I didn't want to write about this, because it's a delicate subject. If you've read my stuff, you know about bulls in china shops.Yet somehow I got strong-armed into doing it by my friend Deb. She can be persuasive at times. The nature of the beast, I suppose. Anyway, a promise is a promise, so onward.
Pat Summitt, the renowned head coach of the University of Tennessee's Lady Vols basketball team, was recently diagnosed by no less an authority than the Mayo Clinic, as having entered an early stage of dementia. Summit herself confirmed this at a recent press conference. She also adamantly stated there would be no "pity party", and vowed to not only fight on, but to continue coaching. Given her nature, this should come as no surprise. If there's one thing she is, besides being a great basketball coach -- it's feisty.
As far as being a coach, her stats are off the charts. 1071 wins over an ongoing career that's spanned 38 years. Simple math will tell you that equals an average of 28 wins per year. Most college basketball coaches never get 28 wins in ANY year. She's now 59 years old (sorry about the age thing ladies, but stats don't lie), and she somehow had the wherewithal to become a head coach at the age of 22. That's unheard of.
At that, it's probably a fair statement to say Summitt is one of those people that have polarized others. Some have put her on a pedestal, while others don't think so highly of her. Women probably favor her a lot more than men, and the people of Tennessee no doubt have a vastly different opinion than those in other states with competing basketball teams. I've heard her mentioned as being anything from a goddess to a lipless lesbo. Chalk it up to human nature and fans.
There are those that will point at her accomplishments and say she's the best college basketball coach of all time, men's or women's, and they would have a compelling argument. Then again, there are others who might counter by saying that for many years, there were only a handful of lady collegiate basketball teams that could even compete at a high level, so she racked up hundreds of "cupcake" wins. They would also have a good point.
Not so many years ago, small school teams like Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion ruled the roost. Then Summitt came along, swept them aside, and built a dynasty in Knoxville, including 8 NCAA National Championships. Impressive stuff.
But times, they keep a-changing. Once Summitt was queen of the rockytop, pun intended, she didn't like being pushed aside by the new kid on the block, especially a man, and more especially the man being that smart-mouthed pipsqueak fromn UConn -- one Geno Auriemma, who all of a sudden was not only winning national championships, but out-recruiting her for the best high school players.
Summitt claimed that Auriemma had cheated in one way or the other, so even though the whole country wanted to see the game(s), she refused to put UConn on UT's regular season schedule. It came across to most people as a combination of sour grapes and the fear of getting a beatdown on national TV. Besides, something's fundamentally wrong with that anyway. No coach, from preps to pros, should have any say-so as to who their team will play. This should be left in the hands of others to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest, personal or otherwise. This is not to say Coach Summitt didn't run a squeaky clean program, but you've seen the results, at various schools in various sports, of giving a college head coach too much authority. It's a recipe for disaster. But I digress.
Nowadays, the times of dynasties are likely over. Too many schools have jumped in where they seemingly had little interest before. They've spent millions on top notch arenas and facilities, hired whip-smart coaches and staffs, and have an army of recruiters beating the bushes for stars in the making. Serious competition is coming like dandelions in the spring. You never know where they're going to pop up. Who amongst you would have foreseen Texas A&M ever being crowned national champs just a couple years ago?
Regardless, Coach Summitt's place in the Hall of Fame of college athletics is already a given. I hope she hangs around and wins another 1071. Somehow I think she's just about ornery enough to pull it off.
But just for old times sake, what I REALLY want to see is her and Geno in the octagon. The pay-per-view price doesn't matter. I'll sell my Harley, take out a home equity loan, whatever it takes, to tune it in.
I'm thinking Pat would wear him down and eventually make Geno tap-out, via some sort of submission hold.
So OK, Deb. Promise made and promise kept. Please feel free to comment. I don't know how you talk me into these things.
Maybe it's because I think so highly of your girls.