Monday, June 25, 2007

Lady Vols get six ESPY nominations

The University of Tennessee tied the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts to lead the way with six ESPY nominations this year.

ESPN announced the nominees Monday morning. Fans will vote for the winners in 38 categories, and the awards show airs July 15 from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre.

The University of Tennessee is nominated for six awards, including Best Team, Best Female Athlete, Best Female College Athlete (2), Best Coach and the Under Armor Undeniable Performance.

The National Champion Lady Vol basketball team is nominated for Best Team along with the Florida men's basketball and football squads, the San Antonio Spurs, the Colts and the St. Louis Cardinals. Women have won the ESPY for Best Team twice: the Connecticut basketball team in 1996 and the U.S. World Cup soccer team in 2000.

For the best coach/manager award, Coach Summitt is up against back to back NCAA men's basketball champion Billy Donovan (Florida Gators), Super Bowl champion Tony Dungy (Indianapolis Colts), Jim Leyland (Detroit Tigers) and Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs).

Candace Parker will battle the WNBA's Lisa Leslie, Arizona softball's Taryne Mowatt and golfer Lorena Ochoa for Best Female Athlete.

Monica Abbott joins Parker in the category Best Female Collegiate Athlete along with Kerri Hanks (Notre Dame -Soccer), Kara Lynn Joyce (Georgia -Swimming) and Taryn Mowatt (Arizona- Softball).

The last award UT is nominated for is the Under Armor Undeniable Performance Award. The NCAA Champion basketball team will be up against Arizona's softball team, Nebraska's volleyball team, North Carolina's soccer team, Northwestern's lacrosse team and the Wisconsin women's hockey team.

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, who will co-host the event with ABC late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, is nominated in three categories, including Best Male Athlete.

Tennessee has won several ESPY's over the years. Chamique Holdsclaw's took home top Female Athlete of the Year and Women's Basketball Player of the Year in 1999. Holdsclaw also won the Women's Basketball Player of the year award in 1998 as did Tamika Catchings in 2001. ESPN also gave the ESPY Award for Co-Team of the Decade (1990's) to the Lady Vol basketball team after the team one four National Championships during the decade.

Tennessee Women's Basketball
Florida Men's Basketball
Florida Football
San Antonio Spurs
Indianapolis Colts
St. Louis Cardinals

Candace Parker, Tennessee Basketball
Lisa Leslie, WNBA
Taryne Mowatt, Arizona Softball
Lorena Ochoa, Golf

Monica Abbott, Tennessee Softball
Candace Parker, Tennessee Basketball
Kerri Hanks, Notre Dame Soccer
Kara Lynn Joyce, Georgia Swimming
Taryn Mowatt, Arizona Softball

Pat Summitt, Tennessee Volunteers
Billy Donovan, Florida Gators
Tony Dungy, Indianapolis Colts
Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

Lady Vol Basketball
Arizona Softball
Nebraska Volleyball
North Carolina Soccer
Northwestern Lacrosse
Wisconsin Hockey

Lady Vols' Summitt, Parker Sweep TSWA Women's Basketball Awards

NASHVILLE – Tennessee and Vanderbilt swept the men’s and women’s college player and coach of the year awards for the 2006-07 season, the Tennessee Sports Writers Association announced today.

Candace Parker was named the state’s women’s basketball player of the year while Lady Vol coach Pat Summitt was named coach of the year.

On the men’s side, Vanderbilt’s Derrick Byars and coach Kevin Stallings garnered the top awards.

Parker was named player of the year on the women’s side for the second straight year. The sophomore was named State Farm Player of the Year and was named Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four as she helped the Lady Vols to the NCAA championship.

Summitt, the winningest basketball coach for men or women, won her seventh national championship when the Lady Vols defeated Rutgers. Summitt guided the Lady Vols to a 34-3 record and top national seed.

Byars helped lead Vanderbilt’s resurgence, which included an appearance in the NCAA round of 16. The senior from Memphis was among the league leaders in scoring, three-pointers per game, field goal and field goal percentage, free throw percentage and assists while being named SEC Player of the Year.

Stallings was named the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Commodores to a 22-12 mark and an NCAA Tournament appearance. Vanderbilt overcame a 1-3 start and advanced to the Sweet 16, losing by one-point to eventual runner-up Georgetown. The Commodores defeated six nationally-ranked teams, including national champion Florida, and swept traditional power Kentucky for the second straight season.

The players and coaches of the year will be presented their awards during the annual TSWA Convention in July in Nashville.

Capsules for TSWA Players and Coaches of the Year

Men’s Player of the Year
Derrick Byars, Vanderbilt University
Senior, Guard/Forward, Memphis, Tenn.
Named 2007 Southeastern Conference Player of the year and unanimous First-Team All-SEC selection by the league’s coaches … helped lead the Commodores to a 22-12 overall record, the second most league wins in the SEC (10) and a visit to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament … finished the year ranked among the SEC leaders in a league-high nine statistical categories: scoring (fourth at 17.0), 3-pointers per game (eighth at 2.32), field goal percentage (ninth at .457), 3-point field goal percentage (ninth at .373), steals (11th at 1.41), free throw percentage (12th at .711), assists (12th at 3.41), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.45-to-1) and rebounding (23rd at 4.9) … finished second in scoring with 19.1 points per game during league play … A two-time SEC Player of the Week selection, Byars led the Commodores in scoring 17 times during the season, including 14 of 20 games from the start of conference play through the postseason. He also led Vanderbilt in scoring in seven of its 10 games against ranked opponents, averaging 20.2 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from 3-point range … netted 24 points on 11-of-19 shooting in Vanderbilt’s 83-70 victory against then-No. 1 Florida. He posted 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting to go with seven rebounds in an 82-81 win over then-No. 16 Tennessee. He willed Vanderbilt to the Sweet 16, pouring in 19 of his game-high 27 points after intermission during the Commodores’ 78-74 double-overtime thriller against then-No. 13 Washington State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament … finished the year as the team leader in scoring (17.0), assists (3.4) and steals (1.4).

Men’s Coach of the Year
Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt University
Named the 2007 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year … orchestrated the Commodores standout 2007 campaign that was capped off with the school’s second visit to the Sweet 16 in the last four years … after starting the season 1-3 and losing the services of starting center Alan Metcalfe with a broken left foot, Stallings and his staff reorganized the Commodore attack and directed Vanderbilt to a 22-12 overall record during the season … The Commodores beat a school-record six nationally ranked teams during the regular season – a number that ranked third most in the country behind only UCLA and North Carolina. Vanderbilt defeated topped-ranked and eventual national champion Florida, 83-70, on Feb. 17 and swept SEC traditional power Kentucky for the second consecutive season … Vanderbilt finished with the second-most league wins in the SEC with 10 and became the only squad in the league to never lose back-to-back conference games during the year … Stallings tutored senior wing player Derrick Byars who blossomed in his final season in Nashville and was named the 2007 SEC Player of the Year by the league’s coaches … The Commodores were ranked in the national polls for the first time since 2004.

