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During his first year at the helm of one of the most storied programs in women’s basketball history, Tyler Summitt’s main goal was to change the culture both on and off the floor.
On the heels of the first two losing seasons in program history, winning games in his first year was important to Summitt, but teaching his players to do things the right way on the court, in the classroom and in life was even more important. Summitt believes that if his players focus on the process, the positive results will follow.
Year No. 1 in Ruston was well documented by the local, regional and national media. In fact it was like a who’s who as the Lady Techster program received national exposure from NBC Nightly News, 60 Minute Sports, ESPN.com, USA Today, CNN.com, SI.com, the New York Times and more.
And although most times the focus was on Summitt’s first year as a head coach on the Division I level, the exposure that the Lady Techster program received was priceless for both recruiting and for reviving a fan base longing for the days of conference titles and NCAA Tournament appearances.
Summitt is a well-rounded, high-energy, basketball junky. He has all of the characteristics of a winner. And in his first year, the main ingredient he provided was that of consistency. Whether there was a national TV camera in his face or he was one-on-one in his office with a player, Summitt’s message was always the same. He preached execution. He demanded effort. And he wouldn’t accept anything less.
It showed in 2014-15. Time after time during the season, Louisiana Tech fell behind in games, many times way behind. Summitt’s philosophy of playing hard regardless of the score or situation allowed his team to record some impressive comeback wins. Credit the players.
In fact, Louisiana Tech recorded two of the largest come-from-behind wins in program history this season. Tech trailed by 19 points late in the first half at Florida Atlantic in early February and won 73-68. Tech trailed by 18 points early in the second half at UAB in mid-January and won 61-56.
Even in losses, Tech showed signs of a never-say-die mentality.
Tech played toe-to-toe with Top 25 Mississippi State in Starkville in early December, leading with two minutes to play before falling 81-77. The 77 points were the most surrendered by State in a non-conference game while only Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt scored more in SEC play.
Tech overcame an abysmal first half in Baton Rouge in early December (trailing LSU 37-13 at half), scoring 48 points against the Tigers in the second half, the most points surrendered by LSU in a half all year (tied with SEC champion South Carolina).
These were small steps – and sometimes victories – for the program, a far cry from the days of winning three national championships and participating in 27 NCAA Tournaments. However, they were steps in the right direction.
The biggest victories of the season came off the court. Seniors Savanna Langston, Kelia Shelton and Chrisstasia Walter all completed their course work and earned their degrees during winter commencement in early March. Seniors Whitney Frazier and Kanedria Andrews followed suit earning their degrees in the spring and summer.
When Summitt was introduced April 2, 2014 as the sixth head coach in Louisiana Tech women's basketball history, it wasn't the first time that the 24-year-old had been to Ruston.
The son of legendary Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt followed the Tennessee Lady Vols and his mother to the Thomas Assembly Center numerous times during the course of one of the greatest rivalries in the history of the women's game.
"As I grew up as a part of the Tennessee Lady Vols program, everything on and off the floor was geared towards competing against Louisiana Tech," Tyler said. "The Lady Techsters were the standard in which excellence in women's basketball was measured for so long. I am proud to be a part of this storied program."
Louisiana Tech Athletics Director Tommy McClelland made a bold hire that is paying huge dividends for a Lady Techster program that ranks second all-time in wins (1,059), trailing only Tennessee.
Summitt’s challenge is to rebuild the storied program back into a conference contender and annual NCAA Tournament participant. Tech's 27 NCAA Tournament appearances ranks fourth all-time although the Lady Techsters have not made an appearance since 2011.
"Tyler represents our philosophy of developing champions in the classroom, on the court and in life," McClelland said. "He grew up in that championship culture, and it is all he knows. His reputation as a great recruiter, a rising young star in the coaching business and a passionate leader is known throughout the nation. We are fortunate to have him lead our women's basketball program into the future."
He replaced Teresa Weatherspoon, who recorded a 99-71 record over the past five-plus seasons. Weatherspoon guided Tech to postseason appearances during her first three seasons, including a pair of NCAA Tournaments, before failing to qualify for the postseason over the past three years.
Tyler spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach at Marquette University under head coach Terri Mitchell where he oversaw the team's offense while overseeing skill development for every position. He also served as the scouting coordinator.
"Tyler Summitt is an amazingly talented individual with tremendous character and leadership skills that will unquestionably propel him to success in life," said Louisiana Tech President Les Guice. "I am absolutely thrilled to have him leading our Lady Techsters basketball program and am confident that he can return our program to national prominence."
His hiring brought positive reaction from some of those closest to the Lady Techster program.
"I really respect and appreciate the commitment that President (Les) Guice and Tommy McClelland have shown to this program with this hire," said Louisiana Tech head coach emeritus Leon Barmore. "They have put the Lady Techster program in the forefront. I met with Tyler. What I found out in the 45 minutes we spent together was that he truly respects this program. We certainly respect him and his family. I think this is a really good hire. I am fired up about it."
In addition to his coaching duties in the collegiate ranks, Tyler is also a co-founder and board member of The Pat Summitt Foundation, participates in public speaking engagements and is active in church with his wife.
He graduated from the University of Tennessee Chancellor's Honors Program where he was a member of the Tennessee men's basketball team for two seasons, learning from Cuonzo Martin and Bruce Pearl.
