Dishin & Swishin 3/17/16 Podcast: On the 20th Anniversary, Michelle Brooke-Marciniak looks back at the 1996 Tennessee championship season
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When the NCAA tournament rolls around, it always seems like a good time to look back at its history. Today on Dishin & Swishin, we are going to look back 20 years, to 1995-96 season.
In 1995, Connecticut stunned the women’s basketball world with their undefeated run to a title, defeating Tennessee in the finals. That was a loss that was very disturbing to the Lady Vols, their fans, and especially their legendary coach Pat Summitt.
The next year, Tennessee came in with a singular mindset, win the fourth championship of coach Summitt’s storied career, and anything less than that was not going to be enough. They were a young team, and the only two seniors, forward Latina Davis and point guard Michelle Marciniak, were entrusted with this task. It was not an easy one, as not only did the schedule have the difficult SEC games, but out-of-conference matchups with UConn, Stanford, Virginia, and Texas among others.
It is a pleasure to welcome Michelle Brooke-Marciniak to Dishin & Swishin to discuss that legendary season, her relationship then and now with coach Summitt and also her roles as co-founder of SHEEX, Inc., and her dedication to raising funds and awareness with the Pat Summitt Foundation.
After that 1995 season, Brooke-Marciniak felt personally responsible for the season-ending loss, and the determination that came afterward drove her into the next year.
The next season also brought to Tennessee a freshman that went on to become one of the greatest Lady Vols ever, Chamique Holdsclaw. Once Holdslaw adapted to her new surroundings, around five games into the season, she took off and the team did as well.
The season did have its bumps and potholes.
Maples Arena has always been an extremely difficult place for opponents to play Stanford, and in this season Stanford handled Tennessee pretty easily, 90-72. A few weeks later, UConn again defeated the Lady Vols, 59-53, in Knoxville no less, and Tennessee had to wonder if the Huskies had their number a little bit.
The very next game their chief SEC rival, Georgia, defeated them 77-71 despite Holdsclaw scoring 21 points and pulling down 19 rebounds. Most felt this was the low point of the season, and the Lady Vols needed to regroup, and quickly as conference play was rolling along.
A small winning streak hit one more pothole, and according to Brooke-Marciniak, it was a deep one. She played in her words, the worst game of her career, to the point where Summitt considered benching her, and Mississippi defeated Tennessee 78-72. It would be the last loss of the season though, as that game was a springboard for six-game (including two overtimes) winning streak to close out the regular season on a high note.
When a team loses a game, it is only natural to want to exact some revenge down the line against the team that beat them. In an extremely rare twist of fate, the Lady Vols in the postseason had a chance to eradicate almost all of their losses.
First came Mississippi in the opening of the SEC tournament. Behind Davis’ 14 points, the Lady Vols blew out the Lady Rebels 73-51. After a win over Florida, came the SEC title game against Alabama. Holdsclaw bruised her knee and missed half the game, but Tennessee overcame her loss to win 64-60.
The layoff between conference and NCAA tournament allowed Holdsclaw to get better, and Tennessee rolled through Radford, Katie Smith-led Ohio State, and Kansas, dropping over 90 points in each contest. An elite eight game against Virginia was far more troublesome, but when Jenny Boucek picked up four fouls and had to sit, the Lady Vols capitalized, going on to a 52-46 victory.
The final four consisted of Tennessee, UConn, Stanford, and Georgia. In other words, Tennessee and the three teams that beat them.
The semifinal game versus UConn is considered one of the best women’s games ever played. With Kara Wolters, Jennifer Rizzotti and Nykesha Sales, UConn was almost as talented as the championship team the year before, and had those three straight wins over UT. A back and forth battle saw both teams with foul difficulties, scoring runs by each, and then a Sales three to force overtime. Marciniak made foul shot after foul shot after struggling the year before, and the Lady Vols advanced to face Georgia in the title game.
Georgia coach Andy Landers’ win over Stanford was career victory 499, and their star Saudia Roundtree basically guaranteed a win in the championship. This did not sit well, particularly with seniors David and Marciniak. Roundtree shot 3-for-14 in the game, and the Lady Vols rolled to an easy 83-65 victory.
Mission accomplished; they earned championship number four for Summitt. She would of course go on to win the next two as well on her way to her eight national titles.
After a professional career and time coaching, Brooke-Marciniak was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, and in 2007 co-founded SHEEX, Inc. with Susan Walvius. SHEEX uses a patented-technology to produce the world’s first performance fabric bedding company. As she discusses on the podcast though, the company is not an end in itself for Brooke-Marciniak; she uses her past in basketball and present in business to be a mentor and spokesperson for various organizations. She takes her social responsibility very seriously, and has been a representative, speaker, delegate, and advisory member at numerous events and group functions.
In many ways, it has taken her full circle.
Brooke-Marciniak is a spokesperson for the Pat Summitt Foundation, and serves on the advisory boards of the organization.
On March 8, 2016, Brooke-Marciniak and SHEEX announced a fundraising initiative to benefit the Pat Summitt Foundation. The goal is to raise $2.5 million over five years for the development of the Pat Summitt Alzheimer’s Clinic at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. SHEEX is selling a limited edition Pat Summitt Foundation/SHEEX Performance Graphite Sheet set and donating a portion of the proceeds to the foundation.