Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Same heart, same pride, same fight

HOLLY WARLICK stands behind a large mahogany desk, her gray-blue eyes scanning the office in front of her. Autographed photos and lifetime achievement awards dot the walls around her; every imaginable kind of orange Tennessee memorabilia, from Lady Vols Russian nesting dolls to a Pat Summitt bobblehead, fill the massive bookcase at her back. "What am I supposed to do with all this?" Warlick asks to no one in particular. "It's too big; it's too empty. It's just -- it's Pat's."

After 27 years as an assistant coach for the Lady Vols, Warlick always envisioned herself as the heir apparent to the legendary Summitt. Only it wasn't supposed to happen this way. "I'd often joke I would be pushing her out of here to games in her wheelchair," recalls the 54-year-old, her voice perma-hoarse from years of coaching. "Pat and I discussed it in this very room, and I was really, genuinely happy with that." Instead, Summitt's diagnosis of early-onset dementia in 2011 and subsequent retirement at the end of last season destroyed any dreams of a celebratory passing of the torch. Now, premature or not, the future of Tennessee women's basketball rests squarely on Warlick's shoulders.

It's an intimidating legacy, to put it lightly: eight national championships, 16 SEC titles and 1,098 wins under Summitt. Her teams routinely sold out home games -- a rarity in women's hoops -- and the Lady Vols' facilities and expenses ($5.89 million in 2010-11) rival those of most men's programs. Such accolades were a boon for Summitt on the recruiting trail. But now, without the program's No. 1 recruiting tool, without Coach Pat, Warlick faces an uphill battle to ensure that the University of Tennessee remains a powerhouse going forward. And as the 2012-13 season tips off, the pressure is palpable. The college hoops world will be watching -- every triumph, every stumble -- and asking: Is Warlick coach enough to fill the shoes of the winningest coach in college basketball history?

Read the rest of the story by Sarah Turcotte.

Lady Vols Land Nation's Top Recruit

The Lady Vols basketball team landed the nation's top recruit on Tuesday.

Mercedes Russell of Springfield, Oregon, picked Tennessee over Louisville. She's listed as the top high school basketball player in the country by ESPN. The 6-5 Russell recently led her high school team to their second consecutive state title. She averages 26-points, 15 rebounds, and six blocks a game.

Said Russell,"Well Tennessee has always been my dream school since I was a little kid. After visiting several times, I just felt like it was the best fit for me. When I called Tennessee, everyone was jumping and screaming. Yelling in the phone. They were all excited." Russell plans to sign her national letter of intent in November.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

An evening with Pat Summitt

Clarksville, TN – Friends and family gathered at the Charles Hand farm to welcome home one of their own last night. Pat Summitt, the winningest basketball coach in the history of the game, came home.

This time, it wasn’t to generate support for her basketball team, or her university, it was to support “Sis.” You see, Pat Summitt is in the fight of her life, and where better to draw strength and encouragement than from friends and family.

Read the rest of the story by Hank Bonecutter.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pat Summitt heads list of 2012 Lady Vol Hall of Fame inductees

The 12th group of inductees for inclusion in the Lady Volunteer Hall of Fame has been announced by University of Tennessee Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Dave Hart.

“We are pleased and excited to announce the 2012 class of the Lady Vol Hall of Fame,” Hart said. “This distinguished group includes a legendary coach and three former student-athletes whose participation in athletics runs the gamut from the early days of varsity women’s athletics competition at Tennessee to an inductee who is being enshrined in her first year of eligibility. It is our pleasure to welcome them into an elite circle of people who have represented the University of Tennessee at the highest level.”

The four inductees in the Class of 2012 represent three different teams. The honorees include: Jane Haist (track & field), Michelle Marciniak (basketball), Pat Summitt (basketball-coach) and Young-A Yang (golf). Athletes are eligible for inclusion 10 years after they have graduated from the University, while administrators may be admitted to the Lady Volunteer Hall of Fame five years following their last service to UT.

