Sunday, April 03, 2005

Girl power: All-woman Final Four

INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time since 1997, all four head coaches at the women's Final Four are female — Tennessee's Pat Summitt, LSU's Pokey Chatman, Michigan State's Joanne P. McCallie and Baylor's Kim Mulkey-Robertson.

Summitt is the only real veteran among that group of up-and-comers. McCallie and Mulkey-Robertson are making their first trips to the Final Four, and Chatman is making her second.

Chatman was filling in for ailing Coach Sue Gunter last year in New Orleans. She officially became head coach this season, as Gunter is still very ill.

''You are seeing a lot more administrators throughout the country look at some of the top females that have either played the sport or been involved with the game,'' Summitt said.

''Not that they are opposed by any means to hire men as there are certainly a lot of successful men in this profession. I do think that more and more women are being given opportunities for head coaching jobs.''

In 1997, the Final Four was full of female coaching veterans — Summitt, Stanford's Tara VanDerveer, Old Dominion's Wendy Larry and Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw.

McGraw was the last female coach to win a national title, in 2001. UConn's Geno Auriemma has won the past three.

Anxious Ely: Lady Vols senior Shyra Ely was not willing to admit that she was a bit tight against Rutgers on Tuesday — with a trip to the Final Four and her hometown of Indianapolis on the line. Her coach admitted it for her though.

''I think without question she was probably a little overanxious at times,'' Summitt said. ''She had been to three consecutive Final Fours and on top of that Shyra was trying to get back home.

''Combine that with Rutgers' defensive intensity, and I think that without question, she might have forced some things.''

Ely went just 2-of-11 from the floor in the Lady Vols' 59-49 win over Rutgers to advance to the national semifinals.

''Now that we have made it there, I think that it should give her a chance to relax and play without being in some type of panic or mental anxiety,'' Summitt said.

Old haunt: If Ely wants to visit her alma mater Ben Davis High School while in Indianapolis, she will have to do it on her own time.

Summitt put in a request for the Lady Vols to practice there, but this is a dead period for recruiting.

''There are recruitable student-athletes at the high school,'' Summitt said. ''I had not thought about it being a dead period. I knew immediately it would not be a possibility for us.''

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