USA 99, New Zealand 47-- Additional Quotes

August 14 , 2004  • Athens, Spain

USA head coach Van Chancellor (Houston Comets)
On the team's veterans:
I was talking with Larry Brown (USA men's head coach) and I realized how valuable our experience is when I think about our players like Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley and Sheryl Swoopes. They have the ability to get us to do the things we need to do to win a game. Then on a night like tonight when they struggled early, put in those young guns and allow them to rock and roll. They turned it around and that made all 11 players better. When they went in that made the first five play better.

Where does Yolanda Griffith fit in?
Yolanda Griffith in my mind right now is one of the premiere players in the whole Olympics, she gives us something nobody else can. A player who is absolutely, positively good enough to start, can rebound, can block shots and can defend. Having Yolanda Griffith, I'm able to sleep at night.

Were you pleased with the result of the game today?
I thought we played really, really well. A lot of people would take our stat sheet and think we turned the ball over too much, but that's because they counted offensive fouls as turnovers so that was a portion of it. I thought the turnovers were a little high but I played so many players together. We're suppose to beat New Zealand by whatever and we beat New Zealand by whatever, and that's what I'm happy about. If we had won by 20 I wouldn't be happy. We were suppose to beat them 99 to whatever it was and that's what we did.

The players were saying this is the best passing they done:
Yeah, yeah because we've been on them for four days. We have now had four real practices. Those practices we had in New York weren't real practices, they were just make believe practices. I traveled so much I couldn't work. The last four practices we practiced for two hours and 15 minutes. Let me just tell you, I mean non-stop. Getting their attention, not putting up with things, talking to the team about sharing. The one thing that USA Basketball stands for is sharing the ball. If we do one thing we've got to share the ball.

What about your next opponent, the Czech Republic?
We have played the Czechs, they had us 26-11 over there. I didn't have all the players, but they still had us 26-11. This is the same team in the qualifying deal that Russia beat 59-56. This is a really, really good team that's young that we're playing. Really young but really good. They (the USA team) know that. They've been around. You call Lisa, Dawn and Sheryl and all the them and say ‘hey ladies, let me tell you something, we're going to have a battle tonight.' They're going to listen. I don't have to worry, this game (vs. New Zealand) is over with. When we go the film room in the morning I will not mention this game. I will not let anyone around me mention this game. I won't let the Greek interpreters on my bus mention this game.

What about Diana Taurasi?
Here's where I see Taurasi. This is an amazing player. The only player I've ever coached that I told with over two minutes to go that if she didn't shoot the next ball she touched I was taking her out. I couldn't get here to shoot enough. Now whatever ‘it' is, you know they said Magic Johnson had ‘it,' they said Larry Bird had ‘it,' they said Cynthia Cooper had ‘it,' they said Nancy Lieberman had ‘it,' whatever that is, Diana Taurasi has it, a sixth sense. You come up and trap here and she just throws over her head, if it's shot time, ohhh, she's just a special player. She's going to be one of the all-time greats if she keeps working.

Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
On the youth of the Olympic team:
Coach Chancellor has said, he didn't pick this team for '08, he picked this team to be prepared for '04. We are focused on where we are right now and what we're doing right now. But, I don't see any reason why – the guys you saw on the court at the end – we'll be in Beijing. But, that's not to say … I think Lisa and Sheryl still have got a lot left. For Dawn, she claims it's her last Olympics but you never know?

What have the veterans taught you about their experience from the last two or three Olympics?
It's really just the little things. Like…'Hey Dawn, what should I bring to Opening Ceremonies?' or ‘Lisa, what do we wear for this or where do we have to be? Can we bring cameras? The little things like that. On the court? You just have to watch them. You watch how hard they play. Everyday in practice, you think it's a game at our practice with how intense they are. They raise the level of intensity for everyone else. For me, being a point guard…Dawn teaches me so much. How to lead a team. Even though you have Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes, you can still tell them where to go and that's important as a point guard. You have to lead.

On today's game:
I think that today was a step in the right direction for us. We haven't been able to train all that much, so to get this first game under our belt and to win the way we did and most importantly to play the way we did, I think is a great start for us.

Being aggressive throughout, regardless of the score, is that a trademark of this team?
I think so. It's not us trying to beat up on teams, it is more so for us. We want to get better with every game we play, with every practice we have. And yet, at the same time, yes you do want to send a message. There are players from different teams watching these games, coaches are scouting and we need to send the right message to them about what we are all about.

When you guys came in as that second unit, after the rough start, were you trying to get something going?
I think that the next five that coach subbed in in that first quarter, we play really well together. We just went out there and played. We rebounded, we got loose balls and did all those little things. I think Diana and Swin and Yolanda really got us going.

Yolanda Griffith (Sacramento Monarchs)
On the team's rebounding effort:
We love to rebound and play defense. I don't know how many rebounds we had today over them, but it was a great team effort.

Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks)
Tell me about the development of this team:
I think we're continuing to get better and we're going to get better every game. Every person has to step up in different ways so we're playing good team basketball. We've got to get better on defense and we will continue to do that.

This is a long tournament:
It's definitely a situation where we'll take it one team at a time, one game at a time. We don't underestimate our opponent. Our next game is again Czech Republic which is a very strong team, and we like it that way. We have a game every other day so we get an opportunity to scout, watch the other team and prepare, go out there and just roll.

