THE MODERATOR: Joining us on the dais from Cal we have head coach Lindsay Gottlieb, student athletes Layshia Clarendon, Talia Caldwell, and Eliza Pierre. We're going to start this morning with an op
By Cal Athletics on Sat, April 06, 2013

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April 6, 2013

THE MODERATOR: Joining us on the dais from Cal we have head coach Lindsay Gottlieb, student athletes Layshia Clarendon, Talia Caldwell, and Eliza Pierre. We're going to start this morning with an opening statement from Coach Gottlieb and then we'll take questions for the student athletes.

COACH GOTTLIEB: Hi, everyone. Thanks for being here and covering us. We are thrilled, to say the least, to be practicing on April 6, to be here, having a lot of fun with our team. We're soaking it all in. The people of New Orleans and host committee have been wonderful so far. We're looking forward to getting out to this open practice today.

Personally I've watched a million of these since I've been a coach. It's really a thrill to be here, but especially to be here with this group and this team. There's no one else I'd rather be around, and we're excited to play Louisville tomorrow night.

THE MODERATOR: Questions and please state your name.

Q. A lot of attention being made to the guard matchup in this game and your role as a defensive stopper. Does that get you excited, you could have an impact on a game of this magnitude with your role?

Eliza Pierre: Yes. I don't know yeah, it does. I think that they're very skilled, and we have skilled guards. But I think I'm really excited to do what I guess I do best.

Q. No matter what you do, how much baton passing have you done with Brittany Boyd in terms of leadership and preparing her to sort of maybe take over this team from a guard spot going forward?

COACH GOTTLIEB: I don't know if I've necessarily thought about it that specifically. I think our whole senior class has done a great job just kind of instilling hard work, just being yourself, always bringing on every single rep, just being a good leader, leading by example kind of thing, more than me specifically passing on to Boyd.

I think that's a really good role that we've all kind of played as Talia has passed the baton to Reshanda Gray and Eliza has passed it on to all the rest of the guards. I think we've done a good job of that.

Q. How much have you seen Louisville play? In particular, in tournament they're shooting 50 percent the last couple games from the 3 point line. How are you guys going to have to adjust your style for that?

Layshia Clarendon: We've seen them hit a lot of open 3s, a lot of dribble penetration, get by, force rotations, and then wide open shots. Our goal is to get them in front for contested shots, which we have the guards to do without a doubt.

Q. I just wanted to ask Talia a question. Louisville likes to get up and down the floor. Of course you guys also. But how big will the rebounding be, you and Reshanda, as far as slowing them down? You guys get a lot of offensive rebounds in particular. Is that something you really focused on in this game?

Talia Caldwell: Yeah, definitely with every game because if you make baskets it slows them down, of course, just from a schematic standpoint.

And we feel like if we're not going to make every shot that the guards make or that we make, we might as well put it back on the offensive rebound side and take opportunities.

They're also scrappy. They've got a lot of O boards the past few games, so if we box them out and make them take one contested shot each possession, I think they'll be good for our favor.

Q. For each of you, where were you watching the Final Four last year? And at what point did you realize this could happen this year for you?

Talia Caldwell: I did not watch it. If I'm not playing it, I'm kind of a sore loser, I'm done. So I was at the rec gym playing pickup that whole week. I was just disgusted seeing all those teams. I felt like we should have been there, even last year, and we would have competed and could have won the whole thing.

So it just motivated I know me personally for next year and I wanted to work on my game asap.

Layshia Clarendon: The same, I didn't want to hear about it. My sister texted me about it. I was like, Stop talking to me kind of thing. I think we were getting out of church and someone was telling us about the game. Sore losers, hate to lose. Didn't want to watch.

It's hard. I think you love the game so much and you're not in it, you don't want to see the other teams. But I did come to the Final Four my senior year of high school. So that was a really cool experience to see it in St. Louis, but didn't watch last year.

Eliza Pierre: I guess I'm the sore thumb over here. I watched it. I watched it because I know some people on the teams who played last year. So that's the reason why I watched it. But I don't think if I knew anybody I would have been watching it.

Q. For any of the players who want to answer, obviously it's a big deal for the Big East to have three teams out of the four. What's the perception of the Big East on the West Coast? What's your thoughts on the conference as a whole?

Layshia Clarendon: I think a really good conference. You have so much talent out of UConn, Notre Dame, Louisville. Respectable conference. I think we respect every one of our opponents from the Pac 12, SEC, the Big East. We know there's a lot of talk about East Coast basketball, how physical they are, how every game, night in, night out, like Skylar mentioned last night, it's like an NCAA game for them. So really good conference. Really good names to play with.

