Pat Summitt runs out of patience

After Sunday's game Pat Summitt sighed, smiled and said she was learning patience. Apparently after watching the Auburn game film for a third time her patience had run its course. So a young Tennessee team got a heavy dose of its head coach's passion for defense and board play during Monday's practice, and Summitt vowed that more of the same was on the way if her team's game habits don't change.

When Pat Summitt addressed the media after the session the first question was about how her team responded on Monday to Sunday's 82-68 loss to Auburn.

"Well let me first speak to Sunday," Summitt said. "Auburn had their way pretty much the entire game. We tried to do what we've been known for and that is come back in the latter part of the second half. And I am sick of watching that.

"We have got to become a 40-minute team, and every time we're not we're going to have the most demanding practices I can possibly put together, and eventually they will figure out how to be successful."

The coaches will steer them in that direction with the tried-and-true carrot and stick method. The carrot is playing time. The stick is practice. Monday's session began with a film session – likely not pleasurable viewing since defense and boxing out were the focuses – and then court drills that left the players drenched in sweat but with a very clear idea of expectations from now until the end of the season.

Summitt's voice never wavered and rarely was silent. Every player was challenged, and everyone finished the session. The exception was sophomore forward Vicki Baugh, who re-irritated her left knee ligament sprain in Sunday's game in 19 seconds of court time and was held out for medical reasons. Baugh will not play in Thursday's game against Ole Miss and will continue to get rehab and treatment. But Baugh made her voice heard from the sideline, as Summitt demanded that every player on the roster raise the volume.

The media focus has been on the countdown to 1,000 wins for Summitt – she currently has 998 – but the coach wanted no part of that conversation.

"A thousand wins has not entered my mind," Summitt said. "I am trying to figure out how I am going to get this team to compete on every possession, to set and use screens, to take pride in their box-outs. We've got to think about are we going to make the (NCAA) tournament? What are they going to do? Are they going to fold and give up or are they going to compete?

"We've got some non-competitive people on this team and that's not going to get it. They're not going to play. We're just going to shorten our bench."

Glaring exceptions, in a good way, would be freshman guard/forward Shekinna Stricklen, who scored 26 points and has played the one, two and three spots for Tennessee this season, and freshman forward Glory Johnson, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds against Auburn.

"We talked about it on the bus coming back last night, ‘What if we didn't have Shekinna Stricklen?' " Summitt said. "She's been a great competitor. Glory Johnson has really been competitive. I think now that she's settled down, she's got a little bit more composure, got a better feel for what she needs to bring on both sides of the ball, she's just so much better. Really, really pleased there."

Summitt also singled out redshirt freshman center Kelley Cain, who is coming back from some knee mishaps, and had six points and five rebounds in 16 minutes. Monday's up-tempo, full-court practice was a challenge for Cain, but she completed the session.

"Kelley Cain did a good job for us," Summitt said. "If she gets healthy and gets 100 percent then that's a difference maker for us in the paint."

With so many freshmen on the roster Summitt has tried to be patient this season, and she recognizes that they have had to fill big roles because of injuries to Cait McMahan, who is done for the season, and Baugh. She has spread around the playing time and has often swallowed her whistle and learned to pick her spots as to when to criticize and when to praise. But with just one more game in January and postseason peeking around the corner Summitt has ratcheted up her intensity and expectations.

"I'm not worried about their confidence," Summitt said. "I'm worried about their play. If you're not tough enough then you're not going to play. I think what's happened is we've rewarded everyone by giving them minutes and then they're not competing hard when they're on the floor.

"That's why I got so upset (Sunday). I think players like Lyssi Brewer and Amber Gray they've got to decide if they're in or out in how we're going to play. I've challenged them, but now it's time for them to tell us through their play, show us through their play. That's really been the most difficult part of it. And they both have it. They're both very skilled. That's the frustrating part of it.

"Angie Bjorklund, she's got to bring more. She makes one shot against Auburn, and she had a lot of open looks. I don't think she was very focused in that game either."

"If you can't even go to practice with your shoes in your hand instead of your room … she's got to set a better example," Summitt added, "She's been doing a pretty good job but on this road trip not focused – not day before or day of."

Summitt met one-on-one with Bjorklund on the bus ride to Knoxville on Sunday night – "quite a bit," Summitt said – and the sophomore's voice carried across the court Monday.

Summitt was so furious – she watched the game film on the five-hour bus trip, again when she got home despite the late arrival and a third time Monday morning – that she had yet to watch game film of Ole Miss, the next opponent on Thursday at Thompson-Boling Arena (7 p.m. Eastern, EPSNU). She planned to take a close look at the Rebels later Monday at home.

"I haven't even watched Ole Miss," Summitt said. "I haven't even thought about it. Today all I thought about was us getting better in practice, and Wednesday we'll do the scouting. (Monday night), I'll watch Ole Miss. I was so mad (Sunday) night I couldn't watch anything other than our tape. It was some ugly basketball on our part."

Tuesday will be an off day for the team – NCAA rules limit the number of hours a team can practice when classes are in session – and then Wednesday will be used as a preparation day for Ole Miss. Summitt will change her approach to Thursday's day-of-game shoot-around/scouting by borrowing from former Vols Coach Kevin O'Neill.

