ASAP Sports Logo

NCAA WOMEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP: WOMEN'S FINAL FOUR

April 4, 2019

Muffet McGraw Jessica Shepard Arike Ogunbowale Brianna Turner

Tampa, Florida

THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement from Coach McGraw.

MUFFET McGRAW: I think being anointed as the No. 1 seed early in the season is not a blessing. It's hard to get here. I don't know that everybody knows how hard it is to get back here. I'm proud of what this team has accomplished. We've overcome some things. We've been very persistent. Very blessed to be back here.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Arike, after the Women's Final Four last year Notre Dame had, how do you top it?
ARIKE OGUNBOWALE: Well, I don't think we were can really top last year. What happened last year was amazing. We're here to win, however we have to do it, whatever fashion, we're just here to win. That's what we're focused on.

Q. Arike, the meeting in December with UConn, after which you used Twitter to apologize, what was the learning experience from that? How did that shape the way you attacked the rest of the season? Why did you feel the need to apologize?
ARIKE OGUNBOWALE: I attack every game how I would, whoever the opponent is. I go into every game with the same mindset. That's how it is. I'm just here to win, here to focus on basketball. That is basketball. Like I said, I attack every game how it is. So just basketball.

Q. Brianna, you had to miss last year's Women's Final Four because of injury. What is it like to be back here? What were your emotions last year watching your team do what they did?
BRIANNA TURNER: It was really exciting to see the success of our team last year. But, I mean, my injuries are in the past. I'm really just looking forward. I'm excited for my last weekend of, like, college athletics. I'm really soaking it all in. We're all really excited to play tomorrow night.

Q. Jess, I want to ask you, when you first arrived, what made you aware of the animus, if there is any, between Notre Dame and UConn coming from the outside of it? Did the level of it surprise you or not so?
JESSICA SHEPARD: I mean, I think Notre Dame and UConn are two programs that have been doing it right for a long time. I think anyone who watches women's college basketball knows about those two programs.

I think we're not really focused about who we're playing tomorrow, but just about, you know, winning the game, playing our best basketball.

Q. For all three players, can you talk about what you learned from the December meeting with UConn, why you expect this game to be different.
BRIANNA TURNER: For the first game, I think we just learned a lot about ourselves, how we need to focus on our defense, not get too riled up, making sure we're staying focused throughout the 40 minutes, not letting up no matter who the opponent may be or what's happening during the course of the game.

ARIKE OGUNBOWALE: I think definitely just after that game we really learned how to play with each other. Marina was injured for most of the games before that, that was our first game as a starting five. Definitely just it's a process to be able to learn how to play with five All Americans.

I think over the course of the season, that game really helped us.

JESSICA SHEPARD: Yeah, I agree. I think just developing team chemistry since that game's happened. I think just kind of refocusing as a team.

Q. Muffet spoke a little bit about it in the beginning. Last year, all year everybody kept waiting for you to fall, injuries were piling up. You didn't. What is it like going through this year when you were all pretty much solid and playing from the top all season, a difference in just experiences between the two seasons?
BRIANNA TURNER: Well, I think we all like being healthy rather than being hurt. I personally enjoy being healthy. But, I mean, like, less people in the training room, more on the court. I think we're excited. We have more bodies in there, more bodies on the bench. I think it's better when you have more people available to play and practice.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies.

We'll continue with questions for Coach McGraw.

Q. Kim Mulkey was in here saying, If we weren't all competitors trying to go for the same thing, we'd probably be all friends. She said some of us would probably even be married. I know you're married, I know Geno is married, but do you think you two would have a normal relationship if you weren't competing every year for the same thing?
MUFFET McGRAW: Well, there's a question I didn't expect (smiling).

I think being from Philly, Geno and I have a lot in common, especially with Jim Foster as a very good friend of both of us. I could see us being friends, but I could not see us being married (laughter). So the answer is no, if he's proposing.

Q. Those first couple times back in the '80s that these two programs played, UConn kind of owned the series. What do you remember from those first eight losses or something like that?
MUFFET McGRAW: Yeah, I've blocked most of them out, I think.

I think back then, UConn was the measuring stick. I don't think we played them in the '80s, I don't remember any of that. I remember the early days in the Big East when they were the team, they were the team to beat, to measure yourself against. They were the team, you looked at what they were doing, that's where I want to get to. That team was then and Tennessee at the time. Both programs were just way above everyone else. Those were the two that you looked at to kind of hope you would get there someday.

