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Oct. 10, 2006

Entering her 30th season at Virginia, and her first year coaching in the new John Paul Jones Arena, Debbie Ryan talks about Cavalier basketball at the annual preseason tip-off press conference.

Question: Where were your offices previous located before John Paul Jones Arena was built?
Ryan: For about 20 years I was underneath the steps of University Hall, and then we moved to the old football offices in University Hall, which Terry Holland stood up for me and gave to our program because we’d been under the steps for 20 years. So he moved us where we could have some windows. Then we moved out of there into the trailers when University Hall had to be fixed, so we were in the trailers for several months and then moved back into University Hall

Question: Is your office now a palace compared to where you were?
Ryan: Well, actually we had the best offices in University Hall, so I couldn’t complain about the offices. We had great space over there, it was an exceptional office, but moving over here, this is obviously tremendous. We now have offices for each assistant, the video coordinator and the director of basketball operations. My office is much bigger. As a matter of fact, my office is so big we’re trying to figure out a way to get the echo out of it. It’s huge and I just don’t have enough things in there. We’ve put some things up on the wall so there’s not so much of an echo. You can actually leave my office and walk down to the practice facility. I just walk right down the stairs and I’m in our practice facility.

Question:There is a shower/bathroom in your office?
Ryan: I have a shower but no shower curtain right now, and the shower head was about 20 feet off the ground so they had to fix that. I think they built it expecting Ralph Sampson to use it.

Question: What was Siedah Williams surgery for?
Ryan: It was not an ACL. I’m not sure I should really comment on that. It was something with the cartilage that wasn’t there. It was a big hole in the cartilage or something like that. She was basically bone on bone for the whole year last year.

Question: So she and Sharnee Zoll basically went through different things at the same time?
Ryan: They had rehab together every day, and they were religious about it. So they’ve been terrific about getting better. They also came to every workout and helped players work out and coached them because we can’t coach during this time of year, so they were actually in there making sure that they were doing what they were supposed to do. To me, its been good because both players probably had some overuse and so the had to take some time off, which is a good thing because if you don’t make Sharnee take time off, and possibly Siedah, then you’d have them constantly practicing. It’s probably a good thing in a lot of ways. They’re now getting their timing back and getting back into their regular flow, so by the time we start the year they’ll be fine.

Question: What does the new arena and fan participation mean to the program?
Ryan: It’s tough, and its hugely important that we put five or six thousand people in this facility every single game and you that’s our goal, and I think that we will be able to do that. Our players are out there pounding the pavement every day trying to get more and more people involved, and we’re all over the community doing this, so its very important we get that word out. But people that come here love coming here, whether it’s for basketball or another event it’s a tremendous place to come to because it’s just very fan friendly.

Question: Are you pleased with the scheduling of games like UConn and Old Dominion?
Ryan: Well they could not have done a better job with the scheduling, and Jeff House (assistant coach) is to be credited for that. The schedule is about as good as you can get it. I think it’ll probably be a top-vie schedule, RPI-wise. We’ve brought back several people that helped to build this facility in different ways from Geno Auriemma to Audra Smith, Dawn Staley, Tonya Cardoza. There are people coming back from different walks of life and now they’re all in different programs. But we wanted to bring everyone back to have a chance to play in this facility including one of my most recent coaches, Audra Smith, coming back from UAB. It has been a way for us to kind of invite people that have joined the coaching fraternity and are still part of the basketball world and help us really make a big dent in attendance here.

Question: Is Tara McKnight on scholarship or is she still a walk-on?
Ryan: No, she’s still a walk-on.

Question: Is there still motivation to work hard and go to the NCAA tournament this season?
Ryan: Absolutely. We want to make sure that there is no chance that the committee will leave us out. Personally I feel like we shouldn’t have been left out last year, which a lot of people feel the same way, but you don’t want to leave any doubt to that. You don’t want to leave it in the committee’s hands. You make sure you take care of business on the front end, and obviously take care of business and do a better job. We obviously did a great job in the non-conference schedule, it was the conference schedule that we have to do a better job with. Our youth really showed up more towards that one section in the conference schedule where it really hurt us, but we came back strong in the last part, we just needed to do a better job against the upper-echelon teams, and that’s something we will do a better job of this year.

Question: Where is Lyndra Littles this year from the point where she left off last season?
Ryan: She’s light years ahead of where she was. Fitness-wise, she’s incredible, she’s a strong player, she gets down the floor quickly, she’s a much harder worker on the boards and just in the game in general. Her shooting has improved, she’s really worked on that aspect of her game, and I think she’s just a lot more comfortable right now than she was last year as a first year player with all that pressure. I think she’s really ready to handle that a lot better now, and she knows that her role is much bigger this year than it’s ever been because she really has to step up and she realizes that.

Question: Can you talk about your longevity? It’s a long time to be in one place.
Ryan: My longevity? Well, probably the last six years I haven’t focused on my longevity. When you come into a building like this, and believe me, it wasn’t easy getting me out of U-Hall, its been an incredible experience to be a part of this program and this university, and the people here at the University of Virginia. You can’t say enough about the administration and the people that have made everything possible for me and everyone who works with me. It’s been a great experience, a great time. I couldn’t have been in a better place when I did got sick. I was supported extremely well through that illness. Being here 30 years, I probably could talk forever about all the things that have happened since I’ve been here and all the great times we’ve had, and now that we’re starting a whole new era, its kind of neat to be a part of all these different thing. It is amazing.

Question: Is the drive as strong as it ever was to get the program back to that level again?
Ryan: It’s probably stronger now than its ever been. Now there’s probably more drive and I mean, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get back to where I want it to be, but it’s different.

Question: Does the season belong to the older players?
Ryan: I think that we’ve got some eager young players. To me, they’ve made a great transition. They have been a great group of kids both in the classroom and out, they’ve been a great group of kids in practice, they work hard. We’ve never had a problem with them. They’re going to be a tremendous impact on the program right away. All of them

Question: Has the Arena helped with recruiting?
Ryan: We’ve had an awful lot of interest, yes. We’ve had some of the top players in the country for the next three or four classes come through here already. There’s a tremendous amount of interest in this program. So, it’s really, really helped us in terms of recruiting.

Question: Can the ACC get any tougher?
Ryan: Yeah, there’s going to be some differences this year in the way the ACC is. The ACC is insane right now, in terms of the women’s games.

Question: Is your ACC schedule more convenient for you?
Ryan: Yeah, instead of playing three number-one teams in five days and two within 24 hours… it’s kind of interesting, but we have a much better schedule this year in terms of logistics. We are not having to travel to Boston College, Miami, and Florida State all in the same year. That helps a little bit.

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