Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Summitt, Stringer have different shopping styles

PHILADELPHIA — Pat Summitt considers C. Vivian Stringer to be a close friend, but she would almost rather lose to her than spend an hour at the shopping mall with her.

The Tennessee and Rutgers coaches will meet for the fifth time in March tonight at the Liacouras Center on the Temple University campus with a spot in the Final Four at stake.

''I don't particularly care to shop with her,'' Summitt said as if it was the most painful experience imaginable. ''I like to run in a store, look around and go, 'I want this, this and this.' And, of course, Vivian takes her time.

''If we're trying on shoes, she would try on 12 pair, I would try on two. She has incredible patience. I have none.''

Stringer is 2-7 against Summitt in her career. The first win came when she was at Iowa, and it earned her team a place in the 1993 Final Four. The second win came earlier this season.

''I like that, because I think that we probably embody what it means to be great competitors, to go after one another, but be respectful and care about each other's families,'' Stringer said.

Stringer, who has 723 career wins, joins Summitt as one of four women's coaches with more than 700 wins. Summitt is the NCAA's all-time leader — men's or women's — with 881 and passed Dean Smith earlier in the tournament for that distinction.

Retired LSU Coach Sue Gunter and Texas Coach Jody Conradt are the other two with more than 700.

Turn it around: Nine wins, 20 losses.

Rutgers seniors Cappie Pondexter and Chelsea Newton were freshmen for that season in 2001-2002 — a low point in 33 seasons of coaching for Stringer.

The Scarlet Knights had been to the Elite Eight in 1999 and the Final Four in 2000, and the class with Pondexter and Newton was supposed to be the next wave of great Rutgers players.

''There were a lot of expectations,'' Stringer said. ''Everybody tried to kill us.''

On 20 separate occasions, teams did.

''As soon as we would come into games, people would say we were overrated,'' Stringer said. ''(The freshmen) couldn't handle it psychologically, because they are sweethearts. … They took a lot of bashing from a lot of people.''

Since that season, Rutgers has won 20 or more games every year.

''This is the most important time for me, for them and for all the people who doubted,'' Stringer said. ''This is a special group. So anything and everything they get will be magnified times a hundred.''

Not the first: The hype around Rick Pitino being the first coach to lead three different programs to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament is actually limited to only the men's game.

Stringer was the first coach to do it by taking Cheyney State (1982), Iowa (1993) and Rutgers (2000). Pitino's Louisville team just earned a spot in the men's Final Four in St. Louis.

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