Women’s Player of the Year
Candace Parker, University of Tennessee
Sophomore, Forward/Guard/Center, Naperville, Ill.
Parker was the fourth underclassman to win the State Farm Wade Trophy, the women’s National Player of the Year award … was named Most Outstanding Player after averaging 15.5 points and 10.0 rebounds in two games in the Final Four, leading the Lady Vols to a national championship … recorded 34 double-digit scoring games (out of 36 total games), including 17 in the NCAA title game vs. Rutgers … was a consensus first-team All-America player … averaged 19.6 points and 9.8 rebounds for the season.

Women’s Coach of the Year
Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee
Guided the Lady Vols to a 34-3 record; a 14-0 SEC regular season sweep to claim the SEC regular season title and the tournament’s No. 1 seed … took Tennessee to its 17th NCAA Final Four and claimed the program’s seventh NCAA title … named the SEC Coach of the Year and the WBCA District Coach of the Year.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Summitt 'like a new woman' after hospital stay

Fainting spell will make UT coach more careful

A day after fainting and being hospitalized, Pat Summitt was back to her old self. She sounded even better than that.

"I feel like a new woman,'' the Tennessee women's basketball coach said Friday afternoon.

She was released from St. Mary's Medical Center earlier in the day after spending the night for observation. Summitt was treated for dehydration, a condition she thinks was caused by lack of sufficient rest along with insufficient hydration.

With Thompson-Boling Arena being renovated, the Lady Vols are using alternative sites for their camps and air conditioning is scarce.

"I think I'm going to be fine,'' said Summitt, who was preparing for the start of UT's elite camp. "I'll get my naps, that's the key."

As far as sustenance, Summitt plans to supplement her water intake with Gatorade and make sure to eat regularly.

"I'll be going and I'll forget to eat,'' she said.

Summitt did not take a break after the end of overnight camp on Wednesday. Instead, she cooked for guests at her home in the evening. The schedule caught up with her Thursday afternoon at home in the presence of Lady Vols assistant coach Dean Lockwood, Northern State (S.D.) coach Don Meyer, retired coach Billie Moore and Summitt's mother, Hazel. Summitt passed out while sitting in a chair.

"Mother poked Dean and said, 'She's falling out of the chair,' '' Summitt said. "I was out. I was way out."

The hospital visit turned into an unscheduled physical exam along with a recuperative stay.

After a battery of tests, Summitt said that the doctors told her: "You're the healthiest you've ever been."

And that's much better than Thursday.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Pat Summitt released from Tenn. hospital

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee coach Pat Summitt was released from a hospital Friday after being treated for dehydration.

"She is at home and will be resuming normal activities immediately," Lady Vols spokeswoman Debby Jennings said.

There was hardly enough time for well-wishers to send flowers.

"Exactly," Jennings said.

The 55-year-old Summitt, who won her seventh NCAA championship this past season, had a dizzy spell and fainted at her home on Thursday. She was taken to St. Mary's Hospital for treatment for dehydration and spent the night for observation. Jennings said running several summer basketball camps in gyms without air-conditioning probably contributed to Summitt's collapse.

Summitt is the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history with 947 victories.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Pat Summitt taken to hospital for dehydration

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee coach Pat Summitt fainted at home Thursday and was being treated for dehydration at a hospital. "She had kind of a like a dizzy spell and passed out," Lady Vols spokeswoman Debby Jennings told The Associated Press.

The 55-year-old Summitt, who won her seventh NCAA championship this past season, was being treated at St. Mary's Hospital, hospital spokesman Craig Griffith confirmed.

Her family requested no information on her condition be released, but WBIR-TV reported that she was conscious and responsive.

"She is under observation and I think they are just trying to rehydrate her," Jennings said.

Jennings said Summitt's hectic summer camp schedule could have been to blame. The coach had just finished up one five-day camp and was getting ready to start another this weekend.

With Tennessee's Thompson-Boling Arena under renovation, Summitt was having to use other gyms.

"I would guess that probably led to the dehydration. None of the gyms have air conditioning," Jennings said.

Summitt is the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history with 947 victories.

Pat Summitt taken to hospital after passing out

UT Lady Vols Basketball Coach Pat Summitt is in St. Mary's Hospital in Knoxville Thursday night.

Summitt was rushed to the hospital by ambulance after passing out at her home. She was treated for dehydration at the hospital.

She is conscious and responsive, and remains under medical observation.

Summitt is the winningest coach in basketball history, recently leading the Lady Vols to their seventh national championship.

We will have more on this story as information becomes available.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Summitt speaks out on Chamique Holdsclaw retirement

"I am happy if she is."

That is what Lady Vol Head Coach Pat Summitt had to say about the sudden retirement of former player Chamique Holdsclaw.

The Los Angeles Sparks forward, a six-time All-Star in the WNBA and the league Rookie of the Year in 1999, shockingly announced her retirement on Monday. She gave no reason for her decision to retire.

"This was not an easy decision," Holdsclaw said. "I put a lot of thought into it. I am very grateful for the career I have enjoyed in amateur and professional basketball and will take many fond memories with me. What I will miss most are my teammates and the great friendships I have developed through the years and the fans from arena to arena that have supported me. I want to wish the Sparks great success this season and in the years ahead."

Holdsclaw called it quits five games into the 2007 season, despite currently leading the team at 15.8 points per game.

"I always believed that it is important to know when you are ready to walk away from the game, whether you are a coach or a player," Summitt said in a written statement. "It may not always be the popular decision according to others, but I think the most important thing is that she made a decision that was good for her. I am happy if she is and she appears to be with her decision. She is in a good frame of mind."

During her time with the Lady Vols, Holdsclaw led Tennessee to three straight NCAA championships, and is the school's all-time leading scorer and rebounder (male or female) with 3,025 points and 1,295 rebounds. She was only the fifth women's basketball player in NCAA history to reach 3,000 points.

However, problems followed Holdsclaw at Washington in 2004. It was during that season she suffered from depression and left the team in July when the Mystics were in a playoff run. She later told the Washington Post she was under the care of a psychiatrist, and at the time considered retirement. Holdsclaw also took a two-week leave of absence from the Sparks in May 2006 for personal reasons.

"She has given a lot to this game, both at the collegiate and professional levels," Summitt said. "I think she's been good for the game and the game has been good for her."

Holdsclaw, 29, joined the Sparks in 2005, and before then played six seasons for the Washington Mystics. She averaged 17.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists during her WNBA career.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Here's to hoping all good things don't have to end

In the newspaper business, the thought always is that if Democrats say that you're a stinkin' conservative shill and Republicans call you a pathetic liberal rag, you're doing OK. Because if both sides are mad at you, it's a good indication you're not favoring either.

Geno Auriemma, right, jokingly once referred to Pat Summitt and Tennessee as the "evil empire."

As a writer, I've always tried to apply that philosophy to the Connecticut-Tennessee women's hoops rivalry. I haven't kept an exact count, but I've gotten very close to equal amounts of "You hate us!" e-mail from both UConn and Tennessee fans over the last 11 years of writing for On a few occasions, both sides have said that about the same column, which is a pretty neat trick.

Of course, I've also gotten wonderful, thoughtful, insightful and funny e-mails from fans of both teams, too.

There are things I'm totally one-sided about. Like the Cardinals vs. the Cubs or "The Twilight Zone" vs. "The Outer Limits" (of course, no one in their right mind could possibly prefer complete junk like "The Outer Limits").

