Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Mike Siroky's Final SEC Report: Boom! Goes the Conference

By Mike Siroky

The Southeastern Conference, the best league in women’s basketball during the regular season will end with several teams in the Top 15. But not one in the Final Four.

The Elite Eight had one conference team.

But that team, Texas A&M, was then eradicated in the Regional final by UConn, which has beaten everybody else as well.

Included, in what turned out to be an Atlantic Coast Conference rout, were the two No. 1 seeds eliminated by that league alone.

Don’t forget, A&M’s lone league win in the Round of 16 was only because they drew the usual cardboard cutout that is DePaul. Another conference, the AAC, also eliminated two SEC teams.

So, for the final report on this dismal season, here’s where they all folded into dust. May as well start with the one win.

Right before the real important games are played in the Final Four, here’s the (literal) breakdown of the league, plus three conference next-season notes:

•No. 3 Texas A&M, 84 No. 7 DePaul 65: This was the only advancement to the Elite Eight, also known as the Regional finals.

It used to be defeating the best team in the Big East was also a big deal. But with defections from still nationally-ranked Notre Dame, UConn, West Virginia and Rutgers, among others, DePaul is just a shadow representative of that once-mighty conference.

A&M (27-8) earned that mighty challenge of top-seeded UConn in the Lincoln Regional final. Good luck with that. A&M has never beaten UConn.

The 14-point halftime edge was enough to convince A&M to keep on keeping on. A close second half did not matter and A&M won that as well.

Steady sophomore Courtney Walker may be playing herself onto a junior national team. She is definitely building to All-American status. She is the ninth Aggie to score at least 20 in an NCAA tournament.

“The competition goes up,” Walker said, “your play has to go up.”

The Aggies guard continues to lead the program, with 24 in this one. Everyone played and all five starters hit double-figures – including 11 from senior center Karla Gilbert -- so at least the Huskies could not just shut down one player and hope for the best. It is the first time all year A&M had all starters score at least 10.

Even more impressive is the Aggies shot 88 percent from the field once they established a 22-17 lead.

“I’m just trying to find open shots when a lot of teams try to double the post,” Walker said. “Karla gives us some good points in there. When they double her, I have to be ready on the back side.”

A&M played its game, 60 percent from the field – a season best and a program best in the playoffs -- and 67 percent from the line.

The defense tuned up for the Elite Eight game by holding the Blue Demons to 40 percent from the field. A&M used superior positioning to outrebound the taller DePaul lineup by 10. A&M is 8-0 when scoring at least 80; they have won by an impressive 15-point average so fare.

They held DePaul to a season-low output by 19 points under their average.

“Yes, we can score points,” Aggies coach Gary Blair said, “but we can defend, too.”

The 65 is a season low for DePaul.

But it is ever thus with Doug Bruno’s teams. They win enough for the uninitiated to think they are a real team, then they fall apart at certain levels of competitions with defensive deficits and so will always be one of 16, but nowhere near the top of the group. He will get to keep his job while better coaches lose theirs.

Walker also starred on the defensive end, holding leading scorer Brittany Hrynko to three points. Hrynko had a total of 33 against Oklahoma and Duke in the first two rounds of the tournament.

Jones made five of the Aggies’ 10 steals and held Chanise Jenkins, who had 25 points the last two games, to three.

The Aggies are in the Elite Eight for the third time since 2008 and first since they won the national title in 2011. Maybe they came to see UConn at Lincoln, but the 9,585 were happy to be there.

“This is huge. We grew up watching this on TV,” said Walker. “We’re gonna do that for our seniors. We will be prepared.”

Blair is 20-7 in the NCAA post-season gatherings. It is not even unusual anymore to see how many male coaches are at this level.

All four coaches at Lincoln are men; two of the four at Notre Dame, the interim coach at North Carolina in the Stanford Regional and host Louisville had Jeff Walz; that’s half of the 16 with Lincoln guaranteeing one into the Final Four.