THE MODERATOR: Anything else for the student athletes? Thank you, ladies.

We'll continue with questions for Coach Gottlieb.

Q. Hey, Lindsay, how do you balance the first time here for the team versus, okay, it's a business trip and we have two games to win to become national champion?

COACH GOTTLIEB: I think the easiest thing has been to be how we've been all year, and my philosophy and this team's philosophy, which is enjoying every moment that we can being together, being with this team, and then at the same time focusing and locking in when it's time to do so.

So I think a lot of coaches who maybe aren't that way all year go, okay, now it's the Final Four; how are we going to handle all the madness and then be able to play? Well, that's what we do all the time. It's just on a larger scale.

So I think for us that's not the huge transition. It's just them being used to more people there when we get off the bus and more lights and more cameras. But the idea of enjoying it and focusing is something that we're accustomed to. And I think that it's benefited us.

Q. Such a big step forward for Cal basketball. What's this week been like for you in terms of who you heard from and the interest that you're getting and so on?

COACH GOTTLIEB: I mean, it's unbelievable. It's like a dream come true for all of us. I've said that I absolutely believed in the talent in our locker room and that we were capable of something like this. And at the same time I'm very conscious of the fact that it's really hard to do it and a lot of things have to happen right. And I think the reason it's been better than I ever imagined is because the people I get to do it with, and that's from my staff to the team to our administration and the Cal community.

I'm also very keenly aware that there are so many great coaches who never get to experience this. And I've been sitting here at Final Fours watching, and I definitely have these pinch me moments like, oh, my gosh, I'm going to be in open practice. I'm getting text messages. Muffet and Geno gave me the most genuine hugs last night when they saw me, which is really cool. And from across the country I'm getting text messages from coaches and people and men's coaches I know saying, hey, we're following, this is so great.

So I'm very grateful and appreciative for this opportunity, really happy for our players. Seeing their smiles and them light up with all the stuff that's happening is probably the most gratifying.

Q. Coach, could you follow up on who those men's coaches were that reached out to you?

COACH GOTTLIEB: A lot of them sort of connected to Cal. So obviously our men's staff has been incredibly supportive. I've got e mails and text messages from the former staff, Ben Braun and Louis Reynaud who were there before, Sonny Dykes, our new football coach, Jeff Tedford, our old football coach, Dennis Gates who's a great alum and Cal grad who's now coaching at Florida State. I got a couple of texts last night from a UCLA former UCLA assistant who I'm friends with who went to Santa Barbara, our Santa Barbara men's coach, Bob Williams, and I could go down the list. It's really cool.

Adam Duritz, the Counting Crows lead singer, was texting me last night from Australia: I knew when I planned this tour I should have arranged the dates around the Final Four.

I mean, things like that, it's just the Cal community is so excited. A lot of people. I could go on and on. But it's really just a thrill for me, and just to be able to share it with these people.

And then personally people from my childhood and things like that. It's so much more meaningful when you share it with people. And I love that this team is so accessible and so relatable that everyone feels part of it.

Q. Coach, I wanted to follow up. For those of us who don't see you on a day to day basis, how would you describe the collective personality of your team?

COACH GOTTLIEB: I think there isn't one collective. I think they're individuals. I would say it is a group that genuinely enjoys life and playing college basketball. I've gotten a million comments here from the support staff and volunteers: Your team's the most fun. Your team's the best to be around.

Got a lot of comments at the banquet last night that they're just the most comfortable. I'm very secure in the fact they play for the California across their chest and they're truly about the team and about each other that I'm okay that one of them has a mohawk and the other one has pink braids and the other one has brown hair and that when they're wearing stuff where you can be an individual some of them wear skinny jeans and some baggy jeans and some wear the prom dress last night and some don't. It's a really unique group that is just comfortable in their own skin and comfortable playing for Cal.

I think collectively they're really smart. We're at the number one public university. They're very socially conscious. They're aware of things beyond basketball. They play really hard. They're super competitive. They get most competitive about things with their teammates, like "don't say something bad about my teammate" kind of thing. And they just genuinely they dance every day.

They can break out into kind of song, but it's just really a neat kind of mixture of serious and focus on basketball and school, and then a whole lot of fun also.

Q. Lindsay, what sort of outside activities have you been able to enjoy here aside from the schedule of events?

COACH GOTTLIEB: Well, there's a lot of things scheduled, and those things are fun. It's not like we've been off doing our own thing. But when we got here, there was a New Orleans kind of Jazz band welcoming us walking in and king cake and just the welcome there. Yesterday we had the media stuff and the salute dinner. We tried to mix in like our meals even at the hotel having gumbo and local sort of style things.