The Lady Vol Hall of Fame selection committee made a recommendation to waive the five-year “last service requirement” for coach Summitt, making her eligible immediately for consideration. That recommendation was approved.

Enshrinement activities are scheduled for Friday evening, Nov. 2, at the Downtown Hilton, where a private induction ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Nov. 3, the inductees will be introduced during an on-field presentation at the Tennessee versus Troy football game at Neyland Stadium.

Throughout the 36-year history of Lady Vol student-athletes, 1,881 women have donned the Orange and White Tennessee uniform. With the addition of the four individuals in the 2012 class of the Lady Vol Hall of Fame, membership now has reached 71 in this very elite Hall.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tamika Pix

Two Nice Tamika Stories

Tamika Catchings wins elusive title
Three-time Olympic gold medalist and former NCAA champ finally nabs WNBA crown

Just how much does Tamika Catchings appreciate finally winning her first WNBA title at age 33? To understand, you must go back to the little girl shooting baskets alone on the playground, the place she felt she had the most refuge from bullying.

You must go back to the college senior missing her last NCAA tournament at Tennessee because of a knee injury.

You must go back to the player screaming out in pain when her Achilles' tendon ruptured as the Indiana Fever's 2007 season came to an end.

You must go back to the devastated veteran having lost her closest brush to a WNBA championship, as it slipped away to Phoenix in 2009.

And you must go back to the disappointed regular-season MVP who was hobbled by a foot injury as Indiana fell to Atlanta in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals.

Read the rest of the story by Mechelle Voepel.

A true team effort and unlikely contributors bring Indiana Fever a title

This one's for Tamika Catchings, who finally filled out her trophy case with her first WNBA title to go along with all those Olympic gold medals and overseas championships. Did you catch that snapshot of Catchings standing on the victory podium, holding up the championship and MVP hardware? What a sight.

Read the rest of the story by Bob Kravitz.

Tamika Catchings - First WNBA Championship

Catch and Pat Summitt with Lin Dunn in background

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tamika Catchings and Fever win first WNBA title

Tamika Catchings finally won her long-awaited WNBA championship.

She scored 25 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, and 3 blocked shots to help the Indiana Fever win their first title with an 87-78 victory over the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday night.

Catchings, who was the MVP of the Finals, averaged 24.8 points in the series, which the Fever won 3-1 over the defending WNBA champions.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” said Catchings tearing up. “We’ve had ups and downs, ins and outs.”

Erin Phillips added 18 points and eight rebounds while Shavonte Zellous and Briann January each had 15 points.

The Fever won even though No. 2 scorer Katie Douglas missed most of the series with a severely sprained left knee. Douglas checked in with 3.2 seconds left to a loud ovation.

“We sure didn’t make it easy,” Douglas said. “We went three games with Atlanta, three games with Connecticut. This team played amazing in these Finals.”

Catchings had won three Olympic gold medals and an NCAA championships at Tennessee in 1998, but never a WNBA one. She had been in a position to clinch at home before. The Fever led Phoenix 2-1 in the best-of-five WNBA Finals in 2009, but the Mercury beat the Fever 90-77, took the series back to Phoenix and won the title at home in Game 5.

This time, Catchings took it home with college coach Pat Summitt looking on in the crowd.

Indiana led 63-58 at the end of the third quarter. Minnesota cut Indiana’s lead to 70-67 on a jumper by Maya Moore, but Phillips scored on a drive past Moore, got a defensive rebound, then found Shavonte Zellous for a 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Fever a 75-67 lead with 4:58 remaining.

Indiana led by at least five points the rest of the way. A 3-pointer by January gave Indiana an 80-72 lead with 1:18 to play. Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve was called for a technical with 57.6 seconds remaining, Catchings made the free throw and the Fever took an 81-74 lead. Zellous made two more free throws with 27.2 seconds to play, and Fever fans began celebrating.

