Friday, January 30, 2009

NC State's Yow remembered at funeral she designed

CARY, N.C. — Hundreds of friends, fans and colleagues of Kay Yow remembered the longtime North Carolina State women's basketball coach Friday at a funeral of her own design.

Yow died last weekend after a two-decade fight against cancer. At her funeral at a packed Colonial Baptist Church, the pews filled with bold-faced names from college sports and many of Yow's former players, pastor Stephen Davey said Yow hand-picked almost every element of the service.

"She wanted one final chance to challenge and impact all of our lives," Davey said.

Yow was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987, yet went on to lead the U.S. Olympic team to the gold medal the next year. She won more than 700 games in her career and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2002.

But for many, Yow was best known for her unwavering resolve while fighting cancer, which recurred during the 2004-05 season and had lingered in the years since. She raised awareness and money for research while staying with her team through the debilitating effects of the disease and chemotherapy treatments.

She had to take a four-game leave in December due to what was described as extremely low energy. She announced shortly after the new year that she would not return this season. She soon entered a hospital for treatment and spent about a week there before she died. She was 66.

"Her battle with breast cancer was never about herself," said Megan Smith, an employee at the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer fund in Atlanta, before the funeral. "She was such a courageous and humble person at the same time."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma, North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell and Miami coach Katie Meier stopped at a viewing for Yow, while Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie and her team, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer and Texas coach Gale Goestenkors, the former coach at Duke, arrived early for the service.

Others paying respects included former N.C. State football coach Chuck Amato and current coach Tom O'Brien, and N.C. State alumnus and former NFL coach Bill Cowher. Yow will be buried Saturday in her hometown of Gibsonville.

But none of Yow's famous friends were slated to speak.

"She did not want to show any kind of favoritism because there was just none in her heart. None," the Rev. Mitchell Gregory, her pastor at Cary Alliance Church.

Retired professor Janie Brown, the former chair of the physical education department at Elon University, remembered speaking to Yow a couple of years ago for a project on the history of women's sports. She said Yow spoke about balancing teaching, academic advising and even the little things like taping her players' ankles.

"I think that was always her attitude. Whatever the situation, you deal with it. That's what she's done," Brown said. "I'm a good friend, but I'm also a great admirer of what she does. And I think we would hope we could live a life with that kind of influence."

Friday's events are part of an emotionally draining week for the players and coaches she left behind at N.C. State. On Monday, the team went to an area mall to pick out clothes for Yow's funeral, a task that interim coach Stephanie Glance said was easier to do together than individually.

The team returned to practice Tuesday, then attended the campus tribute ceremony at Reynolds Coliseum, home of "Kay Yow Court," Wednesday night. The next day, the team played its first game since her death, falling to Boston College 62-51.

At each public event, there have been numerous fans wearing pink — the color of breast cancer awareness — and eager to share their stories of how Yow inspired them while battling the disease.

She spent 38 season as a coach, 34 with N.C. State. She won four ACC tournament championships, earned 20 NCAA tournament bids and reached the Final Four in 1998.

Yow took a 16-game leave to focus on her health during the 2006-07 season. Her return that year sparked an emotional late-season run to the NCAA tournament's round of 16.

She also served on the board of the V Foundation for Cancer Research, which was founded by ESPN and her friend and colleague, former N.C. State men's coach Jim Valvano, who died of cancer in 1993.

Summitt to be on GameDay Saturday at 11 am

Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt, who is one victory away from her 1,000th win at UT, will be on the ESPN College GameDay set Saturday at 11 a.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Summitt will be on the air with former Indiana and Texas Tech coach Bob Knight, who with 902 victories has the most wins among Division I men’s coaches.

The hour-long GameDay show, which will be set up at center court of Thompson-Boling, is open to the public free of charge. Doors will open at 8:30 a.m.

Knight will also be on hand Monday for his first women's basketball broadcast when Summitt tries to get the milestone win against No. 2 Oklahoma at Oklahoma City.

“Anyone who wins 1,000 times at anything is special,” said Knight in an Associated Press story.

Knight will be joined by Brent Musburger and Nancy Lieberman on ESPN’s broadcast.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

How Summitt reached the top

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt picked up career victory No. 999 Thursday when her Lady Vols rallied for a 60-59 win over Mississippi.

Earlier this week, speaking on the telephone, she couldn’t recall victory No. 1. Until a staffer went and looked it up for her, she wasn’t sure of the opponent (Middle Tennessee State), the date (Jan. 10, 1975) or the final score (69-32).

She could remember a great deal about her first loss, however. That was to Mercer, 84-83, and like many of her 186 defeats it “still sticks in my stomach.”

What else would you expect from a woman whose drive, intensity and competitiveness have put her on the brink of an unheard of 1,000 career victories and a .843 winning percentage heading into Monday’s game against Oklahoma.

“It’s an amazing number, is it?” she said.

The thing she recalled most vividly about that first loss was calling her father, Richard, after the game.

She was 22 years old and uncertain about this coaching thing. He was a Tennessee dairy farmer who didn’t take kindly to losing.

“He was a very stern, very competitive man,” Summitt said Tuesday from her office. “I was scared to call home. Mom answered and she never even asked about the game. She probably forgot we were playing.

“I said, ‘Mom, is Dad there?’

“He picked up the phone and said, ‘All right.’ I never heard him say hello. He said, ‘Did you win?’

“ ‘No sir.’

“There was a long pause. I mean a looong pause. I was nervous. And finally he said, ‘Well, you need to learn one thing. You don’t take a donkey to the Kentucky Derby.’ ”

She laughed at the retelling.

“He was telling me you better get yourself some players,” she said. “And let me tell you something; he was right about that.”

Summitt, 56, said she never has been much for numbers or records or things like that. She likes NCAA championships, and the record eight she’s won at UT through the years is the ultimate goal.

She’s more concerned with getting the most out of her current team, which after consecutive NCAA titles is young and, by UT standards, rebuilding. The Vols are 16-4.

“I was joking with [the team that] I just hope we get [the 1,000th victory] this year,” Summitt laughed.

One more victory will happen, and even for someone unconcerned about career numbers, Summitt can’t brush off the magnitude of a cool grand.

She said she’s spent more time in recent weeks looking at the pictures of all her All-Americans and the 17 NCAA Final Four teams and even some of the less decorated athletes that fought so hard for her.

“I think about all the players who wore the orange uniform and made a commitment to winning,” she said.

She’s spent 35 years bringing the best recruits from across the country to the edge of the Smoky Mountains, and that’s the key to all these victories. She never had a team full of donkeys, she said.

That’s only half the story, though. What Summitt did was set the standard for that commitment to winning, set a tone for competitiveness, toughness and passion in women’s basketball that was groundbreaking at the time.

In 1974, when she was hired as essentially a volunteer coach, her players calling her “Pat” (they still do), women’s basketball was little more than an extracurricular activity.

There still were a lot of people who didn’t think women were capable of doing anything more athletic than fixing breakfast. A lot of high schools still played a 3-on-3 style of the game that prohibited players from running across half court for fear of overexertion.

Summitt didn’t buy any of that. She grew up working that dairy farm (“cows don’t take a day off.”) In her spare time, she played basketball with her three older brothers who offered no mercy.

When she was coaching that first team, she also was rehabbing an injury as she prepared to play in the upcoming Olympics. If she was going all out, so too would her players.

“That was good for me because I’ve always demanded players play hard and compete on every possession,” she said.

The philosophy of the program never has changed, and players from all over who sought that kind of environment came to play for Pat Summitt.

It may be her most important legacy. Even hard-headed fans who dismissed women’s basketball couldn’t ignore that when it came to Summitt, she proved that women can play, be coached and be challenged just as hard as men. The game may not be as fast or as high-flying, but it could be as tough.

Summitt didn’t just make women’s basketball matter both locally and in turn nationally. She changed opinions of what was possible. In practice and on that sideline, she was every bit as demanding as any men’s coach. There never was anything soft or forgiving or weak about Lady Vols basketball.

In turn she found players who didn’t just accept such a leadership style but flourished under it. Everything progressed from there. What didn’t seem possible became so.

It rocked what some mistakenly had believed were the limitations in women’s sports. It’s not too much to say that Summitt’s impact continues to be felt all over the spectrum – from soccer to softball to X Games to increasingly competitive college basketball.

“For me it was the only way I knew how to approach coaching,” she said. “I think we surprised some people. I think they liked our intensity. I’m sure there were some good old boys who thought, ‘I’m not going to watch women’s basketball,’ but when they saw it, they saw something they didn’t expect.

“I’m glad it’s changed.”

Everything has changed for Summitt. What started as a way to make a couple of bucks while training for the Olympics has turned into a $1.25 million a year job, 22,000 fans in the stands and speaking engagements, books and commercials.

What began as something so small from an outside perspective never was from the inside. It always was a big deal to her.

That loss to Mercer, that call home to dad, haunted her then. Thirty-four years later, season after season of slow growth of a sport and career, it’s still pushing her.

Richard Summitt passed away in 2005, but you can imagine what the phone call home after victory No. 1,000 would’ve entailed.

