and a lot in a row now that she's kind of gotten the best of you.
COACH STRINGER: You know what? I think that for me I would be wasting energy and stressing out too much. I sort of like the way I'm approaching everything. I don't know why. The same thing with the players. The players alluded to all of our so many of the Cheyney, Iowa and Rutgers players came because they're a part of the same family at a reception and so many of them gave testimony and they spoke because it is one large family.
To me it's overwhelming the cumulative affect of all of that. It's like a mom watching all of her children come home and you love them and see the things that they have done. With regards to Tennessee, it always seems that we always are playing one another. And we're such good friends. I'm sure that we I know that we prefer not to play. But on the other hand, we continue to want to make ourselves worthy to be considered in that elite company. To have an opportunity to play them time and time again. And so for those schools that avoid great competition, it's like this, you can run, but you can't hide. You can run, but you can't hide. Because ultimately if what you say you want is a national championship, they're going to be there. Lurking somewhere.
That is what we want. We want so we want to play the best. I'm excited about playing them. I'm not going to get hung up on, well, they just keep on beating you. I've lasted this many years, you know, so I got it in me. That's one thing about it. I can persevere. And thank goodness we have an opportunity to play now and we have been on them, if you want to go by the numbers, but it doesn't matter, because unfortunately, you know, the things don't work out quite the way that people want all the time.
Who would have not wanted, for example, North Carolina State to win their game against Connecticut just because they would be the sentimental favorite. It doesn't work that way. So we just I just got to think with a clear mind and let these guys play and be free of any of the burdens of the past. They just need to deal with here and now.
Q. Two questions: One, Nicky Anosike, was that somebody that you recruited? And if so, could you give us a little background there? And, two, what is it about her that coaches seem to appreciate that maybe the casual fans don't?
COACH STRINGER: Of course we would have wanted to recruit her. We want to keep every player in New York and New Jersey. I think that if we could really just recruit there, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., the parents would be happy, we could win at the highest levels. And that's what we have attempted to do. We need to own the Eastern corridor. We don't even have to go down the coast, if you will.
I was at a lot of her practices and talked to her coach at length. Long story short is that the name Tennessee and its rich tradition, and let's say Pat, was too much for me. I couldn't have recruited anyone harder. I love her because she's 6 3, she's got unlimited energy, she's quick, she runs the floor well, she is just a fundamentally sound player. I try tried to call her at the last second to speak do you want to speak to her mom or someone to explain to them why they should come to Rutgers. And we are the program that needs people, you know, we're careful with the people that we select. We're very careful, that's why you don't see large numbers of players. Because it's a certain kind of player and, first of all, it's a player that is not looking for stardom.
Nicky is not that kind of a player. She went to Tennessee not because it was Tennessee; I think that she was excited to go there. We probably needed her more. We always do need her, I think we always need players more than what Tennessee has. They got people in the cupboards getting ready to come out. Really, they just dust them off and put them on out there.
But as you can see with us, we take advantage of every player that we have and so when we say to you, come to us because as a freshman you'll play, I mean, what could be better? But Nicky, you know, she went to Tennessee and that was our loss and Tennessee's gain.
Q. You may have answered this in bits and pieces, but when you said in your opening that it's appropriate that you're playing Tennessee, could you elaborate on that as to what you meant and also how unfulfilled have you felt that you haven't won a national championship to this point?
COACH STRINGER: I think that it's important every year that I have an opportunity to Coach because it burns so much in my soul. It being coaching. I think that when the day comes that I regret sitting down and writing out a practice or going over a tape. I get excited, during the season, my nanny will tell you, I never eat, just eat. I will take I have a huge bathroom with televisions in there and all that. Huge. I mean huge. So I'll just sit in there and eat. And so it's almost like it's a treat. I sit there and I smile and I really enjoy breaking things down. Breaking tapes down. I enjoy developing and putting things together. Every year I approach it, every year believe that we can win a national championship. This year, different. I really didn't think so. I didn't know if I could even last as a coach.
So to be here now I'm not going to spoil it by being obsessed with it. I really haven't been obsessed. I'm always hurt more often, I'm hurt because I'm losing young people and I won't see them again. I still have pain in my heart when I looked at that last shot the time that we played Tennessee and Cappie Pondexter just played her heart out. And the rest of the young people tried to play as well and we just came up short. And I remember looking at the clock and looking so deflated that it's almost like it's like a it's really like a noose on a neck and it's a mental thing and I wanted to cry for them. And because I take it so personal and I do cry. It means everything in the world to me because I don't want to see my kids' hearts broken. They play too hard.
But somehow we have come to a little balance that we really can't appreciate all of what we have gotten out of the season, and we're going to do everything we can to be fulfilled. Pat has won a lot of times. I really would like to know what it feels like and I don't need her to tell me what it feels like. I want to experience it myself. You know. And who wouldn't?
But in this you have to be good and you also have to be somewhat lucky. There are people who have won a national championship that you probably would have a hard time remembering their names now. Because it's a flash in the pan. It just happened overnight. I think most people will think about me because somehow we're that team that you're going to always have to mention because we're going to be somewhere there that's dangerously close. And even if we're out of the numbers, as you can see with the rankings, you always know that sometimes, somehow those Scarlet Knights are going to be a team that needs to be counted on. Somehow they're just going to find it, they're going to get that fight and they're going to be able to put it together.
So ask me that question, you know, Tuesday night. When do we play? Monday night? Tuesday night. Yeah. Ask me that question Tuesday night. I sure hope that I can tell you that I no he what it feels like. I just want to experience it. It would be nice.
