USA 80, Czech Republic 61 -- Additional Quotes

August 16 , 2004  • Athens, Greece

USA head coach Van Chancellor
On the play of Zuzana Klimesova:
It's amazing, I do a little television in the winter time for the Southeastern Conference and I couldn't say her name for three years and I called her the Special K. And I think she repaid me tonight for all those nights when I mispronounced her name. She has 18 points, this might be the best I've ever seen her play. I'm going to call her college coach tonight, Jim Foster, and compliment him. Great kid, great job.

On the make-up of this year's women's Olympic team
One of the great advantages that I've had is that two of my players have been with me for eight years, meaning Sheryl (Swoopes) and Tina (Thompson). They understand everything that I'm trying to get across. So that's important. And, I've been with Dawn (Staley) and Lisa (Leslie) since 2002.

And the great play of the point guards is important?
I put Dawn out there and she understands everything that I'm trying to do. It's amazing. Mine and her philosophy is almost identical. Then, I put in Pee-Wee (Shannon Johnson) that has a great understanding and then Sue Bird has really developed. We have three true point guards and I cannot tell you what an advantage that is. I can call a play and get the ball where I want it.

On the composure of the team today when they were down
They had a real calm reaction. In the first timeout, the coaches were thinking a mile a minute ‘what are we going to do?' If they had my reaction, we would've got beat!

At that first time out, I said, we'll switch everything that's not involving Dawn Staley. Now, you talk about an advantage? Whoa! Is that an advantage that you can just do that? That's what I thought turned the tides for us.

Swin Cash (Detroit Shock)
Coach Chancellor credited you with providing a spark today, did you feel you did?
Yeah, somewhat, I'm starting to understand what my role is. I already knew what it was coming into the game but every game it evolves differently. I'm taking whatever minute that he puts me in there trying to be consistent and do something good.

Are you focusing on anything specifically?
Doing a lot of little stuff. If someone is scoring trying to come in there and be a defensive spark., rebound the basketball, try to make good plays, good decisions on offense and just contribute that's all. I don't think it's one thing in particular but if I'm called upon to bring certain things to the game then I'm able to do that. But overall I just try to go into the game and do all the little stuff.

Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever)
On the chemistry of the women's team
We've had plenty of time to play together. We played together in the World Championship and we've come here. With the addition of just a few extra players, we pretty much have the same team. So, I think for us, it's kind of easy because we fit in and know our roles.

On the biggest challenges to the USA women
Every team provides a challenge for us. The Czech Republic came out and they were up by nine in the first half. Every team brings something very different to the table. It's up to us to match the challenge and play against different defenses and try to figure out different ways to win games.

What turned it around today when the team went on two second half runs?
We talked at halftime. We said that over the last four games … the three exhibition games and the first game of the Olympics – we really didn't come out in the third quarter and attack. That's one thing the coaches said, when we come out we have to attack. That's what we did, especially defensively with steals in the passing lanes. Offensively, we were converting. That was the biggest thing.

Can you talk about the job your front line was able to do today, especially on the glass?
Everybody did a good job today. I think the biggest thing was that we came out in the 3rd quarter and our plan coming out of the locker room was just to attack them, jump on them and play great defense and et some easy baskets. And we did a great job, going on something like a 25 to 2 run, or something like that. It is something that we know we are capable of doing every game. Now it is up to us to figure out how we start the game like that.

It seems like the teams are coming out fired up to play you. What is the key to putting that fire out?
Everyone wants to beat the USA. If you watched the men last night, Puerto Rico came out fired up. The same thing for us tonight. They came out and jumped on us and were shooting like what seemed like 95%. We knew that once we picked up our defense and got our hands in their faces, we could slow them down.. And we did.

Yolanda Griffith (Sacramento Monarchs)
On whether the men's loss made the women's team more focused on winning today:
You can't compare us to the men, all we can do is focus on USA Basketball as the women's team. We've been working very hard as a team, trying to settle down on the turnovers, that's our main focus. We're not focused on anything else. We know that on any given day, anything is possible. We're just trying to come out as a USA Basketball team. We're supporting (the men's team), we're supporting the swimmers, we're supporting everybody. But our main focus is to do what we need to do as a team.

How have you been able to build your chemistry so quickly?
With the experience we have with the veterans on this USA team, then you have some young players on the team. It doesn't take a lot of time to get the chemistry going. Tonight was a great effort for our team. Each practice has been great, there's been a lot of improvement. We know we have to get better if we want to get to the final game.

Shannon Johnson (San Antonio Silver Stars)
What's the difference between being an Olympian and a member of the World Championship team?
There's a big difference. When you actually become an Olympian that's what all athletes dream of. Any time you're an athlete and want something you just work hard at it and you're final goal is to become a professional first of all and then to actually become an Olympian is the top honor for every athlete.

What was the key to victory tonight?
I think the most important thing is we stuck with it, we kept working hard. They shot a lot of shots, they hit a lot of big shots in the beginning. What it allowed us to do is settle back, keep running our things and eventually we'll have a chance to stop them We put our press on them and got ourselves back in the game. In the third quarter our starter started the game and took control from the beginning.

How important is it going to be that this team has 12 very talented players?
What it gives our coaches the ability to do is give different looks. One good thing is it allows us to come off the bench and work hard. A lot of us know what we've got to do. We're willing to accept our roles....it's a lot of fun playing with the players, you get in with the veterans, you get in with the younger players, and it's a lot of fun when you see people not caring about their name on the back. It's a lot of fun because we work the ball and we have people who can put the ball in the hole and you see it that every time were out on the floor. You see us smiling out there on the floor and that's what basketball is all about.

Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks)
Czech Republic's guard got four fouls in the first quarter and then two other players had four fouls by half:
Sometimes you don't realize that it's the same person that's fouling and I didn't realize it until I came to the bench that their point guard had four and then the post player. We were really trying to be aggressive inside.

We have Dawn Staley who is our captain, who's our leader and she and I, I guess, have the most international experience because we've been playing together the last 15 years. So that's one connection, there there's Sheryl Swoopes who has been with us since 1995

How important is that you are passing your experience from past Olympics down to the younger players?
Katrina McClain and Teresa Edwards were our leaders. They were constantly taking us under their wing, whether it was physically showing us in practice the defense or just the competitiveness of getting out there, but we had players who were the veterans and led us and that's just our duty to do that.

About the men losing Sunday:
We look at it as more of a family. We're all together here and we're cheering for them no matter what happens. Obviously as Americans, the USA, gold is our goal for every sport. We never come here thinking we just want to medal or get silver, that's not it our thoughts. So we're cheering for them. It's pool play and they just have to win it differently. Obviously it was embarrassing to us to experience that loss yesterday, but at the same time it's not over. That day is over and they still have an opportunity for gold.

Do you feel like you're gaining momentum, are you on the right path after the first two wins?
We're on the right path but that game is over, everything I did out there is over and I have to get ready for our next opponent because even after pool play there was a time we crossed , beat Australia, then came back and played Australia again, beat them again, then played Brazil in the gold medal (game) in 1996. So we could see the Czechs again easily and it could be a one-point game. So I never get too high or low about the competition, that game's over and we need to move on.

Dawn Staley (Charlotte Sting)
On the USA's second half performance today
The Czech Republic came out really strong, hitting all their shots. We know that they are not going to beat teams in the first quarter and maybe not in the half. But, during the course of the game, we can usually wear folks out and put on a big run. That's what we did to secure a lead and then we were able to play everybody.

With the fact that this is your third Olympics, does it ever get old?
No, it never gets old for me because this is basketball in its purest sense. It takes me back to the days when I would wake up in the morning, brush my teeth and go right out to the court to play. When there's nothing involved, no politics…just you and nine other guys on the court playing and you're playing for just pride.

Talk about that bond with your teammates
It's tremendous. We've got a funny group of girls. They're serious, they're intense, but at the same time, they know what the stakes are here and we're really focused on that. The competition is tough and we can't take anybody lightly. We are everybody's best game. We're the team everybody is shooting for and everybody measures how they are playing against us. So, the adrenaline for them is just overflowing and they might make shots that they don't usually make. We just have to take their runs and not succumb to the pressure.

Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets)
What is your reaction to the crowds that have been watching you play?
The fan core for both games…New Zealand the other day and the Czechs today and all our fans have been very supportive. I have been pretty impressed that regardless of what the numbers are, I feel that the fans have really gotten into the games, have ben very excited about it and have definitely cheered their countries on.

How did the team play today?
I thought overall we came out and executed, did the things that we wanted to do and needed to do and walked out of here with a W today. There was a time today that Coach Chancellor said we possibly could have given up a little bit , the first quarter especially when they came out and could not miss. Defensively I thought we were on them and doing everything I thought we could do defensively, but they were just hitting shots.

But once we turned up our defense, especially in the second half, we were a lot more aggressive and slowed them down a little bit. Once they cooled off, I thought that was the biggest difference in the game. I don't think they really got their transition game going and that's one of their biggest strengths.

I thought both offensively and defensively we executed well as a team. It's good to get another win.

What was the key part of the game for the USA?
Their point guard had four fouls in the first quarter and that was huge for us. They had to bring in her sub and she is not as aggressive as their starting point guard, so we were able to attack her a little bit more in our press.

The second half especially we turned up our press and we were just running and jumping. They weren't able to throw the ball where they wanted to. We forced some turnovers and we were able to convert those into some layups.

What will the next game (vs. South Korea) be like?
They are a different type of a team from the Czechs. The Asian players play a completely different style of basketball than we do. They don't relly have a true center. All 5 players play all 5 positions. And they shoot the ball from long range. We will have our hands full defensively. We should be able to kill them inside with Yolanda, Ruth, Tina, Leslie. That will probably be our game plan. I am not the coach, but we will probably take the ball down low. Defensively we will have our hands full from outside. All five of our players will have to guard out on the perimeter.

Tina Thompson (Houston Comets)
On today's game:
The game was really competitive and we started off a little slow. The Czech team was really strong offensively, they were hitting shots. I think for awhile that we didn't think they were going to miss. We kept up our defensive plan and continued to pressure.

In our first game we were a little anxious, trying to get things done. We had been traveling for awhile and I think anxiety was something that affected us in the first game. But today we were a lot more patient, it's something that we've been practicing in practice and because we have so many talented players, everyone's wanting to get the job done.

Their point guard got into a little foul trouble. Their second point guard doesn't handle the ball as well as their starting point. Their starting point guard is really strong. When that happened we wanted to pressure their second point guard as much as possible and hope they would turn the ball over and give us the chance to create offensive off of our defense.

On the physical games:
The physicality is very high here. The games are very competitive and that's what we expect. We know that no team is going to give us anything easy. Our inside game is very strong. Lisa has created quite a presence in that she does what she does best inside. They're not going to allow us to pass the ball in to her or for her to get easy shots. It's definitely physical, but she's taking most of the beating so I have no complaints (laughs).





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