Wednesday, March 23, 2005

'Trish' a favorite during high school days

Take a look at the 1970 Echo, Cheatham County Central High School's yearbook, and you'll find Patricia Sue Head.

She and Mack Hagewood have a page to themselves among the senior superlatives. Naturally, you assume Pat was voted "Most Athletic" among our graduating class. Well, she certainly could have received that honor. But Trish, as we called her, was much more to us than just a raw-boned, stellar basketball player.

The rules said you could only receive one superlative; so we voted Trish, "Most Popular."

And guess who the student body picked as our "Basketball Sweetheart of the Season?" Pat was chosen from among the cutest cheerleaders and beauty queens of our school. So, you see, we loved our Trish in ways that only those closest to her can understand.

These days the television audience sees those piercing eyes and bulging veins as Pat works her magic in front of the Tennessee bench, and they think she must be one mean mama. Well, she is when it suits her purpose, which translates to winning basketball games. But off the court, I'm told, she still has that farm-girl wisdom and charm that endears her to her friends.

We never heard of Trish Head until our freshman year of high school. She had lived in Montgomery County, which did not have a girls basketball program. Realizing Pat's potential, her dad moved the family across the county line to the tiny community of Henrietta in Cheatham County, northwest of Nashville. It proved to be an historic moment for the Cheatham County Cubettes.

By the time Pat arrived in Ashland City, site of the county's only high school at the time, she could dribble circles around most of the guys, much less girls. From the time she was about 6, she had been playing basketball on a goal her dad erected in the hayloft of their barn. She got tough playing against three older brothers and working on the family farm.

She could chop tobacco, plow a field and bale hay with the best of them, which intimidated some of the fellas. But the only thing that hurt my ego was how she schooled us guys on the basketball court when we dared to challenge her to a pickup game at the gym.

Trish dated one of my best friends in high school, and we double-dated a time or two, once going to the state fair in Nashville. She was all about having fun, and we enjoyed plenty of good times, same as your average teenagers. She led the girls basketball team to the regional tournament, which was pretty rare prior to her arrival, and we all knew she would be the first from our school to play college basketball. In 1970, women's basketball was just beginning to take root at most colleges.

Pat and I both wound up going to Tennessee Martin; so I got to see her evolve as an athlete and leader.

Still, no one could imagine at the time that Pat would eventually be an Olympic star and make six trips to the White House to shake hands with the president after coaching the Lady Vols to national championships.

The Cheatham County High School gym now bears her name, and we are most proud that she hasn't forgotten her roots. We're happy to share her with a national audience, and I'm betting the rest of the Volunteer State would agree that we did a pretty good job when we voted Trish, "Most Popular."

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