Q. And would it be appropriate to play Tennessee?
COACH STRINGER: It is appropriate that we would play Tennessee because Tennessee has been that team it's kind of interesting, the year that my husband passed, it was Tennessee that came to Iowa. I think we at the time we were a No. 1 seed or whatever. Tennessee I think was considered one of the top teams, if not the top team in the nation, and certainly the SEC was the strongest team and so the NCAA selection committee found it appropriate that Tennessee and Auburn would come. And to our good fortune we emerged from that and we went on to a Final Four. When we went to Philadelphia, no matter what, Pat and I are connected at the hip. This year she called me just before the thing and says, Vivian, I promise you we're not going to be in the same region. But somehow Rutgers, me, let's say it like this, not me, not Iowa and not Rutgers, not Cheyney, because, you know, the first Final Four it was Tennessee, although they were on the other side of the brackets, I think they won their game against Maryland or lost their game against Maryland and we were with Louisiana Tech, so we have always been in that company.
But appropriate because I can think of no other team that on a more consistent basis or no other coach on a more consistent basis that has always been that person that says, I'm standing here, you have to come by me in order to get it all. And Pat is such a great competitor the great coach that she is, a great competitor, that if she has 50, she wants 60, and I don't blame her. She works hard and the team deserves that.
It's appropriate. That's the team that it should be. Anything short of that probably is like, well, but you didn't play the mighty Tennessee. So you know we get a chance to play them and if we're not good enough, we're not good enough. If we're good enough you'll find out Tuesday night. You'll know.
Q. Can you remember the circumstances the first time you met Pat and why the two of you hit it off?
COACH STRINGER: I can't remember. I was a little fish at Cheyney. We only had 1,500 students and about $3,000 budgets. A budget and I thought, wow, here we are playing in the first Final Four. And we were in Norfolk and she and I never got a chance to play one another. I just Tennessee seemed like this far, distant land. Unfortunately being from the East, some of us tend to think that there's nothing going on west of the Mississippi.
And where is Tennessee? Where is it? Okay. Ohio, Iowa, whatever. And we're just focusing on the East Coast. So I really didn't know. I just know it was a huge school and this coach had done great things. But, remember, television didn't bring those games and these situations to the front.
I think that Pat and I had a casual conversation because we met there for the meeting that they would have just before the Final Four. And I would come to hear her name so many times and took pride in saying that she was my friend. But what I do appreciate about her most is that contrary to what people think, they might see her as a powerful person and arrogant, but she's a very warm, caring coach, mother, and woman. With everything that she does.
We were standing on the sidelines and in our game at Madison Square Garden talking about clothes, believe it or not. We talk about our children. She's been great to my sons who have been in college and needed to get reports done and that. And she's been that person that will take time and call you and I know that she would do anything for me. If I'm down, hey, Vivian, you know, get your head up. We had a game where I just I tend to, you know, implement a lot of things and sometimes the players can be overwhelmed. And she was saying in our preparation for your game, I noticed that you guys were running a lot of patterns, Vivian, maybe you want to let them run it three times in a row because you know these kids today don't think quite as well or they don't remember quite as much. And I thought, you know what, that might make a lot of sense.
And I've talked to her about very personal things. So we're coaches, but we're people and human beings. And I appreciate that we relate more as a personal. But I will try to do my best to take her out Tuesday.
(Laughter.) You can bet your last dime on that. As she will me too. And we'll hug afterwards and it hurts. It will hurt her if she wins, but you think that she's going to take a break on me? Not at all. You know. And I love her still afterwards. But I will do my best. That's why you see bags on my eyes. I'm tired. But I will I'm going to go at it, believe me.
Q. Earlier Essence spoke about spoke very highly of Katie Adams. What does she mean to the girls on this team and how important is it to have someone of that character on a team that's so young?
COACH STRINGER: Katie's been the mom to these players. During the summer when we were recruiting, Katie has been the person well, Katie, Katie told me this or Katie gave me extra workout. Or Katie said I better not do this. Katie has been like a mom.
Katie is as important as you think Kia is or as important as you think Essence is. Katie is every bit as important. What she says goes. She takes us through the warmups, they're going to warm up and they're going to warm up the right way. Why? Because she's a player of truth and of honesty. She has the right to say anything to anyone. At times it's as a simple example, she and Mat are extremely close. They have been roommates from the beginning. Sometimes if Mat let's say that I'm jumping on Mat about something, and Mat's looking like, dang, she's just on me. And Katie would just say, you know you're wrong. And, you know, she can say anything to anyone of these players. She is the most respected player of all players.
Why? Because she always does the right thing. She's going to work extra hard. Several players were able to go to Virgin Islands only because of Katie. Because while Katie had done her letters and her suicides and all that, when others mentally were so doggone weak that they couldn't meet minimum standards, Katie would run the extra time. I would have to say, Katie, just don't. Or if Brittany is struggling with her shot, it's Katie that's going to take her out and continue to work on her shot. She's the most giving person. She knows that as she prepares other people, if you want energy and fire on your team, that's who you have.
You want someone that's going to simulate what the other team is going to do. Knowing that that person's going to get better. Katie deserves and I would bet that if all of them were to vote and say who do we give the greatest heart award to, who is the most valuable player to, not talking about the points, the most valuable player on this team, there is not a doubt in my mind beyond anyone it would be Katie Adams. Katie is necessary for any team, coach, organization. She's the ultimate team player. She really is.
Q. I'm sure you can find some artistic beauty in last night's games, but how would you rebuff critics who said those two semi finals were ugly basketball?
COACH STRINGER: Two semi finals? I guess that includes ours too.
