Aug. 28, 2008
Was the 2008 Beijing Olympics experience everything you thought it was going to be and how was it different from the last games: It was everything I thought it would be. I actually think we came together sooner than I thought we would. The margin of victory was greater than anticipated. I knew Russia and Australia were really going to be gunning for us and I knew they were better than in the past, so the margin of victory was just incredible. We came together. We peaked at the right time. You never know when you've only got a group for basically a month if you're going to really gel as quickly as we did. So that was the biggest surprise, really our margin of victory.
How does it feel to be credited with the win against China: All assistants had several different teams to scout. China was one of my scouts along with Russia and Spain. So you're just in charge of that particular team. The players were really attentive and they took the game plans and did whatever we asked them to do. It was really impressive. You could just lay out a game plan and the players would take hold of it and do what was necessary to win.
Are you going to take implement some of the Team USA strategies with your Texas team: Most definitely. We had our first team meeting here at Texas and I told them that there are so many things we are going to be able to implement. A couple of new offensive sets, some defensive strategies, I learned a lot from the USA team and also from our opponents. I have a lot that I get to bring back and work into our team and our philosophy as well. I've got all of our plays and I've got all the sets of my favorite plays from every single team. I brought those back so I don't forget. They are sending us all the DVDs of all of our games.
How was the USA squad: It's the best in the world. It was so exciting. I thought we had the perfect blend of the experienced players, those were most of our starters, and then we had great youth coming off our bench. It was a 1-2 punch that really hit a home run for us. [The opponents] couldn't keep up with us. Many times in the first quarter, it would be a close game and then we would send in our second wave, we didn't call them subs because it was a wave that came in, and those were some of our more dynamic players and our better defensive players like Tamika Catchings, Sylvia Fowles, Kara Lawson, and Cappie Poindexter. You've got those players coming off the bench and that is when usually we would take hold of the game and start to build a lead that our opponents couldn't catch up with us.
How did this team compare to the team you coached at the 2004 Athens Olympics: When I look back to the Olympics in Greece and look at that team, there is no comparison. I just feel like this team was so much deeper and more athletic as well. We had every skill set you could want as a coach-we had it covered.
What is something you hope your players will take from your experience with Team USA: The great thing I saw there was that the experienced players really took the young players under their wing. The young players in many cases were more talented, but they didn't understand what it took at that level to be successful. And I think building a program at Texas, we've now got some experience and the players now understand my philosophy, what I want... what I need. They certainly know what it feels like to play Tennessee and play in the Big 12 and what those big games are like. We've got some young freshmen coming in now that have talent but they don't have experience. They don't know what is expected and they don't understand the Big 12 yet, so I think it will be good for my team to understand. Those older players, the experienced ones, will really have to take the younger players under their wing.
Is it a different feeling coaching the USA squad comparing to your team at Texas: I've been working with Team USA for several years but only weeks at a time. When its your own team, when its your university that you're representing and you've really built relationships with these players from the time you begin recruiting them, it's years and years of hard work and a coming together of your own team. It is really a total different feeling. Winning a gold medal? There is absolutely nothing like it. But having a big win and watching your own team come together over years, that is something you can't really measure.
Are you still going to do a lot of team building with this current Texas squad: We are because I've always been into the psychological aspect of the game and of my players. But I thought one thing that Coach Donovan did in particular that I liked was that when she did scouting reports for the big games, she would use clips from different movies as motivation for the team. I thought it was very inspirational. I incorporate books a lot, but I think I might start to incorporate some movies as well.
What are some of the movies Coach Donovan used: Men of Honor and Miracle. She used [Miracle] was right before the gold medal game. She used some of the speeches as well that were used in the locker room before the hockey team went out. She used about four different movies over the course of the run and it was very motivational.
What was the emotion like winning the gold medal: I think initially with about two minutes left, we knew we were going to win so at that point I think we felt relief because you always feel that pressure. When you are from the United States, you're always expected to win the gold medal so I think at first it was a feeling of relief and then seeing the players and how excited they were was fun too. Anne Donovan is such a good friend of mine. I wanted to win this gold so much for her as well. I just felt great pride and how far we had come and how quickly we had come.
How were the overall Olympic games: I think the Chinese people did such a tremendous job. They were so friendly. You couldn't walk five feet without someone offering to help you. They had worked really hard on making everyone feel very, very welcome. Everything was first class. I think the toughest thing was when you're in the Olympics, you don't get to see the Olympics. The only thing I got to see was men's basketball. We didn't get to see the opening ceremony because we were in the opening ceremony and they hold you in the gymnastics venue for about four hours sitting but there were no video screens for us to watch the actual ceremony. So I heard it was spectacular but we couldn't see them. And then on TV, they obviously emphasized the Chinese athletes and the things they were successful in, so we saw a lot of table tennis, archery, and sports that the United States weren't really involved in. You almost feel like you missed the Olympics because you didn't get to hear the stories that were so fascinating. You were in it, which was great, but you didn't get to experience it. So I ordered some DVDs just so I can see the Olympics.
Did you get to watch the men's gold medal game: We were actually flying home so we didn't even know the outcome of the game until we landed. We assumed they were going to win but when we landed, we sent somebody up to the front to ask if our men had won and what the score was.
Did you get to see the men's basketball team very often: That's another big difference from Greece. The men and the women's team were so supportive of each other. We shared the same dining hall so we saw each other everyday and they were at every single one of our games and we went to all their games except for the gold medal game because we were on the way home. So it was really a great feeling of rapport with the men's team and with the men's staff as well. Obviously I've known Coach K forever so it was really a great feeling, a great bonding feeling. They sat right under our end zone basically, but you always knew when the men came in because there would be a roar from the crowd and they had to have about 50 security people around where they were sitting because they were rock stars there.
Can you talk about this up and coming surge of international basketball: You're seeing more NBA players that are the foreign players and they are very successful as well so I think that is going to continue. I think especially with China in particular. There is a phenomenal statistic that about one million Chinese are playing basketball everyday. You know that in five or 10 years just by shear numbers they are going to have more great players coming out of China probably than anywhere else in the world.
What was the most difficult part about being in China: Maybe recruiting. I called recruits from China hoping that that would have an impact on them. That remains to be seen, but I couldn't call them as often. And the time change was difficult with the 13-hour difference. We always had meetings early in the morning and that was really the best time to call recruits because it was in the evening so the time change was a factor. I tried to do as much recruiting as possible and I'm hoping that it didn't put us too far behind. We are hoping that the fact that I was at the Olympics will offset the fact that I wasn't here on a day-to-day basis. I called a couple of players right after the gold medal game in the locker room and on the way to the bus hoping that would have a positive impact on them.