March 24, 2013
• Press Conference | Game Preview | Wolverines Arrive in Palo Alto
• NCAA.com | NCAA Central | Bracket | Game Central
Michigan Head Coach Kim Barnes Arico
Opening statement ... "Besides the weather, we are really excited to be here. I think when our team heard that we would be coming out to Stanford, they were thrilled about the opportunity to come out here, to play at a place like Stanford, one of the greatest universities in the country, because Michigan, we pride ourselves on being one of the top universities in the country. To have the opportunity to bring the team out here to Stanford is really exciting. To have the opportunity to play against an opponent that I've seen the last 10 years is really great for us as well. Harry Perretta is a tremendous coach; I really consider him one of my mentors and friends in the business, and he really runs a unique style, which we've kind of been preparing for all week, but any time you come into a program as a new coach, you're never really sure how your team is going to respond to you and the year is going to go. This crew has been tremendous. The players are really a special group, led by our senior class and we have three of them here today, and we have the other two of the group of five back in the locker room, two outstanding young ladies as well. They have really embraced this year and wanted to do something special at Michigan, and since they stepped on campus they have created an incredible atmosphere for women's basketball and have done things in the women's basketball program that have never been done before, so I'm proud of them. We're excited about the opportunity to be in the NCAA Tournament. We are thrilled. We never take it for granted because they have worked extremely hard to get here. We are enjoying the moment and we know that Villanova is going to be a challenge, but we're really excited to play them tomorrow."
On whether it was their first trip to California ... "Hasn't been in awhile though. Honestly, I can probably only think of two or three of us that have been out here before. Before the season, a lot of our freshmen had never been on a plane and so I think this whole year has been an eye opening experience for a lot of us. I think California just kind of tops it all off."
On the dynamic taking over a senior-heavy team ... "Yeah, it was interesting. I wasn't sure how it was going to be. Obviously, their coach wasn't fired. They were coming off of a good year and I think they were really surprised. So, I wasn't sure coming in how receptive the senior class was going to be towards me and how much they were going to change. But, this is really a special group and they've kind of embraced me, embraced my family and just kind of made life easier for me in my first time meeting them. They've got a unique group. Most important thing - they just want to play together and they want to win. So I still, like some of the things throughout the year, if they believe in it, they'll go forward with it. And they've been tremendous from Jenny (Ryan) all the way down the line, and I think Jenny just sets a great example for the rest of our kids to follow. When they knew she was on board and she bought in, I think everybody else just followed along but they've been great. They've embraced it and they've made the year tremendous for me because it could have been tough in the transition especially with a group of seniors. And I think, there have been bumps in the road. Nya (Jordan), for example, her first 10 games of the year, she didn't play much. Sam Arnolddidn't play much. I think they were trying to figure me out and I was trying to figure them out, and it took a little bit of time. I think once we all figured each other out, our team really started to take off and they've done a tremendous job. But, I give all the credit to them. They're a really good group of kids."
On the conversations with the team before arriving in Ann Arbor ... "I think Jenny's a special kind of kid. I had an opportunity to coach for a long time and there are very few Jenny Ryan'sout there. People told that before I got the job, before I came to Michigan. I was like, 'Okay, we'll see,' but she truly is a special kid. I mean she just gives 100 percent of herself each and every single day in whatever it is that she does. I had the opportunity once I was hired to give them all a call before I came in for the press conference, so I got a chance to reach out to them all. The night before the press conference, I had the opportunity to meet them. But, I thought one of the most important things for me to do - and this is what they all talk about, is to build relationships with them. I thought that was really, really super important, especially these seniors after them coming in after them playing three years for somebody else, and saying, 'Okay, I want you to do things this way.' They needed to know that I really truly cared about them and they needed to know that I had their best interests at heart, and I wasn't just coming in here trying to mess up their senior year. So, it was really important. I mean I sat down and had individual meetings with all of them a ton, and we will even leading up to the game tomorrow because I think it's important for me to get to see their side. They have helped me so much through the season. When you come in as a coach, often times you don't think you need the help of your players but heck, I was coming into a new league, new coaches, new style, new venues, new teams, new officials, and I didn't even take all that stuff into consideration. I'd say, 'Okay Jenny, where are we going?' She'd say, 'Coach, we're going to Iowa. This how many people are going to be there, this is the fans, this is how it's going to go down, this is the officials.' 'Jenny, what do you think about this coach, their style?' I'd go through our team and talk to each one of them about our league, about the conference, and they really helped make my transition easier. But they're incredibly smart kids. They love the game of basketball. They play with a tremendous amount of passion, so I truly think it was a great fit like they eluded to. The chemistry was really good and they made the transition a lot easier."
