The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame was the perfect site for Executive Producer, Brenda VanLengen, and the Real Media crew to interview several people with ties to the early days of college women’s basketball and the late, great Pat Summitt. Thank you to Dana Hart and her wonderful staff for their hospitality while we were in Knoxville!
Here are a few of the stories we collected in Knoxville:
Holly Warlick sprained her ankle on the night that Pat Summitt came to watch her play in high school and she didn’t hear back from the University of Tennessee Coach. So, the Knoxville speedster accepted a track scholarship to UT and decided to ‘walk on’ the basketball team. As a freshman point guard, Warlick led the Lady Vols to their first AIAW National Tournament and national semifinal appearance and earned a scholarship. Not only did Warlick lead Tennessee to the AIAW Women’s Final Four two of the next three years, but she would also go on to coach with Pat from 1985 until Pat’s retirement in 2012.
Joan Cronan is well known for her leadership in women’s athletics during her time as Women’s Athletic Director at the University of Tennessee from 1983 to 2012. She led Tennessee women’s athletics during one of the most successful runs in women’s basketball history when Pat Summitt’s Lady Vols won eight NCAA National Championships. But, did you know Joan Cronan was the coach of the fledgling Lady Vols basketball team in the late 1960s and early 70s?
Ann Baker Furrow was the original Lady Vol. She was the first woman to receive a sports scholarship at UT to play for the men’s golf team in the 1960s. Basketball was her first love, though, as she led the state of Tennessee in scoring her senior year of high school. She was the lone female voice on the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees when the women’s athletic program was established in 1976.
Carolyn Bush Roddy grew up in Kingston, Tenn., and did not play organized basketball until segregation ended with The Civil Rights Act of 1964. She made the most of her opportunity and earned a place in the Tennessee East/West All Star game in 1971 and faced Pat Head (Summitt) in that contest. Roddy went on to play for the vaunted Wayland Baptist Flying Queens and earned a roster spot for the USA in the 1975 World Championships and 1975 Pan Am Games.
After a successful high school basketball career in Georgia, Trish Roberts didn’t know there were any opportunities to play basketball after high school. So, she began working in a factory sewing waistbands and quickly realized that was not what she wanted for her career. She found her way to North Georgia College, then followed her coach to Emporia State in Kansas. Between seasons, she tried out for USA teams but was never selected until Colleen Matsuhara invited her to play in a league in California. Roberts earned league MVP honors, was invited to the try-outs for the 1976 Olympics and was selected for the team where she was teammates with Pat Head (Summitt). The next year, Roberts joined the Lady Vols, and freshman Holly Warlick, in that first AIAW Tournament appearance and trip to the national semifinal.
Debby Jennings is a walking encyclopedia for Lady Vols basketball history because she’s lived it since arriving on campus as a student in 1973. She gained experience in media relations with men’s athletics as a UT student, but when the Lady Vols athletic department was formed, Jennings was quickly hired to help build the program. Throw any date or any women’s basketball event at Jennings and she has a story or insight about its significance.
Gloria Scott Deathridge was the first Black woman to play basketball for the Lady Vols in 1972. Ironically, the summer before she attended UT, she played with Carolyn Bush Roddy in the East/West All-Star game against Pat Head. She wasn’t recruited by UT and didn’t earn a scholarship, but no one did at that time. She hadn’t even planned to play basketball after her successful career at Bradley Central High School but saw a sign on a pole on campus advertising basketball tryouts, and decided to give it a try. Immediately she was recognized by a former high school rival at the try-out and had no trouble making the team.
Dru Hancock was interviewed in Kansas City when she was honored by the Women Leaders in College Sports organization, but she also has ties to Pat Summitt and UT. Hancock played basketball at The Ohio State University in the early 1970s and was inspired to embark on a career in promoting women’s sports when there was a lack of local media coverage for her college team. Fast forward to 1984 and Hancock served on the media relations team for the 1984 USA Women’s Basketball Olympic team which Pat Summitt led to a gold medal in Los Angeles.
Photos from the trip are featured on the Gallery page. For those that would like to support this project and have their names displayed on the If Not For Them website and included in the credits of the documentary series, you can Join the Team.