Summitt spoofs spy movie to motivate Tennessee
A woman in mirrored sunglasses with her shirt collar flipped up pops up on the video screen aboard the bus carrying Tennessee to its first NCAA tournament game.
She offers the Lady Vols a mission -- if they choose to accept it.
The players burst out laughing at their coach, the stern, no-nonsense Pat Summitt, acting out a spoof of the movie "Mission: Impossible" to motivate them in the NCAA tournament.
The Lady Vols' version is titled "Mission: Possible," and players will watch the final tape in the miniseries Sunday on the way to their game against LSU in the national semifinals in New Orleans.
Summitt is getting more into her role for the final performance.
"I'm going to have my hair slicked back!" Summitt said.
She refuses, however, to divulge details of Tennessee's next mission.
"I can't tell you that," she said, laughing.
But everyone knows the goal -- winning Tennessee a seventh national championship and first since 1998.
Top-seeded Tennessee (30-3) is making its 15th overall and third straight appearance in the Final Four. A win over LSU would put the Lady Vols in the title game against either defending national champion Connecticut or upstart Minnesota.
The NCAA tournament is a serious time when Summitt preaches her "survive and advance" mentality and extols the importance of defense and rebounding.
During the Midwest Regional in Norman, Okla., television cameras zoomed in to catch Summitt courtside with her icy, blue eyes staring like laser beams at officials, and players who failed to box out or defend.
But even Summitt finds a time to be silly, and that's on the bus on the way to the games.
Summitt's staff has for years put together highlight reels with motivating music to show the players during the NCAAs. Last year's theme was "The Wizard of Oz."
This year marks the first time Summitt is the star of the videos.
So far, the team has seen two of them -- one in Tallahassee, Fla., for the opening round and then in Norman, Okla., for the Midwest Regional games.
"Ladies, your mission, if you choose to accept it, is survive in Tallahassee and advance to Norman," Summitt says in the first message.
Then she tells the team there are three tools -- focus, accountability and attitude -- and "if used properly will guarantee a successful mission."
Later Summitt says: "If there's any team that can complete this mission, it's this team."
Each message is followed by highlight clips of each player, who have been given agent code names in keeping with the theme.
The tapes are a hit with the players.
"It was funny. You wouldn't expect Coach to give us the message," injured Tennessee guard Loree Moore said. "It gets us ready for the game."
Graduate assistant Kathy Allen came up with this year's idea, playing off the two recent "Mission: Impossible" movies starring Tom Cruise and the television series that aired from 1966-1973.
"It helps the kids see her in a different light," Allen said.
Summitt has not seen the movies -- most of her film viewing involves basketball. But she got the gist and played up her role, even keeping a straight face while saying her lines.
"(The players) started dying laughing because I'm being all serious," Summitt said.
Tennessee fans probably felt like they were watching a thriller all season with the Lady Vols taking many games down to the wire and then finding a dramatic way to finish.
They pulled out a 61-59 win over Baylor in the regional semifinals after a disputed foul was called in the final second.
In the next game, Tasha Butts won the game with a leaning shot around Stanford All-American Nicole Powell with 1.7 seconds remaining.
Unlike some of Summitt's more dominant teams from the past, these Lady Vols have scrapped their way to the Final Four.
"You have your team and your tools," the mysterious looking woman on the last tape says. "What happens next is in your hands."