Connecticut-Louisville Postgame Quotes
April 7, 2009
AMY YAKOLA: Pleased to be joined up here at the podium by Louisville head coach Jeff Walz, as well as student-athletes Angel McCoughtry, Deseree' Byrd and Candyce Bingham.
Coach, when you're ready, an opening statement, please.
COACH WALZ: Yes, ma'am. First, I'd just like to congratulate Geno and his staff and all of his kids for a game well played.
You know, it's one of those when you sit there and you look at it as the game was unfolding, we did a lot of good things. We had the tempo of the game going the way we wanted it to go. Unfortunately, we just, you know, missed some shots we normally make.
And, you know, it's the big stage. It's our first time playing in a championship game. And I felt really good going into the game. The first five minutes, again, was the one I was most concerned about, and I thought we came out and Angel hits the first 3, they come down and score, then we score again.
I mean, we went back and forth and I felt really good about things. And then we just started to rush some shots. Tina Charles did an outstanding job of intimidating us. I thought she made us alter a lot of shots that we really didn't need to alter.
And, you know, we couldn't -- we had no answer for her. I mean, she's the one I told you all two days ago that I was most concerned about. She's so active in the post. We can defend post players that like to stay on the block and just try and post up, because we've got some kids that will work and battle and fight to do that.
But what she does so well is she just moves from block to block so quick that at her size we have a hard time trying to keep up with her. And then when you can't throw a 6-4 body at her, it just makes it really difficult for us to slow her down. And, I mean, the kid gets 25 and 19. I'm not sure you can do much better than that.
But with all that said, I am really proud of this group of kids. No one expected us to be here. No one really gave us much of a chance in this game. But I thought we fought. I thought we competed. And unfortunately it just did not go our way. And those are the things you're going to have to deal with. So that's it.
AMY YAKOLA: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Des, I know it's a difficult moment, but when you look back on this whole experience, what will you think about?
DESEREE' BYRD: Me, I'm just blessed. I'm blessed to be here. Just coming from where I'm from, I'm just blessed to be here, again, with these two girls on my left and right. I mean, it's still an amazing feeling to be here, like you said. Unfortunately, we came out with a loss, but I'm blessed. I'm truly blessed.
Q. Candyce, just talk about you guys, the shots, like Coach said some shots you normally would hit just didn't fall for a good stretch of that first half.
CANDYCE BINGHAM: I mean, yeah, just shots that we normally would make or we practice every day in practice, and we just didn't make them. I guess we just, like Coach said, got a little intimidated, just didn't concentrate. She just altered some shots. We usually make those and we didn't.
Q. Angel, can you tell us what is it that -- the emotion you take away from this? Is it pride? Is it disappointment after the way you guys played in this game versus the game the last time you faced them in the Big East championship?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: We have nothing to be disappointed about. We're going to hold our heads up high, and we're grateful to be here. Unfortunately, we couldn't come out and be national champions. But we have so much to be proud of. And they're going to be a great squad next year. I'm excited to see them next year. We're just going to hold our heads up high.
Q. Angel, after your hot start, did they run a lot of different defensive looks at you?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: I mean, if they did it wasn't nothing I wasn't used to already. I know they switched it up, went 3-1 a little bit, then they went back to man. But it was nothing I wasn't used to.
Q. Angel, I think you scored 10 of the first 15 points. Was it a mission of yours to get the team going quickly and to come out that quickly?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: I just wanted to help us keep up, because they can score so fast. But the main thing is also get the teammates involved, and that's another thing too, to get my teammates involved. So it's just a matter of we just wanted to win.
Q. Just for any or all of you, what has these few days been like with the number of fans that you've had here and the number of people that you've probably drawn to the program just through all of this?
CANDYCE BINGHAM: Words really can't describe. It's a really great feeling. I mean, unbelievable feeling. I mean, I'm sure we probably had more than -- you know, tonight than we did the other night. And just seeing all the fans at the hotel just cheering us on, and I'm sure we'll still have more when we get back there and others, but, I mean, it's just a really good feeling.
