Scene and heard: Chasing 1,000

J. Paul Sanderson, 64, has been going to University of Tennessee athletic contests since his first football game in 1959.

On Thursday night, he wheeled into the stands at Thompson-Boling Arena in an electric wheelchair decked out with UT stickers and an orange-and-white scarf wrapped around his neck.

Like the rest of the crowd, he was hoping to see Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt earn her 1,000th career win. He did. The Lady Vols defeated Georgia, 73-43.

"It's like when the president comes to town, and Pat Summitt is the president of women's basketball," he said.

Sanderson, who said he attends church with Summitt, was there when the celebrated coach won her 800th, 880th and 900th games.

But he was also watching the Lady Vols long before they were the stuff of legend, having cheered them on at three different on-campus venues over the past few decades: the Alumni Gym, Stokely Athletic Center and now Thompson-Boling. He said that he's watched women's basketball evolve over time and credited its status as a sport able to draw legions of fans to Summit.

"No one else has impacted the game like her," he said.

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Three generations of women decked out in matching Lady Vols windbreakers strolled into the arena full of hopes for a win.

Diane Yonke, 67; daughter Deb Zacharias, 41, and granddaughter, Sierra Morris, 11, wanted to be together if Summitt reached the 1,000-win milestone. Yonke and Zacharias said they have had season tickets for 15 years.

"We're going to make history," Yonke predicted.

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Ashley Freeburg, 23, and friend Jennifer Childs, 13, wanted the whole world to know that they're Lady Vols fans.

They came into the arena with their hair spray-painted orange, "T" logos stenciled on their faces and bearing a sign that was so large that security officers wouldn't let them carry it inside.

They didn't plan on letting anyone spoil their, fun and they made it clear the outcome of Thursday's game - the fifth they've attended together - wasn't as important as showing respect to Summitt.

"Win or lose, we stand behind Pat Summitt," Childs said.

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The musicians who help rally the team and its fans were also enthusiastic, pleased to be playing their supporting roles in the on-court drama.

"I feel like I'm a part of Big Orange history as far as playing in the band in this game," said Nicole Tallon, 20, a saxophone major in the pep band.

Michael Slater, 22, a saxophone performance major, said he also used to play for the pep band but now attends the games strictly for fun.

"I come to a lot of Lady Vols games," he said. "With this one, I can say I saw history."

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With the score at 45-29 in the second half, UT freshman Elyse Gillen, 19, cheered wildly from her vantage point in the student section as the Lady Vols kept racking up points.

As it became clear that UT was heading to a victory, Gillen said: "More top players are going to want to keep coming here. We're looking at a good four years."

As the one minute warning sounded, the crowd stood and began to chant "One Thousand" in honor of Summitt's accomplishments.

"Pat's going to continue to win and she's the reason I came to this game," said Elaine Boltz, 59, a high school basketball coach from Columbus, Ohio, who once had one of her best players recruited by Summitt.

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Ron Graves, an arena usher who's spent 10 years working Lady Vols games, said from his post on the upper deck that he was keenly aware of the historic nature of Thursday's game.

"There's not a bad seat in the house in this game," he said.

- Drew Streip

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Comments » 14

bmaples writes:

I was there!! If you were there, sign in below.

Bruce from Louisville (and son Ben)

BigRMan writes:

Just wondering what Coach Summitt would have done if the bucket dumped on her had contained real Gatorade instead of confetti? I guess those team members were too afraid to find out (LOL)

ladivolfan writes:

Yep, and the fact that the players felt comfortable enough to actually dump it on her head says a lot about the player's personal relationship with Pat. I saw that Alicia was one of the two that dumped it. But I couldn't determine for sure who the other girl was. Was it Alex?

LadyVolFanForever writes:

It was history in the making AND our best game of the year ! It was great to be there and be a part of it.

These kids finally pulled together. I think Coach Summitt was more proud of that fact than the milestone. She and her staff have definetely been challenged this season. The Lady Vols showed me something tonight and I am so proud of them for making it a huge night for OUR COACH !

ps11824 writes:

This is the most awesome thing. I can't think of an accolade that would aptly express the grandeur of this occasion.

I have to laugh as the guys on espn's first take discuss Pat's situation. They seem to need to compare her to the coaches of the men's league. They fumble around with inadequate phrases like, "Pat should think about moving out of her comfort zone and try coaching an sec men's team like Georgia . . . bla-bla.

