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Tennessee's Summitt, Stanford's VanDerveer have seen a lot change

Ouch: Tennessee’s Candace Parker hides her brace but not her pain against LSU on Sunday.


Ouch: Tennessee’s Candace Parker hides her brace but not her pain against LSU on Sunday.

TAMPA — Pregame skits that include coaches wearing army fatigues and smashing opponents' game film with a baseball bat. Motown and rap music during warmups before practice.

During the past 34 and 29 seasons, respectively, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer have seen a lot of changes to the women's game. Back in the day, none of this would have met their standards.

But time brings change — including to the coaches.

"I think we all probably change," VanDerveer, 54, said. "We're affected by our experiences. I think different groups allow you to be certain ways with them. This particular team allows me to be very relaxed. There's not an undercurrent or drama about this team. Kind of what you see is what you get."

"I've changed so much, I don't even know myself at times," Summitt, 55, said.

It was VanDerveer who allowed music in practice after the team began the season shooting poorly. She preferred Motown but let the players have rap, too. And the music played during shooting drills to help the player relax.

"I never would have thought my freshman year that Tara would ever have music playing," senior Candice Wiggins said. "If you would have told me that, I would have laughed in your face."

Summitt, too, has loosened up. During the NCAA Tournament, she and the coaching staff have resorted to skits, poetry reading and the baseball-bat video bashing by assistant coach Dean Lockwood.

"When I first saw it (a skit), I was like, 'What are they doing?,' " senior guard Shannon Bobbitt said. "But it was encouraging, and it was to get us motivated and hyped to go into a tough game. They are great people, and they always want us to go out on the court to have fun. So they always do a skit for us; we watch and laugh and then go out and take care of business."

HOLD THE WATER: With rain dousing the area most of Sunday, a portion of the St. Pete Times Forum's roof sprang a leak during the national semifinal games. Times Forum spokesman Bill Wickett said water from the leak did not get onto the playing floor at any time during the games and that the leak has been repaired for tonight's championship game.

Covered up: With her aching dislocated left shoulder the center of national attention, Tennessee forward/center Candace Parker changed her uniform by adding a long-sleeved shirt underneath her jersey to help camouflage her blue shoulder brace.

"We decided as a staff that if you can't see it, then you won't think about it," Parker said. "That's why we decided I should wear it."

HEART AND SOUL: How's this for a unique recruiting pitch: Stanford guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, who played piano for eight years growing up, said VanDerveer sent her sheet music to practice for a piano duet when she was coming for an in-home visit in Queens, N.Y.

"I practiced because what kind of impression would it be if you're a player who doesn't practice hard for your coach?" she said. "From Day 1, I was trying to work hard to make Tara proud. … It wasn't that hard, though. She wasn't that good at the time. We actually had to start over a couple times because Tara messed up a little bit."

WE'VE IMPROVED, TOO: Much of the talk during the Final Four has been about Stanford's growth throughout the season. But Tennessee's Bobbitt said the same can be said of the Volunteers, who have a 13-game winning streak.

"We're playing more together, and more people know their roles," Bobbitt said.

SUPPORTERS FOR A DAY: If you had any doubt whom Tennessee fans were pulling for in Sunday's Stanford-Connecticut semifinal, consider this: Cardinal players said they were continuously greeted by Vols supporters at the team's Harbour Island hotel. "They were like, 'Go get 'em. Go get UConn,' " Stanford forward Kayla Pedersen said.

THE ODD COUPLE: VanDerveer was briefly roommates with Gold-Onwude's mother while a freshman at SUNY-Albany. But she said she barely got to know her. "I slept a lot; she worked a lot," VanDerveer said.

Times staff writers Keith Niebuhr and Greg Auman contributed to this report.

Tennessee's Summitt, Stanford's VanDerveer have seen a lot change 04/07/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 9:49pm]
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