Q. Angel, you talked about the TV thing a little bit and about not wanting to be viewed as underdogs. Through the course of this tournament, particularly making to it the championship game, do you feel now like you've shown why the program deserves respect?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: Oh, yeah. I definitely believe we've shown why we need some respect. And I know people are going to -- next year they're going to look at the schedule and say, Look, we've got to play Louisville. It's going to make a big difference next year as well.
AMY YAKOLA: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Jeff, what does it say that a team can go through an entire season and no one gets -- every win is by double figures?
COACH WALZ: They're pretty good. I'm not sure what you want me to say. They're a great basketball team. I said it the other day. I'll say it again today. They've got three State Farm All-Americans on it. There's 10 of those players selected each year. They have three of them. That's pretty darned good.
And Geno does a great job with them. He gets them to play as hard as any team we've played against. And it's just a tribute to him and what he gets his kids to do.
Q. Coach, you were called for a technical after Candyce Bingham scored a basket. What was it that you were objecting to on that play?
COACH WALZ: I was a little concerned with the amount of contact that happened on the shot before that. I think Mo may have actually scored on that. I think Candyce went up or went up for the first shot. And I just thought there was a lot of body contact.
And I just tried to voice my displeasure, and they obviously didn't like it, which is okay.
Q. Was it your strategy to try to ride Angel today?
COACH WALZ: You know, no, not really. We came out and our first thought was when they put Renee Montgomery on Des was to go flat for Des and let her back her down.
And Des got six great looks to start the game that she normally makes. She's not your typical point guard, has some good size to her, can back you down, and normally makes that little turnaround jump shot. Then she split it once and had a layup, and unfortunately we couldn't get one of those to go.
And then we came out and we ran some things for Angel, and she was patient and stayed within the offense. And I thought she did a very good job.
Q. Coach, it's pretty remarkable for you to have gotten as far as you have after just a year or two at that school. Is there anything existing at University of Connecticut that doesn't exist at Louisville to keep you from doing exactly what Geno's done there at UConn, and is that sort of your goal to have a consistent team that's going to be here every year?
COACH WALZ: I think that's every coach's goal. That's why we do this. It all comes down to players. I mean, you can be -- everybody wants to say you can X and O and you can draw stuff up, but we drew the same stuff up tonight as we did on Sunday night.
Unfortunately, we just didn't make it. So, you know, we have to get out there and continue to recruit. That's the biggest -- that's the most important aspect of this game. If you don't get players, it doesn't matter what else you do.
So, you know, he continues. And Geno continues to get great players, and that's why they're back here year after year. So our goal is go out there and compete with them on the recruiting trail and hopefully get one or two away from him and see if we can't continue to build this thing here. No problem.
Q. Jeff, you had nine freshmen and sophomores play in this game. When you look at the future, how valuable have these last three weeks been to that group of players?
COACH WALZ: It's been a great experience for all of them, to have the opportunity to play in a national championship game, to make the run that we did through the NCAA tournament as a freshman and a sophomore; should give us a lot of confidence and a lot of excitement to carry over to next season.
And, you know, that's one of the things that I challenged the returning players with in the locker room after the game. We have to find out who our leaders are going to be this spring and this summer to get in the gym when I can't make them get in the gym.
That's the difference between your great programs and your good programs, because, I promise you, Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery weren't going to the beach all summer. I mean, they spent hour after hour in the gym. You don't become the players they are if you aren't a dedicated player.
Q. I was going to ask you about the post game and what you said to the group as a whole.
COACH WALZ: I first just told our two seniors, Angel McCoughtry and Candyce Bingham, I think both of them, to have the opportunity to have your first head coaching job be with two players that are seniors like those two, they've made my first two years very enjoyable. They've taken a lot of responsibility upon themselves to be leaders. And that's what you need if you want to be a successful program.
Then, you know, I talked to our freshmen and sophomores, just talked to them about the opportunity of getting back here. I told them the story: You know, at Maryland we started two freshmen, two sophomores and one junior when we won a national championship in 2006. And everybody thought this is easy. We'll get back here every year. And, unfortunately, you know, those kids never made it back to a Final Four.
So you've got to get in the gym and you've got to be willing to work every single day so you can get back to this. And I'm hoping our freshmen and sophomores heard that, because it's tough.
