Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Leslie, Swoopes to lead 2006 World team

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Continuing on its past success of building gold medal winning teams around a core group of internationally experienced players, USA Basketball, which has claimed gold at the last two FIBA World Championships and past three Olympic Games, announced today that three-time Olympic gold medalists Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks) and Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets), two-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Smith (Detroit Shock), 2000 Olympic gold medalist DeLisha Milton-Jones (Washington Mystics), and 2004 Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) have been selected as the first eight members of the 2006 USA Women's World Championship Team. The selections were made by the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee and approved by the USA Basketball Executive Committee.

"USA Basketball's senior women's program has a proud history of success in international competition, including five consecutive gold medals over the past ten years," said USA Basketball President Val Ackerman. "The 2006 World Championship player roster once again represents an impressive blend of youth and veteran leadership, and with coach Donovan at the helm, we are in an outstanding position to continue our unparalled run and solidify the domination of American women in the sport of basketball,"

"These eight players have contributed to the success of the USA Basketball women's program over the past two decades," said Committee chair and WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations Renee' Brown. "You not only have three- and two-time Olympians, but you have some talented young players who are hungry to compete alongside our veterans and help continue to build upon USA Basketball's past successes. Not only have all of them have competed together in international competitions, but the Committee also knows that they all have a respect for each other's games and they are willing to collectively come together to compete and win for the USA."

"This is a tremendous group of core players, with extensive experience in bringing home the gold," said USA and Seattle Storm head coach Anne Donovan. "With this group, I know we are assured of going to battle in the World Championship with our best and most proven veterans. These players understand the drive, preparation and commitment that we need to stay on top. I am confident that these experienced Olympians will set the pace for yet another gold."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Lady Vols' Summitt Reaches $1 Million Mark

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Pat Summitt is the newest millionaire coach.

University of Tennessee officials said Monday they raised Summitt's salary to $1.125 million for next season and added six years to extend her contract through the 2011-12 season.

The 53-year-old Summitt leads all Division I basketball coaches — men's and women's — with 913 career wins. She will be starting her 33rd season with the Lady Vols this fall.

Her salary was $824,500 last season.

"Not only is Coach Summitt the winningest coach in college basketball, but she is a tremendous ambassador for our university and our state," school president John Petersen said. "I am proud that she will continue to represent the university for many years to come."

Summitt's base salary will increase from $300,000 to $325,000. She will get $350,000 for radio and television commitments, $300,000 for endorsements and $150,000 as a public relations fee.

Over six years, the salary package will increase each year and average $1.3 million a year. The contract calls for Summitt to be paid $1.5 million in the final year.

She is the second-highest paid coach at Tennessee behind football coach Phillip Fulmer, who makes $2.05 million annually. Men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl got a raise earlier this year to $1.1 million from $800,000.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sky not limiting McCray

McCray's latest WNBA address is Chicago, specifically a downtown apartment in the heart of the Windy City.

Surrounded by all the high-rise buildings, the former Tennessee Lady Vol All-American still has an unobstructed view. She sees a great opportunity for herself with the Chicago Sky, an expansion franchise that opened its season last night in Charlotte.

"I'm riding it,'' McCray said. "I'm loving every minute of it. I want this year to be a good year for me.

The minutes and ultimately the basketball years are beginning to dwindle for the 34-year-old McCray. The fifth WNBA stop for the two-time Olympic gold medalist (1996, 2000) could be the last entry on the resume. It's quite a basketball bio, considering she's also been a three-time all-star in the WNBA and was the most valuable player of the now-defunct American Basketball League.

She was a free-agent signee with the Sky after playing with San Antonio last season.

"She was cute, asking, 'Coach, how much longer do you think I can do this?' '' Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt said.

Summitt assured McCray that she had some years left, to which McCray responded: "I don't know. My body is talking to me."

McCray didn't rest her chances in Chicago on her reputation -- far from it in fact. By McCray's estimation, the Knoxville resident put her body on a workout schedule of about 10 hours a day, five days a week throughout the winter.

Her best years were based on a bedrock of athleticism, which enhanced not only her defensive skills but also her ability to run the floor in transition.

"I was really pleased to see how relentless she was,'' Summitt said. "She seemed very passionate about it."

McCray occasionally took part in Lady Vols practices and also played pick-up with the men Vols.

"They were very helpful,'' McCray said of men's coach Bruce Pearl and his staff. "I'd stay after and watch their practice and pick their brains about this and that.

"I was very inspired being back at Tennessee."

When Sky teammate Ashley Robinson, another former Lady Vol, saw McCray this spring, she said: "I can't believe how good you look."

"I wanted to come in in great shape,'' McCray said. "That's what's going to keep your longevity. I'm no stranger to the game and what it takes to be successful.''

Conversely, it hasn't hurt that McCray was a stranger to her new team. The Sky is the third league team -- Connecticut and Washington being the others -- not to partner with an NBA team. The Sky's primary owner is Michael Alter, a commercial real estate developer. The team will play its games at the University of Illinois-Chicago Pavilion.

