Gordon remembers practices under the legendary Pat Summitt being brutal; they were much harder than the games. Either practice or a live-game situation, the players were obligated to do one thing: empty the tank.
To do that it starts with instilling a gritty defense. Gordon made that fact very clear because, to her, it will be a key factor to getting Tennessee to its first Final Four since 2008.
“To get back to the way that we used to, (it) was always about defense and hard work,” Gordon said. “ So, just getting back down to the grinding and emptying your tank. That’s the first thing I told the girls.
“There shouldn’t be a day that you go by in practice, and never a game, that you don’t empty your tank, so when you go back in that mirror after the game you can look yourself in that mirror and say, ‘I gave it my all.’
“If the team is better than you, you can live with that. But, if they aren’t better than you, then you didn’t empty your tank and you are not fulfilling your potential.”
Reaching the highest potential runs through the defense and blossoms by players knowing their roles. Gordon flashed back to her days, especially during the Olympics, when her defense gave the team another dimension.
Whether a player plays five minutes or the entire 40 minutes, accepting a role takes a good team and transforms it into a great one.
If a player isn’t happy with their role, then that’s what practice time and game minutes are for to prove their worth. It’s a combination of things — defense, roles and team chemistry — that fuels and polishes a team into form.
Tennessee hopes that turns the program back into a powerhouse and national championship contender that Gordon put as the standard over a decade ago.
“Everybody has play a role, if you want to win a championship, at the end of the day it’s not about the name on the back of your jersey, it’s about the name on the front of the jersey,” she said. “It’s not about the name in the scorebook, it’s about the Lady Vols’ points on the scoreboard.”
“I don’t know anybody else that could have done it or would have wanted to have done that,” Collier said of taking over for Summitt. “You talk about all the greats, you’re following a legend. It didn’t matter what Holly was going to do. She was going to get criticized because she can’t be Pat Summitt. Nobody can. I know it’s been frustrating and hard at times, and having to also handle Pat’s death at the same time. My hat’s off to her.”
Actually even Pat Summitt could not be Pat Summitt in todays WCBB landscape. The type of players coming out of high school now days are not ready for the type of commitment that Pat expected from her players. There are just too many options available for them today. This is becoming more evident via the high transfer rates in WCBB today.
The great John Wooden once said not long after he retired that he would not be able to coach the present crop of players