I mean, I got a really nice text from Marissa Coleman today wishing us luck. And I know how bad that young lady hurt after our game in the Elite Eight. And it's a feeling that I hope our kids don't have to experience. But it's one that you can't take for granted the opportunity to get here and you can't take for granted you'll ever get back here either.
Q. Coach, you've been staying with them throughout the first ten minutes of the first half, and there was a lot of motion and energy in your offense at that point. From that point forward throughout the first half seemed like you were settling more into half-court sets and sort of a lot of standing around. Was that a fatigue factor setting in or was there something different they were throwing at you?
COACH WALZ: There wasn't a fatigue factor. They weren't throwing anything different at us. When I look at the game and I watch the game, I actually thought we got some really, really good shots and missed some 1- and 2-footers.
Yeah, our goal was to try to run with the ball when we had numbers at our advantage or if we got a steal off of our press. But if we didn't, our goal was to run the shot clock down and try and cut the game down to possession by possession.
Like I said, we got really good looks. I was proud of our kids for the way we executed. But, unfortunately, we just could not put the ball in the basket.
Q. Coach, I just want to ask you about Deseree' Byrd. And we've seen all week that this is a young lady with an awful lot of pride. Just lost what has to be a very devastating game, and she shot 1-for-10. And instead of sitting there with her shoulders slumped over and instead of making excuses she sat up straight and looked us in the eye and said "I'm blessed" after shooting 1-for-10 and losing a game that must have been so difficult for her.
COACH WALZ: That's just the way all our kids are, Des included. It's like I've told you from day one, we're honest in our program. And, you know, it hurt Des. There's no question. I know she wanted to play a lot better. But she played hard.
And I told her before the game started, if we can come in the locker room after the game and look each other in the eye and say I gave it everything I had, then that's all you can ask for. And I thought Des did. I thought all the kids did.
Unfortunately, the ball just did not go in the basket for us. You have those games. And you just really don't want it to be your national championship game, but it happens. For us to get a 68 field goals attempted, 10 more than they attempted, and we get 19 offensive boards and only turn the ball over nine times, I mean, you look at the stat line, and we played a pretty damn good game. Unfortunately, we just didn't make them.
AMY YAKOLA: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts
AMY YAKOLA: Pleased to be joined up here on the podium by Connecticut head coach Gene Auriemma as well as student athletes Renee Montgomery, Tina Charles and Maya Moore.
Coach, when you're ready.
COACH AURIEMMA: The worst part about doing something like this is you have to be asked what it feels like. Now, I'm not saying it's because we don't want to say what it feels like, it's just you can't put into words what it feels like.
This is the first time since the brackets came out that I don't feel like I'm going to get sick, physically sick, thinking about everything that was ahead of us.
And I told these guys in the locker room, ever since 1995 and the team went 35 0 at Connecticut, every team after that was compared to the 35 0 team and they couldn't handle it. They didn't want to handle it.
And after that 2002 team, every team was compared to that team. And now this year, after these guys ran off a bunch of wins, they had to live with the whole aura of going undefeated and winning a national championship at Connecticut.
And then the more we won by, the margin of victories kept getting bigger and the more it was expected that, well, of course they're going to win. Of course they're the best team ever. Of course, of course, of course.
Well, there's nothing that I'm more proud of than the fact that especially these three came in every day from September 1st until today and gave me everything they had every single day. And, like I told them, I hope I gave them as much back, and tonight we gave you the best of what we got.
AMY YAKOLA: Questions for student athletes.
Q. Renee, just describe the feeling for you guys to put in all the work all year and to come out like this tonight?
RENEE MONTGOMERY: It feels great. I mean, it's hard to believe just because when preseason was going on preseason was so hard. And I'm like, oh, my goodness, we haven't even played a game yet. And then you get to practice and the practices before the game and that's even worse.
And it's just, you think, okay, we need to win 39 games to get there. It seems like forever away, and now I'm actually sitting here and we won 39 games. And, I don't know, it's just really hard to explain because it's something you wanted so bad and a lot of people I don't think get to feel the feeling when you want something really bad and you work hard for it and then actually get it.
