March 26, 2011
Q. Kim, we've talked about Odyssey and how well she's adjusted this year in the starting role. Talk about the NCAA Tournament experience for her. She is coming off a season of seven turnovers against West Virginia, but just talk about how she's handled herself and how better prepared you think she'll be this week and maybe also overcoming the excitement of playing close to home.
COACH MULKEY: She's not the only one playing close to home. You've got Pope from Fort Worth and then you've got Nae Nae who played at Dallas Lincoln, and I'm probably missing somebody else in that bunch. But I don't think being at home is going to be a factor at all in the game other than there may be more family and friends in the stands.
I thought she did very well in the first two games. The seven turnovers, I don't dwell on that. I think it's just the nature of the position that she plays. But I thought for the most part she handled herself the same way she's handled herself all year.
Q. Kim, talking with Nae Nae the other day, she said in this backup role she's in now she can kind of watch the game, get a little bit of a feel for it before she goes in. For her, do you think that might be good? Because, as you've said, at times she can be a little out of control.
COACH MULKEY: Well, Nae Nae brings us a certain amount of energy to the floor by the way she plays. When she runs, she runs hard. When she dribbles, she dribbles hard.
And she plays two positions for us. She did that last year as well. So I can look at her from the perspective, do I need to sub her right here for Odyssey, do I need to sub her for Jordan Madden or Melissa Jones.
And that was really probably more than anything the reason I decided to bring her off the bench. I didn't want to have two point guards on the floor at the same time. When they both get fatigued, who do I turn to? And I just think that she's playing her best basketball right now.
If you look at Nae Nae Hayden's 3 point shooting, a lot of people want to leave her open. I wouldn't let her get her feet set, because she's really shooting the ball well from the 3. She can take you off the dribble and she, just like Odyssey, is playing at home and I think it will be fun for her.
Q. Green Bay's been a little under the radar playing in the Horizon League, but still 4 0 against the Big Ten, 3 1 against teams in the tournament. What has stood out about them as you've broken down film this week?
COACH MULKEY: They're not under the radar if you're in women's basketball. They've never been under the radar. I've been aware of their team for several years.
The thing that stands out to me is they're an older team again. They're very confident. They take you off the dribble. They will shoot the 3. They play all over the floor.
And they've beaten some pretty good teams. And I don't care who you play. I don't care what league you're in. If you've only lost one basketball game, you're darn good. And it's going to be a battle, as it should be.
Q. I'm doing a little bit of story not only on the game and your team but on Brittney. Just talk to me how she's changing the game of basketball for college athletics and just what she means to you.
COACH MULKEY: Brittney Griner plays above the rim. She's one of those players that I could tell her when the game starts tomorrow, go goaltend the first shot they take.
How many girls will I ever coach in my lifetime that I can tell that to? How many have I ever played with? And I've played with some of the greatest both in the Olympics and international ball. How many can you honestly say that to?
She's a once in a lifetime player. I don't know that we'll see the likes of Brittney Griner again, because girls are just not made that way.
And at the same time, when you have a player that has all the accolades thrown her way and all the adjectives that are used, sometimes those players are hard to coach, and you really are like, gosh, if they're not a player you enjoy every day, you really wait for the day that they leave the program. Brittney is one of those that when she's done at Baylor it's going to be a sad day because she's one of the more coachable players.
She's constantly you'll watch her play, she's looking for my approval. She's making eye contact. She doesn't want to disappoint you.
She's the first one in practice and the last one to leave. She's the one player that will come by the office prior to people getting to practice because she's bored. She's ready to get practice going.
And I don't know that any of us will ever see a player like that again. I think that she is you're going to see big players again. You're going to see 6'8"s again. You see them now. But she's a player that will be talked about many, many years from now. And I don't know that anybody can compare players to her, because I don't know that we'll ever see one that can do what she does.
