27 , 2004 Athens,
USA head coach Van Chancellor
Was Sheryl Swoopes in there at the end for
defense or her clutch shooting?
I've been with her seven years, four WNBA championships. She's
made every big time play you can make at the end of a game. I'm going
to go to whoever's guiding me there. I've never had any doubts. I knew
she had to make them, she's missed too many (grins). I knew it was the
law of averages. I had no doubt about that. She wasn't in for defense.
On Sheryl Swoopes' shot at the end of the
They actually went to a one-two-two zone and we had not seen that.
We struggled a little until we could get a timeout. Then we got her the
basketball and we ran a little screen on the ball. She didn't take the
screen, she went against the screen. That left her open. That was a little
bit of her own (making). I'd like to tell you that I called that play,
but I'd be lying. I just had her getting the ball, that's all I did. She
did the rest.
On not playing close games until now and
how the team has responded:
I couldn't do anything about that. I thought they responded to
everything I've asked them to do since 2002 (World Championship).
Their team, their staff, everybody from Russia, did a great job today.
They did a tremendous job, what a game. We were just fortunate enough
to win. We are very grateful for that and they should be commended for
playing so well.
SWIN CASH (Detroit Shock)
On Russia's confidence before the
game against USA
There has been a lot of talk about this rematch but now it is time
to get ready for the gold medal game. At the end, we made great plays
defensively. Great players stepped up at crunch time.
We were very aware (of Russia's boasting prior to the game) but that makes
for a fun, interesting game. The game got physical but we adjusted to
On her role
My job is to play great defense and get rebounds. Fortunately I
was able to get on the boards and make things happen.
On the close game
It is better for us - we have to learn how to play. It was great
for us to go through this today ... the game before the gold medal game
we went through just about everything. Now it is just a matter of us refocusing.
On Sheryl Swoopes' clutch performance in the
Great players always show up at times when their teams need them.
She came back in and fortunately hit some big shots for us.
I think as a team Russia had been waiting for us and it was a matter
of us having all players step up. One through 12, we have the best players
in the world and Sheryl was able to come out of her slump and hit some
On the physical game with Russia
It was very physical and we were able to get through it. We know
that we have been through just about every challenge you can go through
as a team. We stuck together, especially when they (Russia) started chipping
away at the lead.
Re: Dawn Staley
I think she is just a great player, but more than anything a great
teammate, a great persona nd a great friend. She has been a great mentor
to me. She has helped me through a lot.
Do you feel you would let Dawn and Sheryl
and Lisa down if you didn't win gold?
Definitely. We now this is going to be Dawn's last time around.
And Lisa and Sheryl haven't really said if they are coming back. We want
to come out for them and for all of us. We all want it. But , I think
for them, I think we want to go out with a bang.
How would you sum up the game today?
I think it was very competitive and physical. We came out in the
first half and we were very focused. We were able to attack them instead
of being attacked. The second half they came back and chipped away, just
like they did in 2002 and that's what we expected them to do. I think
overall our big players stepped up down the stretch.Lisa, Sheryl,
How do you feel going into the gold medal
I feel good. We're going back tonight and watch some video and
get ready for tomorrow, but I am ready.
SHANNON JOHNSON (San Antonio Silver Stars)
This team is 12 strong, no matter who come off the bench, no matter
who starts, this is a very strong team. It doesn't matter who plays, how
we play it, who puts the ball in the hole, as long as we do it. It says
USA on the front of our jerseys and that's what we worry about. We know
exactly what that means, that means going out there and playing as a team
and enjoying it This is a very good win for us but were going to keep
ourselves focused for another game.
This was your closest game yet, talk about
the team's mind set.
We knew these games would be close. We been preparing the entire
time, we went to practice and we didn't let ourselves down by not practicing
and taking time off because we were beating other teams. We kept our focus
and the coaches did a great job of keeping us ready. We knew they'd play
some zone, we knew different things they'd do, we just tried to attack
You had a spurt there at the end of the third
quarter when you made a couple of shots, talk about that.