I think maybe on the way back from practice today we were going to do a sightseeing tour. But the main thing we haven't got to do yet is Cafe du Monde, trying to fit that in somewhere, trying to soak in the flavor of everything. At the same time obviously it's a business trip and there's a lot of scheduled things and trying to keep the normalcy of our game prep while we kind of mix in these other things.

Q. Rebounding is a big part of your team's success. How important will that be tomorrow considering Louisville doesn't have that kind of interior game you guys do?

COACH GOTTLIEB: It's going to be incredibly important. It's certainly a part of our identity, huge factor in our success all the time. We don't take it for granted. They'll tell you in the locker room every single game somehow find a way to weave that into a key to the game. I try to say it a different way: Rebound like they've never seen anyone before. And rebound only like Cal can.

I don't take for granted that we're pretty good at it. We emphasize it all the time. But I think it will be a factor.

Q. You've been pushing a rock up a hill for a long time, that being your neighbor to the south. You've beat them in the regular season. You're here and they're not. Do you feel like you're up over that hill finally?

COACH GOTTLIEB: Well, I think all along we've got such a tremendous respect for Stanford. And even going through this year, Tara and I shared text messages through the postseason. I've told her: You make it look easy, and it's not easy. I have respect for the consistency of excellence.

That being said, it's been for us about trying to create another elite program in the Bay, trying to make Cal basketball one of the programs across the country that gets to do things like this.

So we see it as, wow, we've achieved one of those goals. We've gotten Cal to the Final Four. We are in the elite. And we think that's great.

It doesn't really kind of factor in for us, oh, and Stanford's not here. I think we were just focused on us getting to this level. I think they've been supportive of us trying to get here. And we hope for years to come that we're at this level, and if that means competing with them more regularly, then great. But it doesn't feel any better that they're not here; it just feels great for us to be here.

Q. Lindsay, when you run into an opponent that has recently developed a persona as a team of destiny, is that something you're cognizant of to talk to your players about, prepare in a special way, or do you not care at all and just focus on yourself?

COACH GOTTLIEB: We care about what they're running and how they're getting those open looks. And, yeah, sure, I'm cognizant of the fact they're hot and why are they hot and what do we need to cool that down. We talk to our players about that, but it becomes more about specifics of how we want to defend them or what they've been doing well and not I think our kids pretty much think we've got a good thing going, too. We focus on what we do well and how to slow down the opponent, and that's like just the kind of normalcy of our prep.

Q. Lindsay, I hope you get your beignets at some point. The expectation is Baylor would be the team you're playing. Since you're playing Louisville, obviously that's a team impressive they beat a team like Baylor. Does it make it any harder, though, to take them not take them seriously, but to be prepared in the way you want to be, because they accomplished this great thing but they're not the team that everyone would have expected to be here?

COACH GOTTLIEB: I mean, I think we're in the Final Four; you know that your focus has to be completely on the team that you're playing. And there's no way that any of us would we haven't taken a game lightly all year. We had to win every single Pac 12 game after splitting Stanford to get to the championship, whether that was the next top team or anyone else.

So this team has a real mentality of whoever's in our way is the most important game in the history of the world. That's kind of how they have approached it.

So absolutely we don't we're not thinking about Baylor. We're not thinking about anybody else but Louisville and all the things they do well and what makes them such a serious threat to us, and those are the things we're trying to be ready for.

Q. Coach, Louisville has done a good job of kind of taking away other teams' stars, and in their defense, at least in the half court, it looks like they could change from in the middle of a possession. Can you talk about that and describe exactly what makes Louisville's defense so tough?

COACH GOTTLIEB: I think it's exactly what you mentioned. I think they're really good and they're at their best when they're making you uncomfortable, when they make you off kilter. I think Jeff does a really good job of figuring out what's going to make another team uncomfortable and trying to play to that.

And so we've talked about not being rattled by their changing defenses, not focusing on what they're doing and focusing on kind of the looks we're trying to get and how we're trying to play.

We have faced a number of different kinds of defenses that either try to slow down Layshia or pack it in on our post or do some kind of junk defense, box and one and triangles and two. And we've faced various things like that before.

The key with our players is not letting them dictate how we want to play on offensive end, and I think that's what they're so good at doing and it leads to their offensive production when they're turning you over.

Q. Along the line of not playing Baylor, seems like this tournament you've been a little bit fortunate, didn't have to play Texas Tech on its floor. Got away with the fouls against South Florida, and you didn't have to play Gonzaga didn't make it to its own regional. Didn't have to play Stanford. There's an old saying about being more lucky than good. Do you feel you all were lucky in who you didn't have to play?

