Maya Moore was in control of her emotions, as she always seem to be.
Being any other way just isn’t her.
When the UConn and Tennessee women’s basketball programs sent out press releases Tuesday announcing that they would resume their rivalry that saw them play 22 times in 12 years, it was hard not to think of the Huskies’ only four-time All-American and three-time Wade Trophy winner.
It was her successful recruitment by UConn and coach Geno Auriemma that was the No. 1 reason Tennessee coach Pat Summitt unilaterally ended the series in 2007, about two months before Moore was to start her freshman year and six months or so before the teams were going to play in Knoxville.
“Oh, man,” Moore said. “I haven’t thought too much on it with everything going on in our season. But I’m sure it’s going to be exciting. Anytime we can create a new chapter in a story is fun to see because of the history there.”
Moore and the Lynx closed the regular season Sunday by beating Washington in Minneapolis. They are the No. 7 seed for the playoffs and will begin their bid for a fifth title on the road Tuesday at Los Angeles.
It will be tough. For the first time since Moore came to the WNBA, the Lynx look like a pretender and not a contender. They also look old. Next June 11, Moore will turn 30. Of Minnesota’s core of Lindsay Whalen, Sylvia Fowles, Seimone Augustus, and Rebekkah Brunson, she is the youngest.
But for a few minutes before Friday’s game, Moore was back to being a teenager with the thoughts of what she would bring to the Huskies when they faced the Vols either in Connecticut or at Thompson-Boling Arena. When Summitt put up the stop sign, UConn led the series 13-9 and was 4-0 against Tennessee in national finals but the Vols had won the last three.
“I don’t know,” Moore said. “I don’t know what it would have been like when I was there. We have some good memories against some other teams that became in a sense something like a rivalry. A new history will be created with this one.”
Moore, a native of Lawrenceville, Georgia, made an unofficial recruiting visit to Storrs in October 2005. Six months later, she announced her decision to commit to the Huskies with Tennessee, Duke, and Georgia being her other finalists.
In 2007, the NCAA launched an investigation into UConn after receiving a complaint from the SEC. The league asked the NCAA to look into an allegation that UConn had arranged an ESPN tour for Moore during the unofficial recruiting visit after receiving a complaint from Tennessee. UConn admitted to a secondary violation.
Summitt gave up her position after the 2011-12 season after announcing in August 2011 that she had been diagnosed three months earlier with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. She was replaced by Holly Warlick. Summitt died on June 28, 2016, at 64.
It was reported in July 2013 that Warlick had approached Auriemma and they spoke at that summer’s Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony weekend in Knoxville. A source said then that for UConn to agree to play, Tennessee had “explaining” to do from Summitt’s decision and how its actions put Auriemma, some of his players, and the way he runs his program in a very negative light.
“He said he would if I apologized to his fans, former players, Maya Moore, her mother. I’m not going to do that,” Warlick told the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
The series is resuming without an apology. Moore could not care less. “I try not to pay too much attention,” she said. “People, unfortunately, when it comes to sports sometimes take liberties to say things that don’t have any substance to them. I understand it, but it’s not helpful for the people on the receiving end. Again, I don’t know who said what. It’s not like it’s a person that I’m associating anything with. But there was a point in the recruiting process, after everything was said and done, that wasn’t graceful. But, again, I haven’t thought about that in years.”
Moore helped lead UConn to a 150-4 record with two national championships and the first four of their current record run of 11 consecutive Final Four appearances. She graduated in the top five at the school in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.
She is one of the 10 players to win an NCAA and WNBA title (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017) as well as an Olympic gold medal (2012, 2016), and FIBA world championship gold medal (2010, 2014).