Seimone Augustus, Minnesota’s leading scorer in the playoffs, was held to eight points on 3-for-21 shooting. Lindsay Whalen scored 22 points and Moore added 16 points for the Lynx, who were vying to become the first team to win consecutive titles since Los Angeles in 2001 and 2002.

Moore picked up her third foul with 6:13 left in the second quarter. Reeve, who was fined for her jacket-tossing tantrum in Game 2, became animated again while disagreeing with the call. As the crowd erupted, Reeve waved hello and made the motion for a technical foul.

This time, Reeve’s antics didn’t help much as in Game 2, when her team pulled away from a tight contest after her technical foul for a convincing win. Minnesota tied the game three times in the second quarter, but the Fever closed with a 7-2 run, including a 3-pointer by Phillips, to take a 47-42 lead at halftime. Whalen scored 14 points in the first half to keep the Lynx in the game, often scoring on uncontested drives. Minnesota hung tough, despite Augustus shooting 2-for-13 in the first half.

Indiana started the second half on a 9-4 run, including two buckets by Catchings, to take a 56-46 lead.

Minnesota came right back. A driving layup by Moore cut Indiana’s lead to 56-54 and forced the Fever to call timeout.

Minnesota tied the game on another drive by Moore, but the Fever responded with a 3-pointer by Catchings and a basket by Jessica Davenport to push the lead back to five by the end of the quarter.

October 27 will be Tamika Catchings Day in Indianapolis

Tamika Catchings is getting a day in her honor in the city of Indianapolis next week.

The city proclamation, signed by Mayor Greg Ballard, declares October 27 "Tamika Catchings Day."

The honor is connected to the Simon Youth Foundation's and the Pacer's Foundation's annual fundraiser "Masquerade," which occurs at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that night.

The 11th annual Masquerade honors Catchings, the founder of "Catch the Stars Foundation," which supports programs for youth.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Elusive championship is within reach for Fever's Catchings, Douglas

They've been here previously: One win away from the WNBA title. Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas have faced it before, but not quite like this.

Catchings is at the top of her game, averaging 18.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in this postseason for the Indiana Fever. The Fever lead the WNBA Finals 2-1, so Catchings will go into Sunday's Game 4 against Minnesota trying to make it her last contest of this WNBA season.

Douglas, her teammate with the Fever since 2008, will be there to offer all the moral support possible. But it seems unlikely she'll be able to do much more. Douglas severely injured her left ankle early in the clinching game of the Eastern Conference finals on Oct. 11 and hasn't played since.

Indiana coach Lin Dunn has said the window for Douglas to get on court in this series cracks open just a little more each day, but clearly time is running short. Douglas wasn't at the Fever's workout or media availability Saturday.

"I text her every morning, and throughout the day we'll go back and forth," Catchings said. "I know it's a struggle when you're sitting on the sidelines and you want so bad to be out there. But it's life."

Catchings kind of laughed then, and added, "You know, we never do things easy, between her and I. I go out and tear my plantar fascia [last year during the playoffs], and now she's got her ankle that is black, blue, purple, orange, yellow -- a little of every color you can imagine. But I told her, 'You helped us get this far. This right here is a product of what we all started together.' "

Read the rest of the story by Mechelle Voepel.

Quotes from Tamika Catchings prior to Game 4 of the WNBA Finals

Tamika Catchings hasn't forgotten how close she came to clearing the biggest hurdle of her basketball career.

Catchings is a seven-time All-Star, five time defensive player of the year and the 2011 WNBA MVP. She also has won three Olympic gold medals, but is still seeking her first league championship.

"Don't let your highs get you too high and let your lows get you too low," she said Saturday. "I felt like we celebrated too much after Game 3 in 2009 and we came out in Game 4 and had an opportunity and we let it slip away."

"I think that, for us, it's going to be a 40-minute game," she said. "We're going to have to come out and play Fever basketball for 40 minutes. We talked about that as a team, just not getting content with where we're at. We're 40 minutes away, so we have to come out and stay focused and stay ready."