I think that's one of the best feelings, that it wasn't, you know the scores might have showed that we won by a lot, but it wasn't easy. And just to work hard at something and win with people I love is the best feeling I don't know how to explain it.
Q. Tina, Coach was saying the other day that he believes that somewhere inside you lies potentially the best player in the country, it's just a matter of convincing you of that. After tonight's game, are you closer to being convinced?
TINA CHARLES: I was always convinced ever since I went to Connecticut that I do have the potential to become the best center in the country if I wanted to be. I just needed the players around me to help me, which they always do every time I was in practice, and just having Coach in my ear, just pushing me all the time.
One of my first when I came to campus and on my unofficial visit, the one thing I keyed in on was just Coach saying the only way you're going to play is if you work hard, and that was something that was a challenge and I just accepted it and went with it.
Q. Renee, could you just comment on Tina's game tonight?
RENEE MONTGOMERY: She was great. Before we went out there, Coach told us we needed to establish the post game. And I think she took it personally. She really came out there and she played aggressively on both ends of the floor. And I think that might be the best game I've seen her play in a long time, not only because of the stats, but because how she carried herself and how she scored. Even though she was getting fouls, she made sure she made the basket anyways. And on defense she was trying to block all kinds of shots.
I don't know, just the way she carried herself during the game was unbelievable.
Q. Tina, just to follow up exactly on what Renee said. I was going to ask, you seemed like you were smiling the whole game on the court. You had a demeanor like you were having a totally great time. Can you talk about how you were feeling as the game was unwinding?
TINA CHARLES: I felt great. It was always fun to come out and just play with this team, specifically. The past two years I had fun, too, but just with this team and how hard we worked since September, like Renee said. And just the fact that it hit me that this is going to be my last time, like, playing in a Connecticut jersey with Renee. So I wanted to have as much fun as possible.
Q. Tina, a lot of kids dream of this stage, national championship on the line. Your team needing you to come up big. Can you just try and describe your emotions that your team needed you, Coach needed you, and you were able to deliver at the most important time of your career?
TINA CHARLES: You know, like I said, it was just another challenge, and I just wanted to show my teammates that they could depend on me, and that was just basically it. I just wanted to show that I'm going to send off Renee just feeling happy and everything. She's about to be drafted, God willing, and everything is going to go great for her. But I just wanted her to have all smiles in the next step of her career.
Q. Renee, you talked about how the beginning of the season, all the expectations on you guys and you going through training camp and it was so hard. I'm curious about all three of you. Now that all those expectations are over, is the predominant emotion happiness or relief?
RENEE MONTGOMERY: I think a little bit of everything. I think we can actually finally like breathe. I feel like every time we've won something this year I'll start back in preseason. Salt and pepper won the challenge, but everything we won, the Cancun tournament, the regular season, Big East, we always couldn't be too excited because we have another game to follow up. We can't dwell on that win because we have another game that we have to win.
So I think this is the first time we actually can just stop and really enjoy the win for more than a couple days. And I think that's just the biggest thing that we can actually because I think the mentality of our team is we're happy with what we did but we're always looking to the future. And now I think we have, you know, time to enjoy this win and all the other ones.
Q. Maya, with the team this close, what does it mean for you guys to accomplish the ultimate goal together?
MAYA MOORE: Like Renee said, just to be able to achieve this goal with people that you love. I mean, I just I couldn't stop crying at certain points because I was so happy to have won with every single one of my teammates. I just really feel like this year we really just sacrificed and put each other first and genuinely cared about each other.
And that's the best way to win it, because if we were on a team that we didn't really get along or we just came, did our work and went our separate ways, it would be nice but it wouldn't feel as good as it does right now to have your family up there with you and win it.
That's why I came here. And when I signed, that's what I was hoping to get. I'm just glad I got one and I was able to do it with these wonderful girls.
Q. Maya, when Becky Burke hit a 3, made it a four point game, Coach ripped into you guys a little bit. You went on a defensive run, they didn't make another field goal pretty much the rest of the half. Just run me through that stretch in the first half, beginning of the second half and what you were able to do to turn the game around defensively.