On the players saying they improved more than they thought they ever could ... "I think Kevin Borsethdid a tremendous job at Michigan. He left the program in a lot better position than when he first came in. He deserves a lot of the credit for how these kids developed. Last year was the first time they had been to the tournament in a long, long period of time. I just try to show them that there's a certain toughness and a certain work ethic. They think that they've achieved as much as they can, but actually there's another gear. There's actually another level. My biggest thing with them as seniors, I know you think you're as good as you can be but there is so much more. Just let me coach you. Give me an opportunity to be your coach, practice as hard as you can and listen to what I'm saying. Try to get to that next level. I think they're all tremendous players and I don't know that they've improved that much. They're giving some of the credit to this season. I think a lot of it has to do with their experience. A lot of it is giving them confidence. I'm honest with them, and I've told them all down the line 'hey, you were stinky today,' or 'you need to get in the gym,' or 'you're not doing this very well,' but I think they all listen to that. They're all type-A personalities and they want to be great. They want to get better. If you correct them, they're going to get in the gym and get better. They want to be the best at whatever you give them. I think they've spent countless hours and really committed themselves. It's them, I think it's their senior year and it's a credit to how much time they've put into it."
On dishing out the truth to players who didn't start off knowing her very well ... "That's why it was important to build relationships with them. I felt that if they knew I cared about them, they would be OK listening to me. I think with some of them it took a little more time. I think with Jenny (Ryan) and Kate (Thompson), I could kind of give it to them right away because they trusted me. The other seniors, I think it took them a little bit more time to figure me out and know that I am really on their side and want what's best for the team and the individual players. Once they know that you care about them, because I'll give it to them, but then I'll give them a hug. I tell Kate three times a day, 'you know I love you and I wish you were back for one more year,' and I really do from the bottom of my heart wish that I had an opportunity to spend more time with these kids. That's why getting to the NCAA tournament, you know the end is near. I really don't know it to end for them. They've done so many things for our university and for our women's basketball program that haven't been done before; I just want them to enjoy it and know that we're appreciative of all they've given to our women's program."
On having such a long layoff period between their last game and this first round ... "I think the layoff has definitely been great. I think a lot of time coaches get caught off on wondering if it's too much time, but our kids, so many of the seniors have had to play so many minutes for us all year long and been pressured. Jenny Ryanhas been playing 40 minutes with somebody up defending her the entire game. Towards the end of the year, I think we were getting a little worn down. Kate was making shots early and I think people scouted her real well. It was great to get in the gym and work on us. For the last month of the season, we were in the gym working on our opponent. This is what we've got to do to prepare for this team, and this is what we've got to do to prepare for this team. We kind of got away from this is what we've got to do to make us better. I think these last couple of weeks we were able to get in the gym and get some of our confidence back and really worry about Michigan. We broke it up, we scrimmaged one day and had a couple of days off. It was nice because they got to be normal college students for a few days. They got a day off on the weekend which hasn't happened for six months. It was good for them. I think it was good for coaches, too, because we're reenergized and ready to go."