At 12-2, the A&M seniors are the second-best of the four-year players this year.

UConn, of course, leads at 17-2, a record not likely to be ever challenged.

“It’s fun, the last time we were in the Elite Eight we went to the Big Dance,” Blair said. “The best we’ve shot all year and great on defense. Our bench was huge in the first half when we had two starters on the bench with two fouls.

“They are feeling great about themselves. It doesn’t come easy. If you’re gonna win the national championship you’ve gotta beat the best team anyway. So why not now?

Everybody in the country will be watching this team to see if we are for real. We embrace that.

“We want them talking about us instead of talking about Connecticut.”

•No. 4 Maryland 73, No. 1 Tennessee 62: Maryland is having a heckuva final run as an ACC team before joining the Big Ten next season.

Coach Brenda Frese has already revived one program there, taking an NCAA infractions-stained Minnesota team for one season and getting them back on track before coming to Maryland 12 years ago.

But that will be then and this is now. She earned a shot at No. 3 Louisville in that Region’s title game, assuring either a 3 or a 4 would be in the Final Four.

UT (29-6) was the first top seed to fall and they fell hard. The school sent each of its basketball teams to the Sweet 16 and no further. Only UConn remained with both basketball programs still playing and the men went all the way to the title.

Meighan Simmons said farewell to the college game as Tennessee’s only senior. She scored 31.

“I’m just sad that that was Meighan’s last game,” her coach, Holly Warlick, said.
“She’s done a hell of a job for our program and I know she’s going to go on and do great things. Got beat by a better basketball team today.”

Temmate Cierra Burdick, next year’s designated team leader, said, “In 10 or 15 years down the road, we’re all going to have the opportunity to say that we played with Meighan Simmons. Probably one of the best scorers to ever play the game, and we’re going to miss her.”

Simmons said, “It’s always been a grind for us. We’ve had a heck of a year, and any game where we were down we found a way to fight back and Maryland just had the extra oomph today.

“They pushed through even harder. We just didn’t have it today.”

Simmons was in her 126th start, fifth on UT’s all-time list. Simmons is also fifth on the all-time program scoring list, with 2,064.

But where was the help? The frontline only combined for 14 while being outrebounded. Holding Maryland to 38 percent form the field sounds great until contrasted by Tennessee’s 35

This was the Terrapins’ game from the start. In fact a 41-27 first half underlined what UT has done all season, which is to start sluggishly and then rely on superior athleticism to make a second-half difference.

And, while UT obviously won the second half in scoring, the Lady Vols had dug themselves in too deeply to make a real comeback at this level of the tournament.

Maryland took a 9-7 lead to 22-9, UT scoring one basket in that 2:45 breakaway. UT got it down to nine with two minutes to go, but free throws kept UT at bay.

All Maryland had to do then was match point-for point, in other words, not mess up, for the entire second half and the upset was won.

The Terrapin defense forced 22 turnovers, scoring 14 points off 14 turnovers in the first half.

The Maryland seniors, Alicia DeVaughn, Katie Rutan and two of the best names in the tournament, Essence Townsend and Sequoia Austin, won another game.

It was classmate Alyssa Thomas who did most of the damage and far overshadowed Simmons, with a career-best 33 points with 13 rebounds.

So Tennessee has now sent away an entire college generation without a Final Four appearance. Used to be, everyone on the team had at least one. Used to be.

As magnificent as Warlick has been maintaining the legend, she still has work to do.

“I thought we had a good game plan,” Warlick said. “We wanted to mix it up. We were going zone, going man, and we just didn’t have the togetherness on the defensive end, whether it was trust, we gave too many layups. We understood that they score in the transition. We couldn’t stop that.

“We understood that they were great rebounders, we worked on that quite a bit, and we couldn’t stop that. You know, I don’t know. Looking back maybe play more zone, but I thought we had a good game plan, we just didn’t stick to it.

