Sept. 16, 2008
What kind of tone have you been trying to set during these first two and a half weeks?
“If I had to say there’s a certain tone, it might be better for the kids to answer that one. It’s going to be tough and I’ve been trying to tell them that nothing is going to be given to us. We have to get out there and take everything we can get. For them, I’m just trying to show them that everything we do is for a reason. Everything we do is for a purpose. We’re not here to just go through the motions of doing a drill because the coach says let’s do this drill. It applies to games and game situations. Our workouts have been very intense. They’ve been up-tempo because I want them to get used to the way that I expect for us to be able to play. Without them going through that, it’s very difficult to realize what that feels like if they don’t do it."
How has the team responded to your leadership and vision for the program?
“I think they have responded pretty well. We’ve had some really good workouts and we’ve had some workouts where we need to improve upon, but we’ve had some good workouts. I think they’re all trying to give everything they have. Some don’t know how to give everything they have, but before we get it done, they will know how. Overall, the attitude and the receptiveness to what the coaches have been saying and trying to implement has been very good.”
What’s the one thing you’ve tried to emphasize during these workouts?
“We’ve gone back to the basics and spent time on everything. We’ve gone from ball handling to lay-ups. A lot of the film we watched from last year, we missed a lot of easy shots, a lot of lay-ups, a lot of open 2- and 3-footers right around the basket. We’re really trying to get them to focus and finish. I always tell them, ‘Don’t make me use the F-word, ladies’ and for them the f-word is finish. We really have to focus in on those things, focus in on our fundamentals. When we get tired, a lot of that stuff goes, even for the players coming back from last year that were fairly productive. They could have been more productive, but as the game and the season wore on and they became less productive. We weren’t able to finish and a lot of them came from focus and endurance. We’re trying to keep the tempo and the feel of practice really intense and really high energy.”
What types of things are you doing to try and avoid the little injuries that have plagued the team over the past few years?
“Our strength and conditioning coach (Brian Odom) has done a great job with the girls in the weight room, working with the girls on balance, lower body strength, all of the things that help with the injuries such as the ACL or what we hope helps with that. Also, our athletic trainers have been doing a great job getting them in the cold whirlpool, getting them iced, taking all of the preventive measures to help that because we are going to go hard and that’s not going to change. Our staff and the girls have been doing a good job of that and monitoring themselves."
What do you take from your playing days that were successful that you try to share with the girls?
“There is so much I can say about that, but in simple words it’s about hard work, it’s about discipline and it’s about the enthusiasm and energy, the love for the game. All of that is wrapped up in pride because if you take pride in what you’re doing, you are doing to go out and want to be the very best you can be at it. You can’t have any of those things if you don’t work hard. Nothing is easy and nothing is given to you, and when it is given to you, you better be looking over your shoulder and looking around because it might be coming to get you. We really want to teach them that you don’t get from point A to point B without some sort of effort and hard work. It just doesn’t happen for most people. I always like to say and using myself as an example that most people aren’t talented enough to do that. You have to work for what you want, simple as that.”
How important is this preseason time for the staff and the players?
“It’s important from a lot of different perspectives. One, it’s a time to get to know each other. It’s an awesome time for us to come together, figure out what each individual player responds to better. What kind of a tone am I going to get maximum effort out of each kid with? And vice versa, they get an opportunity to know the coaching staff and learn how each coach responds to different circumstances. Not only that, it’s about playing and figuring out what’s going to be positive for us and what are our assets. What are our strengths and weaknesses? This is an awesome time for us to learn those things and figure those things out and now knowing what we can and can’t do, what kind of an offense and defense are we going to run? So overall, this is a very critical time for us.
On a scale of 1-10, how well has the team met your expectations thus far?
“It’s still early and I’d surely hate to put a number on things, but what I will say is that everyone with the exception of a few moments, my expectations are that they will come out and they will give me everything they have and work hard and for the most part they have done that. As they start to get more challenging, we’ll have to meet more expectations. To this point, I’d have to say we’ve been pretty solid.
What’s been the biggest highlight through the first three weeks?
“It’s been more of a progression, more small victories here and there versus a big bang type of thing. It’s been overall with all of the girls there have been moments where I’ve felt like we’ve reached her at least at this point about this particular drill or in this particular instance. Throughout the workouts since we started them, there have been things that will happen that make you say, ‘OK, we’re catching on, we’re going to be OK.’ Each day, we’re getting better and better.”