However, honestly, one really can sit right in the middle of the UConn-Tennessee rivalry, not favoring either.

I admire and respect what both programs have done for women's college basketball. Both have set such a high standard and won so much that it's a big event when either one loses. Both teach their players to compete and perform at a superb level, which is not only why they've combined for 12 NCAA titles but also have so many successful players in the WNBA.

However, now the rivalry has truly turned sour, and it might not be reconciled any time soon

Earlier this year, UConn sent a signed contract to Tennessee for the next two seasons. It seemed like it was a foregone conclusion that there would never be an end to the matchup that, since it began in 1995, has become symbolic with excellence in this sport.

But … Tennessee said, "Nope. It's over."

Since Tennessee ended it, coach Pat Summitt and the gang in Knoxville are going to receive the blame from many observers. Even more so because they are not yet offering an explanation for it.

The bloody, bare-knuckle brawl has begun, figuratively speaking, among some fans on both sides who will throw punches at each other via the Internet. Others, though, are united across the divide because, of course, they agree about not wanting the series to end.

Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs ripped Summitt to shreds for not commenting. Knoxville News Sentinel columnist John Adams didn't go anywhere near that extreme in criticism of Summitt, but did chide the decision to end the series and the lack of explanation.

Some of the Internet chatter has accused UConn of releasing this information right before the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame weekend in Knoxville as a kind of vengeance. But a UConn official explained to me that Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch got a tip about Tennessee's refusal to sign the contract and called UConn about it last Thursday. The UConn athletic department responded Friday, with a statement e-mailed to all media that cover the Huskies.

So the timing was not UConn's choice. Once it came out, though, Tennessee seemed unprepared for it. Tennessee has long been the standard for media relations when it comes to women's sports, and Summitt -- busy as she is -- always has been accessible.

But now the program essentially has gone silent, initially saying it couldn't comment on its schedule until the end of July because of Southeastern Conference regulations. Perhaps recognizing how flimsy a reason that appeared to be considering the circumstances, women's athletic director Joan Cronan released a brief statement. But that didn't actually explain anything.

For what it's worth, I've let Tennessee know this approach is not what we've come to expect from a great program and that fans of the sport deserve a timely explanation.

That said, I think Tennessee believes that by not commenting, it is actually saying a lot. An educated guess is that Summitt has had enough of UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

Is it the one-liners at her expense that he has used for years to entertain the media? Have things gotten particularly nasty in regard to recruiting battles between the two schools? Is it a combination of both? Or more we don't know?

A phrase I've heard from those close to the situation in Knoxville is to "consider the body of work." It's a wry choice of words, typically used by the selection committee chair in regard to NCAA Tournament bracket questions. In this case, it suggests that Tennessee reacted to the cumulative effect of Auriemma's words and actions over the years.

Auriemma always has insightful things to say about basketball. Even though I've been annoyed a few times over the years when it seemed he was being too flip, it's very difficult as a journalist to dislike him. However, I don't know what it's like to deal with him as an opposing coach.

Auriemma's a natural-born wisecracker with a very quick mind who can't pass up available quips. If he were strapped into an electric chair and told, "One more joke from you, pal, and the switch is flipped," … and then someone asked him about, say, Maria Conlon's foot "speed" … the guy just couldn't stop himself. He'd fry.

There's a mind-set that it's just in fun, that it makes for fabulous newspaper copy and TV sound bites, that it spices up the series, that Summitt should understand it's "just Geno's way" and also that it's just strategy on his part to try to get under her skin.

There's truth in all of that -- but it ignores two other things: Not all of his jibes toward Summitt have seemed in jest, and she is not wrong if she feels she has been disrespected. If she does feels that way, I can understand why.

Let's consider a couple of remarks Auriemma made in January, the day before the meeting with Tennessee. In regard to the popularity of the series, he said, "It's great for the schools. I mean, how many times does Tennessee get 25,000 at their place? Legit, I mean. I don't mean when they say they got 25 and they got 12. I'm talking about when they really get 25. When we go."

Later, someone asked if it was "more sexy" -- the reporter's words -- when part of the rivalry was Pat vs. Geno.

"No, not for me," Auriemma said. "I don't think Pat's ever looked at me in sexual terms. I don't think she finds anything attractive about me whatsoever."

Then he continued, "It may be sexy for the media and the fans and all that. But in terms of me personally or Pat, I think she'd be the first to tell you she'd rather keep the focus on the teams."

OK … some might look at those comments and say, "No big deal. What's the problem?" But others might wonder why he took the attendance shot at Tennessee, as if the program had any kind of reputation for inflating those figures. And they might say he really didn't need to grab the "sexy" bait from the reporter and run with it.

Either way, the jousting has been going on a long time from Auriemma's end. Summitt has never liked it and made that clear a long time ago. She won't get into a public war of words. Perhaps she has reached a point where she feels the only effective salvo she can fire is to end this regular-season series.

I'm disappointed for the sake of women's hoops -- for the sake of good basketball, period -- and obviously I don't agree with the decision to end the series. But I also don't know everything that went into making it. I do know that harsh criticism of Summitt is totally unwarranted and unfair. She has aided the growth and development of women's basketball more than anybody.

When any other program has elevated itself, Tennessee has put that team on its schedule. Summitt has been willing to travel to arenas all across the country and take everybody's best shot for decades. Not only does Tennessee play the toughest schedule every year, no other program is even close.

How many interviews has Summitt done? How many stupid questions has she answered without making the asker look bad? How much goodwill has she spread for women's athletics and her university?

Summitt deserves the benefit of the doubt on decisions more than any coach in any sport. That doesn't mean she's never wrong. But she must have felt very, very strongly for Tennessee to have ended this series. I hope she decides to explain it.

We'll wait for that, and to see if the matchup eventually will be salvaged. Perhaps there's still some way the programs can mend fences. It brings to mind another thing that Auriemma said in January when asked if he anticipated the series would ever end.

"The players love it, it's great for the schools, TV can't wait to show it … why would you stop it?" he said. "The only thing that could screw this up is me or Pat. And she probably won't screw it up. So it just comes down to one variable."

All of us reporters there laughed with Auriemma at that. Then he said, "I would think -- nothing lasts forever -- but this is a pretty good bet, this series."

'Mique's exit leaves L.A. in lurch -- and fans full of sadness

So what do we make of the strange case of Chamique Holdsclaw's professional career? In women's hoops, there has never been more of a "sure thing" who turned into such an enigma.

If Chamique Holdsclaw's WNBA career really is finished, there is a definite sense of sadness and loss for those who follow the sport.

Los Angeles' Holdsclaw announced her retirement Monday, the second bad-news shocker of the past few days that's connected to Tennessee. Confirmation that Tennessee is not renewing its regular-season series with archrival Connecticut came last Friday.

Now, Holdsclaw -- Tennessee's all-time leading scorer (3,025) and rebounder (1,295) -- says she's ending her pro basketball career at age 29.

"This was not an easy decision," she said in a statement. "I put a lot of thought into it."