I compare Skip Bayless to memphistom. Skip is a Vandy fan and it hurts him to pay homage to anything UT. He fumbles mercilessly when he tries to be sensible. Skip should get a cooking show and stick a carrot in his piehole.

kyvol98 writes:

His name is Skip Clueless.

ps11824 writes:

I do believe Pat would have been pleased to skip the whole celebration to get on to the locker room and express her approval to the players of the way they played last night. She hid it well, but she did not like the confetti down her clothing. Who could tell us what she said when she finally went back for the mike moments after she had finished her acceptance speech?

I saw very few lapses in their effort. The stat line speaks to that. The assist to turnover ratio was more in line with what a top-ranked team would strive for. I thought Angie's assists were indicative of her desire to be a key player during minutes where she could not find her shot. Imagine the score if she had been on with her treys.

Bass did a marvelous job on Houts and her big 3-pointer was huge and timely. I have not been able to watch many minutes of many games so I have not seen Bri's ability to get down in a d-stance and be successful at containing a good point guard. If we had played that kind of defense on Auburn's Boddie, and Oklahoma's point guard, we would have 1002 wins today. For that matter, all our losses have come on the backs of poor defense which always overrides poor shooting.

I can't get over the touchy fouls that were called. I wish they would let the ladies play their game. Keeping the game under control does not mean they must call incidental contact. I really did not understand the technical called on Stricklen either. When Pat was asked about it in the post game show, she eluded to a possible double T, or no call at all, maybe a warning would have been sufficient.

I'll be happy when Brewer gets into her game with some consistency, she can do some decent board work. I want to give props to Cain. She is definitely a force to be reckoned with. When she gets healthy and conditioned for big minutes, look out!

Glory came up big with her performance last night. She played with better control than I was anticipating, and I'm excited about her potential over the coming years.

It was a wonderful game and a most gracious response by our awesome coach.

martic#220796 writes:

As most fans there I wanted to see that 1K win. I was so disappointed they were selling those 1K win posters for $10. What happened to the days when they would have shown the fans some love and given those in attendance a poster? I've noticed this year that the fan give aways have been less this year than last year, and way less than in previous years. Even the tshirts, balls and cows they throw into the crowd are far less. I love my LV's but it seems the more successful they become, the cheaper they become.

BigRMan writes:

in response to martic#220796:

As most fans there I wanted to see that 1K win. I was so disappointed they were selling those 1K win posters for $10. What happened to the days when they would have shown the fans some love and given those in attendance a poster? I've noticed this year that the fan give aways have been less this year than last year, and way less than in previous years. Even the tshirts, balls and cows they throw into the crowd are far less. I love my LV's but it seems the more successful they become, the cheaper they become.

Don't take this personnally or be critical of the program since we are in an economic downturn which could have them doing some belt-tightening (cost Cutting)

adimatteo#261830 writes:

Taking nothing away from Coach Summitt, this too is why wer'e what we are at UT, and what makes it a very special place, ..so many families who have been apart of the UT family for so many years, and many generations.
That they keep coming in the cold for games, at night etc, it is amzing.
Its one of those things many students might not appreciate until they are older, but the tradition and families who are out there and who love UT is amazing, and it is acombimnation of that, our staff, our players, etc... It is the Big Orange family, that you never stop being apart of...

pgipson writes:

http://tnjn.com/2009/feb/06/experienc...

these kids at TNJN are UT students and they post some real great stuff

xvolx writes:

in response to Mike_From_Connecticut:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

you have a lot of class. too bad it's all low.

ps11824 writes:

martic, ink and printing costs are not cheep. That is a great poster. A lot of hours went in to that design and compilation. You can't get a poster at WalMart for nothing, you know. Do you complain about the cost of a mass-produced chunck of bark with the words 'SEE ROCK CITY' or a souvenir from your Sunday afternoon drive to Gatlinburg?

Come on, this money goes back into the program. It is what it is. We pay because we want. In the case of the Lady Vols, we want so we pay. Look at our rewards. You could stay home and watch on TV if you want. You could clip newspaper articles and make your own version of the poster if you want. Or, you can complain if you want..

scoreboardreview writes:

Celebrate with Coach Pat!
Go to www.ioffer.com/i/95981735
GO LADY VOLS!!

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