Pat Summitt didn’t just influence her players, she also had an impact on the coaches of the high school players she recruited.
Former Stevenson (Lincolnshire, Ill.) girls basketball coach Frank Mattucci coached former Tenneesee star Tamika Catchings through her junior year before she transferred to Duncanville (Texas). Catchings was named to the American Family Insurance ALL-USA First Team as a senior. Of the five first-teamers in 1997, three went to Tennessee: Catchings, Kristen “Ace” Clement from Cardinal O’Hara (Springfield, Pa.) and Semeka Randall from Trinity (Garfield Heights, Ohio).
Catchings played for Summitt at Tennessee from 1997 through 2001.
“She was synonymous with women’s basketball and college basketball,” Mattucci said of Summitt. “I remember when Pat Summitt came to recruit and look at players. She was already looking at Tamika as a baby because she was Miss Illinois Basketball as a sophomore. I have a wonderful signed basketball by Coach Summitt that I keep in my memorabilia room. Sometimes, Tamika would call me from Tennessee and tell me, ‘She got me ready.’ Their practices were just like ours. If practice is harder than the game, the players are ready. I really loved (Summitt’s) personality traits. She really knew how to get the best of her kids. That stare she had awesome. She was as tough as nails and she could get the best of her players without saying anything.”
Longtime Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) coach Bob Mackey said he was struck by how kind and gentle Summitt was off the court. He was an assistant at Christ the King when Chamique Holdsclaw signed with Tennessee and has had multiple players whom Summitt recruited.
Holdsclaw, who would go to win back-to-back SEC Player of the Year honors in 1997-98 and 1998-99, was named to the ALL-USA First Team as a high school senior in 1995.
“Coach Summitt was the ultimate class act,” Mackey said. “When she walked in the gym, there was always a buzz. But she really related well to high school coaches because when she began coaching, there weren’t sneaker deals or the crowds in women’s basketball. When Chamique had some issues with her depression in college, I got a call from Pat. Later, when Chamique locked herself in her apartment in Washington, coach Summitt called me, still playing the mother hen. That was the side the public didn’t see.”
Mattucci, who is retired from coaching, has an uncle who is also named Frank Mattucci.
“She would host Tennessee boosters and give them tours,” Mattucci said. “He went down there and she recognized his name because of me. That was pretty cool.”
Cardinal O’Hara coach Linus McGinty said that Summit changed the face of women’s basketball.
“She was larger than life in a lot of ways,” McGinty said. “One time, I think when Tennessee was playing St. Joseph’s, she and the whole team came up for dinner at the house of one of our assistant coaches (Chris Genther). She was telling us a story where she was on a recruiting trip and she was ready to have her baby and they’re not in Tennessee and she says (to the pilot), ‘Don’t you dare land until we get to Tennessee.’ She came to Ace’s last game in high school at the Palestra. She did a tremendous amount for women’s basketball. She was always good to high school coaches.”