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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pat Summitt- My Perspective

I recognized that Pat Summitt was an effective coach. But like many people, I had seen those angry faces that tv caught of her on the sideline. As a result I was never a big Pat Summitt fan. She just seemed too angry, too in your face.

No one is a bigger Tennessee fan or Pat Summitt fan than Brenna Saline. Brenna has more orange stuff than anyone should legally possess. Brenna was upset that we never went to Tennessee camp when she was in high school. I always gave her a hard time about the Lady Vols, and some of it was probably how I really felt.

Jason Shay got a job coaching men's basketball at Tennessee, and instead of going to a fall clinic, I decided I wanted to go down and watch them practice. Jeff Houston, Jaque Gohlinghorst, and I went down to Knoxville one fall to watch the Vols and Lady Vols practice. The first day our timing did not workout to watch the women, just the men. The next day there was a problem and some doubt if we would be able to watch the women practice. That evening, Jason made a couple calls to the women assistants and it didn't sound like it would work out.

All of that kind of confirmed my thinking about Coach Summitt. It sounded to me like she was being kind of aloof and not going to allow some little high school coaches from Illinois into see them practice. The next day it turned out that it was going to work out for us to go to practice. Jason took us to the practice facility and introduced us to the assistants, and we talked. Then Coach Summitt arrived. When she came in, I am not sure if I was in awe or just scared. I had seen her yell on the sideline, I didn't want that to happen to me.

She came over and introduced herself to Jeff, Jaque, and myself. It was weird that she felt a need to introduce herself, we knew who she was. But the way she did that, it kind of made you feel like she thought she was on your level.

I have been to dozens of college campuses for college practices. Sometimes the college coach comes over and talks a little, sometimes they don't. Our morning at Tennessee practice was different than any of my experiences.

After her introductions with us and some small talk, she went off with the assistants and walked around and talked to some players individually as they warmed up. Then she came over to where we were sitting and sat down next to us and started talking. You would have thought we were either big time recruits or that we were famous college coaches. She would point out to us an error a player was making in a drill, the assistants would correct it or Coach Summitt would yell something to the player. But after addressing the problem on the floor, she would turn and start talking with us again.

She spent 3/4 of practice sitting with us, coaching her team and talking with us. Within 10 minutes of talking with her, my fear or awe was gone, she made you feel totally comfortable. It was easy to ask her questions. At one point Jeff Houston asked her how new SEC rules having to do with class attendance would effect them. She replied, "If any of our players miss one class, they are going to sit out of a game." Surprise- she already had that taken care of.

My impression of Pat Summitt was totally wrong. I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of college coaches, none have seemed more down to earth, none of been friendlier, none have been more giving of their time and ideas.

Several summers later, we took our team to Tennessee for team camp. It was no different. We have taken teams to team camps since 1988. No coach was more accessible to coaches and players than Pat Summitt was that first summer. I am confident everyone of our players and everyone of our coaches had the opportunity to shake hands, talk to her, and have their picture taken with her.

I was wrong about Pat Summitt. I figured she was successful because of her intensity. After meeting her, I am convinced Pat Summitt is successful for many reasons but I think the biggest reason for her success is her tremendous ability to relate to people.

Brenna, you were right. I am a Pat Summitt fan.


  1. Great stuff, Evan. Like most everyone, I was saddened by the news from Coach Summitt last night. I wish the best for her and her family.

  2. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. It was a real shock to hear the news yesterday.