Well … it might have been a good idea to have thought it out before the WNBA season started and the Sparks -- already without a pregnant Lisa Leslie -- were left in the lurch. It's the second time in her WNBA career that Holdsclaw has walked out on a team, having done so with the Washington Mystics in 2004.

I don't mean to be harsh, because I really empathize if Holdsclaw is still struggling with the depression that sidelined her when she left the Mystics.

The loss of her grandmother, the guiding force who raised her, was a devastating blow for Holdsclaw in 2002. She lost a grandfather in 2004, and later said his death prompted a flood of emotions she had been holding back after her grandmother passed away.

Holdsclaw played in Spain and then got a new start in the WNBA on the West Coast, with Los Angeles, in 2005 after asking to be traded from D.C.

Last year, Holdsclaw was excused from the early part of the season as she tended to her father and stepfather, who both had been diagnosed with cancer. Holdsclaw indicated during the season she was considering retiring.

When's Matt Wurst visited with her this past January, he asked again about retirement. Holdsclaw said then that she'd had surgery on her foot and felt it was at 100 percent after bothering her a lot the previous couple of years. Even so, she told Wurst that her playing this WNBA season wasn't necessarily a sure thing.

"I am definitely missing [basketball] right now and can't wait to get back out there and play," she said. "So ask me that question again in a month or so."

Had Holdsclaw called it quits before this season started, all things considered, it might not have been such a big surprise. But the fact that she began the season and then left so quickly is surprising.

Perhaps she had to play to find out her heart wasn't into it. It's unfortunate, though, that Holdsclaw did not give a reason for leaving. Some will say it's a private matter and she doesn't owe anyone a public explanation. However, when you're one of the best players in the history of your sport, and you walk away while still in your prime years, obviously you leave a lot of questions.

If depression is still the problem, Holdsclaw needs to realize there is absolutely no shame in that, no reason not to acknowledge it. It's an enemy that even the strongest people have a very difficult time beating. If that's not it, why leave this open to speculation?

Maybe Holdsclaw just needs more time away from the sport. Maybe she isn't healed emotionally or physically. Maybe more distance from playing basketball will eventually lead her back to it.

But if she really is finished -- or at least finished in the WNBA -- there is a definite sense of sadness and loss for those who follow the sport. Holdsclaw won three titles in a row at Tennessee (1996, '97, '98), was the top WNBA draft pick in 1999 and won an Olympic medal in 2000.

But she hasn't won a WNBA championship. And while she has been very productive in points and rebounds, her on-court demeanor for some time now has suggested an amazingly gifted athlete who has been going through the motions. She has been playing basketball as if it's simply a chore she excels at, but not a passion she embraces. In fact, it has even seemed a burden.

We all can hope that Holdsclaw comes back to the court and finds some joy in the game. But if she doesn't, then we wish for her success in other endeavors -- and some peace of mind in her life.

Mechelle Voepel can be reached at

Holdsclaw stuns Sparks by retiring

LOS ANGELES - Chamique Holdsclaw, a six-time WNBA All-Star who re-signed with the Los Angeles Sparks in February, stunned the team by retiring Monday.

The 29-year-old forward had played in the Sparks' first five games this season, averaging 15.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

Holdsclaw did not give a reason for ending her pro basketball career.

"This was not an easy decision," she said in a statement released by the team. "I put a lot of thought into it."

Kathy Goodman said she and Carla Christofferson, the team's new owners, were surprised.

"This is not what we wanted," Goodman told The Associated Press by phone. "She said she'd given it a lot of thought and decided she didn't want to play anymore."

Goodman said Holdsclaw didn't give a reason and the owners didn't ask for one.

"We decided to respect her decision," she said. "I'm not sure how long she had been thinking about it. The first we heard about it was over the weekend. I'm not sure what all led into her decision."

The owners, along with coach Michael Cooper and general manager Penny Toler, tried unsuccessfully to persuade Holdsclaw to stay. She was playing on a one-year contract.

"We're relatively new, so we don't have a long relationship with her," Goodman said.

Before joining the Sparks two years ago, Holdsclaw played seven seasons with the
Washington Mystics, who made her the league's top draft pick in 1999. She was the WNBA rookie of the year that season after leading Tennessee to three consecutive
NCAA championships and twice winning national player of the year honors.

But the Mystics had only one winning season during Holdsclaw's stint, losing in the Eastern Conference finals in 2002.

She asked to be traded after dealing with depression. Holdsclaw didn't talk publicly about that time, which came after the death of her grandmother who raised her.

She left the Mystics in July 2004 and played basketball in Spain before the Sparks went after her. Holdsclaw later said she was happy to be in Los Angeles, where the laid-back nature of things appealed to her.

She retired without winning a WNBA championship.

"I have a lot of other interests, things I can be as good at as I am in basketball," she told The AP in July 2005, declining to elaborate. "I like to keep things to myself."

Cooper said the team would miss Holdsclaw, adding, "It won't be easy, but we will go on without her and wish her all the best."

The news was a jolt to the Sparks (3-2), who had already lost star center Lisa Leslie to pregnancy this season. Point guard Temeka Johnson has yet to play while recovering from offseason knee surgery. Cooper rejoined the team this season after coaching stints in the NBA and its Development League.

"We have a great team and our goal is still the same, to win a championship," Goodman said. "It'll be little harder."

The Sparks host Houston on Wednesday night.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cancelling UConn series a bad move from any angle

The Tennessee Lady Vols announced Saturday they were ending their basketball series with Siena. They offered no explanation.

Just kidding. The Lady Vols don't even have a series with Siena. But if they did, no one would care how they ended it.

They could announce it in an e-mail. Or put a press release in the mail.

That's how you end a series with Siena. That's not how you end a series with the University of Connecticut.

UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway said Friday his school was notified by the Lady Vols that they were ending the series. UT athletic director Joan Cronan then issued a statement about ending the series but offered no explanation.

Worse yet, neither did UT coach Pat Summitt.

This is the biggest rivalry in women's basketball. Nothing else is close. Yet Summitt is ending it without comment.

Imagine Summitt assigning no one to guard Diana Taurasi in the Final Four, then offering no explanation in the postgame press conference. This makes even less sense.

The Lady Vols aren't just sticking it to UConn. They're sticking it to their own fans. Their three biggest home crowds have all come against UConn, the team UT fans love to beat.

Ending the series affects more than UT and UConn. It affects all of women's basketball. It affects the networks, too.

The Connecticut Post reported Saturday that next season's UT-UConn game in Knoxville would have served as the debut for women's basketball Game Day. The newspaper also quoted sources as saying Carol Stiff, ESPN's senior director of programming and acquisitions, flew to Knoxville and tried to get the Lady Vols to change their mind.

That's not farfetched. UConn vs. UT is a match-up in which the most casual sports fan has a sense of the rivalry.

The Lady Vols have won seven national championships in the last 21 years. The Huskies have won five in the last 13 years.

The Lady Vols had Chamique Holdsclaw, Bridgette Gordon and Tamika Catchings. They still have Candace Parker. The Huskies had Taurasi, Sue Bird and Rebecca Lobo.

In the last 15 years, UT and UConn have had the biggest-name players and the most dominant teams. The best women's team ever? It's a debate between the 39-0 Lady Vols of 1997-98 or the 39-0 Huskies of 2001-02.

