Thursday, March 25, 1999

Duke pumped for Final Four

The Associated Press

        DURHAM, N.C. — Not that she minds, but Gail Goestenkors is not getting a whole lot of sleep lately.

        “I can't slow down now,” she said.

        The coach of Duke's women's basketball team is riding one powerful wave, and sleep merely gets in the way.

        Her team cut down the nets in Greensboro Coliseum shortly before midnight Monday after jolting Tennessee in the East Regional final.

        That sent the Duke women to their first Final Four, where they joined the men for a double dose of basketball craziness on the campus.

        Goestenkors was back at her office by 7:30a.m. Tuesday, breaking down game film of Georgia, the opponent in Friday's national semifinal in San Jose, Calif. She slept less than two hours before heading back to work.

        “When you're so close to something you've worked so hard for, I don't think I can take time to breathe right now,” she said. “I'll have plenty of time to look back and enjoy everything.”

        Goestenkors — known as Coach G in the spirit of Coach K, her counterpart Mike Krzyzewski — is sure her players won't let down after denying the Lady Vols a shot at a fourth straight national title.

        “I don't think we're going to have trouble getting our feet back down on the ground,” Goestenkors said. “This was a big win for us, but I don't think it was as big as everyone else thinks that it was across the nation.”

        But Goestenkors said the victory should earn her players the respect she thinks they deserve.

        “I told the kids right before the game, "Nobody thinks we're going to win this game, and that makes me very upset.' I used much stronger language than that,” Goestenkors said. “I was angry. I'd been talking to reporters across the country and everybody said, "Well, I hope you make it a good game.'

        “That wasn't enough for us. There was a little bit more, not because of who we were playing, but because of how we were being perceived.”

        Duke started the season in San Jose, losing by 30 to Connecticut and beating Stanford by 20 in an early-season tournament. Goestenkors said the goal is to bring the season full circle.

        “They've known from Day 1 what that trip was all about,” Goestenkors said. “It wasn't the best trip. That Connecticut game was the worst game of our season.

        “After the game, I told them, "Well, now we know how bad we can be, and we've got the entire rest of the season to find out how good we can be.' And I don't think there would be anything more fitting than to make our last game our best game in San Jose.”

        Goestenkors was still running on adrenaline Wednesday as Duke set out for the West Coast.

        “I feel great,” Goestenkors said. “I've been waiting for this all my life.”