(Laughter.) You know what? I really don't care. Because writers write and coaches coach and players play. It's kind of interesting. Too bad coaches can't write also. It's just like sometimes people come to our games, I tell you, one of the most difficult games for us to play is the game to be played against Villanova. Now people are bored to tears, but as a coach I am so rewarded because it executes so well and I love the way our team plays defense. You have to be so exact with angles and all that. I'm a purist, Pat is a purist. You know, notwithstanding turnovers and things of that sort, most people want to be entertained. So you want to see a dunk, see the breaks, well, you can bet your last dime we're going to try and make sure you don't see dunks and you don't see breaks.
But, I mean, that's why they write the way that they do. I could care less. I would hope that everybody could be happy but at this particular point since we worked so hard we just want to be happy. And happy is winning. I know that Pat would probably say it was an ugly game, but she's glad she won. I don't know what everybody said about LSU, it was a defensive game. And we all should he know that defense wins championships. We know that. So that's what they have to say, it's too bad.
Q. Just a follow up to the question, when you started out you talked about the showcase. This is such a showcase for women's basketball. Not any concern at all, 50 turnovers in the second game, first game the lowest to score ever, 35, which was your defense, of course, and congratulations on that. But not any concern as a pioneer of women's sports of how that looked on TV last night?
COACH STRINGER: Well, I hear what you're saying but you need to ask yourself what are you saying? Because at the beginning of the game you hear them say "star watch." Sylvia Fowles with the beautiful hook the most dominating center in the country. She can dunk any time. She's finger rolling over the top. You have to appreciate the athleticism and the beauty of that. So why can't people get a lot more into, if she does those things, what are they going to do. Everybody here asked me what we're going to do about Parker. What do you want me to do? Let her dunk? Would everybody be happy? Then Pat would be sitting with all the people with orange on, everybody's excited. Hornbuckle is going behind the back and Shannon Bobbitt is giving you a New York show. Everybody's happy. But Coach Stringer and crew are not happy. So you know what the star watch is. I know what that is. If I didn't do something you would say, she's a dumb coach. Guess what? I can't win. I cannot win. So I'm going to win. Doing and winning the way that we need to do and get it done.
So it's about the show, but, I mean, all I can say to you, and most of you know that during the NBA games the guys don't play any defense. You know they don't. All Star Game, everybody's happy. 125, 135 points, did you see what Kobe did? Kobe did this, he did that. When it gets down to the championship you see some real basketball because the game is offense and the game is defense. And so the turnovers, I mean, as you can see those teams were pressing, they were playing so hard. They were pressing so hard. I don't know what else you can do. Now maybe you would say on the official side of it that the officials need to call it much tighter. Maybe they call it earlier. I don't know. But I just hope that whatever the heck they do, they go ahead and are very consistent with both us and Tennessee. That's all I'm asking for. If you're going to be loose, let it be loose. If we're going to have a slugfest, let it happen. If it's going to be smooth, but make sure it's on both sides, and you can't tell it, and let the chips fall where they may.
But I think you have to appreciate the beauty of the great athletes that are there, and yet you have to appreciate the real determination on the defensive side of the ball.
Q. In a different topic, when you got to Rutgers, I believe they were still called the Lady were they not called the Lady Scarlet Knights, I believe? And you ended that immediately. What do you think about this Lady thing, this being 2007?
COACH STRINGER: Well, let me say that I understand that that's something more regional or southern in that respect. And with all due respect, then that should be the way that it is. If that's the way everybody likes to refer to it. I just believe that basketball is basketball. And you don't need to make a distinction. I think that we should be good enough, Coach Chaney and I used to practice together. And we never made a distinction between the girls, this and that. He and I were when I say practice, we would run 10 minute scrimmages of the matchup zone. And the guys a guy by the name of Andrew Fields, who was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers would tell the press that he learned his jump shot from Valerie Walker, who was probably one of the finest jump shooters in the country. She was shooting at four point range when she was way back when. And here she is 6 1, 6 2, handled the ball like a point guard. He didn't have any shame of that because Coach Chaney as a male taught him to appreciate basketball is basketball.
And so I just believe in equality of people. Not male and female. I don't think that for example, that a woman should be paid less or more. I think that you should be judged strictly on the quality of the work that you do. No one could work harder than these young ladies when I'm practicing them at 4:35. We have had to get up at 4:00 to practice at 5:30. And they need gas and food in their bellies and it doesn't say, well, you only weigh 120 pounds so you only have to pay 99 cents a gallon for the gas. It's the same.
So I just don't see a distinction. If we're going to play basketball, let's play basketball. If our game isn't nice and pretty or as is not as it should be, if we're not making passes, we don't need to see jump, throwing the ball all over the floor, rolling all over the place. But, likewise, I just want people to be respected irrespective of black, white, purple or green, male or female, to be paid and appreciated in the same way. And the thing that I would do most for everybody is I wish that more fans would come out and really support women's basketball.
We do have a responsibility to make it entertaining, and that's what I'm saying, that, no, I'm not talking about a slugfest because this was not poor basketball; it was just great defense and it was just a bit much. But I think that people should come out and just support the sport. There would need to be a lot more promotions and I think that some of the numbers and the attendance that you saw at the other Regional sites has so much more to do with the fact that fans as a rule with women's basketball tend to support their teams rather than have appreciation for the sport. And you when you look at a Connecticut executing and a Tennessee executing and as so many of the teams across the country, at Duke, you know, there have been so many great teams and I just think that it's time to, on my side of it, just me, you know, just me, just drop the Lady thing, let's play basketball.
Q. Let me take you back again to '82. You played Rutgers twice that season. Manufacturers Hanover Classic, they beat you and they lost to Louisiana Tech I think in the first night. You got them again two months later and you beat them up. What do you remember about that Rutgers team and a 32 or 33 year old Theresa Grentz?