That's my job to try and bring a spark off the bench. We always
say try and make a difference when we come of (the bench), give a spark,
try and do something different. It's been a lot of fun playing with this
team, everybody is really confident and helping each other out.
We weren't putting the ball in the hole, Coach told me to take the ball
to the basket. A couple of times I went before and had an opening but
just wasn't able to knock the shot down. He told me to keep my confidence
and just knock the shot down
Is this as physical of a game as you have
They were very physical today. But we knew that, they're a very
good team. Russia is a very good team and we knew they would play like
that. We came out with a win and are very fortunate.
Your depth wore them down:
Yeah, we've got 12 players that can play and that's one good thing
about us. We brought 12 to play not to sit. We've got a rotation out there
now and we're going to go out there and try to win the gold medal.
Was it beneficial having a game like this?
It was very beneficial for us, very beneficial mainly because we've
been beating everybody by a lot of points. We knew against Russia we weren't
going to blow them out, we knew they would stick around, we knew how good
they are and we knew we had to go out there and play for 40 minutes.
YOLANDA GRIFFITH (Sacramento Monarchs)
The subs have to come in and do the little things. We have to jump
on teams early. It is kind of hard to keep focus with a big lead but we
obviously didn't have that luxury tonight. This was a hard-fought, physical
game between two great teams. Whoever we play tomorrow, I am sure it is
going to be a great game.
One step closer. Are you grateful to have
a test like that before the gold medal game?
Yes. It is always good to have a close game like this. It gives
us things to work on defensively and offensively. They ran a lot of screens
and they hit some threes we didn't think were going to go down. It was
a great game, a great effort by both teams and I think our depth came
through for us. Our starters held it down defensively in the end and that
is what finalized the victory for us today.
How deep is the talent on this team?
We believe in each other. It doesn't matter who starts for this
team. It is a great twelve, twelve great players, All-Americans, All-WNBA,
you name it, but all that doesn't matter. You just have to know your role
and be able to come in and give the team a boost. If it's not the points,
then make it defense or rebounds. And that is what we did today.
Was that the most physical game this far?
No. All the game have ben physical, but this is one of the most
physical. I think that tomorrow is going to be the big challenge for us.
Is the intensity level for this team right
where you want it to be?
No. No. I think tomorrow you're going to see the USA team capable
of doing a lot of different things. I think today we played a little tight,
but our depth came through for us and we got the victory. Tomorrow is
the big challenge.
How was Russia able to hang in there most
of the game. Was it a tighter game than you had expected?
We knew it was going to be a tough game. We knew Russia had some
good outside shooteres and some big players. There were some offensive
boards that we didn't get that normally we do. We knew they would be tough,
but our depth helped us prevail. You aren't going to blow out a team one
game away from the gold medal game. You can't think like that.
You have to work hard. And I think that is what we did. No matter how
close they got, we always knew something good was going to happen for
our team, whether it be some rebounds, a big three from Tina or a crucial
putback from Lisa or our point guards running the show. We have a lot
of confidence in one another.
Was that run at the end of the third quarter
a big key to the game? It seemed to kid of swing the omentum back to the
Yes it did. We knew we weren't hitting the shots form outside.
We knew that if we continued to crash the boards offensively, we would
get a chance to get the lead and we got a lead twice in the third quarter.
They hit some shots we didn't expect to fall. We needed this test. We
played Greece and knew it was going to be a big crowd , but I think today
was a challenge for us and we didn't panic. We just came through in the
A couple of key baskets came today when you
were trailing the play and cleaned up some missed shots. Has that kind
of been your calling card this Olympics?
They brought me on this team to rebound. It's the only thing I've
ben focused on, trailing the play or getting the big offensive boards
when we miss a shot and kicking it back ut so we can run the clock. We
have a great team, a great starting five. We have great players coming
off the bench. As long as you understand your role and come in and do
the little things you'll be okay.
What's the sense going into the gold medal
game? Relief to get past Russia or anticipation of a possible third straight
gold for the USA?
Right now, coach is in the locker room writing on the board, getting
ready for whoever we play next. There is no time to relax. We did take
a deep breath after the game, but we know we didn't play to our abilities
today. Tomorrow we have to play Brazil or Australia and everybody must
come to perform. That's just the bottom line.
