USA 102, Greece 72 • Additional Quotes

August 25 , 2004  • Athens, Greece

USA head coach Van Chancellor
On the challenges of making everybody happy and keeping everybody focused:
When we started, we gathered this team in 2002 (for the World Championship) and in 2004, we said the one thing we would not do was worry about who was unhappy as long as the coach was happy. I'm pretty happy and that's all that matters. We are not going to play people based upon whether they are happy or unhappy. We're here to win a gold medal. We're here to win the next game. All of that (other stuff) doesn't matter. You can't coach worried about who's happy and who's unhappy.

On getting on the team as a coach, but being easygoing off the court:
I would say that's true about me off the court. I'm a pretty easygoing guy off the court. Only when I lose to them in cards am I in a bad mood. But I don't like to lose at anything. On the court I can't stand to have breakdowns defensively or not play very smart. I didn't know that I was too hard on them, Maybe I am. I didn't realize that. I'll try to ease up on Friday... I'll try to ease up Sunday morning (smiles).

At the end of the game, you continued pressing and moving the ball around. Are you trying to send a message to the rest of the teams?
I don't believe in sending messages. I don't care who you have in there, I don't think you can put your subs in the game, or whatever you want to call them, then go over there on the bench, sit down and not coach them. I think Ruth Riley is just as important to me as any other player. I want her to understand, I want her to play and I want to coach her.

On how well Tina Thompson is playing:
She was having a MVP season, go hurt, now she's back having a MVP season. There's nobody better right now than Tina Thompson.

On Russia
Russia's depth really worries me. They have a lot of players, I think that's the one team that our depth would not hurt. I think that it's their overall size. No. 10 for them has really been a problem. She's really hurt us in the past, she's a young player who plays really well.

SUE BIRD (Seattle Storm)
On today's game
It was really special. We were sitting on the bench and all of the sudden we were up 20. You have to give them a lot of credit - they played very hard and made some incredible shots. But when we are cooking like that, I don't think people can keep up.

On the new arena
It is definitely a different atmosphere. It is much bigger and a lot more people. It was a really tough environment and it was also a challenge for us to keep the crowd quiet. We didn't want them to get into it.

On Yolanda Griffith's performance today
We call her 'Go-Go Gadget' arms because that's what it looks like - she sticks that arm out there and just sucks the ball in. She does all the dirty work - gets those rebounds and put backs. I have never seen someone grab rebounds with one arm like she does.

About Tina Thompson
She is a power forward that can shoot the ball - she is money, one of the best shooters on the team. She is so smart and it is easy to play with her.

On the Olympic Experience
There is nothing else in sports like the Olympics. There are so many other athletes from so many places. I have been to beach volleyball and hopefully I will check out soccer - there is just so much going on and it is so exciting. For me, you can come to Greece anytime - you can come here to vacation any time of the year. But there is only one Olympics and I am trying to see all the events.

Big question—who has been the most dominant woman's team of the Olympics—the U.S. softball team, the U.S. beach volleyball team or the U.S. basketball team?
(Giggling) Well I have to say beach volleyball and softball right now. They are the only ones with the gold right now. Ask me that in a couple of days and I will tell you.

Tell me about coach Chancellor. On the court he is really tough, off the court he is a lot laughs. Talk about that.
You said it. He has a great balance between having a good time and being serious and getting to work. Even on the court he can be funny at times. But he knows when to do which, and I don't think everyone always knows when to do that. Sometimes you need a laugh and sometimes you need to be serious. And he just has that balance.

What's your favorite Van Chancellor saying?
There are so many. Well, he calls a 3-pointer a three-ball. The other day we were watching a TV interviews Lisa had done with Pat O'Brien and he asked her some question and I was dying laughing because all of a sudden she was saying, ‘You know we have post players and guards who can hit the three-ball.' And I was, like, oh man, we've been hanging out with this guy way too much.

