Media Availability: USA Basketball
Head Coach Van Chancellor, Houston Comets
Q: Do you expect most of the European teams to be perimeter-oriented?
Chancellor: Yes I do. That's what they practice all the time. They're not as physical as we are. They spend all of their time shooting the ball. And their outside people all shoot the ball. It's similar to what happened to the men at the World Championships in 2002. In our league, it's punch it inside, play physical. Someone like Lauren Jackson hardly ever goes under the basket in international ball. We're going to have to be able to guard the three-ball. This team that the WNBA put together for us to play is closer to what we'll see in the Olympics. They're small. And they have good shooters.
Q: How important is guard play in international ball?
Chancellor: A lot of the international guards are fearless. In other words, they don't think twice about shooting the ball from anywhere. And when they get it going it can be tough to slow down.
Q: What are the major adjustments for the women's players at the Olympics?
Chancellor: I don't think the 24-second shot clock is a big deal. The big ball does not seem to bother the players all that much. The wide lane makes a huge difference, because it allows for more freedom of movement, penetration, a lot more cutting to the basket.
Assistant Coach Anne Donovan, Seattle Storm
Q: Are you anxious to get rolling?
Donovan: It's exciting to finally be here and be together, and to see the players fired up about this. You always worry that it's going to take them a little while to get into it and make the transition from the WNBA team to this, and these girls just don't miss a beat. I think it's going to take al little while for us to get it back together and remember what our strengths and weaknesses are, and how to play as one. Yolanda [Griffith] is coming into the mix for the first time, [Diana] Taurasi didn't have a lot of time with us, so it's going to be an interesting training process. We probably won't be at full strength until we get into the second round I'm thinking.
Q: How is it for you to take off your head-coach hat and reunite with Coach Chancellor and the rest of the staff and players?
Donovan: I love working with Van because his style is so different and I just love being around him. I don't get to work with Gail [Goestenkors] very much and it's my first time with Coach Stringer, so for me personally it's exciting. I like being the assistant coach because I get to go out and scout more than I do when I'm at Seattle. The whole process of bringing this together, hopefully for a gold medal, is the ultimate.
Q: What are your expectations for Sue Bird on this team?
Donovan: I think she's stepped up already, just in two days of practice, with much more confidence. She is just soaking up everything that Dawn [Staley] and Pee Wee [Shannon Johnson] want to give her - the game, the leadership, all the intangible stuff. She's ready.
Q: What did you say to Lauren Jackson before the break?
Donovan: I'm going to see her in Olympic Village, we're going to look each up other up some. I'll be scouting so I'll be at every one of her games. It's great to be able to see Sue and Lauren excel at this and to be a part of it with them.
Assistant Coach Gail Goestenkors, Duke University
Q: Are you anxious to get things rolling?
Goestenkors: It's just such an exciting time. I think the players are a little bit tired physically and emotionally from the WNBA season, but as soon as we got them together you could just feel an excitement in the air. It's tough because I think we only have a total of five practices before our first Olympic game, so fortunately a lot of these players have had some great experiences and have worked together in the World Championship and again on the spring tour that they did. The veterans already have taken leadership roles and have really talked some of the new players and younger players through things.
Q: How is it for you to transition back to this role?
Goestenkors: I feel so honored because Van [Chancellor] and Anne [Donovan] are just tremendous coaches. I feel fortunate that I got to coach with them a couple years ago in the World Championships so there's that familiarity. I know the quick hitters, and the offenses and the defenses that we're running. The same goes for the players. I know their tendencies, and I have a rapport with them that I developed over in China. This is just a huge honor for me, and it's a bonus because I learn so much not just from all the coaches, but from the players as well.
Q: Have you been following Alana Beard's progress this season?
Goestenkors: I have, and I'm really proud of her. We talk a couple of times a week on instant message, and she's always stayed positive and continued to work hard. It was a rough start for her, but she felt that if she kept the faith and kept working hard things were going to turn around for her, and they really have. I had dinner with her last Friday night, and she couldn't be any happier. She loves her team, she loves D.C., and I think great things are in store for her and for the team as well.
