Occasionally, the face of a team belongs to its coach…and this is one famous coach with one famous face.
“I like the stare, it’s awesome,” says Justin Reading, a Tennessee fan who made the four-hour drive from Wisconsin.
"The first time my daughter got ("The Summitt Stare") in practice, she called me that night," said Carvel Massengale, father of Tennessee guard, Ariel Massengale,"and she said 'Oh Dad, it's real!"
It’s been real for 38 years. Few can recall women’s basketball before she started coaching at Tennessee in 1974.
“She really solidified the role of women’s basketball and got it recognized,” said Becky Forth of Davenport.
“Let’s see, we had swimming and bowling. That was it," said Lynn Birney of Omaha. "So she’s just brought basketball and along with basketball, other sports, up to new heights.”
“(My daughter) loves Pat," says Karen Stricklen, mother of Lady Vols senior, Shekinnah. "She’s like a mother to her when I’m not there.”
I didn’t have to stop the players’ parents to talk about her, they stopped ME.
“With her pedigree and what she’s done over the 30-plus years that she’s been in the game, you just have no problem with turning your daughter over to her, that’s for sure,” said Massengale.
If you can’t tell that Summitt is on their minds, you can see her on their shirts. She’s battling early-onset dementia—a condition that’s a huge concern but yet another connection to her fans.
“Actually, my mother deals with that so it really hits close to home,” said Janet Reading.
Summitt’s condition brings an elephant into the arena…
“You know, I think it could be,” said Birney.
“I’m hoping it’s not, but I have read that it may be,” said Gene Hill, a Baylor fan from Austin, TX.
“I really do think that with the coaches and the staff she has around her, they’ll take her as far into it as they can,” Reading said.
What’s next isn’t clear, but all that’s come before, is more than any coach anywhere, has ever accomplished.