Summitt is the No. 1 name in the sport. If she resigned tomorrow, UConn coach Geno Auriemma would be No. 1.

Back and forth they have gone for more than a decade. UT was on top, then UConn, and now UT again.

The only thing better than one UT-UConn regular-season game was two, which you had from 1999 through 2001. Two was too much for UT, which appeared to be running scared when it said it would only play the Huskies once a year.

The Lady Vols are now dealing from a position of strength. Not only have they won three consecutive games in the series, they won the national championship two months ago and will be favored to win another next season.

So why back out of a series that has meant so much to your program, your fans and your sport?

Speculation will center around the personality conflict between the head coaches or the heated recruitment of recent UConn signee Maya Moore, a player UT hoped to sign. But without further explanation, both issues seem trivial.

And without further explanation, the story won't go away. It will come up repeatedly and will be magnified if the teams meet in the NCAA tournament.

No one should understand that better than Summitt, who is as media savvy as anyone in the business. But she is dismissing the Huskies as casually as she might cancel a preseason game with the Houston Jaguars.

UConn deserves better than that. So does women's basketball.

Summitt Talks

`There's More To Women's Basketball' Than UConn-Tennessee

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said Saturday that the decision to end the popular UConn-Tennessee women's basketball series was not hers alone.

Summitt said women's athletic director Joan Cronan and school president John Petersen also had input.

"It was a decision made by the University of Tennessee - Joan Cronan, Dr. Petersen and myself," Summitt said. "It was the University of Tennessee that made the announcement and made the decision."

The schools announced Friday that the series, which started in 1995 and grew into one of women's sports fiercest rivalries, would not be continued next season.

Summitt refused to say why Tennessee discontinued the rivalry. She said she could not talk about it until the SEC released its schedule in 2-3 weeks.

Tennessee, which won its first national title since 1998 in April, trails 13-9 in the series but has beaten UConn the past three times, including a 70-64 victory Jan. 6 at the Civic Center. That game was punctuated by a Candace Parker dunk.

There were many such classic moments in the series that began at Gampel Pavilion on Martin Luther King Day in 1995 and catapulted UConn to its first No. 1 ranking and eventually its first national championship. There was a game in 1999 when Semeka Randall and Svetlana Abrosimova mixed it up, earning Randall the nickname "Boo."

There was the snowstorm game in December 2000, where fans braved a blizzard to pack the Civic Center and watch UConn win, 81-76. There was the 2002 game where Diana Taurasi punched the basket stanchion at Thompson-Boling Arena because she wanted to hit "something orange" en route to scoring 32 points in a 86-72 UConn victory.

And the time in 2003 when Taurasi rained shots from all over the court, including a 65-footer, to lead the Huskies past Tennessee 63-62 in overtime at the Civic Center.

Summitt, who has a 947-180 record in 33 years, said women's college basketball has progressed far enough that it doesn't necessarily need UConn-Tennessee to stoke interest.

"It's been a great series," she said. "There's more to women's basketball than just this game. If you look at the growth of our game, this has been a big part of it. But this past year, you had Duke, North Carolina, Maryland and all those ACC matchups. I think women's basketball is in a whole different state, in a positive way. You've got a lot of quality teams and quality games."

ESPN would have shown the game next season. Carol Stiff, senior director of programming and acquisitions, helped jump-start the series in 1995 and appealed to Summitt to continue it, but Summitt said she never felt pressured by the network.

"Did I get pressured? No," she said. "Obviously, they wanted this game very much."

"We talked. [Stiff] is a professional. She accepted the stance or position that's been taken here."

Contact Lori Riley at

ESPN Tried To Save Vols Series

ESPN billed the first women's basketball meeting of top-ranked Tennessee and second-ranked UConn on Jan. 16, 1995 at Gampel Pavilion as the "Battle of the Best."

"That first game is often referred to as the dawn of a new, more popular era of women's basketball," said Mike Soltys, ESPN's vice president of domestic network communications. "There was more media at Gampel Pavilion that day than there certainly had ever been before or after for any regular-season game."

ESPN sensed something big was on the horizon. And for the past 11 seasons, the annual matchups of the teams and their Hall of Fame coaches, Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma, have become the closest thing the sport has had to a Super Bowl.

"The series was a known commodity for the casual sports fan who may not have ordinarily been interested in women's basketball," Soltys said. "The games were quality, the personalities of the coaches were strong and they often met at crucial times, particularly in the NCAA Tournament. It became the showcase rivalry in the sport and we were happy to have the majority of them [on ESPN]."

But now ESPN will have to make do without it. The rivalry, voted this spring the greatest in the history of the sport by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, ended Friday when Tennessee declined to sign a contract that would have guaranteed a two-year extension of the series through 2009.

Multiple sources indicated Saturday that the decision to end the series had to do, in part, with Tennessee's frustration over several issues, some relating to the recruiting style the Huskies have used through the years to land top high school standouts, like freshman Maya Moore.

Auriemma did not want to comment on the situation Saturday.

"I can't really," Auriemma said.

A source familiar with the situation said Saturday that Tennessee's intentions to end the series have been widely known for almost two months - the Big East Conference was also aware - and ESPN did its best to circumvent Friday's announcement.

Carol Stiff, the former Southern Connecticut basketball player now ESPN's senior director of programming and acquisition, did all she could to save the series by talking to all those involved.

"Carol's job was one of the most difficult," the source said. "She was trying to lobby for the continuation of the series without alienating either side in the process because of her need to maintain a good working relationship with them. She also worked through the SEC office to change things. Neither effort helped."

Coincidentally, Stiff was again traveling to Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday for the induction ceremony at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

"We are disappointed that the game between Connecticut and Tennessee has ended," Stiff said in an e-mail. "As you know, it was not our decision to make. There is not much more to say."

ESPN had shared the game with CBS since the 2001-02 season, when the series was cut back to once a year after the teams had played twice a season beginning in 1999-2000. It was largely ESPN that influenced the expansion of the series, which six times featured regular season matchups of the top two teams in the country.

But Tennessee tired of the home-and-home - Summitt said that she wanted to focus on SEC rivalries - and the teams have alternated sites since. This season's game was to be played in Knoxville, most likely in prime time on Feb. 17.

Now it's likely that ESPN will shift its focus to UConn's nonconference games against LSU and North Carolina while adding additional coverage of Rutgers, a Final Four team last season, to its prime-time plans.

"There are other teams that have emerged. There are top games that we will put together, but it still doesn't diminish our disappointment about the end of [UConn-Tennessee]," Soltys said. "Both schools and conferences know our interest in this rivalry. And it will be something we will revisit in the future with all the parties involved."

Contact John Altavilla at

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Silent Summitt Has Last Word

Pat Summitt has been so many things.

She has been the greatest woman to coach a basketball team.

She has been a fierce, powerful leader. She has been a dignified Southern lady.

She has been the only coach on the planet who can look serious in orange.

If Summitt didn't get all of Geno Auriemma's jokes over the years, only a fool would have said that the joke was on her.

She has won more national championships and more games than anyone in the history of college basketball.

Pat Summitt has been so many things, and before Friday you never would have included coward and selfish among them.

Now, we must.

You don't kill the greatest rivalry in a sport without explanation. You just don't.