Q. How would you characterize the rivalry with UConn? You hear everybody else talk about it being the best rivalry in the women's game, one of the best in sports. A lot of people talk about animosity, respect, or hatred. How would you characterize it?
MUFFET McGRAW: I think it's very competitive and intense. I think it is the best rivalry in women's college basketball. I think it's one the fans and teams all look forward to.

Q. The discussion obviously is about the rivalry. What did you learn from that first game when you played in December? What did you learn that will help you tomorrow?
MUFFET McGRAW: I think any time you lose, you go back and you look at absolutely everything that went on in the game, offense, defense. What did we do wrong, substitutions, man, zone, what did we play. You break down the whole game, try to find some things.

That's why you play those games early in the year, because you want to know what your weaknesses are, how teams are going to attack you. You learn a lot from them.

We did some good things. We did some good things at both ends of the floor. We just didn't do enough good things. I think we didn't take advantage sometimes of the mismatches that we had. So we were able to work on that. Our defense was not as good as I thought. We've actually been working on that for the rest of the year. I think you take away little things like that.

[Christyn] Williams had a huge game. We probably weren't as prepared for that. So now we're aware of what she can do. I think we learned a lot. Same as we did for the other two losses we had.

Q. I know you made some comments about hiring practices, what you would do in the future. How important -- as your career has gone on, how seriously do you taking being that voice, losing Pat Summitt?
MUFFET McGRAW: Did you know that the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in 1967 and it still hasn't passed? We need 38 states to agree that discrimination on the basis of sex is unconstitutional. We've had a record number of women running for office and winning, and still we have 23% of the House and 25% of the Senate.

I'm getting tired of the novelty of the first female governor of this state, the first female African American mayor of this city. When is it going to become the norm instead of the exception? How are these young women looking up and seeing someone that looks like them, preparing them for the future? We don't have enough female role models. We don't have enough visible women leaders. We don't have enough women in power.

Girls are socialized to know when they come out, gender rules are already set. Men run the world. Men have the power. Men make the decisions. It's always the man that is the stronger one.

When these girls are coming out, who are they looking up to to tell them that's not the way it has to be. Where better to do that than in sports? All these millions of girls that play sports across the country, we're teaching them great things about life skills, but wouldn't it be great if we could teach them to watch how women lead? This is a path for you to take to get to the point where in this country we have 50% of women in power, we have right now less than 5% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

When you look at men's basketball, 99% of the jobs go to men, why shouldn't 100 or 99% of the jobs in women's basketball go to women? Maybe it's because we only have 10% women athletic directors in Division I. People hire people who look like them. That's the problem.

Q. Were you not surprised that Geno hadn't said something about this?
MUFFET McGRAW: I did not read his comments either. So I'm not aware of what he said.

Q. We've heard you up on the podium for many years now, you've been to a million of these. I'm curious as to why now? What is it about now that has made you come forth and be as strong about this as you are?
MUFFET McGRAW: Enough. I think women across the country in the last few years have just said enough. Time's up. Time's up. It is our turn. If it's going to happen, we have to do something about it. You see women marching in record numbers across the country. Women are coming out and being more active politically.

I've never watched CNN as much in the past two years as I am now. We have the Equal Pay Act. Women are making 77 cents on the dollar. That's just white women. Women of color are lagging way further behind. I'm not talking about white women being coaches. We need more diversity in our game, as well.

Q. You have a lot of continuity on this team, a lot of veterans that are playing. You also have great continuity on your coaching staff. If you could talk a little bit about Carol Owens as the assistant coach of the year, going to the Hall of Fame, Beth Cunningham.
MUFFET McGRAW: That's a great segue. Thank you for getting us back to basketball (laughter).

I think when you look at us and UConn, and I think probably Baylor as well, you see the continuity in the staff. I think when you have successful teams, you look at the staff and see so many things that they've done.

My staff has been phenomenal. I love being around them. Carol Owens, so grateful she was nominated and won the award this year for assistant coach of the year. Beth has been a very successful head coach. So we've got a great staff. I think we all have different strengths and I think we feed off each other. We complement each other really well. We have a great time together. We can laugh about things, which I think is really important during a long season. I don't think I need to mention again that it is all female (smiling).

