Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lady Vols Head Coach Pat Summitt, Talks About The Team's Upcoming Games

On the season-opener against Chattanooga:

“We had good intensity on the defensive end from the beginning. We struggled offensively, we just didn’t shoot the ball well. It is hard to look good when you don’t shoot the ball well. We kept our defensive intensity and maintained our commitment on that end of the floor. We have to get better on the offensive and defensive boards in terms of consistency. Overall, I was pleased with what we got in the second half of play, particularly from our inside game. That is when Candace really stepped up and did a good job for us. I thought Nicky Anosike was solid and Alex Fuller came off the bench and gave us a good spark, as did Vicki Baugh. We struggled to shoot the ball well from the perimeter, but I am still encouraged that we stayed with our defensive game plan.”

On Oklahoma:

“Oklahoma presents a challenge for our post game with its size. I am impressed with how they work the high-low game. It will be a good test for our inside game as well. We are anxious to see how we will match up and how our post people will be able to defend and also to score against the size that Oklahoma brings and presents against our offensive attack in the paint.”

On the hanging of the 2007 NCAA Championship banner on Nov. 18:

“A lot of our fans are really excited about it, and I know our team will be when it occurs. The team has really had a single focus on one game at a time. I’ve been pleased with how they’ve been able to maintain that. Right now all eyes are on Oklahoma, but there is no question that it will be a special day. What we’ve done with (the renovations) to Thompson-Boling Arena and (the building of) the Pratt Pavilion and to add to that the excitement of being able to put another banner up in Thompson-Boling and for this to belong to this team, with only a couple of players missing. It will be special for all of us.”

On the match-up of Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris vs. Tennessee’s Candace Parker:

“First of all, I think everyone has been waiting for this match-up for a long time. I am glad that all of the women’s basketball fans who have an interest in the match-up will be able to see it. Courtney has size, great shooting touch and does a great job posting for position to receive the ball. She is a proven scorer in the paint. I think that will be a challenge for us. They do a great job in their high-low actions and getting the ball from the wing to the inside. Courtney is a go-to for them. We will be challenged and may have to change up our defensive schemes as the game plays out. That has to be a priority for us going against this Oklahoma team: how we defend in the paint, both in the low block and the high-low action.”

On Oklahoma’s Ashley Paris:

“There is a great one-two punch there. I thought Ashley did a great job of taking some pressure off of her team by being aggressive and taking and making shots. That is how they do an effective job of spacing and being able to execute the high-low action.”

On where Candace can improve her game:

“The real challenge for Candace and a part of what I think could be a great addition and upside to her game is her intensity on the defensive end. Her ability not only to defend on the block but out on the court. She has size and a great presence. I think she has demonstrated a different commitment on the defensive end. She understands that it could be something that would inspire our team and also allow us to bring more size on the perimeter. It is just a matter of time before we are able to play big line up and have Candace or Nicky on the perimeter and have Vicki Baugh or Kelley Cain in the paint. The length and the size of that type of match-up is a possibility as we get better and challenge people to defend in that fashion.”

On your being honored by U.S. News & World Report and Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership as one of America’s Best Leaders last night:

“It was great. It was a different format and a good opportunity to be there and to be among a lot of great leaders. (Director of the Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University) David Gergen was pretty much in charge and he did a great job. We had a Q&A which was neat, to talk about different leadership styles. There was a variety, from the standpoint of who was present, and what type of background with which they are involved. We are all involved in some type of leadership, so it was neat.”

On there being a player who is the face of women’s basketball in your opinion:

“When people think of women’s basketball, I think there are some programs that have established themselves as some of the best in the country. Tennessee and Connecticut have been in the spotlight in that role and you look at what has happened in the ACC with Maryland, North Carolina and Duke and with Maryland winning a championship. Competition is much greater than ever before. In terms of players, Candace Parker and Courtney Paris have been two players that have brought a lot of attention to the game. The fact that we have that match-up coming in Tampa later this week, there are a lot of people that are really looking forward to watching that particular match-up. I think Candace has had a strong influence on women’s basketball with her style of play, her ability to play above the rim and the play we saw from her last year in our NCAA title run.”

On there being a more regional recognition of women’s players throughout the country than men’s players:

“Regionally, the recognition is more prevalent now than ever before in my 30-plus years at Tennessee. It is great to have players that have the name recognition and reputation of being talented players and All-American types. I think it is good for the game.”

On Doris Burke’s definition of Candace Parker’s legacy being defined by winning another NCAA Title – comparing her to Cheryl Miller:

“The game is quite different now than it was in the 1980s. I say different in terms of the parity in the game. Certainly I hope Candace can help us win another NCAA title, but if we don’t, I don’t think that it will take away from how people view Candace Parker, her impact on the game and her place in the game. I think realistically we have to recognize the growth of women’s basketball. Maybe in the 1980s you had three or four teams that you thought could win an NCAA championship. Now I think there are six or seven teams who could possibly cut down the nets.”

On games against Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors in the past:

“We’ve competed against Duke and Gail and haven’t enjoyed a lot of success of late. With her style of coaching and play, I think she’ll be a great fit for Texas. They are a baseline-to-baseline type of team. I know with Duke, up-tempo was what they favored, particularly in the offensive end. I would not be surprised to see Texas pressing more than perhaps Duke extended its defense. While the Duke team could extend pressure, I think with the makeup of the Texas team, Gail will take advantage of the speed and quickness and their overall athleticism and ability to play baseline-to-baseline. I think Gail is a great coach, and she does a great job of taking the personnel and making it a good fit – putting people in the right place. In the Big 12, with that style of play in the conference, she’ll be well prepared and have her teams well prepared.”

On relationship with former Texas coach Jody Conradt:

“Jody is a friend of mine and yes, we do speak. She has been a tremendous ambassador and role model and one of the most successful coaches in the history of women’s basketball. When you think of the great coaches and people of influence, Jody is on a very short list. She has received a lot of recognition already, but I think that her legacy is such that when you think of women’s basketball, Jody is at the forefront. I am excited that I had a chance to work with her through USA Basketball and to be able to compete head-to-head with Jody and to still remain friends. The main thing is that I am going to miss her. It will be different playing Texas with Jody not being on the sideline.”

On the perception of Texas women’s basketball nationally:

“I see a Texas team that has a tremendous upside. The teams that play hard invariably are some of the most competitive ones that we face. The one thing that always stands out is the tempo and pace at which they play. They have great fans. I know they’ve had some challenging seasons, but they’ve also had an injury or two that has probably hurt them in a significant way. When I think of Texas, I think of a program that has been in the spotlight of women’s basketball for many, many years. I expect them to be back and to be very competitive in the Big 12.”

On your passion for women’s basketball being as strong today as it was 34 years ago:

“I do have the same passion. It is in my blood. I love it. The day I don’t have it, is the day that I no longer want to coach. It would not be fair to the student-athletes that choose to come to Tennessee and play for Coach Summitt. I feel a great deal of responsibility when they make that decision to be here. I told our team last year. It isn’t about me winning more games, it is about trying to help them achieve their goals. I know that they come to Tennessee to win a championship. I have so much respect for their decision to do that, and I just wanted to help them. I will coach as long as I have the fire, desire and energy. When I don’t have it…and I hope that I will know when I don’t have the fire and passion anymore. My assistants say they will be rolling me out in a wheelchair. They are convinced that I will do this forever. I do hope I’ll know, because I never want to cheat the young women who choose to wear the orange.”

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