On the match up vs. Australia
We're going to focus on everybody. We're not just going to think
about (Penny) Taylor or (Lauren) Jackson. Trish Fallon was shooting the
threes last game I looked at and they have a good team. They had a good
team in 2000 and they have a great team this year. We've got to pay attention
In 2000, there was a huge rivalry in the
works, as they were talking before the game that this was there time on
their home court
Do you think it might be the same thing?
Whoever wins the other semifinal today, it's going to be a dog-fight.
You work so hard just to get to this point, so you're not going to turn
it over to someone or to another team.
Can you comment on Australia's Lauren Jackson?
She a great player. She can hit the three, she can put the ball
on the floor, and she has a tremendous game. You've got to play close
attention to everything and try to get in to her early. That's it. She's
there leaders and since 2000, they have put everything on her. But, one
player is not going to beat the USA team. But this year, they have a lot
of players stepping up and it's taken the pressure off of her. That allows
her to relax more and player her game.
When you play against Russia, you already know that they have so many
tricks in the bag, a totally different starting lineup. You never know
what they are going to come with. But, we just weathered the storm. This
is the closest game that we've played and we were expecting that. But,
we showed a lot of heart. We played together and (Sheryl) Swoopes stepped
up big at the end.
I just gave her a hug and said, Way to step up when we needed you.'
I thought she hit the two big shots for us.
Is Russia a big rival for the USA?
We're rivals with everybody. You can pick your poison, whether
it's Russia or Australia or Brazil? I think that Russia has come out
when you think of the old Soviet Union, the movie Miracle, there
were so many great battles with Russia and the USA, it carries over. It's
always a very clean game. You work hard and it's kind of like being in
a chess match. They keep making moves, we make some moves. They went to
a zone and they might think it would hurt us. And it did for a minute.
We made an adjustment because we've been practicing against a zone. We
were prepared for this game.
This was the closest Olympic game you have
had in a while. Was that good and did it make it more fun to play?
It was good because, I thought we showed a lot of heart. I said
to my teammates, the difference in this game is going to be about
heart.' It's not going to be about x's and o's anymore. I went after one
of those rebounds and it was big. That was the most important thing. We
showed a lot of heart and character.
You mentioned that Russia came with a bag
of tricks, what do you mean by that?
They came with a different starting lineup. We'd only seen Baranova
start only one game and she was in the starting lineup. I think they played
the whole tournament not shooting the three-ball' and they came
out shooting some threes.
If you scouted them, you would think they don't shoot the three-ball'
when they can actually shoot it very well. I think there are some things
and techniques that they work on and they don't show everything that they
On the size of Russia and how did that play
into your performance?
I think it was good for us. It was a good challenge. In the next
game, they don't have as many 6-6 or 6-8 players, so we will be able to
attack the basket. Russia altered some shots out there, definitely.
We knew it was going to be a battle but one through 12, I don't
think any team brought the arsenal we brought. I feel this team is more
talented than any other team I played on...talented. There are so many
players with us who haven't been through the Olympics though so you have
to lend your experience and leadership skills so they understand what
is on the line.
At the end of the game, you have to have players on the court who understand
the sense of urgency you must have to win.
It is good to get energized in a tough
game - we are really strong across the line and everyone has had to step
up and contribute. We always seem to bring out the best in other countries
- they always get up to play us...but over the long haul, we just wear
the other teams out. We have different personnel, different ways of playing.
On Swoopes' play
Those are the plays we have come to know that she is going to make
at the end of basketball games. She wasn't shooting the ball well throughout
the game but when the game is on the line, she is going to make plays.
She will score a basket or find someone that will lead to a basket.
Sheryl played big for us again. She's that type of player .She's not going
to shy away from taking the big shot. If the game is on the line, I know
she wants the ball, I know Lisa wants the ball and I know they are going
to make plays to put us in the position to win the game.
