Fleser: DeMoss into great detail

Dan Fleser

Holly Warlick always thought that time would do a reserve pivot and someday Mickie DeMoss would return to Tennessee.

Her inkling was advanced by a flurry of activity last spring that created a women's basketball coaching opening. The power of suggestion was the clincher.

"I think we kind of dropped hints to Mickie,'' Warlick said. "The minute she said she was interested, I knew it was a done deal."

The band's getting back together.

Sure looks that way when DeMoss strolls into Pratt Pavilion with Warlick and coach Pat Summitt for preseason workouts. DeMoss, who was an assistant at Tennessee from 1985-2003, looks and sounds the same. The staff rapport seems as genuine as ever.

Even the new surroundings haven't diminished the familiarity for DeMoss, who left UT to become the coach at Kentucky.

"The core philosophies of the Tennessee program are still the same,'' she said. "It's really good to be back in the environment because of the discipline that has been established and the tradition that has been established."

The new digs still rest on the same foundation. Thank goodness, DeMoss says.

What's good for Tennessee, though, is that DeMoss isn't the same coach. Four seasons as Kentucky's coach and then three seasons as an assistant at Texas have given her a different perspective on the game and a greater appreciation for its finer points.

"You've had to break things down to just minute details,'' she said, "and convince your kids that you've got to do it right every time to even have a chance to win."

Most of DeMoss' coaching evolution took place at Kentucky, where she transformed the Wildcats from an 11-win team her first season to 22-9 with an NCAA tournament victory two seasons later. Even as she was upgrading Kentucky's talent, DeMoss' ongoing challenge was scrounging for points with teams that were prone to offensive lapses. A monumental 66-63 upset of Tennessee on Jan. 26, 2006 - Kentucky's first victory over UT in 20 years - wasn't achieved without overcoming a second-half stretch of one basket in 11 possessions.

"Offensively I had to just rack my brains and do everything I could to squeeze, you know, an extra four points out of my teams," DeMoss said. "What can I do to get four extra points?"

She brainstormed with then-Kentucky men's coach Tubby Smith. She emphasized the high-low game to take advantage of 6-foot-6 center Sarah Elliott. She'd run offensive sets with counter moves to free up shooters.

She was always thinking ahead. Where are the baskets coming from? Points, we need points.

She thought the same way at Texas. Regardless of being a seat removed from the head coach's chair, DeMoss had a list of the Longhorns' offensive plays with her on the bench to help coach Gail Goestenkors with plotting strategy.

"I've broaden my horizons maybe a little bit,'' she said. "If there's a need for some (new ideas) I do think I can draw on that experience."

Lady Vols sophomore Taber Spani has experienced enough in the preseason to conclude that DeMoss has "amazing basketball expertise."

Amid her expanded wealth of basketball knowledge, DeMoss' best asset might be her belief in an old idea, one seemingly as timeless as her presence.

DeMoss estimated that during her first UT tour of duty, the Lady Vols had as much or more talent than the opposition "eight out of 10 times." She likely underestimated the advantage, which still exists.

On the other hand, she can't overstate the importance of utilizing the advantage. She should echo the same advice from her Kentucky and Texas days. Her voice ought to resonate on the importance of doing things right every time.

"I can see from her experiences that she just knows we can't waste everything that we have,'' Spani said. "We are extremely gifted as a team, but we have to max out on that."

Dan Fleser covers Tennessee Lady Vols basketball. He may be reached at fleserd@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 17

PINK_CHAMPAGNE writes:

An offensive boost is just what the lady vols need. All that talent, it needs to be utilized! Defense is good, but I think DeMoss can whip up some offense. DeMoss, I for one welcome the new sets you have. You sure have the pieces to work with. Tennessee has a stellar group of young ladies, very talented. Just need some offense to get that talent to be displayed on the court. Counting on you DeMoss!

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

Putting the damn ball in the basket would really, really help. The LV's have had a weakness for a long, long time: they flat-out can't shoot jump shots.

We've bantered back on forth on the "why's":
-too much focus on D and rebounding
-players scared of missing shots and being take out
-recruiting the best athletes and not the best basketball players

I honestly do no know the why...my suspicion is that it's a lack of attention to shooting as opposed to defense.

So yeah, we've had the best talent 8 out of 10 times, but we don't win 8 out of 10 championships. When we get bit is when the team we are facing CAN shoot the ball.

PINK_CHAMPAGNE writes:

Lol Timed_Vol! Putting the ball in the basket would be nice. I agree to a certain point! These are the one's I think can shoot! Spani has a pretty good jumper and three ball. Spani also is good under the basket. I saw her a few times last year post up and catch and work her way to the basket for a quick two. Stricklen can shoot! Stricklen just freezes in the big games, in my opinion. Well all of them do, except Glory Johnson, that girl is a warrior. But she is not a good shooter, but I love her intensity and her toughness. Angie of course, can shoot lights out.