COACH GOTTLIEB: I definitely agree that a lot has to go right in order to get to this point. But I also think there's a huge impact that our players have in making things go right. I thought Fresno State was a terrific 15 seed. I thought South Florida was one of the best teams we faced all year. That's a team that took Notre Dame to overtime.

And I thought LSU and Georgia were tremendous competition for us. So have we won pretty every single game? No. And I think we can play better. But I think the teams that were in front of us at each stage were really formidable and we had to get the job done. And so I think we looked at the task at hand and got it done and feel very excited and fortunate to be here. But "luck" isn't the kind of word that comes into it in my mind.

Q. Lindsay, do you think Layshia has been overlooked nationally; and, if so, why? COACH GOTTLIEB: Yes, 100 percent. Absolutely. I just she's an All American. She has had an All American type season, consistently, and now she's helped take her team to the Final Four.

When people ask me what's the difference between us this year and last year, the players that returned were all better. And Layshia has played like an All American all year, which is what you need in order to go from being really good to being the elite.

I don't know, is she overlooked because we're on the West Coast and people don't see her as much? I think at times if she was wearing one of these other uniforms she would be one of the biggest names in the country.

But I think she's quietly and steadily earned that respect from the people who really watch basketball and who really know. So I think some of it is a West Coast thing. I think some of it is the fact that we've kind of splashed on the national scene this year and she wasn't necessarily on that stage for all four years.

I think another piece of it may be our balance; that we haven't needed her to score 25 every game; that she's really good at distributing and playing within the flow. I could go on and on. And she's an unbelievable student athlete. She was the Scholar Athlete of the Year in the Pac 12. She's a tremendous teammate. She plays both ends of the floor. There's not more, I think, one person could do for a team within the context of being at this level.

Q. Did you ever imagine that you would be coaching a team to the Final Four? How did you prepare the Cal team to make it this far this season?

COACH GOTTLIEB: That's a great question. Did I ever imagine it? I did. I don't know what you dream about. But a lot of people have asked like, as a kid a friend and I would take like a fake tape recorder and we would do imaginary press conferences.

And she would dream about playing in the Final Four, which she got to do, and I would dream at some point start thinking about coaching here.

When I watched other coaches coach in this kind of setting, I've said: Wow, what would it be like to do that? And you visualize it in your head, and yet it's still better than I ever imagined.

In terms of the team, I think what I did is I gave them a belief to prepare them for this. When I first got the job I said: We have everything we need in this room, we just need to believe it.

We need to work really hard, and I think that's the best way to prepare them, because now I can look at them when we were leaving Berkeley for New Orleans, I said: You just need to pack yourselves. You need to pack your heart and your toughness and your jump shot, your rebounding and just bring us.

And I think that's the best way to prepare them is to make them feel confident and comfortable in who they are and the way we've done things.

Q. Who was the friend who made the Final Four?

COACH GOTTLIEB: Her name is Hilary Hike. It was Hilary Howard. Played at Duke. She was in the '99 Final Four, the team that knocked off Tennessee. Just kind of a neat story. She's the one who introduced me to Joanne Boyle, who was her assistant coach at Duke, who then hired me.

Kind of a funny story, because Geno really recruited her very hard. She ended up going to Duke. And our high school coach now is really good friends of Geno, runs his restaurant.

I joke that I have a job because you went to Duke and our high school coach has a job because you said no to Connecticut. And now she and her whole family are here. It's kind of fun. We joke: Wow, we both ultimately made a Final Four. Pretty neat.

Q. You're an East Coast person. Could I get your thoughts on the Big East, them having three teams here. And Geno really ripped the president for destroying the conference to chase the football money. What's the West Coast version of what the Big East is going through in terms of the realignment?

COACH GOTTLIEB: From being an East Coast kid growing up, I grew up watching a lot of Big East men's basketball, Syracuse and Georgetown and you know Seton Hall and the great games. My first coaching game was Syracuse when I was 21 years old. So really familiar with the passion for basketball, the commitment to basketball.

There's a lot of great teams, obviously UConn and Notre Dame have sort of carried the banner, and then everyone else has sort of risen to a higher level because of the success that UConn had. It's a great conference. We're excited that they let us join the party here from the West Coast.

But I think the college athletics world is changing. We're really excited about the Pac 12. I think there's so many incredible schools and great things going on. But you look at the conferences breaking up from the nostalgia standpoint, it's a little sad. But new rivalries will develop. And I guess all we can do is kind of go forward and hopefully get some new good rivalries.

Q. So I was wondering like how do you encourage your students, like your team to keep up the good grades and still be good in basketball?

