Oct. 30, 2012
"Our team has been working extremely hard. Are we there yet? No, but we're putting in the time and the effort. Haven't had to coach effort and that's been one of my biggest concerns of our past teams. We're playing hard. Our freshmen are fitting in extremely well; our upperclassmen have been great leaders.
"For the most part, we're healthy. I think we're extremely excited to get on the floor and for you all to see where we are. If this was a regular season game, I would be a little nervous. We still have a couple of weeks to get ready and that's what the exhibition games are for. We look forward to Thursday."
(On difference in effort of players this year)
"I think we have kids that play that type of ball, that style - they play hard, they play aggressive with reckless abandon. I think secondly, practices have been tuned up a little bit, they're a little bit more intense and our expectations are a lot more. And we're young, we're trying to form great habits, so we probably turned our defense up a notch and our practice intensity up a notch and they're responding."
(On first two preseason games)
"I don't have a starting lineup right now, so I'm going to use [these games] to our advantage to see who plays well together and who doesn't. This is something for us to throw out and put different lineups in to see how we respond and that's what I intend to do. Who you see Thursday start may not start on Sunday or next Friday. We've had two scrimmages starting with two different lineups and we're getting a little bit of a core, but we aren't quite there yet to say who is going to start and who isn't."
(On the large freshman class and their effort)
"I think the leadership that we have, with Taber Spani and Kamiko Williams has been big for us. They understand that our practices needed to change. It is different, because you take five freshmen and we've had to do a lot of going slow and a lot of teaching and we tried not to get too ahead of the game. Four years ago we probably didn't take it as slow as we probably should have. We're making sure that we're getting certain fundamental things down and we're trying to move on. How hard they play and what we expect of them, I think they have a clear vision of how we want them to play and where we need to go. We haven't cut them any slack and I think it's in a positive way for them to respond with how they're performing right now."
(On not cutting players any slack)
"I'm not saying that we were easy on them the past couple years, I'm just saying that we're putting it out there and the players are responding. They're understanding what style we want to play. I think after four years, the group we've had is phenomenal - we've got three players drafted, two in the first round in the WNBA, so the talent was there, I just thought at times we weren't consistent. Incredible talent, huge to replace and we lost five starters. We're trying to build a foundation for this year and years to come. At times, I think that last year's team just didn't play as hard as they could. This year's team understands that we can't be up and down. We have to understand what we're doing and the intensity level has to be there. It's the only way this team is going to be successful."
(On How Important the Veteran Players Are)
"I think the veterans have stepped up and have been great leaders. I look at Cierra Burdick and what she did this summer. Her commitment in the gym was incredible. I think the young ladies that were here this summer saw that. I think Taber Spani has always been a huge leader for us on and off the court. I asked Ariel Massengale to step up this year and be more vocal and I think she's accepted that challenge. She has been outstanding for us. It's key for our veterans to give them a blueprint of how we want things done and it's up to them to help us get there. It's not about the freshmen. We're majority freshmen and sophomores and we have to have some kind of people who have been here who understand where we need to go.
"Meghan Simmons has been phenomenal. I know she's been a great offensive scorer, but she has made a huge commitment on the defensive end and hopefully you'll see that as well.
"We have kids who, I don't want to say are buying into the system, because the system isn't that much different, but we've got them on board and that's a huge difference and a huge difference for these young kids coming in."
(On Preseason Ranking at #20)
"For us, I think it's low, but it is what it is and we're not there, but it's serving as a motivation for us. When you lose five starters, you lose the winningest coach in the country, I understand that the expectations for this team will be lowered. But, they aren't lowered for me, they're not lowered for this program, for these fans. We don't like being ranked 20th, but it's preseason and we're using it as a motivation factor."
(On Continuing Coach Summitt's Coaching)
"I want to make sure that we understand the importance of defense, we have since I have been here. That's been what Pat's philosophy is and that's what mine is. As far as Pat, my expectations haven't changed. We're still going to class, we're still going to graduate kids. That foundation has not changed. My expectation is that they play 100 percent on the court and I know that was Pat's as well.
"I think the differences are maybe our styles of coaching. I don't have a stare. I'm probably a little more active on the sideline. I don't know if that's good or bad - I haven't coached a game yet, but I'm going to do what I think is best for these young ladies and if I see that my game plan isn't working, then I'm okay to change it and say we have to change directions. Right now, I love our tempo, I love our pressure and I love the fast pace. That's what I've always enjoyed about coaching and if I can remember back that far, it's what I loved about playing. If it's not working, I'm not stubborn enough to not make a change."
(On Kamiko William's leadership ability)
"Well I think it is a work in progress, so we are still teaching and learning. Kamiko is a fun loving kid and our young players are attracted to her. I just had a meeting with her today and said that my expectations are, she is not a Taber Spani, I understand that, but as long as she leads our kids in a positive way, doesn't distract them, doesn't say, `the coach is crazy.' A great leader understands that the coach is right, bottom line. Then if you have a problem you go back in the room and talk about it. I can't have Kamiko voicing her opinion, not that she does, but we are trying to lay the ground work for her because her work ethic, as I told her, has to get better. She is an example. People look up to her. We have really worked on how she plays in practice, how she handles herself off the court. It is a work in progress. I think she has bought in, she is willing to help because she understands that she is a senior. She understand that as she may not want to be a leader, she is one of those you may not want to be a role model but you are. So I think that is the role Kamiko has been in and so far she has been very helpful."
(On her personal responsibility to maintain the Tennessee brand)
"When you are a part of it and been a part of it, as you said I have been here, I grew up here, I was a part of Pat's starting off coaching, it is personal. It is something I have always wanted to do. I have been involved in with this program for 28 years, as an assistant coach. I can't tell you how many questions I have been asked, `you are crazy to follow Pat' or `you have so much pressure.' I don't see it as that. I was taught by the best to be put in this position. So I think I am prepared. Mistakes along the way? Absolutely. As long as I keep learning from them. Pat and I have talked about it for a long time and she has put me in situations where I have been in difficult situations, I have been able to sit back and watch her perform. This is where I have always wanted to be. I have never said I am scared to do this, I don't want to do this. I love the challenge and I love the opportunity to be here. It is in my blood. It is all I know. I think the country and women's basketball would be shocked if I didn't have on orange and white. They would think something was wrong with me, sick or something. It is just who I am and what I think I was chosen to do."
(On the health Taber Spani)
"I think with Taber it has been a concern with bad injuries and just bad luck. She looks good right now. I try to limit her minutes because of her knee and her shoulder and the things that she has dealt with. But right now I feel great about her and positive about her. We need her on the floor, not only for her leadership but for her ability to shoot the long ball three. Right now, I feel good about her."