You only can imagine what Richard would say to his daughter now, and what his daughter would say right back.

Tennessee hangs on to beat Mississippi 60-59

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Angie Bjorklund hit a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left to give Tennessee coach Pat Summitt her 999th victory and help the 13th-ranked Lady Vols narrowly avoid a big upset with a 60-59 win over Mississippi on Thursday night.

After yet another dramatic come-from-behind win, Summitt will go for her 1,000th win when the Lady Vols face No. 2 Oklahoma on Monday night at Oklahoma City.

Shantell Black hit a 3 with 1:16 left to give the Lady Rebels (13-8, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) a 59-54 lead, but Tennessee (16-4, 5-2) scored the final six points.

Tennessee's Glory Johnson, who went 4-of-11 from the free-throw line, hit one of two charity shots after being fouled by Kayla Holloway.

Black was called for traveling, and Bjorklund hit a jumper with 1:03 left to cut the margin to 59-57.

Black then missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 20 seconds left.

Alex Fuller grabbed the rebound and charged down court. She found Bjorklund, who calmly pulled up and knocked down the winning basket.

Bjorklund led the team with 13 points, and Fuller finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Bianca Thomas led Mississippi with 11 points, and Black added 10.

The Lady Rebels nearly grabbed their first win over the Lady Vols since a 78-72 victory on Feb. 4, 1996 at Oxford. Mississippi has not beaten Tennessee in Knoxville since a 69-65 decision on Jan. 31, 1987.

Tennessee could have taken control of the game with free throws, but after entering the game shooting 68.6 percent from the line, the Lady Vols hit 16 of 31 for 51.6 percent.

Frustrated with her team falling behind in games, Summitt drilled her team through intense practices this week.

She was especially frustrated with her team's 23 turnovers in a loss at Auburn on Sunday. Against Mississippi, the Lady Vols turned it over 24 times.

Rising to Her Own Level

To fully appreciate Pat Summitt's achievements, you have to stand in her kitchen on the day of a big game and watch her sweat over the stove like a fry cook. A large space with two ovens opens into a living room continuously packed with family, friends, old sorority sisters, former players, neighbors' children and what seems like a herd of galloping Labradors. On the stove top dishes simmer, because after the game Summitt will feed this mob, as well as any semi-orphans, foreign travelers and itinerant golden retrievers who stop by. On occasion, she has even fed the opposing team. Between stirring, Summitt dodges into the pantry and kicks the dryer shut. You wonder if John Wooden ever did laundry on game day.

Running late, she grabs her cosmetics bag, and in the car on the way to the arena she applies the last of her makeup. This is a terrifying trick, which she regularly performs at just over the speed limit, while steering with her knee.

"How do you do that?" I once asked her from the passenger seat, hands over my eyes and feet braced against the dashboard.

"It takes years of practice," she said, grinning.

Sometime in the next week or so, Summitt will reach 1,000 victories. She will do it in a characteristic rush, and with a great deal of characteristic shouting, and to waves of applause that she won't let inflate her fundamentally unpretentious, countrified head too much. "I'm just a P.E. teacher," she likes to say. Well, hardly. To borrow a phrase from sportswriting great Blackie Sherrod, that's like saying the Grand Canyon is a ditch. Summitt's coaching record likely will never be broken; no NCAA coach, male or female, alive or dead, has ever reached 1,000 victories.

It's for other more distant observers to say where such a feat places Summitt historically. To parse her monstrously competitive schedule and the fact that 40 percent of those 1,000 wins will have come against ranked teams. Or to dispute the merits of women's basketball. Or to discuss how many of those games were won with no financial wherewithal or incentive, just competitive heart. Her first victory came in the 1974-75 season in front of 53 people. She set up the chairs.

I can only contribute my personal impression, as the co-author of her autobiography, and a friend who has abandoned impartiality. I'm here to tell you that it's a nearly miraculous feat given how many things and people she takes care of every day, and the fact that she can never find her car keys.

"Are you tired?" I asked her by phone this week.

"Hell no," she said, laughing in that amazing voice, gravel raked in honey. "I'm full of life. I may look tired."

I don't know whether Summitt belongs in the same breath with a Wooden or a Bob Knight, I only know that she's matchless, there is only one of her. I also know that the private Summitt is surprisingly at odds with her on-court personality -- she is milder, and funnier than most people would believe, a throw-back-her-head laugher who enjoys jumping off the pedestal. Anyone who saw her don a cheerleader's outfit and sing "Rocky Top" on the court at a Tennessee men's game two seasons ago got a glimpse of that, and it accounts for her players' affection for her despite her demands.

Some of her male counterparts have seen it as well. A few years ago late one evening at a coaching clinic, Summitt kicked off her shoes and, in a white skirt, played a game of pickup with Denny Crum. Tragically, there is no video.

Nevertheless, Summitt has treated coaching women's basketball as serious business, and contained in her record is a narrative: She helped build a "women's" sport into just a sport, one that is shucking the reputation of inferiority. Her inexhaustible striving has something to do with busting out of category, the desire to erase old definitions about the capacities of women.

She resists the word "feminist" -- "I'm not a sign carrier," she says -- and insists on retaining the word "Lady" in front of Vols. Still, if there is a single driver in her coaching personality it's the determination to self-define, and force her players to do the same. It's the key to her famously fierce confrontations with them, and the reason why they accept her tirades: They understand the power in her expectations.

Recently, with Tennessee trailing Rutgers by 20 points, she told sophomore Angie Bjorkland on national television that she was "pulling a no-show." Bjorkland responded with 12 points in leading the Lady Vols to the biggest comeback in school history.

"She'll call people out for sure," Bjorkland said afterward. "She has high expectations for us and if I'm not exceeding those then she's going to get on me for it, but that's why I came here and that's why I like a challenge."

"I don't tell them what they want to hear," Summit says by phone. "I tell them what they need to hear. And the way I frame it is, 'You're . . . better . . . than this.' "

The interesting thing is that so many of her players seem to believe her. Summitt's former assistant, Mickie DeMoss, once remarked that Summitt could tell them to "take off their sports bras and run down the court waving them over their heads, and they'd just look at her and say, 'Okay, coach, sounds like a plan.' "

It's somehow fitting that Summitt will hit 1,000 in the midst of one of her most challenging seasons. It's the youngest team she's had in her 35-year career. But it brings the best out of Summitt, who swears that if she weren't a coach she'd be teaching public school back in Henrietta, Tenn. What you learn about Summitt is that she means it, she's a born instructor.

"The Baby Vols," she calls this team, and she doesn't always say it gently. She's been displeased with their habits, and believes some of them want to wear Tennessee jerseys without understanding the work that goes with it. So earlier this season she decreed that they launder their own uniforms. "I can't even think about a thousand wins," Summitt said. "My undivided attention is on this young team and teaching them it's a 40-minute game, and sometimes more."

The Tennessee kids come and go like autumn leaves, but Summitt doesn't change, she hangs on to an old-fashioned simplicity, preaching sport as ethic. When the freshmen arrive, they're head duckers who can barely meet your eye to say hello. Then they start standing up straighter, and their manners improve, and they turn into people like Nicky Anosike, who makes Summitt well up with pride, the daughter of a Nigerian immigrant from a Staten Island housing project, a 4.0 student and a crucial player on back-to-back national championship teams in 2007 and 2008. When Anosike is done with basketball, she wants to be a schoolteacher.

Last summer, Summitt stood in a small gym on the Tennessee campus, in front of 100 small girls 5 to 10 years old. Some successful coaches just lend their names to their summer camps, but Summitt actually shows up and puts in the work, spending long days with chaotic masses of children grade-school age and up. If you really want to get to know her and can't get an invitation to dinner, go watch her work her camp.

Summitt, 6 feet tall and laser-eyed, towered over the campers. "How many of you made your own beds this morning?" she demanded.

Only a half a dozen hands went up. Summitt counted them. "Now this," she began, "is a perfect opportunity to talk about discipline."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pat Summitt's Teleconference

Opening Statement

"Starting first of all with Auburn and our loss there, I think that Auburn played very well. They're a veteran team and that certainly showed. It also exposed our youth and I was just very disappointed that we didn't compete for 40 minutes. We obviously have had a pattern that it has been very difficult to get this team to play for 40 minutes. We haven't had a game where we really just committed to that. We just came back and talked about it and had a very challenging workout and all the coaches tried to emphasize that we've got to become a 40-minute team if we want to be a successful team. Obviously, they worked hard, but that's when the coaches are in control. They have to work hard when they're in control so we hope the lesson has been learned. I just now started watching tape on Ole Miss. We get everyone's best game and I would expect for that to be the case on Thursday. We've got a little bit of time to prepare. We have an extra day here because we're playing Oklahoma on a Monday night. A lot's been said about this Oklahoma team. I think after losing to Connecticut, this team is very focused and they appear to be playing very well and I know that the Paris twins are playing very well."

Could you talk a little bit more about your concerns with the lack of heart and commitment and whether you see this as a reflection of how young you are or if it's more than that?