On knowing a lot about Villanova ... "That hasn't happened in the last couple of months since we got in the Big 10. It really has been nice. It's kind of a bummer that it's Harry (Perretta) and he runs that system because it is hard. It took me a long time at St. John's to be able to beat them and to be able to stop them. Anytime he plays an opponent early in the year, a lot of times in the tournament in the NCAA first round, he kind of catches them off guard because people aren't really prepared to defend what he does. It definitely helps. If we were going into this game doing what we have typically done all year long, I don't think that we would be successful. It definitely helps that I've been able to play against him for the last 10 years. I know him pretty well and I know his system pretty well, too."
On how her basketball game is right now ... "I was very upset that Debbie Antonelli didn't ask me to do the football throw because I know I would have won that. Being at Michigan, we have to be able to play football. I've got game. Ask my assistants. I have a bunch of new assistants and they saw me picking up a ball before practice and I'm dribbling the ball and my one assistant said 'coach, that's pretty athletic' and I was really disappointed when she said that! I get really disappointed when people tell me I'm little because I really feel as if I'm pretty big. I don't allow myself to play against our players and I'm too competitive and I've gotten a little slower as I've aged, I hate to admit that. I can run forever, so it would depend on what the score was. If we went to 21, there would be nobody that could beat me. I'm just goofing, but there is a little piece of me that would like to play that game."
On what the hardest and most pleasant parts about the transition to Michigan were... "I think what was harder than I expected, but I didn't really have much time to think about it was saying goodbye to the team at St. John's. That was incredibly hard because we had started something special. The group that had come in as freshmen went to the NCAA tournament three straight years and they were going into their senior year. There are probably two kids that are going to be draft picks, Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith, and we were hosting this year, and on and on. That was pretty tough but I didn't really have time to think about it because I had to jump right in at Michigan. Once I met this team and had an opportunity to work at this university for one day, there was no hesitation that I made the right decision 100 percent. There's probably only a handful of universities that are really like this in the country. I really feel that way now even though I've only been there a short period of time. I love coming to work every day. I feel that everybody that works at Michigan feels the same way. We bleed blue. Like Jenny was saying, we feel like we can go anywhere and from my first recruiting trip to California, to Florida, to Texas, you walk off the plane and someone is saying 'go Blue.' The place really is special and I think just from the athletic department, to the administration to the team, the way that I was accepted and embraced has been tremendous. That's probably been the biggest part for me. My family, I have three young kids that have never lived anywhere else besides New Jersey, so to pick up your family and move to the Midwest was kind of a little bit of a shocker. The thing that has made it easier for all of them has been the community and our team. Our team has embraced them and welcomed them and when that goes smoothly, everything else is perfect. It's been the greatest year for me."
Senior Guard Jenny Ryan
On the transition to Coach Arico on a senior-heavy team ... "I think almost a year ago to the day we found out that we lost our head coach and at that time you don't know what to expect, so we were kind of in that transition period, but then once we found out it was Coach Arico, we heard her success from St. John's and you can't help but to be excited to bring in someone who has expertise on that level; numbers don't lie. We found that out, I think we all bought into the system before even meeting her, and just being in her presence, having her passion and her love for the game, you can't help but want to play for a coach like that. You can just tell through her basketball knowledge. I think we've all improved in our senior year in ways that we never thought were possible. I think just by being in the NCAA Tournament, it speaks to both her commitment to us and us buying into her system. I can't speak to the number of hours she spent getting to know us on a personal and on a basketball level. I can't thank her enough for what she's done for us, and I know our senior class has loved every minute of it."
On buying in to Coach Arico's system and her getting to know all the players on a personal level ... "I just think as a basketball player, I know that all five of us wanted to make our senior year as great as it could be, and once we did hear that it was Coach Arico, like you said, we knew that on her level of expertise, I think our experience combined with her years of experience and her kind of knowing how to get through pressure situations and get us over that hump, you couldn't help but to buy in and want to make it that special year. I think having five seniors helped along the way, but then I just really do feel like it was the right mix and the right person for the job."
