UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Pat Summitt, Tennessee's Hall of Fame women's basketball coach, ended the rivalry between the Lady Vols and the University of Connecticut after 12 years and 22 games in 2007. She retired as the sport's winningest coach (1,098) in 2012 after announcing in August of 2011 she had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
Glory Johnson was on her last four teams in Knoxville. As a senior in 2012, Johnson was named to the WBCA All-America team. Summitt made her way to the Pepsi Center in Denver, the site of the NCAA Final Four, for the announcement even as she struggled with the illness that would take her life four years later at age 64.
A few hours after Tuesday's announcement that UConn and Tennessee would renew the rivalry in January 2020, Johnson, now a member of the WNBA's Dallas Wings, recalled Summitt's spirit with the belief the resumption would be something that she would want now.
"I think Pat would have loved something like that, with all of our competitive natures," Johnson said. "All the players there at the two schools have been competitive. I'm really excited about it."
UConn will host Tennessee in the first game with ESPN reporting a date of Jan. 23, 2020. The Huskies will visit Knoxville during the 2020-21 season.
The teams met 22 times from 1995 through 2007 with UConn leading the series 13-9, including 4-0 in national championship games. Tennessee won the last contest with UConn 70-64 on Jan. 6, 2007. Later that year, the NCAA launched an investigation into the UConn program after receiving a complaint from the Southeastern Conference. The SEC asked the NCAA to look into an allegation that UConn had arranged an ESPN tour for Maya Moore during an unofficial recruiting visit in 2005 after receiving a complaint from Tennessee. UConn admitted to a secondary violation.
That summer, Summitt unilaterally ended the series. She would not see its return.
The game in Connecticut will have a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Pat Summitt Foundation and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, while the game in Knoxville will have a portion of proceeds again benefiting the same two organizations as well as the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
Since the Huskies and Lady Vols last met, UConn has overtaken Tennessee for the lead in national championships (11-8) and in Final Four appearances (19-18). The Lady Vols are No. 1 in all-time wins while the Huskies are tops in winning percentage.
"I didn't move from the TV when they played each other," said Connecticut Sun guard Shekinna Stricklen, a classmate and teammate of Johnson's with the Lady Vols. "That was a reason I went (to Tennessee) but I didn't get a chance to play them. It's going to be good. It's going to be fun.
"It's good for the game. It's probably not going to be the same since Pat isn't here. But it's for a good cause and it's going to raise a lot of money for Pat's foundation. This is what the fans have been waiting for, for UConn and Tennessee to play again."
The teams never met in the postseason while the series was halted. Three times they were one win away, but UConn lost in the Final Four semifinals in 2008 to Stanford, and Tennessee lost in the regional finals to Notre Dame in 2011 and to Maryland in 2015.
If the Lady Vols had beaten the Terrapins three years ago, UConn graduate and Sun forward Morgan Tuck would have gone up against Tennessee point guard and her high school teammate Ariel Massengale.
"That year I really was hoping we would play them, partly because Ariel was there and I had played with her since fourth grade," Tuck said. "But at least now we can watch it and it's back to being a rivalry.
"I wish I could have played against her, but I'm sure we'll all be watching when they play next year."
Tennessee has not reached the Final Four since winning its last title in 2008. UConn is on a record run of 11 consecutive Final Four appearances.
"I am pretty disappointed we didn't play them," Johnson said. "It was something we looked forward to when NCAA tournament time came, but we always ended up on different sides of the bracket. It was something we wished for and hoped for but we never got there."
Tennessee's Class of 2012 was the only four-year group to not play in the national semifinals under Summitt. They lost to Ball State in the first round in 2009 as two-time reigning national champion, to Baylor in the Sweet 16 in 2010, and to Notre Dame in 2011 and to Baylor in 2012 in the Elite Eight.
"If we had made it to the Final Four we would have played them," Stricklen added.
STEVENS TAKING IT IN STRIDE
On the Dallas Wings' website, an advertisement for their "Back to School Fan Appreciation Night" Friday against the Las Vegas Aces features rookie forward Azura Stevens.
Stevens, of course, gave up her final year of college eligibility at UConn to enter April's WNBA Draft. She was the No. 6 overall pick by Dallas.
"I wouldn't change a thing," said Stevens, who received her bachelor's degree in May.
Stevens made her first regular season appearance as a professional here Tuesday, finishing with four points in 20 minutes as Dallas' losing streak reached nine with a 96-76 loss to the Connecticut Sun.
She entered the game with 4:43 left in the first quarter during a time out so there was no reaction from the crowd like there was for her UConn teammate Gabby Williams when she was a starter with Chicago on Sunday.
Stevens, who was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2018 American Athletic Conference tournament played at Mohegan Sun Arena last March, wondered before the game what the reaction would be.
"It will be interesting to be welcomed by the fans or booed, I don't know which one I'm going to get," Stevens said with a smile. "It brings back memories playing here. This is a special group of fans."
Stevens has played in all 32 games for the Wings with seven starts. She is averaging 8.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.1 blocked shots in 20.3 minutes.
"I love Azura and she's doing an amazing job," Johnson said. "She uses her physical abilities to her advantage. She's hard to stop."
But like her fellow rookies out of UConn -- Williams and Kia Nurse -- the adjustment to the pro game for her has not been easy.
Getting only a small break following a 37-game college season has been tough.
"Physically has been the most I've had to adjust to, taking care of my body and doing different things," Stevens said. "It's a lot different than college with the back-to-backs and stuff like that. Mentally I'm pretty good. My teammates do a good job of all feeding off each. It's been a rough stretch so we're trying to build momentum and stay positive."
Stevens said she will play overseas this winter but hasn't decided where yet."
Dallas and Las Vegas are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Wings can clinch that berth with a win over the Aces Friday.