Michael Cooper Holds First USC Press Conference

Oct. 13, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - First-year USC women's basketball head coach Michael Cooper and three Women of Troy met with media today in a preseason press conference. Cooper and returning players Hailey Dunham, Briana Gilbreath and Jacki Gemelos discussed the transition to a new coaching staff and the USC team's outlook on the season to come. Official practice begins on Friday (Oct. 16).

For full video of the women's basketball press conference with Cooper, Dunham, Gilbreath and Gemelos, CLICK HERE (20:00)

USC Women's Basketball Press Conference - Oct. 13, 2009

Head coach Michael Cooper
Opening statement:
'This is hopefully a new day in Trojan women's basketball. We're trying to recapture some of the traditions that have been here. Our coaching staff is going to come out and try to do the best we can. Obviously were going to come with the defensive intensity and our offense will be opened up to where it will be exciting for the fans.'

On his path to becoming USC head coach:
'Just being involved with women's basketball going back to 97 ... that's how I got involved with women's basketball and then the Sparks coming into a reality and the WNBA and being part of the Laker family, with them going off to the women's side of sports. Going away for a few years and then coming back and being welcomed back by the LA Sparks, now this is just another venture and a door that's been opened for me, and it's one I'm very lucky to have and honored to have.'

On the difference between coaching WNBA and coaching college:
'It's not going to be that great (of a difference). It's basketball, and coaching is coaching no matter what level. I've coached at many levels even going back to coaching my son when he was 6 and 7 years old. The talent level is not as high as you would have in the WNBA, but the level of wanting to learn, that's the level I'm going to enjoy coaching here.'

On what drew him to USC:
'The team. Over the years I've always come here while working in the WNBA, so to come here and see such a great arena, the Galen Center rivals any arena in the country, and watching the players over the years become seniors and so on, seeing the freshman class, I couldn't say no.'

On his outlook for this season's team:
'We're a very talented team. The biggest hindrance we have to get over is our injuries. A lot of these players are very talented, but slowly but surely we're making our way back through that. I think the biggest thing is that we're a very talented team in terms of shooting the basketball, much more so than the LA Sparks from the perimeter. I think if we're a little short, it would be our bigs. The fact is that were not a very tall team, but the fact is we're a team that's going to compete every minute we're on the floor.'

On whether he sees his position as long-term:
'Yes I do. I see myself being here for quite a while. One of the things I want to establish is going to back to the tradition of the '83 and '84 teams, and that's not going to happen over night. I know the process is going to be tedious; it's going to be a journey, but I think our coaching staff and players are ready.

On the team goal this season:
'Our main goal is to win a NCAA title. Looking at our team - and not saying that's not an achievable goal - our first and primary goal is to win a Pac- 10 title. We've gotta get as healthy as we can come Nov. 13 and we'll let the chips fall where they may.'

On the new staff's transition with the USC team:
'I think the other assistant coaches have gotten to really know the team. I'm just coming in, and the players lift early in the morning, so for me to get them I have to be here early, too. I'm here at 5:15. I think that shocked them at first, but again this is about team. You have to be around them. For me, it has to be that early, so usually I'm here early and stay late. I think we've done a good job of knowing each other. They know I'm a different coach and I have a sense of humor, but there's a work ethic attached to it.'

On the schedule this season:
'Our schedule is pretty good. You have to crawl before you walk, and this is a good way to build credibility for the Pac- 10. I think if we do well this year, you better believe we'll see more of the top teams here.'

Jacki Gemelos, redshirt junior guard
On her approach to returning to play after being sidelined her first three seasons at USC:
'This season, this past injury, I've taken a different approach. I'm focusing more on my body and getting my body right and my mind healthy, preparing for this season, and not so much worried about playing this time around. I also feel that as a team we've had a lot of unlucky happenings, and it's been really unfortunate, but we're all coming together and we're almost there and we're gonna shock the world here pretty soon.

'Mentally, I've taken a different approach and I'm just focusing on my body, getting my legs healthy and strong and ready for the Division I game. I don't know what to expect, I've never played a single game, but I think my mind's right. I'm in the place I should be.'

Hailey Dunham, senior guard
On playing for Michael Cooper and his coaching staff:
'I think we're all really excited about it, just a new coaching staff. Everyone's been great so far. We had three coaches here before and once Cooper came in it was the last piece of the puzzle. We feel really great about this season and continuing to work hard and win some games this year.'

Briana Gilbreath, sophomore guard
On playing for Michael Cooper and his coaching staff:
'Also, a lot of people don't know this about our team, but we know a lot more about Cooper than people may think. We've seen him play games even though we're young people; we know he has so much experience. Knowing that their background is so long and coming in and helping us out is so huge for us. We have a lot of respect for them. We're expecting a lot out of ourselves and our coaches and I think it's going to pay off.'

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