The Women's Final Four was played at Target Center in 1995. I spent a couple of days in Knoxville, Tenn. in January, working on a feature stroy on Tennessee coach Pat Summitt.
Summitt died on Monday night at age 64. My conversation with her lasted with her for an hour after a game and it was long enough to be very impressed. Here's the bulk of a Star Tribune article that ran on Jan. 22, 1995:
KNOXVILLE, TENN. -- Pat Summitt's Tennessee Lady Vols were easing through a victory over South Carolina on their homecourt. Her parents, Richard and Hazel Head, had made the 3 1/2-hour drive from Henrietta, Tenn., as they do for most home games.
"I was driving them in town today and Dad said, `You know, Pat, when I'm at the game, I can't see the refs out there to get on 'em anymore,' " Summitt said. "I called my optometrist and got him in for an appointment this afternoon. When you can't see the referees anymore, it's time to go to the eye doctor, don't you think?"
Richard Head, 72, has lived all his life in rural Tennessee, and he has never had much time for doctors. He had to get some care three years ago after suffering a mild heart attack. More recently, Hazel, 69, had foot surgery. On this night, she was sitting in a wheelchair next to the Tennessee bench.
Richard is 6-4 and still a powerful man. He has been hardened from all those years in the tobacco fields. He has been hardened from all those years of rarely cracking a smile.
When Pat was born, the Heads were living in a log home in Montgomery County. Jesse James had come through the county during his law-abiding period and he joined the crew building the home.
"The story is that Jesse put down the logs in one corner of the house," Richard said.
What happened to this historic home? "We tore it down and built a brick house," Richard said.
And what happened to the logs? "Burned 'em," he said.
Pat had showed an aptitude for basketball in junior high. "They didn't have high school basketball for girls in Montgomery County," Richard said. "They had basketball in Cheatham County. So, we bought 60 acres and moved to Henrietta."
These days, Richard is the co-owner of a tobacco warehouse. "We just had a big burley sale and it went real good," Head said. "The sale for the dark side is coming in a couple of weeks."
It was mentioned to Head that many folks in this great land are campaigning against his product. "Yeah, but the Republicans are in now," he said. "I think they're going to take care of things. We're in good shape."
A hint of a smile came across Richard's face when he said that. Just a hint. "My dad is a very tough man," Summitt said. "You probably noticed that. Growing up, I was intimidated by him.
"Our relationship has changed, as we've gotten older. I know he is proud of the accomplishments we've had here. He just doesn't say much about them."
Pat Head was a standout basketball player at Tennessee-Martin. After completing her degree there, she entered graduate school at the big university. Women's basketball still was in its formative
stage. Tennessee hired the 22-year-old graduate student as its coach.
"I was coaching the team, taking four classes, teaching four classes and training - trying to keep my game in shape - for the 1976 Olympic team," Summitt said. "One class I was teaching was self-defense. Didn't know a thing about it, but I learned."
The first game Summitt coached was a home-court loss to Mercer. "We might have had 100 people - all parents, family and friends," Summitt said.
Twenty-one seasons later, the Lady Vols play in the 24,000-seat Thompson-Boling Arena. In 1987, a regular-season game with Texas attracted a crowd of 24,563. The attendance at women's games frequently exceeds those for the men.
Tennessee men's basketball has been through a low period. On the last two occasions the Volunteers were hiring a men's coach, the athletic director asked Summitt to consider the job.
"I appreciated the thought, but I was where I wanted to be," Summitt said. "We live in a man's world. I had three older brothers and they all had a chance to go to college on athletic scholarships. As an athlete, I was as talented and successful as my brothers, but my family had to find the money to put me through college.
"Women have gained ground in this country, but we still have a long way to go. I've spent a lot of time working to make women's basketball important. I would not be interested in doing something that would make our game appear to be less important."
Summitt was a co-captain on the 1976 silver-medal Olympic team. She coached the U.S. women to their first Olympic gold medal in 1984. At Tennessee, Summitt entered this season with a 530-126 record and three national championships - 1987, 1989 and 1991.
Tennessee wins with Summitt's hard-nosed coaching and with the relentless, nationwide recruiting of Summitt and assistant Mickie DeMoss. How relentless?
In September 1990, Summitt and DeMoss were scheduled to fly to Allentown, Pa., to make their home visit with guard Michelle Marciniak.
"I was out-to-here pregnant with Tyler," Summitt said. "We had a chartered plane waiting for us. Then, my water broke that morning."
Summitt called her doctor and said she wanted to make the trip, if at all possible. "I guess so, as long as you're not in labor," the doctor said.
Summitt and DeMoss arrived at the Marciniak home about the same time the baby was giving indications he wanted to see the world for himself.
"I told Betsy, Michelle's mom, that I was in labor, but I didn't want Michelle to know," Summitt said. "We showed Michelle our tape and we were getting ready to make our pitch. I excused myself to get a drink of water and when I came back, I said, `Mickie, we have to go.' "
Mickie wanted to finish a point she was making to Marciniak and Summitt said: "Mickie, we have to go now."
Marciniak wound up going to Notre Dame, then transferring to Tennessee. She is now a junior, a starting guard, and the top outside shooter.
After leaving Allentown, Summitt's labor became more intense and the pilot wanted to land in Virginia. "I told him, `You're going to have one wild woman on your hands if you try to land this plane before we get to Knoxville,' " Summitt said.
The plane made it to Knoxville, her husband - banker R.B. Summitt - was waiting at the hospital, and the baby arrived.
Bill Keezel, 75, a fan from Morristown, Tenn., said: "You know why Pat wasn't going to have that baby in Virginia? Virginia had beaten the Lady Vols in the regional final, in overtime, a few months earlier. Pat doesn't like to lose."
Keezel coached high school boys' basketball. He has been on the Lady Vols bandwagon almost as long as Summitt has been coaching.
Last year, Keezel underwent a heart procedure. When he got home, there was a get-well card from Summitt.
"The doctors did $30,000 worth of work on me, and that card from old Pat did more to
get me back on my feet than they did," Keezel said. "Here in Tennessee, we think she's the greatest."