Monday, November 20th, 2017

USA Basketball women’s team meets the press in London

Published on July 27, 2012

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The U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team arrived in London on July 24. The next day they trained and met the press. They begin competing on July 28 against Croatia.

Press conference transcript:

Geno Auriemma

Geno Auriemma (head coach, USA and University of Connecticut)
Opening Statement:
For us, I think I speak for the players and for the coaches and our staff, we’re thrilled to finally be in London and finally feel like the Olympic Games are part of our immediate future. We’ve been traveling for the last two weeks, trying to get ready, and it’s nice that we’re going to be in the same place for an extended period of time.

I’m extremely fortunate because I’ve got these three (Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi) who have been so instrumental in this particular basketball program in being as successful as it’s been the last four Olympics. I’m honored and really humbled to be their coach and to represent the United States of America.

On the team’s lack of training time:
You have to remember, 10 of these players played for me at the World Championship in the Czech Republic in 2010. So, we’re all very, very familiar with each other. Now it’s just a matter of spending some time and building some momentum and cohesiveness. That takes a little bit of time. Because of their commitments in their careers, in the WNBA and playing overseas, we just don’t have the time to get together. So, you gotta rely on their professionalism, and these guys have been great.

Does it help to have six who played collegiately for you?
Yeah. And the other six that didn’t play for me, we certainly played against them enough that they know what’s going on. It’s been pretty easy.

On the pressure of winning a fifth-straight Olympic gold medal:
The biggest thing is the competitiveness of (Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi). I’ve been around Diana Taurasi enough to know that right now you could challenge her to who could write faster, you or her? She would take that up as a huge challenge. Her competitiveness is unlike anybody I’ve ever seen. Sue and Tamika Catchings are exactly the same, and the three of them are not going to let anybody get overconfident and settle for walking through something. I don’t know that you win as much as Diana’s won … that’s one of the great stories in these Olympics that may get left behind is that, I don’t think there’s anybody in the history of women’s basketball who’s ever won more championships than Diana Taurasi. Three at Connecticut, two in the WNBA, two Olympics, (FIBA) World Championship, I don’t know how many EuroLeague championships (note: four). It’s just an incredible history of winning, and I don’t know if she’s going to let anything get in the way of that.

Seimone Augustus

Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx)
You practiced in the venue today, what did you think? 
The energy was flowing, you could tell. Once you get in there, it’s a great feeling. Then it’s a matter of getting shots up and getting used to the court.

Are you feeling more and more excited as the first game draws closer?
Yes. I think we are going to have a lot of energy by the time our first game rolls around. At first it might be a little crazy, a little scattered or whatever, because of the jitters of being here. But at some point, I think we will settle down and smooth out into a great basketball team.

Is it comforting that you recently played your first Olympic opponent, Croatia?
Yeah, but it’s still a little uneasy because they didn’t have all of their players. So, we understand their team is going to be a lot better come Saturday when we play them again. We don’t expect them to play the way that they played in Istanbul in London.

Sue Bird

Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
Is there a sameness yet to the Olympics?
No. With each Olympics it’s different. With myself, Dee, Tamika, we share the fact that we were in China together, we were in Athens together. All we’re doing is comparing. Comparing and contrasting. We’re like, ‘oh, remember this. This was like that. That was like this.’ Of course there’s a familiarity where you know what to expect. We have processing, we know what to expect. We have the press conference, we know exactly what to expect. There’s always differences there. We’re in a different country. Everybody speaks English.

Do you come in with a little more swagger this time, having won four straight?
No, not at all. Not at all. The thing about streaks like that, the Olympics are every four years and it’s a different team every time. The same could be said for other countries. There are some people in this room that have no idea what that streak represents or what it means. They weren’t a part of it. They’re just trying to make their own path, create their own legend. It’s all about what this team can do in this Olympics. Of course we want to carry the torch, pass on knowledge that older players may have passed on to us. But at the same time you gotta make your own history.

How does this team compare to the others?
I think that this team, whether it be age or experience, we just have more experience. We have people who, I know in my first Olympics it was only my second international tournament. I had never played overseas basketball. I was just raw in a lot of ways. I had no idea what to expect. Whereas we have “rookies” who are 30, 31 years old, 32 years old, who have played overseas, who know the overseas game. Even though they haven’t been to the Olympics, they’ve been in situations where they know what to expect. It’s nice because it makes our team better as a whole. Everybody’s ready to play.

Swin Cash

Swin Cash (Chicago Sky)
What is your role on the team?
My role is when I step on the floor, I need to be bringing energy. I need to, whether it’s offensively or defensively, being aggressive and giving this team that engine to really get going.

How does it feel to arrive in London?
It’s been really fun to really get here and try to get settle down. Getting on to the floor, it was one of those ‘awe’ moments because you are seeing everything that is going on. It’s funny because we were all asking, ‘where is our family going to be seated at?’ But when you start practice and you start playing and getting those shots up, that’s when you are trying to get into a rhythm. You get limited time on the court, so you want to make sure you are feeling good. We are happy to get that time in the gym.

