WCC Media Teleconference Quotes

Jan. 8, 2001

Head Coach Chris Denker

Good morning everybody. Thanks for having me. You kind of stole my thunder there, I was going to talk about how great I think our conference is doing. Top to bottom, everybody has had good wins, whether it be San Diego going into UCLA and winning there or USF over Maryland or our game over Texas Tech. You've already talked to Julie (Wilhoit, LMU head coach) about their great win over Utah, and so on down the line. We're really pleased with how our conference has been playing because we're big proponents of our conference and in getting as many teams into the postseason play as possible.

Just to summarize our non-conference season, one of the things we talked about with our players is that they're kind of three or four seasons-within-a-season and one is what we just completed, the non-conference. We came through pretty well at 9-3 and we're happy with that. It was a very difficult schedule. We've had our building redone, so we were without a home court for sometime. From Nov. 29-Dec 27 we were on the road for six straight games, including at Oregon and at Cal and a trip to Chicago... so there were some tough games thrown in there. All in all, we did pretty well. The only game I was disappointed in was our Maryland game here at home. We really didn't play up to our capabilities and that was a little disappointing. But we've had to battle injuries, we went two weeks of preseason with only seven healthy players--as seven were injured. We fought through that storm and got back to where we were fairly healthy and improving and playing and ended up with a big win over Texas Tech and then beat Columbia heading into league.

League is a whole new ball game, as everybody has mentioned. Everybody's got you well scouted, they've seen a lot of film, know you from past history and so our team as well as our coaches are very excited about heading into league and the prospects of that. It is going to be extremely competitive with all the winning records I see in our conference and all the big victories that these teams have had. We don't start it out real easy with Pepperdine, who was picked to win the thing, and Loyola, who I voted in the top four, so it's going to be a very tough weekend. The good thing about it is that we have them at home, so this is going to be an interesting conference season, one we're certainly looking forward to.

What did that six-game road trip tell you about your team? You won five of those games, that's a nice way to come off a road trip?

Michelle Smith, San Francisco Chronicle

Yeah, it was good. They're a pretty resilient group. They're just kind of scrap-and-battle and just keep going. We're really pleased with that. The stretch from Dec. 13 until right before Christmas, we were on the road consistently. We bused down to Cal Poly then up to Sac State. We then flew out to Chicago after a seven-hour delay. So there was a lot of stuff thrown in there besides three road games. They came through and kept their focus. They have a pretty good maturity about them and I was really pleased with that. The one loss you mentioned there was at Oregon, a game we led, and actually had some opportunities to extend the lead and were unable to do it. Oregon's too good of a team to blow your chances against and they ended up beating us, but it was a good little swing for us and I was really happy with the way they came through.

You said you guys were fairly healthy. Can you expand on that? Specifically, are you still waiting on some players?

Michelle Smith, San Francisco Chronicle

Well, we had basically gotten all healthy and then last week... Nov. 29 against San Jose State, Jen Glysson got a concussion. Jennifer is a starter for us, has been, and was honorable mention All Conference last year, so obviously a key player for us. She got the concussion, they sent her in for a CAT scan and found a cyst in her sinus cavity. They gave everybody worse case scenario and that it could have grown through her sinus wall and into her brain. So it was an immediate surgical situation. She went in early last week--three or four days ago--and thank goodness it wasn't anything serious. They got it taken out and everything's fine. But she is very questionable for this weekend. Probably doubtful. So that's one. Caroline Gruening has a hip flexor injury that she's missed some practice with, Courtney Cushing has the flu, and Kristen Franklin has had knee injuries her entire career and they flared up again and she hasn't practice in the last three-five days. So we've lost four kids in the last week or so.

Will Caroline play?

Michelle Smith, San Francisco Chronicle

I'm thinking Caroline will play, she just hasn't practiced very much. She's a little tight, a little stiff, with the hip thing, but I think she'll play. She's a tough kid.

There's four new coaching situations in the league... what little subtle changes have you made and do you see in the other schools that have these coaching changes?

Chuck Dybdal, Contra Costa Times

That's a good question. I don't know if there are any major changes. There are probably some subtle ones. I haven't seen Saint Mary's or Gonzaga enough on film yet to know enough, but obviously Gonzaga is doing a lot of different things because its more like what Saint Mary's was doing or perhaps Portland before that when Kelly (Graves, Gonzaga head coach) was with Jim (Sollars, Portland head coach). So they're the ones that have probably changed the most. I've seen USF a little bit, and I've noticed they're running some zone and I think they're a little more up-tempo than what they were. Early on they might have pressed a little more... so there were some slight changes. Saint Mary's is just continuing to do well and win and I haven't seen a whole lot of them to really know what differences.

In terms of ourselves, offensively--not that I want to be giving anything away--we haven't really changed much at all because for the last five years or so, I was doing our offense anyway, so none of that's really changed. Defensively, we're pretty much the same. We're playing primarily man. We're probably pretty boring with respect to your question, but I don't think there's been a lot of changes. I think that lends to the consistency within the programs, and also the good coaching. And it isn't just the head coaches, there's really good assistants in this league and they play a huge part in what goes on. I know my assistants do for me. It was really critical that I go out and hire two good assistants, and I think I did in Jeff Dow and Benita Martin, and I'm sure all the other coaches will say the same thing with their staff.

Coaches build friendships. Are you maybe talking to some people now that you're a head coach that maybe you didn't have that much association with?

Chuck Dybdal, Contra Costa Times

Not necessarily. I know during the recruiting season in July, I tend to talk to a few more people that way. A few more people were coming up and saying congratulations and we sit and speak for a while. But there's not really anybody that I bounce ideas off of or anything. I usually save that for my staff or our men's coaches. I know Dick (Davey, head coach) and Steve (Seandel, assistant coach) really well. I think they do a great job. I guess the person I bounce things off the most is my dad. He's a coach. He's won almost 500 games as a high school coach. So that's where I grew up doing it. I think he does a heck of a job so I kind of throw ideas at him once in a while too.

Looking through the league, that has done so well... you mentioned USF beating Maryland and like that... what to you are the key wins in the non-conference part that should make people all over the country open their eyes and say `hey'?

Chuck Dybdal, Contra Costa Times

Well, certainly ours against Texas Tech, that was a big one. You know, any time you beat Pac-10 teams that's good, so we were able to beat Cal, Pepperdine beating Western Kentucky was huge, a big win for them was beating Missouri... again, a good conference. We've had a couple of teams beat UCLA. Saint Mary's obviously beating Stanford. Loyola's win over a ranked Utah team. If I'm not mistaken, Portland beat Oregon State, so I'm probably forgetting a couple, but there are some really good wins there and I think that again lends to the strength of our conference. I've said for years, and this is my eighth year in this league, there's really good players, there's really good coaches, and that this is a basketball league. Not just on the women's side, but on the men's too. That was proven last year with Gonzaga and Pepp going so deep, and a few years ago our guys did great. So this is a good basketball league. It's the last three years in a row we've had four teams on the women's side get in the postseason. This year, I think it'd be great if we can get three teams in the NCAA Tournament. With some of these big wins, I don't think that's out of the realm of possibility. The only thing you fear a little bit is teams going into conference and beating each other up, so you end up with a lot of 10-4 and 9-5 types of records, but it's a very strong conference. We need to gain some of the national respect that we deserve.