Dean Lockwood shares a Pat Summitt story involving a raccoon
He entertained not only the Lady Vols head coach but a Big Orange Tipoff Club luncheon gathering at Calhoun's on the River with a fresh Summitt story.
In the aftermath of Summitt shoving a raccoon off her deck railing in 2008, Lockwood encountered someone he described as "a rough looking guy" while stopped at a gas station late one evening. The man recognized Lockwood. He mentioned Summitt and handed over his name and phone number.
"That's my kind of woman right there,'' said Lockwood, referring to the one-sided conversation that ensued. "Any woman that's going to square off and tangle with a raccoon. That's my kind of woman. I want to meet her."
"I thought discretion the better part of valor,'' said Lockwood as the room filled with laughter. "and I've never said anything up until now."
Since Summitt announced in August that she has been diagnosed with early onset dementia Alzheimer's type, her staff has assumed greater responsibilities. Their revised working relationship will be apparent when No. 6 Tennessee (10-3, 1-0 SEC) plays No. 16 Georgia (12-2, 1-0) tonight (TV: CSS, 7 p.m.) in a conference showdown at Thompson-Boling Arena. Their rapport also extends to public gatherings like Wednesday's.
Summitt took the lead in speaking to the group. She took questions, agonized over losses and made other observations. She assessed her senior-dominated team's ambitions in typical fashion by saying, "We're hoping we can stay on a mission and do what we need to do and cut down the nets. Because it's about time we did that don't you all think?"
Lockwood and associate head coach Holly Warlick were there, sitting to the left of Summitt and playing supporting roles much like Warlick and assistant Mickie DeMoss did at SEC Basketball Media Day in October in Birmingham, Ala. Warlick sat with Summitt on the dais at the SEC event. Together, they handled questions as if it was a rehearsed routine.
Wednesday's format was more impromptu but no less effective. In this case, Lockwood's humor grabbed center stage. Along with the Summitt story, he got off a good line about Summitt's son, Tyler, who achieved a score of 31 on his ACT college entrance exam. Tyler, a redshirt sophomore on the UT men's team, intends to pursue a career in coaching.
"I told Tyler, 31 ACTs don't coach,'' Lockwood said. "They build things. They run businesses. They don't coach."
Lockwood also expanded upon Summitt's assessment of the Lady Vols by saying, "This is their shot. They know it's their shot. This is their one last chance to really get to a Final Four.
"They know that. We don't dwell on it. We don't think about it every day. But that's something that's very much in the forefront of our thinking."
Spani Update: Tennessee's Taber Spani still is listed as day to day as she rests her left knee. Warlick does not expect Spani to play tonight.
At UT's practice Wednesday, Warlick indicated that the junior guard isn't dealing with a new problem related to the knee. Spani suffered a sprain and a bone bruise during a Nov. 20 game at Virginia but kept playing until Christmas break.
"It wasn't anything brought to our attention that she did something to it,'' Warlick said. "I think now rest is very important to her."