"Pat XO" co-director talks about film
Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern Winters couldn’t go everywhere to film footage for their documentary on Pat Summitt.
Their cameras, on the other hand, could.
So the film’s co-directors conceived an ambitious plan.
“Let’s get cameras, send them out and see what we get,” Lax said.
The return on their approach was rich with stories, people and emotions revolving around the Tennessee women’s basketball coaching legend, who stepped down after the 2011-12 season. Summitt announced the previous August that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
The final product, entitled “Pat XO”, was shown Wednesday night at Regal Riviera cinema. It will be aired on ESPN at 8 p.m. July 9 as part of the “Nine for IX” documentary series. All nine films are directed by women and involve women’s sports.
Summitt gave her film a thumbs up, saying: “I’m real excited about it.”
She walked the orange carpet beforehand on Wednesday and granted an interview, expressing satisfaction with her new role as Lady Vols head coach emeritus.
“It was different obviously, when I decided I was going to step down and let Holly take care of it,” Summitt said. “I’m very, very content in my new role. Obviously I go to practice with them and all, but I think Holly is doing a great job.”
Lady Vols assistant coach talks about "Pat XO"
Lax and Stern Winters weren’t far behind Summitt on the carpet. They said the usual focus for their films is more narrow. After attending the 2012 Final Four in Denver, however, they realized that Summitt required a wider angle.
“In watching that Final Four, it kind of came to us that everyone who’s involved in basketball and women’s college sports somehow, in some way was connected to Pat on a very intimate, deep level,” Lax said.
North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell, a former UT graduate assistant, has remained connected enough to leave her basketball camp early and fly in from Chapel Hill, N.C.
“It is the first time I haven’t given out the awards at one of my camps in 27 years, but it’s that important, that special,” Hatchell said. “I’ll do anything for Pat.”
Lax said producer Robin Roberts was vital to the project, given her connection to Summitt. The co-directors’ filming strategy — which had Summitt’s close acquaintances wielding some of those cameras — likely helped the cause as well.
Lax said the “XO” portion of the title refers to basketball’s Xs and Os plus those that represent hugs and kisses.
Both are referenced in the interviews with family members, former players and assistant coaches, colleagues and college teammates. A recurring scene involves Summitt and her son, Tyler, sitting at the coffee table at Summitt’s home, leafing through a scrapbook and reminiscing. In one, Summitt sheds tears as she recounts for Tyler her reasons for stepping down as head coach.
John Dahl, the executive producer for the “Nine for IX” series, said the risks involved with the filming were rewarded with the co-directors’ presentation.
“Lisa and Nancy made it work in a way that the moods vary,” Dahl said. “You get laughter, tears, all kinds of moments.”