Mickie DeMoss runs practice for Lady Vols

Pat Summitt has run practice as a solo coach on the rare occasions when all three assistants are out recruiting at the same time, but on Thursday it was the head coach and two others on the road, so Mickie DeMoss took the reins at practice and jokingly referred to herself afterwards as the "substitute teacher."

Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss is, of course, much more than that, having been in the coaching ranks since 1977 and having run her own program at Kentucky. As two Tennessee players crossed the court after weight training following practice, they pointed at DeMoss and gave her a shout-out for holding down the coaching fort.

The Lady Vols are between tournaments and awaiting the unveiling of the brackets on Monday to see who they will host at Thompson-Boling Arena on March 19 in the NCAA Tournament. That game will be on a Saturday and the players will get a coveted weekend day off after Friday's practice during the down time.

The break is beneficial to both get some extra rest and to be able to push the players in practice without having to schedule around travel or games.

It also allowed Pat Summitt, according to Twitter posts from Peach State Hoops, to travel to Duluth on Thursday to watch 2013 recruiting target Diamond DeShields play in the George High School Association basketball playoffs. Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick also was on the road, as was Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood.

That left DeMoss to run practice, and the players responded very well to her in the session at Pratt Pavilion that was a wee bit shorter than Wednesday's workout but no less intense with a heavy emphasis on defense and board play.

"I think it's staying sharp with your fundamentals, the staples of the game, your rebounding, the things that you know every night you've got to do well just to have a chance to win in big games, your defensive fundamentals," DeMoss said.

"You think, ‘Don't they know that stuff by now?' But it's slippage. Because up until now we were always preparing for the next team, preparing for the next team, so then fundamentals start slipping.

"We call it game slippage. Your fundamentals start getting a little weak so we're reviewing some of that stuff.

DeMoss also added some offensive and defensive wrinkles so the Lady Vols can show some looks in postseason that are not yet on scouting film.

With a team made up primarily of upperclassmen it doesn't take long for the players to incorporate tweaks to the system on either side of the ball.

"They seem to catch on pretty quick to that," DeMoss said. "Some teams you have to judge that. Some teams can't absorb a lot of information. This team you can put in quick hits, little wrinkles here and there, and they seem to grasp it pretty quick."

Specific work also will be addressed in upcoming practices in which various scenarios will be placed on the scoreboard with the team needing a stop or a score or both to prevail.

"We're going to create some situations the next few days in practice (such as) where we have to knock down a three with a minute to go," DeMoss said. "We're going to create some stressful situations for them."

The sessions Friday and Sunday – Saturday is scheduled to be an off day – will be held at Pratt Pavilion because the multipurpose arena is being used for another event this weekend. In years past, the team managers had to haul equipment across campus to Stokely Athletics Center, the student recreation center or the physical education building.

Pratt Pavilion opened for the 2007-08 season, four years after DeMoss left for Kentucky and then Texas before returning to Knoxville last spring.

"It's awesome, and it's the way it should be," DeMoss said.

Stokely was often an oven inside, and the courts at the PE building were rock hard underneath the hardwood. The student center was boisterous with basketballs sometimes rolling onto the Lady Vols' court from adjacent pickup games.

"A lot of times the floors are bad and you risk injuries," DeMoss said. "Probably at this point everybody in the conference has a practice facility, and it's for situations just like this."

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