Paul Sanderford seemed right at home at the podium Monday in the Diddle Arena media room.
The former Western Kentucky women’s basketball coach stopped by to discuss the Lady Tops’ game Wednesday against No. 4 Louisville, which pits two of his former coaching proteges – Michelle Clark-Heard and Jeff Walz – against each other. Sanderford will also be on the call for the ESPN3/WKU-PBS broadcast of the game.
Sanderford stole the show, offering up insight on the two coaches and the importance of WKU playing in-state powers. He also managed to get a playful dig in at Walz, pointing to his shirt with a sly grin and saying, “This isn’t a tablecloth. I want to make sure the people in Louisville know that. That’s an $85 shirt. Walz, even with his millions or whatever, he’s still wearing those $49, off-the-rack shirts.”
That’s a direct reference to this awesome banter last season between Walz and Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma.
But seriously, some good, honest stuff from Sanderford as always. There are also comments from WKU junior forward Chastity Gooch below:
On Jeff Walz: “I was in New Orleans for the Final Four last year, and I’ve been up several times to see coach Walz’s team in action. I’m very proud of what he’s done at Louisville. The thing that amazes me is that he’s done this in an era when Louisville’s been so good in everything.”
On Michelle Clark-Heard: “I think Michelle has done an excellent job here. She’s really trying to rebuild the program the right way. She’s trying to get good players, good people. They’re playing extremely hard.”
On playing top program like Louisville: “I think that helps our fans identify with the Toppers and really helps Michelle in her recruiting battle. The game will be televised, and that’s going to help. But you have to compete. It’s a two-edged sword. If you get blown out by 30, how much does that help. It’s a tough order, but you’ve got to start somewhere, and I think that’s a good place to start.”
Needing to play top in-state teams: “I think it’s mandatory that you play the best in the country, and it starts with playing the best in your state. I hope coach Heard can get the series started again with UK. I know they beat UK last time they were in here, and that series sort of stopped all of a sudden. Again, I think playing the best in your state and the best in the country is how you build a program. I think it’s imperative that WKU do that in all sports as much as possible.”
What did you see in Walz and Heard early on? “Both of them have very good work ethics. Both of them stayed in the office above and beyond the call of duty. Both of them are students of the game. They were always offering advice and trying to find a way to win a game. To me, I thought that was the mark of good coaches and good people. They were both concerned about players and players’ welfare. They thought I was too tough sometimes on the players, and they took up for the players an awful lot. That’s what you have to do when you’re an assistant. Both of them had bright futures. The fact that they’re so successful doesn’t surprise me. The fact that they’re this successful so early in their careers puts a big smile on my face.”
Playing Louisville: “I feel like this is a huge opportunity for us. I feel like this game should tell us where we stand. It’s very exciting. How many tems can say they get to play a No. 4 team in the country?
Handling Cardinals’ pressure: “We just have to talk to one another. We have to calm each other down. If we see someone kind of getting out of control, we’ve got to tell that person it’s OK and just take care of the ball.”