How tough has it been to make the transition from player to coach and channel that competitive fire?
“I’m not sure you can really get rid of it, but I will say that I’m a little less likely to jump into a drill or get out there than I was. Despite the age thing, I am getting a little older, I do start to ache a little more after I do those things. Early on when I first started coaching, it was very difficult because you just want to get out there and you want to show them all the time. You want them to step to the side and just jump in there and let me play for a little bit. Now, I don’t have to do that as much. I can utilize other skill sets and get them to see what you see.”
What’s the one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
“Pink is my favorite color. That’s something that people are surprised to find out. I don’t wear it a lot, but pink is my favorite color.”
What was the bigger event: Tennessee football or Tennessee women’s basketball?
“I have to biased on this one. I’m going to say Tennessee women’s basketball was the biggest event. Football ran a close second. Now Tennessee basketball was the biggest event in my heart. More people attended the football games, but they were both big events. Football in the South is huge and it’s one of the most amazing atmospheres I’ve ever been around. The stadium is huge and I’ve never seen anything like that. Both were very, very good experiences, but I have to give the nod to basketball.”
If you’re at home and not working on basketball stuff, what do you choose to do?
“I absolutely love to eat, so I go out to eat. I love movies, so I may go out to a movie. I may watch television. Law & Order: SVU is hands-down my favorite show. If I can catch the marathon on USA, it’s a wrap, I’m watching that. Maybe First 48…any of the cop shows. I’m eating, watching television or catching a movie somewhere.
What players inspired you when you were in high school or college? “There wasn’t really one player in college that I wanted to mimic. I was always fascinated by Michael Jordan just because of everything that he could do, how he changed the game, how he made his teammates better, he was a great defensive player, he was a great offensive player. So that’s the person who I probably watched the most. Once I got to college, there were a lot of great players I was able to watch and play with and against that I really admired their games. Tamika Catchings was a teammate of mine that I really respected the way she played and admired her game. Chamique Holdsclaw was another one, but just the work ethic of Tamika Catchings, I would use her as an example any day.”
Who was the toughest player you ever played against?
“I would probably have to say a player who I thought just made her team what it was had to be from my freshman year, Ticha Penicheiro at Old Dominion. She just had what it took and if you couldn’t contain her, you couldn’t beat ODU. I played against a lot of great players who had great talent, but from the standpoint of someone who just wore you out, it would have to be her."
What’s the best thing about being the head coach at the University of Arizona?
“The opportunity to touch so many lives. I could do that as an assistant, but the opportunity can’t get any greater for the head coach involved. You get to sit in the homes of these kids with their parents and you talk to them about their kids. There’s nothing greater than the ability to have some effect, whether it be something positive basketball wise. It’s not always basketball, sometimes it’s life lessons that they’ve learned. But just being able to have that connection with the kids is something I cherish.
What’s the one movie you can watch over and over and never get tired of it?
“The Shawshank Redemption is a classic. Anytime I near a television when it’s on, I can sit there and no matter what part it’s on, I can watch it from that part to the end like I’ve never seen it before. I still want to see it, it’s amazing. I’ve probably seen it around 500 times, and it never fails that someone calls me and I act like I can’t miss that part of the movie when I know what’s going to happen. Some other movies I like are The Usual Suspects, The Green Mile. I’m a big movie buff. Primal Fear. Also, The Life of David Gale is another great movie. I got a lot of them, but there’s a few. I have to put American History X and the very first Matrix movie, too. And The Notebook.”
What’s your guilty pleasure?
If you could meet any people in history, who would it be?
“Harriet Tubman for obvious reasons, but someone who went through so much as an individual. To do what she did for so many people, risking her life every step of the way, I‘d just like to sit down and have a conversation with her. Because of my interest in cop shows, and this is going to sound a little crazy, but Jeffrey Dahmer. The reason is I’m really into what makes people tick, you’re mind and what you think about things. Again, I’d just want to sit down and have a conversation with him. My Mom would always say not to try and make sense of things that don’t make sense. You can’t ask someone who’s irrational to be rational, but I would like to try to do that. I would like to try and see what it is that led him to the life he led and why he did the things he did. There probably wouldn’t be good reasons, but at least I’d be able to ask. Bill Gates would be the third. I just want to know the secret, that’s it. I just want to know how. Bill Gates, that’s it. That’s a lot of money.”