Yet Lady Vols assistant coach Mickie DeMoss felt compelled this season to remind her: "Your voice is the one that counts the most."
"I know that sometimes I pick and choose,'' Summitt said. "How much can you hear Pat Summitt's voice and not tune it out eventually?"
She essentially answered that question after a recent practice in saying, "They have brought out the worst in me."
"They" are the 2010-11 Lady Vols (18-2, 6-0 SEC), who visit Auburn (12-7, 5-1) today for a matinee at the new Auburn Arena (TV: CSS, 3 p.m.).
The Lady Vols are ranked No. 5 nationally and have been dominant at times, as reflected by an average victory margin of 25.4 points. But they also are inconsistent, as evidenced by the 24 turnovers they scattered about Thursday night's 71-56 victory at South Carolina. Their fickle tendencies continue to suggest iffy leadership and suspect competitiveness.
Rather than wonder whether they're listening, Summitt has determined that she will be heard - over and over again.
If she's not snarling "you've never won anything of significance" she's planting the seeds of regret by telling her players: "You could leave here without a (national) championship. That would be a shame because we have a lot of talent."
Summitt's coaching staff has reached a choir-like harmony with their own voices as well. Their hope is that the players, most of whom are veterans now, eventually will drown them out with their own say in how they play.
"You can't want something more for me than I want it for myself,'' UT assistant Dean Lockwood said. "No matter how bad you want it, at some point I've got to take the mantle."
This process has been playing out for two-plus seasons for a team that's dominated by a seven-player junior class. Most arrived right after Tennessee had won consecutive national championships, which Summitt thinks might have distorted their perspective.
"It's not easy; it's hard,'' she said. "I've been doing this now for 37 years and yes, yes, eight championships are one thing. But I can think of all the ones that got away."
Associate head coach Holly Warlick believes that the staff made the evolution more difficult by coaching a young team as if it was more experienced.
"We kept adding on layers,'' Warlick said. "They weren't ready for layers to be added. We didn't take care of the basics."
After the Lady Vols lost 11 games and bombed out in the first round of the NCAA tournament, they bounced back last season, going 32-3 and sweeping the SEC regular-season and tournament championships. A 77-62 loss to Baylor in the NCAA Sweet 16 round, though, sent them back to the grindstone.
So far, this season's most obvious upgrade has been freshman Meighan Simmons, who's become the starting point guard and the team's leading scorer. Perhaps not so obvious has been the return of DeMoss, who had been away for seven seasons, including four as the head coach at Kentucky.
Her experience and attention to detail provided immediate credibility with the players.
"We'll put Xs on the floor (for a drill) a lot of times and she'll be like 'If you're not at the X, we're doing it again.' " senior guard Angie Bjorklund said. "She strives for perfection. … She's definitely Pat's assistant because Pat strives for perfection, too. And she's right there with her."
DeMoss, who had been on the UT staff previously for 18 years, sized up this team as not sufficiently chastened by last season's NCAA exit. As the season unfolded, she sought to make practice more of a daily inquisition of the players' effort. She and Warlick, who are as close as sisters, had a heated discussion about this matter around Christmas break.
"She said some things that I was doing and I went: You know what, I've got to change,'' Warlick said. "The conversation wasn't just about the team. It was about myself as well. I took it. Part of being a good coach is being willing to learn and accept things you're doing and you need to change."
DeMoss made it clear that she wasn't singling out Warlick. The former UT associate head coach, who learned her coaching philosophy from Summitt, didn't think the staff was consistent enough with their demands and holding players accountable.
"This is a time for us to maybe look at what we're doing as assistant coaches and up the bar for us as well,'' DeMoss said.
So now the players run laps if they miss layups, commit consecutive turnovers, don't have their hands up on defense, don't talk, etc. Last week, the practice players even had to run a lap.
"We may not be the best offensive team in the world,'' Warlick said. "But we're going to be one of the best in shape."
The intent is to make practices consistently harder than games. Junior forward Alicia Manning has noticed a difference.
"Last year, we might have some easy practices, we might have some really hard practices,'' she said. "But now this year, it's kind of like it's steady. Every practice we're going to come in and have to work hard."
Warlick has noticed a difference, too. During the video session following an uneven 68-56 victory over Vanderbilt last Saturday, the players were the ones bemoaning their performance.
"We should've been better,'' Warlick said. "They said it. We didn't.''
Their voices were being heard.