"I remember watching Kevin O'Neill on game day and they didn't go but about 20 minutes through their scouting defense, but it was all-out," Summitt said. "We walk through it and that's kind of how our players play. It's not like there's a sense of urgency. I just told the staff today I think we have to have more intensity in our scouting sessions the day of the game."

"Without the language," Summitt added with a laugh, a reference to O'Neill's penchant for cursing a blue streak. "I love Kevin but the language was a little more than I can handle."

The team will likely practice early Friday morning because Summitt and Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick will fly to North Carolina for the funeral of N.C. State Coach Kay Yow, who passed away Saturday. Stephanie Glance, who has been on the Wolfpack coaching staff for 15 years, took over on an interim basis and is expected to become the team's head coach.

"I think Stephanie should get the job and will get the job," Summitt said.

Tennessee will then travel later in the week to Oklahoma City for next Monday's matchup with Oklahoma. That means three games next week because Georgia comes to Knoxville and then the Lady Vols travel to Florida, a team much-improved over last season.

With one eye on the schedule and another on her team's shortcomings Summitt rattled cages at practice. Some of the struggles haven't surprised her – she knew she had a roster full of first-year players – but she also expects significant improvement starting with ball security.

"When you turn it over 23 times don't expect to beat anyone, certainly not anyone in the conference," Summitt said. "And then you don't rebound. We're just not where we need to be. We've got to get a whole lot better."

The 23 turnovers stood out Sunday. It echoed across the arena Monday as practice began with a full-court drill in which the Lady Vols had to get 23 defensive stops against the male practice players. If the guys made a shot, one point was taken away from the Lady Vols. The drill was lengthy and fast-paced and left the players gasping as they rotated in and out.

That was followed by 23 defensive slides back and forth across the court that left legs tired and the coaches promising that any player not in proper shape would be soon.

A breakdown of the game film showed 17 missed box-outs against Auburn so the next drill required the players to get that many against the guys. A missed box-out or a made shot subtracted a point from the Lady Vols. In between these drills were free throws and shooting repetitions. Heather Mason awaited the players for a weight room session after practice.

"I told them today I've probably been too nice," Summitt said. "Well, guess what? Those days are over. The one thing I can do I can demand every day, and I can hold the bar a little bit higher, and it just went up."

Johnson, whose effort hasn't been in question, knew what was coming. The freshman grew up in Knoxville, played in high school for a former Lady Vol and had watched some open practices, so she knew what to expect when she signed her LOI to play for Summitt.

"I think they know what it takes, and we've been taught what to do and what not to do and what it takes to be here and I think some people have just got to go with it, understand, take it in and commit to it," Johnson said of her fellow freshmen. "I guess me being here being able to watch how hard the players had to work and what they had to go through and when they lost what they had to go through, I know if there is a loss she's going to get mad, and we have to bounce back quick."

Collectively, the team has been recalcitrant at times during the season and on Monday, when confronted with an authority figure who would not tolerate another second of such behavior, the players responded and accepted the discipline.

"I don't disagree," Summitt said.

Summitt didn't pull any punches when discussing her team's performance, or lack thereof, against Auburn.

"They made us look like, as I said today, a high school team," Summitt said.

Of course, at times, Tennessee has four players on the four who were in high school a year ago.

"We have seven freshmen," Summitt said. "This is different for us, but I've said this all along: They're talented. We're not lacking for talent. What we're lacking sometimes is for heart and commitment and just committing to the system, committing to what we want to do on the defensive end, what kind of rebounding team we want to be, ball security."

Summitt has mentioned the possibility of shortening her rotation since late November but injuries kept clipping it for her. On Sunday, she said it was time and when asked Monday if that was still the case Summitt said "probably so."

She had already decided on one change. Summitt will adjust the lineup by starting Stricklen at point in place of 5'2 freshman Briana Bass and plugging in 6'1 freshman Alicia Manning on the perimeter. Johnson and Alex Fuller will remain inside. Bass will come off the bench.

"I want size," Summitt said. "And I think Bree has got to be committed to being a better defender one on one. She's got to commit to boxing out and rebounding, and she's not alone. But when she's on the floor if she's not really aggressive defensively and boxing out then that's a liability for us. Plus, then people are taking her off the dribble. She can play much better if she dials up her intensity."

Bass got the message from Summitt.

"She just talked to me about my defense," Bass said before practice. "I am trying to get my defense together. We've got our hands full. We've got to step up this week and after a loss and learn from it."

Learning was a theme of Summitt's on Monday, and a lesson she hoped she would not have to repeat this season – playing for an entire game, especially defensively – was in play again.

"We've been living on the edge and coming from behind, and we've had some success," Summitt said. "When I saw Auburn on tape I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness. If we don't identify the ball early and slow them down, this could be embarrassing.' And, to me, they embarrassed us.

"The reason I was so upset was because of the pattern that we've been in for quite awhile. So you get your butt kicked by Vanderbilt and you're not going to learn? You're going to still play the same way?

"I'm trying to be patient. I've lost my patience. Gone. No more."


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