Is this team as ready in terms of execution as you are emotionally?
You know, I think that this team is going to get better as the tournament goes on. I think once we start seeing different match ups, it will be interesting how we respond. But I think this team was built for versatility, built with the ability to go big if we need to go big and fast if we need to get out in transition and be quick defensively. We can do that, and that’s why I love this team, and I love the versatility we have.

Tamika Catchings

Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever)
On her changing role with the USA team:
In my first Olympics I watched the previous Olympians that were there and for me, the ones that I looked up to were Sheryl (Swoopes), Lisa (Leslie) and Dawn (Staley). And then the second one, just getting more involved. I was still in the listening stages, but also being able to help the younger ones. Now, we’re the older group, so over the years, this time I’m being more vocal, more of a leader for the younger players. We have so many, such a big, young group coming in, just trying to learn. We’ve only had two weeks of practice. We had a training session in Seattle before the WNBA season started. Really, every single practice we’ve had is been about maintaining that focus and getting better. Like Dee (Taurasi) said, being focused in on our ultimate goal.

How important is the winning streak to the team – it’s not just about winning gold, but keeping the streak going?
Honestly, our focus has really just been: take every game one game at a time and not focus on ‘we gotta win, we gotta win.’ It’s about getting better. Now we’re here in London, we’ve had five games to prepare us for getting here. Now we’re here and the focus is has shifted to every game really, really truly matters. Before it was like, okay, we’re learning the offense, we’re getting the chemistry together, we’re trying to figure out the trap, when we’re going to do pick and roll, and making all the adjustments along the way. Now, everything you’ve learned you have to put into play every game.

Tina Charles

Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun)
How does it feel to arrive in London?
I think it’s going to hit me more at home when we opening ceremonies come around and you are around different athletes and everything. I’m looking forward to meeting different athletes. We all worked hard to reach this one goal. And some got here unexpectedly, so we are definitely going to take hold of the experience.

Is this team as ready in terms of execution as you are emotionally?
Yeah. I think when you get down to it, now it’s not exhibition games anymore. We all have one goal trying to get the gold, and I think everybody is just going to click.

Swin Cash

Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky)
How do you handle the expectations people have for the U.S. women’s basketball team?
Well we know what we have, and we are all we got. So, we have to stay connected and intertwined within that circle. Take one game at a time because we know nothing is going to be too easy. Every national team is here for a reason. And just stick together and work together, because when we do things as a group and as a unit, the outcome is going to be great.

Can you scout this team for us? What’s the strength and is there a weakness?
We have a lot of weaknesses, but that’s for other teams to figure out. Everyone, from one to 12, everybody can get out there and they can do something in their own way. (There aren’t) two players on the team who are similar, so that’s a good thing about our team.

You practiced in the venue today, what did you think? 
We walked in, all the bright lights, you can just envision what the crowd is going to be like our first game. It got my blood rushing a little bit, and I’m just ready to go, ready to go out there and start the Olympics.

Have you seen much of London?
I haven’t seen much of London. This is my first time here, and I’m ready to do some exploring as well. I’m very excited to be in London.

Asjha Jones

Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun)
You practiced in the venue today, what did you think? 
It was fun getting out there and just seeing where we are going to be playing, the potential atmosphere, get a feel for the court and the rims. That was important.

Are you feeling more and more excited as the first game draws closer?
We are ready to get started. You train, you play on different teams, but finally it’s so close. It’s right there you can almost feel it. We are really anxious to get started.

Is this team as ready in terms of execution as you are emotionally?
I think so. We put a lot of plays in in a short amount of time, and I think our guys are smart enough to handle it. With the short amount of time we have been together, we actually played pretty well together. We play off of each other pretty well, so I think we are going to be good.

Angel McCoughtry

Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream)
How does it feel to arrive in London?
Since we landed, we immediately started taking pictures, at the airport, with the security. It’s just been so exciting here, just being a part of this experience. Just from what I saw, the little bit and pieces of London, it’s just completely beautiful. I can’t wait to get started and play some games, and definitely to watch some other events. So, I’m ready to get my first Olympic experience started.

You practiced in the venue today, what did you think? 
It’s really a nice venue, very clean, nice rims. I felt very comfortable in there.

Are you feeling more and more excited as the first game draws closer?
As soon as we landed, you could just tell the excitement from everybody. We know our first game is on Saturday, so we have to get ready.

As a first-time Olympian, how are you approaching this?
The great thing about being a rookie, is you have veteran leadership. You watch them and see how they handle things and what they do. That makes your job a lot easier.

