Speaking at the Big-Orange Tip-Off Club Wednesday, Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt acted as though she was about to take off her blouse before introducing men's coach Bruce Pearl.
Summitt was poking fun at Pearl, who ripped off his shirt in the locker room after the Vols beat Kentucky in Rupp Arena for the second time since 1980.
``If we beat (third-ranked) LSU, I'm gonna do it,'' Summitt said, laughing.
``I'd pay to see that,'' Pearl shouted.
It's easy to joke when you're winning. It's easy to have fun when things are going great. And things are going great for the Vols and Lady Vols.
The Lady Vols are ranked No. 5, the Vols No. 11. The Lady Vols are seeking a 17th straight home win over LSU. The Vols are in first place in the SEC East Division. The Lady Vols are No. 1 in the RPI, the Vols are No. 3. Combined, the two programs are averaging over 30,000 per game in attendance. No other program comes close.
The Lady Vols have sold over 20,000 tickets for the LSU game.
The Vols have had four crowds of over 20,000.
Indeed, basketball is beloved in Knoxville.
The Vols' victory at Rupp Arena has left Knoxville buzzing. Chris Lofton's 31 points matched the most by a UT player ever at Rupp, tying Alan Houston and Dale Ellis.
``We were the better basketball team,'' Pearl said. ``It wasn't such an upset (Kentucky was favored by 2.5 points). Maybe Kentucky is not up to its standards, but this is a different Tennessee team, isn't it?''
Headlines in Kentucky newspapers said: ``Lofton Too Often,'' and ``Home-Groan,'' referring to Lofton, who grew up less than an hour from Lexington.
Lexington Herald-Leader columnist John Clay wrote that he remembers when Kentucky used to play the way Tennessee did with a full-court press, 10 3-pointers and eight steals. He also compared Pearl to Rick Pitino – two guys from the Northeast who took over reeling programs and engendered great excitement with the style of play.
How much excitement have the Vols generated? Two buses were rented to make a trip to Athens, Ga., to see the UT play Georgia Saturday afternoon. The 110 seats were sold in less than two days. UT was considering renting a third bus.
The Lady Vols are used to playing for championships, be it SEC or national. They've won six national titles. They've been to four consecutive Final Fours. But Summitt doesn't sound so confident that this team will make it to the Final Four.
She's worried about the team's defense.
At halftime of the recent Ole Miss game, Summitt became angry.
``I threw everything I could get my hands on, but I did not hit anybody,'' she said. ``I didn't coach the second half. I left the coaching to the staff. You've heard about coaches' losing it. I lost it.''
Summitt lost it emotionally last year when the court was named after her following her NCAA record-breaking 880th win.
``I've never had anything touch me so much,'' Summitt said.
* Summitt said assistant Dean Lockwood, a 22-year coaching veteran, is planning to write a book.
``I don't know if that's good or bad,'' Summitt said. ``That'll be (written) after you retire, young man.''
* Summitt was asked if redshirt freshman Candace Parker ever loses her cool.
``Come to practice,'' Summitt said.
Summitt said two things have surprised her about Parker: Her unselfishness and her composure.
* Someone told a joke about Bobby Knight going to heaven. Summitt couldn't resist: ``If Bobby Knight could make it, I think Bruce and I are in.''
``Sorry, John,'' Summitt said. ``But remember, you said you came with baggage.''
SECOND TIME AROUND FAVORS FOES
Pearl said playing teams a second time in a season is a disadvantage for the Vols because of their unique system. UT plays Georgia for the second time after beating the Bulldogs in double figures earlier this season in Knoxville.
``It's definitely an advantage for the other team,'' Pearl said. ``This is my first year in the SEC. I do have an advantage the first time we play an opponent because our style is a little unique.''