September 23- How are teams, coaches and players using this week to prepare for the opening weekend of the postseason? Prior to the start of their first round series, the eight coaches in the WNBA Playoffs 2004 spoke about their team's overall outlook, health and opposition.

Western Conference
Karleen Thompson Anne Donovan Suzie McConnell Serio John Whisenant
Eastern Conference
Mike Thibault Pat Coyle Bill Laimbeer Michael Adams


WESTERN CONFERENCE

Karleen Thompson, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: Comment on the health of your team heading in to the WNBA playoffs?
"We have the usual aches and pains, sore bodies and tiredness. The thing about this team is that they put all of that aside when it is time to play in the playoffs."

Q. Describe the differences in Lisa Leslie's play before and after the Olympics?
"I think that her overall play is a lot stronger and her inside game is a lot more aggressive. Lisa's defensive game has also turned up. I do not know if that has anything to do with winning the gold medal or with the training that she has been doing with out strength and conditioning coach, Bob Hernandez."

Q. How important do you think it will be having home court advantage throughout the playoffs?
"I think it is very important. That was shown last year in the playoffs. You always want to play at home in front of your crowd with familiarity around you. Although it is not home court advantage if you do not win the first game on the road."

Q. What changes, if any, did you make when you took over the team and following the loss of DeLisha Milton-Jones?
"We focused on all of the individual talent that each player can contribute and to play together. We changed our defenses and worked on having a better press. We have looked to go deeper into our bench. Every person on the team adds to the team and has something to contribute, as a coach, we have to play to their strengths. You can not change the game so much, that they can't even play in the game."

Q. What will be the keys to defeating the Monarchs?
"The keys will be to play team defense, play together as a team, keep our composure and to box out."


Anne Donovan, Seattle Storm

Q: How beneficial will having home court advantage be in the first round?
"We are thrilled to achieve home court advantage. We feel that our fans are the best in the WNBA and are a definite edge for us when we take the floor at Key Arena."

Q: Comment on the health of your team heading into the WNBA playoffs?
"Compared to the end of the 2003 regular season, we are in much better shape. We have all of our starters ready to go and with a single mindset: the WNBA Championship."

Q: How has Lauren Jackson¹s return to the lineup helped the Storm?
"Lauren Jackson is the MVP of the WNBA. Having LJ in our lineup makes us work at our best at both ends of the floor."

Q: What is the biggest factor between last year¹s team that finished out of the playoffs and this year¹s team that finished with the second best record in the WNBA?
"There are several reasons that factor into our 2nd place finish in 2004. Last season, we lost 2 starters (Adia Barnes and Kamila Vodichkiva, and simply did not have the depth to overcome losing two of our most quality players. We addressed the need for added depth in the offseason and added 2 starters to the roster (Betty Lennox & Sheri Sam) who have positive experience in the league, and Janelle Burse added to our needed post depth. You can never count experience and although we have tremendous young players on our Storm team, Sue and Lauren have gained valuable experience throughout their time in the WNBA and internationally."

Q: What will be the keys to defeating the Lynx.
"Being able to defend and recound the ball will be the difference for us. We must get good stips to help us get out in transition and score."


Suzie McConnell Serio, Minnesota Lynx

Q: Comment on the health of your team heading into the WNBA playoffs? And how will not having Katie Smith impact your club?
"We have had enough time to play without Katie Smith and the players have made adjustments - people have stepped up and our inside players have been very affective. Of course not having Katie makes a difference going into the playoffs. In the postseason you're talking about playing the best teams. When you lose someone like Katie you can’t replace her with one player. It will be a challenge for the team to step up and get the job done. Right now we are healthy with the 11 players we have on the roster. Recently we have just had to deal with Tamika Williams and the arm injury she had in the Seattle game, so we are just trying to knock that out and keep an eye on her."

Q: How has your rookie class come together to help your team get into the playoffs?
"Our rookie class has been unbelievable. You look at Nicole Ohlde who has come in and been an impact player and our starting center from the beginning. Vanessa Hayden, even though she missed training camp and part of the season, has come on strong and has had an impact on our inside game. Amber Jacobs has been solid for us as a back up point guard; she had a great game in L.A. to help us clinch a playoff spot. Tasha Butts, coming of the bench and playing good defense, has been great for us as well."

Q: How has veteran guard Teresa Edwards influenced this young team?
“'T'has been fantastic with this team; they love playing with her. She has been a great leader and continues to teach her teammates every day in practice. Her work ethic has been contagious and the knowledge of the game she shares with them is tremendous. "T" is a smart player who knows how to win and that has filtered through to the other players. They have learned a lot from her and the experience she brings is very valuable to us."

Q: What will be the keys to defeating the Storm?
"Seattle has so many weapons; we have to be aware of their entire team at all times. As far as point guard and post, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson are probably the two best players in the league. They play very well together and we will need to contain them to try and minimize their effectiveness. We need to play a great game defensively and rebound the basketball because they are very good on the offensive glass. Then on the other hand, offensively we need to take great care of the basketball and shoot well. The bottom line is we need to play a great game."


John Whisenant, Sacramento Monarchs

Q: Comment on the health of your team heading into the WNBA playoffs?
“We have our normal bumps and bruises, that’s to be expected. Ticha (Penicheiro) strained her foot (against Houston 9/18) and if she can’t practice with us this week she won’t be very effective in the game on Friday. However, Kara (Lawson) had an all-star performance in the game versus Minnesota. It would be best if everyone was healthy with no injuries.”

Q: How has your veteran leadership of Yolanda Griffith and Ticha Penicherio helped your team make it to the playoffs?
“They’re both great leaders, very competitive. They do what I say. They sacrifice for the team. They’ve got great leadership.”