You guys had 25 second chance points today. Do you just marvel at your team's offensive rebounding? Yolanda in particular….
Yolanda, in my mind, is one of the best offensive rebounders in the game. Not just offensive, but one of the best rebounders, period. We just have have horses down there…Yolanda, Tina, Swin, Lisa. And then you throw in guards like Diana and Sheryl, those are big guards. And Tamika Catchings crashes the boards better than anybody. We just mix it up, and if one doesn't get it, they tip it to the other one. When you have that many people attacking, it's incredible. They are big, they're tall and they're quick and that makes it hard to box them out. And then you have arms like Yolanda's and you can't box them out.

Does Tina Thompson get the notoriety she deserves?
Probably not. While you think she is one of the big names of the WNBA, this is her first Olympics. This is her first big true international stage and so I think for her to come in and do what she is doing, hopefully now she'll get it. The WNBA for us is a big deal, but for Joe Schmoe in America it probably doesn't mean much. But this is the Olympics, people look at that in a whole different light.

Basketball, soccer and softball are all doing so well, has there ever been a better time for little girls in the U.S.?
I don't think so. I think it's great for women's sports in general. Soccer is in the finals. softball won gold, beach volleyball won gold, hopefully we'll win a gold. Little girls can now have their pick of what they want to do, they Kerry Walsh, Mia Hamm, Jenny Finch, you name it, Lisa Leslie, they can look up to these player and pick and choose. Growing up, even for me I would never had thought to play beach volleyball, softball I wasn't into it, so it's great little girls can have people to look up to and have their choice of things to do.

Talk about your learning curve here because there is a Dawn (Staley), Pee-Wee (Shannon Johnson) at point guard....just what you're seeing and learning at the international level.
Who better to learn from than Dawn Staley? I mean its her third Olympics, I know she's a coach off the court too but when she's on there she is a coach. I love playing with her, and I love watching her, just the things she does. The way she can control a game without scoring a point. The way she leads everybody no matter who you are, what you're doing. She's the first one to yell at Lisa Leslie to get down in the post. She's the first one to tell Sheryl Swoopes what she needs to do defensively. She's a true point guard, coach on the floor and it's fun to watch.

What have you learned?
I'm definitely young, I don't have that experience and I think the only way to learn is to watch what she does and try and put it in my game. And that's what I've been trying to do, just be vocal. I think a true leader is someone when even things don't go your way, even if you miss a shot, turn the ball over, you can still get in your teammates face and tell them what to do and they respect that.

SWIN CASH (Detroit Shock)
On the game today with Greece
They played really well offensively but I think we had a bit of a size advantage and wore them down. It was a great atmosphere. We want to sell out the place!

You love to hear people chanting for their country and singing during the game. That doesn't happen in the WNBA so that has been neat to experience.

On playing Russia in the semifinals
There is definitely no love loss between us and Russia. It would be a great matchup - they having been waiting since the World Championships to get another chance to play us. We'll have to see what happens.

TAMIKA CATCHINGS (Indiana Fever)
Do you feel that with Dawn retiring and some of the other players getting older it is up to you and Sue and Swin and Katie and Diana to keep this thing going past 2004 and on to '08 and 2012?
Yeah, definitely. You think back to the '96 team and the older players passing on the torch to Dawn and Lisa and Sheryl and we are now in position. I mean, Dawn has already said that this is probably her last Olympics and that we are going to have to have other people step up. I think being able to be around these veterans this time, hopefully we have learned a lot form them and hopefully we will be able to carry that torch.

Who do you look up the most on this team?
The person I look up to the most is Dawn, how she reacts to different things, how she plays and what she is like on and off the court. I think I have learned a lot from her.

We came out and we were really focused. We jumped on them quickly, and that was the biggest thing for us. Going into the game, they came out, had the crowd behind them and they were great. I think it was a great game for us.