Q. You mentioned the other night you thought your team kind of had a business approach, the way the things were after they advanced to the Sweet 16. Compare and contrast how this year's team is acting to the team last year. They weren't expected to make a Final Four last year; this year you are.
COACH MULKEY: I just think they're handling themselves in kind of a quiet, confident way. They observe, they watch, they listen to all the comments. I still want them to have a personality of excitement, but not silliness. And I thought last year, because we had so many freshmen, they didn't know how to separate being silly and excited, confident and business like.
And you just keep teaching them that, and I think the experiences on the floor keep teaching them that.
And all those freshmen are a year older, and hopefully the excitement and the experience we had in making it to the Final Four will have helped them. And I don't know that. You're in another Sweet 16 and you're playing a great team in Green Bay, and they're going to be just as excited as we were last year. But now maybe having been there before will help us just a little bit, but I don't know that.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the development of Jordan Madden from last season to this season and her starting the second half of this season in the Big 12 Tournament and how she's helped the team defensively up to this point.
COACH MULKEY: Jordan had been coming off the bench. And when we decided to make the change with Nae Nae, I thought Jordan Madden's length could help us develop her into somewhat of a defensive stopper.
She has the ability that when she gets beat off the dribble she can catch up either by alternate shot because of her length on the perimeter or her quickness. Nae Nae and Terran and Odyssey, all those guys have the quickness, but sometimes they don't have the length to really alter a shot.
I think the biggest development, and it continues to be somewhat of a development for Jordan, is she is such a fun, happy, easy going, enjoy life type of kid that she can't separate, focus in seriousness for an hour and a half to two hours on the floor. And that has been the biggest teaching point with her is to make her understand there's a time to play and there's a time to work.
And I think, like all of the freshmen, they've had to learn how to take constructive criticism in coaching. And I think she's really getting better. I thought when she got here she'd pout over anything you corrected her on.
Now she understands this lady's for me and I need to listen to her, and she's just growing. I think it's just maturity.
Q. People can watch film on Brittney and try to game plan against them. But can they truly comprehend what it's like to go up against her until they actually hit the floor and see what she's all about? Is Green Bay ready for Brittney Griner?
COACH MULKEY: I can't answer that. I'm not on that floor playing. If I was a player, I could tell you better.
I just know that you could probably get a better answer from people who have played us. And as far as Green Bay being ready, I would think that they're ready. If you're in a Sweet 16, every team's ready. And I really don't know how to help you with that.
Q. Kim, you talked about it the other day, but they shoot 3s from every position on the floor. Talk about that. And when it does bring Brittney outside, does that put more on the other players to try to crash the boards?
COACH MULKEY: Green Bay is going to do things that we've seen this year. So they can take all five players and bring them outside the paint. You guys have watched us play every game, and you know that that's part of a lot of strategy that people do. I think the difference is Green Bay does that anyway. It's not like they're doing something they don't normally do.
So we're not going to see anything different from Green Bay that we haven't seen. Brittney's not going to all of a sudden see something any different than she's already seen.
So we just gotta go play. Are we going to see a double , triple team? I don't know. Are we going to see a zone? I don't know? Are we going to see them bring her? I don't know. But she's seen all of that and we work on all of that.
Green Bay is good enough that they're going to do what they do best. Whatever has gotten them to this point, that's what they're going to do. And that's what good teams do. And I don't anticipate them to change a whole lot.
Q. Matt Bollant said last week and leading up to this appearance that his defense is probably the perfect defense to play a very tall post player, the way they play post defense. What is it about their the way they play that defense that makes them so effective and that I guess might work against your player?
COACH MULKEY: You're going to have to ask him that. I don't know his defense like he does. I know what I see on film. But I can't dissect you and tell you why he thinks his zone defense is any different or any better than the zone defenses we see in our league. I don't know. I can't answer that.
Q. You've talked about your team's youth and talent and exuberance. How does Melissa Jones' veteran presence and leadership work into that?
