Oct. 25, 2012
CURT MILLER: Well, it's a pleasure to be here and an honor to be the new head coach in Indiana and a part of the Big Ten, which is a dream come true for my career with an opportunity to be at an institution like Indiana.
We're walking into the Big Ten at a historic time with seven NCAA Tournament teams last year and an eighth team winning a postseason tournament. The league is as good as it's been, as deep as it's been, and it's an honor, but a scary proposition of rebuilding right now in the Big Ten with the league as strong as it is.
I'm excited that I've inherited some senior leadership. We have three seniors on the team, highlighted by Aulani Sinclair and Jasmine McGhee, who are here today with us. They've got to give us leadership. But we only inherited nine scholarship players in June, and out of those nine scholarship players, we had three of them injured, so depth is an issue.
We certainly know who we are. We're going to set realistic goals for our program this year to be the hardest working team in the Big Ten and to have the best team locker room in terms of chemistry in the Big Ten. But we know this is a journey. It's certainly going to be a marathon as we rebuild this program and not a sprint, but we're excited about the opportunity.
The players have really, really bought into the new system, are excited about the new system and are working every day to get better.
Q. Why Indiana? Why was this a good job for you?
CURT MILLER: Well, it was a dream opportunity for me. One, I've always looked at Indiana as a sleeping giant in the world of women's basketball. There's more tradition at Indiana than its given credit for in women's basketball.
When you think about basketball, I grew up thinking about Indiana. I grew up in a small western Pennsylvania town, and I referred to my hometown as a Hoosier town and didn't even realize why I necessarily said that, other than the fact that I grew up in a crazy basketball town in western Pennsylvania. We called ourselves a Hoosier town because we viewed, or I viewed growing up, that everyone in the state of Indiana grew up with a basketball hoop in their driveway, a basketball hoop in the barn, a basketball hoop in the park at the end of the street. When you think about passion and basketball, it all comes back to Indiana.
It was a great time for me in my career. It was hard to leave a program where you've won eight straight championships and built something very special as a mid major power. But it was the right time, and I really look forward to rebuilding this program.
Q. When you take over, where do you start rebuilding? How do you set up? How do you set up your recruiting?
CURT MILLER: We're trying to build a program and not a team, and we're going to take our time. We've got a great blueprint right across the hallway in Cook Hall, our practice facility in the men's program. Four years ago they were 0 and 18 in the Big Ten and four years later the preseason No. 1 team in the country. We have a blueprint right in our own building. I'm excited about rebuilding, and it starts in recruiting. We have to improve our talent level on our roster, and we've got to do that by recruiting the state of Indiana and then the Big Ten footprint.
We can run all around nationally and recruit because Indiana can attract people academically. It can attract people because of our facilities and the beauty of our campus. But if we can't compete in the state of Indiana in the Big Ten footprint for recruits, we're not going to build it the way we want.
We've got to roll up our sleeves and win recruiting battles in the Midwest, starting with the home state.
Q. We know about the senior leadership of Aulani and Jasmine McGhee. Can you talk about what younger players you think will make a big impact this season and see a lot of minutes?
CURT MILLER: Right now we are practicing on a daily basis with 10 scholarship athletes that are eligible to play, and so depth is a concern. A lot of those 10 haven't been huge contributors, so we have to rely on our upperclassmen, Aulani and Jasmine. Another player you have to look at to have a breakthrough season for us to be successful this year is Quaneisha McCurty, our sophomore post player. She's very versatile and can step out to the arc.
We love versatile post players in the way we play. We love to give the green light for post players to shoot threes, and that's where she likes to be. We've got to get her a little tougher and get her in the paint. I think she's allergic to the paint, but we'll get her a little better here in the future. We have to have a big year out of those three.
Another player that needs to step up is our other senior Rubene, who has to have a good year for us, and then we have good depth. The one position that we have good depth in is the center position. Now, when you look around the league and you look at the centers in our league, we may not have the individual talent, but we definitely have fouls to give. We definitely have bodies to throw at people, and even though we might not have a superstar in the post, we have to have a lot of people step up and help us at the defensive end rebounding and running our ball screen offense that we believe so much in.
Q. You talked about the center position. Talk a little bit about Sasha Chaplin and the role she will play on the team this season.
CURT MILLER: Sasha Chaplin is important for us. She's a fifth year junior. With so many injures early in her career, she's really only played one healthy season in her career and she's 23 already. So she brings leadership. She's affectionately referred to as "Grandma" on our team. She is a good athlete around the rim. She scores in a variety of ways. She's a great offensive rebounder. At 6" 3 1/2, 6'4" she can bring a physical presence to us in this league that's very, very important.
We need to keep her healthy. We need to manage her minutes in practice and we need to manage her health, but if we can get her to games, she can be a big help for us this year.
Q. When you talk about winning your home state, obviously there are some schools up north that are in Indiana, as well. Does you coming to Indiana take the Purdue rivalry maybe to another level as far as recruiting and competition, like let's get after it?
CURT MILLER: Absolutely, and when you mention Purdue, you mention Notre Dame. We're in a unique situation with a state that has other really, really talented women's basketball programs. But we didn't win any of those battles in the past. When you look at our roster, in the nine returning players on our roster, we only had three Indiana kids on our roster out of the nine, and when you looked at our roster, we had Hawai'i, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Latvia. Didn't know where Latvia was, had to get out a world map.
And when you pull out a stats sheet, your two leading scorers were still Indiana kids. Your starting point guard was an Indiana kid. We have to recruit the state, and the buzz right now in the younger classes, which is most important, the 15s, the 16s and beyond, the buzz in the state right now that Indiana is a factor and Indiana is a destination place for players in the state of Indiana. We're really, really excited about it.
It's going to be a marathon, it's not going to be a sprint. We don't have visions that we're not putting unrealistic goals on our team currently. We know we have to build this program, but I'm excited about the journey ahead.
Q. I know you have a winning formula, a system that's brought you great success. How much of that can you really utilize this year, or is it more sort of look what you have for pieces and try to make that work?
CURT MILLER: We truly believe in our pick and roll system. We asked to go around nationally and speak about it. It helped develop a Bowling Green into a mid major power. We actually started to develop it with Becky Hammond at Colorado State and built them into a mid major power. I believe in it, so we're going to play it. Do we have all the pieces that are perfect for how we play? No, but we're going to recruit to that system because we believe in it. We have to have a little bit of tweak here and there to allow the offense and defense to work with our personnel this year, but we are not going to back away from what has been so successful nationally. We're going to recruit to that system in the future and put the pieces in place. A little bit of tweak this year, but we really believe in our pick and roll system.
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