Q&A: Diana Taurasi on marriage, officiating and being an American

Diana Taurasi’s Phoenix Mercury are off to a 4-3 start this season, but the biggest news has surrounded their legendary point guard. In the past few weeks Taurasi has signed a huge contract extension, etched her name in the record books as the all-time WNBA leader in threes, and got married to former teammate and current coach, Penny Taylor. The Summitt caught up with Taurasi following a loss to the New York Liberty to talk about her feelings on a number of basketball and other topics.

David Vertsberger: What’s the married life like?

Diana Taurasi: It’s nice. It’s solid. It’s settled. It’s really good so far.

Vertsberger: What’s it like having a partner that’s also your coach?

Taurasi: We keep it real business when we’re on the court and at the gym. Obviously Penny’s been through the trenches, she’s one of the best player to ever touch a basketball so whenever she has any advice for me I definitely take it and try to use it.

PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 14: Diana Taurasi

Vertsberger: How has your outlook in general changed since getting married?

Taurasi: It’s only been like two weeks. I hope it doesn’t change me too much.

Vertsberger: Do you feel like this is a special time for you? You broke the three-point record, you got married, you had the contract extension.

Taurasi: It’s been a pretty good two weeks for myself personally. Obviously on the basketball side of it, it’s just a lot of good things happening at once. This team, kind of in its early stages and how we’re coming together. So yeah a lot of good things happening right now.

Vertsberger: You had that whole back-and-forth with Elena Delle Donne when she suggested lowering the rims to nine feet. In relation to that, if you could see one rule change or something different about the W happen as an improvement, what would it be?

Taurasi: I’d probably take all the NBA refs. As the game goes forward, I think the way the game is viewed and the game is played has to change, has to evolve. I mean you come to the game tonight and it’s like a 1990s Knicks vs. Detroit Pistons game, no one wants to watch that, no one wants to play in that. People want to see the [Kevin] Durants and that type of ability being shown on the court. You don’t want to see a slugfest, wrestling. I don’t, and I like wrestling.

Vertsberger: You broke the record for most threes in a career, what’s your secret to longevity?

Taurasi: I’ve been lucky. I’ve got to play for great coaches and great players. That’s the only way you get those records. You don’t do it by yourself, you don’t do it on your own. You gotta have a lot of help, a lot of support. A lot of confidence from people giving it to you. I’ve just been lucky to be in Phoenix my whole career, that’s really helped me and given me a platform to get there. Like I said, four-five years from now someone has to break it and I’ll be happy for them.

SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 19: Diana Taurasi

Vertsberger: Three-time champion, career winding down, how do you stay so competitive?

Taurasi: I just still really love to play. People always tell me to calm down and the minute I calm down is the minute I stop playing.

Vertsberger: This year with Penny obviously retiring and DeWanna Bonner not playing, you’re taking on a bigger load. When you see that, is it more of a “good, happy for the challenge” or “I’m not 23 anymore” mentality?

Taurasi: Well I’m definitely not 23 anymore, I am very conscious of that. But like I said earlier, it’s an exciting time for my team. You never fill those roles. When you talk about Penny Taylor, no one’s ever going to match what she does. DB, you’re not going to match what she does. But if we can have people be who they are and play at their highest potential, I think this team has a lot of potential for the next couple months.

Vertsberger: Which young player reminds you of yourself?

Taurasi: I don’t think there’s anyone that nasty. But my favorite player in the league is probably Piph, and she wasn’t here tonight, so I was really disappointed in that.

Vertsberger: Who’s the toughest player for you to score on?

Taurasi: Obviously Catch was really tough. Actually Katie [Smith] was one of the most physical, strongest players in the league. She was really tough to play against. Those two are probably at the top of my list.

PHOENIX, AZ – JULY 26: Katie Smith

Vertsberger: Who’s the person you were most fired up to play against?

Taurasi: You know, I never worried about the other team. I never worried about what they did, because I can’t control what they did. I was just always focused on what the people wearing Phoenix did, because that’s the only thing I was invested in. I never had a grudge or a rivalry against anyone or any team. I just play basketball.

Vertsberger: If you had the chance to tell rookie Diana Taurasi something, what would it be?

Taurasi: Stop eating McDonald’s, stop staying out ’till two in the morning, stop eating fried chicken, stop drinking milk. All that stuff.

Vertsberger: What’s the legacy you want to leave behind?

Taurasi: I really don’t get to decide that. All I can decide is going on the court and playing hard, playing for this team, playing for this organization. Whatever it is, that’s what they’ll believe.

Vertsberger: You said after basketball you’re probably going to take a break from the game, how hard is it going to be for you to walk away?

Taurasi: I’ve been thinking about it, and I don’t think it’s going to be hard at all. I think it’s hard when you don’t put everything into it, when you leave some things unfinished. And I feel like every time I’m on the court, I give it my all, every time I’m in a training camp I give it my all, when I’m in Europe I give it my all. When my time’s done, I’ll be happy.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 20: Gold medalist Diana Taurasi

Vertsberger: Sports and politics have sort of meshed a lot recently, but I haven’t seen much of things you’ve said on the topic. Is this something you feel passionately about in any way?

Taurasi: I feel passionately about what being an American means these days, which I think is very blurred. I’m not sure what it means anymore. Just being a person that’s played all over the world, you know when being an American is a good thing and you know when being an American is not. And right now it’s not a good feeling being an American around the world.

Vertsberger: I wanted to ask you about Geno Auriemma, he had this quote saying there aren’t more female coaches because women chose not to be, what’s your take on that?

Taurasi: I think that’s a little bit skewed. I mean I look around the WNBA right now and I see Katie on the bench. I see Penny. I see Sandy Brondello. I see Taj McWilliams and Bridget Pettis. I see Cheryl Reeve and all the people she’s tutoring. There are. I just don’t think we get the same opportunity to be recycled. Men coaches get recycled like a bottle of Coke, in every sport.