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Coach's husband among loud Lady Vols fans

3/27/2003

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Lady Vols burst out of
their locker room, past a picture of Chamique Holdsclaw and the
1997 national championship team, and onto the court at
Thompson-Boling Arena.

Thousands of orange-clad fans remain standing and clapping until
the Lady Vols score their first point.

Then the crowd hushes a bit, and a familiar voice hollers,
"Good job, ladies!''

Later, they hear: "Rebound, Ty, rebound!''

Then, "She's palming the ball.''

Or, "Three seconds.''

The sound of coach Pat Summitt's husband, R.B. Summitt, yelling
encouragement or deriding the opposing coach and officials, is just
another part of Tennessee's home-court atmosphere.

The top-seeded team will try to take advantage of playing at
home again this weekend in the NCAA Mideast Regional.

Tennessee, which won in the first two rounds in the subregional
to increase its NCAA Tournament home record to 42-0, will play
fourth-seeded Penn State on Saturday. No. 2 seed Villanova and No.
6 seed Colorado will play in the other regional semifinal.

In the cavernous Thompson-Boling arena -- its 24,535 seats pared
to 17,400 for the tournament -- it's hard to imagine that players
can hear anyone's voice in the stands.

But they do.

"He's a voice that kind of sticks out in the crowd because he's
sitting right there,'' Tennessee junior Tasha Butts said. "He's
always like, 'Good job, Tasha! Good hustle!' His voice is very
distinctive.''

R.B. Summitt's voice doesn't conflict with his wife's because
he sits across the court from the team benches, not behind as many
coaches' spouses do.

President of a local bank, R.B. Summitt has a good view of
everything from section 121, row 1, seat 12, which is directly
behind press row and the radio and television announcers.

"I like to see their expressions,'' he said. "It's like
sitting across the table from someone.''

He said he was given the choice of where to sit when Tennessee
started playing in Thompson-Boling in 1987, shortly after it was
completed.

But his wife had a say about that.

"Yes, I did,'' the coach said, laughing. "Certainly I hear him
whether we're home or away. But I always know where I can find him
at home. I'm glad he's across from our bench and not behind. I
might have trouble communicating in the huddles.''

R.B. Summitt knows nearly every referee and opposing coach and
shouts out their names during games.

In Tennessee's 81-51 win over Virginia in the second round on
Monday, Cavaliers coach Debbie Ryan got mad when Anna Crosswhite
was called for a foul on Tennessee's Gwen Jackson.

"Oh, sit down, Ryan!'' R.B. yelled from his seat.

He never yells anything obscene -- although he's been accused of
it -- or boos.

As far as being a loud fan, he doesn't apologize.

"Why holler if you're not going to be heard,'' R.B. Summitt
asked. ''(The players) are out there doing their best. Maybe they
need something positive to get them over the hump.''

The Lady Vols are 225-11 in Thompson-Boling Arena and have won
18 straight home games overall. Penn State is 0-2 in Knoxville, but
both games were played before Thompson-Boling was built.

Penn State also played host to a subregional this year and was
able to extend its home winning streak to 20. Still, Tennessee's string of consecutive wins sticks out.

"It's a tremendous streak, and that's something that we have
started on our own,'' Penn State guard Kelley Mazzante said. "Now
we have to go in there and try to break it.''

It's hard to say if playing at home was a big boost for
Tennessee in the first and second rounds or if it was more of a
distraction for the opponent.

"It was definitely hostile when you are playing in front of
10,000 fans,'' Virginia's Anna Prillaman said. "They got off to a
good start.''

The Tennessee-Virginia game only drew 6,772 people, far off the
Lady Vols' average home attendance this season of 12,902.

But at least one fan was as loud as ever.