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Summitt Says Timing Key to Career

May 24, 2000

Pat Summitt was terrified when she first heard she had been promoted to head coach from graduate assistant before even setting foot on the Tennessee campus.

``I thought, `I’m in over my head. I don’t know. I’m not qualified. I have no experience,‴ Summitt recalled Wednesday after being elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

``I’d never even coached or conducted a practice, much less coached a game. It’s just about opportunities and taking advantage of it and not being afraid.″

Today, 26 years later, Summitt is a coaching legend known for her unblinking glare, high standards and winning. She is only the fourth women’s coach selected for the Hall of Fame in her first year of eligibility.

Summitt originally was hired as coach Margaret Hutson’s graduate assistant in the spring of 1973. But Hutson decided to pursue her doctorate in athletic training after guiding the Lady Vols to a 22-5 record.

University officials decided to put Summitt, then 22, in charge of a team that had four players who were only a year younger.

``That wouldn’t happen today,″ Summitt said. ``I just happened to be at the right place, and the timing was perfect for me. The door opened.″

Summitt didn’t waste the opportunity. She has won six national championships and has an overall record of 728-150, including a perfect 39-0 mark in 1997-1998. Only Jody Conradt of Texas (746-235) has won more women’s college basketball games.

Summitt’s Lady Vols never have missed the NCAA tournament, and she tied former UCLA men’s coach John Wooden with a 12th Final Four visit in March. She also coached the U.S. women to a 1984 Olympic gold medal.

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