KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Pat Summitt wore an orange cheerleader uniform, sang “Rocky Top” and stood on top of a human pyramid to show her support of the Tennessee men’s basketball team Tuesday night.
The legendary Lady Vols coach came through on a promise to make a special appearance during the men’s win against No. 5 Florida.
She was paying back men’s coach Bruce Pearl for painting his upper body orange and cheering at a Lady Vols game last month.
Summitt came out during the first media timeout of the game shrouded by other cheerleaders and started singing “Rocky Top” while holding a microphone and wearing an orange and white feathery hat and cheerleader uniform.
At the end of the song, she put her hat on ESPN commentator Dick Vitale. Then she helped lead cheers with the cheerleaders and her assistant coaches and finished by being the top of a short pyramid formed by assistants Holly Warlick and Dean Lockwood.
Summitt, 54, said Monday the appearance would seem “a lot out of character,” and she was right.
Summitt is known for working players hard in practice and her icy stare on the sidelines during games. She’s also the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history — men or women — with 940 victories.
“My cheerleading days are over. I did this for Bruce Pearl and his basketball team and all the Vols fans,” Summitt told ESPN after her appearance.
“This was fun. I’m glad my staff joined in.”
Summitt was a cheerleader in seventh and eighth grade.
“America got a chance to see a side of Pat Summitt that they probably haven’t seen since she was in eighth grade,” Pearl said after the game. “Pat is a lot of fun to play for. OK, she’s demanding and she can be real tough at times, but let me tell you something, she’s as kind and as sweet as a person as I know. She didn’t disappoint.”
Thompson-Boling Arena, which seats 24,535, was nearly full and included other notable personalities: Indianapolis and former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning came to see his alma mater, along with Volunteers football coach Phillip Fulmer.
Manning received a standing ovation when he was introduced in the first half.
Boston Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge accompanied his nephew, Vols quarterback Erik Ainge.
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