COACH MULKEY: Melissa Jones's presence on the floor just makes us a more confident basketball team. She's a senior. She's our glue. She's our captain. She's playing with vision in one eye. She almost has a triple double in the first half in the Big 12 Tournament.
She just is an extension of me on the floor without the ball in her hands. The point guard is usually an extension of you. But because Odyssey's a freshman, Melissa has really been that coach on the floor.
Melissa can play any position on the floor for us. We can play her at the post. We can play her at the point. We can play her at the off guard. She's just a competitor. And if every coach had the opportunity to coach a Melissa Jones, those are the kids you would recruit at every position, because she makes you a winner.
Q. Excuse me for taking you back maybe a few years here, but struck by the fact there's definitely a Louisiana Tech influence in this Regional, whether it's you bringing Coach Barmore back as your assistant, Gary Blair was together with you two there, and even Andy Landers talked about coaching against Louisiana Tech today. Just wondering what do you remember from that time and maybe that whole dynamic of Coach Barmore, Gary Blair as the assistant, and yourself at LA Tech?
COACH MULKEY: You'll have to let me talk a little bit here, because 19 years of my life were spent at Louisiana Tech. I'm a Louisiana girl. And I've said it many times. I don't care where my career takes me, Louisiana is home and it always will be. My children were born there. My mother still lives there. I'll have a slew of Louisiana friends sitting behind our bench.
If you just look at the coaches, let's just say the head coaches at our level that learned from Leon Barmore: Gary Blair, Kristy Curry, Kurt Budke, the list goes on.
There's no secret why those coaches are winning and are successful. You can't be around a guy that loves the game and teaches the game in great detail and not pick up something from him and then develop that and mix your own personality in there.
And it was such an honor for me to have a position open where I could ask him to come out of retirement. He was bored. He retired too early. You can only play golf so much. And in the winter months, I said, Why don't you come to Baylor? You don't have to recruit. You don't even have to go to the games, just come and when you want to practice and let me bend your ear. And he's got a cush job. And I'm just as excited that he's a part of our program as he is being a part of our program.
Now, I was a player at Louisiana Tech in the early '80s when Gary was an assistant and Coach Barmore was actually an assistant. And I could tell some Gary Blair stories, but I won't. And he's just funny. You've got to remember, Gary came from South Oak Cliff and he came to Louisiana Tech with Debra Rodman.
Now, do I need to tell you the Rodman family? Her brother is Dennis. So I tell this story in the most complimentary and fun way, is that Dennis learned everything from his sister Debra. Debra was one of the most enjoyable athletes to play with because I knew if I got beat she had my back and blocked shots. She's one of the most vicious rebounders I ever played with.
And there's just a long line of coaches that came from Louisiana Tech because at a time when no other big school was putting money into the women's basketball programs, Louisiana Tech's president, F. Jay Taylor, did.
And I guess one of the best compliments Pat Summitt ever made to me and to Coach Barmore was in the early '80s Tennessee didn't beat Louisiana Tech. She wanted to emulate that program. I will never forget that. And now we all know what Tennessee means to all of us in this business.
Q. You often have a size advantage in a game that's pretty significant against Green Bay. Do you look to exploit the paint a little more, crash the boards?
COACH MULKEY: I don't think that we look to do that just because it's Green Bay and we have a size advantage. We do that anyway.
We do that if we don't have a size advantage. I'm not a very good coach if I allow the perimeter players to ignore Griner for a very long period of time. But it has nothing to do with Green Bay.
Q. Brittney and Melissa, I want you to talk about Odyssey a little bit. Brittney, obviously before you can score the ball most of the time Odyssey has already touched. I want you to talk about the connection that you two have built this year and just when you see her coming down the court. And, Melissa, talk about for a freshman you have been through it four years, having the experience you've had, talk about what you've seen in her development as a freshman and how far she's come this season.
