Big Ten Media Day - Coquese Washington

Penn State coach Coquese Washington

Oct. 25, 2012

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Q. With your team, with the kids coming back, basically that's a great thing. Who among the newer kids is stepping up right now to maybe fill the void of the one you did lose?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: Honestly, I'm really happy with all of their progress in terms of our non starters that are returning. They've all been in the gym over the summer. They've all improved their game. I'm really excited to have Dara Taylor active this year. She's a transfer, so she sat out last year, and Candice Agee, our lone freshman, has really showed some promise early in our practice sessions.

Q. Two of your kids are actually were on the All-Big Ten team last year, your two guards. But the kid last year who seemed to make the biggest strides was Nikki Greene, at least from the outside looking in. How did she change last year and what can she add to what you do this year?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: Last year Nikki just really started to get comfortable with everything, being a college student. She just really started to get comfortable on the court and off the court, and once she got into a comfort zone and things started to get easier for her in some ways. What I've really liked about what I've seen so far is her confidence level is really high, probably the highest it's been since she's been here. Those two things, her just really getting comfortable with the game and her confidence level growing, that's going to make a big impact for her development on the court this year.

Q. Everyone thinks you're the best in the conference. Do you try to take what you've always done and just get better at it, or do you try to expand your repertoire and kind of push the envelope and do some different things?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: A little bit of both. We're going to continue to play fast. We're going to continue to get up and down the floor. One of the things we talked about with our team over the summer is having better balance, especially offensively with our post and guard production. We've been a team where our guards have kind of carried us most nights.

But this year we want to be a team that has more balance. With our post crew having more experience and getting more comfortable and confident in the way that they can contribute on the floor, that's going to be something that's important for our development if we're going to continue to get better.

Q. I know that Alex Bentley was a preseason Player of the Year last year and is again this year, but you also felt last year she kind of disappeared at times. What will be different with her going into this year?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: Well, with Alex it's how do I say this? She did what I asked her to do last year in terms of being a better floor general and run the team, and sometimes that disappearing was her attempt and her focus on making sure she got her teammates involved and ran the team. She wasn't as focused on dominating the game as an individual.

Having a better understanding, having a better feel for when to kind of stray away and take over the game and when to keep the team involved, keep the team running, keep the team going as a well oiled machine, hopefully this year she'll have a better sense and a better feel for being able to do that.

Q. It's been some time now since the football scandal erupted at Penn State. How difficult has it been to sell Penn State and sell your program?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: It hasn't been difficult at all. What Penn State is known for, academically it's a strong institution, and over the years, the decades, the centuries that Penn State has existed and what Penn State has stood for, that hasn't changed. That hasn't changed for women's basketball, hasn't changed for any of the other sports. If anything, it's given our University an opportunity to highlight all the other strengths in other areas, academically, other sports. It hasn't been a problem for women's basketball in terms of recruiting in any way.

Q. Three new coaches in the league. What kind of impact do you see them having with either their style or their recruiting?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: They will have an impact in both of those areas, as well as their coaching. All three are very good coaches and were successful from the programs that they came from, and that's exciting for us.

We want our conference to be strong, and we like having strong coaches, competent coaches, credible coaches that are going to come in and add value to the conference. You look at some of the kids that they've been bringing in in this early part of their tenures, and it's going to be good. Their presence is going to be really strong and really powerful for our conference.

Q. I know when a coach takes over a program, they sort of have a five year plan of where they want to take it, and usually there are a lot of detours and it never really pans out. As you sit here in your fifth year, yours has panned out pretty nicely. Has it progressed sort of the way when you came you thought it would?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: Well, honestly, it's a little slower. But I'm pleased with where we are, and I'm pleased that we have progress every year. We got better every year. We've got the players to come in that can play the style of play that we wanted to play. We got more and more competitive every year within the conference.

To look back over five years, we're very pleased with how we've grown the program, and we just want to continue to get better every year and continue to grow the program in a number of ways.

Q. I know last year you said chemistry was a huge deal with this team in terms of relating it to its success, and you said this team is fun, so with a lot of people back, how do you characterize this year's team?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: Even more crazy than they were last year. They're fun. I love the team. I love being around them. I love coming in the gym.

One of the things that's happened is they've learned how to transfer the fun, their personalities off the court, and add that work ethic on the court and have fun on the court in the middle of working hard.

That was a challenge early on. It was, okay, we're having fun; okay, now we've got to go to work. And now they're learning you can work hard and have fun at the same tie. It makes your productivity in practice better. We can get more done when we're having fun through working hard.

Some of that has to do with maturity and growth, because our team is juniors and seniors. They've been through a lot together, and they're excited about this year.

Q. Do you mind being the preseason favorite with the media and the other coaches, and how do you see the league from maybe like seven or eight up to the top coming into this season?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: I don't mind it. I don't think about it in terms of our preseason ranking, and I never have. It really doesn't matter where you are in October. What's important is how you get better during the course of the season and how you end the season.

I don't mind it. It's good for our program. It's good for our kids to have that kind of recognition from the rest of the coaches and the media for what they've done and how much work they've put in.

But it doesn't impact how our work ethic and what we do. So we just want to continue to get better.

What was the second part of your question? It's going to be the same. It's going to be the same. Our conference is really competitive. I think last year we had like three teams tied or four teams tied for third place, and most of those players are back. The best players off of those top six, seven, eight teams are returning.

It's going to be the same thing. It's going to be a tough conference race and probably won't figure out who's going to be on top until the last week of the season.

Q. Coach Geno was proposing some changes, lower rim, shorter shot clock, bigger ball. Where do you stand on that? Do you think the game needs change or do you like it the way it is?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: Well, the thing is you can't be stagnant, and everybody, certainly in our conference, wants the game to continue to be an exciting game. We want women's basketball to continue to grow. If you make some kind of contrarian statements or some salacious comments to get attention to the fact that we do need to continue to grow our game, then that's okay. The sentiment simply is, is to make our game the best, what do we need to do to continue to make our product, our game exciting for the fans, exciting for our coaches to coach, exciting for the players to play. As long as we're continuing to investigate and ask those questions, we can make the game better.

I'm all for that. I'm all for progress. I'm all for experimenting with new rules, experimenting with new ways of playing the game. We have to continue to do that, and the Big Ten conference has a commissioner, Jim Delany, who's a fan of women's basketball, who's a fan of the game, and will encourage us to do whatever we can to continue to make the game exciting for fans. I'm open to anything.

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