“All we can do is prepare them for what we need to do in the game and put them in situations where they know what they’re defending and where we need to attack offensively. I don’t know, the last two times we’ve been in the tournament, we didn’t get it done. We lost to a very good basketball team today, very good. Maybe we’ll address that for the next season.”

Brenda Frese, the Maryland coach, has won a national championship already. Here’s the strange statistic: Only six coaches ever have both been parents and won a national title. At 35 in 2006, she is the fifth-youngest coach to win a title.

“You know, this game was everything we thought it was going to be, just a phenomenal game by both teams,” she said. “It was intense, obviously we felt like it was going to come down to the rebounding and being able to own the glass. Going into this game we knew it was going to be a game of runs and we had to maintain our confidence.

“I have the utmost respect for Holly and her staff and the tradition that Tennessee has, that’s where we all want to be.

“But I’m really proud of the fact our kids played for Maryland and played with a lot of confidence, were never intimidated and really played for each other. I thought you saw us really get after it defensively, dominated, being aggressive on the boards and really being able to get out in transition. We want to continue to be under the radar, make sure nobody writes about us, talks about us, but really proud of our team and what we were able to accomplish today.”

Thomas was naturally pumped about earning another game.

“I went for my opportuntiy and looked to the rim,” she said.

She said there really were no surprises here.

“We knew we could get out on them in transition and just get easy baskets, and then once we got ball reversals we were able to attack the rim and get easy layups,” she said.

“Our post players did a phenomenal job of just limiting them, getting them in foul trouble really early and just trying to keep them off the boards from getting second opportunities.

“I just feel like this year we have so much more-- last year we didn’t really have any subs, and now this year we can send so many waves at them, it makes it so much easier.”

Going against Louisville next, Frese was taking on a former five-year assistant in Jeff Walz. But she also was going for another Final Four and that proved more important.

With the win, Maryland joins Georgia and Louisville (2013), Baylor (2010), Kentucky (2010), Rutgers (2007) and LSU (2004) as teams to defeat a No. 1 seed in the Sweet 16 in the past decade.

• No. 4 North Carolina 65, No. 1 South Carolina 58: Now that the regular-season champ and the conference champ determined by the post-season conference each lost at the same point in the tournament, anyone that cares to argue which is better or which coach is really the best in conference can just get to the chat rooms where the madness never ends.

North was not even with its real coach, using an interim. And they had already beaten South, in December.

There was an “uh-oh” feeling early on. By halftime, when North led by nine in the last Sweet 16 game of the tournament, the bad smell of SEC road kill from the Stanford Regional was wafting southeastward.

At intermission, phenomenal freshman guard Diamond DeShields already had a dozen Tar Heel points and had shaken off a knee bruise. Asia Dozer had seven and Aliana Coates six off the bench for the Gamecocks.

In other words, nobody was doing much of anything. North led the entire half, once by as many as 11. Stanford had already eliminated Penn State, so the winner knew the home team awaited. An angry home team. Knocked down to a No. 2 seed in the Regional in which they seemingly used to invite other teams to come and get beaten.
It never got better.

A strong second half was not enough for the Gamecocks (29-5). All the superlatives ended. The maximum number of wins in a season is set. The No. 1 seed idea is just a nice trinket without a Final Four.

Freshman Alaina Coates established the freshman program record with a 10th double-double, a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds.

With no senior of merit, the Gamecocks will add McDonald All-Americans and others and take on a strengthened conference again for national notice.

North scored the first five points of the contest and looked to take control of the physical game. The Tar Heels made their move midway through the first half, going on a 9-2 run to build a 10-point lead at 20-10.

The Gamecocks scored the next five points, making the score 20-15 with 6:42 left, but did not find the basket for the next four minutes. While South was able to feed the post at will, the shots just were not falling.

Latifah Coleman gave the Tar Heels their largest lead of the half at 27-15 with three minutes remaining, draining a 3 from straight away as the shot clock was expiring. A minute later, Elem Ibiam halted the Gamecock drought with a layup and was fouled. A free throw later, the Gamecocks were back within single digits at 27-18.