COACH STRINGER: Well first of all, in the Manufacturers Hanover Classic, I don't think that I was coaching. My daughter, Janine, was in intensive care for six months. I was in the hospital. That was probably and I didn't leave the hospital. That was probably in Madison Square Garden. We found out that she had contracted meningitis in November or Thanksgiving. So I wasn't with the team. It was amazing, too, because so much of the dreams that I had I've not been able to be a part of. I remember my team coming to the hospital to see me. But no, wow. So that hurt me because I would love to have coached and, yeah, I think it was at Madison Square Garden. Vivian was never there.
Q. What about Theresa, what do you remember?
COACH STRINGER: She was great Coach. Fiery. She's living and she's doing a great job. In fact, I think it was her game against Purdue or someone that was impressive and just great. She's been Rutgers basketball, the spirit of Rutgers basketball, deserves all recognition. She was the first female that was ever paid. I thought that Fred as an athletic director had tremendous foresight and that was the first time they ever paid a female coach.
So many of our women coaches and men's coaches have been pioneers. She has been. She's been a leader. And I was stunned that she left Rutgers. Actually she and I talked and she was thinking about that. And what I remember about her is being a very considerate and kind person. She and Rene Portland brought their Rutgers and Penn State team, their teams to the hospital to see me. And we go back and I really appreciate that. Because I didn't leave the hospital and I knew that she was genuine. That was a time when coaches could be a lot more human beings. Right now you can't do that. You got to look at tapes. But she showed me the kind of support that she had, she and her team had for me.
And really I think that people unfortunately I think people, writers, all these people from the outside try to battle this and battle that. But I really I work hard to try to help everybody to remember that we're still people, human beings. She's a great coach. A good person. And I'm not surprised about her having a stellar career. However, I remember her even more as a great player at Immaculata because I started coaching like Cheyney was the first job I had, so I never coached anywhere else, but that was the most dominant center, she was mean. She was just mean. I always saw a scowl on her face and she just took care of business. But I had a lot of respect for her and always have and always will. And, you know, I'm glad to continue to try to keep the connection between the Scarlet Knights and what we're trying to do going.
Q. Would you talk about Kia and her development since she's been there and how important she's been through this tournament run for you guys.
COACH STRINGER: Kia has been incredible. I think that she's much more confident. Kia's heart starts to flutter and her eyes start to blink and you really have to settle her down. I am very careful when I speak to the team because I have been known to be a motivator to the point where the players can feel like, wow, we could just accomplish all things. But sometimes if I can fire you up so much that someone like Kia might be too emotionally strung out, so I try to just try to tone everything and speak specifically of what has to happen. Because she takes a tremendous burden. I can't even tell you. She there were a few things and let me give you a example. There were a few things that I wanted to do a little differently because Kia can shoot the ball very well. But she can probably move around the 3 point range and just stroke it and I probably put as much matchup zone on her as I would some of our guards, let's say it like that. You all have not seen that.
So but in this one game to take the post away from the basket, I was going to have her come to the high post and start hitting those shots and bringing the four down. Heather just reversed the positions. And she was so upset, tears started coming from her eyes because we had changed something and she just wanted to be she just wanted to do the right thing. And I said, Relax, whatever we're doing, we're doing, we'll do it. Next year you'll see a lot of other things. But Mary Anne has done a great job in helping her to understand herself more as a player.
And, again, a great credit goes to her. To the to all of the assistants who have helped the guards to deliver the right passes, Kia, to really finish with her. She's a much more confident player. Much more confident. I was really pleased at the way she held herself with Fowles. She pump faked, she let her come down and took her time. And believe me, she has great range and you'll see a lot more from her and a lot of that has to do with her work against Courtney Paris. I remember Essence Carson calling me from Mexico saying, Coach, you're going to be pleased with Kia because Kia really hasn't in practice been able to bang against someone her size and to know. Courtney Paris, I'm sure really helped her a lot. By the time she got finished knocking her around and by the time her arm got dislocated I think that Kia knew that she had got to get tough and tougher. And that's the difference.
Q. You mentioned before a little while ago how you got athletes or a little bit more willing to run this year and push tempo. But it seemed like last night after you guys got the lead, half court defense and especially on the offensive end a lot of half court offense kind of shortened up the game like that. If you guys can get a lead on Tennessee tomorrow night are you going to try to dictate tempo like that again or do you want to run with them?
COACH STRINGER: We will do one of two things. We will either put our foot on the gas and get in the car and drive you out of control, you know, or we'll get back we're not going to become a passenger. We can't become a passenger. We got to dictate some things. And there's several ways that we can do that. Either by the half court defense presses or the full court defenses and presses. We need to know whether or not we run, we have to run at our own speed but we can't try to run faster than what we have control of.
I think that Matee just naturally likes to get out and go. Now, I don't know what the heck she was thinking about last night because she started putting instead of her just one or two and kicking it up to the wings, she wasn't she was keeping her hands on the ball. Way too long. And we wanted to try to push the ball up the floor. We will always try to do that. We'll try to score in transition. That's what we do. But we're trying to not go out of control. We'll just go ahead and go at the speed that we need to go and try to either speed them up or slow it down.
I think smart teams will do what we did. They will milk the clock and take the shot with the lead. That's going to allow them to either drive to the inside or like as Coach said, as you may have seen, we've jacked it up a couple times real quick. But that's not what you do to win games. You're trying to win a game. So we'll shorten it up of course.
Q. Can you talk about the aura that sort of surrounds the Tennessee program and how you kind of do you think your team will be affected by it or because your team is so young they may not realize?