MAYA MOORE: Anytime somebody scores on us or they do hit a 3 pointer, especially, we really try to defend the 3 point line very well. It just fires us up. I mean, we know that when another team scores, we want to drive it right back at them.
And usually when that happens, you know, Renee will push it in transition and the next thing find Tina and we will get one in and we'll just keep thriving on that momentum.
I think it's a maturity, sign of maturity for our people to be able to have a team come close and be battling with us the whole half and just be able to get on spurts and get on runs like we were able to do. And that run right there and the way we started off the second half was key to the margin of victory that we ended up having.
AMY YAKOLA: Thank you. Congratulations.
Questions for Coach.
Q. Geno, you mentioned yesterday that you couldn't remember wanting anything as badly as you wanted the title for Renee. Could you just speak on that now that she has one?
COACH AURIEMMA: Yeah. When you've been fortunate enough as we've been to win multiple national championships and to have a couple of undefeated teams, you know it was because somewhere along that line there was probably a great guard that defined who we were, because that's just the way it is.
It's like if you win a Super Bowl, you probably have a quarterback that defines the team. And every one of those players that were All Americans and great players had the same characteristics as Renee.
And she did everything they did. She handled herself exactly the way they did. She worked as hard as they did. Led as well as they led.
So for a lot of them, it happened before their senior year. You think back to all the great ones that we had, Jennifer and Sue and Di and, you know, all of them, Shea, Svet, all of them, it happened before their senior year. By the time their senior year came around, it was like, okay, well, whatever, if it doesn't happen at least it happened once.
But to have Renee go through three years and do what she did, the thought of it not happening for her was just, honest to God, I've been ill. Doc said, Is there anything I can give you? Yeah, I said, Give me a sleeping pill so I can wake up when the game ends.
I've never felt like I felt. You would have thought if you followed me around the last two days, you would have thought that my team had no chance to win. That's how it was incredible. And now I'm so speechless. I'm so overwhelmed by how I feel about the way that it ended, that I feel like you know what, I kept telling myself all day long today, I said, you know, look, I know God loves everybody, and I know he's a benevolent God, and if for some reason I've done something to offend him and he doesn't like me, don't take it out on me. These kids deserve it. She deserves it. Even if I don't. Which I don't care if I don't or not.
But all I kept thinking about was, man, I do not want to get up tomorrow morning with that feeling. I don't. And now I don't have to.
Q. You said about two weeks ago how legends are made by winning national champions. Did Tina cement herself as a UConn legend by her performance tonight and the rest of the tournament?
COACH AURIEMMA: Yeah, she's kind of like a legendary make a blockbuster movie and now we're going to wait to see how she follows that up next year. That kind of legendary.
She's not Meryl Streep yet, but she is getting closer to where Tina wants to be. And that's what I'm happy about. Tina's always wanted to be what she did today. It's just that when she looked out there and said, Ooh, I'm not sure she believed that she could do it.
And it had to happen for her so that now she knows she can do it. And one of the things we talked about was: You can't be a great player unless you play great in this game right here. If you ever want to be called a great player, you've got to play great in this game.
And she did. I said, Go out and get a triple double. Score as many points as you want. Block as many shots as you want, go ahead. Play like you're the best center in the country. And maybe I should have said that before every game instead of going in there, Tina Charles, blah, blah, blah. Maybe she was waiting for me to say that. I wish she would have sent me an e mail or something. I would have said it earlier.
Q. Geno, when Renee was talking about the mentality of the team, always looking ahead to the next game, in past experience of five national titles, how much have you allowed yourself to enjoy it before you started to look ahead to the next challenge? And the second part of the question is based on what you've seen of Maya, Tina, the freshmen, what you know is coming next year, do you think this team, the core of this team is capable of pulling off a Taurasi like kind of run over the next couple of years?
COACH AURIEMMA: Well, as far as the enjoyment part, there have been wins that I've enjoyed over the course of the season that I thought were really, really special and really cool. There have been moments in practice that I thought were really neat and I've gotten enjoyment out of it.