"I think youth is a part of it, but it's not all of it. We do have players on our team who are not competing on every possession; they take a lot of possessions off. I'm sure, coming from high school to this stage it is a huge transition for those who are not like a Glory Johnson, who understands competing all the time. I think running track helped her and playing for Shelley Collier helped her as well. Not everyone played in that kind of environment or was challenged like that. Looking at Shekinna Stricklen, her high school coach really demanded a lot from her and she's a competitor. I think we lack that across the board. So that's why I said that I may have to shorten my bench some and really evaluate those players that are committed and invested in getting the job done. That's something that we'll take a look at as a coaching staff."

Other than Shekinna and Glory, do you feel like some of these other players have it in them, it's just going to take more to bring it out of them?

"I don't know that yet. You're always saying that you hope they have it. You see glimpses of it but the lack of consistency is what is bothering me. That hurts us. When I substitute now, I may only substitute one-at-a-time because the substitutions at Auburn really were costly."

Coach can you talk a little bit about Alyssia Brewer and how she's been performing for you so far?

"She's a very talented player but she doesn't always play hard and compete the way we want her to compete. When she does, she has a tremendous impact on how our team plays. There's no better example than our comeback at Rutgers. She started that and she was big in our success. I thought it was one of her best outings. I think the thing Alyssia has to do is play hard all the time and be more competitive on all of our plays. That's not uncommon for a lot of kids coming right out of high school and playing for a program like Tennessee where our conference is tough, our non-conference schedule is tough. I think Alyssia wants to be consistent, but she has got to take ownership of that and be more consistent in her play."

What's the key to flipping that switch with young players?

"Obviously I must have lost my key. It's interesting because you sometimes can say something and trigger a positive response and other times they may not respond the way you want them to. That's a big part of coaching, the psychology of it and trying to figure out what is the best thing to say to each player at any given moment. It is a little bit of a guessing game but I'm just going to keep challenging all of our players. Alyssia's not the only one, by no means. We have a number of players that, I feel like, are under-achieving sometimes and when you see how they can play in some of the games that we have put in a good performance then you raise the bar. Expectations are a lot higher."

Is closing in on 1,000 wins a distraction from the media?

"I don't think so. For me, no, but I don't know about our team. I was joking with them, I said, 'I hope we get it this year.' Sooner rather than later was probably the feeling with what's happening on the court. As far as the players are concerned, if the way we played at Auburn is any indication, I don't think they're very focused on it."

In retrospect, the practice you had Monday, do you wish you would have done that a little earlier?

"I thought about that after our loss to Vanderbilt. I think that I was trying to be patient and recognizing the fact that we are so young and not break anybody's spirit, but that philosophy, I just threw that out the window. That didn't work. I'm going to challenge this group because I know that they have a lot more to give than what they've been giving. Across the board for most everyone, there's more to give. Accountability has got to be in place now so I probably should have done this after that Vanderbilt loss."

Could you just talk about Oklahoma and what they've done to establish themselves now as seemingly one of the more elite programs in women's basketball?

"I think Sherri (Coale) and her staff has done a great job of recruiting. I think that the talent in the Big 12 is pretty amazing. There are a lot of great players at Texas and Oklahoma. I just felt that when the Paris twins decided to go to Oklahoma, that was going to give them what they needed in terms of having that inside game. Obviously, their perimeter game is strong as well and I just think that it's a reflection on the job that Sherri Coale and her staff have done. They've had lots of success in recruiting and I think the winning helps. Any time you have a winning program, you've got players in your area that want to stay there and you can recruit out of state as well because they want to play in a program where they know they have a chance to win and get to a Final Four."

If they don't get to a Final Four or don't win a national championship while the Paris' are here, what sort of ramifications could that have for a program, long term?

"First of all, I think they've got a great shot at making it to a Final Four. We obviously went to seven Final Fours and played in four championship games before we won a national championship. It's hard to do. It's hard to get there and it's hard to win. I think Oklahoma is going to be a program that's going to continue to have success even if they don't get to a Final Four, but I would expect them to be there this year. I think they're good enough, but you've got to get some breaks along the way. Regardless, I think their program is one that is strong and it's going to be consistent in terms of being among the elite teams."

What is the significance for you, when you think about getting to 1,000 wins?

"I think it speaks to the success we've had in our program, consistently throughout the years. It's a pretty amazing number, even for me, I'm like, 'Wow, have I really been this successful for 35 years? And where did time go?' I think about all the players that wore the orange uniform and made a commitment to winning. Most of our teams have been really competitive, whether they got to a Final Four or not, they won a lot of games and we've played tough schedules. In the last couple of weeks I look at the All-Americans, I look at the Olympians, I think about the championships and just how fortunate we've been to be able to recruit nationally and bring together people who work toward a common goal and have a passion for winning."

Nobody's ever gotten to this number (of wins). It sounds like even you're having a hard time wrapping your head around it, is that true?

"It's true, I've never thought about it. I've never focused on numbers. I've focused on trying to get teams ready every year and win every game that we can possibly win. The ultimate goal is to win the national championship. But you've got to think about it as, we've got to get to the tournament, we've got to survive and advance. I've never really been focused on a number until this year. Obviously, a lot of people are bringing attention to it and I'm trying to figure out how we're going to beat Ole Miss."

Is it even conceivable to think about someone ever approaching 1,000 wins when you think about all the years of consistency that has gone into this? Have you got the bar out there where nobody's going to touch it?

"I haven't looked at numbers. I don't know who's behind me or who is closest to that number. With that, it depends on how long I stay in the game and I don't know that. As long as I'm enjoying what I do and I still love the game and I'm passionate about teaching the game. So, I don't know if that's a number anyone will get to or not."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Summitt's trek at Tennessee nears the pinnacle: 1,000 wins

When Pat Summitt became women's basketball coach at Tennessee in 1974, she was 22 and Title IX was 2.

Not that she had a clue the legislation and her career would help revolutionize women's sports.

Nor did she have designs on collecting NCAA titles. The NCAA was seven years away from taking control of women's sports from the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.

Nor did she have any notion of getting rich.

Her concerns were basic: "I was trying to figure out how to organize a practice."

The coach with eight NCAA titles, the best drawing team in the country and a million-dollar salary is on the verge of a unique milestone — 1,000 wins — which could come as early as Feb. 2. No Division I college basketball coach has won as many games.

"It wasn't like I had this grand vision: This is where we're going," says the coach who used to drive the van to away games and now charters jets. "I never thought I'd coach 1,000 games."

The scary thought is how many games Summitt, 56 and in apparently good health, will win before retiring.

"No one will do what she has done," says Tennessee women's athletic director Joan Cronan. "No one will be a head coach that young anymore."

Or will be likely to win as often or stay as long at a school.

Leon Barmore, a Hall of Fame coach for his work at Louisiana Tech and now an assistant at Baylor, equates Summitt to men's coach John Wooden, who won 10 titles at UCLA.

"She's the best of our game. There's nothing in the game she can't do. She can administrate, coach x's and o's and motivate."

And not just players. "I've said it before: she made my career," Barmore says. "Me playing against Pat Summitt, she gave me that person and program that made me reach deeper than I ever thought I could reach, if I was going to play them. I really compliment that now."

Finally winning the big one

There was a time when Summitt and Tennessee had the reputation of not being able to win the big game. Before the first title in 1987, Summitt had been to seven Final Fours — four AIAW and three NCAA — and three title games without a championship.

"Always the bridesmaid but never the bride," she says.

She figured changes were needed including better players and more enlightened tactics such as more rest late in the season. The better players came via Mickie DeMoss, lured from Auburn to work her recruiting magic for the Lady Vols, but not before asking Summitt, "Will you know what to do, if I get the players here?"

In the summer of 1986, Summitt instructed DeMoss to land Tonya Edwards, who led Tennessee to titles in 1987 and '89.

The Lady Vols have won when favored and when discounted as in 1997 with a 10-loss team, the most ever by a champion. In the title game, Tennessee took a 68-59 win against Old Dominion, which had beaten the Lady Vols 83-72 in the regular season. The biggest win in the run may have been 91-81 in the regional final against Connecticut, which had beaten the Lady Vols 72-57 in the regular season.

"That (title) stands out," Summitt says. "Everybody beat us that year."

The unlikely title was chronicled by an HBO documentary, A Cinderella Season, which opened in the locker room after the ODU loss, with players crying and kicking over trash cans in frustration.

"They were at the end of their rope and I was, too," Summitt says. "I was like 'Pull it together.' That emotion allowed me to see how much (losing) hurt them. It always hurts coaches. That day it hurt our team."

Abby Conklin, a starter on the '96 and '97 title teams, called her four seasons under Summitt "the hardest thing I ever did but also the most rewarding." She went to Tennessee in part because she wanted to coach but had a rocky relationship with Summitt, who once threw a cup of water at her, and left without resolving matters, which she hopes to rectify.

An assistant coach and grad student at San Francisco, she had to write a report on a transformational leader. She chose Summitt.

After the heavily favored 1999 team lost to Duke in a regional final, there were times it appeared the team would not win another title. "The eight-year drought," as Summitt calls it.

