Fall of ’83, my senior year in high school, our basketball coach took us to South Bend to watch the Notre Dame Classic. We excitedly ran down at halftime of the Tennessee/USC game to collect autographs of the McGee twins and Cheryl Miller. After collecting those and other USC players’ scrawls, our coach pointed out Pat Summitt (then going by Pat Head Summitt) who was named the ’84 U.S Women’s Olympic basketball coach so we all ran over to the Tennessee bench for her autograph.
She was already eagle-eyeing her team warming up for the second half but one of her assistants tapped her to sign our programs. She signed a friend’s and then mine, and then said with a command in her voice that prompted both admiration and a little bit of fear, “That’s all ladies. I need to get back to work here. We have a game to play.” I spent the rest of the game watching her coach more than watching the game. She was someone you imagined owned a room when she walked into it.
I became a Tennessee fan that day.