I talked this afternoon with Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz before he brings his fourth-ranked Cardinals to E.A. Diddle Arena on Wednesday to face Western Kentucky.
A big thanks to Walz, who took some time to talk by phone while on the road and has always been very accessible and engaged since Michelle Clark-Heard took over at WKU, starting with the day she was hired.
Here are Walz’s comments:
Renewing series with WKU: “It’s really an opportunity to get Western Kentucky back on the schedule. Michelle and I spent three or four years together at Nebraska, and obviously our time here at Louisville. She helped us get the program where it is now, and it’s great to see her and see the success she’s having. It’s no surprise. I think it’s good for the state. I think it’s good to have your in-state programs play each other, and I’m looking forward to keep it going.”
What do you see from WKU? “They play so hard, and that’s not a surprise. Michelle is going to demand that from her players. They compete, they’re very athletic. They’re going to cause us some problems. Our kids completely understand that we’re going to have to come to play. It’s not just a game where you walk out there, and it’s a win. I’m hoping and expecting for a great crowd. With what Michelle has done down there, I’m hoping the fans understand what she’s done in one season and continue to support that program, because they sure deserve it.”
Getting everyone’s best shot: “We really haven’t talked about it that much, and that could be part of the problem and my mistake. We don’t talk about rankings. We try to talk about ourselves and what we have to do to get better, but I think with that, at times I’m not sure our kids realize we’re ranked third and fourth, depending on which poll you look it. I don’t know they completely have the understanding we’re a big game for everybody. If somebody can knock you off, it’s a top-five win for that program.”
Impact of former WKU coach Paul Sanderford: “Paul was the first person that gave me a chance to get into coaching. I went down to Western in 1995 as a graduate assistant and planned on basically working for two years, getting my Master’s degree and getting back into high school coaching and teaching. My second year there, David Graves went down to Wofford to be the head coach. Paul moved me up into that spot and was there for a year until Paul took me with him to Nebraska. Without him giving me the opportunity, there’s no way I’d be where I am today. I’ll be forever grateful to him for that. He’s been a mentor and a great friend, and he’s someone I can call anytime I need to. He’s always been a great sounding board.”