When Vice President Al Gore called to congratulate the Tennessee Volunteers for winning their third straight NCAA women’s basketball title Sunday night, star Chamique Holdsclaw took the receiver from coach Pat Summitt and, according to Summitt, asked:
“Are you going to get tired of seeing me at the White House?”
Holdsclaw’s question was as relevant as it was bold. Not only will she be making her third trip to the White House in as many collegiate seasons, but there is no reason to believe she won’t be making a fourth. Sunday, Holdsclaw promised to return for her senior season instead of going pro.
The Vols, who topped off a perfect 39-0 season with an 18-point victory over Louisiana Tech, will lose only one senior to graduation this spring. And even after Holdsclaw graduates in 1999, this year’s freshman starters - guard Semeka Randall and forward Tamika Catchings - will be entering their junior seasons.
In other words, there could be many, many more White House visits for Summitt’s teams.
All that talk about Tennessee being the greatest team ever? The subject now has turned to the Vols’ dynasty-in-the-making, one that could rival the most awesome dynasties of all time. This year’s title makes it six in 12 years.
“Certainly with this freshman class and Chamique coming back, and Kellie (Jolly) will be a senior, we should have a terrific team,” Summitt said. “If we stay healthy … I think we’re capable of doing it (again). I think you are going to see an exciting team next year.”
Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore worries that Tennessee’s success could prove to be too much of a good thing.
“This year I thought they really added a lot to women’s basketball,” Barmore said. ” … I think for a couple of years that’s great. But if they run off five, six, seven in a row, now I don’t think that’s good for women’s basketball.”
This season, Tennessee received credit for drawing more people than ever to the women’s game, culling attention because of its remarkable winning streak and unprecedented playing style. The Vols’ aggressive, running, take-it-to-the-hole philosophy had not been employed by a women’s college team to this extent.
Though Holdsclaw was the team’s anchor, Summitt said, it was Randall and Catchings who brought a more fast-paced approach - to which even Holdsclaw had to adapt.
Holdsclaw actually increased her championship streak to seven with Sunday’s victory. She won four straight titles with New York’s Christ the King High before arriving at Tennessee.
“I guess I’m used to winning right now, and everyone is (saying): ‘Meek, you’re not really excited,”’ she said, shrugging. “I’ve been there, so I’m not going to be crying or anything like that.”
According to Summitt, the best reason to expect future success from the Vols is the attitude of this season’s young players. Summitt called this her most enjoyable season coaching in 24 years, saying this team mirrored her drive and motivation like no other has.
“I am so happy for this team because of their love for the game, their competitiveness and their chemistry and love for each other,” Summitt said. “I cannot imagine this team not getting what they deserve. They deserve a national championship.”