"We've talked about defense, we've talked about offense, making a few changes, but really I think the biggest thing is just intensity," Catchings said.

Indiana will be without reserve guard Jeanette Pohlen for the rest of the series. The Fever announced that she tore the ACL in her left knee during Game 2 in Minneapolis. Fever guard Katie Douglas has missed the whole series with a sprained left ankle.

Friday, October 19, 2012

WNBA Finals - Game 3 - Fever 76, Lynx 59

Shavonte Zellous scored a career-high 30 points to help the Indiana Fever beat the Minnesota Lynx 76-59 in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals.

Tamika Catchings added 17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocked shots in only 23 minutes of play.

Erlana Larkins had 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Fever, who took a 2-1 lead in the series and can clinch their first WNBA title at home Sunday night.

Rebekkah Brunson, who scored 12 points, was the only Minnesota player to reach double figures.

It had been a tense series. Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve was fined after a jacket-throwing tantrum in Game 2, actions that Fever coach Lin Dunn called “disrespectful.” Reeve spent most of the second half seated quietly with her hand on her chin.

The Fever’s lead of 70-33 with 1:58 left in the third quarter was the largest lead by any team in WNBA Finals history.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pat Summitt to attend fundraiser

Pat Summitt, longtime University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach, will be participating in a meet-and-greet dinner in the Cedar Hill area next week.

The event, “An Evening with Pat,” is an Alzheimer’s awareness event that will raise funds for the Pat Summitt Foundation. Summitt will not be a speaker at the event.

“She’ll be there to visit with her fans,” said Home Instead Senior Care owner Dennis Wade, who helped organize the event.

The event will take place Thursday, Oct. 25 at the Charles Hand farm at 1816 Ross Road from 5-7 p.m. Tickets are $25 per person. Ticket sales are limited to 250, Wade said

To purchase a ticket, contact Home Instead Senior Care at 931-648-7800 or 615-859-2380.

WNBA Finals - Game 2 - Lynx 83, Fever 71

These WNBA Finals are not for the feeble. Seimone Augustus and the Minnesota Lynx toughened up after a rare loss and a soft performance at home in the opener by wearing down the Indiana Fever.

Tamika Catchings led the way as usual with 27 points and eight rebounds, but the Fever's defense faded after a dominant start that forced the Lynx to miss 11 of their first 14 shots.

The series now moves to Indiana. Game 3 is on Friday, and Catchings predicted an even more physical match.

''It was pretty rough out there, and we're going to have to adapt to that,'' said Fever coach Lin Dunn, who called this the most physical game she's seen in 42 years. ''We'll go home and we'll be ready.''

Catchings and Parker earn First-Team All-WNBA honors

For the tenth time in 11 seasons, Tamika Catchings is part of the All-WNBA team.

It’s the seventh time she’s earned First-Team honors.

Catchings, the league’s MVP a year ago, averaged 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.1 steals while guiding the Indiana Fever to the WNBA Finals.

The Fever will face the Minnesota Lynx Wednesday night in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The team won the first game of best-of-five series.

All-WNBA First Team

Candace Parker, forward, Los Angeles Sparks
Tamika Catchings, forward, Indiana Fever
Tina Charles, center, Connecticut Sun
Cappie Pondexter, guard, New York Liberty
Seimone Augustus, guard, Minnesota Lynx

All-WNBA Second Team

Maya Moore, forward, Minnesota Lynx
Sophia Young, forward, San Antonio Silver Stars
Sylvia Fowles, center, Chicago Sky
Kristi Toliver, guard, Los Angeles Sparks
Lindsay Whalen, guard, Minnesota Lynx

Sunday, October 14, 2012

WNBA Finals - Game 1 - Fever 76, Lynx 70

Erlana Larkins had 16 points and 15 rebounds and the Indiana Fever stunned defending champion Minnesota with a 76-70 victory over the Lynx in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday night.