Then came Candace Parker, who led the team to titles the last two years. "They're all special," Summitt says.

Never afraid of the big game

Growing up on a farm in Henrietta, Tenn., Summitt was expected to chop tobacco, bale hay, milk cows and fix tractors like her three older brothers. She learned basketball in two-on-two games with them on the court her father built in the hayloft of a barn.

The cutthroat contests helped prepare Summitt as a player who started on the 1976 Olympic team that won a silver medal. She overcame a torn anterior cruciate ligament when sports medicine wasn't as advanced as it is now.

Coming from hard work, Summitt prepares her team similarly.

"Tennessee wins because, in the end, our players feel they have worked too hard not to," she wrote in her 1998 book, Reach for the Summit.

Tennessee consistently plays the toughest schedule in the country. Over the years, nearly half Summitt's games have come against ranked teams. The idea is to prepare the team for the NCAA tournament.

"It's something to admire that she has the courage every year not only to challenge her team but herself and her staff," says retired Auburn coach Joe Ciampi. "It's obvious not many of us have ever tried to schedule that way. Maybe two or three shots (per season) but not the whole schedule."

The schedule also promotes the women's game — no big-time coach is as accessible to the news media as Summitt — even if the timing of some games is disadvantageous to Tennessee. In 1995, Summitt agreed to Tennessee's first game against then-emerging power Connecticut in Storrs, Conn., though her team was coming off a tough game at Auburn.

ESPN programming executive Carol Stiff, who arranged the matchup, recalls Summitt's post-game comment to her, the coach exasperated after the loss but understanding the bigger picture: "For the good of the game."

Understanding the times, her players

Summitt still kicks players out of practice or revokes locker room privileges. Her glare still can peel the paint off the rim. But, in part because of NCAA rules, practices right after a road trip are unlikely.

"It used to be: my way or the highway," says assistant coach Holly Warlick, Summitt's point guard from 1977-80 and an assistant for the last 24 seasons. "Now she says you pick and choose battles. It's a different way of motivating today's kid. She's adjusted to it. Her work ethic, intensity and those things are still the same."

Summitt's confrontations now are informed challenges. Tennessee players take personality tests and meet with a sports psychologist so Summitt knows what buttons to push. "We didn't take any personality tests," says Warlick, one of the 70 former Summitt players, assistants or managers who have gone into coaching.

Summitt wants every edge, psychological, physical or tactical.

"The work never ends. … We are constantly trying to be more thorough, more fit, more knowledgeable," she wrote in Reaching for the Summit.

In the offseason, she and her staff typically embark on professional improvement quests such as meeting with NBA coaches Phil Jackson and Tex Winter about the triangle offense, Villanova coach Harry Perretta about his spread offense or retired Auburn coach Joe Ciampi about his matchup zone defense.

"This game is so over-coached and under-taught," Ciampi says. "What she doesn't get enough credit for is the great teacher that she is. It's a step-by-step method for you to grow in their program."

Asked which she prefers, games or practices, Summitt answers with a smile: "Practice. I love practice. That's my favorite time of the day. If you said, 'What keeps you in coaching?' I just love teaching. (The gym's) my classroom."


11: Countries in which Pat Summitt's teams have played

13: Southeastern Conference regular-season titles in 27 years

14: SEC tournament titles

18: NCAA Final Fours

27-for-27: Tennessee's run in reaching the NCAA Sweet 16

40: States in which Summitt's teams have played

46.7: Percentage of teams played that were ranked

70: The number of coaches from preps to the pros who played for, coached under or managed for Summitt

400-153: Record against ranked teams

453-44: Record in Knoxville

998-186: Overall record

Pat's Patience Has Ended

Manning replaces Bass, Stricklen moves to point

The number "23" was in play at Tennessee's women's basketball practice Monday.

This wasn't a case of former Lady Vols great Chamique Holdsclaw making an appearance and pulling on her retired jersey. Instead, the number served as a grim reminder of the 23 turnovers UT committed in Sunday's 82-68 loss at Auburn.

In one drill, the players had to record 23 defensive stops. In another, they performed 23 defensive slides in rapid-fire fashion.

UT coach Pat Summitt raised the workout's intensity, as well as her voice, in response to Sunday's rout along with a pattern of inconsistent play that has lasted more than three weeks.

"I was trying to be patient,'' she said. "I've lost my patience. It's gone."

Summitt wants to set a new course by demanding more from the players during practice. It won't be quantity - as in longer workouts - but quality, specifically the nature of their effort.

"I've probably been too nice,'' she said. "One thing I can do, I can demand every day. I can hold the bar higher."

Summitt also intends to revamp game-day shooting practices, shortening the length while increasing the pace. She's borrowing from the philosophy of former Tennessee men's coach Kevin O'Neill.

"Without the language,'' said Summitt in a joking reference to O'Neill's salty dialogue. "I love Kevin but the language was a little more than I can handle."

Along with altering practice, Summitt will change the starting lineup, replacing 5-foot-2 Briana Bass with 6-1 Alicia Manning and moving 6-2 Shekinna Stricklen to point guard in place of Bass. The change gives UT more size and sends a message to Bass about upgrading her play.

"I think Bree has got to commit to being a better defender one on one,'' Summitt said. "If she's not really aggressive defensively, that's a liability for us."

Summitt also said that she will consider shortening the player rotation as a means of regulating effort.

After Auburn's aggressive performance on Sunday, Summitt said she told her players: "They made us look like a high school team."

Baugh Update: Forward Vicki Baugh, who has been recovering from a left knee sprain, will not play Thursday against Ole Miss.

Baugh tried to play Sunday but lasted only 19 seconds.

Rankings: Tennessee dropped three spots back to No. 13 in the Associated Press' weekly top 25.

Judging by Auburn's new ranking, beating UT doesn't mean as much anymore. The Tigers, the only undefeated team other than Connecticut, moved up just one spot to No. 5.

Paying Their Respects: Summitt and associate head coach Holly Warlick will attend the funeral Friday of former North Carolina State coach Kay Yow, who died Saturday.

Summitt said that she expects Wolfpack assistant Stephanie Glance, the interim head coach, to become the new head coach.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bonner, No. 6 Auburn race past Lady Vols

AUBURN, Ala. — DeWanna Bonner scored a career-high 35 points and unbeaten No. 6 Auburn raced to a late 24-point lead and earned an 82-68 victory over No. 10 Tennessee on Sunday.

Auburn (20-0, 5-0) set an attendance record and also ended Tennessee’s stranglehold on a one-sided series.

The showdown of Southeastern Conference powers drew an overflow crowd of 12,067, breaking the 20-year-old school mark by nearly 5,000 fans.

The Lady Vols had dominated the series, winning the past 16 meetings and routing the Tigers 85-52 last season.

Auburn hadn’t beaten Tennessee (15-4, 4-2) in 12 years or at home since 1991, losing 24 of the previous 25 meetings.

Auburn opened up 1,500 extra seats in the upper section of the arena for the game. The attendance topped the previous high of 7,150 against Tennessee in 1989.

The Tigers moved to their second-best start in school history.

Top-ranked Connecticut (19-0) is the only other unbeaten team in Division I.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Summitt comments on passing of Kay Yow

Opelika, Ala. – University of Tennessee Lady Vol basketball coach Pat Summitt was informed of the passing of longtime friend and N.C. State coach Kay Yow early this morning at her hotel in Opelika, Ala. Summitt and her number 10/12-ranked Lady Vol squad are preparing to take on number 6/5-ranked Auburn on Sun., Jan. 25 in a key Southeastern Conference meeting.

Coach Summitt released the following thoughts about Yow:

“My heart goes out to the Yow family and the N.C. State Wolfpack nation on the passing of a truly remarkable lady and a dear friend in Kay Yow.

“In the two decades she fought the disease, Kay never allowed herself to be victimized by cancer. Kay never pitied herself. Instead, she tried to bring awareness to the horrible disease that was robbing her of her life. Through her foundation in conjunction with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) – The Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, in partnership with The V Foundation for Cancer Research, she did all that she could do to help others. That was just Kay.

“Helping to get the cancer fund off the ground put Kay on a mission. She fought for cancer funding the same way she fought the disease… positive and determined every step of the way.

“Kay was passionate about life and coaching. She was a giver and she gave so much to every life she touched. She made a difference in the lives of so many people, not just the life lessons she shared with her student-athletes at Elon or North Carolina State.”

Summitt on coaching with Kay Yow in the 1984 Olympics:

“I was a young coach of 32 when I was asked to coach the 1984 Olympic Team. When I decided who my number one assistant would be, I knew that I had to choose someone who would be loyal…who knew the game…someone I could trust and someone with great wisdom. When it came time to make that decision, I picked Kay Yow.

“Kay had great wisdom. She had a special way of telling you things that you really didn’t want to hear but needed to. Kay was not a ‘yes’ woman. She accepted the challenge of helping me to bring home the first gold medal to the United States in women’s basketball. It was a daunting task but Kay made it so much easier by helping to relieve the pressure.

“She was an excellent communicator and had such a great rapport with our Olympic players. I learned so much from her on how to better communicate with your players. She definitely always knew the pulse of our team and had a calmness about her that was so settling to me as a young coach trying to bring home the gold while playing in front of the home team USA fans.

“Those memories that I shared with Kay will last a lifetime and I will always look back at them fondly and think of her.”

Pat Summitt Uses Psychology, but With Some Fizz

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — To players who express an interest in becoming a basketball coach, Tennessee’s Pat Summitt offers a simple piece of advice: major in psychology.

“I wish I had,” she said last week. “Because you’re always trying to figure out the best way to motivate each individual.”

Despite having no formal training in the science of human behavior, Summitt has become a master motivator through 35 years of practical experience. The way she recruited Candace Parker provided a window into her genius.

Summitt said that Parker, a schoolgirl legend in Chicago, was initially interested in attending Tennessee, but that as the official signing period approached, her enthusiasm waned.

“Candace seems confused,” Summitt recalled thinking. “Something has colored her thinking.”

The day before Summitt was to fly to Chicago for her formal home visit, an idea popped into her head. She dropped two packets of cherry-flavored Alka-Seltzer tablets into her purse.

When she met the family, Summitt asked Parker what had happened to cloud her thinking on Tennessee. Parker hemmed and hawed and finally shrugged. She said she did not know. Summitt excused herself, disappeared into the Parkers’ kitchen and returned with a clear glass filled with water. She dropped the Alka-Seltzer into the glass, turning the water red and fizzy.

“What are you doing, Coach?” a wide-eyed Parker asked.

“Just look at that,” Summitt said. “The water was clear. Now something has colored it. Candace, Tennessee has always been very clear to you. Now something or someone has colored your thinking.”

Parker said, “Coach, that’s pretty awesome.”

The rest, as they say, is history. In the three seasons Parker played before the Los Angeles Sparks drafted her No. 1 in the 2008 W.N.B.A. draft, the Lady Volunteers compiled a record of 101-10 and won their seventh and eighth N.C.A.A. championships.

Pat Summitt Makes Tennessee a Cradle of Coaches

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It happens to every Lady Volunteers basketball player who has gone into coaching. She’ll be railing about a lazy pass in practice. Glaring at a player who failed to box out an opponent. Lecturing how leadership is about being respected, not liked.

Then it hits her. She has grown up to be just like her coach at Tennessee, Pat Summitt.

“That happens quite often, and it’s quite scary,” said Carla McGhee, who is on the coaching staff at South Carolina. “As a player, I couldn’t see why Pat would get so upset about a lack of effort, why she would say it was disrespecting the game. Now when I see a lack of effort, something about it just grates my nerves, and before I know it, I blow my top, and then, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’m Pat.’ ”

Mimicking her is one thing. Matching her success will be a tall order. In 35 seasons at Tennessee, Summitt’s winning percentage is .844. She has guided her current team, which starts four freshmen and has one upperclassman, to a 15-3 record and No. 10 ranking in the Associated Press poll.

The Lady Volunteers, the two-time defending N.C.A.A. champions, will play Sunday at unbeaten and sixth-ranked Auburn, intent on securing career victory No. 999 for Summitt. No coach, man or woman, is within 30 victories of her total.

“People talk about 1,000 wins,” Summitt, 56, said last week in her office. “I remind them that I’ve never scored a basket for the University of Tennessee.”

A better measure of Summitt’s success — in her eyes, anyway — is this: 45 Lady Volunteers, about a third of the players who have passed through her program, have become coaches — from youth leagues to the pros. In her coaching tree, the first ring was formed this season with the arrival of Glory Johnson, whose high school coach was Shelley Sexton-Collier, whose college coach was Summitt.

“This job is all about the relationships,” Summitt said, “so obviously that’s rewarding.”

It is also a relief. When she was handed the reins of the Tennessee program in 1974, Summitt was a 22-year-old graduate student who was training for the Olympics and teaching classes in badminton, tennis and self-defense.

“I’d never coached a day in my life,” she said. “I had no idea what was going to happen to this program.”

She reasons that she must not have messed up too badly, if so many players are following in her footsteps.

“The ones that choose to go into coaching,” Summitt said, “people usually say, ‘Well, there’s a little Pat.’ ”

The sisterhood of traveling Pats includes Nikki Caldwell, who is in her first year at the helm at U.C.L.A. after serving apprenticeships at Virginia Tech and Tennessee, and Tanya Haave, a former all-American in her second year as the coach at San Francisco.

The Lady Volunteers opened this season against Haave’s Dons. The night before the game, Summitt organized a party at her home along the Tennessee River for Haave. Though known for her stare, which is cold enough to freeze time, Summitt is, away from the court, the perfect Southern hostess.

She invited a few women who played alongside Haave in the early 1980s. Over a few beers and some wine, they reminisced past midnight. The next afternoon, Summitt traded her honey glaze for a steely gaze and served Haave a 68-39 defeat.

Equal parts nurturing and schooling, that is the recipe for Summitt’s success. In a game at Rutgers this month, the Lady Volunteers trailed by 20 points at the break. It was the biggest halftime deficit in the program’s history. Huddling with her players, Summitt berated the sophomore guard Angie Bjorklund for not taking enough shots, then growled, “You do not want to go home with me tonight having played this way.”

Message received. Behind Bjorklund’s 12 second-half points, Tennessee rallied for a 55-51 victory.

To play for Summitt is to feel her glare everywhere. She has certain nonnegotiable rules, like requiring her players to sit in the first three rows at class. When they are broken, she has a way of finding out. Even after her players leave, Summitt keeps an eye on them. When Caldwell’s Bruins lost at home to Oregon, 73-56, Summitt called afterward to offer encouragement.

Some coaches come into their athletes’ lives for a few seasons, but when the wind blows, they fall away like leaves. Caldwell said she hoped to emulate Summitt, who lodges into her players’ lives like a root, providing steady nourishment.

“Pat just has a balance,” Caldwell said. “She makes time for people. She treats her players like family. It’s really admirable.”

Suzanne Barbre Singleton, a guard on Summitt’s first four Tennessee teams, planned to be a nurse until she fell under Summitt’s spell. She switched her major to physical education and has spent several years coaching high school, college and Amateur Athletic Union basketball.

In December, after several weeks of tending to her dying father, Barbre Singleton consented to taking him off a ventilator. Ten minutes later, she was outside her father’s room, gathering her emotions, when her cellphone rang. It was Summitt, whom she had not spoken to in a while.

“I just want you to know I’m thinking about you,” said Summitt, whose team was preparing for a game later in the day. Recalling the conversation, Barbre Singleton said, “You don’t know what that meant to me.”

At the start of every season, she sends a media guide to each of her former players, along with a handwritten note. After Haave was named the coach at San Francisco, she received a letter from Summitt saying how proud she was.

The communication goes both ways. Last Tuesday, Summitt and her 83-year-old mother, Hazel, spent the morning opening piles of holiday mail, including 300 Christmas cards. It was the first opportunity Summitt, who was divorced in April, had had since Thanksgiving to sift through her correspondence.

She hears from former players regularly. Some are looking for a box-out drill to use in practice. Others seek career advice or want to know how to motivate an underachieving player. Trish Roberts, who played in the Montreal Olympics alongside Summitt before playing for her at Tennessee, said, “I could pick up the phone and talk to Pat anytime, and she’ll take the time out.”

A half-hour before the Lady Volunteers were scheduled to take the floor against Stanford in the 2008 N.C.A.A. title game in Tampa, Fla., Roberts sent Summitt a text message wishing her luck. Less than five minutes later, she received a reply.

“People say: ‘You played for Pat. Oh, my God, she looks so mean on TV,’ ” said Roberts, who guided the programs at Maine, Michigan and Stony Brook and also coached in the American Basketball League. “I always have to defend her.”

Even Lady Volunteers who did not always get along with Summitt during their playing days tend to come around. Michelle Marciniak, a guard who was an integral part of Tennessee’s 1996 national championship, said: “I have a great deal of respect for Pat. I didn’t always like her when I was playing for her.”

After stints in the A.B.L. and the W.N.B.A., Marciniak turned to coaching. When she was a South Carolina assistant two years ago, she wrote a letter to Summitt.

“The gist of it was, Thank you for all you’ve done for me,” Marciniak said. “I may not have appreciated it then, but I’m very grateful now.”

Summitt was pregnant with her son Tyler when she was recruiting Marciniak in 1990. During her official visit to Marciniak’s home in Pennsylvania, Summitt went into labor. She stayed long enough to deliver her pitch before returning to Tennessee to give birth.

Tyler, who turned 18 in September, is a senior at the Webb School of Knoxville. He takes notes on the Lady Volunteers’ games and leaves them for his mother. After a 1-point loss to Virginia in November, his observations filled two pages.

“Point guards passed to corners too much, and ball got stuck down there,” he wrote, adding: “A lot of time, posts were late on help side. When they did help, there was no one there for the weakside rebound. That gave them at least five rebounds.”

And so sprouts another branch in Summitt’s coaching tree.

“He’s already told me he wants my job,” she said. She laughed. “I told him the list is long.”

Candace Parker Is Balancing Career and Family

The Los Angeles Sparks’ Candace Parker is carrying a child this year when she was being counted on to carry a league. If the W.N.B.A. is not roundly thrilled with her pregnancy, which became public earlier this month, Parker has decided she can live with that.

“My whole career has been trying to please people in basketball,” Parker, a 22-year-old newlywed, said Friday in a telephone interview. “Now it’s time to please myself.” She added, “For me, family has always come first.”

Parker, who was married in November to her longtime boyfriend, Sacramento Kings forward Shelden Williams, is due in the spring. The W.N.B.A. season starts in June and runs through September.

“I’m very stubborn,” she said. “I feel like I’m going to play this season.”

It has been done before. In 2005, Tina Thompson, who was with the Houston Comets, gave birth to a son in May and played in a game in July. In 1997, Sheryl Swoopes, who emerged as the women’s answer to Michael Jordan after starring at Texas Tech, returned for the last nine games of the W.N.B.A.’s inaugural season six weeks after the birth of her son.

There are a dozen moms playing in the league. But none — not even Parker’s accomplished teammate Lisa Leslie, who was 35 when she gave birth to her daughter and missed the 2007 season — was being counted on to nurture women’s basketball like Parker, the face of the league’s marketing campaign.

Parker’s appeal is undeniable. She can cover the floor better than wax. At Tennessee, she played at forward, center and guard. In 2006, she became the first woman to dunk in the N.C.A.A. tournament. The combination of her beauty and her ability to take the women’s game above the rim earned her a following among fans of the men’s game. She was the W.N.B.A.’s most valuable player as rookie last season, averaging 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds.

W.N.B.A. Commissioner Donna Orender said her initial reaction to Parker’s pregnancy was a quiet sigh of resignation. Then she thought of all the women in the more traditional workplace struggling with the issue of when or if to start a family, and she realized that Parker’s pregnancy provided a perfect modeling moment.

“Here she is, front and center, and people are discussing the timing of her reproductive life,” Orender said Friday in a telephone interview. “That’s a very public discussion that hasn’t happened before. I do think that’s a good thing for women who go through these issues often in silence or alone.”

She added, “Candace can be a very usable symbol of how you can have a family and a career.”

Women who cannot imagine dunking a basketball can relate to being tugged by the seemingly competing dreams of pursuing a family and a career.

Even the world’s most successful female athletes have imagined themselves at a loss to juggle both. The golfer Annika Sorenstam retired from the L.P.G.A. Tour in December because, at 38, she is eager to have children. The world’s No. 1 women’s golfer, Lorena Ochoa, is 27 and newly engaged and has spoken often of wishing to retire before she is 30 so she is free to raise a family.

Unlike athletes in individual sports like golf, swimming or running, Parker has teammates who will be affected by her pregnancy. On Internet message boards, people have described Parker as “selfish” and argued that she should not have become pregnant while under contract with the Sparks. Her pregnancy prompted her to forfeit a $1.5 million payday to play for a Russian club this winter.

“I think there’s always doubt,” Parker said. “From what I’ve learned from basketball growing up is you can’t be a people pleaser.”

Last year was a cornucopia of riches for Parker, who led the Lady Vols to their eighth N.C.A.A. title, the United States Olympic team to a gold medal, and the Sparks to the Western Conference finals. The pregnancy, she believes, was a blessing in more ways than one.

“After the year I had, my body needed the rest,” she said.

But Parker said her heart was pounding as she punched in the cellphone number of her college coach, Pat Summitt, to tell her the news.

Summitt’s opinion was the only one in the basketball world that mattered to Parker. When Summitt said she was thrilled, that was all Parker needed to hear.

“You want your coach’s blessing,” Parker said.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bjorklund scores 18 to lead No. 10 Tenn. over Ark.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Angie Bjorklund scored 18 points and Glory Johnson added 15 points and No. 10 Tennessee held off Arkansas for a 76-67 victory Thursday night.

The victory for Tennessee (15-3, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) gave coach Pat Summitt her 998th career victory. Summitt will have her first chance at win No. 1,000 on Jan. 29 when the Lady Vols host Mississippi.

Tennessee didn't have an easy time as Arkansas (11-8, 0-4) played physical and grabbed 29 rebounds.

Arkansas was led by Ceira Ricketts with 22 points and Ashley McCray added 12. The players also combined for 16 rebounds.

In the second half, there were eight lead changes. Arkansas managed to build a six-point lead before the Razorbacks went cold, missing eight straight shots while the Lady Vols went on an 11-0 run.

Tennessee shot 70.4 percent (19-of-27) from the foul line to maintain its lead late in the game and hold on for the victory.

In the first half, Tennessee got off to a quick start with back-to-back 3-pointers from freshmen Shekinna Stricklen and Brianna Bass.

The Razorbacks shot 33.3 percent from the floor, but outrebounded Tennessee 19-16 in the first half.

The Lady Vols led by seven points at 26-19 before Arkansas went on a 10-2 run to get its first lead at 29-28 with 2 minutes left before the half after Ricketts got a steal near midcourt. She took it in for an easy layup.

But Tennessee's Sydney Smallbone hit a 3-pointer with 27 seconds left to give the Lady Vols a three-point edge, but Arkansas responded when sophomore Shanita Arnold made a 3-pointer with seven seconds left to tie the game at 32 at halftime.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

No. 13 Tennessee beats South Carolina 68-56

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Alex Fuller’s new jersey was a little bit small, but it didn’t hinder her from carrying her team through a slow first half.

The 6-foot-3 Fuller, who wore the No. 2 jersey belonging to 5-foot-4 Cait McMahan on Sunday to honor her injured teammate, scored 14 points, lead No. 13 Tennessee to a 68-56 win over South Carolina on Sunday for the 36th consecutive time.

“There’s a lot of heart in the No. 2 jersey,” Fuller said.

The senior forward will wear the jersey instead of her usual No. 44 for the rest of the season now that McMahan has chosen to end her playing career after recurring injuries.

Coming out of halftime with a 33-30 lead, the Lady Vols (14-3, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) used a 15-4 run to take over the game. A layup by Glory Johnson with 12:12 left gave Tennessee a 50-34 lead.

From there, the Gamecocks (8-9, 0-4) could only get as close as seven points when Samone Kennedy kicked out the ball to Lakeisha Sutton for a wide-open 3 with 6:13 left.

“It took us a while to figure out how important our commitment to defense would be,” said Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, who grabbed her 997th win. “When we defended better we obviously played a lot better together on the offensive end as well.”

Shekinna Stricklen added 13 points for the Lady Vols and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Summitt charged Stricklen at halftime with working harder to contain South Carolina’s lead scorer, Brionna Dickerson, who had 14 points by halftime, including four 3-pointers. Dickerson finished with 17 points.

Charenee Stephens had 11 boards for South Carolina.

The Gamecocks took an early lead with an 8-2 run. Demetress Adams hit a layup with 13:41 in the first half to give South Carolina a 16-9 lead.

“That was our mentality to come out fighting and come out swinging,” Dickerson said.

The Lady Vols used their own 9-2 run to take a 29-28 lead with 4:28 before the break, and entered halftime with a 33-30 lead.

“A loss is a loss,” said South Carolina coach Dawn Staley. “We’re 0-4 in the SEC and we need a win. Moral victories for us right now just won’t get it.”

The Gamecocks struggled to stop Tennessee in transition, and the Lady Vols hit 12 fast-break points. Tennessee shot 42.9 percent from the field, while South Carolina could only manage 37.9 percent.

South Carolina is one of six SEC teams without a victory in Knoxville and has struggled to even come close to beating the Lady Vols. The Gamecocks have lost by a double-digit margin in all but eight of those losses.

Summitt attempted to play Vicki Baugh for the first time in four games after the sophomore post sprained her surgically repaired left knee preparing for Rutgers on Jan. 1. Baugh played only 3 minutes, hitting one layup while continuing to favor her knee, which was wrapped in a brace.

Kelley Cain, who came down hard on her surgically repaired right knee in the first half at Mississippi State on Thursday, did not play.

“I put Vicki in, and she’s rebounding off one foot. She’s got to get where I think she’s ready. I don’t want to run any risks,” Summitt said.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No. 13 Tennessee beats Mississippi State 63-58

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Shekinna Stricklen scored 15 points to lead Tennessee to a 63-56 victory over Mississippi State on Thursday night.

Tennessee (13-3) made seven of 13 3-pointers and improved to 29-0 against Mississippi State (13-4).

The Lady Vols led 32-30 at the half, but Mississippi State used a 9-1 run midway through the second half to take the lead.

Alyssa Brewer made a layup with 3:29 left to tie it 54-all. Stricklen’s 3-pointer with 1:30 left gave the Volunteer’s the lead.

Angie Bjorklund added 14 points for the Lady Vols and Brewer chipped in 10 points and six rebounds.

Alexis Rack and Chanel Mokango had 15 points each to lead MSU. Mokango also had seven blocked shots. Robin Porter added 12 points and nine rebounds.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lady Vols find themselves doing laundry after loss

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Coach Pat Summitt wanted her Tennessee Lady Volunteers to dwell extra long on their wash out at Vanderbilt earlier in the week.

