At Wednesday's practice, the focus was on getting ready for Chattanooga, which is hosting the Lady Vols in McKenzie Arena, also known as the "Roundhouse."
Regardless of the opponent, Summitt is imploring her team to play tough defensively. The emphasis is not yet on individual players on the other team, but how well her team performs on defense.
"The one thing we're trying to do as a basketball team this year is to be a better team on the defensive end," Summitt said.
That starts in practice, which sputtered at times Wednesday, but the players finished strong.
"Practice today for some of our kids was a good day," assistant coach Nikki Caldwell said. "The thing they've got to do a much better job of is collectively coming in here focused and ready to get better. We don't have that consistency across the board. Now we're working on it, and that's something as a staff we continue to harp on everyday. Are you coming in to just get through practice or are you coming in to get better today? Some people have looked at it as getting better."
The strong finish was encouraging for the staff, particularly since it came at the end of a long practice.
"If they can sustain practice and have that type of focus, then the game will be easy," Caldwell said. "And that's what we want to do."
When the season tips off Friday - in the first game that counts and then again on Sunday in game number two of the 2004-05 season - Caldwell knows exactly what she will be watching for.
"Hopefully, we will see our team come in and set the tone with our defense and board play," Caldwell said. "I think that's what Tennessee teams have been noted for. Also we want to make sure that our running game is there and established. That starts with controlling the board and obviously on the defensive end we can control the transition game, too. The teams that we're going to play, there're going to be scrappy, there're going to go at us. We've got to have an attitude of whatever they're throwing at us – we're going to be on the road – that we know we're still in control here. We talk about things that we can control. We can control how hard we play. We can control our attitude and our intensity, which hopefully will reflect in our play."
Caldwell is also fully aware that Friday is the season opener, the two exhibition games notwithstanding.
"We obviously expect the kids to work out some kinks on the offensive end," Caldwell said following Wednesday afternoon's practice. "Going against that pressure man-to-man defense that UT-Chattanooga presents and also going against a really good match-up that N.C. State presents, we're having to really hone in on not only our man-to-man offenses but zone."
The coaching staff is certainly on the same page to start the season. Caldwell's words echoed those of Summitt's when she addressed the media in the morning.
"We still have a strong commitment to the transition attack, and we are always looking to push tempo," Summitt said. "We like to focus on going inside, and defense and board play is always a strong point of emphasis for us. … As we hit the road, sometimes the offense may be behind the defense, but the defense and the board play need to be there so we can be successful."
SYBIL'S BACK: Freshman Sybil Dosty returned to the basketball court Wednesday for the first time since she suffered a concussion in the waning minutes of practice Nov. 11. She looked sharp and showed no ill effects from the errant elbow she took to the head from a practice player. Dosty and fellow freshman Nicky Anosike back up junior Tye'sha Fluker at the center position. Anosike picked up five fouls in 11 minutes of play in Sunday's exhibition game. Anosike has earned praise from the coaches for her physical play, but she also has to learn not to pick up bad fouls. Anosike had some stellar defensive plays at practice Wednesday.
"We need Sybil healthy, and we need Nicky to understand the importance of playing position and under control," Summitt said.
"Probably the most-improved player," Summitt said of Redding. "She feels good about herself and rightly so."
Caldwell said self-confidence springs from defensive performance.
"Dom is doing a good job," Caldwell said. "I think she's feeling a little better about her defense, and she's getting a little bit more confident in that area. She never lacked confidence on the offensive end. She is executing for us as an offensive player. She's being more aggressive offensively, but I think it starts with her defense and her commitment there."
"SUMMITT UP": Sally Jenkins, the co-author of Summitt's two books was courtside Wednesday, sparking a half-serious question about whether or not Summitt would write a third book. She said no but then smiled and reconsidered. "I'm going to tell everything I want to tell," Summitt said. "All the times I've said no comment, I'm going to comment." She has already picked out a title, "Summitt Up." It was hard to tell if Summitt was completely serious, but it wouldn't be a stretch to predict that the book would be a best seller. But it won't be written until she retires from basketball, and that day is a long way off.
CLASS OF 2005: Tennessee signee Lindsey Moss opened up her season Wednesday evening for Chattahoochee High School. Tennessee assistant coach Holly Warlick was in attendance for the Cougars game. Moss, a 6'1 guard from Alpharetta, Ga., committed a year ago to Tennessee. Last season she led her team in nearly every statistical category and recorded single-game highs in points (32), rebounds (22) and assists (13).
CLASS OF 2008: This year's freshman high school class, nationwide, is shaping up to be stocked with potential college talent. Summitt can't comment on any specific player, but she did say she told her husband, R.B., "I guess I'll be doing this another eight years."