And that's what Summitt has done by ending the UConn-Tennessee series.

According to a number of sources, it wasn't the idea of the athletic administration in Knoxville to terminate the series. This isn't a school thing. This is a Pat thing.

Summitt hasn't been afraid of the Huskies. Her Vols played UConn when they had everything to lose and little to gain. Her Vols played UConn when they were overmatched and on the road.

Summitt didn't quit when the Huskies were in the midst of winning four national championships in five years. She didn't quit when the Huskies were running off nine wins in 11 meetings with Tennessee. She waited until the Vols had beaten the Huskies the past three times and gone on to win their first national title since 1998.

She obviously was too proud to go down as a crybaby loser. She wasn't going to run back to the Tennessee hills - if we may borrow from "Rocky Top" - lookin' for a moonshine still.

Instead, Summitt is going down as the soberest of cowards.

She has quit on the greatest rivalry in women's sports.

She has delivered a haymaker to college basketball.

And, to this point, she hasn't demonstrated the courage to tell us why.

Until she does, she should consider a yellow stripe down the back of her orange outfit.

Could you imagine if USC pulled the plug on its football rivalry with Notre Dame and Pete Carroll refused to say why?

Or Army quitting on Navy?

Together, Tennessee and UConn have lifted women and sports.

Martina Navratilova vs. Chris Evert is the only women's rivalry in history that can match it, and neither would have walked away from the other. They had too much respect for each other.

Jen's crossover dribble? The night in Philly the Huskies ran the backdoor all the way to the national championship? The time in Knoxville when Diana ran over to the stanchion just to punch something orange? Semeka Randall's killer shot? Everybody in Connecticut booing and Semeka loving it? Candace Parker dunking UConn? In its national celebration of sports a few years back, Sports Illustrated named each state's greatest enemy. George Steinbrenner, Steve Spurrier, the predictable names over and over. Then there was Connecticut's listing: Pat Summitt. The only woman on the list, the only women's sports figure on the list.

UConn-Tennessee is the greatest spectacle in women's team sports.

And now it's over?

Just like that?

You cannot be serious.

It is an outrage.

Nobody loves control like a successful big-time college coach, and one of the great things about this rivalry was that it was out of the control of both coaches. It was a little dangerous for both of them. You never knew what was going to come out of Auriemma's mouth. You never knew when Pat was going to shut it.

It was good theater.

Sometimes it was great theater.

It was the day on the women's sports calendar when even men's sports fans cared.

Summitt always has relished the role as the ambassador of women's basketball, the grand lady willing to do anything good for the sport.

And now she's done the worst thing possible?

Without telling us why?

It's astonishing.

This saga evidently has been going on behind closed doors for the better part of a month. At one point, ESPN's Carol Stiff went to see Summitt to try to change her mind. Auriemma was said to have had a conversation with Summitt, too.

She didn't budge.

Some sources have whispered that Tennessee was upset with UConn over the recruiting of national player of the year Maya Moore. There was one event in particular that evidently raised some hairs and was believed to have been passed on to the NCAA by someone within the SEC.

There was nothing to it, other sources insist.

Nevertheless, with the recruiting battle royal for Elena Delle Donne, whispers that UConn is anything less than honest could be seen as both dangerous and manipulative by Tennessee.

If Summitt thinks Auriemma lacks recruiting principles, she should say it.

Don't cancel a series and hide.

Or is it broader than Moore and Delle Donne?

Is this about Pat not having enough control? Is Pat worn out by the annual circus? She was the one behind dropping the series from two games a year to one. And now she's behind it disappearing. When the Vols made the trip to Hartford over the winter, there were a few comments from the Tennessee camp that they may have had enough.

Has fencing with Geno worn her out? Has the excitement and occasional contentiousness of the rivalry become too much for her? Or does she figure that Geno has more to gain by playing her than she has playing Geno? After all, Tennessee can sell the SEC and the fertile basketball of the South.

If that's the case, isn't that selfishness on Pat's part? Little girls dream about playing in the UConn-Tennessee game. Fans from all over love it, and look at all the glory brought to the Tennessee girls from the rivalry.

It's the centerpiece of the sport. The game isn't about Pat or Geno.

Heck, the two have done such a good job at it, the rivalry now is even bigger than they are.

Both coaches have won so, so many national titles and both are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Unless they get caught up in something horrible on the back end of their careers, they're home free as icons.

They are both at points when both should enjoy this rivalry.

Yet Pat Summitt is killing the series.

And two words come to mind.



We never thought we'd say that about Pat Summitt.


Contact Jeff Jacobs at

Friday, June 08, 2007

UConn, Tennessee end rivalry

The premier rivalry in women's basketball has ended -- at least for the regular season. has learned that Tennessee and UConn will not play a regular season game in 2007-'08, the first time since the inaugural meeting in 1995 that the basketball powers are not scheduled to play.

The game, which traditionally draws among the highest television ratings for the sport, has rotated between CBS and ESPN over the years and was scheduled to air on ESPN next February. The network, according to sources, put pressure on Tennessee (which would have hosted the game) to continue the series but were unsuccessful in their efforts. The contract between the schools expired last year.

"After sending a contract signed by the University of Connecticut to the University of Tennessee earlier this year for the next two games of our women's basketball series (2007-08 and 2008-09), we were notified by their athletic administration that the Tennessee women's basketball program would not be signing this contract and has made the decision to terminate the series between our institutions," UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway said in a statement in response to's story. "We are disappointed for UConn fans, Tennessee fans and women's basketball fans in general who look forward to this annual event featuring the greatest women's basketball rivalry in the nation, as recently selected by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)."

When contacted by, Tennessee said it would not comment on its schedule until late July. "We're not allowed to comment on schedules or television contacts per the SEC," said spokesperson Debby Jennings.

The rivalry (UConn leads the overall series 13-9 and is 4-0 against Tennessee in the championship game) was born in 1995 during UConn's national championship season. The teams played a home-and-home series through 2001 before opting to play a single regular-season game. Tennessee had won the last three meetings after losing six straight.

In January, prior to Tennessee's 70-64 win in Hartford, Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt praised the rivalry as good for the sport. "If you look at the rivalry and the stage that we've been on since we started playing, it has been year-in and year-out the one game that has brought more viewers to sit and watch," she said. "It has generated a rivalry that is known throughout the country. It is a matchup between two powerhouse programs that have been consistent over the years. It is good for women's basketball."

As the rivalry escalated, so have tensions among the school's high-profile and competitive coaches. UConn coach Geno Auriemma and Summitt have have traded barbs over the years, the sharpest cuts coming from Auriemma who once famously referred to Tennessee as the "Evil Empire." The relationship was thought to have thawed a bit in recent years but the two have heavily competed for recruits over the past couple of seasons, including UConn incoming freshman Maya Moore.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

2007 Induction Weekend

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.,– Join us as the legends of women's basketball come off the court and into the spotlight for the 2007 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Induction. You will a witness to legendary moments as the Class of 2007 is honored for the renowned contributions to the sport of women's basketball.

