Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Thompson-Boling court to get new name

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Surpassing Dean Smith to become the all-time winningest coach in Division I history was a given.

If Pat Summitt's Lady Vols hadn't helped their coach score victory No. 880 on Tuesday with a 75-54 win over Purdue, the historic moment would have no doubt come early next season.

But the night wasn't short on surprises. First, Summitt's 79-year-old mother, Hazel Head, made her first trek to Thompson-Boling Arena in years. The two shared a teary-eyed moment in the tunnel just before Summitt entered the arena.

Then, just minutes after Tennessee had secured a berth in the Sweet 16, school officials announced the court at Thompson-Boling would soon have a new name: The Summitt.

As Tennessee women's athletics director Joan Cronan unveiled the design of the logo that will soon makes its way onto the floor, a shocked Summitt threw her head back and gazed up into the rafters. Cronan and school president John Petersen then presented Summitt with a commemorative plaque celebrating her 880th win and a piece of hardwood donned with The Summitt logo.

"It really touches me," Summitt said. "I never even thought about anything like that ever. I don't think there could have been a better gift in terms of the feeling that I had and how much I love this university."

It was a very fitting way to celebrate Summitt's success. In recent years, we've seen other coaches such as Duke's Mike Krzyzewski honored in similar ways, and it was great to see Tennessee, an institution that has always seemed ahead of its time in terms of the support it has given both Summitt and the Lady Vols' women's basketball program, once again be the first to bestow such a bold honor.

To be honest, it might be overdue. But it was another wonderful moment Tuesday night -- and in Summitt's long, storied career.

No comments: