John Adams: Pat Summitt's role a challenge in recruiting

John Adams
Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt watches her team against Baylor in the final round of the Des Moines regional of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA on Monday, March 26, 2012. 

(SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Saul Young, copyright © 2012

Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt watches her team against Baylor in the final round of the Des Moines regional of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA on Monday, March 26, 2012. (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

Glory Johnson on loss to Baylor in NCAA

DES MOINES, Iowa — A challenging season ended for the Tennessee women's basketball program Monday night. The challenges of recruiting loom even larger now.

"Instead of selling something, we're having to explain something," UT assistant coach Mickie DeMoss said. "I'll be honest with you. It's difficult.

"Do we have a great group of prospects in our basket right now? Absolutely, because they're still attracted to Tennessee. It's just a little bit of the uncertainty that's making them hesitant to commit."

The uncertainty began before the 2011-12 season when coach Pat Summitt announced she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, but that she would continue coaching.

Seven months later, her situation remains uncertain. While no one could expect her to be the coach beyond this season, there is reason to believe she will be involved with the program in some capacity.

The question remains: In what capacity?

It's a crucial question as UT approaches the April signing period in recruiting. The program will lose five seniors and is seeking immediate help from the junior college ranks to complement the team's returning players as well as the freshman recruits who signed in November.

Those junior college prospects as well as the high school recruits in the 2013 class want to know who their coach would be at UT. Right now, the Lady Vols can't tell them.

"We are as honest as we possibly can be," DeMoss said. "This is still Tennessee. Pat is still involved. Is she as involved as she used to be? No.

"But the determination to play at a high level, that never changes (at UT). If that's what you want and you want that atmosphere, then Tennessee is certainly a place for you to consider."

Considering a program is one thing. Committing to it is another.

Summitt often bridged that gap. As good of a coach as she has been in her 38-year career, she has been just as good of a recruiter.

"What separates the good recruiters from the great recruiters is being able to close the deal," DeMoss said. "I think that's one of the things that Pat is so good at, closing the deal. A lot of head coaches can't close it."

DeMoss can cite one example after another of how Summitt can close a deal. One involved former center Michelle Snow.

The Lady Vols were practicing when Snow called DeMoss on signing day and told her she had decided to sign with North Carolina. DeMoss relayed the message to Summitt, who blew her whistle and ordered her players to practice free throws. She then called Snow from courtside.

DeMoss relishes relating Summitt's side of the conversation, which she overheard.

"Sign the papers, now," Summitt ordered Snow. "I will call you back in 10 minutes. Do you understand me?"

DeMoss said Summitt then slammed down the phone and went back to coaching.

A few minutes later, Snow called back. She said she had signed with UT.

"I've spoken at some clinics and given that example," DeMoss said. "I always say, 'I wouldn't advise all coaches to do that.'

"Pat Summitt could get by with that."

Summitt's salesmanship might vary from one player to the next.

When UT was recruiting Kara Lawson, Lawson's father was insistent that she attend Duke. Summitt could empathize. Her father had been just as adamant about what school Summitt would attend. So she didn't argue the point.

"When Pat backed off, it made (Tennessee) more attractive to (Lawson)," DeMoss said.

Summitt can still sell Tennessee basketball. And that's just one more reason why UT needs to keep her involved in the program as long as she wants to be.

DeMoss said when she told Summitt how difficult it is to get players to commit at this point, Summitt said, "I don't want to do anything to hurt the program."

"I said, 'You're not,' " DeMoss said. " 'If it weren't for you, they may not even be attracted to us.

"But we've got to navigate (the health issue)."

If UT would promote associate head coach Holly Warlick to head coach, that would more than clear up the uncertainty surrounding the program. It also would enable the Lady Vols to use Summitt in another role.

As long as Summitt is a member of the department, she would be able to recruit over the phone. Don't underestimate the significance of that.

"Recruiting is the lifeblood of the program," DeMoss said. "To compete at the level Tennessee is used to competing at, you've got to get the great players."

Even if Summitt weren't the coach, she could still help the Lady Vols do that.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

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Comments » 30

voloffaith writes:

dastardly opposition coaches will play this to the hilt.....hopefullly parents and recruits will realize what is being done and evaluate aside from that as much as possible.

Caspian writes:

I suspect there will be an official announcement regarding Pat's status next year right after the tournament has concluded. Maybe earlier. Certainly before the signing deadline in April.

rockypop writes:

UT Lady Vols' recruiting this season will go down in history as a "Harvard Case Study" type of situation of which there is no precedent. In my lifetime (now some 68 years), I have never known the LVs to recruit junior college players. It may have happened, but I bet few have known about it if it did.

