Nikki Caldwell introduced herself as the new women's basketball coach at UCLA Thursday with a timely assist from guard Tierra Henderson.
The former Tennessee assistant coach was describing her coaching philosophy during a Thursday afternoon press conference in Los Angeles when Henderson's cell phone went off.
Caldwell paused for a moment and then continued with "and we won't be having cell phones going off in meetings."
While Caldwell takes charge of her new brood, Tennessee will be trying to find her replacement, someone capable of filling multiple roles.
Both parties have their work to do.
"Tennessee's loss,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said, "is UCLA's gain."
Caldwell received a five-year, $1.4 million deal as her base salary. The negotiations pre-empted Caldwell's return flight to Knoxville after interviewing on Wednesday.
UCLA officials had been talking Wednesday night with Colorado coach Kathy McConnell-Miller, the other final candidate to fill the opening left by Kathy Olivier's resignation. No formal offer apparently was made to McConnell-Miller, who withdrew from consideration.
Caldwell's introduction was sandwiched between UCLA men's basketball players Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook announcing their NBA intentions, giving her a larger media audience.
"Nikki has been a winner as a student-athlete and an assistant coach and is the perfect person to make our program nationally competitive on a regular basis,'' UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said.
Caldwell said that she spoke with Summitt on the ride over to campus before the announcement.
"She was very excited because she knew what my ultimate goal was,'' Caldwell said. "At the same time, she also told me she was going to miss me and I said, 'We can't go there right now. I'm getting ready to go to a press conference right now. I can't mess up my make-up by getting all sentimental right now.' "
The 35-year-old Caldwell, who's from Oak Ridge, was a Tennessee player 1990-94. She began her coaching career as a UT graduate assistant during the 1998-99 season. After three seasons on the coaching staff at Virginia, Caldwell returned to UT, serving as an assistant for six seasons.
"Nikki Caldwell is truly one of the rising stars in women's college basketball,'' Summitt said. "She is the total package ... a teacher, a coach and a recruiter. She is a woman of great character and has a powerful gift of mentoring young women."
Summitt recalled hearing Larry Parker, the father of Lady Vols star Candace Parker, telling his daughter: "You won't find a better role model than Nikki Caldwell."
Summitt won't be looking solely for a recruiter to replace Caldwell, who was the Lady Vols recruiting coordinator. Specialization is a luxury Summitt can't afford.
"I'm looking for the total package,'' Summitt said. "With all of these freshmen coming in, we're talking basketball 101. I need somebody really good on the floor."
Summitt wouldn't discuss candidates. Nor would she set a hiring timetable. She did rule out former assistant Mickie DeMoss. Summitt spoke with DeMoss at the Women's Final Four and said that DeMoss is committed to remaining an assistant at Texas.
There are former Lady Vols either in the coaching ranks or with coaching experience who approximate Caldwell's profile. They include Daedra Charles Furlow, Michelle Marciniak, Nikki McCray, Bridgette Gordon, Semeka Randall and Carla McGhee.
Former Lady Vol Kyra Elzy normally would be considered a viable candidate as well. But her recent move from Kansas to the coaching staff at Kentucky calls into question her availability.
Notebook: Caldwell said that she intends to keep her commitment to the "Cruisin' for a Cause" motorcycle trip to Key West next month. . . . Caldwell also said she wants to keep Tennessee on UCLA's schedule.