Quotes: Kellie Harper Previews Alabama Game

Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper met with the media at Pratt Pavilion on Tuesday afternoon, taking questions about Thursday’s contest between the No. 12/8 Lady Vols (21-4/10-2 SEC) and Alabama (12-11/3-9 SEC) in Tuscaloosa. 

Tip-off is set for 6:02 p.m. CT (7:02 p.m. ET) in Coleman Coliseum, with the game being streamed on SECN+. 
 

Lady Vols HC Kellie Harper / Credit: UT Athletics

Tennessee Head Coach Kellie Harper

On facing Alabama a second time…
“Yeah, it was such a long time ago that we played Alabama. I think anytime you’re playing a team twice, you have to be better the second game. Sometimes, it’s a little bit difficult if you won, because you want to have the same attack, you want to have the same game plan, but you have to understand they’re going to change something. So, we’ll have to go in and try to be the best Tennessee team we can be, but also be prepared for any adjustments we that feel like they might make.”

On not overlooking Alabama…
“I’ll be honest with you, for me, it’s pretty easy. I have so much preparation to do for Alabama that I don’t have time to look ahead. Hopefully, our team feels the same way. We try to stay pretty consistent with our routine and what we’re talking about. We’re working on us (today), tomorrow we’ll work on Alabama, and then hopefully that keeps them focused on the task at hand. We’ve done that pretty well the majority of the season, so I don’t see that being an issue.”

On her fiery locker room speech in the SEC Inside video…
“You know, I don’t yell every day all day, but I can get after it when I feel it’s necessary. And they just happened to catch one of those moments. You might come in there 10 times and not catch it, but they caught it. You know, I think that’s the competitive side of me. It’s not anything I’ve just developed; you can go ask the first team I ever coached, and they remember those moments as well. I think it’s… you know, a coach has to know what their team needs, and if that’s what the team needs to be motivated, to push past where they’re at, then I think the coach has to give it to them. You know, sometimes I don’t think they need that. The good thing about this group is they respond regardless of our approach, and I think part of that is they know we love them. And when you know your coach loves you, you can allow yourself to be coached hard.”

On how to know when to push that button (continued from previous question)…
“It’s a feel. And it’s, you know, you’re balancing confidence, you’re balancing effort, execution, focus, and when I have great attitudes, great body language, great effort, there’s not a whole lot I’m going to get after you about; there’s just not. Sometimes they need a little bit with the focus area, but as soon as one of those three slips, I don’t handle that really well. And you know, in that particular game, there was a lack in focus.”

On the impact Coach Summitt has on her demeanor…
“Well, I saw it. Obviously, that’s the model that I had as a player. She was constant and consistent with us. I think, very similar. We knew she had our best interests at heart and that’s why we could be coached hard as well. And I think when you have that and when you’ve seen that, you know, it does stick with you. But I will say this, I don’t go in the locker room going, ‘Oh, let me try to be Pat.’ That’s just not going to work; I’m going to fall short there. You know, I have to be genuine, and I have to be me in those moments. And obviously, ‘me’ has taken bits and pieces from all the coaches I either played for or worked for in the past, and obviously, Pat’s a big part of that.”

On being compared to Pat Summitt…
“I’m ok with it. I get there are going to be comparisons. First, when I saw the video clip, the first thing I thought was, ‘Oh, our fans are going to say this looks like Pat.’ And that’s ok. I have no problem with that. I get it, and you know, I loved her too. We just miss her, and so you want to cling to anything that can remind you of her or that can bring back those memories. That’s why I’m ok with it, and I understand it. I’m not trying to live up to the comparisons. I’m not. But I’m ok with it, because I do understand it’s coming from a genuine place of just love from our fans.”

On changing their routine to break their Thursday losing streak…
“Sometimes it’s just throwing a kink into your schedule, maybe trying to do something a little different. I don’t think we’ve done anything wrong in planning our itinerary. But as a coach, you really do evaluate everything, and so we’re going to look at doing our meals different on Wednesday night, and then maybe our shootarounds would look a little bit different then on Thursday. So, maybe film is a little bit different. We’re trying to move some things around. Unfortunately, at this point, you can’t overhaul it – because there is a consistency piece to what we’ve done – without it still being like a Thursday night. You know, our pre-game, our day-to-day pre-game on any day looks similar. So, we’ve just got to land on something and then go out and execute confidently.”

On slowing down Alabama’s offensive threats…
“One of the things we’ll do is really focus in on our defense, our half-court defense. That’s been one of our strengths. And I think ball pressure is good, finding opportunities to help, but also understanding the better we can play one-on-one defense, the less people have to help, the less rotations that you have to work through, the easier it is to guard. So, really getting with our team and focusing in on our one-on-one defense will be critical.”

On the rotation since Keyen Green’s injury…
“I think we’re settled in right now with where we’re at. The challenge that we had was finding the right combination coming off the bench and you know, we were able to go back to something that worked early on in league play. And so, in particular, you’ve got Sara Puckett and you’ve got Rae Burrell coming off the bench. And they give you a big pop; they give you a lot of power when they’re coming off the bench. That’s been good for us. Those two are good enough, they could start. But where we need them and what’s best for our team right, is how we’re bringing them off the bench.”

On not shooting from the perimeter too much…
“Well, we can’t change who we are at this point in the season. And one thing we don’t want to do is go out against a three-point shooting team and get in a three-point shooting contest. We’re not going to win that. We’ve got to play to our strengths, and the majority of the season, our strength has been getting the ball to the paint, whether that’s off the drive or off the pass, and then taking really good threes. There will be a few games where we’ll take more than others. A lot of that will be situational. So, we’re not going to pass them up, we’re going to take really good ones. And, you know, at this point in the season you’re not going to change your strengths.”

On what she wants to see as the team continues to progress…
“I think for us, obviously, the consistency defensively is always going to be important. The technical aspect of rebounding, so not just getting rebounds because we’re bigger, getting rebounds because we’re in the right position – I think is going to be important for us moving forward. And then, obviously, our offensive execution is something we said we’re going to work on all year long, and so that is… we’re never going to check that box. We can always find ways to be better, so that’s efficiency, turnovers, taking great shots, shooting percentage, all of that.”

-UT Athletics

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