Brittney Griner: Me and O, we have experience with playing with each other before she came, so we kind of had a little bond before that.
When I see her coming up the floor, I just try to see which way she's going, and sometimes we lock eyes and just give me that look or I'll give her a look like going to do something right here special.
She's improved so much from the beginning, from summer. She stepped up a lot in games in A&M games. She carried us. In the Oklahoma game she carried us. She's doing a really good job with handling everything as a freshman point guard. And just really proud of her.
Melissa Jones: Just what Brittney said, just how talented Odyssey really is, my experience as a freshman was a lot different in the sense of, you know, mine was up and down, up and down, learning experiences not to say she's not learning, but how confident we all are having Odyssey as our point guard, we don't even look at her as a freshman. She's already seemed to be so experienced. She just has so much composure and just gets is leading our team on the floor and holds us all together.
Q. B.G., you've talked about how you enjoy going up against bigger posts. Green Bay obviously is a little bit smaller team than what y'all are accustomed to seeing in the Big 12. Do you attack that any differently when it's a little bit smaller team?
Brittney Griner: Well, I mean, guarding them wise, they're a little bit shorter, so you just not really, I don't think. Just basically go out and play my game, really.
We're not going to change up anything, because that's when you mess up stuff. So just keep going out like I do every game. Hardly see taller posts, so it's kind of like normal now.
Q. Odyssey, a lot of college freshmen talk about their first season, and maybe because of the length of the season, hitting a little wall toward the end of the season or just running into a little fatigue because they haven't played that many games in high school. Have you run into anything like that? How are you feeling right now?
Odyssey Sims: I haven't ran into any wall or anything. Just taking it one game at a time, just spreading as far as like our last game was Tuesday. The hardest thing is just to stay focused, because everybody wants to play and we don't play until tomorrow, so we still have a day to get ready and prepare. So that's the biggest thing in practice is just staying focused, just counting down the days and get ready to play at game time.
Q. Odyssey and Melissa, you guys probably have been asked this a thousand times, but talk about the lady to your left in Brittney and what she means to the team and just how special of a talent she is.
Odyssey Sims: B.G., she's something special. She's 6'8". That's not something you see all the time. And just her impact as far as what she brings to the game.
It's not her scoring not her blocking shots, just her presence alone, it means so much, just because she's in the paint. She can block shots, alter shots, and get rebounds. And on the other hand, offensive end, she can score when we need her to, post up and drive the finish to her.
And that's something that most teams don't have, and that's something that we have and that we're able to not take advantage of, but something that we're able to work with and be proud about that. And I'm glad to have her on my team.
Melissa Jones: When people talk about Baylor women's basketball, the first thing you hear is Brittney Griner. That's how it should be because of her presence and how she's not only changing Baylor's program, but women's basketball in general.
But what I like most about Brittney doesn't really happen on the court. It's like who she is as a person off the court and how you can just have a good time with her and just have fun and goof around with her. So I really enjoy that.
Q. M.J., last year you were a little particularly at this level, you all were more the hunter going after the higher seeded teams, now you're the hunted. Is there a different mindset? Or with Kim is every game the same anyway?
Melissa Jones: We have to expect that any game we're going to play you're going to get the best shot from every team. So we just have to prepare knowing that every game we play has to be at the best of our ability as well, because on any given night, if we play a bad game we can be beat. So we just have to like Odyssey was saying, we have to stay focused and we have to maintain just keeping each other together and just preparing it one game at a time.
Q. Odyssey, a couple of weeks ago your high school team finally got that state championship. A minute ago you were talking about focus. How is it playing this close to home and how does it feel being this close to home? Do you feel any different, or do you put that aside and say this is another game?
Odyssey Sims: The first thing that comes to my mind is not really worried about like coming home. I'm here we're here to play basketball. We're not here to see family, to talk to my friends, socialize, all that other stuff. That other stuff comes after the season when it's all said and done.
