Everything Kellie Harper Said Before Lady Vols’ 1st Practice

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    (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

    Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper met with the media this week before the Lady Vols held their first preseason practice of 2019. Here’s everything Coach Harper had to say about the offseason, preparing for her first season as head coach, and more.

    On what she wants to accomplish on the first day of practice:
    “I want today to feel different than any other day. I think the first day of official practice should feel special. I woke up excited, and I think our players did as well. I think today, just continuing with what we have worked on, building on it and making sure that we are sticking with being repetitive with fundamentals and giving a lot of effort.”

    On how she has gotten the Lady Vol standard across to her players:
    “The first thing we are doing is telling our players what we want it to look like. We explain to them the effort is going to be there, how we act toward each other, our body language on the court, and how they should be enjoying things. Every little detail we have talked to them about. We talked to them about stopping in our offices. Everything that we’re doing right now is intentional. Everything we are doing is intentional to make sure that it’s looking the way we want it to look right now.”

    On if she incorporates anything into practices that Pat Summitt did in her practices:
    “I think there are a few drills that I will do that we used to do when I was a player. I think there are some philosophical things, especially defensively, that Pat used to incorporate that we still do today. Times have changed, and so philosophies mold to teams and personalities, but I think you can see some similarities.”

    On what she wants to be intentional about in practice:
    “A lot of times, competitiveness. We will make our drills competitive with winners and losers just to emphasize that winning is important and competing in each drill is important to try to make each other better. There will be some effort things to make sure that we are watching closely – that we are sprinting the floor, doing what we need to do. Also, (we have to be) intentional with our discipline and being very disciplined in, for instance, a box-out, and making sure we’re doing that right every single time.”

    On creating adversity in practice:
    “I think we are going to try to create some adversity for our team… We may up our drill. A goal, for instance, if a goal for a particular drill is 100, we up it to 125 and ask them to complete it. Just little things, but I think we have to find some adversity daily. Maybe it’s not big things. Maybe we cannot simulate a loss or being down 10 going into the fourth quarter, but we can find some way for them to be tested every day.”

    On how much she can set a tone in the first practice:
    “I think we have had enough practices (offseason workouts) now and enough time together that they understand the tone. I think you still use this first practice to talk about the future and to talk about the journey that we are on. It starts, officially, today. I think it is important that they come out and perform the way we want them to perform. Maybe they are making mistakes, but the effort and the intensity need to be there.”

    On whether she knows who the leaders of the team are:
    “We’re still working on our leaders, but it’s not something that’s uncommon. I think we’ve got folks that are in position to lead and are doing a good job, but in terms of being great leaders right now, we’re still working on that. I think we’re in a pretty good spot.”

    On if the group is benefiting from a first-year coach:
    “I think they have all been pretty open, even the upperclassmen. They have been really receptive to what we have had to say. We haven’t had any fight or push-back from them. There hasn’t been a lot of adversity yet. They have all been really good so far, so for right now it’s hard to say.”

    On what the first official day means:
    “This is the first time that I have walked out on this court and those bleachers were here. This looks like a gameday gym. I had a moment right before I walked out here (thinking) that this is really cool. I am going to continue to have those moments for a while. It just shows how excited I am for this opportunity and how much it means to me. And I get it. I know how much it means to a lot of people. We are the Tennessee Lady Vols. We are a big deal, and to be heading that up is something I do not take lightly.”

    On if she took in the arena when she arrived for practice:
    “I did. I walked through the curtain, and I had a moment when I got to see what the arena looks like today. It is a special day.”

    On the process since getting the job:
    “It has not felt slow. I think the last five or so months have been the fastest five months in my life. It has been very fast. The number of things that have happened in five months is enormous. The amount of things that we have been able to get done in five months is great. We have been able to do so much, whether it is being out in the community, or taking a trip to Europe, recruiting, having our camps, practicing; there is a lot that has happened.”

