One day a man named Bill Rodgers, a Knoxville car dealer whose passion and part-time occupation he calls "performance enhancing," looks at the results of the Predictive Index personality test he's administered to Michelle and Pat. "It's amazing," he tells Pat. "It's like looking at a young you. Michelle's more concerned with image, with wanting to be loved, but as for almost everything else—ambitious, competitive, outgoing, leadership, stubbornness, willingness to take on all the responsibility under extreme pressure—you could literally be mother and daughter!"
The bond between them keeps deepening. Pat just smiles. If Michelle is just like her—well, then, Pat knows just what to do. She'll ride her harder still, harder than she's ridden anyone before. "Defense?" Pat hollers. "You call that defense, Michelle? I thought you wanted to be a leader. How can I take you to war with me? Don't try to tell me! I've been coaching longer than you've been alive!
"You're gold-digging again, Michelle! Are you going to be the showboat or be on the showboat? Well, I'll just sit you, Michelle. Because I know you love to play and hate to sit—right, Michelle? That kills you, doesn't it, Michelle?"
In front of anyone, this could happen. In front of 10 strangers, Knoxville business leaders and their spouses invited into the Lady Vols' locker room as "guest coaches" on game nights, most of them staring at the floor and praying Pat doesn't suddenly turn on them.
She half kills Michelle that first year. Makes her sit for half of every game as a backup shooting guard, sit and watch Tiffany Woosley run the team at point guard. Michelle's determined not to cry in front of Pat, because Pat would never cry; when she did, her daddy only spanked her harder. Michelle digs her top teeth into her bottom lip when Pat tears into her. It's the same thing Pat has done so many times in her life that there's a little indent on the right side of her lower lip. Michelle turns away and grinds her teeth—how could this be happening to the girl who won the Greg Tatum Award in eighth grade as her school's most Christlike child? She holds everything in until she gets home, then cries her eyes out. She drives her red Honda to a stream in the Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, sits and listens to the water and thinks, What is it with this crazy woman? I'm giving everything I have, but everything's not enough for her. There's something driving her, bigger than what drives anybody in the world. What is it?
It's growing mutually, magnetically, their frustration with and affection for each other. If Michelle could just pigeonhole Pat as the tyrant, it would be so much easier. But Pat's the woman you wish you could cook like and water-ski like and chat up the cashier like and toss off one-liners like. Pat's the life of the party.
How does she do it? How could she turn your name into an obscenity on the court, then walk off it and become your mom? How could a woman be transformed that completely, so that when you sit in her office, she leans toward you to connect with you, the flesh around those piercing eyes wrinkling in concentration, and invariably asks what you think the team needs and then, as you're getting ready to leave, asks if you think her beige shoes go with her white skirt. Not to con you or charm you, because you would eventually sniff that out. She asks so intently that it seems the two of you are the only ones in the universe, so honestly that you smell the unsure girl beneath the awe-inducing coach.
Then, bang, you and she are done, and her eyes are flashing to her day planner, the one she keeps gorging with duties, 10:25 appointments crowbarred between 10:15s and 10:30s. All etched in perfect calligraphy, this hand-to-hand combat with Time, with neat arrows pointing to peripheral obligations that she can attend to simultaneously, without assigning them a minute of their own, with key meetings underlined and very important appointments blinking exclamation points!!!! Soon Michelle and all her teammates are carrying day planners, opening them together at Pat's command to fill up a stray half hour here, a vagrant hour there, even to transcribe her annual reminder in late October: Don't forget to turn back your clocks one hour! Soon it's an epidemic, this guilt over a moment lost.
Where's she from, this woman? What incubated her? Manhattan or Chicago? A surgeon daddy and a mama lawyer? No, people tell you. She's a farm girl. A farm girl from middle Tennessee, where the sun is the clock, Nature calls the rhythm, and women know their place. "Take me there," Michelle asks Pat one day. "I want to meet your family and see where you grew up." Michelle's changing her major to psychology. She has to figure this lady out.
"Can't," says Pat. "NCAA won't let me take you. Someday we'll do it, Michelle. When all this is done."