U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team Press Conference Quotes (8/3/16)
USA head coach Geno Auriemma (Connecticut)
Obviously, we are excited to be here, as every other team is, I’m sure. This is what they train for. This is what they prepare for. Whether they are playing overseas, or whether they are playing in the WNBA, this is always something that is in the back of their mind – that they want to be ready for the Olympic Games. Whether it is their first time, or their fourth time. If the look of them has been any indication these last couple of weeks, this team is really, really ready. They’re obviously conscious of how hard it’s going to be. They’re really well aware of how good all the other countries are, and they know not to take anything for granted. But, I’ve been around this national team since 2009, and this is probably the most prepared team, the most anxious team to get started that I’ve been around. This weekend can’t come fast enough.
How are you handling the pressure to win?
I’m sure every federation feels it. Every group feels the pressure to win when you are representing your country. I almost put myself in the position of some of these soccer coaches when they play in the World Cup, where you can play great, you dominate a game, you can out-shoot an opponent 30 to two, and one of those goes in and you lose one – nothing, and you are just devastated. And the whole country feels the pain. I don’t know that it is that crazy in the United States, but since this is basketball, it takes on that kind of significance. What I hope happens is that us, if we were fortunate enough to win a gold medal, that that’s a big deal. Instead of, you know what the big deal is, if we lose. Which is unfortunate, because this team, these players, these women have accomplished so much. They’ve done so much. And maybe because they’ve won so much, they probably don’t get the respect they truly deserve for how dominant they have been.
Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx)
What would it mean for you to win your third gold medal?
It would mean a lot. I didn’t even expect to be here. I was happy with the 2008 gold medal. But to be here, be a veteran and have the opportunity to get a third gold medal, for me personally, being from Louisiana, there are not a lot of us that make it out of Louisiana to become an Olympian, so it means a lot. It gives a lot of people back home, a lot of young girls hope where I’m from. And that’s basically what I’ve always envisioned, being able to give something back. If it’s not monetary, hope, motivation, inspiration for someone else to hopefully one day be here.
What do you want to provide to the team?
What I always bring, energy. Everybody on this team can score. I think people understand that. I guess some people are kind of wondering why I’m not scoring a whole lot of points, but I do other things for this team. I rebound, I have assists, I play defense – those things are what is going to matter when it comes down to it. We have too many great players to just focus on scoring. So, as long as I bring energy and get the second group going – the bench mob – as we call ourselves, we’ll be fine.
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
Just like Tamika said, I think we are all really excited. This group has got a really good mix of first-timers, second, third and fourth. It’s great, because there is experience up here, and there is wide-eyed down there, and everything in between, and the best part is that we did have a great week of training, a week-and-a-half of training. And with that, we are excited to be here, we are ready to be here, and in some ways, it was such a busy week-and-a-half, it’s almost relaxing to be here and know that all we have to do is focus on basketball now. Again, we are really excited, and we are looking forward to the game on Saturday.
What are some things that are working better than in 2012?
I don’t think it’s about better or worse, it’s more about experience. A lot of the players who were are on that team are now back. So, we have four more years together, a World Championship together – all under the same coach, which is actually not the usual thing for USA Basketball. I think it is only the first time where I coach has repeated. So, it’s really just about: we had the right pieces, clearly, because we won a gold medal, and now it’s just we are all four years older, wiser, better – I hope, and now we added some amazing talent. We added some incredible talent with Elena (Delle Donne), Stewie (Breanna Stewart) and B.G. (Brittney Griner) So, I think that’s more what it’s about. It’s not anything different. I think it’s just older, so to speak.
Is this old hat for you now?