"Tyler is one of the brightest young minds in college basketball," said Pearl, who recently accepted the head men's job at Auburn. "Tyler is so wise beyond his years, understands the game and has a proven system. I would hire him at Auburn if it weren't for this head coaching opportunity at LA Tech."
Tyler also served as a student assistant coach for his mother and the Tennessee women's basketball program. He was actively involved in the 2007 through 2009 seasons for the Tennessee women, two of which resulted in national championships.
He was the head coach of numerous AAU teams in Tennessee, including the Tennessee Fury 17U who went on to win the State Championship. He has also been a head coach at the Pat Summitt, Cuonzo Martin and Bruce Pearl Summer Camps from 2005-2011.
"Tyler told me, `There's only one environment I know. That is a championship environment, and I will bring that to practice, to work and to games every single day,'" said Mitchell, his former head coach at Marquette. "He absolutely delivered on that promise. He's going to be a star in our profession."
Tyler married his high school sweetheart, Anne Dennis ("AnDe") Ragsdale Summitt, on June 1, 2013.
What Others are Saying about Tyler Summitt
Tommy McClelland, Athletics Director at Louisiana Tech
"Tyler represents our philosophy of developing champions in the classroom, on the court and in life. He grew up in that championship culture and it is all he knows. His reputation as a great recruiter, a rising young star in the coaching business and a passionate leader is known throughout the nation. We are fortunate to have him lead our women's basketball program into the future."
Dr. Les Guice, Louisiana Tech President
"Tyler Summitt is an amazingly talented individual with tremendous character and leadership skills that will unquestionably propel him to success in life. I am absolutely thrilled to have him leading our Lady Techsters basketball program and am confident that he can return our program to national prominence."
Pat Summitt, Tennessee Lady Vols Head Coach Emeritus (and Tyler's mom)
"It is a special day for our family, and especially for Tyler, as he is given the reigns to one of the most storied programs in women's basketball. We are excited about the opportunity he has been given and are grateful to Athletic Director Tommy McClelland and University President Dr. Leslie Guice for having faith in Tyler. He has been preparing for this day since he was a little boy, and I can assure you he will work very hard and will represent Louisiana Tech University with class. I'm sure Tyler is ready to get busy, and I know he and AnDe look forward to becoming part of the Louisiana Tech family and the Ruston community."
R.B. Summitt II, Tyler's Dad
"It is such a humbling but exciting moment. We are proud for Tyler and for Louisiana Tech. I think we can mark down this day as exceptional, a date to be remembered, sort of like your child's birthday: the emotions, the expectations, the hopes of a new beginning. Tyler has been praying, planning and building for just such a wonderful opportunity. There aren't enough words to thank Louisiana Tech University and all the loyal fans. I know you have hired a winner and great days are ahead.
Leon Barmore, Louisiana Tech Lady Techster Head Coach Emeritus
"I really respect and appreciate the commitment that President (Les) Guice and (Athletics Director) Tommy McClelland have shown to this program with this hire. They have put the Lady Techster program in the forefront. I met with Tyler (Monday). What I found out in the 45 minutes we spent together was that he truly respects this program. We certainly respect him and his family. In time he will prove to be an outstanding head coach. I know he is 23 years old, but he has been coaching since he was one. I really like the direction we have gone. I think this is a really good hire. I am fired up about it."
Joan Cronan (Women's Athletic Director Emeritus for the University of Tennessee)
"When combining the tradition of LA Tech with the potential of Tyler Summitt, I think you have a winning combination. I have literally known Tyler since birth, and I have been impressed with his maturity and work ethic from an early age. Tyler possesses many wonderful qualities, but the three I most admire are his character, communication skills and Christian values. This hire reflects the tradition of excellence of women's basketball at LA Tech."
Bruce Pearl (Head Coach for Auburn Men's Basketball)
"Tyler is one of the brightest young minds in college basketball. Tyler is so wise beyond his years, understands the game and has a proven system. I would hire him at Auburn if it weren't for this head coaching opportunity at LA Tech."
Billie Moore (Former Head Coach for US Olympic Team, UCLA, Cal. State-Fullerton)
"Tyler has a special gift. He has a talent for teaching, a unique perspective of seeing and understanding the concepts and strategies of the game. Tyler is great with people; he is a tremendous communicator and a natural leader - things that have nothing to do with age. Quite simply, he has `it' and there is absolutely no question in my mind that he will be a successful head coach."
Cuonzo Marton (Head Coach for Tennessee Men's Basketball)
"Tyler has a tremendous work ethic and has the basketball knowledge. All his life he's been around the best that ever coached the game so he understands what it takes."
Terri Mitchell (Head Coach for Marquette Women's Basketball)
"Tyler told me, `There's only one environment I know. That is a championship environment, and I will bring that to practice, to work and to games every single day.' He absolutely delivered on that promise. He's going to be a star in our profession."
Danielle Donehew (Associate Commissioner for Women's Basketball at The American Athletic Conference)
"Tyler Summitt has a talent that is rare to find at any age. His basketball IQ includes lessons from many of our game's legends. He is committed to the student-athlete, excellence, discipline and his family. Tyler is a born leader and will be a successful head coach. I am certain Tyler will leave his fingerprints on our game in his own special way."
Dave Hart (Athletic Director for University of Tennessee)
"Tyler Summitt is a rising star in the coaching profession. He is mature well beyond his years as a young professional. He has superb knowledge of the game of basketball, is a tireless recruiter who connects with prospects and players alike and his passion will galvanize every key University constituent."