Tennessee's hospitality has its limitations for UCLA

Caldwell's Bruins are scrappy enough to cause trouble

Nikki Caldwell's dress code comes with a color code but without compromise.

The UCLA women's basketball coach made it clear to family and friends coming to the Bruins' game against No. 6 Tennessee (4-0) today at Thompson-Boling Arena (TV: SportSouth, 3 p.m.): UCLA blue and gold is in, Tennessee orange and white is not.

"You can always wear blue and gold, you can find blue and gold,'' said Caldwell, a former Lady Vol player who spent six seasons as a UT assistant coach. "It may not have UCLA on it but find some blue and gold."

Sounds as if Caldwell's mother, Jean, must pass inspection before entering the arena.

"If my mom comes in here with a UT Lady Vol logo, I'm sending her home,'' Caldwell said.

The warning was issued in good-natured fashion, much like how Caldwell was greeted Friday by Lady Vols associate head coach Holly Warlick. They ride motorcyles together in the offseason to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research.

In conjunction with Thanksgiving weekend, there's a homecoming dimension to today's game. Caldwell's coaching staff features former Lady Vol Tasha Butts and former UT male practice player Tony Perotti. Butts' ticket request list includes former Tennessee teammates Shanna Zolman, Dominique Redding and Shyra Ely.

Unlike her boss, Butts isn't taking a hard line concerning their attire. She said that Redding told her: "OK, I'll have on something blue for you, but it won't be visible."

All the camaraderie enhances the basketball business at hand.

"Whenever you come back and play your former coach, your alma mater, I think it has such an intense ring to it,'' Caldwell said. "It's the student and the teacher.

The teacher, UT coach Pat Summitt, thought enough of the student to mention her moments after Wednesday night's 69-52 victory at Middle Tennessee State by saying, "I don't want Nikki Caldwell to come in and beat the coach because that's what she wants to do."

Summitt undoubtedly will share some light-hearted moments with her protegee and her family this weekend but she won't budge on her competitive sentiment because she knows Caldwell won't either.

"Go try to beat them, like you try to beat everyone else,'' Summitt said. "It's not like we're trying to do them any favors. Trying to beat them. She knows that. They're trying to beat us."

Caldwell, who is in her second season at UCLA, approached Summitt about resuming the series, which will take a one-year break next year before Tennessee returns to Los Angeles the following season.

In this meeting, the Bruins (4-1) will be big on grit and hustle. Warlick, who prepared the scouting report, saw enough familiarity to tell the Lady Vols: "It's like you're playing each other. You're playing Tennessee (today).''

Any meeting affords Caldwell the opportunity to become the first former UT player to coach a team to victory against Summitt and the Lady Vols.

"I think (Summitt) always has that sense of reality that things can happen,'' Caldwell said. "On any given day, a team can come in and steal a win on the road against her.

"That's a reality for her."

So is Summitt's awareness of the student and her capabilities.

"I think that she knows the type of coach Nikki is from working with her for six years,'' Butts said. "I think that she knows Nikki will have our team as prepared as she possibly can coming in here."

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Comments » 5

CTOWNICON writes:

Sorry Nikki and Tasha but I will have on orange! It has to make Pat proud to see her former lady vols doing so well in their coaching positions. They learned from the best!

LadyVolsEighTimes writes:

Caldwell, Butts, Redding, Zolman, and Ely,,,those five ladies would make one helluva team!!

ps11824 writes:

LadyVolsEighTimes writes:
Caldwell, Butts, Redding, Zolman, and Ely,,,those five ladies would make one helluva team!!]]

Team of coaches, maybe...They wouldn't stand a 5-on-5 chance against Dean, Daedra, Holly, Cait and Pat ( : that's a pretty funny mental picture

LadyVolFanForever writes:

98, that would be a funny mental picture but someone would surely get hurt with all that desire to WIN on the court !!!! Let's just keep it mentally.

Go Lady Vols !!!

ps11824 writes:

True that. The pic that came to my mind was the 'cheerleader singing Rocky Top'' which was a hoot, but not attractive.

As far as a coaching competition, Nikki's team would not matchup to Pat's. The only way they (Bruins) get a W today would be because some Lady Vol(s) did not bring their best effort to the court.

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