Knoxville is Pat Summitt's town. The legendary coach, who heads up the women's basketball program at Tennessee, is usually the center of the basketball universe in Knoxville. But for one night, this past Saturday, there was room for debate on exactly who deserved to be called the most famous basketball woman in town.
The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inducted six new members in Knoxville, including Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw and the WNBA's first president in Val Ackerman, as part of a whole weekend honoring the women. The other inductees included Vicky Bullett, Pearl Moore, Ruthie Bolton and Lometa Odom.
Those in Knoxville probably remember McGraw quite well. Her Notre Dame squad broke the hearts of Tennessee fans in the NCAA Tournament this year, upsetting the Lady Volunteers, then the UConn Huskies before losing to Texas A&M in the title game. McGraw had been 0-20 against Tennessee before the big win in the Dayton Regional final.
"You picked a good year to bring me to Knoxville," McGraw joked, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Many of McGraw's players, including star guard Skylar Diggins, came to witness her induction and celebrate her career.
Throughout her 24 years at Notre Dame, McGraw said that she has come to learn that while wins and losses might be important, it's essential to enjoy the ride along the way.
"The thing you learn is, it's supposed to be fun,'' she told the Sentinel. "Try to enjoy the journey of the season more, enjoy the team and what you're doing and see what happens."
All the inductees were introduced by someone who played an important role in their careers. Ackerman had NBA Commissioner David Stern provide her video tribute, and he said she was "the No. 1 advocate for women's basketball in the world," the Sentinel said.
Ackerman was moved by Stern's compliment, and she returned the love to a fellow commissioner.
"Everyone in basketball owes him a debt of gratitude," Ackerman said.
The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame 2011 Inductees:
Val Ackerman: Ackerman was the WNBA's first-ever president, guiding the league to its much-anticipated launch in 1997 and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the WNBA for its first eight years. In 2005, she became the first woman to serve as the president of USA Basketball, which is in charge of both the men's and women's Olympic basketball programs.
Ruthie Bolton: Bolton is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a WNBA All-Star. She scored more than 2,000 points in her career and is currently fourth on the WNBA's all-time 3-point list. She's also the only player in Sacramento Monarchs' history to have her number retired.
Vicky Bullett: Bullett was the first player in Maryland history to rack up two seasons of 500 points or more. In 1989, she was a Kodak All-American for the Terrapins, for whom she averaged 16.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. She played six seasons in the WNBA, scoring 2,018 points during her career.
Muffet McGraw: McGraw led Notre Dame to three Final Fours, winning the national title in 2001. Impressively, she's taken the Irish to the NCAA tournament 18 times -- including the last 16 straight. In 24 seasons with the program, she's racked up a whopping 556 victories.
Pearl Moore: Moore is the all-time career-scoring leader for women's college basketball, scoring an earth shattering 4,061 points. She's ranked third on the college basketball's career scoring list for all levels, both men and women. She averaged 30.6 points per game during her four seasons at Francis Marion College, in an era that didn't have the 3-point field goal.
Lometa Odom: In her four seasons with the Wayland Baptist Flying Queens, Odom compiled a 115-5 record. She was the first Wayland Baptist player to win four consecutive AAU All-American honors. In high school, she led her team to three state titles from 1950-1952, setting the Texas single scoring game record with 78 points in 1951. Odom also played on the USA team in 1955 that took home gold in the Pan American Games in Mexico City.