Honest to God, the longer I'm doing this, the more I'm in this situation, the harder it is to enjoy it while it's happening. But the better it feels after the fact. So as we were going along on this ride, I'm constantly looking around the corner to see what's next, so I'm not appreciating the scenery along the way. And it's not until afterwards you look back and you go: Wow, that was really cool. I'm glad we did that.
And, yeah, for me, you know, I have a tendency to put the season behind me immediately. Like starting tomorrow, I'm not going to be thinking about this past season. I'm not going to be thinking about next season either.
So I've got a couple months where I can just clear my head and think about nothing. Come the middle of August, I'll be trying to figure out how we can do the same exact thing next year. And the minute we lose our first game, I'll start screaming at these guys: You're nowhere near as good as last year's team, they were unbelievable. Because, I don't know, I can't get past looking to the next thing.
But having said all that, I do not ever want to burden these guys with what Diana did. That's just too much. That's just too much. I think they're capable of doing anything next year. But to sit here and think, you know what? Yeah, we've got what it takes to win three in a row. Man, come see me like middle of November. And by the middle of November I'll have a pretty good idea.
Q. Geno, you said yesterday you were interested in finding out how that or before that, in fact, how the men's game would turn out given some similar situations. A, to what extent did that, you know, soothe any concerns that you had? And, B, what did you draw from that that did make you feel like, hey, you know, things have a way of turning out the way you want them to?
COACH AURIEMMA: Yeah, when I saw last night's game I thought, man, you know, Michigan State just ran into a whirlwind. Carolina was the best team in the country all year, just people forgot about them, a couple of injuries, a couple of losses, but all year long everybody said Carolina was the best team, and they proved it last night.
And I kept thinking, I wonder how many times the best team in the country wins the NCAA championship. Sometimes it's just the best team for six games or the best team for one night. I thought, well, that's what's going to happen with us. We're the best team in the country, we're going to win it. Then five minutes later I like, nah, just too much coincidence that it would happen two nights in a row. So you start to have like these jitters.
But in '91 I went down and I touched Stan Musial's statue in the front of the old Busch Stadium and he was only good for a half (laughter). So this time I got them all. I got the whole crew down there, went all the way back, all the way back. And I figured, you know what? Now I'm a true St. Louis guy. I got to touch all the statues, rubbed all their heads. This was great.
Q. Geno, I think the Yankees might be the only other team besides yours where people can say, You haven't won in five whole years, what's wrong?
COACH AURIEMMA: I know. I know.
Q. My question is, since you have not won, did you start to doubt how you did things, the players you were getting, are we doing something wrong, anything like that?
COACH AURIEMMA: Uh huh. It is kind of the most insane thing when you think about it, that who knows what could have happened. With a little bit of luck we could have won five in a row. We could have we could have eight or nine by now. I don't know anybody else that's had the injuries we've had to their great players.
So with any kind of luck, we could be sitting here with eight or nine and all that. I could be second to John Wooden. That's the way some although, actually, you don't ever want to compare yourself to the men's coaches because that's a completely different ball game.
There came a point during the last four years that it really was about you haven't won five national championships. As a matter of fact, you haven't won one since 2004. And some people, including me, I would just as soon walk away from that, because that means, you know, that there's not an appreciation for what we did. But, again, that's the world we live in. That's the world we created.
And there was that four year period where I really, four years? Five maybe? I started to question a lot of things. I started to question our recruiting. I started to question whether or not we had slipped in the way we prepared, the way we did things in our office, preseason conditioning, practice, the way practices were structured. I started to question everything, post season workouts. Whether I had it anymore. Whether our coaching staff had been too stagnant.
And, yet, every one of those years we were winning 30 games. Like in every one of those years we won 30 games except one, if I'm not mistaken. I think Renee's freshman year maybe, maybe we won 30 games all four of Renee's years there. I don't even know. I know we lost in the final eight. Final eight overtime. Final Four.
And you're thinking, you know what, maybe it's just time to hang it up, we're not any good. That's sad, isn't it? That's like going to the World Series five years in a row and now winning it. Well, then you, you know, I don't want to be called the Atlanta Braves. You know, you win the most games and you don't win titles. People go like you're not any good, my point is. Like you're not any good, you know? Even though you're really good.