COACH GOTTLIEB: That's a great question. They know from the minute that they step on campus and probably even when I'm recruiting them that the academics is just as important as the basketball, that they go hand in hand; that they're both a priority.

We help them schedule their time so that they have class and practice and study hall and weight training; that everything is a priority all at once. And I think more than anything, I think when they know that it's important to me and the whole program, it's important to them as well. And they do a really good job of balancing both, and we talk about their classes and we talk about the basketball.

But I just think positive motivation is the best way to do it, to let them make them believe what they can achieve when they end up with a degree from Cal and playing on this basketball team.

Q. Lindsay, when you ask questions, when you were the reporter, were you rude, and did you have gravy stains on your lapel?

COACH GOTTLIEB: Definitely not.

Q. Lindsay, how much film have you watched on Louisville the last couple of days, and are there specific games that you've keyed on to try to learn something about them?

COACH GOTTLIEB: I've watched a lot of film. And you always try and get sort of a diversity of film to watch. I like to watch teams that play defense the way we play defense so I can see kind of what they do. I have specific coaches that I kind of, their game plans resonate with me; this is where this person did this or that.

And then I look at obviously teams that we're successful against them and teams where they were really successful, knowing what you have to not do. So obviously I always start with the most recent games. I've watched all their tournament games, obviously. And I kind of look at some other games within their conference, of teams I'm familiar with and how they defend.

Are you asking me for those teams specifically? Honestly, like I always watch how Notre Dame and UConn guard people, because I think not that we do everything the same way. I like to watch how Stanford guards people, not that we do everything the same way, but you can get a sense of what they're trying to do and how did that work. THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

#30, Mikayla Lyles, California
On reaching the Final Four:
"We're excited. We're so happy to be here. It's just a testament to how hard we've worked. We get to relish in one of the highest stages of women's basketball right now, so we get to get out there and play again. We are one of four teams that get to keep practicing and playing on April 6th. It's a blessing."

On the first four rounds of the tournament:
"It was a cool couple rounds. We played some tough teams, by no means were those games easy. They were good preparation for what's ahead of us."

On New Orleans:
"It's been great, it's so cultured here. All the festivities, the welcoming the Final Four has put on for us has been awesome."

#25, Gennifer Brandon, California
On reaching the Final Four:
"It's very exciting. We just have to focus on our main goal, which is to win games and also have fun."

On the tournament to this point:
"It's been pretty hectic. It was a lot of traveling. It's hard to try and stay on top of school, but we're doing it and trying to stay together. Pretty much we're all the family we have right now. We're keeping each other focused and happy - we've had good times together on this trip."

On New Orleans:
"It's been wonderful. It's very cultured here. It's a very giving place, and it is really cool to be here."

#2, Afure Jemerigbe, California
On enjoying your stay in New Orleans:
"I'm loving every minute of it, we are all having a blast in New Orleans."

On your biggest challenge as your team enters the Final 4:
"I think our biggest challenge is the fact that we haven't been here before, and we have a lot of experienced teams here. We don't have any expectations, just come out here, leave it all on the floor and go 100%."

#1, Tierra Rogers, California
On enjoying your stay in New Orleans:
"I'm enjoying New Orleans; it's a pleasure to be out here."

On your team's biggest challenge coming into the Final 4:
"Our biggest challenge is being mentally prepared and staying focused."

On some advantages your team has in this tournament:
"Our team likes running, being aggressive and playing together. Our chemistry is unbelievable off the court and that leads to our success on the court."

#15, Brittany Boyd, California
On the Cal team's recent success:
"This is our first Final Four appearance and our second Sweet 16, and this experience is just really good for us. It is good for our school and good for our program, and it is helping to put the West Coast on the map for women's basketball. Being in the Final Four is definitely helping to show the talent that we have in the Pac-12."

On the support the Cal team has received:
"This has been a great experience for my teammates and I, and also for our coaches. We have been getting a lot of support from other schools and players in the Pac-12. I think our biggest supporters are our families and the Cal fans. We really appreciate all the support since we are playing on the road."

On head coach Lindsay Gottlieb:
"Coach Gottlieb didn't recruit me, but she has been great for our program. Winning our first Pac-12 championship this year was a great feeling. Coach Gottlieb has gotten us to believe in her and trust her, and she has led the way. We just keep getting better."

On facing Louisville:
"I'm expecting a tough battle, a very physical and fast game. It will be a good experience for both of the teams. I am really looking forward to playing in front of the Final Four crowd."

On the Final Four experience:
"The Final Four is amazing. The fan support, everyone here being so nice and police escorts are really making us feel the love right now. It is so nice and I'm loving this experience."


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