Saturday, March 20, 2010
It's March Madness Time! For a moment I will take a break from politics and highlight my favorite basketball team and the best coach the NCAA has ever seen--male or female. I'm talking, of course, of the Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team and their icon of a coach, Pat Summitt.
She is currently the head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team. She has been coaching since 1974, all with the Lady Vols, winning 8 national championships. She is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, men or women in any division, and one of only three collegiate coaches with 1,000 victories (Gene Bess of Three Rivers Community College and Harry Statham of McKendree University being the other two).
Read more here.
Patt Summitt produced players like Chamique Holdsclaw, the dunking Candace Parker, and Tamika Catchings. I would have loved to play for Coach Summitt, and when I began to coach, I modeled my coaching style after her. She is tough as nails, pushing her players to give more than they think they can. Players grow up wanting to play for her--and they want to win for her.
I haven't coached for a few years now, resigning after several years. My coaching experience ended on a high: it followed two consecutive conference championships and an undefeated regular season in my last year. My final season we were ranked #3 in New York State among Class B teams. Our team would never have been able to do what we did without wonderful assistant coaches like Chris Romano, my good friend and the youth pastor of my church, and Kristin Fonda. I may have been the head coach, but I learned so much from them. And, of course, without the players, who left it all out on the court, nothing would have been accomplished at all. I miss those days sometimes.
Players still express disappointment that I resigned before they had a chance to play for me. I still hear young ladies say, "I wish you were my coach," and parents say, "We wanted her to play for you." I am completely honored, but I always laugh and say, "You say that now, but you may not like me if I was your coach! I'm not easy to play for." Many will say, "Yeah, I know." I like those moments. That must be a teeny-weeny fraction of what it's like to want to play for Coach Summitt. You know she's going to wear you out. You know she's going to get in your face. But you trust her passion for the game. You embrace her vision. And you tap into a strength within yourself you never knew you had. It's not so much about basketball as it is about life. I always found inspiration in Coach Summitt.
After a disappointing season last year and exiting for the first time in the first round (never before had they lost before the Sweet 16), I'm hoping Tennessee can take it all the way this year. Everyone has undefeated UCONN taking it all, but we know the rivalry that exists between these two teams. So go, Lady Vols! Take down Geno Auriemma and the Lady Huskies!
Tennessee is playing Austin Peay as I write this, and they're kicking some butt, having started the game on a 15-0 run and never looking back. Let's finish the job; after all, you're TENNESSEE!
UPDATE: Tennessee defeated Austin Peay 75-42. And what does Coach Summitt say afterwards? "I sure hope we play better Monday night." Now, that's my kind of coach!