Q: Your team posted one of the best road records in the league this year,how will that help your team in the playoffs?
“All the way through to the championship we’re going go have to play one or two on the road. We need to concentrate on defense and rebounding on the road, that’s what our team is built around. If we can just store up our defense and rebounds, that can give us a shot.”

Q: What will be the keys to defeating Los Angeles?
“Defense and rebounding. Los Angeles is the best offensive team in the WNBA. They have the most dominate inside player in the WNBA surrounded by all-star type players that are offensively gifted. We don’t expect to match them offensively. We’ll be able to negate that with our athleticism and our ability to play defense and with our rebounding.”


EASTERN CONFERENCE

Mike Thibault , Connecticut Sun

Q: Comment on the health of your team heading into the WNBA playoffs?
"We have the normal knicks and bruises that come with this time of the year, but we're ready to play."

Q: How important has rookie Lindsay Whalen been to this team?
"Lindsay has been probably everything we expected. She's brought a passing mentality to our team that's been contagious. For a rookie she's been composed and poised and learned to play under pressure. She's not afraid to make big plays when the game is on the line. Although I think her best basketball is still a couple of years away still, she has made us a better basketball team immediately."

Q: And were you surprised at all by how quickly she acclimated to the league?
"Not particularly. I think I expect a lot of players that get drafted high. She's had some ups and downs because she had to adjust to the length and the size that's in this league, but she's progressing at a pretty good rate."

Q: How important is having home court advantage through the Conference Finals?
"It's not important unless you have a game three. I think it actually works against higher seed early. It's just the nature of having a best-of-three, it can't be helped right now, the way the league is structured. I would hope some day that all rounds go to a best of five."

Q: How does it feel to reach the playoffs after many people, including USA Today ranked you at the bottom of the Eastern Conference coming into the season?
"It's gratifying. I'm proud of our players for buying into what we tried to do. Their chemistry has been great. They've kind of picked each other up, particularly when we had some down times in the middle of the season. They re-grouped and got themselves going. I'm happy. I expect to be in the playoffs every year. I don't think you should be playing unless you do. But they way they've grown, especially being such a youthful team, has been very good."

Q: What will be the keys to defeating Washington?
"I think they first thing in any playoff game is to keep your turnovers down and do a good job on the boards. Obviously, they've got some players who have really picked it up in Beard and players like that. I think all the little things, rebounds, turnovers, fouls, are really important."


Pat Coyle, New York Liberty

Q: Comment on the health of your team heading into the WNBA playoffs?
"We're banged up a bit but, we've been dealing with injuries all summer. It's not anything new."

Q: Down the stretch, what was the biggest factor in your team making the playoffs?
"The players on the bench began to step up. They started doing everything we needed them to do."

Q: What have you done differently with the team since taking over as head coach? And what have you had to differently without two of your primary post players – Wauters and Phillips?
"We haven't changed much. We used the break to become more organized and to tweek the offense. It's not so much what I had to do but, more what the players had to do. They have really stepped up, some have gotten more minutes. They dealt with the loss and have all become go to players."

Q: How nice is it to be back in Madison Square Garden?
"It's great - Radio City Music Hall was a wonderful experience and we played well there (5-1), but there's nothing like playing at the Garden in front of THE best fans."

Q: What are the keys to defeating Detroit?
"We have to play our game and not theirs. We need to do the things we do well."

Q: How will having home court advantage in the first round impact the series?
"Having home court advantage is tremendous. Winning on the road is very difficult. We have to win 2/3 whichever way."


Bill Laimbeer, Detroit Shock

Comment on the health of your team heading into the WNBA playoffs?
"Our only injury is Swin Cash. Everybody else is healthy. We’re looking for getting ready to go in this series."

How important is having the experience of winning the 2003 WNBA Championship to the success of your winning the title in 2004?
"I think our ladies know what to expect; the regular season is over, this is the playoffs. This is what our team was built for is playoff basketball, with our size down low and post scoring. We’re geeked up we think we have the best squad."

How will your team make-up for injured forward Swin Cash during the playoffs?
"We have to rely on Cheryl Ford a little bit more to score. She’ll probably take a few more shots but our bench play is where it’s going to have to be at from Merlakia Jones moving into the starting line-up to Chandi Jones and Iciss Tillis. We need some bench play."

What has been the difference between last year’s squad, who finished with the best record in the WNBA, and this year’s team?
"Immaturity – the league got bigger and stronger and we didn’t realize how hard we had to play every night for the entire regular season. We’re fortunate to be in the playoffs, everybody starts 0-0 and let’s get going."

What are the keys to defeating New York?
"Three-point shooting is their (New York’s) main strength along with penetration. Individual penetration and getting to the basket, are the two main areas you have to stop."


Michael Adams, Washington Mystics

Q: Comment on the health of your team heading into the WNBA playoffs?
"The health of our team is excellent going into the playoffs."

Q: How has your team adjusted to playing without Chamique? Have you changed anything specifically off4ensively or defensively?
"It was a struggle early on but now I think we realize that she will not be here and we have stepped up our game. Each individual player has stepped up. We have not changed anything defensively. We rely more on five players instead of one to get the majority of the touches."

Q: As a former NBA player, you reached the playoffs in five different seasons, how will that experience help your team in the WNBA postseason?
"All I can do is relate my experience with the playoffs to them. Everything is for real. It all counts. You can’t get back the mistakes that you make. You better try to play perfect basketball in order to advance."

Q: What will be the keys to defeating Connecticut?
"Slow them down and not let them run out and run in transition. We have to try to contain Whalen and not let Nykesha Sales score more then her average."