On the overall depth of the USA Women and the team's ability to rebound, especially on the offensive glass:
That is the key, from 1-to-12 is effective for us. Sometimes our shots fall and sometimes they don't, but the one great thing is that we have great offensive rebounders and with everybody crashing the boards, I don't think there's any team that can block out all five of us at the same time.

The depth is awesome for this team. From 1-to-12, we'll all very effective players and we're all very good players back in the WNBA. To have 12 great players on one team and to have that confidence in one another, even though you might be on the court or sitting on the bench. I think we all have that cohesiveness and we play so well together.

Did any of the veterans say today, that ‘we can't afford a misstep or we're out?
Yes, definitely. Dawn had a meeting before the game today and just told us, ‘Now it's single elimination. We want to win the gold, but if we lose any of the next few games, there's no way for us to win the gold. Looking at her, as our main captain, she sat us down and said, ‘Look, it's all or nothing.'

Where did that take place?
At the practice court.

You face Russia in the next round, and with Katie Smith out, and Russia having pretty good size, you will have to hit your 3-point shots…
I think as a team, collectively, we're all capable of hitting three's. It's just been a matter of the fact we've been able to get the ball inside to Lisa (Leslie) and she's been scoring, basically, at will.

We will go into a game against Russia, trying to attack them inside. If Lisa (Leslie) is not able to hit some shots, between myself, ‘D' (Diana Taurasi) has been hitting, Sue can hit the three. We're all capable of hitting a three; it's just a matter that we've been able to get the ball to Lisa and Tina (Thompson).

Is this team starting to peak? It seems you are getting better and better?
Definitely. We are still not at our best. We have a couple more games and, in the gold medal game, hopefully we'll be at our best. I think, like you say, each game we are getting better each game and we'll only get better from here.

YOLANDA GRIFFITH (Sacramento Monarchs)
We still have not played our best game yet. There are still things that we can work on. We controlled the tempo of the game by grabbing the boards and shutting them down. Even when we get up by 20 or 30, we have to stay focused and work to get ready for our next opponent.

How would you sum up the game today?
We still have some things to work on. I think we're not where we want to be, but you don't want to peak too soon. We want to still climb that ladder. Maybe whoever we play Friday, we might get to where we want to be, but we aren't there just yet. We're trying to establish our inside game and our outside game. There are so many things being said around here that we can't do this and we can't do that. We are pretty much not worried about that , we're just trying to play USA basketball. If we are up by 15 points, we want to go up by 20; if we are up by 20, we want to go up by 25. Right now we are just trying to keep our focus.

You guys looked pretty impressive out there today. What did the coach tell you after the game?
That it's not over. Continue to keep working on the little things. We are going to go at it tomorrow at practice.

I think that one of the big things with this team is that everyday at practice we beat the crap out of each other and get one another better. And that's what it is about. Every team that we are going to go up against is gunning for us. They want to beat us up, knock us around. We have to get to the line and make our shots and we have to keep our composure. No matter who starts, no matter who comes off the bench, everybody knows their role and that is one of the best things about this team. I think we are gelling at just the right time.

SHANNON JOHNSON (San Antonio Silver Stars)
On today's game:
We knew going into the game that we not only had to play against the fans, but we also knew how good this team was. We haven't underestimated any of the teams from Europe. We know how good they are. Every game we play against these European teams we know it's important to keep our focus. Right now we're worried about things we need to do on the court. Every team we play plays very different. The Greeks played very well. Every player out there played hard, especially (Anastasia Kostaki), she definitely showed us some things we need to work on. She's a very player.

On Greece's Anastasia Kostaki:
She was a very aggressive player. She went to the basket looking to score, she pretty much put her teammates in good positions to put the ball in the hole. We tried to contain her, we tried to put different people on her. That's what's going to happen when you go up against very good international players. We didn't underestimate any of the players on her team, but we knew she would be one player we'd have to work hard against. There are other players on that team that stepped up and had good games, but we know we had to stop her. We knew we had to contain her.

