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Oklahoma City Regional notebook: Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale reflects on last meeting with Tennessee

by Jason Kersey Published: March 30, 2013

On Feb. 2, 2009, Oklahoma denied legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt a milestone win during a regular-season game in Oklahoma City.

Summitt was going for win No. 1,000. But the Sooners “put on a show that day” in front of thousands of fans, national media and a national TV audience, beating Tennessee 80-70.

Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale smiled when a media member brought up the game during interviews at the NCAA Tournament Oklahoma City Regional on Saturday.

“What I remember most about that is Oklahoma did put on a show,” Coale said. “I'm not talking about my basketball team, I'm talking about the state, that environment, and it was nationally televised. ... Whether you were a women's basketball fan or not, everybody was watching. I think Bob Knight was calling the game, for heaven's sakes.”

Coale reflected on that game a lot this week since her Sooners are about to face the Lady Vols in their Sweet 16 game on Sunday. This week, the networks replayed that game. Coale said she responded to multiple text messages from friends who were still amazed at the game and then-freshman Whitney Hand's hot streak.

“That was sort of the opening window of ‘this is who Whitney Hand is' for the rest of the world,” Coale said. “Physically, her career didn't play out the way the rest of us wanted it to. The light she brings, the way she makes a part of all things better, that continued throughout and is still happening today.”

FOLLOWING A LEGEND

Sunday marks Tennessee's first Sweet 16 game not under the direct instruction of Summitt.

Summitt, who was diagnosed with early onset dementia in August 2011, is in her first year as head coach emeritus. Longtime Lady Vols assistant coach Holly Warlick is now at the helm.

So what's it like succeeding a legend? Easy? Difficult?

“Well, I think if you think about it, it's difficult to follow a legend,” Warlick said. “I just don't let myself go there. Pat was my coach. She was a mentor for me. Now, she's a great friend of mine. So I see Pat in a different light than probably everybody else, which is a great thing for me.

“She's still around. I still love her around. I want her at every practice. I talk to her daily. But I can't let myself go there. When I think you're coaching at the University of Tennessee, following Pat Summitt, it blows my mind a little bit. So I don't let myself go there.”

TEXAS' DUNK CITY

Waco, Texas, became “Dunk City” the last few weeks for Baylor's women's basketball's Senior Night and then for the NCAA Tournament site.

Brittney Griner's first dunk at home came during her freshman year. Then she didn't dunk again until the regular-season finale her senior year.

Then last Tuesday, in Baylor's second game of the NCAA Tournament held in Waco, Griner dunked three times against Florida State.

Baylor forward Brooklyn Pope said Griner's dunks were great for the crowd.

“It was great for everyone who supports us, Baylor, Waco,” Pope said. “I felt like all that adrenaline pumping inside the gym, all the positive energy on behalf of Baylor, just really helped our team know that this is the last time we're going to play at this gym in front of this crowd.

“I'm happy we went out the way that we did. The crowd got to see BG dunk. She rarely ever dunked in Waco. She always dunked away, which is weird. But she gave 'em three. It was three of her best dunks ever — so far.”

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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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