March 22, 2005
By ELIZABETH A. DAVIS
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Pat Summitt stands alone at the top of NCAA basketball.
The Tennessee coach broke Dean Smith's career victory record Tuesday night, getting No. 880 in the Lady Vols' 75-54 win over Purdue in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Summitt tied Smith at 879 with an easy win over Western Carolina in the first round Sunday night and passed the former North Carolina men's coach with another convincing victory. Summitt improved to 880-171, while Smith was 879-254 when he retired in 1997 after 36 years with the Tar Heels.
"Obviously, to be in the company with Coach Smith, to think about all the people that were a part of these wins, I never thought I'd live this long," Summitt said.
After the game, NCAA officials presented Summitt with the game ball and a plaque. And the university announced the court at Thompson-Boling Arena will be named "The Summitt."
The 52-year-old Summitt waved to the crowd and hugged family members, who came down to the court to celebrate with her. The team posed for a picture with the players holding up newspaper pages with a huge 880 in orange on the front.
"That's what it's all about," Summitt said. "We talk about the wins and the trophies, but it's all about the people. The players have influenced me more than I have influenced them."
Top-seeded Tennessee (28-4), seeking its seventh national title under Summitt, advanced to face fourth-seeded Texas Tech in the semifinals of the Philadelphia Regional on Sunday.
"First and foremost, we're going to the Sweet 16," Summitt said.
Ninth-seeded Purdue (17-13) tried its best to stall Summitt's chase, hanging tough with the Lady Vols in the first half.
But Tennessee's defense was too much for Purdue in the second half. The Boilermakers didn't have a field goal in the first 6:35 of the second half, while the Lady Vols pushed their lead to 20 with a 19-6 run.
Sharika Webb had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Katie Gearlds added 13 for the Boilermakers, who made only four field goals in the second half.
Summitt overtook Texas' Jody Conradt as the winningest women's college coach early in the 2002-03 season.
She holds nearly every NCAA tournament record for a women's coach including most NCAA titles (six), Final Four appearances (15), Final Four wins (17), tournament appearances (24), tournament games (104) and tournament wins (87).
"A lot of players come and go, but the great ones leave and other great ones arrive," Summitt said. "They wear the orange with tremendous pride."
And many of her tournament runs have started in Knoxville, where the Lady Vols improved to 46-0 in NCAA games.
An amazing chunk of Summitt's wins have come against ranked teams. In her 1,051 games, 494 of those were against ranked opponents and she won 353 of them. She has never lost to an unranked team in Thompson-Boling, which opened in 1987.
Summitt took over the women's program at Tennessee in 1974 at age 22 when there were no scholarships and she had to wash the uniforms and drive the team van. The Lady Vols nickname didn't even exist.
A mere 53 fans watched Summitt win her first game, a 69-32 victory over Middle Tennessee on Jan. 10, 1975.
Thousands of orange-clad supporters came to see Summitt reach 880 on Tuesday, creating an atmosphere even more electric than usual.
The fans are likely to see many more wins. Summitt's record could stretch well past 1,000 before she retires.
Summitt is the second college coach to pass Smith this season.
Harry Statham of McKendree College in the NAIA did earlier this year and finished the year with 896 wins.