LISA LESLIE (Los Angeles Sparks)
On comparisons with the 2004 vs. the USA '96 team? How much would this team beat the '96 team by?
That hard because I'm the starting center on both of those teams. (Laughing). And, Dawn Staley was the point and Sheryl Swoopes was the ‘three.

So we might have a little conflict of interest there?
I was pretty hot in '96! But, all the pressure was on Katrina McClain. She was the player that everybody knew around the world and I was just a young kid, coming in and scoring all these points. Now, they know who I am and the double team is on me. But, with Tina (Thompson) out there and Yolanda (Griffith), it's a little bit looser on me and I might see single coverage. They are more in the role that I was in '96 and I am more in the role that Katrina had, demanding that double team.

What can women do now that they couldn't do then – physically and athletically?
That's kind of hard to determine. Cheryl Miller was a very talented player and had amazing athletic ability. She could get up, touch the rim. I think our abilities to start to play above the rim are really starting to come and really evolve. Otherwise, the game is the game. Basketball is basketball. When you have an understanding of it, you can perfect it.

Comparing '96, what was it like with Tara (VanDerveer) and the training she put you through, was that about her or was it about the pressure you were under?
It was both. It was the most grueling training that I have ever been through. It was the perfect timing. As Dawn and Sheryl and I have evolved, I don't know if I could say that I could go through Tara's training now, at this point, the way be did in '95 and '96. We toured year long and traveled the world. It was one bag for three months. But, it helped us understand international basketball.

Was all that work in '96, did everything you dreamed about come true? Less or more?
It has definitely come true. You can see with the WNBA has obviously created a lot of success and the opportunity to improve our game and a lot of players still go overseas, so you have that mixture of the two styles of basketball that are learning. And, obviously, we have some new, younger players that are coming in and now … it's become a cycle. That's something we didn't have before.

It's creating a new game for us. A new fan base. A lot of people thought that college was the best that there was. Now, it's encouraging little girls to work on their game and maybe become a professional basketball player in our country, but still have the opportunity to travel the world. It's growing and we're right on track. Obviously, if we win gold, we're feeling good about all the preparation that we've had since '96.

What do you get out of the competition? What satisfies you about the competition and the game?
What satisfies me is most is when we hear what other teams say about us and when we hear what other teams plan to do, maybe if they say, ‘the USA is so beatable.' The satisfaction for me is to leave here with a gold medal and not to talk trash about any team or anybody else. I think we are simply the best and we have to show that out on the court and that's it.

What about the pressure?
Pressure…pressure…pressure. What is pressure? Pressure is all about how you interpret it in your mind. Ten percent is basketball and the other 90-percent is how you interpret it in your mind. We go out there and I'm a machine. I work hard, lift weights, train, and come prepared. I've always been taught that there's always room for improvement. If you think you're good or the best, that's the day you stop improving. For me, there's always room to think that there's something that you could've done better out there on the court.

What are other points of motivation for you?
The USA. We're going to go out and do our best. We're going to give it our all and we're going to leave it out there on the floor. We come out with anything less? Then we feel like we've failed. Otherwise, that's what we come here for.

When you see some of the things written about the women's soccer or softball team, do you think ‘Hey, of the three teams we're really the ones who own our sport?
No…no…no! We are so supportive of each other. Mia (Hamm) and the soccer and volleyball team came out to our gold medal game in Australia and in '96 as well. We have come together at many events, the women's sports foundation, with Nike, so we are very supportive. Our battles are all the same. We respect each other and we all battle to get our little place. I would love to see highlights of softball, highlights of soccer and women's basketball on SportsCenter. Or regularly on the local news? We're very happy for each other. I think we're all in this together. Something like softball getting the gold medal is great for all women's sports.

It's so unfortunate that the soccer league has folded, we need that. Sometimes I say, it's not our fault that we were born as girls!

