Pat Summitt: Inconsistent play has 'brought out the worst in me'

Tennessee coaches from left, Micky DeMoss, Pat Summitt, Holly Warlick, and Dean Lockwood watch their team compete against Lamar.

Tennessee coaches from left, Micky DeMoss, Pat Summitt, Holly Warlick, and Dean Lockwood watch their team compete against Lamar.

OPELIKA, Ala. - Pat Summitt's voice really carries. Her thunder has rolled across four decades of coaching women's basketball at Tennessee.

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.

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Comments » 24

dwa7#337691 writes:

early predict:

Lady Vols 77
A Tigerettes 65

Caspian writes:

"Bring out the worst"? Why is it the worst? Depending on the situation, you become whatever you need to be. It's neither best nor worst. It's just what is.

SoddyVol writes:

This team has been really tough for the coaches. The new ladies coming in after the 2008 Championship had almost zero leadership on the floor. Angie knows BB and helps some but they needed a strong ball handler with a loud mouth from the start. Had they had that, no doubt Pat would sleep much better now. Its very difficult to get rid of bad habits. Simmons is the opposite of those girls but needs leadership because of her youth.

DroopyDrawers writes:

Williams is the answer.

SoddyVol writes:

in response to DroopyDrawers:

Williams is the answer.

She COULD be because of her abilities. However, sorry to say she is one of the problems I was talking about in a previous post.

DutchOrangeVolsOrange writes:

Look, the last thing I would wanna do in this world is PO coach Summit. LOL

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

where I disagree...'we have the talent'.

Pardon, but to me it makes more sense for this to team to out-physical and out-hustle the other team, because we do NOT have the talent.

If we approach the games that way, then we kick butt. I'll be honest: we have more talent than 90-95% of the other teams. Sadly, it is the 5% remaining who stand in our way.

Blue collar.

richvol writes:

This article is hitting the nail right on the head...pardon the pun. Some of the problem has been the coaching all along. They have accepted less than the girls can give in practice and it certainly shows in their play. Passing,shooting layups,carelessness with the ball and just general lack of effort at times plagues this team in spite of their abilities.

Thank goodness we got Mickie back because the precision that once was a signature of Pat's teams has been missing a long time...since Mickie left years ago. This team needs to start over with the basics at practice and proceed from there.

xvolx writes:

We don't have to be convinced that they didn't take care of the basics. Cain, Johnson, Strickland and Bj can't hit a layup. The best passer on the team is Simmons (a frosh) and they all try to dribble right in front of a defender, like the defender can't see the ball. All the coaching in the world can't help a team that doesn't put in the desire and work. Williams is not a team player. It's all about me with her. When Cains not in the game, these girls can play man to man switch with anyone, but they keep trying to fight thru screens and get beat on the dribble to the goal. They are tall and long and don't need to guard so close. Some of this teams problems is coaching basics. Funny, that a lot of posters saw this since last year and the coaches are just now seeing it. Well as long as they see; maybe we have a chance.

Fall_Creek_Vols writes:

Mickie DeMoss is a most welcome re-addition to our staff. I hope she stays forever. She's not afraid to call it like it is...no matter who you are. Done properly, it's a very valuable asset and one that some places don't have. Yes, it CAN get heated at times. That can be part of the process.

Still...I sense that this is a team that may be on its way to peaking at the right time.

The University of Tennessee Lady Volunteer basketball program is still the class of the game. Great coaches have ensured that. It's good to see that even after all they've accomplished, the coaches are still looking at ALL aspects of the program to see if there's any way to improve.

Anyone who has spent even a small amount of time around Pat Summitt isn't surprised.

richvol writes:

I love Pat Summitt but she seems to have been below her own standards in a couple of areas for the past few years. She has recruited too many slow players that can't run and jump with the elite player of today and the offensive coaching has been ineffective for sometime.

Pat has some good athletes now but there have been too many busts over the past four years. Not having the right point guard and a center that can run up and down the floor has really hurt this team at tournament time.

The offense has been so dependant on Borklund the past three years it's sad. She has her moments but she can't carry a team consistently. As the article says our fundamentals have collapsed...we miss so many layups it's ridiculous. If we made 80% of the layups that we miss in a game we wouldn't even be discussing this and if we could eliminate the lazy passes our turnovers would go away.

Pat needs to find a great offensive teacher of the game and pay them whatever it takes to get them. A Dawn Staley type.

GoVols025 writes:

KNS, would you make sure this thread gets forwarded to Pat Summitt? It's chock full of ideas, suggestions, and coaching innovations that I am sure she is not aware of, even with her 37 years of coaching experience.

tonyvick#213307 writes:

in response to GoVols025:

KNS, would you make sure this thread gets forwarded to Pat Summitt? It's chock full of ideas, suggestions, and coaching innovations that I am sure she is not aware of, even with her 37 years of coaching experience.

...and her being the best womens basketball coach in the history of the game.