Right now we have other stuff to deal with, and that's playing basketball. So that's not even that doesn't even cross my mind. I've just got to stay focused.
Q. Brittney, kind of in the same vein as the question to Melissa but also the fact that you've had to deal personally with expectations pretty much your whole career. But now as a team, after the Final Four last year, it's almost like this year would be a disappointment if you don't get back to the Final Four. How has the team coped with that and what's the mindset when so much is expected of a team?
Brittney Griner: Personally, and I know as a team, we really the expectations of everybody we kind of really just block out. We have our team expectations and what Coach expects us to do and accomplish. And that's mainly what we focus on. The difference from last year and this year, like you said, a little bit of the hunted this time.
But like M.J. said, we know we're going to get everybody's best shot. All we can do is go out and play as hard as we can, just like last year when we were pursuing the bigger seeded schools, just playing hard. So this were year just gotta keep doing what we did, just keep playing hard every game.
Q. Brittney, want to ask you, too, about being close to home. Waco is not far from Dallas and Houston is not far at all either. Talk about that. But first let me ask you about being the focal point of Baylor women's basketball. How you handle that?
Brittney Griner: I mean, I really don't consider myself that. I really don't consider myself as that. I couldn't do what I'm doing without my teammates, without Melissa, without O and I can't bring the ball up myself and give me a good pass in the post.
So everything is just the team when it comes to me. I don't know what to really say about being the focal point of Baylor. I don't feel like I am. Can't do anything without coaches and my team.
Being close to home, I mean, Dallas was where my AU team was. I know I have people who come out to the games, but these guys come out and play, we can celebrate after everything's said and done.
Q. Brittney, you haven't fouled out of a game. You lead the nation in blocked shots. Can you talk a little bit about the discipline it requires for you to be that aggressive blocking shots, and you know teams want to get you in foul trouble and yet not being in that situation?
Brittney Griner: Just being smart, playing smart. I want to get a block, but if I can't block it, you can just be a presence there and try to alter it, make them think about I'm 6'8" coming at you with a long wing span. So they're going to think about it.
Just being aggressive, but have finesse to it, too. You can't be just all aggressive and you'll end up getting those fouls. It's a little bit of finesse in it, too. So just keeping that in mind on the defensive end.
Q. M.J., can you give us maybe the daily progress report on your eye and any update?
Melissa Jones: It's about the same. It's still blurry and kind of have like a mirage still sense to it and just kind of goes back and forth from seeing that and just being blurred.
Q. Melissa and Odyssey, can you all talk about, of course, they can shoot 3 pointers from every position but the importance of getting out and defending them beyond that line?
Melissa Jones: Green Bay is a very talented basketball team. And anything that they might lack with size, as you were talking about earlier, they have hustle. And just their mentality of keep going in every possession is something you have to look at coming when we're going to play them.
So we really have a handful with just trying to defend and trying to defend every aspect of the floor, because they can shoot and they can drive. They're very athletic and we have our hands full.
Odyssey Sims: What she said, they're a very talented team. They only lost one game this season. That's something that we have to look at, too. They're pretty good. They didn't get here for no reason. And just the biggest thing we have to do is just close out and move our feet, because they're a very athletic team. And one thing that Coach stresses is the guards haven't stopped dribble penetration. So we're just going to try to do a better job of keeping our girl in front and not sending them all to Brittney so she doesn't have to help and pick up early fouls early.
Q. M.J., you talked about Brittney as a person; that's what you appreciate most. And those of us know her even a little bit know she's a very happy go lucky, Skittles eating kid. What's the craziest or goofiest thing you've seen her do?
Melissa Jones: Man, we might be here all day. I don't know. One of my favorite memories is when we went out to one of our coaches' house, their pool, we were doing flips off the bridge into the water, even though she can't really swim. So she was kind of a little nervous. We were like, Brittney, just stand up, you're in shallow enough water. So that was pretty entertaining (laughter).