USA Basketball Women’s National Team Post-Practice Quotes (7/24/16)
• Los Angeles, California
USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut)
The goal of every Olympian, especially if you’re the favorite, is to make sure you win the gold medal. Anything less than that would be unacceptable. I know some countries would be happy if they get a medal. There’s not going to be any parades for us if we don’t win a gold medal. All the players know that. Some of them have already won multiple gold medals, so that feeling of ‘I want to do it again’ is like really, really strong, and we’ve got three players that this is their first and they want to experience what it feels like. From a coaching standpoint, my job is to help them do that. I don’t think that winning another gold medal for me changes my life that much, but if you’re Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, Breanna Stewart, when you get your first Olympic gold medal, that’s huge.
Because the pressure is so high, Is there still room for fun?
We talk about that a lot. We try to take the approach that these opportunities don’t come along often and you’re certainly not guaranteed this opportunity in the future. So, even if you’re one of the young guys, you can’t sit here and go, ‘well, if I don’t enjoy this, I’ll make sure I’ll enjoy the next one.’ Well, there might not be a next one for you. So, I’m trying to make it so that … we’ve got work to do, but at the same time, it’s every kid’s dream to play in the Olympics and here it is. You’re living it. So, let’s enjoy it. And sometimes the only people that enjoy it are the people that are the underdog, you know? It’s like ‘yeah, we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that, and isn’t this great.’ And the favorite sometimes play with a little bit of a, ‘I hope we don’t lose.’ And the one thing I’ve learned at Connecticut is when you’re the favorite, you have to play like it and you have to play with the kind of confidence and the kind of swagger that says, ‘even if you play your A game, as long as we play our A game, we’re going to win.’ And a lot of these players already have that and I just keep reinforcing it.
What’s the best part of coaching this team?
I know so many of them. Nine of us have been together since 2009. They played in the (2010 FIBA) World Championship and then we played the (2012) Olympics together, then we played in the (2014) World Championship in Istanbul together, so there’s a lot of familiarity there between me and them, and (within) themselves. So, I don’t have to say things 15 times to get my point across. They get it. Sometimes it’s just a simple word or just a gesture and they’ve got it. And we’ve got great leadership in Sue, Diana and Tamika. This is just an incredible group of veterans and they really set the tone and I really lean on them a lot.
Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx)
What’s it like to be back out here with another Olympic team?
It feels great to be in a position, for me, to possibly go for my third gold medal and to be a part of history that we’re making here, trying to get a sixth gold medal as a women’s basketball team. We’re trying to keep the legacy alive. It feels great to be around great players and great coaches. We’re trying to get better and keep this thing moving.
On being a part of the USA Women’s Basketball legacy:
It means a lot. I keep saying every interview that I do, I just remember having the USA Women’s Basketball poster from the ’96 team in my room because we didn’t a WNBA and all of this and we didn’t know if it was going to be around. So my dream, my goal, was to be like those strong women that I saw in that poster and to be in this strong position to be one of those players that young women and young boys are looking up to. And to be able to be a part of a legacy and a tradition that’s so rich in success and winning says a lot about where I’ve come from to now where people are like, ‘Oh you’re the old head on the team, this is your third time around.’ It means a lot.
On coming home from Brazil with the 2006 FIBA World Championship bronze medal after losing to Russia in the semifinals:
A lot has changed since 2006. I was one of the young guns on the team and basically didn’t get a lot of playing time. It was pretty much my learning experience. We didn’t finish the way we wanted to and I had to hear that for eight seasons in Russia, that they beat us in 2006. So now it’s kind of like redemption for players that had to play overseas in Russia and had to hear all the chitter chatter about that.
Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever)
On representing her country:
Between Lisa [Leslie], Dawn [Staley] and Sheryl [Swoopes], I just remember them and how you carry yourself as an Olympian and how you always are prepared and how there’s all this extra stuff that going on. But even through that you have to focus and maintain your focus throughout the game because of our lack of practice time and lack of being together. We kind of have to grow really fast and you’ve got to make sure you’re 100 percent here every single moment you step on the court.
On Team USA’s chemistry:
It’s that mutual respect and just knowing what each person brings to the table. I don’t have to doubt that Sue [Bird] and D [Diana Taurasi] are going to be ready; they don’t have to doubt that I’m going to be ready. We just have to make sure, as the leaders and captains of this team, make sure that our team is ready to go.
On the opportunity to win a fourth gold medal:
That’s what we’re here for. I think just going back to my first time. Dawn said, ‘we don’t leave here without the gold.’ And that’s kind of been the mindset from the first time that I came to the fourth time. I’m super excited about the opportunity to represent my country one last time and to be out here with some amazing players young and old, and I like being able to pass that torch on to the next generation.
Are there any health concerns about Rio?
No there aren’t. I think we’re all confident enough with USA Basketball and the USOC that no matter what happens they will never put us a situation that would be detrimental to our overall life. So I know that and have full confidence in them. And the thing is, every single time – we play overseas in the offseason. So every time you’re going overseas, every time the Olympics comes around, there is always sometime of implication where you’re always like, ‘what about this? What about that?’ So I feel like as a team, USA Basketball has been great about giving us the information about Zika and the other things that are going on and making sure that we’re aware about everything.
Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky)
With the USA Women’s Team going for gold once again, what does it mean to you to with this being your first Olympic experience?
Oh, my gosh. It would mean the world to me. USA Basketball has so much history. And now, to be going for a sixth straight gold medal. I’m really excited to be a part of that and it would be an amazing experience. I’d love to be a part of that history and to make America proud.
Who among the Olympic veterans has been the most helpful in terms of helping you learn the ropes?
This is a huge and brand new experience for me. So I’m glad we have so many veterans who can help the newbies, like me, along the way. But I’m ready; I’m definitely prepared and ready to get everything underway. And it’s not just one of the vets; all of them have been incredibly helpful.
What is it that they’ve imparted to the newbies?
All of them at different times have been great about illustrating what the culture is like with this team, what we need to bring every day in terms of effort. All of the veterans have played a big part in that.
For you, a star in your own right, what is it like to be on a team with so many superstars?
Playing with this group of superstars, it is so much fun to just watch and see how everyone’s game gets elevated. Without a doubt, that is the most exciting part of this experience.
Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
On the advice Diana Taurasi has given her:
Take it in. Take it all in. Don’t let it go by. It will go by quickly. It seems like it doesn’t go by quickly, but it will go by quickly. She said she wish she would have taken advantage of some of the small things like being in the village and really taking it in, and that’s what I plan on doing. Samsung hooked us up with some really cool gear, too. So I plan on capturing it all on my new little camera thing that I have. So I’m super excited.
Is it nice to have a teammate with you during this?
Yeah, for sure. It always makes it better when you have someone from your team that’s there with you. But I’ve been around all these ladies. We feel that camaraderie and that sisterhood, so I’m happy being around all of them.
On the Olympic sports she plans to watch:
I plan to make it around whenever I can. There is nothing in particular. But I plan to make it around and see gymnastics. That’s one of the top ones on my list.
Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream)
How does it feel to get started?
It’s amazing. This is a great group of girls. Everybody is having fun. You can tell everyone is excited to be here. We all get along, hang with each other. It’s just a great atmosphere and I’m really excited to be a part of this team. Look, we’re playing football before practice. It’s cool, it’s freaking awesome. It’s a lot of fun.
On going back to Brazil where she won her first gold medal with USA Basketball at the 2007 Pan American Games:
My first gold medal, 2007. I’m excited to get back there. Brazil is a lot of fun. Their fans are passionate about basketball. When we play, if we get to play Brazil, it’s going to be packed – jam packed. So I’m glad to get back to the country and learn some things. I’m sure I’ve learned a lot since being there in 2007. So I’m excited to get there again.
What is best to focus on with so little time to train?
No possessions off. Don’t waste time. We’ve really just got to focus. We’ve got eight days until we go to Rio, so we’ve got to get things focused and really gel.
Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
Overall thoughts on the second day of practice
It was fun to have the energy that we had yesterday even through more than half of us had played the night before. I was happy to see everyone in good spirits and focused in. I thought it was efficient, effective and we will be able to build better today because of the mental prep and training we did yesterday.
Overall thoughts on getting to Rio
Just excited, trying to take it day by day, continuing to work and enjoy the people along the way.
On her expectations for the second day of practice
Hopefully continuing to get sharper and more crisp as a unit, and everything that we’re doing, just continuing the communication, mainly just getting a good feel, a good flow on some of the staples we do offensively.
On playing against familiar faces during tomorrow’s USA vs. Select Team game
Yeah, it should be fun. Hopefully we will be able to put on a good show and get better at the same time, with everyone staying healthy.
Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
On her thoughts before the team’s second practice in Los Angeles
I’m just trying to stay in the moment. How ever many practices we have total, they need to be worthwhile so that we are just building from one day to the next.
On her reflections from day one of practice yesterday
Just how happy I am to be here and to be part of this. It’s an opportunity that not a lot of people have, so I’m just enjoying it.
On the advice she’s gotten from the experienced players on the team
Yeah, I talked to Sue a lot, just because we’re on the same team in Seattle. The biggest thing I got from her was to just enjoy this moment, enjoy being part of the Olympics, because you don’t know if it’s going to happen again and you don’t want to take that for granted.
Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx)
This is your second Olympics. What does that for you personally?
It’s great to be around everybody and I’m honored to be a part of this, to be back here again and representing your country. It’s a lot of fun, a great atmosphere; great basketball.
What’s the best part of playing on a team like this that is comprised of so many superstars?
The way that everybody works hard and things come together so quickly. Everyone comes here from their WNBA games; a lot of us played yesterday. Now today we make this quick transition and have a great practice as a unit.
London, 2012, France made an unprecedented run for that program; Australia was once again a key rival…what do you envision this time in Rio?
It’s a lot of experienced teams, teams that have been there before, teams that have experience on the Olympic stage. We play against a lot of players from these teams whether it is in the WNBA or overseas in the winter and we know their talent level as individuals and as teams. A lot of these teams are going to be ready to go and will present us with a challenge.
What does this USAB team want to accomplish over the next week of practices and exhibition games?
We want to get better. That’s the main thing; no question about it. Get better. Keep on gellin’.
What does it mean for you as a member of the Lynx to have four players on the USAB Women’s Team?
It kind of just shows we’ve been able to find some nice chemistry among us. We’re playing hard together, playing unselfishly, and bringing the best out of each other.