Interestingly, the team's fledgling infrastructure has resulted in another Tennessee tie. Sara Parker, the mother of UT All-American Candace Parker, is the team's office manager.

More importantly for McCray, the team went outside the women's basketball world for its coach, hiring former Boston Celtics great/NBA coach Dave Cowens.

"He sees the game totally different than coaches in WNBA,'' McCray said. "He breaks the game down from A to Z. A lot of the coaches I've played with in the WNBA don't do that. It's an incredible amount of teaching he's done in a short period of time."

Given Cowens' lack of experience with the players, McCray and her teammates are starting with a clean slate.

"To be in a situation where you just go and play,'' McCray said. "It's like letting the cat out of the bag."

It's an exciting beginning for a player who might be nearing the end of her career.

"You want to enjoy every moment, every single day,'' McCray said. "It's something I'm going to cherish."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Lady Vols coach to join Safe Harbor event

Pat Summitt will be guest speaker at "Raisin' the Roof," a June 9 fund-raiser for Safe Harbor, the child advocacy center.

The party will be at the Music Road Hotel & Convention Center in Pigeon Forge. It will include dinner, dancing and a silent and live auction.

Summitt, head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball team, is the official spokeswoman of Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center.

Jay Adams of Mix 105.5 will be the master of ceremonies for the event. It begins at 6:30 p.m. and concludes at 11:30. Attire is dressy but not black tie. Seating is limited. Make reservations by calling 453-2638. The cost is $100 per person, with tables seating eight available.

"Proceeds raised from this event will literally be used to raise the roof on Safe Harbor's first facility to serve child-victims of severe abuse," barry Fain, board president, said. The facility will serve the 4th Judicial District, comprised of Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson and Sevier counties

"We are very grateful for this year's sponsors," said Donna Koester, Safe Harbor's executive director. "Without their generosity, none of this would be possible."

Sponsors to date include Burchfiel-Overbay & Associates Inc., Colonial Real Estate Inc., Comfort Inn Apple Valley, Gary Woods Photography, The Mountain Press, Music Road Hotel & Convention Center, Riverside Towers, Sevier County Bank, Sevier County Bar Association and Williams Heating & Air.

In one 12-month period, the 4th Judicial District recorded 5,334 total cases of confirmed abuse/neglect. That includes 1,118 cases in Cocke, 567 in Grainger, 1,561 in Jefferson and 2,088 in Sevier. Safe Harbor's efforts will be designed to assist investigators and prosecutors in building a case against perpetrators, while following up with the family to help coordinate counseling.

Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center is an IRS-approved 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. To learn more, visit, call 453-2638 or e-mail to

Friday, May 12, 2006

Summitt: Hard work, good attitude pay off

Humility and hard work are the keys to success, the head coach for women’s basketball at the University of Tennessee said Thursday. Pat Summitt was the keynote speaker at the 17th annual YWCA Women of Distinction Awards dinner Thursday at Illinois State University’s Brown Ballroom in Bone Student Center.

The awards are part of a national initiative recognizing personal and professional achievements of women.

Summitt, the first female coach ever to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, has racked up a 913-177 record in more than 30 seasons.

“I wasn’t as talented as some others, but my engine was going full speed,” she told the audience of more than 600 people. “Hard work is something you can control any day of your life.”

She grew up on a dairy farm as one of five children. Her mother dropped out of school in ninth grade, but she taught Summitt life skills.

Summitt said her father didn’t talk much and had a hard time showing emotions. When she’d say, “Dad, I love you,” he’d reply, “Good.”

But she won his praise when she coached a team to a NCAA championship in 1996.

“He goes ‘Somebody knows how to coach.’ He gave me a big old hug and kiss,” she said.

“Dad told me to be humble. If you’re good enough, others will talk about your accomplishments,” she said.

The advice on being humble came in handy one time when a stranger came up to her and asked, “Don’t I know you? Don’t you work at Ace Hardware?”

She passed on the lesson about hard work to her own son.

When her son was 9 years old, she found him crying with two basketballs under his arms. He sobbed, “I got cut.”

She said she told him he didn’t work hard enough to make the team. She advised him to take those two basketballs and wear them out before the next season.

He asked her to help him. She said she would, but she told him he had to start his own engine.

A positive attitude is everything, she said.

“You only go around life one time,” she said. “Enjoy all the success and share it with all the people you possibly can share it with.”

“Laugh at yourself in your journey through life.”

Women’s sports have come a long way since she played college basketball in the 1970s, she said. Back then, the budget was so tight, players bought their own uniforms and had to attach the numbers themselves.

Now women in sports are role models, and she takes that seriously, she said.

Once a player told her she didn’t want to be a role model. The coach said she had no choice.

“You are a role model,” she told the player. “You decide what kind of role model you are going to be.”

People need to think about how they want to be remembered when they leave this earth, she said.