Following her team’s 74-67 win against Alabama on Feb. 18, Pat Summit said that her Lady Vols, “disrespected the game of basketball,” with their performance.
She was upset that her team allowed a player who averaged 4.9 points per game, to score 21. She was upset that her team was outrebounded by 12. But mostly, she was upset at the “lack of heart and competitive desire,” — as she stated in her postgame interview — with which her team played.
There’s a certain mystique that comes with playing for Tennessee and that night, the Lady Vols did nothing to enhance it. There’s a standard in place at Tennessee — at least for women’s hoops — and if that standard isn’t met, it’s disrespectful to the woman who’s stood at the helm for 36 years.
And that’s exactly how it should have been phrased, because this past week the actual game disrespected and it had nothing to do with rebounds or points.
Anyone who watched North Hall and Franklin County play last Wednesday night saw competitive desire at its best.
A little shove under the basket, a slight hold of the opponent’s jersey, diving on top of someone who clearly has possession of the ball is all part of the game.
However, those who were there last Wednesday night also saw competitive desire at its worst and, in turn, the game disrespected.
This isn’t so much about punches thrown or the provocation of such, even though that has no place in the game. It isn’t about someone intentionally lowering their shoulder to blow through a screen, even though that has no place either.
This is about what happened after the plays by both the players at Franklin County and the coach.
Laughing with a teammate after knocking someone to the ground by intentionally lowering your shoulder while the coach stands in protest to a foul being called at all: disrespectful.
A spiteful complaint to the official with the game well out of reach: disrespectful.
Obscene gestures to the opposing fan base while walking off the court in your final game of the season: disrespectful, and not the kind of impression you want to leave on anyone.
In contrast, there was a better impression left by the two teams that rallied in the fourth quarters of their respective state quarterfinal games to earn trips to the state semifinals.
The Jefferson boys gave Bolling Dubose his second trip to Macon. He’s coached the Dragons for 34 years with a towel slung over his shoulder, and when the game ended, there wasn’t a person in Dalton from Jefferson who didn’t hug him: respect.
The North Hall boys have rarely been the biggest, fastest or strongest team on the court. The Trojans play for each other, for their coach and for their community and after making it to the program’s first state semifinals, coach Benjie Wood was overcome by the emotion of it all: respect.
The Buford girls earned their second-straight trip to the state semifinals. Neither Gene Durden nor his girls are satisfied by that simple fact, but grateful for the opportunity nonetheless. After the win against Rabun County, star point guard Andraya Carter — who didn’t have close to her best game — said that team defense was the key and that it was great to play on a team in which someone stepped up, whoever that someone was: respect.