Q. I think you've said that Mayor Pete has come out to games, been a supporter of your program. After what you just said, have you ever had a chance to talk politics with him? Has anybody in the political realm urged you to run for something?
MUFFET McGRAW: Mayor Pete is a phenomenal guy. He's around Notre Dame quite a bit. He emailed me yesterday just to wish me good luck and said that he was on MSNBC the night of the Stanford game. He said he really couldn't concentrate, so distracted, because he kept trying to look for the score before he went on with MSNBC. He's a huge fan and supporter.

What a great guy. We're wishing him a lot of luck. Nobody has ever asked me.

Q. Could you ever see yourself doing that after coaching?
MUFFET McGRAW: I do. I would like to become more involved in the community, for sure.

Q. Beyond getting people in the position of power that hire more women, what else can be done? What specific things would you like to see done to change this more than it has in the last century?
MUFFET McGRAW: I'd like to see more women supporting women. I think we don't do a good job of helping each other. I think when people get to a certain position, they need to be able to reach down and pull somebody else up, they need to be better mentors. I think we can do a lot more on networking. Guys have that down. They help each other. They know how the system works. We don't.

We need more men that are in positions of power to hire women. You've seen for the first time KPMG, Deloitte, first time women CEOs of their companies. I think that's because the culture of the company is that it's more acceptable now. I think women need to have more confidence and apply for jobs. I think we wait to be asked. It goes back to high school when you're waiting to be asked to the prom.

I think women go after jobs in a very different way than men do. We want somebody to pursue us rather than really going for it.

Q. You just talked about your staff, the praise, one of the best in the country, no question. Same thing with UConn. Why haven't they gone -- is it their choice? Have they gotten offers that they said no to or are they not getting offers? Your staff is definitely attractive to athletic directors, we have an open position, look at the Notre Dame staff?
MUFFET McGRAW: Beth Cunningham was the head coach at VCU for seven or eight years. Very successful. Went to post-season six of those years. When she started her family, wanted to move back to South Bend. I think it was a perfect opportunity for her. Her husband is also a Notre Dame grad. To come back and be at a different level than she was at at VCU.

Carol also went off to be the head coach at Northern Illinois, her alma mater, had a successful tenure there. Didn't really feel it was the same relationship with the players. I think as a head coach, your relationship is very different with the players. I think she enjoyed the success that we had, being at a different level.

Niele [Ivey] gets called every single year. I mean, by multiple people. She's not the type of person, nor are we, to announce that these schools are interested in her. A lot of people like to use that to get a better job, to get their name in the paper. But she gets plenty of calls. Every year at this time I worry that we're going to lose her.

Q. I know you talked about it a little in the espnW article. What drives you more, the love of winning, the fear of losing?
MUFFET McGRAW: I hate to lose more than I like to win, for sure.

Q. If I dare ask about the game, first of all, how is Marina? Is everybody else good to go? Secondly, what are a couple critical points knowing that UConn is going to be better this times a well?
MUFFET McGRAW: Yeah, Marina is good. She's fine. Everybody is good. Jackie had her hand cut. She fell on the baseline, one of the cameraman, cut her finger. She's fine also.

We're at 100% strength. I think as much as you can be at this time of the year. Same as UConn.

It's hard to say what's the most important thing when you look at the team and say, Well, we can't let [Katie Lou] Samuelson go off for 29, we can't let Napheesa [Collier] own the backboard and do what she wants. [Crystal] Dangerfield is so critical to their team. You don't want to let one of the other two get loose.

Really there's so many critical points. I think rebounding is always key for us. If we can defend and get a rebound, that's going to help our transition game. That's probably maybe the biggest key.

Q. Back to the rivalry. What is it like? How would you describe going up against the same coach at the same program for such a long period of time, so many times?
MUFFET McGRAW: Well, it was Pat and Geno for a long time, now it's moved over. The Big East, we had at least two years in a row where we played them four times, eight times in two years. That familiarity maybe was not as good. I think a little distance has been good for us. Still playing them twice a year. Really enjoy the rivalry. I think we don't have to watch them as up close in the same league, I think that's been good for us.

Q. World's worst final question here. Have you ever competed with Geno at anything else, like golf?
MUFFET McGRAW: We've played golf together once. I don't even recall. He's a really good golfer. I don't think we kept score. Probably each kept it individually in our heads and we both won (laughter).

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

ASAP sports

tech 129
  1. Recent Interviews
  2. FastScripts Archive
  3. Upcoming Events
  4. About ASAP Sports
  5. Contact us