Each one is different. It really is. I understand that right now we are standing at five gold medals in a row, hopefully going for our sixth, and yeah, that’s a lot of time. People see that streak, and they view it as dominant, which it is, but each team has its own journey, its own path through this entire experience. And contrary to what the scoreboard might tell you, it’s really not that easy. It can be stressful at times trying to come together with these other players and figure it out and make it work. Yeah, we might make it look easy with some of the ways that we play and some of the teams that we’ve dominated, but it’s really not. There is some stress involved there, and with that being said, like I was trying to get to: each team has its own journey and that’s all we are focused on. And yes, have we been dominant, the U.S. as a whole? Absolutely, but there are no guarantees. And I’ve been on a team at the 2006 World Championship that lost. I know what that’s like. And to be honest … for those that were on that team, that’s a driving force. That’s in the back of our heads, whether we admit it or not. It’s there. So, that’s a driving force. We just want to put ourselves in a position to be successful, and that’s what we focus on.
Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever)
We’re excited. We have a good team. The three of us up here, we are really excited about getting started this weekend. It’s been a whirlwind over the last week-and-a-half of being together, traveling and playing the games, doing the tour in America. But, we are excited about being here, and like Geno said, we’re prepared. Every single game we come out and we have an opportunity to practice, or once the games start, every game that we play, we know that we can’t take anything for granted, and we are prepared. From the four-timers to the first -timers and in between, everybody is willing and ready to do their role to help this team win.
Tina Charles (New York Liberty)
What is your role on this team?
Just anything that coach Auriemma needs me to do, all the little dirty work. And that’s the best part of this team and being a part of USA Basketball is that you are able to humble yourself versus what you are to your professional team. So, that means less of me, then that is what the situation is – rebounding, running the floor hard and setting good screens. Just making sure that my basketball IQ is at an all-time high, playing with Diana and Sue especially, so it’s great to be around them and just getting better.
How does it feel to have arrived in Rio?
Just to reiterate what Diana said, we have confidence. Doing the tour that we were able to do this past week and play against those top three teams definitely gave us confidence, more chemistry out there together, knowing what coach Auriemma expects out of the plays, coach Reeves and Dawn (Staley) and Doug (Bruno).
Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky)
What is it like to step on the court as the favorite to win?
I’m honored to wear that USA across my chest and know what it means and what it means to represent the history of women’s basketball and what these incredible women have done before us. Now, it’s time for us to pave our own path. We know you can’t just put the jersey on and win the game. We know that every single team is going to put their best effort against us and give us their best shot. So, we have to be ready, we have to be focused and we have to continue to improve daily.
Are the games as easy as they look?
It’s very tough. It’s always a challenge, no matter what team we are coming up against. They are always going to give us their best shot.
What makes your team so great?
Very talented team, but with that being said, we have great chemistry, and we are able to put together something special in only a few days, and I think that just comes from having really high basketball IQ and really selfless players.
Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx)
Ongoing for a third gold medal:
I’ve thought about winning a third gold medal over the past few years, but I never thought I’d get to maybe win medal three. I can definitely say that this has been a humbling but blessed journey. It’s just exciting to be with this group of women that we have this year. That also means a lot. I want to go out there and win my third gold medal, but this would be the USA women’s sixth straight – I think that would mean a lot more. Yeah, I’m focusing on getting gold, but the overall picture is making sure we win.
What is special about this team?
What makes us special is just our dynamics and the eagerness of wanting to work. The young girls looking up to the veterans and those of us who fall in the middle also still looking up to the veterans but also teaching the young girls. I think everything just meshes together, and everyone is willing to go out there and work for it.
Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
Will foul trouble be an issue for you in international basketball?
No, not as much. I think it is called a little differently than in the WNBA. And just in the three games that we have had, some of the ways that I guard would be fouls in the WNBA, but they are not fouls over here. So, it’s helps in my favor, and it kind of doesn’t help in my favor, because then you don’t get some of those calls that you kind of took for granted in the WNBA.
Did the win against Australia set the right tone for the team heading into the first game on Saturday?
Australia is one of the top contenders, and we have a little history there with Australia. So, I think it was definitely a boost. It definitely gave us a lot of confidence. The coaches are going to take that film, dissect it and we are going to learn from it and implement stuff against them. If we see them, which we thing we might see them later on down the road.
How is your first experience?
