Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Summitt receives coaches' admiration

KNOXVILLE — This win wasn't just about Pat Summitt or Tennessee.

Granted, that was the bulk of it.

But with LSU Coach Pokey Chatman sitting close to the floor, Kentucky Coach Mickie DeMoss sitting in the stands and Purdue Coach Kristy Curry having a small part of her pulling for Tennessee, this win also had a lot to do with women's basketball in general.

The Lady Vols beat Purdue 75-54 last night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and Summitt picked up her 880th career win to become the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history.

''To have an opportunity to possibly witness that, you know so many people have to pick up the newspaper or they're just tuning in, because it's monumental,'' said Chatman, whose LSU team rolled to a 76-43 win over Arizona earlier in the night.

''It's one of the reasons I'm happy to be in Knoxville.''

Summitt now has a career record of 880-171, and she will go for 881 Sunday as the Lady Vols play Texas Tech in Philadelphia in the Sweet 16.

''I turned the volume down on the TV last night,'' Summitt said. ''Obviously I appreciate all the recognition that women's basketball has received because of this, because obviously it had a lot of plugs as well as this program. But I just wanted to keep my focus on this team.''

DeMoss, an assistant coach under Summitt for 18 years and now in her second year at Kentucky, came back to watch her mentor, and she hung out in the locker room with some of her former players afterward.

''Of all the coaches that could do it, it's so fitting that it's Pat,'' DeMoss said. ''She's done so much for women's basketball over such a long period of time. She's been able to sustain this program at the top and keep winning. Everybody's always gunning for Tennessee.''

Curry had said yesterday that with Summitt's impact on the game, she would find it tough to not want her to break the record.

''We will be better for the fact that we played Tennessee tonight,'' Curry said.

Summitt's husband R.B. and son Tyler sat on the front row at center court with Summitt's mother and sister sitting close by. Summitt did not expect either of her parents to be at the game last night, because her father has been ill.

''I walked around the corner and there's my mother,'' Summitt said. ''Of course, she's crying. So what do I do? I cry. That's what you do. When your mother cries, you cry.''

Lady Vols All-Americans Daedra Charles (1988-1991), Bridgette Gordon (1985-1989) and Kara Lawson (1999-2003) were in attendance.

''She's meant so much to so many people's lives both on the floor and off the floor,'' UT junior Shanna Zolman said. ''It's so well-deserved.''

Added DeMoss: ''It takes a lot of people in 30 years to accumulate all those wins. It's all about people. It's all about people giving of themselves to this program.''

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