Pat Summitt’s new game? Extending legacy of inspiration

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Pat Summitt’s never been the shy, retiring type. She’s driven, detailed and demanding. Maybe that’s why the Tennessee women’s basketball coach has won more games than any other person in college, men or women. Maybe that’s why the Vols have won eight NCAA tournaments.

Maybe that’s why she’s one of the rare individuals who transcends their sport.

And maybe that’s why when she says she’ll attack her early onset dementia with the same fervor with which she coaches, you’re scared for the dementia.

Is it ready for that singular glare? Is anything?

Summitt, 59, dealt the sports world a shock with her health announcement Wednesday. Coaches couldn’t believe it, writers heaped praises in tributes and fans tried to cope with the thought of what’s next. (This story of how Summitt found out about the diagnosis is particularly good.)

But really, all of that isn’t necessary. Not yet. Summitt isn’t dying. She isn’t retiring. Hell, she’s still thinking of winning national titles. And why not? She’ll manage her condition, stay active and delegate to her assistant coaches as needed. She’ll do what’s needed, just like always.

That’s what Summitt’s always done. Why would this be any different?

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“She’s our John Wooden. If you are a Tennessee fan or not, there’s no denying her place in women’s basketball,” said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “I played for the woman. She’s as tough as nails. People think I’m tough. I’m a pussycat compared to Pat Summitt …. Pat Summitt will fight. Pat Summitt will be on a crusade to help people with dementia.”

That I don’t doubt. Summitt’s done more than just win games. She’s a giant in her sport and helped elevate it from niche offering to a major event. From Graham Hays at ESPN.com:

Without Title IX, there would be no Pat Summitt. But on almost any given day of any given month in Knoxville, the sights and sounds of sport suggest Title IX would not be what it is without Summitt. There were others. Many others. But what she built on a basketball court radiated out to soccer, softball and volleyball fields and courts throughout Tennessee and beyond, stopping only when it bumped up against the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

That Summitt has not gone unappreciated proves only that we do not always fail to recognize genius in our own time. Much as each and every tribute must make her face flush with the discomfort of someone raised to shun such things, she thankfully has experienced the love and respect universally directed her way.

That respect popped up everywhere on Wednesday, whether it was those talking about her indomitable presence or the personal touches that emerged when they were least expected. The woman’s a legend. Simple as that.

She’s not perfect. Her ongoing feud with UConn coach Geno Auriemma has robbed women’s hoops of its version of Duke-Carolina or Yankees-Red Sox, but who knows? This development could change things.

Yet even if her Vols never played the Huskies again, it wouldn’t matter. Summitt’s legacy is secure. She’ll spend the next few years building it even higher and doing more than she’s ever done before. Summitt will keep winning.

But I’m guessing the next few years will serve an even more crucial purpose – ongoing inspiration. From ESPN.com’s Mechelle Voepel:

Summitt has won more than a thousand games. She has eight NCAA titles. She has done a remarkable job of keeping up with every player who has been a part of that mammoth success over a nearly four-decade span.

But Summitt can’t possibly know all the times when a woman was confronted with a sick child, or a crumbling relationship, or a frail parent, or a job loss, or a frightening X-ray … then remembered being a girl who cursed under her breath after an exhausting workout in Knoxville. And thought, “I got through that. I’ll get through this. Pat wouldn’t expect anything less of me.”

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Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.