When University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt brought her Lady Vols to Bangor, Maine, on Dec. 13, 1990, she was already a coaching legend.
Summitt had guided her teams to 16 straight winning seasons since taking over the program in the 1974-75 season and had already won two NCAA titles (1987 and ‘89).
The opponent on the Bangor Auditorium hardwood was the University of Maine Black Bears, coached by one of Summitt’s former players, Trish Roberts.
Roberts played one season for Summitt after they played together on the U.S. Olympic team that won a silver medal in 1976.
Summitt, who died Tuesday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, guided Roberts and the Vols to a 28-5 record with Roberts averaging 29.9 points and 14.2 rebounds per game in the 1976-77 season. The team finished third in the AIAW National Championship tournament and helped launch Summitt’s legendary career that went on to include eight NCAA crowns and an overall 1,098-208 record, the most wins of any collegiate coach.
A story previewing the matchup of the former teacher and student by the BDN’s John Nash revealed a mutual respect between Summitt and Roberts.
“I have a great respect for Pat. If I could describe her, I would say she’s the envy of every Division I coach in the country. She has done it all,” Roberts, who coached Maine to four straight winning seasons (1988-92), said in the story.
“It will be great to see her,” Summitt said at the time. “When you stay in the game for as long as I have, you create a lot of monsters that you’ve got to coach against. But I’m really proud of Trish and I’m looking forward to playing (Maine).”
In those years, Maine was a blossoming program and building its fan base while still chasing an elusive conference title that would give it an NCAA berth.
The Black Bears turned in a respectable showing but Nash’s game story put it best when he wrote:
“In the end, the University of Tennessee was just too big, too quick, too athletic.
And too good. The nationally ranked Lady Volunteers jumped out to an early 10-point lead and held off a number of charges from a gritty University of Maine team en route to a 77-64 victory in front of 2,281 fans at the Bangor Auditorium on Thursday night.”
One of the most revealing numbers in that report may be the 2,281 fans. It’s too bad that more fans of a basketball-crazed state like Maine didn’t then appreciate a coach like Summitt and the program she had built.
Those who did attend the game, however, can relish those moments of witnessing a genuine coaching legend patrol the sidelines of the Bangor Auditorium.