- Nancy Lieberman, Basketball analyst / Writer
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While the rest of the country reacted with Oohs and Aahs over Candace Parker's one-handed dunk on a breakaway just six minutes into Tennessee's rout of Army on Sunday, Pat Summitt wasn't nearly as impressed.
Yes, the Tennessee coach was happy for Parker, the redshirt freshman who had missed her only other attempt 24 days ago in an SEC game against Auburn. But Summitt was more worried about Parker's health.
"I've seen her do that [dunk] a million times in practice," Summitt said during a phone interview Sunday. "I was just relieved she didn't get hurt."
But when Parker dunked again in the second half -- this time on a give-and-go with Nicky Anosike along the baseline -- Summitt finally succumbed to the excitement, though the coach admits it took awhile to sink in.
"You know, I was focused and I was coaching, and maybe for me, I just didn't understand it for a minute," Summitt said. "When somebody told me they broke into an NBA game [on ABC] to show highlights of Candace dunking, I understood the significance of it.
"The baseline dunk was amazing. Candace is excited. I'm excited."
Excited? Pat Summitt? The coach who gets giddy about defense and rebounding, but never focuses so closely on the trees making up the forest that she loses sight of her path.
"Candace's game is a history changer," Summitt added. "There have been people in sports, in our game, who actually change the game. Cheryl Miller changed the game. Diana Taurasi changed the game. Candace is changing the game."
Summitt said she has seen a difference in Parker since the end of the regular season -- "there's more dimension in her game" -- and that the 6-foot-4 phenom who can play all five positions has elevated both her play and intensity.
And of course, Summitt is quick to point out that the dunk only goes so far.
"For everything the dunk is and was, it's the least-skilled thing that Candace Parker can do," Summitt said.
Nancy Lieberman, an ESPN analyst and Hall of Famer, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. Contact her at www.nancylieberman.com.
13dBonnie D. Ford