Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Time for Summitt to cheer for the men

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Now it's Pat Summitt's turn. Tennessee men's coach Bruce Pearl painted himself orange and cheered in the student section for the women's game against No. 1 Duke on Jan. 22. Pictures and video of Pearl were very popular online and on highlight reels for several days afterward.

Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt said then she was planning a similar gesture for a men's game, and now her time has come.

Summitt and her staff are planning a special appearance during Tennessee's game Tuesday night against No. 5 Florida.

Summitt didn't want to say exactly what she is doing, but she's dropped hints by mentioning her days as a cheerleader in seventh and eighth grade.

"I might come back and perform with my staff," she said Monday.

Pearl is in on the secret.

"I know what Pat is doing, but I'm not at liberty to say," he said. "I think (fans) are going to love it, and I think America is going to see a side of Pat Summitt that they haven't seen in a long time."

Summitt noted the appearance will be "a little out of character, a lot out of character actually."

Summitt, 54, is known for working players hard in practice and her icy stare on the sidelines during games. She's also the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history — men or women — with 940 victories.

"I think people see me as being really serious, and I've just always been a kind of person that likes to have fun and do things like I'm going to do tomorrow night. But I usually don't do it on camera in front of the whole country," she said. "I figured, why not?"

Pearl had promised on a joint radio show with Summitt that he would do his stunt.

Before the Lady Vols game, Pearl stood in front of the student section with four players and a manager to spell out "GO VOLS" on their chests.

"It's all for Bruce. The fact that he and his guys painted their chests. He made that statement and generated a lot of excitement to the community and obviously brought a lot of exposure to the university and I respect Bruce," Summitt said. "From the time he's been here, he's been nothing but supportive of the women's program."

Summitt said she was surprised at some of the criticism Pearl got within the coaching ranks.

"You stop and wonder what kind of relationship do they have with their women's basketball coach?" she said. "Because here there is a mutual respect and friendship. We give and take on facility requests. He comes to our games. I go to his games."

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