I thought it was a very good game. Just like coach Chancellor said,
I thought both teams played extremely hard for 40 minutes. Having played
Russia in the World Championship in 2002 we knew exactly what they were
going to bring to the table. I think they knew exactly what we were going
to bring. Not only is it great for the Olympics, but I think it's great
for women's basketball to have such great competition. Bottom line, I
think the team that executed down the stretch is the team that won. We
had some players who came in off the bench in the first half when I couldn't
throw one in the (Agean) Sea, I thought we had some players who stepped
up and really gave us an extra lift off the bench.
Were you expecting Russia to be so good?
For the most part a lot of people expect the U.S. to dominate.
But I think that every other team, every other country has gotten much
better. Especially in women's basketball. We have so many international
players who are playing in the WNBA. That also says a lot about the talent
they have. We knew it was going to be a battle. A lot of times people
expect us to come out and beat teams by 30, 40. But when you're playing
a team like Russia, a team capable of scoring and playing great defense,
you have to go out and not worry about what you've done in the past, who
they've beaten, who they haven't beaten, and focus on the game of the
We approached this game just like it was for the gold medal. We came
here with mind and one goal and that's to take the gold medal back home,
regardless of who we have to go through to do that. It was a tough battle
for us tonight.
On the Elena Baranova turnover late in the
I think at that particular point in the game, having played against
Elena in the WNBA, once she gets it down low she's usually going to go
up. At that particular point in the game I didn't think she was looking
to kick it back out. She was pretty much at the basket and I thought it
was going up. I was just hoping that if she did kick it out somebody would
rotate to them (on defense). Because there at the end of the game they
really started shooting the ball well and hitting some threes. I hadn't
really done much the entire game so I wanted to be at the right place
at the right time. I thought that particular play was pretty huge for
On her two big shots near the end of the
throughout the entire game I felt really good. I was really focused,
not so much on having to get the job done offensively, we've got 12 players
on this team who are capable of scoring. Obviously I felt like I had the
shots. The shots felt good, they just weren't falling. What makes our
team a little better at this level is because we have a little more experience.
We have players who have been there before. It was important for me to
not get down on myself because I wasn't hitting my shots, they weren't
falling, because there were so many other things I had to focus on, I
had to concentrate on doing.
That first shot I made, I think there were three or four seconds on the
shot clock, Dawn (Staley) gave it to me and said, shoot.' For me,
it feels good to know that my teammates know that I'm struggling, but
they still have the confidence in me to get the ball into me to get the
job done. Once I let the first one go it felt really good. I knew that
one was going in. It felt really good to come through down the stretch.
TINA THOMPSON (Houston Comets)
On Sheryl Swoopes play in the final
That's kind of her. She has a little switch she just turns on you
know at the end of the game and you can just count on her taking and making
big shots like that. It's just a part of her personality and I wasn't
surprised she was hitting them. I was kind of wondering what took her
so long, right?
Did you expect a close game?
We didn't expect anyone to be a push over. Every game we've played
we've played really hard. We've come out and given everything we had every
single time we've played and I think that has enabled us to be in the
position that we're in right now. And the fact that we play at such a
high level and don't take anyone for granted allowed us to prepare for
this game. Even though the game we played we won by a pretty big margin,.
We didn't have to turn it up. We're already up and prepared for most anything
that comes at us at this point
What's your thoughts, first Olympics, playing
for the gold medal, excitement, anticipation, what's going through your
mind, a sense of relief that you got by Russia?
I don't feel relief, I'm not celebrating or anything like that
because I didn't come here just to beat Russia in the semifinals, I came
to play well and win a gold medal in the gold medal game. So right now
I'm glad we got past Russia and I'm awaiting for the winner of the next
game who we'll play tomorrow. I'm not going to express too much emotion
other than in game emotion until it actually happens.
You stepped it up defensively today against
Baranova (Elena), did it help being familiar with her from the WNBA?
Obviously familiarity helps a little bit, in the WNBA I guard Elena
quite a bit. She's a tough player for her size. She's about two or three
inches taller than I am and she has great versatility, she handles the
ball really good and plays an inside-out game or outside-in game, whatever
day it might be. She's a tough player but we didn't under estimate her
but the fact that we're really familiar with her being that we played
against her internationally as well as in the WNBA definitely helps.