April 3, 2013
BERKELEY - Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb quotes from the Wednesday, April 3, press conference at Haas Pavilion:
"We're just so thrilled and excited to be headed to New Orleans. I've said that there was no doubt in my mind that this team was capable of this, and yet it's still better than our wildest dreams experiencing all of this. I woke up this morning and just thought, Wow, I get to go to practice today and be with this team longer than almost any other team in the country. We're very excited to be representing the West Coast and the University of California and bringing these amazing women to New Orleans. We're just getting ready to go."
On How Much Fun She Will Allow her Players to Have in New Orleans Outside of Practice and Playing
"I think the thing that's so neat is that we can continue to do what my and our philosophy has been all along, which is, of course, let them enjoy the experience and the moment and still focus on the task at hand. I think if said, `Hey, we're going to New Orleans. I'm going to lock you in a room, and just show up for the game,' that wouldn't be how we do things anyway. I've been a big believer all along that college athletes should enjoy the experience; does that mean they enjoy every sprint, every practice or every drill? No. But I want them to feel that they're doing something - that they're part of a special thing - all the time. So, yeah - we're going to go to New Orleans, and they're going to soak up every piece of it that they've earned, and that's not going to take away from our focus. I think that's actually a bonus for us because that's how we do it all the time anyway."
On if She's Nervous About the Final Four
"Not at all. There are different emotions with this whole thing. There are just butterflies for a long time. I don't think I've ever been as settled saying, `There's not a team in the country I'd rather be bringing to the biggest stage.'"
On How the Faith that the Players and Coaches Have in the Team Manifests Itself
"They don't give enough credit to themselves. There are players in this locker room that are some of the best in the country. I think what I did is I asked them to say, `Make the team and the California in front of your chest the most important thing.' And they've done that. Another thing I've given them is I've played to their strengths and said, `We're good at a lot of things; let's do that and let's get better at whatever else we need to.' And I've given them, I think, belief that we're capable of this.
"I think it is incredibly tangible, the belief and faith they have in each other. I've never been around a group that genuinely believes we're going to get it done, that believes in the person next to them. Mikayla (Lyles) sitting right here is, I think, the personification of that. We have a group that just would do anything for the person next to them and has such a strong bond on and off the court that it's really fun to be around."
On How the Team Will Say "No" to Distractions at the Final Four
"(Araceli) Gil, our director of ops, said, `Okay, when people start coming out of the woodwork asking for tickets, you have to be able to direct them to me, and I'll say no.' What I always am with them is I'm always verbal, I'm very up front, and we're going to talk about what the experience is about to be. I'm going to say, `It's everything that we've been handling, just on a much larger stage. What we're going to talk about today is we're going to let you guys enjoy it. But when it's time to focus, just really help us out by being on task with that. I'm glad that people's families are coming and that there is going to be a media zoo. I like to show off this team to the country. I'm glad that everyone's going to get to see what I see every day. We're going to just talk about how we handle that and still do what we do, and it's just everything we've been doing on a bigger stage, and I think we'll be okay with that."
On Whether Cal and Louisville's Presence in the Final Four Heralds a New Era of Women's Basketball
"It's really exciting for women's basketball; no question about it. We're all very humbled. I know there are a lot of great coaches that never get this opportunity; I don't take that lightly at all. But I think it's a very exciting undercard so to speak - Cal against Louisville. UConn and Notre Dame are the tried and true; they've been there. I now realize how amazing it is for coaches who get teams in the Final Four four, five, six years in a row, so I think that's neat. But I also realize we're going to have a pretty good game in the first game with a lot of exciting players, and there's great basketball around the country. It's feels neat to represent the West Coast with three Big East teams. It feels good to kind of be in that underdog game, and I do think it speaks to that there is a more depth of talent now. There are more good teams around the country. The fact that us and Louisville broke into the Final Four, I think, is going to be a good for the game."