So, she's got them laundering their own practice clothes indefinitely — a task that usually falls to the team managers.

"I'm sure some of the players — the real competitors — it bothered them," Summitt said of the 74-58 loss on Sunday to the Commodores.

Summitt said she found it disturbing that several of her young players are struggling to compete hard enough to succeed in Southeastern Conference play.

She's not worried about her veterans like guard Angie Bjorklund and forward Alex Fuller. Even freshmen Glory Johnson, Shekinna Stricklen and Briana Bass have lived up to Summitt's expectations with their efforts.

The loss dropped Tennessee (12-3, 1-1 SEC) to No. 13 in The Associated Press rankings, their lowest spot in the poll in 23 years.

Summitt once forced her Lady Vols to wear their practice jerseys inside out after back-to-back losses against Duke and Kentucky in 2006 because she didn't feel they deserved to wear the Lady Vols logo.

The Lady Vols drew more of Summitt's ire this week with long practices and drills focused on improving defense.

And if having to wash their own jerseys wasn't enough, associated head coach Holly Warlick put the Vanderbilt score on the scoreboard at Thompson-Boling Arena during practice and plastered it around the Lady Vols' locker room.

Tennessee might be able to relinquish their laundry duty with a strong showing at Mississippi State (13-3, 1-1). The Lady Bulldogs have never beaten the Lady Vols in 28 tries, but this could be their best opportunity to do so.

The veteran Commodores team ran into little defensive pressure from Tennessee as five players scored in double figures.

The Lady Bulldogs are just as dangerous.

"They're a veteran team. We are going to again be in a situation where we know we have to step up and do a much better job on both ends of the floor — particularly our defense and our board play — and have a different level of commitment," Summitt said.

Tennessee is suffering from having its best defensive player, sophomore starting forward Vicki Baugh, sitting out with a left knee sprain. Baugh has missed the past three games and remains day-to-day.

Baugh, who is averaging 7.8 points and nearly 9.7 rebounds a game, has helped bail the Lady Vols out of several tight games.

"Obviously we miss her so much. She changes the way we defend. She changes how we get up and down," Summitt said. "She's one of our most competitive players."

Monday, January 12, 2009

AP poll: Lady Vols hold lowest ranking in 23 years

Tennessee keeps dropping in the women’s basketball poll, falling to its lowest ranking in 23 years.

Connecticut remained the unanimous No. 1 choice for the seventh straight week Monday in The Associated Press Top 25.

North Carolina is No. 2 and plays Connecticut next Monday in Chapel Hill. Oklahoma, Duke and Baylor round out the first five.

The Lady Vols’ streak of 211 consecutive weeks in the top 10 ended earlier this season. They fell six spots to No. 13 and hold their lowest ranking since the final poll of 1986 when they finished 15th. Tennessee lost at Vanderbilt 74-58 on Sunday.

The Blue Devils host Maryland on Monday night.

Auburn moved up three spots to sixth—its highest ranking since Jan. 3, 2000. Louisville climbed three places to seventh. Texas A&M dropped five spots to eighth after losing to Florida State.

Stanford moved up two places into ninth after routing Washington and Washington State. Notre Dame finished off the first 10.

The Irish were followed by California, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia and Ohio State.

Texas, which was No. 4 two weeks ago, dropped eight places to No. 16 after losing to Purdue and Texas Tech. The Longhorns had started the season 12-0 before losing three of their last four games.

Kansas State (14-0), which is off to the best start in school history, moved up three places to 17th. The Wildcats visit Oklahoma on Wednesday.

Vanderbilt made the biggest leap, climbing six spots to No. 18. Florida was 19th. Iowa State entered the poll for the second time this season at No. 20 after beating Oklahoma State on Sunday. The Cyclones were ranked 25th in the third poll of the season before falling out a week later.

Marist moved up four places to equal its highest ranking ever at No. 21. The Red Foxes have won 12 straight games.

Oklahoma State, Rutgers, Georgia Tech and New Mexico rounded out the poll. Rutgers fell six places after losing at Syracuse and Louisville. New Mexico rejoined the Top 25 a week after falling out.

Pittsburgh and South Dakota State fell out of the poll this week.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Vanderbilt grabs just 7th win ever over Lady Vols

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jessica Mooney led five Commodores in double figures with 15 points, and 24th-ranked Vanderbilt beat No. 7 Tennessee 74-58 on Sunday for only their seventh win all-time in this interstate rivalry and coach Melanie Balcomb's first in her seventh season here.

Tennessee (12-3, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) has simply dominated this series between schools separated by 190 miles along Interstate 40, winning the last 16 and 52 of the first 58 by the Lady Vols' count. This loss keeps coach Pat Summitt stuck on 995 wins as she closes in on 1,000 for her career.

But Vanderbilt (13-4, 2-0) was the preseason pick to win the Southeastern Conference title, and the Commodores used their speed and experience to grab their first win over the Lady Vols since Feb. 2, 2002, also on their home floor at Memorial Gym.

Jennifer Risper and Hannah Tuomi each had 12 for Vanderbilt. Merideth Marsh added 11, and Christina Wirth had 10.

Alex Fuller led the Lady Vols with 12.

These teams last met in the SEC tournament semifinals with the Lady Vols winning by 25 before winning their second straight national championship and eighth overall.

The Lady Vols came in having won five straight, a streak that included a comeback from 23 down at Rutgers on Jan. 3. But Summitt has a much younger team this season, starting three freshmen and a sophomore. That makes Vandy seem grizzled in comparison with two seniors and two juniors in the starting lineup.

The teams swapped the lead in the first half before the Commodores blew open the game by finishing the period with a 12-0 run for a 31-23 lead at halftime. They took the lead on Jence Rhoads' basket with 2:22 left at 25-23, taking advantage as Tennessee went scoreless after Johnson scored with 4:40 to go.

Vanderbilt stayed hot in the second half and pushed its lead to 38-25 as Wirth hit a 3-pointer from the right corner in front of her bench.

Angie Bjorklund's 3 pulled Tennessee within 47-42 with 10:51 left. Tuomi hit two free throws, then Risper drove the lane for a layup as the Commodores scored nine of the next 10 points.

Then the Commodores just kept padding their lead and were up as much as 21 twice. They just missed matching their biggest win over Tennessee, a 17-point margin back in 2002.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cait McMahan decides to stop playing basketball

University of Tennessee Lady Vol redshirt sophomore basketball player Cait McMahan has decided to change her role with the team.

The 5'4" guard has experienced continuing pain, swelling and dysfunction in her right knee following a number of surgeries and procedures, the most recent on Sept. 3, 2008.

After consulting with her orthopedic physicians, Dr. Greg Mathien and Dr. Russ Betcher, Lady Vol Head Coach Pat Summitt, and Jenny Moshak, University of Tennessee Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine, McMahan arrived at the joint decision this afternoon that it was time for her to step away from a playing role and move into that of a student assistant coach on the Lady Vol sideline for the remainder of the season.

"Cait had been experiencing discomfort in the knee and conservative treatments did not address the problems. Her last scope eliminated some loose bodies, smoothed out joint surface irregularities and addressed a small lateral meniscus tear. Her knee is not able to withstand the rigors of Division I basketball on a day-to-day basis," said Moshak.

Her last surgery came after McMahan sat out the 2007-08 season following an extensive surgery on June 6, 2007, to repair a lesion on the articular cartilage in her right knee. The guard from Maryville, Tenn., originally tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the same knee on Nov. 29, 2005, while playing at Heritage H.S.

"I have to face reality and accept the fact that my knee can't take the day-to-day pounding to play for this team," said McMahan. "I'll try to continue to be a leader for my team from the sidelines."

As a Lady Vol rookie in the 2006-07 NCAA Championship 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.

This season, McMahan earned a spot in the starting line-up at point guard before her knee became chronically sore. She played in nine games and started six while averaging 4.4 ppg, 1.3 rpg and 1.5 apg in 14.4 minutes of play.

"I know how disappointed Cait is," said Summitt. "The last thing she wanted to do was step away from her position on the floor because she is such a great competitor. I welcome Cait's addition in her new role as a student assistant coach bringing that same leadership and determination to the bench."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

No. 7 Tennessee hangs on to beat Kentucky, 69-64

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.: Tennessee coach Pat Summitt never stops looking for the next lesson for her young Lady Vols.

Shekinna Stricklen scored 18 points, including two late free throws, as No. 7 Tennessee hung on to beat Kentucky 69-64 on Thursday night.

"As I told our team, fortunately you can win sometimes when you don't play well. We'll learn from it," said Summitt, who earned her 995th win.

Glory Johnson added 14 points for Tennessee (12-2, 1-0 Southeastern Conference), Alicia Manning scored a career-high 13 points and Alex Fuller had 10.

Summitt is hoping her team learns how to hold a lead for more than a half. The Lady Vols had to come from behind in the second half for a second straight game after using the largest comeback in team history to beat Rutgers on Saturday.

"Our desire is to be a 40-minute team. I think the watch stopped in the first half," Summitt said. "We'll get there."