With 24 seconds to go, Tiffany Davis hit a 3 from the right side to pull South to an eight-point deficit.

On defense, Asia Dozier got a steal and gave the Gamecocks one more chance before the break. Didn’t happen.

Three minutes into the second half, Coates had to be sent back in.

She drew a foul and sank two free throws, then blocked a shot.

After a putback by Aleighsa Welch, Coates scored on the next three possessions to draw the Gamecocks to 32-35 with 14:45 to play. It was the closest since the Gamecocks had been since the 12-minute mark in the first half.

The Tar Heels forced the Gamecocks away from Coates on the next few possessions, and DeShields – the national freshman player of the ear -- asserted herself.

After scoring just two points in the first half, Sec Player-of-the-YearTiffany Mitchell sank back-to-back 3s to keep South Carolina close at 41-38 with 12 minutes to go.

Welch intercepted a lob on a North backdoor attempt and Coates converted on consecutive baskets

With 8:43 left, the top-seeded Gamecocks had hope.

But North would have none of that. Back-to-back 3s from Jessica Washington and DeShields put the Tar Heels up 49-44 with 7:08 remaining.

It was Mitchell again and then Coates and it was 53-51 with five minutes left.

Back came the Tar Heels, six unanswered points to stretch the lead out to 59-51 with 2:40 to go.

Welch and Coates combined for five straight points, limiting the Tar Heels to one tough shot on the other end in between, but the Gamecocks could get no closer.

North Carolina hit free throws down the stretch to seal it.

Brittany Rountree converted a pair of free throws with 1:14 left and two more at the 36.4-second mark. SC had never had the lead in the game. They had 13 turnovers and shot 27.7 percent from the field.

“I think we exceeded a lot of people’s expectations outside of our locker room,” junior forward Welch said.

“We definitely weren’t surprised to get to this point, we wanted to go further, but a lot of people didn’t expect us to be the team we were this year with what we lost last year. We have almost everybody coming back, plus a good recruiting class, so the sky’s the limit for us next year.”

Coach Dawn Staley, facing a summer as the coach of the national Junior team for USA Basketball, said her own young junior team has potential for years to come.

Like so many other coaches who know they will be involved for as long as they win, she took the familiar tact of disappointment over accepting failure.

“They put us back on our heels and forced us into some foul trouble you don’t want to anticipate coming into a game like this,” Staley said.

“I’m just disappointed our season ends tonight. I am proud of the team we put on the floor,” Staley said. “Our players did what most people thought they couldn't do. This won't be the last time you see this South Carolina team here this late in the season.
I'm looking forward to the future.

“Now, it's back to the gym and film room.”

• No. 2 Louisville 73, No. 7 LSU 47: The Ben-Gals’ starting backcourt did not play due to injuries. And that summarizes the end of LSU’s (21-13) surprising run this far.

In their first playoff game away from home, they were bamboozled by a Louisville team trying to reclaim its image after being ranked in the top four nationally but seeded in the second four by the NCAA geniuses.

Of course, hosting a Regional has its perks, among them allowing UConn to go a little further West instead of the easternmost Regional to avoid a fourth straight loss to them this season.
Louisville, the city and the Yum! Center, can still host Regionals in the future (as can UConn’s county arena and Lexington’s Rupp Arena, among others).

One of the highlights of the Yum! Center (think Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell ownership for the company name) is it is the only arenas in America which hosts college games regularly that has a built-in bar at one end of the arena. Just sayin’ if the LSU and Tennessee coaches needed a drink after this one, the sports bar was open.

There wasn’t much to this game. LSU had eight available players. Louisville used the opportunity to practice 3s; they hit a season-best 12 to the delight of the 11,037 crowd, best of the Sweet 16.

LSU hit 23 percent from the field.

Senior Shoni Schimmel scored 19, celebrating once again on her home court.