COACH STRINGER: This team is very young. I have to remember sometimes some of the words that I use. I mean, I look at them and they look real blank. So.
(Laughter.) Really, you know, Coach will talk to me and say, Vivian, they don't know what you're talking about. And they're very innocent. I mean, people that I know to be great, they don't know. Tennessee, see what they do is they relate like, for example, Epiphanny's best friend is the young lady at UConn. They call each other after every game, the center, you know and the other power forward. They're all great friends. I'm not surprised about the by the time in this day and age the way it's happening now these kids are playing together during the summer. They may compete against each other during the AAU's. Sometimes they encourage each other to go to each other's schools. But in the summer they spend time going to Argentina or whatever. It becomes a for USA basketball, it becomes a matter of them having a appreciation so they have to become teammates. Also so they just have an appreciation for one another and it's our job just to give them information and go fight for their school and they will be technically they will just be technically sound. They will just be technically sound.
Q. When you were talking about Shannon Bobbitt she said she gives you a New York show. Describe what a New York show is. Describe it in terms of both Shannon and Epiphanny, the point guards, the particular thing that a point guard gives you as a New York show a point guard or a two guard?
COACH STRINGER: Well, we don't see a New York show from Epiphanny Prince. You don't even see a high five. The girl barely raises her arm above her shoulders when she's going through the line. You know how everybody does a 360 and hit a hip or something like that? Epiphanny is very shy, quiet, drops her head. You have to she's very smart so she will you have to catch what she just said. But she doesn't that's not her.
Shannon, you know, that might be Shannon's thing, you know. So she will do that and talk some stuff. You have never seen Epiphanny say boo. You haven't seen Epiphanny in fact, you know, she will be one day she was running down the steps and trying to get to downstairs and one of the coaches said, why are you running? Well, Mat's going to get on me if I'm one minute late. She's the kind of person that is going to ask you, can I go to the bathroom? I really have to go. Can I take a shower in the other place because it's too cold in the other spot? She is just is a very she more or less is like the person that comes off of Walton's mountain with John boy, Walton's mountain, you know. One of the writers referred to something about Ferris Buehler's Day Off or whatever. She didn't know what they were talking about.
These kids are young. They're into other things. I don't know what to say other than the fact that if it's a New York show it will be Shannon. I think that Epiphanny will give you a very solid, intelligent basketball game in the purest sense. We'll see her running her. We won't see her running her mouth or anything. Matee, you never seen her one time look at somebody like look what I just did? You know you're not going to see her pluck her shirt. You know you're not going to see that. Essence Carson, that's not in her nature. I was stunned because she's the spokesperson for this group. We have worked for two years for her. She's a straight A student, but she never spoke. I said that she texts 90 percent of the time until she realized that I wasn't going to play her until unless she started talking to me.
So probably the person that has the most outgoing personality is Kia. And with Kia, Kia, Kia is so strong that you can see the fight you know the proudest moment? You know when I knew she had arrived is when I saw a picture in one of our newspapers and you could see Essence's finger, the hand's clenched, and she said, Finally. When I saw tears coming from her eyes when she shot a foul shot, when I saw Kia jump in the air and you could see that fight, teams that I've had before have always shown their emotions. This group really doesn't. You see Mat, you never see a change on her face. She might make a 360 pass. You never see she got these oval eyes, she sees out of the side of her head. She's like a snake. She's looking at you like this and she's just like this. I mean, it's amazing. You don't see any change in expressions.
Most of the time I think that they're not ready to play because she got this little Heather, Heather will not try to lift her head up because she got real little eyes and keeps her head down like this. I said, Heather, I know one thing, you better not be going to sleep on me. Her as well as Mat, they just look like they're sleeping. And then you say what you say and they say, okay, let's go. You know.
But they're very subdued. This is a very much like no other team that I've coached. So I decided to fit more to them than them trying to conform to me. Because they're not the kind of people that show much emotion. You'll probably see it at the end of the game, but there's not one Brittany Ray, if I don't say Brittany, tap her on her shoulder and make her answer, she's, yeah, no, whatever you want to say. That's how they do. So it's just the style. Just this group of kids' style and it's probably good for me and for them too.
Q. You kind of touched on this a bit earlier, about how playing defense isn't glamorous especially in this day and age. How have you been able to impress upon your players that this type of defensive mentality is the right way to go, the best way to go?
COACH STRINGER: Because every time we see a team play and they look like the next coming of Michael Jordan, the next question, and I'll run that clip back and say, Now let's consider what's going on here. If this player got the ball and they got a finger roll they got a hook shot, this or that, let's determine whether or not there was any pressure. Was there? No. Somebody comes up they just like bend over, get their head down, and so let's apply pressure when you want to win. So this is what we have got to do if you just stand behind someone and when they have got nice moves like that, then they're going to be able to do that.
But you need to play a side, force an angle and force the target to be a moving target. Not something just standing there. And letting things happen. So in wanting to win, and in trying to protect one another, knowing, recognizing the Sylvia Fowles' show, we're going to have to drop two people on her. Okay, but if they start to have the four starts to hit the shot, then we got to be able to rotate. We're prepared. We have gone over these things a lot of times. But right now it hurts so bad to lose that it doesn't take much to figure out that we want to win and we'll do what we have to do.
Q. Vivian, in the book that the season has begun, is it appropriate that Tennessee be the last chapter? Of all the teams that you could be playing?
COACH STRINGER: Wait a minute. Are you did you write a book?
Q. No, I didn't write a book yet.
COACH STRINGER: Oh.
