The past came flying back to the present for UConn coach Geno Auriemma and associate head coach Chris Dailey Saturday at the Al McGuire Center. Tyler Summitt, the son of legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, is in his first season as an assistant coach at Marquette.
From Jan. 16, 1995 through Jan, 6, 2007, the Huskies and the Lady Vols competed in the sport’s most high-profile rivalry. UConn won 13 of the 22 meetings, including wins in the 1995, 2000, 2003 and 2004 national championship games. It was a known fact that the respective head coaches did not have a good relationship with one another. And Tyler Summitt, 22, was a fixture at the games.
“Honestly, I cannot remember many games that I missed,’’ Tyler Summitt said. “I remember traveling up there. I remember, obviously, all the tournament games and the games in Knoxville. I don’t remember missing one. And it was so much fun. That was what you were preparing for. Preseason you were preaching UConn, you were preaching Stanford and those games are what you looked forward to.
“You walk in Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville and there’s 25,000 screaming fans and the same thing in Connecticut. They’re all screaming. It’s just the passion behind it. It was so great. That still gives me some of my drive as I’m trying to get better as a coach. I can still remember the adrenaline rush as you walk in those arenas. And just feeling that and the passion … And so for me those are the games that you prepare for and that’s what I hope to be some day as a head coach in that environment.’’
Summit, who was hired at Marquette on the same day that his mother retired due to her ongoing battle with early onset dementia last April 18, said he and Auriemma shared a nice meeting behind the scenes before the game. They exchanged a hand shake at midcourt prior to the game, while Summitt and Dailey followed by sharing a big hug.
“First of all, it’s just an honor to play Coach Auriemma,’’ Summitt said. “I have so much respect for them. And, actually, I hung out with Coach Auriemma’s kids when I was growing up. Whenever I saw them they rubbed me on the head or whatever. So so much respect …’’
Here is Summitt’s take on whether or not UConn and Tennessee will once again meet in the future …
“Mom will put in stuff in her book about the Tennessee-UConn rivalry and all that,’’ Summitt said. “So I’ll let her book answer that.
“Mom and Holly Warlick will talk about that and see what they think and, obviously, Coach Auriemma has his agenda. So it would be fun to watch them play. And then if it doesn’t work out I’m sure two great teams like that you’re going to see them in the tournament anyway soon enough.’’
Summitt on his mom …
“She’s doing really well, doing really well,’’ Summitt said. “She came up here for three games with her old Olympic coach, Billy Moore. She’s down there going to every Lady Vol practice and staying very involved. So she’s doing really well.
“I’m so proud of my mom and it’s something where I’ve learned from her over the years. So I think just growing up by her side was an honor and I was blessed for it.’’
Summitt on his road to coaching …
“My bedtime lullaby when I was 2 or 3 years old was mom screaming at the television,’’ Summitt said. “My dad’s in there with me, `Go to sleep. Go to sleep.’ But as I started getting older and mom would watch film I started seeing things. Because at first she was talking French and I had no idea how she saw all 10 things at once. And then I started understanding and then seeing the same things that she did. So really it was high school when I started noticing the same things and having the same mindset that she realized I was ready.
“It was a decision I made because, obviously, I was a walk-on for Tennessee. So I’ve seen both sides of it growing up. But I just really value the relationships on the women’s side. And I feel like the relationships between the coach and players are so strong on the women’s side. And that’s why I chose to go to the women’s side.’’
And here is Marquette coach Terri Mitchell on Tyler Summitt …
“Tyler’s embraced everything his mom has taught him, what he learned as a college basketball player at Tennessee and brought a lot of knowledge,’’ Mitchell said. “But just one thing we talked about in the interview is I said to him, `What would you bring to the table? And he said, `A championship environment because that’s all I know.’ I always laugh at him because he has his mom’s stare. He has those eyes and he has that look.’’