Friday, March 18, 2016

Transcript: UNC Asheville Head Coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick, Paige Love Pre #3 UK Hoops vs #14 UNC Asheville First Round ~ 2016 NCAA Women's Tournament Lexington Region Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, Ky Comments

UNC Asheville Head Coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick:
On how rewarding it is to be in the NCAA tournament..
“I took the head coaching job at UNC Asheville four years ago in May of 2012. It was a program that needed a lot of work in terms of recruiting quality players who could compete in the Big South for a championship, and also a culture shift in terms of mentality in learning how to compete. The progression has actually been, I know somebody mentioned six wins, we never did get six that first year. We got to two, and those were non-Division I wins. So we went winless as far as Division I games are concerned in my first year. We were 2-28 and then we were like 11-20 or 11-19 something like that, and last year we were 9-22. And then to go to 26-6 this year currently. To see it being built from the ground up so to speak is rewarding because not just myself but every single player who has been on all four of those rosters has put in work and the staff members I’ve had on my staff. Some of them are still here; some of them have come and gone, but all of the combined collective work that has been put in to really building a program that might have been at the very bottom of Division I. That’s rewarding to me. It doesn’t mean you get complacent or satisfied because we didn’t take the job at UNC Asheville to take it to the top and not sustain success. And that takes recruiting and continuing to do what we’ve been doing in the process. So sticking to the process and not just making it a one-time thing. In a one bid league, it’s tough to go to the NCAA every year, but we really have committed at UNC Asheville to be competitive in the Big South from year to year.”
On how challenging it has been in reaching those rewards...
“Extremely. In particular, looking at that first year to keep those kids going out on the court and just competing and putting a competitive product on the floor that wasn’t quitting every night, that was difficult. There have been a lot of challenges. At the same time that makes success that much more rewarding. You’re rarely going to accomplish anything that you’re not going to hit several bumps in the road and several obstacles. But there have been a lot of good things. So many quality student-athletes, even like I said that weren’t on winning teams, have been a joy to be around. The way I look at UNC Asheville in those first three years there were a lot of players that I inherited that stuck around. It wasn’t a situation that we came in and changed faces in the locker room very quickly. In year three, we still had seven players on the roster that were inherited. So we were seven and seven. So to do it that way, which I believe is the right way, those kids chose UNC Asheville and I chose UNC Asheville but those kids in those first few years didn’t all choose me to be their coach. I’ve been in a situation before where there has been a coaching change. It’s been important to me that we’ve been all a family regardless of who recruited who. That we were all a family. That we’ve all had UNC Asheville on our chest.”
On any concerns about their first time getting to the tournament and a deer-in-headlight mentality...
“Yes. Absolutely there are concerns. Practice was pretty intense this week. To the degree that you can you try to bring that intensity. I’m pretty intense as a coach anyway but really try to explain to the girls what it’s going to be like. It’s really hard to replicate that or imitate that experience until they walk out there tomorrow to warm up. They know that Kentucky has some of the best basketball attendance in the nation. That’s great. I told our kids the very first day of practice that we want that. We want that as a challenge for us, but we want that for Kentucky women’s basketball and for the game of women’s basketball. I would be disappointed if there is not 6,500 Big Blue in the stands tomorrow. That’s not going to be a good experience. That’s why we went to the top seeds so that we could have that experience for women’s basketball. So they’re expecting that, but expecting it and actually going through it are two different things.”
On what she remembers from her times playing Kentucky when she was an assistant at Florida...
“When I was a coach at Florida we played them twice every year. We did come up here all five years. I’m at least familiar with the facility, familiar with Coach (Matthew) Mitchell’s style of play. We were watching him kind of grow that program a little bit in our first years at Florida. It wasn’t a top 25 program to my knowledge. They may have gotten in the top 25 a couple of times in those first few years. By the time I left Florida, they had built that program up to where it is now. It’s a very intense style of basketball. I love the way they play. They’ve been playing that way. They are a reflection of who he is. He is an intense competitor. I’ve always liked Matthew. I’ve always respected him. I’ve known him a little bit more through the eyes of Amanda Butler because both of them have Florida ties. That’s kind of helped me as well get to know him a little bit better. What he’s done here is remarkable. Especially under the pressure of having to get it done here. That’s the expectation at Kentucky is that basketball, not just men’s basketball, but women’s basketball is going to mirror that. So he’s done that under a lot of pressure and adversity. He’s built that program up.”
On the parity in women’s basketball...
“I’d agree with you. I think there has been a little more parity. It’s not to the degree of parity that is present in the men’s game yet. I think kids, this generation, want to go and be a part of something, a part of building something. If you can speak about that within your program, which is something that I’ve been doing, it helps them see themselves instead of joining something it’s, ‘Hey, I can make a difference.’ At the same time you want to balance that with it’s a team effort. It’s not just about you the individual. But I think that helps. Kids are a little more willing to do something like that to go make a name of themselves. That’s helped women’s basketball in terms of parity. I know there is a lot of parity within the Big South. I’m on the WBCA voting for the top 25. I know voting every week it takes me a bit of time to look down. There’s so many wins and losses that are changing within that top 25 outside of maybe the top three. So it is nice to see that that there’s a lot of competitive teams out there. I hope young ladies will continue to play women’s basketball. I know we were losing a few people here and there to soccer and volleyball. Because basketball is a phenomenal sport, and if we have more people developing at grass roots, than we are going to have more parity. Because there are plenty of opportunities out there for people to go play college basketball and be competitive. So I think that’s helping as well.”
On what made her say she was ready to take on the challenge of the UNC Asheville coaching job...