“In the back of your mind you know they’re short and lost two important players that they needed,” Schimmel said.

“It wasn’t what we strived (for), but we understood that they don’t have these two players but we still have to play. It definitely helped us because we could have definitely overlooked somebody, but we didn’t do that.”

Cardinals’ reserves outscored LSU’s bench, 28-0, while also dominating in assists, 21-2. Louisville had also routed LSU in the pre-season NIT, 88-67, when LSU had al of its players.

“They did all that they could considering; they came in and they tried their best,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell. said “I’m proud of them for that. We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to, but it wasn’t that they were fearful.”

“I think we’re playing really good basketball right now, Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “Did we look to me exceptionally sharp in the first half in the halfcourt? No. ... But I thought we really did a nice job of just attacking out of transition.”

•No. 2 Baylor 90, No. 3 Kentucky 62: UK’s house of cards folded abruptly once they met a quality team, one that they had taken to four overtimes at their place earlier this season.

It marks the end of nice careers for seniors DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker and some lesser lights. Both are transfers in, so Stallworth had 812 of 1,720 career points at UK; Walker, who famously chose this after UConn, had 777 rebounds of her career 877 at UK.

“Defensively we didn’t do a great job,” said Stallworth. “We weren’t together as a team. We dug ourselves a big hole and we fought in the second half that’s what matters.”

The game does erase a bad NCAA national memory. When Notre Dame dutifully bid on one of the first Regionals, then called the Mideast, the NCAA was delighted to try to stage a tournament in an area of the Midwest that never drew anything.

That trend continued and ND has since then had the unfortunate all-time record of the worst Regional Final attendance. They drew less than 400 with free admission, There were three Southeastern Conference teams in the four teams there, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi. Even then the SEC was the powerhouse conference.

Decades later, with the home team a No. 1 seed, although “good tickets are still on sale” ads ran the day before this Regional, the site drew 8,774. UK’s loss allowed a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the Regional final.

It is hard to say whether Baylor just naturally gets better as the seasons progress. Or that Odyssey Sims, once considered a lock for Player of the Year nationally, is in fine form and was the best player on this court by far.

She surpassed 1,000 points on the season with 25 in this one, 18 in the first half. She is only the second woman to ever score more than 1,000 in a season.

Stallworth was 9-of-14 for 19 points in her final game. Junior Bria Goss scored 13 -- including 9-of-10 from the line – but fouled out.

For BU, which won the rebounds by 10, Nina Davis scored 20 and Nia Johnson 11.
Baylor started on a 20-9 run and the game’s tempo was set. UK cut it back to four but expended so much energy doing so that Baylor extended the difference to 17 at the break.

As example of Baylor defining the game, it had 49 at the intermission; Kentucky didn’t get there until 10 minutes were left and the difference was still 13.

It moved to 23 in the next five minutes and about all UK could do was foul. Baylor was so efficient that the UK streak of 186 games forcing at least 10 turnovers also died.

Maybe UK backslid to the plateau they will now claim in the SEC, as the next level after the top teams. This was their only NCAA playoff game this year away from home.

At least UK coach Matthew Mitchell did not diss Sims, as he had called out the best player on the other team in his previous loss. Neither did he praise her.

“We had a really tough time, and it looked like we were ill-prepared and that’s squarely on my shoulders,” he said, taking the blame for a flop yet again.

“We played really good teams and we have dared to develop the program to a point to get them in games like this,” Mitchell said. “It is disappointing to perform like this in this type of atmosphere.”

He had kept leading scorer junior Jennifer O’Neill on the bench all season. That magnificently flopped as she was 0-of-12 from the field.

“Leading scorer goes 0 for 12, not a real good recipe for moving forward in this kind of environment in the tournament,” Mitchell said. “It’s hard to fathom how that kid can go 0 for 12. She didn’t try to do that. I thought she took some bad shots at times, but some were really good they just didn’t go.

“I thought we were doing a good job at some things, wish we could have made some of those layups and the complexion of game would have been different,” he said.