The team played well today. Is the team as good as everyone has heard and is expected to be?
We're happy about the win today, but it's over. It's kind of like what have you done for me lately. This day is over and this game is over and now we have to look forward to the Czechs who are a very good team. They are a different style. Obviously a a lot stronger and a more physical team that can shoot the ball. It will definitely be a different style and probably a different score. We are working hard to keep teams from scoring a lot of points with our defense and we want our defense to really help ignite our offense.

How different is the Olympic style of basketball for you?
For me personally? Well, I think it was an adjustment. The international style is more physical. This team today (New Zealand) decided to double and triple and scratch and hold and do everything they could. I just tried to not get frustrated and go out there and play. Obviously, I look to get better and better and be stronger in the next game than I was today. And I will keeping building until we get to the Gold Medal.

How well did the team play together?
I thought that we came out a little flat in the beginning, a little nervous, but once we got our first field goal and kind of got into our defense, our defense is what really ignited our offense. I thought overall we did a good job and played good team basketball. We played together and shared the ball.

Dawn Staley (Charlotte Sting)
How great is it having Yolanda Griffith back? How valuable is she?
She is tremendously valuable. She's a walking rebound machine. There is nobody in the world who plays like Yolanda. Cathings is close, she's close, but as far as rebounds and rebounding the basketball she is probably the best in the world.

What makes her that way?
The hunger. She never gives up on plays. She is selfless. And you need players like that when you are playing in the Olympics because you have Lisa, you have Sheryl, you have Tina. They are l used to having the ball and scoring the ball. Then you have Yo who , when they miss shots, she is right there, cleaning it up.

How close are you to being comfortable in turning it over to the young kids?
Comfortable after this stint here. Not before the Olympics, after them. You have to have people who understand and play on the Olympic level to know. It takes talent to win, but it also takes a little bit of experience, a lot of experience to know what the expectations are. We're just trying to show them what it takes.

Taurasi looked pretty good out there , has she made a quick adjustment?
Yeah. She can play. D can flat out play basketball. She just has a God-given talent to play the game. She has to get some experience. I think Diana is probably a little too selfless out there. She needs to shoot the basketball a little bit more out there. In the next Olympics she is probably going to be relied on heavily to shoot the ball so she has got to get a feel for the Olympic game. She has given up a lot of shots today and that is from wanting to share the basketball.

Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets)
On the Olympic experience:
Playing in this Olympics is as exciting as the other two that I've played in. It's a great opportunity to come here and represent our country and to play with the best players in the world, playing against the best players in the world. We have a mixture of players. We have some veterans, we have some players that have never been here before and we have some players that are right down the middle. So, it's exciting for me. To play with Dawn (Staley), Katie (Smith) and Tina (Thompson), but also getting a chance to play with Swin (Cash), Sue (Bird) and Diana (Taurasi) who haven't been here before. It's a great mixture of players and of talent. I'm just excited about it again.

On the slow start:
It was definitely a slow start. That's probably one thing we didn't want to do but for whatever reason we always seem to do that. We start off slow and then we usually start off the third quarter the same way. I think it was a little bit of everything, the excitement of being here again, our first game, all the fans we had here were incredible, it just took us awhile and everybody had to just settle down. Once we started doing the things we do in practice everyday, moving the ball, sharing the ball, playing great defense, I think that was the biggest turnaround in the game.

Diana Tarausi (Phoenix Mercury)
You are playing some tough team, but this is kind of a special deal. Is this a step up?
You know, there is just such a blend of old and new talent and sometimes that makes it kind of hard to get to get good chemistry. But so far we've been willing to put our egos aside, you know, minutes and points aside and just go and win.

Who do you anticipate being the stiffest competition?
There are a lot of good teams—Russia, Australia and in our group I think the Czech Republic is going to be our toughest competition. They played Russia to a five point game in the Euro Championship.

Being a rookie, do you have to carry projectors and luggage and things like that?
No, I just have to get muffins for Lisa (laughter). That's about it. Nah, they've been good.

Talk about your second unit…
The second group, we just try to bring some energy. That's what we have on our side, that youth and that energy, so we try to pick up the pace, get some easy buckets and wear them out for the other group.

You guys did a lot of passing and moved the ball around a lot. Can you comment on that?
That's the key. We have so many great players that you could fall into one pass and create your own shot, but that sometimes would be too easy. When you play against good teams where every pas is going to be contested, where every shot is going to be contested, you need that ball movement and team play that we had today.

You guys were up by 50 points today and made it look easy. Do you think there is any danger of ever slacking off?
That's an important point. It is important that whether we are up 50 or 10 or 2 that we play the same way. The minute you start changing the way you play is the minute you start getting worse as a player and as a team.

What are the veterans with Olympic experience showing you?
They've been great about showing us what the experience is all about and their tradition. Dawn (Staley) has been saying how this will be her last Olympics and how she wants to go out the right way, but at the same time telling us she wants to show us how to win a gold medal. And that's one of the reasons they brought her in to this team. She is such a great leader. They give us the things to think about, how dominating they have been in the last 2 Olympics and how we have to keep it going for all the people.

Tina Thompson (Houston Comets)
On the Olympic experience:
It feels good. When you play a sport and you are a professional athlete, you want to be as competitive as you possibly can to play at a high level. For us, this is the highest level. Olympic basketball is the top. It doesn't get any better than this. The winner of this tournament is the best in the world. It is bigger than anything we've ever done up to this point.

Does the score send a message?
We want to send messages. We want to get every advantage that we possibly can and play as hard and at as high of an intensity level that we can. So, I think the score of this game tells a story in itself.




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