On How Winning the 2010 NIT Championship Will Help the Program With the Final Four Experience
"I wasn't here for that. It's really the seniors who went through that the most. What these seniors have been through over the course of their four years has been really important for us. I think we have a really good balance on the team of Layshia (Clarendon), Talia (Caldwell), Eliza (Pierre) and Tierra (Rogers) of kind of having been through every end of it, and that mixes really well with Brittany (Boyd), Reshanda (Gray) and Justine (Hartman), who all they know is winning. It's with a neat kind of balance - I think the seniors do a great job of drawing on their experiences in how they are now and how they handle everything. But I think this team is in the moment. It's about this group. I've said before - I think we thrive on the big stage. I don't think it's going to worry us. I just think we're going to have to handle bigger lights and more people and do what we do."
On Whether the Seniors Consider This to be the End of their Basketball Careers
"I think some of the seniors will have a chance to play professionally, and they will. But I do think in women's basketball there's a sense of nothing is better than college. I think more so they think of playing with this team, with this group, and this is the last weekend with this group, and we're going to make the most of it. But I don't think they look at it as basketball being over."
On What the Term "Last Weekend" Means to the Team
"I'm going to approach it with these guys like we have all year. In the Pac-12 we go into weekend situations where you play one game, day off, next game. Like I've said to them since we started the tournament, it's three, two-game tournaments, and we've tried to win each one. We've done that successfully for the first two, and that's what I'm going to say, `It's another one like that.' We're still playing in the last one; let's make this last as long as we can."
Again on if She's Nervous
"(I have) some healthy nerves, sure; I'm human. But it's more just gratitude and excitement."
On How Cal Matches up With Louisville
"It's hard to argue with the fact that they're the hottest team in the country right now. They scored 82 points and beat Baylor, and then they followed that up with 86 against Tennessee. They're clearly an exciting offensive team. They like to push it in transition. They have some exciting guard play from Shoni Schimmel. They're hot. I think it's going to be a really exciting game. You put a lot of fun players on the court at one time. We're going to have a challenge to slow them down. And then they're known for kind of mixing up their defenses, so we're going to have to make sure that we're sharp with what we're running, attacking the way that we want to and try to take control of the game. I think it'll be a great game."
On Mikayla Lyles' Role When She's In the Game and Not in the Game
"With Mikayla, it's beyond just rah, rah emotion. I've said to a lot of people, she's my soundtrack of the game. During the game on film, I can hear her; she really understands the scouting report. She's cheering, but she's also saying, `Watch this screen coming. Get back or switch on that.' It's neat to hear; her basketball IQ is very high as is the whole team's. I think it's pretty remarkable to be able to maybe not play two or three games in a row and come off the bench in a game like Louisville when a season is on the line and knock down big shots. That's pretty exceptional.
On Brittany Boyd
"The kid is a baller. She's a competitor. I think she was born to be on a basketball court, and do some to other things, too. It's really fun to coach someone like that who just is at her best when the big lights are on. I think if anything we've talked to her about - her standards are so high. She doesn't like to make a mistake. She wants to be perfect, which I think all of our players do. But it's almost like, hey, sometimes you have to shake off the mistake and make the next play, because she has the ability to impact the game in so many different ways. But I don't think you don't get to this point unless someone who has the ball in her hands all the time who's a true, true competitor. She'll just make plays sometime just coming from her natural ability and desire to win, and, I think, how much she hates losing factors in."
On What she Said to Brittany When She Took the Cal Head Coaching Job
"It was the first phone call. It was helpful that I had known Brittany a little bit when she came here to (Cal summer) camp as a little seventh or eighth grader and also just from recruiting some of her teammates when I was at Santa Barbara, so there was a familiarity, which I think is helpful. When there's no coach, I think there's a fear of `Oh, my gosh. Who's it going to be?' But the main priority, I think, was to get Brittany and her family in the office. It was neat. Her dad asked a little bit about what I would run and how I would use Brittany, and her mom asked all about academics and do I care about school. And it was just getting a comfort zone with the family. Brittany belongs playing at Cal in front of her hometown fans, and it was making sure they felt as comfortable with me as a person and what we're going to do basketball-wise as they had with the previous staff. Obviously that was a priority for me."