ELITE EIGHT

• No. 1 UConn 69, No. 3 Texas A&M 54:
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis continued her splendid run through the NCAA tournament with 17 points, and UConn advanced to the women's Final Four for the seventh straight year.

It is the 44th straight win for the defending national champs (38-0).

Stefanie Dolson made her 150th career start to tie the NCAA record. She scored 14 with 10 rebounds and blocked a career-high eight shots. Bria Hartley had 14 points, Breanna Stewart – the National Player of the Year -- added 13 and Moriah Jefferson 11.

The sophomore Courtneys led A&M. Walker scored 14 and Williams 13.

Mosqueda-Lewis, a returning All-American, missed 12 games this season because of injury or illness. Not here or now, however. She is the Lincoln Regional's most outstanding player.

She had a triple-double against Saint Joseph's in the second round and 19 points and 13 rebounds against BYU before this. Against the Aggies in the final she provided the spark after the Huskies found themselves in an early hole.

Her play made up for the slow start of Stewart, who got into early foul trouble and scored two in the first half.

The Aggies had shot 60 percent in their 84-65 win over DePaul, their best mark ever in an NCAA tournament game. They hit 28.9 percent the first half while falling behind 34-23 against UConn and finished at 35.3 percent.

The Aggies had won their first three games in the tournament by 15 points or more, but they ran into a UConn club that was just too powerful, whether in transition or on a normal drive inside.

The Aggies made their first six shots of the second half to cut into UConn's 11-point halftime lead. Jones hit a pair of 3s, and after she drove to the hoop on Jefferson, A&M was within 40-37.

The Huskies cranked up their transition game, went on a 10-0 spurt and outscored the Aggies 27-12 to build their lead to 18 points in the final 3 minutes. No team has played UConn closer than 11 points this season.

The Aggies broke out to an 11-4 lead -- matching the biggest deficit UConn has faced this season -- before Mosqueda-Lewis made her presence known.

Mosqueda-Lewis fed Dolson for an easy basket to start a 26-6 UConn run. Hartley scored twice off Jefferson's long passes, Mosqueda-Lewis hit a couple 3s and showed what she could do inside when she took an inbound pass and drove the baseline for a left-handed layup.

Jefferson slipped a pass to Dolson for a reverse layup and then drove the hoop and hit a 3 of her own to put the Huskies up 30-17.

Courtney Walker ended a five-minute scoring drought with three straight jumpers, but nothing symbolized the night more than Kiah Stokes' block of Achiri Ade's shot just ahead of the halftime buzzer.

“That’s the second-closest game Connecticut has had all year. The score does not indicate how close the game was,” A&M coach Gary Blair said. He pointed out they drew 7,169 for the only Regional final with no host team. The 29,524 that A&M drew to four games were the most for any individual team, including the first two at other home sites.

“This team is still young. We are still gaining experience,” he said.

“This was one of Carla’s best games and she is going against one of the best post player in the game.

“But when we missed things, we came back better. They were really fouling hard.” The 11-3 early lead was the biggest deficit of the season for UConn.

The season wins are the third-most in program history; the senior class finished 12-3 all-time in the NCAAs,

“As a team we got better and better and that’s you can ask,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back. The little things we are doing will make us better. The skill and the competition we have will make us better. When we come back to the Elite Eight, we’ll be able to handle it.”

And a Few More Things

• A Summitt will eventually be coaching against SEC teams.

Following his genetics, Tyler Summitt was picked off the assistant coaching ranks – Marquette -- to lead Louisiana Tech. There is little doubt Tennessee and other SEC programs will be quick to renew contracts with them.

There is a bit of irony here as Tech was once the super team of the elites, in the AIAW days and into the time when the NCAA took in the women’s games. The Lady Techsters twice eliminated Tennessee and coach Pat Summitt in a title game.

The first was in 1981, with the AIAW.