Q. I'm just saying if you looked at the season as a book and every game is a chapter, is it appropriate that the final chapter be called Tennessee and not something else?
COACH STRINGER: Yeah. This is going to be for a great story line, isn't it? I mean you should get together and collaborate. You'll benefit from all of this. Over the years.
But as I said to you before, it's only appropriate it's appropriate for so many reasons, and they're too numerous to mention. It's only appropriate that we should play Tennessee. And it should be the last chapter in the end story, the end. I think that all of us have seen so many coaching greats retire and I have been personally hurt to see so many of our coaches who have just been the fiber of this profession leave. Pat is a staple. And I hope that we continue to remember that. And some of us have just been around to do the right to continue to stay. But I think it was a passion and a drive in your heart. I can think of no more appropriate team, honestly. It started with Tennessee, in my mind, you know, and it should end that way. So, yes, the end. You and I can come up with a book and we'll work on it.
Q. Two part question. You alluded earlier to attendance for women's basketball games. Can you speak to your experience in the Greensboro Region Final and during and your impressions of the turnout when you played Arizona State. And, secondly, your thoughts on the discussions of moving the women's tournament back a week to give it more visibility?
COACH STRINGER: Exposure. Yeah. That's probably the reason why I mentioned that. Because the fans were just great. It's kind of interesting. I thought that it was interesting all the clips that I continue to see of Rutgers team, not very many and they should have shown us all the time. Because every venue that we played in it has been packed. Whether it's Michigan State, or whether it's at North Carolina they keep showing these clips and I see empty seats. I think that basketball fans unfortunately are fans of their particular team. I think that men have a lot more following of basketball is basketball. So you don't have to be from Georgetown, you're still going to come and see a Georgetown Ohio State game played. You know what, I mean, and that's what we got to draw. And I really want this to be a direction and I know the NCAA knows this, but whether they have to put more matchup zone or try to encourage our athletic directors, our presidents and that to do a heck of a better job of promoting teams because it's unfair. There is not that push the way that it should. In the meantime, all you can do is take care of your particular fan base. Duke, Rutgers, Connecticut and the likes. But when we played Arizona State, you got a chance to see that. Because, I mean, I know they were hurting, but still they didn't come to see Rutgers and Arizona state play.
So that's why I said that. The idea I think that's been kicked around with the ESPN about moving the game back so that it doesn't compete with the men's game, I think that that's possible. They're concerned about going into the golf and going into the start of preseason baseball. There are a lot of things to be considered. But for sure we need our own show. We need our own show. And as the game continues to grow, Candace Parker is good for the game. Sylvia Fowles is good for the game. Ajavon is good for the game. So many players.
I just think that we really got to have the good minds and the people to promote the sport the way they should to really get together and talk about how. Because all of you are here obviously care enough about what's going on but we have got to do I think I could be real happy to see that we are enjoying the same kind of attendance once we where would we go, wherever we go. And that becomes the coaches have a job to coach, we're doing that. The players are continuing to work to get these players to be better because we have a job to entertain.
But I do think that the administrative side of everything, NCAA, the universities, have got a much more of a responsibility to promote this sport. The matchup zone can be made in women's basketball. If other people would believe and work to support it the way that it should. But it's not being done. And I just have to say that and I'll take this opportunity to say that we need to make a much bigger step because whatever we're doing is not enough.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.
COACH STRINGER: You're welcome. Thank you.
On head coach C. Vivian Stringer:
"When I first stepped on campus there was a family like atmosphere. It was one thing that really pushed me into going to Rutgers. Coach Stringer is a mother-like figure. She's a person who's been through it all. Knows it all, basically. She's a good role model."
On meeting Tennessee in NCAA Final:
"Tennessee is a great program and Pat Summitt is a great coach. I think that we are fortunate to be at this level playing for a National Championship."
On winning a title for Coach Stringer:
"It's been the talk since the beginning. Coach Stringer is a very special person to us and I think that it would be one of the best things that I can do in my life, so I am looking forward to it."
On evolution of team defense:
I think that every year the defense has to take little steps. Last year when Cappie Pondexter and Michelle Campbell and the upperclassmen were there, at the beginning of the year I remember Coach Stringer telling us we were one of the worst defensive teams that she ever witnessed. Later on during that same year, I think that she said we were the best. Coming into this year was the same thing. It's a growth process, getting used to playing her style and then getting used to the freshmen. Basically adapting. I think it's a growth process."
On Candace Parker:
"She can do basically everything. We're going to have to adjust a couple of things and we're definitely going to have to change up our game plan from any other team because she's so versatile. You can't even really focus on Candace Parker. She has a complete team around her."
"I don't really think that you can think about it as revenge because then you get yourself carried away thinking about a lot of things and trying to get back at them. You just have to go out and play 40 minutes of hard basketball. Play great defense and be ready for whatever."
On representing New Jersey:
"I think that there is a sense of pride. With our football team starting it out this year having a tremendous year and now following it up by going to the Final Four. New Jersey has a lot to talk about this year."
On choosing Rutgers:
Coming to Rutgers was a great atmosphere for me. Not being far from home. Playing for my home state, letting my family come right up the road to watch me play. And coach Stringer, she's just a great coach. She's a Hall of Famer, but she's more of a mother away from home. She's a strong person that could relate to us as women."
On Tennessee Defense:
"Tennessee, they're a pressing team. I think that they forced 29 turnovers last night against North Carolina, which really showed that they really play defense hard. We're going to have to adjust to them. Try to be smart."
On past experience helping against Tennessee in the final:
"Everything that we've been through isn't going to help us when we are out on the court tomorrow. Yes, it's always in the back of our mind what we've been through and how far we've come, but tomorrow is just about us and Tennessee, Tennessee and us playing the best 40 minutes of our lives. The best team who makes less mistakes will win."
