Update: Tennessee over Rutgers, 59-46, giving Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols their seventh national championship.

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Longtime friends and colleagues Pat Summitt and C. Vivian Stringer face off tonight during the NCAA women’s basketball championship (8:30 p.m. EST). From the Associated Press (via Cincinnati Post):

For three decades, on separate trails that led both to the Hall of Fame, C. Vivian Stringer and Pat Summitt have consoled each other through hardships. They’ve even shared fashion tips.

When her phone rings and Summitt sees it’s Stringer on the other end, Tennessee’s coach knows it’s time to settle in.

"Vivian can talk," Summitt said of Stringer, who has Rutgers one win away from its first NCAA title. "And I don’t mean for a few minutes."

Soon, they’ll have something new to discuss.

Tonight, the coaching giants who have combined for 1,723 victories in 69 seasons, will share college basketball’s grandest stage as the Scarlet Knights (27-8) meet the Lady Vols (33-3) in the championship.

For Summitt, this is familiar territory. Appearing in title game No. 12, she’s going for her seventh national crown, hoping to end a nine-year drought in Knoxville, where cutting down nets and hoisting banners inside Thompson-Boling Arena are seen as birthrights.

For Stringer, this could be the final chapter in an improbable season in which she didn’t expect a happy ending. After a 2-4 start, Rutgers, without a senior on its roster, has scrapped its way to the top with a defense every bit as tenacious as its fiery coach.

Plus: Christine Brennan of USA Today has a column about the two coaches and women’s basketball. Jodie Valade of the Cleveland Plain Dealer looks at the dwindling number of women coaches. And Melissa Silverstein of the Women’s Media Center has a commentary on women, sports and media and the challenges ahead.

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  • Molly April 4, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    I must say that one of my favorite parts of following the women’s tournament this year was the way ESPN has gotten us into the locker rooms for the coach’s pre-game speeches. And no one is more inspiring that Pat Summitt. She’s the definition of quiet intensity. It’s very cool how she invokes Tennessee’s storied past while staying very fresh. I mean, how many of these speeches has she given?