KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- 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
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
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
"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
So far, the team has seen two of them: one in Tallahassee,
Fla., for the opening round and then in Norman 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
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
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