On the difference between Vivian Stringer on and off the court:
"I think that there is a fine line between Vivian Stringer being a coach and a fun person off the court. She's serious about what she does. When she's on the court she wants to get a lot of things done and when she's off the court, she's a totally different person. She tells jokes. She's very fun. I think that there is a big difference."
On learning life lessons from Coach Stringer:
"It's sinking in now, but I think it will definitely sink in when we leave college. I can already sense it. Going through adversity and challenges throughout your life, it's prepared you, because you never know when you'll be faced with adversity again. You have to find a way to work through it and hopefully become successful. It's a great lesson.
On Coach Stringer's comments that they are a team of destiny:
"In the beginning of the season, we really struggled. It was tough, especially with five freshmen. They not only had to be part of the team, but play a significant part right from the beginning. We have taken some tough losses, like Duke and DePaul, but we began to bounce back. As coach says, we had some tests we had to retake. We had a chance to play DePaul again at a time when it was most important - in the Big East Conference Tournament. We had a chance to play Duke at a time of most importance - in the NCAA tournament. We also had a chance to prove that our win against Michigan State wasn't a fluke. That it was a legit win. So that's what she means when she says we're a team of destiny. We've gotten these second chances and taken advantage of them."
On the advantage of playing with freshmen who might not feel the Final Four pressure:
"Their youthfulness is great because this is their first time here. They don't know about the pressures. They don't know of the past losses. This is just a first-time thing for them. So, they just play and it's great."
On the chance to give Coach Stringer here first National Championship:
"It felt good to have her cut down the nets at the Big East Tournament because that was her first conference championship - they didn't have the tournaments at her other schools. That was just wonderful. To top it off with a National Championship... that would just be great. It's overwhelming sometimes. I think about what I would have to say to her afterward (if we won) and my mind just goes blank."
On whether coach has changed this year:
"No. Coach Stringer is always going to remain the same. Speaking with the past players in December, they tell the same stories she tells now. On the court, you might feel like, I hate this woman. She can call you every possible name, insult you so much. But, it's only going to make you stronger, prepare you for what others might say or what you might go through in life. And not just on the basketball court. It's like your mom would do if you were at home. Your parents try to prepare you for everything in the world. The worst thing for a parent is to see their child struggle. So, why not prepare your child before hand, so when they get out in the real world, everything seems so easy for them. That's exactly what Coach Stringer has done this year for us. We went through the struggles in the beginning, but right now things just seem to be running so smoothly and we thank her for that."
On losing a loved one like Coach Stringer and how she helped her through it:
"It opens your eyes when you lose a loved one. It seems like a dark cloud hangs over your head no matter where you're working or what state you move to (in order to) start over. She showed me that throughout every struggle she's endured in her life, that there's a way to get over it and get through it. With her, basketball was a way to keep her mind off things when she wasn't at the hospital with her daughter or when she wasn't sitting at home by herself thinking about her husband. For me, basketball and music and the family atmosphere we have here helped me get through (the loss of my grandmother) even though I'm not one to talk about how I feel. It was just the love of everyone. My grandmother actually passed away when Heather (Zurick) was coming in as a freshman. It was the summer before her first year. When I looked up at the funeral and Heather and her mom were right there, it was so surprising to me. Heather and I played together in high school, but we didn't have that personal relationship. So, to see her and her mom standing there in a time of need just let me know that this is definitely a family atmosphere. Through thick and thin, we will be there for each other, all 10 of us."
On defending against Candice Parker:
"It's going to be a team effort. She's a great player, just as Sylvia (Fowles) was and still is. Right now, this is how we got here - playing as a team. And, we'll leave this tournament playing as a team. We can't abandon something that has gotten us this far. To do that would make a fool of us.
On playing Tennessee tomorrow:
"We've gone through every possible test this year just to arrive here and we're not taking anyone on their team lightly. They're all great players. Everyone on their roster can get it done. Coach Summitt has done a great job over the years arriving at the Final Four year after year. So, for us, it's just going to be a team effort - guarding both the inside and the outside."
On Tennessee's height:
"They are definitely a huge team. The advantage to them might be on the rebounding side, so that just means that we have to work that much harder. I wish we had their size, it would make our jobs easier, but we're not going to grow six inches overnight. So we have to go with what we have and fight until the end."
On the influence of teammate Katie Adams:
"Us freshmen, we call her 'mom.' She showed us around campus when we first got there, helped us open bank accounts. She is always there to help us when we are struggling. In practice, she may expose something in my game and it helps me become more aware of what I need to work on."
On playing against former high school teammate Shannon Bobbitt:
"What I see now is pretty much the same player I knew in high school. She gets the entire team involved and is good on defense. One thing she has added to her game is a consistent three-point shot."
"We don't talk much during the year, but we saw each other at the (Final Four) banquet and talked. We aren't two people that brag much, but I am sure that when we see each other after this we'll bring the game up."
On why she chose Rutgers:
"The first time I heard about the school was an All-America camp. I wasn't going to play, but then they said Coach Stringer wanted to see me play. After that I did some research and I heard she was a nice woman. A lot of people in my neighborhood (in Brooklyn) know the game of basketball and when they heard I was looking into Rutgers they said it would be a good place for me."
"I was always known as an offensive player, and Coach (Stringer) told me she could help me become a better all-around player. She is just a great person to know. When she was recruiting me, I used to call her 'grandma.' She didn't know that until the assistant coaches told her."