The six members of the Class of 2007 are:

Texas standout guided the Longhorns to the No. 1 ranking in the final women’s basketball poll each of her four years, winning the National Championship in 1986 and becoming the first team to ever finish a season undefeated (36-0); also a member of the 1988 gold-medal winning USA Olympic women’s basketball team.


Three-time All-American at Louisiana Tech, led the Lady Techsters to two national championships – the 1981 AIAW title and the 1982 NCAA title; Wade Trophy and Broderick Award recipient in 1982.

Tennessee great was a two-time National Champion (1989, 1991), two-time Kodak All-American and became the first player from the Southeastern Conference to win the Wade Trophy in 1991; Olympic bronze medallist in 1992.


Best known for his national and local coverage of women’s basketball at the collegiate and professional level during his 37 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer; created the first weekly national collegiate women’s basketball poll in 1976, which two years later began worldwide transmission as the Associated Press women’s rankings.

Tennessee standout helped to lead the Lady Vols to four NCAA Final Four appearances, winning two national championships (1987 and 1989) andearning the Women’s Final Four Most Outstanding Player honor in 1989; one of two collegiate members on the gold-medal winning USA Olympic Team in 1988.

Four-time National Coach of the Year has never had a losing season in 27 years as head coach at Georgia; has compiled a 657-208 (.760) record, appearing in 23 of 25 NCAA tournaments, including two runner-up finishes, five Final Fours, 10 Elite Eights and 16 Sweet 16s.

The six individuals in the Class of 2007 will be formally inducted as members of the Hall of Fame during a weekend of induction festivities to be held Friday and Saturday, June 8-9, 2007, in Knoxville, Tennessee.

With the addition of the Class of 2007, the list of individuals who have been recognized as Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductees will increase to 97.

Daedra Charles-Furlow To Be Inducted Into Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Saturday

Hall of Fame celebration begins Friday in Knoxville

Auburn assistant women's basketball coach Daedra Charles-Furlow will be among six inductees into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, class of 2007, at the June 9 celebration held in the hall's headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn.

Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt will make the video presentation of Charles-Furlow while former Kentucky head coach and an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator under Summitt for 18 seasons, Mickie DeMoss, will escort Charles-Furlow during her induction.

"I am very humbled and excited about being inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame," Charles-Furlow said. "It is a tremendous honor and I have embraced it. I think being selected says a lot about who I am and about my accomplishments as a student-athlete. I aM thrilled and looking forward to Saturday and being able to celebrate with former teammates and coaches, as well as my current coaching peers at Auburn."

Charles-Furlow, a native of Detroit, came to Auburn with diverse experience at both the playing and coaching levels. An assistant coach with the University of Detroit Mercy from 2003-06, Charles-Furlow was a two-time KODAK All-American and a two-time NCAA Champion as a Lady Vol.

While playing for the Lady Vols from 1998-91, she was named the 1991 SEC Female Athlete of the Year and became the first player from the SEC to win the Wade Trophy, the highest honor awarded in college women's basketball.

Despite missing her freshman season at UT due to Prop 48, she finished her career seventh on the UT scoring list (1,495), sixth in rebounding (858) and second in blocked shots (97).

She is one of only five Lady Vols to have her number (32) retired, joining Holly Warlick, Bridgette Gordon, Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings. In 2001, she joined Gordon as one of nine inductees into the inaugural class of the Tennessee Lady Vol Athletic Hall of Fame.

Charles-Furlow was a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic team and was a member of three U.S. National teams (1989, 1992, and 1994). After her collegiate playing days, she went on to compete professionally overseas in Japan, Italy and France from 1991-96, before returning to the United States to play for the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks in 1997.

Joining Charles-Furlow in the class of 2007 is Georgia women's head coach Andy Landers, former Texas player Andrea Lloyd Curry, former Louisiana Tech player Pam (Kelly) Flowers, Bridgette Gordon - a teammate of Charles-Furlow's at Tennessee and Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Mel Greenberg.

"I am elated to be inducted with Bridgette, one of my former teammates,"Charles-Furlow said. "She was my mentor and is just a real winner. The other five being inducted are also ambassadors for women's basketball. Andrea helped me adjust to playing overseas and I am grateful to her."

Former Auburn women's head coaching great Joe Ciampi was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2005.

The Hall of Fame's board of directors chooses the new inductees each year. Players can only be considered five years after retiring from their highest level of competition. Coaches must have coached for at least 20 years. For more information on the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame please visit the official Web site at

McMahan Has Successful Surgery

McMahan will start rehabilitating the knee immediately but will be out for the 2007-08 season

Jenny Moshak, University of Tennessee Assistant Athletics Director for Sports Medicine, announced that Lady Vol basketball rising sophomore point guard Cait McMahan had undergone successful surgery today.

"After episodes of pain, swelling and dysfunction over the course of this past season, Cait had surgery today to address those issues. Dr. Greg Mathien and Dr. Russ Betcher, UT team orthopaedists, performed surgery on Cait's right knee this morning at the UT Medical Center," said Moshak.

"Her surgery involved repairing a lesion on her articular cartilage."

McMahan, suffered a bone bruise to her right knee on Sept. 19, 2006 and had surgery on Oct. 20, 2006. The October surgery was "a debridement of loose bodies in the joint and a smoothing out of the articular cartilage." At that time, Moshak indicated, "we anticipate that additional surgery could be required."

The 5-4 guard from Maryville, Tenn., starts rehabilitating the knee immediately but will be out for the 2007-08 season. Previously, McMahan tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the same knee on Nov. 29, 2005, while playing at Heritage H.S. This past season, she played in 35 games and earned one starting assignment. She averaged 2.4 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.4 apg while logging almost 14 minutes per contest.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Lady Vols flying solo

Clay, Doepking hit home runs while Abbott dominant again with four-hitter

OKLAHOMA CITY - Tennessee's Lady Vols need one victory to secure their first national championship in softball.

They defeated defending national champion Arizona 3-0 in the opening game of the Women's College World Series championship Monday night.

UT (63-6) plays the Wildcats (48-14-1) again tonight (TV: ESPN2, 8 p.m.) in the second game of the best-of-three series at Hall of Fame Stadium. A third game would be played at 8 p.m. Wednesday, if necessary.

"The first thing I told the team when they came off the field is they have nothing to celebrate,'' said Karen Weekly, who along with her husband, Ralph, serves as UT's co-head coach. "We still have another game we have to win. I'm sure Washington felt pretty good heading into their action with Arizona Sunday.''

The Wildcats won three consecutive elimination games, including two against the Huskies on Sunday, to reach the championship series.

But it was USA Softball Player of the Year Monica Abbott (50-3) who was dominant Monday night, extending her scoreless innings streak to 332/3, including 28 scoreless innings in the WCWS.

Abbott fanned eight, giving her 57 strikeouts through 28 innings in the WCWS, seven short of the tourney record set by Arizona's Alicia Hollowell in six games last year. UT is 4-0 in the CWS.

Freshman Alexia Clay and Shannon Doepking hit solo home runs in the second and fourth innings, respectively, off Arizona starter Taryne Mowatt (40-11), and India Chiles delivered a pinch-hit, two-out bases-loaded single in the top of the seventh inning to drive home the other run.

Chiles was out of the lineup after starting UT's first three WCWS games with a torn ACL in her right knee. Chiles' leads Lady Vols' starters with a .455 batting average in Oklahoma City.