We fans hear all the time about how kids need to commit to a school rather than a coach, but we all know that's bravo sierra. Different coaches run different systems and almost always recruit players that fit their system. Without knowing for certain who the LV coach is going to be, how can any fan expect an elite recruit to consider UT?

I would predict that this class will almost assuredly consist mostly of "sleepers" with a few quality players willing to "take a chance." All you have to do is look at what happened at Indiana when Bob Knight was fired, or at UCLA when Wooden retired. It just confirms that there are a ton of elite players out there who want the discipline, tough love, and competitiveness that coaches like Knight, Wooden and Pat Summit bring to a program.

And, when those coaches no longer are relevant or gone, then the program will need to rediscover its identity. And, that begins with recruiting.

1volk-nowi-tall writes:

Of course UT recruited two JUCO's who were on the last back to back National Champs. Bobbitt and Agusta (not sure about spelling) were great JUCO guards who came to UT when we needed guards and we would probably not have won either National Championship without them. But I can remember no others in the 35-36 years I have been following these LV's. We could profit from a big center or even two during this April signing perion. Hope they find them.

utclassof67 writes:

in response to RockyMountainVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree about Adams. He certainly tried to (and succeeded in) affect the demise of Phil Fulmer. Not a very professional journalist...let's his personal feelings get in the way of objectivity.

vut5686#1405392 writes:

in response to RockyMountainVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well stated comment. Personally, I think Pat should decide on another role...as long as she is able and so wishes, and the next coach named sooner than later. HOWEVER, that should be on her terms with the support of the athletic department. It is a fair argument that a change sooner is perhaps better than later, but it will be far more damaging to this program...and the university....if it appears Pat is "pushed" out by the current AD...or, fan suggestions, led by hangers-on such as JA. The longer term issue is correct treatment of PAT, not some knee jerk reaction to today's sentiments.

wigmeister writes:

Poor journalism. Enough said.

BlueK9 writes:

in response to rockypop:

UT Lady Vols' recruiting this season will go down in history as a "Harvard Case Study" type of situation of which there is no precedent. In my lifetime (now some 68 years), I have never known the LVs to recruit junior college players. It may have happened, but I bet few have known about it if it did.

We fans hear all the time about how kids need to commit to a school rather than a coach, but we all know that's bravo sierra. Different coaches run different systems and almost always recruit players that fit their system. Without knowing for certain who the LV coach is going to be, how can any fan expect an elite recruit to consider UT?

I would predict that this class will almost assuredly consist mostly of "sleepers" with a few quality players willing to "take a chance." All you have to do is look at what happened at Indiana when Bob Knight was fired, or at UCLA when Wooden retired. It just confirms that there are a ton of elite players out there who want the discipline, tough love, and competitiveness that coaches like Knight, Wooden and Pat Summit bring to a program.

And, when those coaches no longer are relevant or gone, then the program will need to rediscover its identity. And, that begins with recruiting.

No jucos? Dude! Did you forget about Shannon Bobbitt? Or, are you just not that big of a fan? She was a juco player Pat recruited and was a big piece of our last two NCs. Did you sleep through that Candice Parker era?

underthehill writes:

Seems to me DeMoss is making a pitch for Warlick so the staff stays in place..would Warlick as head coach appeal to recruits as much as naming one of several other proven head coaches..such as Caldwell or Harper..I'm sure Pat would assist either of them same as she would Warlick...

FearlessFreep writes:

You all can attack the messenger all you want, but the message is clear -Pat can't coach this program anymore. Yes, it's sad, yes it hurts and yes, we'd all like her to go out on her terms, but it isn't going to happen this is the reality. Her status is hurting the program. And that's why she must step aside.

VolinTally writes:

in response to rockypop:

UT Lady Vols' recruiting this season will go down in history as a "Harvard Case Study" type of situation of which there is no precedent. In my lifetime (now some 68 years), I have never known the LVs to recruit junior college players. It may have happened, but I bet few have known about it if it did.

We fans hear all the time about how kids need to commit to a school rather than a coach, but we all know that's bravo sierra. Different coaches run different systems and almost always recruit players that fit their system. Without knowing for certain who the LV coach is going to be, how can any fan expect an elite recruit to consider UT?