Assistant Coach C. Vivian Stringer, Rutgers University
Q: Talk about this team you will help coach.
Stringer: We know we have the world's best. They are real professionals. The commitment is tremendous. I'm just honored. I have my players from Rutgers come up to watch because I think everyone would do well to watch practice just to see great athletes work extremely hard. I feel fortunate.
Q: Considering what's at stake tomorrow is a bit more than an All-Star game, isn't it?
Stringer: I would hope people that work with words can find something to truly describe what this is. It's not a game only; it's not an event only. We can say that it's history-making, but we have to understand it's more than that. I would believe it is the alpha and omega, probably the last time you'll see a game of this magnitude. You've got the Olympic team playing the best professionals. You've got the greatest gathering of women basketball players right here.
Sue Bird, Seattle Storm
Q: How do you see your role with Team USA?
Bird: My role is to give the team whatever it needs from me. Whatever the coaches ask, whatever is expected, that's what I'll try to do. I'm just honored to be on the team and will make the most out of the experience.
Q: How does it feel to be back in New York?
Bird: I'm always excited to come back to New York. It means a lot of friends and family can come and watch me play. I feel comfortable in the city. But now it's time to get down to business and we're definitely going to look to get off on the right foot tomorrow and take that to Athens.
Q: How do you like living in Seattle?
Bird: I love Seattle. It's a different pace of life, compared to New York and, at first, I wasn't sold on it. But I really love the area, and we're also having a really good season with the Storm as well. Everything's looking good.
Q: Is it nice to have the Connecticut connection with Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi on Team USA?
Bird: With Swin and Diana, it's really exciting for me, because obviously I haven't played with them in a while. They're good players and they're also my good friends, so to experience this with them really makes it special.
Swin Cash, Detroit Shock
Q: What's playing against your coach going to feel like?
Cash: It will be fun, but at the same time I realize it will be preparation for a gold medal. So, I'm going to try and enjoy the moment, but also focus on what we have to do. I know Coach (Bill) Laimbeer is going to have them really focused. It'll be a different experience having him on the other side of me.
Q: Mwadi Mabika mentioned Coach Laimbeer gave the All-Stars a lot of plays. Does that surprise you?
Cash: He's a coach that let's you create, but at the same time he gives you structure. But he's OK with letting everybody get out there and play.
Q: You've already played at Radio City. What's it like?
Cash: We played the first game here, Detroit vs. New York. It's unique and I think it's great for the fans. You can put a basketball court in the desert and I'd still be alright playing.
Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever
Q: Has it hit you yet that you're getting ready for the Olympics?
Catchings: This is really exciting to have all 12 of us together now. It's a big deal, and something we've all been looking forward to, to being together and playing. Even though it comes right smack in the middle of our season, it's still a lot of fun to be able to take a break like this.
Q: How does your previous experience with the World Championship Team help you?
Catchings: The biggest thing is the competition that we'll be going up against over there. My veteran teammates have been great as far as helping us out, remembering the plays and being in the right spots. It's been a lot of fun going through the plays and figuring out the strengths and weaknesses of different players. You talk about it when you're playing against them, but now you're on the same team and trying to make sure everyone has a great performance and figure out the best thing that everybody does.
Q: What's it like to go from being rivals during the WNBA seasons to teammates for USA Basketball?
Catchings: It's weird in one way, but in another way it's fun because this is the best of the best. The game tomorrow night is going to be so much fun, having been on the same team with Natalie [Williams] and now going up against her. A lot of the players have teammates on the opposing team, so that makes it a lot of fun.
Yolanda Griffith, Sacramento Monarchs
Q: Are you excited to play at Radio City Music Hall?
Griffith: I've just got to remember not to go so far over there (motions toward the orchestra pit). It's a different atmosphere; it's amazing to put a court in a theatre. It's unbelievable. I think New York and the workers did an outstanding job to prepare. You've still got to remember it's still the same length of the court, the baskets are the same. We'll come out and have fun, it's for the fans. I want to see the Rockettes. I hope I get a chance to see them.
Q: What's it going to be like playing with this talented team that's headed to Athens?
