Horsing Around: Q&A With Kathy Olivier

Jan. 16, 2008

By Lara Boyko
Special to CSTV.com and UCLABruins.com

In the spirit of rivalry week taking place in the City of Angels, it was time to have some fun by catching up with UCLA coach Kathy Olivier, one of the few coaches in the Los Angeles area who has coached the same sport at both schools.

With good intentions, I challenged Olivier to a friendly game of H-O-R-S-E on the legendary court within Pauley Pavilion and in the end, came away with a new appreciation for what is at stake during this weekend's games.

'It's about who owns L.A. and I think both schools get very much into it,' said Olivier. 'I think there is competitiveness there, but it is healthy. In years past we've had some flat out wars where it has gotten ugly, but with some of our players playing with some of their players during the summer, I think a lot of them talk and I think it gets heated when the lights go on and the scoreboard is lit-up and the fans are cheering.

'Last year, when we played here at Pauley we had 7,000-8,000 people here and then when we went over to S.C. they had 8,000-9,000 people there. You are talking about over 15,000 people watching the USC vs. UCLA women's basketball game and it is about who owns L.A.'

Our H-O-R-S-E game started out simply enough as we both started with a clean slate. In fact, considering that I had not handled the rock in at least 13 years, I was feeling confident in my skills against this former All-American standout at UNLV (1979-1981). However, it was when I quickly received an H that I realized I may be in trouble.

I tried to stay calm, cool and collected, but one shot later, suddenly I was up to an H-O while Olivier had not missed a shot. I soon had another two letters and Olivier tried to put the game away with a trick shot off her head, but I caught a break as she missed.

Now, it was my turn. I brought some more silliness to the game with turning my back to the basket and shooting blindly over my head. My shots had very little fundamental substance to them, but in a game like this, everything goes and it was these silly shots that helped me get her up to H-O-R as I held my breath with an S.

Then I lost control and lost the game. Yes, the final score was H-O-R-S-E to Olivier's H-O-R which means I had a lot of bets to pay off to those friends who bet against me. After the silliness of the game, Olivier sat down with me to talk with me about the importance of the upcoming 15-mile trip her team was taking over to the Galen Center.

CSTV: You grew up in Placentia, Calif., in southern California, so what do you remember about the rivalry as a kid?

KO: I was raised in southern California and watched all of the UCLA men's basketball games on TV. I was also a huge Lakers fan. I was all about sports while growing up and that's what our family did. My brother went to USC and played on the baseball team there for Rod Dedeaux and my sister played softball at UCLA for Sharon Backus when they won a national championship. I just remember the John Wooden days of him coaching and UCLA winning a lot of championships.

CSTV: You were an assistant coach at USC from 1983-86, what was one of your most vivid memories of the rivalry while being over there?

KO: I remember when I was at USC and coming in and playing UCLA. Obviously we were a very good team when I was at USC where we won a national championship. I was fortunate enough to be an assistant with Cheryl Miller and the McGee twins. I remember UCLA beating us and they had no business beating us. I think when you are playing a rivalry, anything goes. Any team can win, it's just a matter of who is staying poised, executing and playing defense down the stretch. Our last three or four years it has been back and forth and it can go either way. USC has been fortunate to be on the winning side of those either way games. Hopefully things can change this year.

CSTV: What is your most vivid rivalry memory while being at UCLA since the 1993-94 season?

KO: We've had huge crowds in here and that was back when Chris Gobrecht was the coach at USC. We would battle and it would go back and forth. One time we had two players ejected - one USC and one UCLA player - and the officials brought Chris and I together at half court and talked to us. They were adamant about keeping it clean and let the game do the talking. Chris ended up getting kicked out of the game. It was ugly for women's basketball, but that's my most vivid memory of that ugliness. After that we cleaned it up and through time things change. Our players are competitive, but it's healthy as there is not a lot of hate there.

CSTV: Do you get a special call, E-mail or memo from UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero before you play USC?

KO: You don't need a call from Dan because you know it is right there (pointing to her head). He is the man and expects good things from all 22 of his programs and we are right there. He wants us to put our best foot forward and hopefully come out ahead.

We are going to treat going to USC like another road game and put a great deal of pride in what we are doing and have a great week of practice so we can see what we can pull off on Saturday. I don't know what game he is going to, but he is very supportive and I'm sure whatever game he is at, he will be looking at his BlackBerry to watch every move of the game he is not at.

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