On what Coach Arico's style is like and why the team was looking forward to playing at Maples Pavilion ... "I think that Coach Arico's style does make you a better athlete, mentally and physically, and you know going into a game you're going to be prepared, no matter what it is. At the end of the game, you have confidence in both the system and yourself to be in the best position you can possibly be in. To be able to showcase our talents at the NCAA Tournament just means a lot for us as individuals, as seniors, and as a program. I think that you get the whole experience of being able to see a new venue, see new teams outside of the Big Ten, and just the entire experience is something to be thrilled about. I know a lot of us have never been to California so getting off the plane for the first time was a big deal for many of us. I just think every step of the way we're taking pictures, we're enjoying the moment, still focusing on basketball, but this only happens once a year and it's not even guaranteed, so we're excited."
On if the Michigan volleyball team's success in the Bay Area has helped them prepare for games in the area ... "I think a lot of our teams do come out here; not only volleyball. We've talked to our gymnasts, we've talked to our water polo team, and we're really close with the volleyball team actually. We know that not only their experiences let us know that it can be done across the country but that we do have a strong alumni and fan base that are over here and they tell us that you will be shocked at the number of people that will come out to support you. I think that just having that confidence that it has been done before, and I think of the whole University of Michigan as a family. There's maize and blue wherever you go, so we're excited about that."
On Michigan teams having success in California during NCAA Tournaments ... "I think a lot of our teams do come out here, not only volleyball. We've talked to the gymnasts, we've talked to our water polo team and we're really close with the volleyball team actually. And we know not only their experiences, but that it can be done across the country and we do have a strong alumni and fan base over here. They tell us you'd be shocked at the number of people that will come to support you, and I think just in having that confidence that it has been done before and I think the whole University of Michigan is a family. So, there will be maize and blue wherever you go so we're excited about that."
On conference schedule preparing team for tournament ... "I think from top to bottom, the Big Ten is one of the most competitive conferences and every game, you know you're going to get a battle. So, I think just being in the Big Ten makes you prepared for any given night. You have to be ready to go in the last five minutes because it kind of comes down to it and I think there's a lot of unique styles in the Big Ten, even though we're kind of known for our post play, kind of our half-court offense. We have new teams like Penn State that can get your prepared for a different style of an up-and-down game. And so I think just kind of the diversity that the Big Ten is now seeing with the competitive nature, it allows us to get confidence that if we're in a close game in those last five minutes that we have kind of the experience and the know-how to get through it."
Senior Forward Nya Jordan
On the transition to Coach Arico on a senior-heavy team ... "I'm really excited. I was really excited just to know that she was really honest with us, and that's really all that you can ask for as a senior. We've been through so much, especially me and Kate just trying to balance getting from last year to this year. Coach Arico, she's one of the realest that I've ever met in my life, and that's really all I can ask for and appreciate for this year in general."
On what is different this year and what it takes to get to that next level ... "I think the biggest difference for me, as opposed to last year, the style of the play that she practices every day, it forces you to push through all the barriers that you've never been pushed through. I think that last year I kind of took it a little bit easier than I did this year, but with her new style and her new system, literally, we had to get through it; that was just it."
On differences with tournament experience between last year and this year... "It's exciting definitely. We got here last year but during the selection, a lot of us were shaking in our pants. This selection show, we kind of knew we were going to get in and just having the experience to be out here in California making it our senior year, the NCAA tournament means everything to us."
Senior Guard Kate Thompson
On the transition to Coach Arico on a senior-heavy team ... "Coach is really just a great person. I've just cherished every moment that our team has had with her this year, and just the fact that she's taken our team to the next level; I really appreciate it."
On buying in to Coach Arico's system and her getting to know all the players on a personal level ... "She has an open door policy, so we know that we're always welcome in her office. She always has things to say to us, and she's really helped me get through the season. It's a really long season and anytime you need encouragement or inspiration, I know I can go to her, and that's how it's been for all of us. Our senior class has really bought into her system, which has taken us, definitely, to the next level."
On Villanova's unique system ... "I would say it definitely helps that our coach is from the Big East. Villanova has a bunch of great shooters. They're a great shooting team, so we just need to pick up our defensive intensity, make sure we're not giving them any open looks, and just trust what we've worked on this week in practice."