    On her top priorities after getting the job:
    “There are so many things that are priorities: recruiting, your staff, your players. I think one of the biggest things for us is spending time with our players and getting to know our players on a deeper level than just being their coach. I think that’s been really important. We are still working on it, but I think we have done a pretty good job of getting to know them and building that relationship.”

    On the chemistry between the players and coaches:
    “I feel like we (the coaches) know the players better now. We have been able to see the players interact together now. We have some big personalities on the team, and we have some that are quiet. We kind of see how those players work together in non-adversity situations. I think the chemistry is something that we are working on. We have not seen anything negative, but we still have to work on it. We have been working to build a positive atmosphere and positive environment for our players.”

    On whether she gets called Kellie Harper or Kellie Jolly more:
    “Around here, I still get a lot of Kellie Jolly, but probably more Kellie Harper than not. But if you call me Kellie Jolly, I will answer to it.”

    On where the team is now and if she has a timeline for where she wants the team to be:
    “That is a great point, and I do. I have a curriculum that I want, but I usually do it for the month. For this upcoming month and what I want to get in by our first exhibition date and how I go about doing that, I always put it down on paper, and it is never 100 percent accurate, but it gives me something to work with, and it gives me a plan. And then we go out and see how we prepare, and if we’re progressing quickly and I can add more, or are we progressing slowly and I need to take some things off the table.”

    On realistic expectations for this season:
    “That is a good question. I think for us, just putting something on paper with this is what we think we can do. I think right now, that is even hard for us to know. I know it is not what you want to know, but for us, we just need to be the best basketball team we can be, and I don’t even know yet what that is going to look like, but that is what we need to strive for, to be the absolute best we can be. And at some point, we will realize what areas we can really excel and take advantage of, but right now, our goal every single day is to be as good as we possibly can be. If we can maximize our potential, that’s going to give us the best opportunity to compete for championships and be where we need to be, but I think we have to max out to do that.”

    On what October looks like:
    “We are very slow in putting in different things, so our man-package will be completely in; we will have everything that we want to put in there. I would like to add a zone in there as well before our exhibition game. We will probably have anywhere from three to eight quick-hit type plays in to go along with our motion offense, and we may have some things that we can do in transition. Out-of-bounds plays come a little slower. We will put a few in…..probably gameday (laughs). Those are the things that….we may draw up in the huddle (laughs). But we will spend so much time on the basics, and so the basics for us are going to be our man-to-man, half-court-man defense, and our offense.”

    On if the team has started to build a foundation:
    “I think they understand. I think they know what it is. So when they mess up, we stop them, and they recognize where they have made a mistake. It is not habit yet, for sure, and it does not become that for months. It really does take months of practice and game and film to get there. But, at this point, they do know what I have asked them to do.”

    On addressing passing:
    “Our passing is something that we talk about pretty consistently with our team and with our staff, and we try to make sure at least daily that we have some drills incorporated into our practice that will focus in on our passing. We will also have rebounding drills every single day to make sure that we understand the discipline and the physicality required to box out and rebound.”

    On what she thinks the first game will be like:
    “I have thought about what that first game will be like when I walk in here and see everybody and hear ‘Rocky Top’ – that’s going to get me when I hear ‘Rocky Top’ for the first time in here. I know I will take a moment; I will soak it all in, and then real quick I’ll get back to what I’m here to do, and that’s coach this basketball team.”

    On if they’ve practiced in TBA:
    “Yeah, we’ve had a few practices here in Thompson-Boling Arena, which I love by the way.”

    On new players making it easier to take over a job and if it’s easier with a younger team:
    “I give them a lot of credit, because they’ve been very receptive to what we are trying to do. We’ve painted a picture and tried to explain and show them, as best we can, what we want it to look like and how it needs to look. We talk about ‘yes, that’s how it looks,’ or ‘no, let’s do something a little different.’ Them being receptive to that has helped us be able to come in and implement new things.

    “I think in theory, yes, but also you have to have your upperclassmen buy in. And if that’s one upperclassmen or four upperclassmen, you have to have them buy in, and thus far, ours have.”