Tamika Catchings added 20 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals and 4 blocked shots for the Fever, who played without leading scorer Katie Douglas because of a severely sprained left ankle.

The Fever scored 15 points off of 17 Minnesota turnovers and outscored the Lynx 38-24 in the paint to become just the second visiting team this season to win at Target Center.

Briann January added 11 points and six assists and Erin Phillips scored 13 for Indiana.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fever beat Sun 87-71 to advance to WNBA Finals

Tamika Catchings scored 22 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, had 4 assists and 2 steals to lead the Indiana Fever into the WNBA Finals for the second time in four seasons with an 87-71 win over the Connecticut Sun on Thursday night.

Indiana will play at defending WNBA champion Minnesota, who swept Los Angeles in the Western Conference, in Game 1 of the finals on Sunday.

Jennings' suit vs. UT a nasty mess

So was she or wasn't she?

Was Pat Summitt forced out as the University of Tennessee women's basketball coach last spring, as she declared in a sworn affidavit filed this past week in U.S. District Court?

Or was her exit really "entirely my decision," as she said in a statement issued Friday that was intended to, according to the release, clear up "some misunderstandings" regarding the affidavit?

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall whenever Summitt's attorneys and UT's attorney's got together in those 48 hours from Wednesday to Friday.

Read more of Mark Wiedmer's column.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Summitt at Lady Vols' First Practice

Summitt made an appearance Sunday at the Lady Vols' first full-scale practice for new coach Holly Warlick. Although Summitt stepped down as the Lady Vols' coach in April after winning eight national titles in 38 years, she remains on staff as head coach emeritus.

Warlick said she expects to have Summitt at every practice.

Summitt's appearance gave Sunday's practice a familiar feel, but plenty of change surrounds this team. The Lady Vols are adopting a faster tempo in hopes their athleticism compensates for their inexperience. Tennessee doesn't return anyone who started an NCAA tournament game during its run to a regional final last season.

Pat Summitt statue unveiled during homecoming celebration in Martin

The University of Tennessee Martin on Saturday unveiled statues honoring former coach Nadine Gearin, retired women's athletic director Bettye Giles and former UT Martin player and UT Knoxville women's basketball coach Pat Summitt.

Speaking less than three minutes, Pat Summitt called her time at the University of Tennessee Martin the best thing that ever happened to her.

A hall of fame basketball coach and winner of eight NCAA basketball titles at the University of Tennessee, Summitt returned to her roots for the unveiling of statues of herself, former UTM coach Nadine Gearin and former women’s athletics director Bettye Giles on Saturday.

“What a great day,” Summitt said. “You’re here today because you love this university. You love Nadine (Gearin) and Bettye (Giles) and that’s what it’s about.”

Friday, October 05, 2012

Stepping down was 'very surprising, very hurtful'

University of Tennessee Lady Vols Head Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt says Athletics Director Dave Hart asked her to step down as head coach.

In a sworn affidavit related to a lawsuit filed against the university by former Lady Vol Media Director Debby Jennings, Summitt describes Hart's request as "very surprising to me and very hurtful."

"During this one-on-one meeting, Dave Hart indicated to me that I would not be coaching the Lady Vol Basketball Team in the next school year (2012-13)," Summitt said according to the affidavit filed Wednesday.

"This was very surprising to me and very hurtful as that was a decision I would have liked to have made on my own at the end of the season after consulting with my family, doctors, colleagues and friends and not to be told this by Mr. Hart. I felt this was wrong."

Thursday, October 04, 2012

New Summitt Memoir Titled "Sum It Up"

Pat Summitt's upcoming book, "Sum It Up," is being written by Washington Post sports writer Sally Jenkins.

Reports indicate the book will touch on her diagnosis last year of early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.

Hopefully it will also include her numerous miscarriages and divorce from Sevier County banker R.B. Summitt.

