March 21, 2001
BERKELEY - Cal wrapped up the 2000-01 season with a 12-16 overall record and tied for sixth in the Pac-10 Conference with an 8-10 mark. Milestones from Caren Horstmeyer's inaugural year at the helm of the Golden Bears included Cal posting its most Pac-10 wins since 1993, accumulating its first five-game conference winning streak since 1986-87 and breaking 15-game losing streaks to both Stanford and Oregon. Senior guard Courtney Johnson also became the first Bear to earn first team All-Pac-10 honors since 1995. Following the season, Horstmeyer sat down with Assistant Media Relations Director Debbie Rosenfeld-Caparaz to review the year.
DR: In what ways did your first season at Cal meet or exceed your expectations?
CH: I always have high expectations. We achieved a lot of the goals we had. One goal I felt we were capable of was going to the postseason, and we were two games short. However, we exceeded my expectations in certain areas. I didn't know how well we would come along as a team off the court. We made incredible strides from a team that didn't know each other very well, we grew into a team that hung around each other away from basketball. That's a huge part of our program in developing the Bear family. That's where it starts for playing together on the basketball court. We also had 15 players out of 15 players get their career highs for points. That's pretty amazing on any team. To get off to a slow start because players are learning a new system and players are feeling like their freshmen, and then to be able to accomplish things that the program or seniors had never accomplished before, met my expectations but probably to a certain extent exceeded them.
DR: At what point in the season did you see your system being fully absorbed by the team?
CH: I think early on we saw glimpses of it, but maybe not a full understanding of the system. After our first two Pac-10 games, our team put their heads together. Things came together at Oregon State. They realized that no one could stop them off the dribble. Then, they started to believe in the defense a little more. The win in Corvallis after the Beavers beat Stanford was a turnaround in our season.
DR: What did you learn about the Pac-10 Conference that you might not have known before taking the job at Cal?
CH: I learned that the travel is more intense than maybe I would have expected. You play your games at home and then three days later you're on the road. Meanwhile, you're trying to prepare for teams, scout teams and have video tape prepared. That is a quick turnaround. That's probably just a slight adjustment which we've taken care of.
DR: In what areas did you see the most improvement in the team this year?
CH: Attitude, hustle and togetherness. I think our team enjoyed playing on the floor. They had great attitudes on the floor which maybe at times you didn't see last year. The way the team played together enabled us to win a number of games.
DR: What were the most memorable games of the season?
CH: There were a few. Definitely our 82-73 win at Stanford. It's very difficult to win at Maples, and we were able to accomplish that. It meant so much to the seniors and to the team. Other memorable games were beating Oregon State on the road. That was a turnaround in our program, and things clicked in at that point. The third game would have been the Oregon game at home since the seniors had never beaten the Ducks. Also noteworthy was sweeping UCLA and USC on the road for the first time in the program's history. After having struggled in some close games earlier in the season, we were able to win some close games in Los Angeles.
DR: What was your most memorable non-game experience at Cal this year?
CH: One day out of the blue, Kenya Corley high-fived my staff and I on her way out to being announced during the starting lineup introductions. Maybe, that was her way of saying thank you.
DR: How exciting to you was the late-season possibility of Cal going to the postseason and why did the team fall short?
CH: It was exciting because it meant a lot to the team and to the program and where it could be. The pressure of knowing that it was a possibility had some of the players playing tight. We had a letdown after beating Stanford where you're ready to fight and make it happen. That pressure of wanting it so badly led us to fall short. Hopefully, the players now understand the pressure. That's the one thing that I don't believe we did a good job of overcoming. But, we did step up to numerous challenges. We were 6-11 and battled back to 11-11.
DR: Why did you bring the team together to watch the NCAA selection show?
CH: I wanted the returning players to have a better understanding of what it takes to make the postseason. From day one, I talked about this is what it takes to go to the NCAAs and NIT - minimum .500 in the NIT, you have to have a good win and what your power ranking is, etc. Any time you have knowledge, that's power. The more knowledge they have about what it takes to be in the postseason, I feel they're more capable of achieving that down the road.
DR: Was there any doubt in your mind that Courtney Johnson would be named to the All-Pac-10 team?
CH: I absolutely felt she should be named to the All-Pac-10 team. The doubt in my mind came from Cal not having an All-Pac-10 selection since 1995. I think she's the best point guard in the conference who in the past was not a true point guard. She developed herself into a point guard. She distributed the ball. She was able to score, and she's the best defender in the Pac-10.
CH: Yes, I believe they can play professionally. Both are very athletic. Both enjoy the game. And, both have a scoring ability. They're both very different players. Where they're going to get hurt is that they're slight in their builds. They have to bulk up a little bit. Kenya's athleticism and her ability to shoot the ball will enable her to play somewhere whether that's in the WNBA or overseas. Courtney (can make it) because of all of the things she does. She plays defense, she distributes, she can score, she can pass, and she has a fierce desire to compete.
DR: Who was the team's most improved player?
CH: Amber White. Her offensive skills improved tremendously. She's always been a great defender. She started to be more vocal. Her confidence just grew. She became a key player for us and maybe early on wasn't a key player.
DR: What type of image are you continuing to evolve Cal basketball into?
CH: I want us to be known as hardworking, smart and a team that's the Bear family. We're a team that gets along, likes each other and works well together. This is a program where we want players to make incredible strides individually, which helps us make great strides as a team. We shoot to develop players to play at the highest level they can. At Cal, I feel we're able to get the most out of the players.