I would predict that this class will almost assuredly consist mostly of "sleepers" with a few quality players willing to "take a chance." All you have to do is look at what happened at Indiana when Bob Knight was fired, or at UCLA when Wooden retired. It just confirms that there are a ton of elite players out there who want the discipline, tough love, and competitiveness that coaches like Knight, Wooden and Pat Summit bring to a program.

And, when those coaches no longer are relevant or gone, then the program will need to rediscover its identity. And, that begins with recruiting.

I don't mean to question your knowledge of Lady Vols basketball, but Tennessee won their last two national championships with Junior College players. Shannon Bobbitt and Alberta "Bird" Auguste were both from junior colleges. Bobbitt came from Trinity Valley Community College (TX) and Auguste came from Central Florida Community College. So, they've recruited junior college players with great results. I just wish it wasn't necessary, but why not give junior college players a chance to play four years?

orange_eVOLution writes:

I love Pat Summit FOREVER.

Steal Melissa McFerrin away from Memphis. She would smash it at Tennessee.

GO VOLS!!

VolinTally writes:

in response to FearlessFreep:

You all can attack the messenger all you want, but the message is clear -Pat can't coach this program anymore. Yes, it's sad, yes it hurts and yes, we'd all like her to go out on her terms, but it isn't going to happen this is the reality. Her status is hurting the program. And that's why she must step aside.

I hate to say it, but I agree. Quite honestly, I don't want to see her go, and got somewhat emotional last night thinking it might be her last game (at least on the sideline). But, realistically, one or two years of mediocre recruiting or loss of recruits (i.e. Davis) will put the program and the next coach at a severe disadvantage for years to come. And although some Lady Vols fans might not think so now, three or four years of underperforming teams might change your mind. Consider Gail Goestenkors taking over for Judy Conradt at Texas. She was supposed to return the program to its former glory, but she inherited a roster and a recruiting handicap that she couldn't overcome. I'm not sure where I stand because Pat Summit is a living legend. In fact, I say let her stay as long as she wants and just enjoy the ride. Basketball isn't everything.

volbanker writes:

in response to RockyMountainVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well said! John Adams' name should never be mentioned when journalism is being discussed. Pat will do what is best for the program at the proper time. Leave her alone and let her work through this!

voloffaith writes:

The JUCO route is only necessary to fill voids that are on current roster. Brewer left a post void and Cain would have been out of eligibility after this past season. So just like with Bobbitt and Auguste rare ,but needed.

underthehill writes:

Read the article and point out any reason to make such a childish statement..Adams is reporting news..Pat states she does not want to do anything to hurt the program..Pat can still be useful in recruiting..DeMoss told Pat there is a problem in recruiting due to not knowing who the next coach will be..DeMoss told her this ..NOT Adams..I don't always agree with Adams but I always try to understand what I'm reading ..I strongly believe Pat would be a great asset to remain part of the UT program if she can't coach and she obviously can't coach and was not the head coach this past year..

Pompey writes:

....the irony of highly successful coaches is that their careers often do not end well, think Paterno.....sad.

FearlessFreep writes:

I don't see how anyone can take a look at this season and honestly think Pat can still coach this team.

She is a shell of what she once was. This season was extremely difficult for all of those involved in the program, particularly the assistant coaches. The amount of energy expended physically and mentally took it's toll on everyone.

This program and those within can't go through another season like this one. It will wear them down and burn them out. Instead of using their energy towards building a winner, they're dealing with Pat's illness and compensating for that.

The coaches have already stated it's having an effect on recruiting. That will only continue.

In the irony of all ironies, the program that Pat built is now being hurt by her continued presence.

Tragic? Absolutely. Not fair? Ditto.

Sometimes things don't end as we'd like them to. This is one of those.

PUL4VOLS writes:

We are in a "deja vu all over again", to use Yogi Berra's words, regarding head coaches in UT athletics. It is so sad to come this way with Coach Summitt. No one likes to admit we will have to find another women's bb head coach. The when is the true question. No matter how soon it is announced, there will be repercussions because there is only one Pat Head Summitt and that is the way it is. Her legacy is secure and whatever occurs during this trying time will not deflect from that. We do not know how it will all come out but for those of us who love the Lady Vols, we will continue to do that, cherish all the glory we have enjoyed with Coach Summitt and move on into the next chapters as they are written. But it will be very, very hard. Prayers and best wishes to Coach Pat and to all involved with UT women's basketball in these next crucial days.

