Sun April 7, 2013
Louisville Cardinals Coach Jeff Walz: 'Our Ultimate Goal is to Win a National Championship'
The Louisville Cardinals women's basketball team is the surprise of women's basketball—but Coach Jeff Walz tells WFPL that they have no intention of being satisfied with a Final Four banner.
The Cardinals shocked the sport last week by beating the top-ranked Baylor Lady Bears in the Sweet 16. Their encore was another big upset—this time over the No. 2 seed Tennessee Lady Vols to reach the Final Four, the Cardinals' second trip in program history. It's rare for a No. 5 seed to make it to the women's Final Four, but Walz says a national title is the goal.
In an interview with WFPL, Walz discusses the Baylor upset (and their coach's reaction to the loss), the demise of the Big East Conference as we know it, the University of Louisville's athletic successes—and more.
Some of What He Said
On the upset:
"It's just a group of young ladies who've bought that have bought into what we're trying to do as a team and as a coaching staff. They just completely came together and said, 'Hey, we're going out here and try to defy all odds and see if we can't pull off the biggest upset of the tournament, for sure.' And that was to beat Baylor."
On Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey's response:
"They have won 74, 75 games. So it'd been a long time since she actually lost a basketball game. I'm just not sure she handled it extremely well. She might not have liked the physicality of it, but we were never trying to hurt anybody—we were just trying to do what we need to do to win within the rules."
On the relative rarity of big upsets in the women's NCAA Tournament:
"I think it's not only great for our team, I think think it's great for women's basketball in order for us to try to continue to grow our game, to to get more fans than just our group. We have to get the casual sports fan who might turn on the TV to say, 'Hey, there's a women's basketball game on; I'm going to turn that game on.' And if we can continue to have the excitement and have some upsets like we're having, then I think the casual fan is going to be more appealed to watch it."
"We've got a lot going on—it's not just your football, women's basketball, men's basketball. We've got your volleyball, soccer programs, your baseball, your softball, cross country, track. Everybody is performing, and performing at a high level. I think it really goes back to your leadership at the top... They do a great job of taking care of student athletes, and I think that's why we've been able to have the success that we've had as an athletic department as a whole."
"You've got five of the eight teams playing in men's and women's Final Four from the current Big East. I think it speaks volumes to the conference.I don't think anybody can argue that it's, without a doubt, the best conference in men's and women's basketball.... It's a great way to go out."
On his team's future prospects:
"It's something where we're continuing to build this. We're continue to try to get players in here like we have who can help us to make runs at the Final Four and win a national championship, because our ultimate goal is to win a national championship."
The Louisville Cardinals women's basketball team plays No. 2 seed California on Sunday in the Final Four. Tipoff is at 6:36 p.m.