Tech had All-American Janice Lawrence there, a splendid forward still viewed as one of the best ever in the game and a miniature point All-American guard named Kim Mulkey, on her way to a Gold Medal at the L.A. Olympic Games – with Lawrence -- and now more well-known as the Hall of Fame coach of Baylor. She is the only woman to have titles as a player and a coach.

The second of those seasons ended in Los Angeles, on UCLA’s famed home court in 1988. The leader of the Lady Techsters was All-American Debra Rodman, the mammoth older sister of the eventually better-known Dennis.

In fact it was he who was handing out the made-in-advance championship T-shirts as the celebration began.

Tech had the first great male coach in a national championship women’s program, Leon Barmore, an indomitable spirit. So Tech is not afraid to have a man leading the program.

Yes, this hire is as much publicity as reality, but it still offers Tyler a chance to start coaching at age 23, almost unheard of in the modern era.

His father, R.B., and his mom were both there to see him start. His first hire was a former Lady Techster, the mercurial Mickie DeMoss, who is now more remembered for a long-time association with Pat at Tennessee than for her own flops as a head coach in her 58 years, in the SEC at Kentucky and at Florida as well as elsewhere.

“As I grew up as a part of the Tennessee Lady Vols program, everything on and off the floor was geared towards competing against Louisiana Tech,” Tyler said. “The Lady Techsters were the standard in which excellence in women’s basketball was measured for so long. I am proud to be a part of this storied program.”

His dad, R.B., also said he had fond memories of the origination of the rivalry.

But this moment is for his son.

“It is such a humbling but exciting moment,” R.B. said.

“We are proud for Tyler and for Louisiana Tech. I think we can mark down this day as exceptional, a date to be remembered, sort of like your child's birthday: the emotions, the expectations, the hopes of a new beginning.

“Tyler has been praying, planning and building for just such a wonderful opportunity. There aren't enough words to thank Louisiana Tech University and all the loyal fans. I know you have hired a winner and great days are ahead.”

Obviously, Louisiana Tech Athletics Director Tommy McClelland carved his school back into the national record books, as Tech is second all-time in wins (1,043), trailing only Tennessee.

At age 23, he is young enough to have a multi-decade career at Tech and then be ready when Holly Warlick wants to retire at Tennessee.

Tyler’s challenge is to rebuild the storied program back into a conference contender and annual NCAA Tournament participant. Tech’s 27 NCAA Tournament appearances ranks fourth all-time; they have not been in since 2011.

“Tyler represents our philosophy of developing champions in the classroom, on the court and in life,” McClelland said. “He grew up in that championship culture, and it is all he knows. His reputation as a great recruiter, a rising young star in the coaching business and a passionate leader is known throughout the nation. We are fortunate to have him lead our women’s basketball program into the future.”

Tyler is properly low-key about this.

“AnDe (his wife) and I are grateful and humbled for the opportunity to become a part of the Louisiana Tech Family,” Tyler said. “I am honored to lead our women’s basketball team, which is an absolute gem in the women’s game with an incredible tradition.

“To our Lady Techster fans, AnDe and I look forward to getting to know you all very soon. I am excited to help every member of our program be the best that they can be through our five standards: belief, family, character, competition, toughness.”

Family friend and Pat Summit mentor Billie Moore welcomes Tyler to the profession.

She is a former U.S. Olympic coach, and built the UCLA and Cal. State-Fullerton programs into national prominence.

“Tyler has a special gift. He has a talent for teaching, a unique perspective of seeing and understanding the concepts and strategies of the game.” she said. “Tyler is great with people; he is a tremendous communicator and a natural leader – things that have nothing to do with age. Quite simply, he has ‘it’ and there is absolutely no question in my mind that he will be a successful head coach.”

Louisiana Tech President Les Guice. Is obviously on board.

“Tyler Summitt is an amazingly talented individual with tremendous character and leadership skills that will unquestionably propel him to success in life,” Guice said
“I am absolutely thrilled to have him leading our Lady Techsters basketball program and am confident that he can return our program to national prominence.”