VFL70 writes:

The LVs are now a #2 seed program. Thats the best in the last 4 years. The talent level for the last 4 years has been good not great. Stanford and Uconn have made it 5 straight years to the FF. We are no longer in that elite group.
We will be below the level of this senior class next year and probably the year after.

HW is not the answer as the next HC. I believe Dave Hart sees and understands that. He won't let the grass grow under his feet.

voloffaith writes:

in response to VFL70:

The LVs are now a #2 seed program. Thats the best in the last 4 years. The talent level for the last 4 years has been good not great. Stanford and Uconn have made it 5 straight years to the FF. We are no longer in that elite group.
We will be below the level of this senior class next year and probably the year after.

HW is not the answer as the next HC. I believe Dave Hart sees and understands that. He won't let the grass grow under his feet.

I don't want to be in his shoes as a potential tough decision might be looming as he as to determine the proper course for Lady's basketball at UT.

BigBadVol writes:

Coach Summitt is simply the best and she will leave when the time is right. I trust her judgement, even with her disease, over any opinion from this board or some hack journalist.

kazoo writes:

We all love PS, but for her to stay on as coach at this point would be disastrous for the program. She wasn't really the coach this year, and to pretend to be the coach for another year frankly would be a pointless charade and further set back the program. It's a sad fact, to be sure, and PS probably recognizes this. The school very soon needs to start searching for a new, established coach. The longer it waits, the more the program is going to suffer. No one is trying to rush PS out the door--but in this case, given her health issue, the handwriting is clearly on the wall.

RoyaltyVol writes:

This is actually a good article by JA and very relevent. I believe within the next month Pat will step down but I'm not sure about promoting Holly, but for sure it needs to be a former Lady Vol or current assistant. Also I agree with JA that Pat could still be a very important part of the program. But Pat I have some advice for you, retire and be very limited in your role for the Lady Vols and spend some quality time with your family, life is too short!

buzz29 writes:

Folks, get a grip on your emotions. It is time for Pat to retire. No one is blatantly trying to shove her out the door. No one ever deserves to put themselves above the welfare of an organization. It's absurd for anyone to think a person deserves such a right, to include possibly damaging the organization. All you need to do is consider what Paterno did to Penn State. Sure, Sandusky's sick and disgusting actions harmed the university, but Paterno's mishandling of the situation added more damage to the school. Put it all under the heading of Paterno staying too long. He was simply out of touch with reality. He should have been retired long before Sandusky's crime was first reported. And stop exaggerating the power of the press. John somehow contributed to the demise of Fulmer. Please.

SCVFL writes:

in response to RockyMountainVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

All I can say is "AMEN"

SummittsCourt writes:

There appears to be two basic sides to Pat Summitt's status as coach of the Lady Vols.

1. Let Pat decide and go out on her own terms: Those that believe this seem satisfied with 8 national championships and all of the other accolades and accomplishments she has brought the University of Tennessee. Not to mention what she has done for women's basketball period. They seem more concerned about coach Summitt and seem to appreciate her for her loyalty and hard work. We all want one more national title, but that is not the most important thing right now.

2. Pat should step down now and get another coach in: Seems like a good argument. Who wants to see this program go down hill and use her condition against this beloved program in recruiting. However, this view is more about wins and losses than people. They want more national titles as soon as possible. That seems to be the driving force behind this opinion.

Either way, whatever happens I believe Pat will do what is right for the University, the players and coaches and herself. Whether that is in a reduced role or retires.

martinvol34 writes:

in response to lakindofguy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Go back to LA.

rockypop writes:

in response to VolinTally:

I don't mean to question your knowledge of Lady Vols basketball, but Tennessee won their last two national championships with Junior College players. Shannon Bobbitt and Alberta "Bird" Auguste were both from junior colleges. Bobbitt came from Trinity Valley Community College (TX) and Auguste came from Central Florida Community College. So, they've recruited junior college players with great results. I just wish it wasn't necessary, but why not give junior college players a chance to play four years?

Well, first of all, my knowledge of just about everything is questioned all the time! All I can say in my defense is that I did include a caveat ...."It may have happened...." Well, obviously they have recruited JUCO players, so I kinda stand corrected. But, has it been more than two?

Volinflan writes:

Except, as long as CPS is in the background HW will NOT be the head coach! But you're right they are not going to clean house. Really what would be fair to DeMoss, Lockwood and Warlick after all these years. For that matter any good coach in their right minds wouldn't touch this situation with a ten foot pole (probably even any bad coaches). It'd be like Bartow trying to replace Wooden. Popping around on a hot griddle for a couple of years before getting completely fried.

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