PHILADELPHIA -- Now that Pat Summitt has the record for career coaching victories, Tennessee has one less distraction as it chases a seventh national championship.
Though Summitt appreciated the recognition she earned for passing Dean Smith with her 880th career win, the Hall of Fame coach felt it overshadowed how well her Lady Vols were playing.
"It was talked about probably more than I ever had imagined," Summitt said yesterday. "To have that in the past is a good thing. I don't even want to take a chance of any distractions at this point."
The top-seeded Lady Vols (28-4) get their next chance to add to Summitt's record when they play fourth-seeded Texas Tech (24-7) today in the Philadelphia Regional. Second-seeded Ohio State (30-4) plays No. 3 seed Rutgers (27-6) in the other semifinal.
The Philadelphia Regional is the only one with the top four seeds still playing and boasts three Hall of Fame coaches. Besides Summitt, there's Texas Tech's Marsha Sharp and Rutgers's C. Vivian Stringer. Ohio State coach Jim Foster is a likely future inductee with 577 career wins and a trip to the 1993 Final Four. Tennessee comes to Philly as the team to beat, with easy wins in its first two tournament games. The Lady Vols hardly seemed bothered by all the attention rightfully lavished on Summitt's record (880-171). They fought through an injury-plagued season to turn themselves into contenders for a national championship -- something Tennessee hasn't won since the last of its three straight titles in 1998. Ohio State and Rutgers are playing each other for the third time in the last two seasons, including the Buckeyes' 52-50 win in January. Rutgers was a 56-53 winner over Ohio State last year. "I don't think about the last time we played them," Foster said. "I look at the film to see what they did, but I don't have too many feelings about it. I don't think our kids do, either."