Barmore, who has to be discouraged by what has happened to the program he left behind. Like Pat Summitt, he has never left the university and also keeps a title as basketball coach emeritus.

“I really respect and appreciate the commitment that president Guice and Tommy McClelland have shown to this program with this hire,” he said.

“They have put the Lady Techster program in the forefront. I met with Tyler. What I found out in the 45 minutes we spent together was that he truly respects this program. We certainly respect him and his family. In time he will prove to be an outstanding head coach. I know he is 23 years old, but he has been coaching since he was one. I really like the direction we have gone. I think this is a really good hire. I am fired up about it.”

Tyler also runs his mom’s Pat Summitt Foundation, is a sought-after public speaker and, with his wife, is active in church.

“It is a special day for our family, and especially for Tyler, as he is given the reins to one of the most storied programs in women’s basketball,” said Pat.

“We are excited about the opportunity he has been given and are grateful to Tommy McClelland and Dr. Leslie Guice for having faith in Tyler. He has been preparing for this day since he was a little boy and I can assure you he will work very hard and will represent Louisiana Tech University with class. I’m sure Tyler is ready to get busy, and I know he and AnDe look forward to becoming part of the Louisiana Tech family and the Ruston community.”

He graduated from the University of Tennessee Chancellor's Honors Program where he was a member of the Tennessee men's basketball team for two seasons.

Tyler also served as a student assistant coach for his mother and the Tennessee women's basketball program. He was actively involved in the 2007 through 2009 seasons for the Tennessee women, two of which resulted in national championships.

He was the head coach of numerous AAU teams in Tennessee, including the Tennessee Fury 17U who went on to win the State Championship. He has also been a head coach at Tennessee’s Men’s and Women’s Basketball Summer Camps from 2005-2011.

“Tyler told me, ‘There’s only one environment I know. That is a championship environment, and I will bring that to practice, to work and to games every single day,’” said Terri Mitchell, the Marquette coach. “He absolutely delivered on that promise. He’s going to be a star in our profession.”

His hiring is pending the approval of the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System.

• Two for Tennessee (or the rich get richer): League champ Tennessee has two great McDonald AlllAmerican recruits among its incoming class. In the actual West/East game, Jamie Nared (Portland, Ore.) led the winners with 15 points, four rebounds and two steals. Alexa Middleton (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) won the All-American skills competition.

• Way Out of Reach: The hiring Jimmy Dykes – now there’s a good ol’ boy’s name -- as the eighth coach for Arkansas at least next season is a reach beyond belief.

Not only has he never coached a women’s college team, he has been out of coaching since 1991 (he was an assistant then), instead commenting for low-viewed ESPN events.

It may be a statement all right, a statement that Arkansas is finally out of major-league basketball.

The best man in the game right now, UConn’s Geno Auriemma, tore himself away from making another Final four to say the Dykes' hire is “outside the box” and “a lot of people will be watching pretty closely.”

The flubby-looking athletic director did not apologize for all but handing every other SEC team wins for seasons to come.

Jeff Long said Dykes approached him. Gee. Another shocker for a guy on no one’s radar. Ever.

He claims to have talked to coaches across the country. Musta been a lot of rejections there. He did admit it is a “non-traditional” hire.

So instead of hiring a nifty top assistant, maybe even making a minority hire, they got this. Long even tried to sell the bag of soap that Dykes won out “head and shoulders” above the others he considered. Like to see that list, sometimes.

Oh, he’s a former Arkansas player, a non-recruited one. That’s about the best that can be said. He evidently interviews well.

"No one can sell this program, sell the University of Arkansas, sell the state of Arkansas, better than Jimmy Dykes," Dykes said. "I know that with all my heart."

He whistled bravely past the graveyard in saying the “days are over” when Arkansas is not considered as a tough team.

So what’s the next step down?

Like every other major question about this, that also went unanswered.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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