Griffith: When I found out that I was chosen to represent our country, I was happy. I kind of put it to the side because I still had to focus for the Monarchs. It became a reality when we played Charlotte, then I knew it was a switch to USA Basketball. It's going to be a challenge, but with the team that we have - we have a good mixture of veterans and some young players - but with the young players we have, we're going to be okay. We're going to be good. We just have to remember that we're one and not let the egos get in the way. We're with USA Basketball and everybody has a special kind of game to bring to help us win the gold medal.
Q: Are you concerned that this WNBA All-Star team might come out looking for a win?
Griffith: Oh, for sure. It's good for the fans but we've got to get ourselves ready. This is our first game as a whole, the whole team together. We're still tweaking the problems that we have. I think we'll be okay but it's going to be a challenge tomorrow. They're coming together also two days before the game, but we have to represent our country. When we step on the court, we've got to be ready.
Shannon Johnson, San Antonio Silver Stars
Q: What's it going to be like playing with this talented squad headed to Athens?
Johnson: It's going to be fun, mainly because you've got athletes that can do so many versatile things. You can't say that one thing that one player can do that's very good. I think that's one reason why this team has been successful and been staying together and been able to play well, because we bring a certain part where we don't expect one person to do one thing. We know that we have one of the most dominating posts in the league on our team. We know that we've got some of the best people in every position. So we're not just saying that this person can only do that. I think it's because we're so versatile that makes us so strong.
Q: Are you worried at all that this WNBA All-Star team is looking for a victory tomorrow?
Johnson: Yes we are. We're always worried about every team. We're going to play hard for 40 minutes. We're not going to let up. If we're up by two or we're up by 40, we're going to play the same. We're going to go out there and work hard. That's our job. The WNBA has always supported us, USA Basketball, but we know that the team is going to go out there and play well and we've got to play hard against them.
Q: Have you had a chance to adjust to the larger ball?
Johnson: That's the only thing that I think all of us are worried about, the ball. International basketball, we've all had our experience with it and we've played overseas before. I think the ball is something that we have to get used to mainly because we have to end up coming back to (the smaller ball). So, it's going to be a situation where we have to get adjusted.
Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles Sparks
Q: What's it going to be like going against Nikki Teasley and Mwadi Mabika?
Leslie: It will be different, especially with Nikki T. at the point. I'm hoping she'll get a little confused and throw me the ball. But it'll be exciting.
Q: What do you think of this setup?
Leslie: It's going to be an amazing feeling to be out here and play here. I think you really have to be focused and play. It's going to be interesting what it looks like for television.
Q: Talk about this USA team.
Leslie: Right now, we are just trying to keep our turnovers low. We have to get a better feel for each other and having two days of practice is hard when you are going to be showcased. But we just have to get it done and come out here and try and play good team basketball.
Ruth Riley, Detroit Shock
Q: Are you excited for your first Olympics?
Riley: I'm just extremely excited to be here. It's going to be a complete honor to go over there and represent my country.
Q: Is it strange to be facing Coach Laimbeer?
Riley: I think it's going to be a fun event. Coach is definitely going to keep it fun for his players. It's interesting, though, because I think we're out here on a more serious note, trying to prepare ourselves to win a gold medal.
Q: Is there extra pressure on you with your regular-season coach here?
Riley: I'm sure he'll have a few words for us when we're running down the sideline anyway. But he's great.
Q: Does it help to have Swin Cash on the Olympic Team with you?
Riley: I'm excited that Swin and I are going to be able to go over there together. It's just going to be a great experience. I'm not only going over to represent my country, but my family's going to be there, and to have a teammate to share that experience with as well just adds to it.
Katie Smith, Minnesota Lynx
Q: Talk about this team.
Smith: We just got together, but our training prior to the WNBA was really good. It's a great mix of vets and newcomers. It's fun. I have a lot of confidence in each person; depending on what the game is, who we are playing, some people may play more than others on some nights … it just depends. But I think everyone will contribute.
Q: What do you think of this setting?
Smith: I think it's cool. It's in a historic building, so it's kind of special. It's neat to be here and, hopefully, the fans can see it well.
Q: This isn't going to be a typical All-Star game, is it?