"India had a little bit of swelling last night, and the doctors said that was an accumulation of everything she's been trying to do the last two weeks,'' Weekly said. "The swelling was gone this morning, but we thought it would be best to rest her tonight.''

Arizona coach Mike Candrea, whose team has won seven national championships and played in the finals 12 of the past 17 years, said the Wildcats will be ready to bounce back.

"We've been here before, and as long as we've got innings left, we've got a chance,'' Candrea said. "I guarantee you this team will not lay down and die.''

An SEC team has never won the WCWS in its 26-year history, and only one other team from East of the Mississippi River, Michigan (2005) has accomplished the feat.

If the Lady Vols accomplish their mission, they'll do so in front of UT women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, who's expected to attend tonight's game. Summitt was here in 2005 to see the Lady Vols' softball team play in their first WCWS appearance.

Clay's fourth home run of the season nicked off the mitt of Arizona center fielder Caitlin Lowe, who knocked the yellow padding off the top of the wall. Lowe then spiked her glove into the grass before replacing the padding.

Doepking left no doubt with her sixth home run, a high arcing shot to left field.

Arizona threatened in the third when Sam Banister lined a leadoff single to left field and pinch runner Jill Malina moved to second on a sacrifice. After striking out Adrienne Acton, Abbott intentionally walked Lowe - who's hitting a team-best .415 - before getting Chelsie Mesa to fly out to end the inning.

The Wildcats, seeking their eighth national title, also got singles from Jenae Leles in the fourth inning, Kristie Fox in the sixth and Banister in the seventh, but never again got a runner as far as second base.

Mowatt also pitched a complete game, giving up six hits and three walks. She struck out five.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Good as gold

Gordon brought attitude, points for Lady Vols

Bridgette Gordon's act was pure gold for Tennessee women's basketball. Everything from her jewelry to her killer baseline jumper was luminous.

The only possible exception was her nasty competitive streak, which likely was perceived by the opposition as simply brassy.

Nora Lewis would've been inclined to think that way. After the former Louisiana Tech star fell for a Gordon fake and basket during a game in Ruston, La., in 1989, Gordon admonished her by saying, "Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids."

UT coach Pat Summitt used to wince at recalling that rebuke. Time has given her a greater appreciation for the spirit behind it, along with the source.

"She was as competitive as anyone that I'd coached to that point in time,'' Summitt said. "She was off the charts — in a good way."

Gordon is being inducted next Saturday into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2007.

Fellow inductee Daedra Charles was a teammate of Gordon's at UT and can vouch for her competitiveness.

"She was as mean as a snake on that court,'' Charles said. "I'd rather be with her than against her."

Sounds about right to Gordon, who's working these days in scouting and player personnel for the WNBA.

"When I was on the basketball court,'' she said, "I was an animal."

Gordon brought more than a ferocious attitude to her game. The two-time All-American's 2,460 career points topped Tennessee's scoring chart until Chamique Holdsclaw passed her a decade later.

Likewise, Gordon didn't trash talk her way to a spot on the gold-medal winning 1988 U.S. Women's Olympic team. She earned it with an all-around game. Gordon still holds the Tennessee career record for steals with 338.

"She was ahead of her time with that mid-range jumper,'' Summitt said. "She was like a guy. She could stop on a dime and pull up and shoot over people."

The arch of her career spanned two national championships (1987, '89) — the first two banners for the Lady Vols. Gordon's blend of talent and moxy was instrumental in the program's breakthrough.

In turn, UT's achievements helped the Lady Vols recruit players of comparable talent and background.

Interestingly, Gordon said other schools attempted to dissuade her from going to Tennessee by saying, "You don't want to go there, Pat is prejudiced."

A more relevant concern for Gordon, who grew up in Deland, Fla., and admitted to being spoiled and head strong, was adapting to Summitt's demanding ways. The give-and-take created some memorable moments. In retrospect, one of the funniest and most useful came at the semester break of Gordon's freshman season, when her grades were held because she had failed to pay a library fine.

The rush to judgment was that Gordon had shot an airball in the classroom. The team was playing in Hawaii and Gordon remembered Summitt telling her, "I'm going to send you on a raft with a slow leak all the way back to DeLand."

Gordon laughs out loud at the memory but the actual occurrence had her plotting a real departure. The ensuing conversations calmed the waters. The misunderstanding was useful for both player and coach to begin understanding each other.

Another misunderstanding played out in useful fashion at the other end of Gordon's Tennessee career. Summitt recalled chewing out her star player during a timeout late in the 1989 national championship game against Auburn, Gordon's last game with the Lady Vols.

Summitt didn't realize that Gordon was preoccupied with her front teeth, which had been loosened by a collision with two Auburn players.

"All I could think was I hope I haven't lost my front teeth and look like (former boxer) Leon Spinks,'' Gordon said.

"I was mad. Pat wasn't even concerned about me possibly losing my teeth. I was so mad at her I took it out on (Auburn)."

A root canal the following day preserved Gordon's smile, but only after her three jumpers first saved Tennessee.

Said Summitt: "That's being a great competitor."

Friday, June 01, 2007

Lady Vols & The Vol Network Announce Their "7th Heaven" DVD

The University of Tennessee, Host Communications and the Lady Vol Network proudly announce the arrival of the two latest products to the Vol Network Home Entertainment lineup.

"7th Heaven: 2007 Tennessee Lady Vols - National Champions", the highly anticipated video story of the 2006-07 Lady Vols basketball team has arrived at JCPenney stores across the state of Tennessee.

This first-ever Lady Vols basketball DVD follows the team on their march through a rigorous regular season, the SEC Championship and the NCAA Tournament culminating in the 2007 National Championship. Fans are treated to an inside and exclusive look as legendary coach Pat Summitt leads her team to the program's seventh national title.

Coach Summitt tells the exciting story of the Lady Vols championship quest in her own words to the University of Tennessee's Bob Kesling. The video also features game highlights, Mickey Dearstone's radio play-by-play calls and includes behind-the-scenes footage of Summitt's famous locker room speeches at the Final Four.

In addition to the main feature, the video is loaded with tons of bonus features including:

-"Pat Unplugged" - Audio and video highlights of Coach Summitt wired at a game

-Special features from the "Pat Summitt TV Show" this past season

-Behind the scenes at the 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament

-Footage from the national championship celebration on the team's return to Knoxville

-Footage of the ceremony honoring the 20th anniversary of the 1987 National Championship team

-Special sneak peak at an upcoming biographical DVD on Coach Pat Summitt

-Host Communications is also distributing the NCAA's official 2007 NCAA Women's Final Four Championship DVD. The DVD features the entire NCAA National Championship game between the Lady Vols and Rutgers.

This special video also includes tournament highlights, great moments and memories from NCAA March Madness 2007 including comprehensive coverage of the victories that led LSU, Rutgers, North Carolina and Tennessee to the Women's Final Four.

"7th Heaven" is presented by Rarity Communities. Media partners are WIVK and The Sports Animal, WBIR-TV and the Knoxville News-Sentinel. Both products are available at participating JCPenney stores across the state of Tennessee and online by shopping the Vol Network Store online at