"Sum It Up" is due out in the spring of 2013.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Pat Summitt initially felt forced out by Tennessee

Pat Summitt said in an affidavit that she initially felt she was being forced to step down as the Lady Vols' basketball coach by Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart, who later told Summitt that she had misinterpreted his comments.

The signed affidavit was part of a lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee by former Lady Vols media director Debby Jennings. In it, Summitt said Hart told her at a March 14 meeting prior to the NCAA tournament that she would have to step down at the end of the season. Summitt had revealed before the season that she was battling early-onset dementia.

"This was very surprising to me and very hurtful, as that was a decision I would have liked to have made on my own at the end of the season after consulting with my doctors, colleagues and friends and not be told this by Mr. Hart," Summitt said in the affidavit. "I felt this was wrong."

Summitt went on to say in the affidavit that Hart later told her that she had misinterpreted what he had said. The affidavit is included in an amended complaint filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Jennings' lawsuit alleges that age and sex discrimination led to her forced retirement from the school where she had worked for 35 years.

Tennessee officials had no immediate response to the amended complaint. Summitt's son, Tyler Summitt, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press Wednesday that, "We are not going to comment right now on this matter."

Summitt, whose 1,098 career wins are the most in NCAA men's or women's basketball history, retired from coaching in April after a 38-year tenure at Tennessee that included eight national championships. She remains part of the staff as head coach emeritus. Holly Warlick, Summitt's longtime assistant, was chosen to replace her.

Summitt's future as the Lady Vols coach was a season-long topic of discussion and Tennessee officials repeatedly said they would support whatever decision she made. Warlick was very emotional after the Lady Vols' season-ending defeat in the NCAA tournament on March 26. After the loss, Warlick said Summitt hadn't discussed the situation with her, or anyone else.

At the April press conference announcing her retirement, Tyler Summitt said the move was his mother's decision.

Pat Summitt said that day: "It's never a good time, but you have to find the time that you think is the right time and that is now."

Since announcing her retirement, Summitt has not indicated that she is unhappy about how her coaching career ended. She has appeared at several fundraisers for her foundation and at various events, including NFL and WNBA games, and a NASCAR race. She also has an office not far from Warlick and on Monday made an appearance during the Today Show's visit to Tennessee's campus.

When Jennings' lawsuit was originally filed Sept. 27, university spokesperson Margie Nichols denied any allegation that Summitt had been forced out.

"It's absolutely not true," Nichols said last week. "It was Pat's idea to become the head coach emeritus. I think she made that really clear at her press conference earlier this year."

Jennings' suit also argued that Hart retaliated against Jennings when she protested that Summitt's early onset dementia protected her from losing her job under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Jennings said in the original complaint that Summitt informed her of Hart's intentions after that March meeting. Jennings indicated in the suit that she sent a written protest to Hart asking him to reconsider, and that he sent her an angry email in response.

The suit indicates Hart spoke with Jennings at a May 15 meeting and gave her less than three hours to choose whether to resign, retire or be fired. The suit charges that she lost her job either due to her gender and age or out of retaliation for her advocacy of gender-equity issues, opposition to discrimination against female student-athletes and opposition to sex, disability or age discrimination.

Jennings was 57 years old when she left her job as the university worked toward consolidating the men's and women's athletic departments.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Fever 75, Dream 64

B. January had 16 points, 5 assists and 2 steals.
E. Larkins had 16 points and 20 rebounds.
K. Douglas had 24 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and one steal.
Tamika Catchings had 16 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals.

The Fever win the Eastern Conference semifinals two games to one. Indiana will face No. 1 seed Connecticut in the conference finals.

Monday, October 01, 2012

'Today' show hosts take a 'shine' to Big Orange Country

Pat Summitt was a surprise guest for NBC's 'Today' show broadcast from atop 'The Hill' on the University of Tennessee's campus in Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. The show's fourth hour, hosted by Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb carried on despite the steady rainfall. Gifford chose to wear a Peyton Manning jersey for the show, while Kotb wore a Justin Hunter jersey.