It’s awesome. I’m loving it. I’m just glad we are here. Once we got here, I was like, finally. Now we can actually start. I’m ready to play. I’m ready to go see the court tomorrow. We get to practice on the court that we are going to play on. So, I’m excited to get there, see everything, and just get going, get a feel for the basket.
Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream)
What would it mean to help push Sue, Diana and Tamika to their fourth gold medals?
It’s so tough to get four gold medals, especially a sport where it’s a team sport. You can do it in individual sports, but to be in a team sport, it’s so tough to get that many medals. So, that is freaking amazing. We are going to make sure that we help them to get that fourth, to make history.
What would it mean for you to earn your second Olympic gold medal?
It would mean a lot. I’m just trying to get my experience and definitely to add a medal to the list. I was just thinking today, ‘Man, I definitely want to get these two medals.’ Then I was like, ‘Man, I hope in three more years I have enough stamina left to get a third one.’ I’m definitely going to take it slow, one day at a time. I definitely want them (Sue, Tamika and Diana) to get their fourth. They get their fourth, and I get my second.
Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
How would you rate this team?
I just feel like the longer USA Basketball is around and great players are participating, the better the teams have gotten. Thirty years from now, there might be a team that is better than ours, but I feel like looking from top to bottom, the talent, the experience, the records of some of the players coming in, it’s just really unbelievable to see. We do have the ability to make our own destiny.
How excited are you to be here?
I’m very excited. Finally, we’ve been waiting to get there. It was like this last week-and-a-half, we’ve just been running, trying to play catch up from the missed time that we weren’t able to get, because we were in season. So, we can finally exhale a little bit, get settled in our rooms, be in one time zone for more than two days and get the games started.
Is this the real Dream Team?
Well, this is my Dream Team. This is a blast. Like I was saying, we’ve been so busy the last 10 days or so, just trying to prepare and build excitement for the games, but my favorite moments have been when we’ve stepped on the court and played. It’s just been amazing. People who have been able to watch us in person, they feel what we feel when we play, just the joy, the fun, the passion, the energy, and every time we step on the court, we are getting more and more connected.
Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
Does it feel different now that you are in Rio?
Things are definitely sinking in. When you look around – whatever we’ve done today, looking around realizing that we are actually in Rio. We had practice today, and it’s cool. It’s cool to know that know we are actaully getting started with the Olympics.
What do you want to bring to the team?
For me, I think the most important thing is to do whatever I can to make an impact. I’m not sure particularly what that means, but to just make sure that I’m ready to go and have high energy and high intensity all of the time.
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
Opening statement on the USA’s exhibition experience:
I think it was a crucial week for our preparation. We played against three really good teams that we know and we’ve played before in World Championships and other Olympics. And I think game-by-game, quarter-by-quarter, we got better. There are still things that we need to do to be really good and beat to beat these teams. And I think we just gained a lot of confidence being on the court. We don’t get a lot of prep time, so those games I felt like really helped us grow and add layers of why we are really good. And it was fun, too. We’re excited to be here. Like Sue and Tamika said, we’re ready to go.
Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx)
Any different now than in 2012?
Yeah, a little. I’m just a little more familiar, comfortable, with what is expected, what’s going on. Having played now since 2010 under coach Auriemma’s system, I’m always learning, but I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of what he expects and what my job is to do. And so that’s been really good. Just also with the team, for four of us, this is our second. Then there are four Lynx, and then our coach is here. Just having played against Sue and Tamika for so long, and now playing with them, too, since 2010, just having that familiarity has been really nice. It’s been really fun. You kind of just pick up where you left off. It was at the World Championship in Turkey, so you just kind of pick up where you left off and get back here and play hard, have fun while we are doing it. We have been traveling around, and it is nice to be here, now that we are here. So, it should be good.
What does this experience mean to you in your second Olympics?
Right now, it’s just great to be here. It’s really nice to be here and be settled now. It has been a great week, a lot of travel. And going through everything the other day with team processing and the U.S. Olympic Committee’s ambassador program, you kind of know what is expected and what to expect. So, that was good, because it is not all knew. You kind of are prepared and you understand.