Debbie Ryan Chat Transcript
Nov. 9, 1999
First off, congratulations on being ranked (No. 25) in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Was this something you and your team expected? And, how do you feel about being left off the AP poll?
It’s good to be here and I’m open for questions.
I didn’t even know we were left off the AP poll. I wasn’t surprised either way. I think it’s up to us to prove where we belong in the poll situaton and I’m sure that we will.
What are the strengths of the team this year. It doesn’t appear that you have a big name player such as Walker, Suber or Palmer, so who is going to be your go-to player?
We do have several players who have quite a bit of experience for us. Stovall is probably the most talked about player and is having an excellent preseason. We also a number of players that have good experience in terms of numbers played. Players like Lisa Hosac, Renee Robinson, Svetlana Volnaya and Telisha Quarles will be called on to do a lot more than they have in the past. As far as a go-to player is concerned, Erin will take on some of those responsibilities until someone emerges in the post.
How do you think Tennessee will fair without Chamique Holdsclaw? And is Connecticut really the best team in the country?
As far as how Tennessee will fair without Chamique, sometimes teams get better even when a tremendous player graduates.
It would not surprise me that Tennessee’s team will fare as well if not better this year than last year because their chemistry may actually improve as that junior class gets older.
As far as who’s the No. 1 team in the country, UConn is by far one of the best teams in the country. I think everyone looks to them to be No. 1 because Geno is such a great class, and because they had such a great recruiting class who are sophomores now. And they have a great player in Svetlana. They have all the tools. They will fair extremely well and prove themselves as the year goes on, but some of those sophomores might be a bit inexperienced.
Winning 500 games at one school, something you accomplished last February, is a huge accomplishment. But what are you most proud of achieving as a coach?
In terms of on the court accomplishments, it’s probably going to the Final Four three times in a row, building a program from the bottom up and being able to maintain a great tradition here over the years. But probably my proudest accomplishment is that fact that every player has graduated from here in my 23 years, and in addition, each player has been successful in their field of endeavor.
The SEC gets a lot of attention, but which conference is the toughest in the country?
Now that’s a battle. Naturally I think it’s our conference, the ACC, and I say that because I feel like we have excellent teams from top to bottom and we have to play each other twice — we must go into everyone’s home arena and that is a tough thing to do. But there a lot of great conferences, and to try and compare them, is a very difficult thing to do. Last year we finished with a Big Ten team and an ACC team in the title game, but what does that really prove?
How in the heck did Tennessee beat Team USA?! Of course the National Team was jetlag, tired, whatever — but that just blows me away. How did it happen?
My guess would be is that Tennessee played outstanding defense. They had the ability to press and show Team USA some things they haven’t seen in awhile, and I imagine that Team USA being jet-lagged … I’m not sure they’d use that as an excuse, but I think they might have met their match in terms of athleticsm. Not experience, but athleticsm. I think Tennessee has the ability to matchup and cause Team USA some problems offensively with their defensive pressure.
How do you see things happening in the ACC this year?
Obviously North Carolina gets the nod in terms of preseason predictions, but I honestly do not see a clear-cut favorite at this time. All teams have strengths and weaknesses. I think we’re going to roll the ball out before I can make any predictions. We’re one of the teams people don’t have a very good read on right now, which gives us a little bit of advantage.
How does a team that may have made a quick exit from the tournament in recent years take the next step. I’m thinking about a team like the University of Maine, that has had some fine seasons, but isn’t really able to play with the big girls. Is it all about getting a star player? Maine had one in Cindy Blodgett, and that didn’t seem to be the answer. What’s the secret?
It is my opinion that it’s more of a mental hurdle than a physical one. Yes you do need great players, but there’s a certain mental preparation and the ability to see the future rather than to hope for something to happen in the future. I know that I was in that position for many years, where I couldn’t get past the second round of the NCAA. And it became a situation where you have to prepare your players mentally as well as physically to pass a certain obstacle. As far as how you do it, that’s hard to qualify or quantify because each team is different, and each coach’s philosophy has to mold itself around the team. In our case, it had more to do with me and how I prepared the team at the end.
What’s your team’s biggest strength this season? And, what area does your team need to improve in?
As far as our biggest strength, I’m not sure yet. I’m hoping that some consistency will be a strength, and our speed and quickness in certain lineups will be a strength. One of our weaknesses for the moment is making up for the offensive rebounding that DeMya Walker gave us.
coach, who’s your pick for the preseason player of the year?
It’s an interesting year. The junior class has some very, very solid players that could get a lot of recognition. Abrosimova, Catchings, and I like players like Randall, who have a tendency to control a game but don’t tend to get the recognition for how important they are. Even Erin Stovall, who’s just beginning to come into her own.
Stars & Stripes
Hey coach. do you still keep in touch with Dawn Staley?
Very definitely. Dawn has stayed in touch with me ever since graduating in 1992. She was a very special player in my career. She was instrumental in Virginia’s rise on the national scene, and taught me a lot about the game in general. I’m looking forward to hosting Team USA and Dawn on Friday, but not to her coming in her and exposing some of our weaknesses.
What did you think of former Cavalier great Wendy Palmer’s performance in Detroit after she got traded from Utah? Is she still involved in the program at all?
I thought that the trade to Detroit was an excellent trade for both Wendy and the Shock. Wendy’s performance helped Detroit to the playoffs — there’s no doubt about that. And her comfort level really helped her to be the player that she can be on the pro level.
How do you think Duke will be since they lost so much of their offense to graduation? I don’t imagine a return trip to the Final Four is in the cards …
I really feel that Duke will re-group if they can get some solid play from their young players. They have a great coach in Gail Goestenkors and shouldn’t be counted out for that reason.
So, I hear that LaRue is the real deal. Are we going to see the Cavs with a little run and gun this year, or a more controlled offense??
Schuye still has to prove herself. She has had a good preseason. She is a player that will play two different positions, both in the post and outside for us, so early on she will have a little trouble with the transition. But I would say that the answer to your question is, “Yes, she is the real deal.”
That’s all we have time for right now.
I’m really excited about the upcoming season. It’s good to see so many people interested in women’s basketball in general. And whoever thought I’d be doing a chat on a computer?