Baylor coach looks to Summitt for advice, and now for big win
March 27, 2004
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Kim Mulkey-Robertson remembers how Pat Summitt stood by her when she was a player and comforted her when she was about to become a mother.
It's why Mulkey-Robertson has nothing but admiration for the legendary Tennessee coach she'll face Sunday in the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals.
``I just love Pat Summitt,'' said Mulkey-Robertson, coach of fourth-seeded Baylor. ``She's my kind of coach. A lot of what I do was learned from Pat Summitt. She's hard-nosed, she's a mother, she's married. She takes her career and passion for the game seriously, and at the same time she loves her family.
``She's everything I aspire to be as a coach.''
Mulkey-Robertson played on the 1984 Olympic team Summitt coached. Summitt endeared herself to the young player six weeks before the Olympics started, when Mulkey-Robertson fractured her foot.
``I woke up one morning and couldn't walk,'' Mulkey-Robertson said. ``The doctors said stay off of it for three to four weeks.''
Summitt refused to pick an alternate.
``I'll never forget when I had my meeting with her. She said 'Absolutely not, you made this team and you will be ready,''' Mulkey-Robertson said. ``It took me three weeks and I was back to full speed. I won't ever forget that.''
Summitt said making a roster change was never a serious consideration.
``Her leadership, her mental toughness, her attitude -- she's a great competitor,'' Summitt said. ``I felt like she would bring something to our Olympic team that obviously was contagious.''
The team went on to win the gold medal.
Years later when Mulkey-Robertson was pregnant with her first child, Makenzie, and concerned about how her career would be affected, Summitt was there again.
``I just talked to her as a mom,'' Summitt said.
The young Louisiana Tech assistant coach never forgot.
``Just the things she answered for me and the reassurance she gave me,'' Mulkey-Robertson said, ``I knew it was going to be OK.''
As they cross paths again, Mulkey-Robertson's Bears (26-8) will be looking for the biggest win in school history. Baylor is making its first appearance in the round of 16. Tennessee (28-3) is there for the 23rd consecutive time.
``Our fans are excited, they are excited just to be in the Sweet 16,'' Mulkey-Robertson said. ``Her fans would probably be disappointed if they didn't make it to the Sweet 16.''
In the other regional semifinal, second-seeded Vanderbilt will be making its 11th appearance in the round of 16 and No. 6 seed Stanford its 13th.
The Commodores (26-7) will need to find a way to slow down All-American Nicole Powell, who's averaging 20 points per game this season.
``She'll post up guards if you put a guard against her. She'll take you outside if you put a post (player) on her,'' Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb. ``She presents a very tough matchup for whatever you decide to do against her.''
Balcomb said the Commodores would guard the 6-foot-2 forward by committee.
``She is going to draw a lot of attention,'' Balcomb said. ``You have to be careful not to give her too much attention because her supporting cast is very good and very capable to hurt you.''
Stanford (26-6) will have to contend with Vanderbilt's balanced scoring attack, with five players averaging in double figures. Jenni Benningfield, a 6-foot-3 forward, leads the team with 13.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
Abi Ramsey, Hillary Hager, Ashley Earley and Carla Thomas all also average more than 10 points per game.
``We try to get balanced scoring so that if one player is off, one player is injured or one or two players is sick, you can continue to win and have people step up and not count on one player,'' Balcomb said. ``That's what makes us strong right now.''