On how her attending college has influenced her family:
"My mom and my grandma are both in college now. My grandma isn't here because she couldn't miss class. It all started when I went to get my (driving) permit. My mom didn't have hers and she said I wouldn't get mine until she had one. Then, when I was leaving for school this summer, she said 'guess what, I am going to college. I am not going to let you graduate from college before I do.'"
On her game-winning basket vs. Duke:
"When I took the shot, I simply saw a one-on-one opportunity. Then, when I was with my teammates later and we were watching the highlights, I thought to myself, 'what was I thinking.'"
On her reaction to being locked out of the team's locker room:
"I didn't know how to react. I was pretty mad. But in the end it was good because it brought us closer together. Each day we would show up to practice and didn't know what to expect. But whatever was in store for us, we at least knew we would be going through in together. Our goal was to get our locker room back and we knew we couldn't do that until we played as a team."
On adjusting to Rutgers' defensive style of play:
"It was very hard for me because when I came in I wasn't known for my defense. I had to adjust to both the mental and physical side of it."
On preparing for Tennessee:
"I think we just need to play our normal defensive game. We need to know who their go-to players are. Our coaches do a great job with the scout and tell us there is no reason to be intimidated."
On being a go-to player as a freshman:
"I think a lot of what I went through in high school, being on a successful team, has prepared me for this level. I was the go-to player in high school, but I came in here not thinking that I had to carry the team and I could just do whatever was needed."
"Matee (Ajavon) and Essence (Carson) have done a lot to try and make me feel comfortable. They know to get me a shot early on so I can get into the game."
On playing in the National Championship game:
"I am very excited. It was my ultimate goal when I came to college. I am very blessed and honored to be playing in the game tomorrow."
On what Coach Stringer means to her:
"She talks about how players in the past have influenced her. When I come back in five, ten, even twenty years, I want to be one of the players she talks about. I want her to tell the players years from now how I was a part of a young team that beat Tennessee in the championship game in Cleveland. We feel that she is a mother-figure and you would do anything to make her happy."
On how it feels to play against Tennessee in the championship game:
"This (game) is the final chapter in the season that has been a lot of fun. Playing against Tennessee is not the final chapter in my book, but I hope that it will be a good chapter that is written. I don't even care who we are playing as long as we are playing for a national championship. It is not about the name on your chest, you are just going out there with a will, and where there is a will, there is a way."
On practices during breaks:
"She used to have two-a-days and we would run and run and run for hours upon end. But, in the end, that made us a better team because it brought us closer together. And then she said that she wanted to shoot around, and when she said shoot-around, that meant like half of the practice. And, then again, we ran and we ran and we ran, but after it was over, we felt so much better about ourselves."
On freshmen being a big part of the team:
"It was really hard at the beginning of the season having so many new faces. First of all, they were offensively oriented and Coach Stringer was all about defense. They weren't aware that they could make or break a team, and since they were such a big part of the team numbers wise, they had to grow up right along with us. The five of us (players who had been with Coach Stringer) knew what Coach (Stringer) is all about and we had to pass that along to the incoming players so that we could come together as a team."
On how big teammate Katie Adams is to the team:
"She just runs and runs for I don't know how long and it is like she has a battery in her back. She has really helped the freshman adjust to college life. When Essence and I were away with USA Basketball and Matee was injured, she was there and really helped the freshman. Even when I was a freshman, Katie was there for me and when we were running, Katie was always out in front, and as long as you stay right behind her in running drills, you knew you were going to make the time because she was always pushing you to the limit."
On getting kicked out of the locker room and getting their gear taken away, etc., in December:
"I think that had a huge impact on us. I had never experienced anything like that before. It was an interesting situation. We didn't have our practice gear, we didn't have anything for like a month. Basically I think it just brought us together as a team. I think we were playing very offensive-minded and playing as individuals in the beginning. Coach basically wanted to strip us of everything we had and everything that was given to us and make us earn it back."
"I definitely think that had a big effect on how we started stepping up and playing defense and just working together as a team, trusting each other and believing in ourselves."
"Coach told us if we weren't going to play as a team we were going to have to wear our individual clothes. We knew what she was thinking, we knew her message behind that and we started working hard on the court and bonded together off the court in that month and that really brought us together. We didn't want to play as individuals and we didn't just want to be an offensive-minded team. We know Coach (Stringer) is a defensive coach and really helped us bond together."
On evolution of the defense:
"In the beginning, she (Coach Stringer) told us we were the worst defensive team ever and I think we really took that to heart. We didn't want to be considered the worst defensive team she ever coached. So when we understood that, we bought into the defense. Because in the beginning we were putting 80 points on the board the other team would score 81 so it didn't make a difference - we were losing games because of defense. Once we really trusted that defense could win games and bought into the defensive concepts, that really helped us."
"At the beginning of the season, we didn't trust the fact that defense could win - we had people who could score so we didn't buy into it. But we lost games and then we trusted in Coach Stringer. And then started winning and we're playing here for a championship."
On winning championship game for Coach Stringer:
"We don't really talk about it that much, but everybody has it in their mind and in their hearts that we really want to do this for her. Coach has never had a national championship so that would mean so much to her so that's basically why we're playing - we want to do it for her."
On what makes this team different from other Rutgers' teams that Stringer has coached:
"Essence (Carson) touched on it a little bit. We believe in ourselves so much. We don't have one, go-to player. Everybody can score, everybody can put the ball in the hoop. That really makes us different and hard to guard sometimes - they can't focus on just one person. Everyone can contribute and make a difference. And we trust each other. I'm not saying we didn't trust each other last year, but we bonded together really, really strong this year and we trust each other on the court. We have each other's back on defense so we know that if someone gets beat, someone is going to step in and help you."