“I don’t know if I thought I was ready for it. I had been coaching at Florida for five years. I had been working under Amanda Butler for seven because I was at UNC Charlotte with her for two years. I felt a push that fifth year. I loved my job. I loved working for Coach Butler; a phenomenal person who was really good to me and really let me get my hands in a lot of things within the program. And I loved being a Gator. I know that’s hard for some people around here to hear, but I loved being in Gainesville, Fla. What an awesome place. But I felt spiritually a push. Something was going on in that fifth year, and it started occurring to me that I might not be here next year. A little bit strange. There were a lot of Division I coaching jobs open that year, but when UNC Asheville was available, and then I got that call from Janet Cone that was actually the day after we lost to Baylor in the second round of the NCAA’s that year. I got into the office about 8:30 that next morning and Janet’s message, our athletic director, she had left me a voice mail. I thought, huh. Asheville is 30 minutes from where I grew up. It’s a beautiful place to live. You couldn’t live in a better city. I don’t know if you’ve visited there or spent time there. It’s a destination city. A lot of people go for weddings and for vacations. There’s that and it’s such a neat little university. Man, it’s got great academics. It’s really close in proximity to downtown. It’s just a great niche for me. I went to Wake Forest University, so I was comfortable with that type of academic situation and the size of the school. Obviously, the athletics weren’t the same as far as level of play. But there was a lot of those factors, but it was still very hard. I knew there were a lot of challenges there, and it wasn’t going to be an easy job. But at the same time I really felt like that was where God was leading me to go.”
On what she knows about the Kentucky program ...
“What he’s done with this team and the youth on this team is incredible. Just to echo what some of the players were saying, they are incredible in transition. You have to stop the ball because off of your misses they are going to push hard and off of your makes they are going to push hard. They do a really good job of outing in quickly and capitalizing off of that. Secondly, they’re rebounding. They have four post players. A nice four post player rotation and they play hard. Those post players do not take plays off. If they’re not working you to get position of the ball, they’re in the high post and they are diving for a rebound. You can’t over help. Their guards are great, but the post players, our bigs, can’t over help to help on penetration because when that shot goes up we’re not getting that rebound. They are. They are going to get the offensive rebound. So our guards are really going to have to do a good job at containing a first team All-SEC player in Makayla Epps and then Janee Thompson – incredible. Taylor Murray is very good as a freshman. Maci (Morris) is also very good. We’ve got our hands full to be honest with you. We’ve got to limit turnovers and take good shots because again that’s going to lead to easy buckets if we’re not executing and not handling their half court pressure. I will say this in just watching their progression, their defense, their half court defense is really stingy. They’re going to make you work. We’re going to have to set some screens and protect our point guards and change things up a little bit offensively to get the ball in the basket because we’re used to scoring a lot of points. That’s what we did well in the conference. I think we were in the top two in our conference in scoring. They’re going to try and take that away from us. They’re going to be physical. They’re going to try to impose their will quickly on us. We get all that. As they should. They should try to set tone. There is no question that Coach Mitchell is telling them that you’ve better show them whose house this is quickly and put your foot down. And our kids can’t waste. If they waste two or three minutes going whoa, then we’ve lost our opportunity to do what she was asking about to really display who we are as a basketball team. It’s not necessarily about the score or the result. It really is if you start thinking about how overwhelming that experience is you lose your opportunity to play your best basketball. Is that going to be good enough to beat Kentucky? I think some other things would have to go our way. I really do. I think some luck would have to play in. If they are playing their best game, that’s going to be hard. But at the same time we want to see what our best game is like against Kentucky. Let’s not get overwhelmed by that experience so we don’t get a chance to find out.”
Paige Love:
On her team’s strengths …
“The season itself has been amazing, but if I would have to characterize some strengths I would say that this team truly is a family. We truly love each other. We are truly supportive of each other through everything on and off the court. We also have really focused on this word the ‘process’ and I think that’s really got us here today. I really think that’s a really strength for us because not all teams focus on that. We really took each game, game-by-game, possession-by-possession and really came together down the stretch and have just had a phenomenal season and I am so proud of these girls. We just truly love each other. The chemistry on the court is amazing from Coach Mock down to the last person on the bench so, it’s been great.”
On if the “process” has elevated the season to what it is now…
“I think that it goes back to, yeah we have been focusing on the ‘process’ this season, but it’s been a process since my freshman year, since these girls came in and truly just rebuilding each year, getting better each year. This year, I would really say that us coming together and playing unselfishly, us building this chemistry that we have - the girl to my right (Chatori Major), having a phenomenal year, MVP and Player of the Year - it’s truly just been team basketball. Whenever we win the big games, the spread is everyone is in the box score, everybody’s contributing, so yeah I think the season has been exploding but I think it has been built up to that point. Coach Mock has done a great job of us really valuing being a good teammate and I think that relays in everything we talked about with chemistry, hard work, focusing on the ‘process’ and she’s done a great job in instilling that in all of us girls.”
On what she wants the audience to know about the Bulldogs …
“Me personally, I would want announcers, fans, anybody in the crowd to know that the Asheville Bulldogs came to play and that regardless of the score, we are going to stay together, we are going to play with a heck of a lot of effort, we are going to be the first ones on the ground, we’re going to have a positive attitude, our bench energy is going to be insane, all of the things that got us to this point and that people have noticed and what makes us special – a lot of people have told us that we are a very special team and that’s because of everything they see in us from our love for each other for our support for our staying together. We hit a low spot roughly toward the end of this season dropping a game to Campbell at home and we had an important team meeting and came together and talked about what made us special and really getting back to those points. So, if I have to say from an announcer’s point, I want you to be saying that KJ Weaver is taking a charge. Chatori Major is taking it to the basket, finishing with contact and then that bench is going crazy.”
On a word that describes the season …
“Legacy.”

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