Let's see, out of the five starters last year, we had Manning, Stricklen, Brewer, Cain, and Angie. That lineup only gave you two pure shooters, Angie and Stricklen. That is what made them too easy to defend. Not enough shooters on the floor to open up the middle. Manning is a die hard player, she is tough, but she is more defensive minded than offensive. She was the kink in the offense last year. A good shooter should have been in that spot, or someone who could create her own shot. I would have went with Kamiko in place of Manning, instead of subbing her for Strickland. That would have at least been one more player the defense had to defend, or give up the points. Which would have made life much easier for them. That would have kept defenders from running Angie all over the court.

Another thing I wanted to see from Stricklen is to post her defender. She is and will be at times bigger than her defender. Easy two! She needs to drive more to the basket. She has the height and a good enough handle to do just that, and score or either get herself to the line. Angie says she is going to get to the basket more this year. I hope she does. She has to add another element to her game, and not settle for being a jump shooter. She needs to confuse the defense, they expect three, so put it on the floor and pull up for the short jumper.

I hope to see more screens being used, more driving to the basket, more passes in to the post. I still stand by my statement from an earlier post, I think Tennessee puts a five on the floor that is just as good, if not better, than any team in the country. It is up to the coaching staff to put it together, and make it work. It is all about the lineups used. Last year it was the Angie and Stricklen show. This year, all five need to be the show!

PINK_CHAMPAGNE writes:

in response to Timed_vol:

Putting the damn ball in the basket would really, really help. The LV's have had a weakness for a long, long time: they flat-out can't shoot jump shots.

We've bantered back on forth on the "why's":
-too much focus on D and rebounding
-players scared of missing shots and being take out
-recruiting the best athletes and not the best basketball players

I honestly do no know the why...my suspicion is that it's a lack of attention to shooting as opposed to defense.

So yeah, we've had the best talent 8 out of 10 times, but we don't win 8 out of 10 championships. When we get bit is when the team we are facing CAN shoot the ball.

Oh and I agree about the players being afraid to make a mistake for fear of being taken out, or missing a shot. As a coach, I can live with them missing a good shot. It is when they take bad or rushed shots, that make you livid. You have to know as a coach, that every shot that goes up is not going in. We have to allow the players some sort of freedom and comfort on the court, or they are going to make mistakes. I use Kamiko as an example. In the South Carolina game, if it was not for her, that game was a loss. She came in and flat out played, and they had no answer for her. But in that game, she played like she had nothing to lose. In the sec tournament, when Kentucky had us down, Kamiko came in and provided that boost needed to get the lady vols back on top. And she played free and without pressure. But then when they put pressure on her to start, she crumbled. I even noticed that after those two break out games, she was a little hesitant to shoot. I get confused, and can only speculate, because I don't know what goes on in the practices, and the locker rooms, and on the bench at games. I just know that it is a tale of two sides.

Another thing I think may have played a part is the lack of offense from the coaching staff. The offense used was not good enough. It got them by the games they were supposed to win, and sometimes barely, but that must change to be a championship team. This year, I hope Angie is not the main source for our offense. Allow the others the chance to prove their worth. Design a set for Strick, run some high low with Kelly and Brewer, do something other than run down the court and look to pass the ball to Angie. That used to just burn me up! I would be like, Angie is not the only player on the court, and she would be smothered by the defense.

freestyle writes:

I can't wait to see this team play this year. Pat struggled with point guard issues last year. I wonder which player will step up and take the responibility. I have seen Simmons play. I can see her in the starting lineup. I could be wrong. I would rather see Williams playing pg instead of Stricklen. This will free up Stricklen to shoot more.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

Pink,
Manning and Kamiko are PERFECT examples of what seems to be going on (from fan's view);

Manning figured her way to the floor was defense and rebounding. I can guarantee you she can shoot, but that isn't what she's looking to do in games, and it shows.

Kamiko has not figured that out, so she shot the ball....then got taken out in her 'bad' games.

Spani needs to shoot; she's a liability on D, and IMHO should play the '4' because she is physical and smart, and can push around some. She is a decent handle, too.

Glory at 3 or 5, depending on sets.

Strick: a pansy at times. As you said, post up. Hook shots, step-throughs, and turnarounds aren't that hard for an athletic girl like her.

freestyle writes:

I can't wait to see the lady vols play this year. Pat struggled with point guard issues last year. I hope she find someone to take on the responibility. Simmons has great potential. I can see her in the starting lineup. I could be wrong

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

just a general thought...thinking back on Candace, Sue Bird, Diana T, and Chamique....

those ladies did NOT need every bit of every game broken down on film to score. They had that spark of creativity.

Too often, in both the men's and women's games, it gets too regimented. Especially a problem for young girls, because they will try their hardest to do what is asked of them. They WON'T deviate from a pattern, even if it means going off a cliff.

What I'm saying is that if the LV's want more offense, they MUST figure out a way to get the girls comfortable about taking risks.

I'll give you a personal example: my kid will be a D1 player. In the first half of her HS career and AAU career, she KNEW she'd be taken out if she missed more than one shot, or made any mistake on the court. Hard to be effective that way.

freestyle writes:

I didn't know Briyona Canty,ranked number 6, was considering coming to Tenn.