But that's the world we live in now. Nobody remembers our string of accomplishments. They just remember you haven't won a national championship in four years.
But I'm glad I stayed.
Q. If you still do not want to declare which of your teams was the best ever, could you at least compare and contrast your undefeated teams in approach and how they handled the pressure of what they did?
COACH AURIEMMA: The first one had no idea what they were doing. As a matter of fact, I just had this discussion with Jamele and Rebecca recently.
The first one had no idea what they were doing. We got to Minneapolis. We stayed so far from the Final Four, they didn't know there was a Final Four going; they thought we were on a road trip and they were just going to play two games.
Then we played Saturday Sunday. It's like, What are we doing here? Then we win and we go home and there's people lining the streets of I 91 and kids are going, It's like the O.J. chase, cops everywhere. Helicopters. It was unbelievable. And it dawned on them that they had done something that was just incredible.
Then the 2002 team, they were so pissed about what happened in St. Louis in 2000, they actually thought the first day of practice, if we lose a game, it's a disgrace. They actually thought that anybody that walked on the court that really believed they should be on the same court with them was out of their mind.
And they played like it. This team, this team is young, fun loving, enjoy each other's company. They're fun to be around. They get a kick out of spending time together, going to practice. And as it's all unfolding in front of them, they're kind of like, yeah, everybody thinks this is like something big. Like Renee said, we've got another game Wednesday, yeah, who do we play Saturday.
And it wasn't until late, late, late in the season that they really started bearing down on it. And that's when I think I started to see a different side to them.
But all three teams in and of themselves are separate, but they all had that one quality that they were really, really tight together, loved each other for the most part. And they were easy to coach. Really, really easy to coach.
Q. Coach, I went and looked and saw that your first team at Connecticut actually lost more games than it won. This did not happen automatically. This did not happen by magic. It took a while to build the program to where you are right now. I see schools where the administration has a commitment to women's athletics and for whatever reason they don't win. I see very few that win that really establish a standard of excellence that don't have the real commitment from their university for that. Tell me a little bit about how University of Connecticut has played a role in setting the standard of excellence that you've got with your basketball team.
COACH AURIEMMA: Well, I think if a school wanted to win a national championship right now, it would be a lot easier than in 1985 when I got the job at Connecticut. When I got the job at Connecticut, 1985, the goal at Connecticut was don't finish eighth or ninth in the league. And try to get up from eighth or ninth to fourth or fifth and live happily ever after and everything is good.
Why would the expectations be high when you don't have a locker room? You're playing in a place where they roll up the bleachers, metal bleachers, and you're treated like an intramural team. So the expectation level was just try not to finish last, Coach, that would be a really big deal.
Today, every BCS school that wants to win a national championship can do it. Every one. Every BCS school in America, if they wanted to, could do it. At Connecticut, they want to. Now if they didn't want to, in '85, in '86, '87, '88, '89, I mean, there's a long time there where they didn't want to, because they couldn't. They couldn't afford it.
But that doesn't mean I didn't want to. I wanted to. But I think if every BCS school, and others maybe see, in men's basketball anybody can win a national championship. You don't have to be a BCS school. You can be any Division I school and have a shot at it. Mid major, high major, doesn't matter.
In women's basketball it's a little bit harder. But there's a lot of BCS schools out there that have a tremendous amount of resources, great facilities, tremendous tradition in their university and in their athletic department, that if they wanted to, they could. Half of them just don't want to.
Now, more and more each year want to because they can see, you know, it's pretty cool if you can do this. It means a lot to the university. It means a lot to the community. It means a lot to a lot of people. It's something significant now. But that hasn't been the case yet.
And it's getting better and getting better, and five years from now I would venture to say a lot more BCS schools are going to be trying to win a national championship than there were five years ago. And that's kind of the progression that we're making. There might have only been five in 1991 that could win it. Maybe now there's 30, 35 that are committed to winning it.
So maybe in five years it will be 70, 55, who knows. But I think we're doing our part to kind of help that.
AMY YAKOLA: Thank you, Coach.
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