Summitt Reaches Her Peak

Not Your Average Basketball Coach

For 25 years, Pat Summitt has been prowling the sidelines as head coach of the University of Tennessee's Lady Volunteers. She has gained national recognition as a leader with a temper and a demanding attitude -- and thatÂ's when sheÂ's winning. Correspondent Vicki Mabrey reports for 60 Minutes II.

Â"You wanna be average?Â" asks Summit. Â"There are so many average people in this world that it just annoys me. Anyone can be average. What separates out people? People that are willing to work every day. People that are willing to do the things that arenÂ't fun. People that are willing to look at all their faults, their weaknesses, then try and commit to a way to make their weaknesses strengths.Â"

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She has devoted her life to teaching her players how to play at an elite level and win, whether itÂ's game day or practice day. But when she loses, Summit has a difficult time coping.

Â"Oooh! You donÂ't want to be around me. I am not a good loser. I get sick physically. Sometimes I go to bed for at least 24 hoursÂ…I take it to heart. I hate it.Â"

Step one in the Pat Summitt program: break them down. ItÂ's a lot like boot camp. Freshman Michelle Snow knew volumes about Coach Summitt well before her first day on campus.

Â"I heard all kinds of wild stories. She screams at players, she hollers, sheÂ'll run you to death,Â" says Snow. Â"It works. I mean, look at the numbers. I mean, her numbers have said it all. Whatever sheÂ's doing, it is working.Â"

And the numbers are proof positive. In 1998, her Lady Volunteers went 39 and 0 and won a third straight national title. Summitt herself has won an Olympic silver medal in 1976, and coached the U.S. team to gold in 1984. With six national championships under her belt, she has won more collegiate titles than any other womenÂ's basketball coach.

For Summitt, recruiting the best is a large part of the winning obsession. Â"We have some of the best players in the womenÂ's game,Â" Summit says. Â"I think first and foremost itÂ's all about recruiting people that want to be at this level, that can perform at this level, that aspire to be the best.Â"

SheÂ'll drop almost anything to fly across the country for one-on-one visits with extraordinary high school athletes. Take the case of Michelle Marciniak in 1990. Summitt was nine months pregnant with her first child, but flew to MarciniakÂ's home anyway to convince her to play for Tennessee.

Pat says her only child has mellowed her, although itÂ's hard to know what mellow is for this driven perfectionist. In part, that drive comes from SummittÂ's own tough upbringing. She was the fourth of five children, born into a family of hardworking dair and tobacco farmers.

"My dad was really hard to please," says Summit. Â"I mean, I never heard him say Â'good job.Â' He might nod his head, and I knew he meant that I was okay. It really motivated me. That sounds pretty sick doesnÂ't it? It motivated me. Negative motivated me. Probably more than positive, because I always knew that I could be better. And it wasnÂ't good enough. And I always wanted to do more.Â"

She expects the same drive from her players. It has led to an interesting mix on the court. Two-thirds of this yearÂ's players were raised by single parents, and all come from homes built on a foundation of strong discipline.

Summitt uses science to eliminate much of the coaching guesswork. She gives her players personality tests to better understand how to motivate them. And she doesnÂ't stop there. ItÂ's always lights-out no later than 11:30 p.m., whether on the road or in the dorm. Class attendance is mandatory, and players must sit in one of the first three rows.

In a sport that is commanding unprecedented attention these days, the Lady Volunteers are breaking attendance records. And for as long as Pat Summitt remains the force behind the Volunteers, their record will be hard to break.