Former Tennessee women’s basketball Volunteers guard Kara Lawson is now with the Duke Blue Devils.
It’s no secret that the late Pat Summitt has an extensive coaching tree. In fact, that tree is so far-reaching that many of her former players have taken over as head coaches of schools that are currently or were once major rivals of the Tennessee Lady Vols. Kara Lawson is now continuing that tradition.
The former UT point guard was hired as head coach of the Duke Blue Devils women’s basketball program Sunday. As of right now, Duke and Rocky Top don’t have that deep of a rivalry. However, there was a period where things got really intense, particularly in the mid-2000s.
One year before Kara Lawson arrived on campus, Duke upset the Tennessee Lady Vols in the 1999 NCAA Tournament, ending their chance at a four-peat. That likely remains the most heartbreaking loss in the history of the program.
Then came the famous 2007 matchup when Bruce Pearl, then coach of the UT men’s basketball program, stole headlines by showing up with his team and having them all paint their chests for a Lady Vols home game against top-ranked Duke. You can see that video here.
Simply put, Duke and Tennessee did have some intense meetings. Kara Lawson, who played with UT from 1999 to 2003 and spent the past year as an assistant with the Boston Celtics, is not the first Lady Vol to take over a rival school as head coach.
As of right now, Nikki Fargas is coaching the LSU Tigers. Nikki McCray just took over the Mississippi State Bulldogs. And that’s just for this year. It’s even more extensive when you look at the past or people affiliated with Summitt who were not players.
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Current Kentucky Wildcats head coach Matthew Mitchell was an assistant to Summitt in 1999-2000. Sylvia Hatchell, who is a longtime head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels, worked under Summitt in the mid1970s. Sharon Fanning-Otis, another Summitt assistant in the mid-1970s, spent many years coaching in the SEC, at Kentucky and then at Mississippi State.
Heck Summitt’s own son, Tyler Summitt, was head coach of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs from 2010 to 2012. It’s no secret that Louisiana Tech was the biggest rival of the Tennessee Lady Vols when the program was on the rise back in the 1980s, and that even lasted into the 1990s.
Now, this is all a testament to just how many people who worked with Summitt went on to have great coaching careers. Kara Lawson, who said on Monday that her mom actually wanted to go to Duke, according to the AP, is part of that overall tradition.
Given how elite her coaching tree is, she would naturally have players go to rival schools. Anybody who follows Lawson, though, knows she was an extremely smart player. Her understanding of the game and her personality make her a great fit to be a head coach.
Playing for Summitt and working under Brad Stevens can only make her more prepared. As a result, Kara Lawson is another player forcing Lady Vol fans to root for a school that was once a rival. She is also another player that serves as proof of how great Summitt’s influence was.