Maya Moore

Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
Are you frustrated the media are talking more about the men’s team?
Well, I think you gotta be careful when it comes to how you judge yourself based on what media covers. Our main job is to make sure that we are putting on a great basketball performance and hopefully do a good job when we are given opportunities to be in front of the media to represent our sports and ourselves, and hopefully people like what they see, but we can’t get caught up in our worth being based on what’s covered. But we also are going to fight for more coverage and making sure people get a chance to see us, because we feel like we are doing some really cool things out there on the court. We are doing some things that have never been seen before. We’ve got athletes that people have never seen before all on one team. So, we’re excited that we have come as far as we have, as far as just getting some coverage and the popularity of women’s basketball, but there is still a long way to go. Hopefully we will make some strides with this Olympics. Not to take anything away from our men, because we love watching them, we love supporting them and cheering them on. A lot of people love keeping up with a lot of the fun stuff that’s going on with comparing those two teams (the 2012 team and the Dream Team), but we don’t want to get lost in the focus of the honor of that team but also celebrating where we are now in 2012.

There are more women than men in the U.S. delegation. Is that something to celebrate? 
As far as participation, definitely, which is a huge step. It starts there. First you got to get the opportunity to train, to perform and compete, and then hopefully next the popularity of the competitions will continue to increase. It’s just cool to be able to celebrate all the different talents we have, just because sports have gotten so big as far as the variety, the different style, the amount of sports. So, I love it because I love sports. I love watching it, so hopefully I will be able to catch some of the U.S. women’s team here and share more.

You practiced in the venue today, what did you think? 
It’s very exciting to get onto the court, get in to the gym where we are going to be playing for the next few games. Get a feel for it and get our routine going. Today was a good day. I think it was a good first time on the court. I was making a lot of shots, so I feel good.

Candace Parker

Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks)
Is Geno different than the perception you had of him at Tennessee?
I would be lying to you if I said no. I think that it’s cool when you come from rival schools to kind of see now Coach Auriemma does basketball stuff and how he is off the court. I always knew that he liked to joke and things like that, but it’s been cool playing. Obviously a lot of his girls are on the team. It’s been nice. It’s been a good experience. We haven’t felt too orange (reference to Tennessee’s orange), except when he makes little jokes or something like that about the Southeastern Conference.

How is it playing with six UConn players?
I don’t think it’s tough because the players don’t make it tough. Just like when we play in the WNBA. There are three Minnesota Lynx teammates on the team; they don’t make it about Minnesota. They don’t make it about the University of Connecticut. We all put on a USA jersey, and we are all teammates when we do that.

You practiced in the venue today, what did you think? 
I’m excited about it. It’s a nice gym, nice court. I’m really excited to play there. We got some shots up, and even though it was a short time on the court, it’s nice to get familiar with the basket.

Diana Taurasi

Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Sun)
Opening statement:
Like coach said, we’re excited to finally be in London. For the last weeks we’ve been getting ready in Manchester and Istanbul. It really hits you when you land in London that the Olympics are right there in front of you. I think this group of players, with us three, the two-time Olympians and the five rookies, I think we have a good mix of players who have one goal in mind, and that’s to win a gold medal. We’re really focused on that. From here on out, that’s our only vision, and we’ll take it one game at a time.

On the pressure of trying to win a fifth-straight gold medal:
The pressure from the outside, we just try to not let it creep into our team. But, pressure sometimes is really good. It makes you become desperate. It makes you want to play hard every minute. If you keep that in mind, the best from your team will come out.

A silver medal isn’t a medal in America, is that the case?
I wouldn’t want to diminish anyone’s silver medal because it’s a great achievement anytime you medal in the Olympics. But, we have one goal in mind.

On the rivalry between the USA and Russia, and playing professionally in Russia:
I played my best basketball in Russia. Hands down. I think I felt the most comfortable there. Now going to Ekat, a team we’ve played against for a long time, but to go there with Sue (Bird) and Candace (Parker) and (Sandrine) Gruda, all these players, I think we’re going to be able to do some really good things out there.

On the Russian team:
This year I think Russia’s going to have the best Olympics, as far as the way they’re going to play. They have people who are in their prime right now. They played really well in the (2011) European Championship, obviously they won the gold medal. Like anything there’s always a progression in teams, and I think this is their progression of a new class of players. I expect them to play really tough, good basketball.

Lindsay Whalen

Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx)
How is the experience for you personally so far?
Good, you know, it’s been a couple weeks in now, so we’ve had some good practices, and we played four games and it’s just been great to finally get here to London, see the city, kind of get to settle in and (inaudible). And today was good to see the arena. You know, just trying to take it all in and of course when it’s practice time, when it’s game time, we will be focused on that, but other than that, trying to take it all in.

Is it hard to balance between needing to focus and wanting to have fun?
I’ve played for a few years, so I think I kind of can understand. Of course it’s different; it’s the Olympics, so there is a lot more going on, but I think when it comes time you focus on practice and you focus on the games, and that’s our number one job here, So, you want to take it in, but the really good part of doing all that is if you are having fun and you are playing the game hard, that helps you enjoy the experience. As long as you are doing that and being a good teammate and helping the team out, then everything else kind of falls into place.


 

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