On Whether or Not Cal's "Why Not Us" Attitude is New
"There's an unbelievable combination with this team of confidence and humility. That's one of the narratives of it - that this is a group that really believes. And why shouldn't they? We have so many really good pieces. I think we've tried to put them in situations where they believe that they can compete and beat the top programs. But there's also that humble nature to say that we're happy to be here, we're grateful to be here; we're going to sure as heck learn as much as we can about another team from the scouting report and then take care of business. But the confidence that if we do those things and if we play well with what we do that we can beat anybody. I think they've had that all year.
"But it also is a process. I told them after we lost at Duke: `We scheduled this game for a reason, so that we understand what it takes to beat a team like that.' I thought that win at Stanford was a seminal moment because - I think it was Brittany actually who said in the press conference after that game, `There is a difference between thinking you can and believing you can and knowing that you can.' We have been in situations where we've had to beat these giants of college basketball, and I think now they feel like, `Why not us?'"
On What the Team Felt About Baylor Losing in the Sweet Sixteen and the Possible Impact on Cal
"We have basketball fans (on the team). Everyone was kind of like, 'Wow, did this just happen?' before we even kind of realized Baylor was on our side of the bracket. It was more about the basketball thing. Because Stanford had lost the night before, we just said (to each other), 'LSU, LSU, LSU.' We just didn't want to think about anything else, and this team has been really good about that."
On Her Reaction to the Rutgers Men's Basketball Situation
"I don't want to comment specifically other than to say that I feel I like have a wonderful opportunity as a basketball coach and a platform to affect the lives of these student-athletes in a positive way, and that's the most important thing. We should all use this gift that we've been given to be positive in these players' lives, and I hope that we can celebrate the coaches that do do that."
On Her Coaching Style
"If you start with a trust and a foundation that they know I love them and care about them as people, then you build up the ability to say, `Hey, we needed to be better on that play.' Obviously I have to be critical at times and have to tell us when we're not good enough. But if they believe that I know that they're capable of things even more than they even know, one and off the court, and that they matter to me as people, then sure, I think they're okay to hear, `Sprint back faster,' and things like that. But absolutely the care for the student-athlete has to be the No. 1 thing, and I feel like these kids know that even when I'm mad at them."
More on Her Coaching Style
"I would say my style is more on a positive side anyway. I think female student-athletes respond better to the positive. I wouldn't say I'm a screamer. Generally, I think my style is more the positive and hopefully the motivational. But, yeah, there were times when I got on them at halftime of the Georgia game because I thought we weren't attacking the zone like I knew we know how. There have been other times when we've come into the locker room losing and I've said, `We've got this.' You try to have the pulse of the team and find out what they need at that moment. But, sure, it's always rooted in a place of respect for them as human beings, compassion and trying to do the right thing. There's no place for anything that's clearly over the line."
On Having Brittany Boyd Play the Point Guard from Day One
"It was really clear to me early on that Brittany was special and similarly could have an impact on the entire team; she could make Layshia's life easier, make the coach's life easier. With a freshman point guard, we made the decision to let her play through and grow through playing experience and game experience. I was confident to do that because of what Mikayla said - that this whole team believes in the team first. I had a conversation with Eliza, who started for two years, and I gave her the courtesy of saying, `Let's talk about this; this is what I'm thinking.' And Eliza was unbelievable. She said, `Absolutely. Whatever you need me to do.' And she embraced that role. I knew that going with a very exciting, dynamic, freshman point guard, there were going to be some times when you say, `Okay, that's a growth moment,' but a lot more times that you'd see the spectacular. I more wanted to give her that rope and that empowerment to be her, and she has continued to stay with us and tried to get better every step of the way. And I think that's been really important in that player-coach relationship."
On the Team's Activities in New Orleans
"We're definitely going to make a stop at Café Du Monde. I feel like now that's primary, right up there with practice. There are certain things that are scheduled out by the NCAA - and we're looking forward to everything - but yeah, when we do some team dinners, we'll try and take part in some of the culture and the New Orleans-specific things. This is an opportunity of a lifetime. Not only is enjoying the experience good for them as student-athletes, I think it helps us to play well, because that's how we do it. Have fun and focus on the task at hand."