Guess who was one of Pat Summitt’s early recruits?
It happened during the 1975-76 season. I was officiating a high school game between my alma mater, Fulton (which was terrible) and Bearden (led by Holly Warlick – now the head coach of the Lady Vols). Pat Summitt (Pat Head at the time) was there to watch Holly play. But I was the one she recruited that night. So, just to be clear, I was recruited before Holly!
Following the game Pat came to my dressing room while I was still changing clothes and ask if she could talk with me. “Sure” I said, and offered her a seat. We chatted briefly and then she asks if I would be interested in officiating her Tennessee games. They didn’t use an officials association at the time and each school was responsible for game officials. So I accepted her offer and was one of her referees for that year. The next year all schools began using a college basketball officials association and my short career came to an end. But our friendship didn’t.
This was only Pat’s second year at Tennessee and she had the worst record of her brilliant career, going 16-11. But she did receive her master’s degree in physical education that year. In Pat’s first year she earned $250 monthly and washed the players’ uniforms – uniforms purchased the previous year with proceeds from a doughnut sale. The next year, with Holly as her point guard, she was 28-5 and made it to the Final Four of the AIAW Tournament (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women), and the wins became a norm. It wasn’t until the ’81-’82 season that the NCAA sanctioned women’s college basketball as a sport.
I recall one day following a game Pat invited me back to her office to see a gold medal she had won. I can’t remember if it was for the World Championships or the Pan Am Games but she was so proud of it. And so was I. It wasn’t until that summer that she played in the Olympics. Her office at the time was a small dark room stuck way back in the old Alumni Gym. Game attendance was usually between 15-20 people but she was having fun. Pat was only 23 at the time. We seemed to lose touch with one another after several years but she has remained my favorite coach of all time.