Down 35-27 at halftime, the Wildcats — who have only beaten the Lady Vols once in the past two decades — opened the second half with a 9-2 run to take a 40-39 advantage with 16:02 left.

The teams traded the lead for the next 13 minutes. The Lady Vols scored 10 straight points, with a 3-pointer by Manning giving them a 61-58 lead with 2:47 left.

Kentucky all but shut down Angie Bjorklund, who entered the game leading Tennessee with 13.9 points per game. The sharpshooter was limited to seven points, including one 3-pointer, leaving Manning and Stricklen available around the perimeter.

"They just left me open, so I took the shot," said Manning, who went 3-for-3 from behind the arc.

Amber Smith stole the ball from Stricklen and drove for a layup to pull to 64-60 with 1:27 left. Smith later fouled Stricklen with 51.3 seconds left, and the freshman calmly hit both shots to give Tennessee a 66-60 lead.

Smith and Victoria Dunlap hit two more shots in the last minute, but the Wildcats (10-6, 0-1) would only get one more shot as the Lady Vols hit three more free throws.

"For us it was not a lack of effort, it was a lack of execution," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. "In this league, you don't get a lot of medals for trying."

Carly Morrow led the Wildcats with 16 points, Brittany Edelen added 13 and Smith had 12.

Kentucky, normally a 27.2 percent 3-point shooting team, made 57.1 percent of their shots from behind the arc against Tennessee. However, the Lady Vols outrebounded the Wildcats 43-30 and scored 17 second-chance points compared to Kentucky's 9.

The scrappy Wildcat team hung close with Tennessee for part of the first half, forcing eight turnovers.

A fastbreak layup by Alyssia Brewer set up by a long pass from Stricklen capped an 8-0 run to give Tennessee a 28-20 lead with 3:46 left in the first half.

"There are a lot of positives that we can just go back and look back on," Smith said. "It wasn't a lot about what they were doing. We just missed a lot of easy shots. We had the opportunities, we just didn't get them in the end. I think we are going to get better after this."

The two teams will meet again on Feb. 19 as part of the SEC's last season of rotating schedules. Next season the conference will divide into divisional play.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Candace Parker is pregnant

Last year was a year of firsts for Candace Parker. In 2008 she was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks, she was the first woman in the WNBA to win both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player and she captured her first Olympic Gold Medal at the Summer Games in Beijing. Entering a new year, Parker has another special first to look forward to. This spring, she and husband Shelden Williams of the Sacramento Kings are expecting their first child.

“Shelden and I are very excited to be expanding our family,” said Parker. “We feel blessed and look forward to becoming parents.”

“We are happy to welcome a new addition into the Sparks family and on behalf of the entire organization we congratulate both Candace and Shelden,” said Penny Toler, Los Angeles Sparks General Manager.

Parker will continue to work out in preparation to participate in the 2009 WNBA season.

Parker’s collegiate head coach at Tennessee, Pat Summitt, was excited about her news. “Candace and I visited about this,” said Summitt. “She’s excited and I’m really excited for her. I told her that if she has a little girl, I hope she’ll be a future Lady Vol.”

Parker nearly averaged a double-double her rookie season (18.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and she led the WNBA in rebounds. She earned the 2008 WNBA Rookie of the Year award and the Most Valuable Player award marking the first time in the WNBA’s 12 seasons that a rookie has won MVP. Parker won back-to-back NCAA championships with the Lady Vols in 2007 and 2008. She led the team in scoring (20.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.8 rpg) her final season at Tennessee. Parker was named the 2007 and 2008 Collegiate Female John R. Wooden Player of the Year, State Farm Player of the Year, Basketball Writers Association National Player of the Year and Kodak All-American. She earned the NCAA Final Four MVP award in 2007 and 2008.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Tennessee rallies from 20 down to stun Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Pat Summitt has been in all sorts of crazy games in her Hall of Fame career. She couldn’t remember one quite like this.

Her Lady Volunteers, led by Shekinna Stricklen’s 16 points and 11 rebounds, pulled off the biggest comeback in school history by rallying from a 20-point halftime deficit to stun Rutgers 55-51 on Saturday.

“Never in my 35 years of coaching have I seen a game like that,” said Summitt, who earned the 994th win of her career. “I’ve been in a lot of games, I’ve been behind a lot in my career, this one stands out as one of the most special.”

The only game that came close to this was when the Lady Vols rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit to stun Virginia in the regional finals of the 1996 NCAA tournament.

“This group will go down in the record books,” Summitt said.

Trailing 33-13 at the half, Summitt ripped into her inexperienced team telling them it would be a long plane ride home for the Lady Vols if they didn’t start playing with some “Tennessee pride.”

The Lady Vols, who had never trailed by 20 points at halftime before, responded, with the first 11 points of the second half.

“We came in and regrouped at halftime,” said Angie Bjorklund, who scored all of her 12 points in the second half. “It doesn’t matter how much we’re down, we look at it that it’s a zero-zero game. I give a lot of credit to Rutgers. They did a great job defending us and we didn’t know how to handle it. They were shooting lights-out.”

Trailing 49-40 with 6:40 left, Tennessee (11-2) went on a 13-0 run. Bjorkland’s jumper with 1:30 left gave the Lady Vols their first lead of the game at 51-49. Prince missed a floater on the other end and Stricklen hit two free throws with 39.8 seconds left.

Prince made a tough jumper in the lane to cut it to two with 21.8 seconds left. She then forced a jump ball, giving Rutgers a chance to tie the game, but Kia Vaughn missed underneath and Bjorklund sealed the game from the free throw line.

“They were keying on (Bjorklund) big-time in the first half,” Summitt said. “We had a one-sided conversation. She stepped up.”

The rivalry between the two schools has become more intense over the last two seasons. Tennessee beat Rutgers for the 2007 national championship. Last season, the Lady Vols topped the Scarlet Knights in a controversial game when Tennessee’s Nicky Anosike made two free throws with two-tenths of a second left.

The free throws followed a fast-paced sequence in which Candace Parker missed a shot with 1.8 seconds left. Anosike grabbed the offensive rebound under the basket and was fouled—after the final buzzer should have sounded.

Tennessee turned the ball over on 11 of its first 14 possessions and Rutgers took a 14-0 lead. The Lady Vols trailed 23-4 with 7 1/2 minutes left in the half before managing to finish with 13 at intermission. The previous lowest was 14 points in the first half against Virginia at the regional finals in 1996.

“Obviously this was a tale of two halves,” Summitt said. “We couldn’t do anything right in the first half. We missed shots and turned the ball over.”

Tennessee’s previous largest first-half deficit was 19 against Mississippi in 1996.

The Lady Vols cut Rutgers’ lead to 33-24 on Glory Johnson’s jumper with 15:20 left.

“We told each other in the locker room that the first four minutes was the most important of the game,” Lady Vols forward Alyssia Brewer said. “We knew that if we came together and took it one possession at a time we could get it done.”

Brittany Ray, who scored 14 points, ended Rutgers’ drought by hitting a deep 3-pointer from the corner as the shot clock went off to restore a 12-point advantage. Tennessee kept chipping away and trailed by eight when Stricklen hit back-to-back 3-pointers.

“We came out a little sluggish in the second half and we didn’t have the same intensity,” Ray said. “When they scored the first 8 points we got a little complacent on offense.”

The teams traded baskets before Prince’s jumper made it 49-40 with 6:40 left, but Rutgers went scoreless over the next six minutes.

Bjorkland had five points during the spurt and Stricklen hit three free throws.

“When you let people like that believe that they can win you’re in trouble,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “This group is champions. They didn’t have a hesitation about playing. We’re afraid to lose. You don’t understand the great benefit of playing to win. You have to risk failure for success. There’s no such thing as a moral victory. It stings as much as we lost at their place.”

Summitt earned her 400th win against a ranked opponents and is 13-2 against Stringer, a fellow Hall-of-Famer.

Tennessee was able to pull off this improbable comeback without starting forward Vicki Baugh, who was sidelined with a sprained left ankle she injured in practice on Thursday.

“It’s a huge statement we won this game without Vicki,” Brewer said.

No. 8 Tennessee rallies past No. 15 Rutgers 55-51

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Shekinna Stricklen scored 16 points and No. 8 Tennessee rallied from the biggest deficit in school history to beat No. 15 Rutgers 55-51 on Saturday.

After the Lady Vols trailed 33-13 at the break, scoring the fewest points ever in a half, Tennessee regrouped to give coach Pat Summitt her 994th career win.

The loss ended a 20-game home winning streak for Rutgers (8-3), led by Epiphanny Prince with 25 points.

Trailing 49-40 with 6:40 left, Tennessee (11-2) went on a 13-0 run. Angie Bjorkland’s jumper with 1:30 left gave the Lady Vols their first lead at 51-49. Stricklen made two free throws for 53-49 lead with 39.8 seconds left.

Prince’s jumper cut it to 53-51 with 21.8 seconds left. She then forced a jump ball giving Rutgers one last chance, but Kia Vaughn missed underneath.

Bjorklund, who scored 12 points, sealed the game from the free throw line.