At the WNBA, we're working really hard. And, we're doing very well, by the way.

DAWN STALEY (Charlotte Sting)
We really honed in on doing the little things today. When you have people who are unselfish, it makes your job easier. It is my job to stay focused on who has the hot hand and distribute. We need to be consumed with what we came here to do. We need to get ready for our next opponent - that is it. Beat them and then we'll worry about the next opponent.

When you show that you are a superior team, what do you do to motivate yourself as a team?
We use different motivational things. Like the Greek team didn't believe we were a good outside shooting team and they don't believe that we are the best team here. They think Australia is the best team here. So when you hear things like that , it motivates you. You draw on what you can.

Was it fun to play in front of a crowd like this today?
It was fun, it was a lot of fun. I have a player who plays on the Greek team (Athena Christoforaki) and it was great playing against her. I love playing against a home crowd. We played against Australia in the gold medal game in 2000,so we knew we would be faced with a situation like that today. We won gold in Sydney so it was something we were used to.

Were you and Athena on the court at the same time?
We were…in the first half.

Were you coaching her?
I wasn't, but I was grabbing her! (laughter)

Did you say anything to her out there?
She had the ball and I was defending her teammate. She had the ball at the top of the key and I told her ‘Shoot it.'

Did she?
No. (laughter) She didn't listen to me then and she didn't listen to me back in Philadelphia!

SHERYL SWOOPES (Houston Comets)
What does the bench mean to the USA team:
It's important for us first of all to have a deep bench. The good thing about our bench is I think we're usually stronger than any of the other teams we're playing. Even though we bring a lot of young players off the bench I think we understand how important it is that they continue to come out and compete and really give us a lift off the bench, I think every player that we bring in, whether its Diana (Taurasi), or Ruth (Riley), or Swin (Cash) or Sue (Bird) I think they do an extremely good job of keeping our momentum going and sometimes they even get us going a little quicker.

I think our bench was a lot stronger than their (Greece) bench was today so we tried take advantage of that. Once you get this competition it's going to be tough to rely on just five or six players to get the job done, you are going to have to rely on your bench. That's always been our philosophy from the preliminary round to where we are now, is to try and wear other teams down because we know we're going to be able to bring players in off the bench that are going to be able to contribute.

You face Russia next, drawing from your past experiences what do you expect?
It's going to be a great match up. Some people might even consider it the gold medal match. We've seen them enough, they've played us enough, that we know what they're going to bring to the table and they know what we're going to bring. They're saying that this is going to be their year, they're going to knock us off, and it's going to be a challenge, it's going to be tough for 40 minutes. I think the key for us is to keep our key players out of foul trouble because the last two games we've gotten Dawn of Lisa or Tina into foul trouble. It's going to be a very aggressive game, very physical, and they're focused on winning the gold medal and obviously we are too. I think who ever comes out and executed for 40 ,minutes is going to be the team that comes out on top.

DIANA TAURASI (Phoenix Mercury)
On playing in the new arena used for medal round
That atmosphere really made it feel like the Olympics for me. The spirit of the crowd and all the people screaming made it really fun.

When you are on the Olympic team, you have to put all personal goals aside and focus on one thing - Coach Chancellor is great at helping with that.

Aggressiveness is the key to winning here. A lot of teams play not to lose and lose their intensity. We are focusing on staying intense.

There are still a lot of things we need to work on at both ends of the floor but every time we play, we feel a little more comfortable with each other.

We all know what's at stake now - lose and go home. There is no 'We'll get 'em next time' so we know we have to bring our best.

How important was it to take Greece out of their game early?
It's important—early and often. Teams like that don't go away. They play to the last buzzer. If you jump on them early, take the crowd out of it, get a good groove going, I think that is what the starting five did.

Tina Thompson had another strong game. What is it about that has her flying under the radar?
She is so versatile. There's not another player that is as versatile as her—inside, outside. She always works hard. She might not get attention that she deserves, but she doesn't care about that, she just wants to win.

