• November 27, 2022

Final Four coaches preview Denver

Coaches of the Final Four teams talked with the media yesterday about the upcoming weekend giving their opinions on everything from their expectations to how to handle the high altitude of Denver.

Geno Auriemma || Kim Mulkey || Muffet McGraw || Tara VanDerveer

Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma

On the altitude
I don’t know what you can do about it. It’s not like there’s one team out there that’s waiting for us, and we’re visiting, and they have a huge advantage. I think all four teams are having to go through similar scenarios. But we’ve talked to our team doctor and he’s let us know how to best prepare for it. I suggested turning the oxygen off in the plane on the way over there for about an hour and get them used to sucking for breath, but he advised us not to do that. So I guess we’ll have to deal with it when we get there.

On Kim Mulkey
A lot of people might not agree with what she does, how she does it, but her passion is undeniable. Her support of her team and her love of her players is unquestionable. Men, women, anybody should look at that and say I wish I had that much passion and that much caring for my job because it’s just fun to watch. It really is. I can see why the players play the way they do for her.

She bitches over every single call. I like that. Even the call that’s go in her favor, she bitches that the whistle wasn’t blown fast enough. I love that. To me she reminds me of Jen Rizzotti and Shea Ralph, guys that played a few years ago and had that chip on their shoulder and they were tough and just wouldn’t back down. I just think she brings a toughness to the profession. Her players, I think, are reflective of that.

On preparing for Notre Dame
They’ve got experience. They’ve got ball handlers. They’ve got shooters. They rebound the hell out of the ball. They’ve got slashers to the basket. They’re really, really well-coached. They pass the ball well. They’re one of the best coached teams I’ve seen in the last ten years. One of the best offensive teams, one of the best passing teams I’ve seen in a long, long time. Very, very difficult to find the weakness in this particular Notre Dame team.

Baylor’s Kim Mulkey

On the Tennessee players that left the bench during Baylor’s last game
Two Tennessee players should have been ejected from that game as well. They left the bench area. I am probably going to bring it to the attention of the NCAA or if we haven’t already, it needs to be. Because in protection of our officials, if the monitor is all they have to look at, then why wasn’t that shown? I defend the officials here.

We need to have a situation that whatever monitors are being used, because in a tight game or a game that’s tied and it’s early in the game, you want to make sure that everybody that’s supposed to be ejected is ejected. But I did not notice it at the time because I was concerned about my own players. But it’s quite clearly from the angle that I had on the plane that two Tennessee players left the bench as well.

On how a team would stop Brittney Griner
Now, you know as soon as I tell you that you’re going to have it in your paper and Tara is going to read that, and then I’m at a disadvantage. So I’m going to decline to answer that.

I can tell you we’ve seen every defense in the country. We’ve seen zone. We’ve seen presses. We’ve even seen somewhat of a box and one, diamond and one on Odyssey.

We’ve seen a half court 1?3?1. We’ve seen it all. I’m not sure coaching them every day in a private conversation that I could really tell you the most effective defense, because each kid on this team is very talented. And you’re going to have to pick your poison. We’ve been exposed and challenged to shoot it from the wing. We have two kids at Florida that can flat out shoot it. And we’ve been challenged and let Brittney get it all she wants and guard everybody else.

So I’m not sure that in a private conversation I could tell you the best way to defend us. I just know that it’s hard for me to go into a meeting with players and watch film and get a true assessment of the opponent’s defense because 70 percent of the time we don’t see the defense that they play normally against other opponents. We usually see something different.

On Odyssey Sims’ improvement from last year
She’s healthy, first of all. Last year, coming out of high school, she was still somewhat reluctant with her ACL injury. This year she doesn’t even remember she’s had the surgery.

The second thing I would tell you is the mental approach to how you need to run a high, high level Division I basketball team with the ball in your hands.

And it doesn’t just start with the games. It starts with practice. Odyssey’s had to change her practice habits, her approach to practice and making sure that she stays intense throughout practice, and that she understands she’s an extension of me on that floor.

And neither one of us can have bad days at practice. Our worst days have to be hidden for two hours on that practice floor.

Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw

On play UConn again
I think at this point in the season, no matter who you’re playing it’s going to come down to the players on the floor making shots and making plays. I’m not sure having played them three times this year that there is going to be a whole lot of new things that we can take away from that. So I think that we’ll just really focus on ourselves and continue to try to get a little bit better at some of the little things we’re working on.

On preparing for UConn
I think when we played UCONN, we’ve had a lot of different games with them. Stefanie Dolson has really beat us. Bria Hartley’s beat us. I think different people have stepped up in different games and played really well. When you’re playing a team like Connecticut, they’ve had such an equal opportunity team that any one person can step up on a given night and play extremely well.

So we don’t generally game plan to stop one person. It’s just kind of looking at the whole team.

On what Notre Dame does better than other teams
We take a lot of pride in our defense. We have a really determined, relentless approach defensively. I think we’re a competitive team that we don’t like to get scored on. So we take a lot of pride in that. I don’t think that’s something that a lot of people talk about. They talk about our steals and our assist to turnover ratios and stuff like that. I think it’s something we feel we do pretty well.

We do score pretty well generally. I have a lot of weapons and a lot of people that can shoot the ball. Same as Connecticut, a lot of people that can score. Probably our top six players, any one of them could lead the team in scoring.

Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer

On playing in high altitude
You know, I think it was very helpful for our team to have played Colorado this year. Now, to play them at altitude, we played Utah and Colorado, and I was really pleasantly surprised that it was not an issue for our team. And you know I think that we will try to do the usual things of making sure we’re hydrated and getting plenty of rest.

And that’s where maybe playing a deeper team, having a deeper rotation, will be helpful. And we’re healthy right now, so we’re excited about that. But I don’t see it being an issue.

On Kim Mulkey as a women’s basketball pioneer
Obviously, she’s a beneficiary of Title IX and having the opportunity to play in a great program with Louisiana Tech. And I remember coaching against her. She’s a fabulous athlete and playing in the Olympics and having that experience.

I think what helped her as a coach in terms of her confidence and having played on the highest stage to be able to coach on the highest stage, as far as her coaching, she brings a tremendous amount of knowledge to the game and to her team and a competitiveness that is unmatched by or it’s matched but it’s not exceeded by anyone.

I think she has a passion for the game and is into it and excited about it and I think it’s great for women’s basketball.

On recruiting Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike from Houston, Texas
I think the competition in Texas is, it’s phenomenal. I mean there’s just so many great programs. And maybe women’s basketball or girl’s basketball in high school is what football is for boys. It’s a premier sport, and there’s so many great players and so many great coaches. I’ve always been so impressed with the coaching in high school that the young women come really with advanced fundamental skills and knowledge of the game, high basketball IQ, so to speak.

But as far as Nneka and Chiney coming to Stanford, Nneka told me she knew she was coming for a long time, and I said ‘why didn’t you tell me,’ because I sweated it out. We watched Nneka play as a young player. There really aren’t many secret players out there with the scouting services and the AAU programs. You see the players.

And I think really the decision to come to Stanford was a family decision and both of Nneka’s parents are very high on education and the quality of education that Nneka would get and Chiney would get at Stanford fit the profile they were looking for academically and athletically for their children.

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