GoVols025 writes:

in response to tonyvick#213307:

...and her being the best womens basketball coach in the history of the game.

... that too!

kazoo writes:

in response to SoddyVol:

This team has been really tough for the coaches. The new ladies coming in after the 2008 Championship had almost zero leadership on the floor. Angie knows BB and helps some but they needed a strong ball handler with a loud mouth from the start. Had they had that, no doubt Pat would sleep much better now. Its very difficult to get rid of bad habits. Simmons is the opposite of those girls but needs leadership because of her youth.

Not having a really good, strong point guard has been a problem for a decade. Bobbit may have been the best--and she was tiny and a junior-college transfer. Summitt simply has not recruited well enough. This team reflects this very issue: considerable talent, but weak PG play.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

in response to GoVols025:

KNS, would you make sure this thread gets forwarded to Pat Summitt? It's chock full of ideas, suggestions, and coaching innovations that I am sure she is not aware of, even with her 37 years of coaching experience.

I really don't think anyone is implying that they know more about coaching basketball than Pat Summitt. That still doesn't stop people from coming on here and having fun with posting their oppinions and discussing the opinions of others. If knowing more than the coach about a specific sport were the prerequisite for posting an opinion, there probably would be no posts on this site.

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

Sorry to tell ya, but Pat could care less what people say on these boards, nor does she have the TIME to read them. Been trying to tell ya that she is very frustrated with this team and is doing all that she can to make sure they play at the level that they are capable of playing.(sorry for the long sentence).

They WILL get better, and be ready for the Big Dance. Go Lady Vols....Beat Auburn!

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

in response to civilianvol_formerly_marinevol:

I really don't think anyone is implying that they know more about coaching basketball than Pat Summitt. That still doesn't stop people from coming on here and having fun with posting their oppinions and discussing the opinions of others. If knowing more than the coach about a specific sport were the prerequisite for posting an opinion, there probably would be no posts on this site.

I agree marinevol. This is a platform for us to state our opinions. Apparently we were posting at the same time and I didn't see your post, until my post was finally finished...so people, please take no offense to my post. I was just trying to say that she doesn't have the time to read these, but please continue to comment.

itsgolden writes:

in response to DroopyDrawers:

Williams is the answer.

Totally agree!!!

itsgolden writes:

in response to tonyvick#213307:

...and her being the best womens basketball coach in the history of the game.

the best women's basketball coach in the history of the game or the best players??? with teams like the one she has now (i.e., one without a star player), she seems like any other ordinary coach. by the time pat reloads with a championship winning roster, geno would have too (ugh more uconn championships after baylor wins a couple). telling these young ladies that they could leave ut without a national championship isn't going to make them better. it didn't make past teams any better.

GoVols025 writes:

in response to UTVOLSRROCKN:

I agree marinevol. This is a platform for us to state our opinions. Apparently we were posting at the same time and I didn't see your post, until my post was finally finished...so people, please take no offense to my post. I was just trying to say that she doesn't have the time to read these, but please continue to comment.

A lot of you dudes takes this posting stuff far, far, far too seriously. Or maybe I'm just getting too old for this playground.

Be well ya'all.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to GoVols025:

KNS, would you make sure this thread gets forwarded to Pat Summitt? It's chock full of ideas, suggestions, and coaching innovations that I am sure she is not aware of, even with her 37 years of coaching experience.

None of us would presume to know ALL Pat has learned in her long, illustrious career, but even Pat would say that she hasn't learned all there IS to know about basketball. There are people on this board who have been as interested in basketball as any part-timers CAN be, and they can look at what goes on with the team with fresh eyes. They can pick and choose what things stand out to them without the daily responsibility for all the countless details inherent in running a program like the Lady Vols.

Of course, not every little thing picked out by posters for special attention or emphasis is valid, but that is not to say there aren't any that ARE. In any case, this is an opinion board. We offer opinions. I heard a great coach say that any coach who listens too much to the opinions of fans will soon find him/herself among them.

On the other hand, any coach who starts to think that they have NOTHING to learn from outside observers may find themselves being fans just as quickly.
Pat is known, as are other coaches, for seeking outside perspectives on their programs. She has access to some of the keenest minds in the game. No doubt some of those observers see things some people on this board have seen. No doubt also that many things posters are concerned about are also concerns of the staff.

Just because posters on here don't have the stature to be among those Pat might choose to consult doesn't mean their insights couldn't be just as valid. In any case, none but the most deluded imagine that their opinions, as stated on HERE, have the slightest impact on what ACTUALLY happens in the program.

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

in response to GoVols025:

KNS, would you make sure this thread gets forwarded to Pat Summitt? It's chock full of ideas, suggestions, and coaching innovations that I am sure she is not aware of, even with her 37 years of coaching experience.

don't like it don't read it.

jesus, unless you live in iowa, no on is putting a gun to your head.

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

oh concerning iowa...they are in the process of passing laws to
-outlaw gays and lesbians
-require citizens to carry handguns

or something like that.

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