Smith: Even All-Star games have been taken seriously lately. The WNBA wants to come out and beat us. We definitely … we aren't coming out here one-on-one, see who can win MVP. We are going to come out, sun our offense, take care of the basketball, defensively get down and guard people. We have to focus on playing as a team.
Dawn Staley, Charlotte Sting
Q: Do you like to reflect on your career when you come to moments like these?
Staley: I just play. I'm still able to get out there and play at the top level. I'm enjoying the journey, but at the same time it's difficult to sit back and look at my career on those terms.
Q: What do you expect from the WNBA All-Star team?
Staley: They're supposed to expect to win. And we expect to win. The competitive juices should be flowing. This is considered by some to be a good tune-up for us, but it's more than that. There's a lot of energy flying around this place. Bill Laimbeer wants his team to win, and I'm sure Coach (Van) Chancellor wants his team to win.
Q: Have you ever played on a stage before?
Staley: No. I'm too shy for theatre. But I think this is a tremendous experience. It's certainly different. I've played a lot of basketball, but this is by far the most different experience, but it's beautiful. It's a beautiful thing.
Sheryl Swoopes, Houston Comets
Q: What's the attitude of Team USA heading into this game?
Swoopes: I think Coach (Van) Chancellor said it best. We're not approaching this game like it's an exhibition or it's WNBA All-Stars. Right now, they're the enemy. It's just like going over and playing Russia or Australia right now. This is our first stop on working toward winning that gold medal, and whoever gets in the way, we have to go and take care of our business. I think it should be a very good game. I think the collection of WNBA All-Stars are great players. Some of them probably feel like they should be on the Olympic team. I think it should be very competitive. I think you're going to have players that are going to come out and have something to prove. We just have to come out and be focused.
Q: Have you ever played on a stage?
Swoopes: This is my first time. It's amazing to see how they've transformed this theatre into a gym. We haven't had an opportunity to play or practice here yet, so it's hard to say what it will be like. It looks a little different. It'll be interesting to see how we come out and play tomorrow.
Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
Q: What's it like being back on team with Sue Bird and Swin Cash?
Taurasi: It's great. We haven't been on the same team in three or four years, but the minute we get on the court it feels like we haven't missed a beat. It really is fun.
Q: Do you anticipate the three of you being on the court at the same time?
Taurasi: When we played in Denver and Houston we saw a lot of time on the court together. When we were out there we did a pretty good job, so you'll probably see a lot of it.
Q: How long has the team been back together?
Taurasi: We got in yesterday and had our first practice last night, just going through some stuff, trying to get organize. Today, we went pretty hard. We're looking good. We haven't been together for a month and a half, so it will take a little time.
Q: Do you get a sense the WNBA All-Stars really want to win tomorrow?
Taurasi: Do they? I don't know what they've been saying but we are going to treat it as a normal game, because we need all the preparation we can get. It should be fun.
Tina Thompson, Houston Comets
Q: Talk about your expectations heading into your first Olympics.
Thompson: It's exciting that it's finally happening. I've had a lot of opportunities to be a part of the team, and there's always something happening -- whether it be injury or something like that. So the fact that it's finally coming to pass is very exciting because I'm finally going to get the whole experience. Now that I'm actually here and I'm going to be able to play and be a part of it, I'm just excited to get it started.
Q: How is it to have Coach Chancellor leading this experience?
Thompson: I'm very familiar with his system because I've played my entire professional career with him. Coach Chancellor is fun. He makes the whole experience as fun as possible for the entire team, whether it's an All-Star Team, our team back in Houston, or now an Olympic Team. He tries to let everyone be as comfortable as they can possibly be, as well as take advantage of their strengths. When you have players as talented as we have on this team, that's a good coaching philosophy.
Q: The team has a lot of work to do in a short period of time.
Thompson: So far things are going well, considering. We're all coming from our teams and breaking like three-fourths of the way through the season, and it's exciting. It's just so different and we don't really know what to expect. But so far it's going well. We all flew in yesterday, we're a little tired, but so far practice is going well and everyone's really positive and looking forward to getting to Athens and starting to tune it up and play.