KCHS63 writes:

Some great comments.........NOT! Cain and Brewer can't shoot? Opposing coaches shudder when either one of those two have the ball in or near the paint! Candace, DT, and Chamique can create in any system? How many players in Division I history do you think approach the talent of those three? It's a team game. Is Pat the greatest offensive mind in the game? Nope. That's why the emphasis on defense and why, when push comes to shove, we beat the LSUs of the world when it counts 44-43. Who needs the best offensive mind in the game when you've got the greatest coach in the game? Not to worry this year, though. One of the greatest offensive minds in the game is on the Lady Vol bench this season. Welcome home Mickie!

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to KCHS63:

Some great comments.........NOT! Cain and Brewer can't shoot? Opposing coaches shudder when either one of those two have the ball in or near the paint! Candace, DT, and Chamique can create in any system? How many players in Division I history do you think approach the talent of those three? It's a team game. Is Pat the greatest offensive mind in the game? Nope. That's why the emphasis on defense and why, when push comes to shove, we beat the LSUs of the world when it counts 44-43. Who needs the best offensive mind in the game when you've got the greatest coach in the game? Not to worry this year, though. One of the greatest offensive minds in the game is on the Lady Vol bench this season. Welcome home Mickie!

Most of us who discuss LV's amongst ourselves do so civilly.

What's your deal? You have an opinion, like anyone else. No better or worse.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to KCHS63:

Some great comments.........NOT! Cain and Brewer can't shoot? Opposing coaches shudder when either one of those two have the ball in or near the paint! Candace, DT, and Chamique can create in any system? How many players in Division I history do you think approach the talent of those three? It's a team game. Is Pat the greatest offensive mind in the game? Nope. That's why the emphasis on defense and why, when push comes to shove, we beat the LSUs of the world when it counts 44-43. Who needs the best offensive mind in the game when you've got the greatest coach in the game? Not to worry this year, though. One of the greatest offensive minds in the game is on the Lady Vol bench this season. Welcome home Mickie!

as for Cain shooting, I believe Pink may have been alluding to her outside shot. I won't put words in Pink's mouth.

Inside, Kelley and Brewer do a fine job, which is what is asked to them.

But, yes, poor shooting has cost us some titles over the years. Poor shooting and great D do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Want to discuss this civilly?? All for it. Want to pretend you are the board 'big fish'? Won't get you much happiness.

PINK_CHAMPAGNE writes:

KCHS63 I was not referring to Kelly and Brewer when I was speaking about the shooting. I think Kelly and Brewer are fine players, and display that when given a chance. However, even Brewer and Cain can use a little more work around the basket. Cain sometimes rushes her shots and they come off awkward, and then she takes her time and dazzle you with a beautiful basket, same with Brewer. I was basically speaking on the perimeter players for the lady vols, since they are the ones that take the most jumpers.

I don't think the lady vols offense is horrible, I just think it needs a boost. I disagree with some posters on one thing. Acting as if Defense wins games and championships. To an extent, it does, just like rebounding. But if you can't put points on the board, you can't win games. Defense is not going to always hinder a team, especially good teams. So in order to keep up, you have be able to score with them, if you can't stop them.

Go back and take a look at the Baylor, Stanford, and Georgia game. Defense was ok, but not being able to score enough is what cost them those games. Against Baylor, they could not stop Britney Griner, and some of the other girls for Baylor heated up that night. But the defense failed, in a sense, and the offense went M.I.A., when it counted. Offense is still needed, as well as defense, and rebounding. At the end of the night, the team with the most points on the board wins the game.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

Pink,
even more painful is to go back in our history to some NC or near-NC games when we had on offense.

What people don't understand about Pat: IMHO, she basically invented the women's college game. Sure, there where other great coahces, but year-in and year-out, Pat pushed the envelope. It was never so much her X's and O's, it was her wish to keep getting better and better female athletes involved.

SoddyVol writes:

I Look for improvement this year in the ladies playing like they are a good fit. They will have good offensive coaching and should be more comfortable on the court. It should be a great year for Lady Vols.

PINK_CHAMPAGNE writes:

Soddy, this group of young women has been playing together for three years now, so the chemistry should be there. I know the two new recruits will have to get used to the system, but they seem like smart young women, and will probably catch on quick.

Time, no doubt, Pat built it ground up, along with some other great women coaches. I respect everything Pat stands for. She will always be one of my favorite women coaches. With that said, she will hit or miss sometimes, we have to expect that as fans, and accept it. I see her building another dynasty, and soon, these past two years will be a distant memory.

One thing is for sure, there are plenty of good teams out there this year. This year will be no cakewalk for the eventual champion. The teams I think will be tough this year are as follows: Tennessee, Xavier, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Stanford, Uconn, Baylor, and a few others. It will be an interesting year.

ps11824 writes:

Well, here we go. At last, the preseason begins. Hey PINK, Timed, what say we remind the nation WHO the Lady Vols are?

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