With a crowd like that against, does that actually help your focus?
Oh yeah. I mean you just feel it—on the bus ride over, in the locker room—people were focused. This was an important game. We wanted to start out the medal round right and there was no better team than Greece at home and that was a test in itself.

Anastasia Kostaki (Greek player) just said she likes your team because you play hard. At one point in the second half you played really had on her when you took the ball on her…
That's the way we like to play—aggressive on both sides. Offensively, defensively, you never want to give the team a chance to breathe. And when we put that pressure on people it wears them down. I know she probably played forty minutes and by then her legs probably felt a little weird, but they hung in there the whole game.

She (Anastasia) is a tough player. She didn't back down. She had some of the best defensive players anywhere on her—Tamika Catchings, Shannon Johnson, I mean those are top-notch defenders. She can shoot, drive, pass defend. She is an all around player.

Is it fun playing in front of a crowd like that?
Oh yeah, it's always fun. You feel the energy, the buzz—even warm-ups are fun. Games like this are great. It really is fun.

Do you think anyone can stop you when you are clicking like this, especially with the inside game?
It's just so tough with those guys inside—Lisa, Yolanda and Tina—not many teams can match up with all three of them. Maybe one of them or two them, but all three of them? We just keep throwing waves of people in there. When we're clicking we're pretty good.

What do you expect from the Russians if you play them next?
You never know what to expect from Russia. You just know that once you start the medal round, they are going to throw everyone at you. They are going to put their best athletes in and play their best basketball.

TINA THOMPSON (Houston Comets)
What did Dawn (Staley) say as far as single elimination in the medal round versus the qualifying round, it's her last Olympics, it's your first Olympics...did the vets take the younger girls together and say we can't afford a miss step?
She just basically said she doesn't want to lose and especially at this point. And after a loss here there is nothing else. I think her basic comment that stuck with everyone was that, anything other than a gold medal is failure and we don't want to be failures at all.

Do you think the Olympics have been a missing part of your basketball experience?
I don't have any regrets about my career. I came out of college planning to go to law school, to play in the WNBA was definitely an opportunity I couldn't pass up. Literally, I decided to play in the WNBA 36 hours before the WNBA Draft. So for me, being able to play professional basketball for a living and do something that I love to do and something that comes pretty natural, is great. The fact that I've been successful, I mean my WNBA career has been great, I have no regrets. But to add a gold medal or just the Olympic experience to my career is definitely icing on the cake. I've enjoyed every moment of my basketball career.

What will you have to do against Russia?
Defensively we're going to have to be strong. They're a big team and tough and they have a lot of versatility on their team, a couple of players on their team are WNBA players so we're very familiar with Elena (B ), she has an awesome game, she plays inside and out and is one of the leaders on their team. So it's going to be tough, but every game after this is never easy, its going to be tougher just because the level of competition gets better.

On the pressure of the medal round
It's one and done. There's no giving it back and there's no catching up. And that would mean no gold medal. For us, no gold medal is failure. Our ultimate goal is to win a gold medal.

Is it hard when the games are one-sided?
We don't act like that at all. Ever. Over confidence, sometimes, or most times leads to failure. It means that you under-estimate people and we don't under-estimate anyone. We are playing against the best players in the world and the best players from each country. They are here for a reason. They are bringing their top players and that's the way we approach it – just like that.

And the fact that it's us against everyone. The whole arena wasn't just filled with Greek fans; it was filled with all kinds of fans from all different countries. I think about 90-percent of the people that were there, we cheering against us. We take that and keep that in mind. Every time we go outside of the country, it helps us play at a high level.

Have you had time to enjoy yourself and see some other sports?
I'm a big Olympic fan. I love the Olympics Games. At home, you get to see a little of everything. The only things that I've been able to see have been women's basketball, men's basketball and beach volleyball.

 




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