KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Chris Dailey recalls sitting next to Mickie DeMoss as both watched prospects at a high school gym in 1995, not that long after UConn won its first national championship by defeating Tennessee in the final. DeMoss, then an assistant with the Lady Vols, mentioned to longtime Huskies assistant Dailey that Tennessee was going to need to make some changes in style of play.
"I tell you," DeMoss says now, as both coaches are about to be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in a class of seven this weekend, "you would have to be some kind of idiot to not try to learn from somebody who just beat you. I thought Geno [Auriemma] and UConn were ahead of the curve on a lot of things; they could beat us at our own game sometimes. They could figure out how to use some of your own strengths against you."
These were the kinds of conversations DeMoss and Dailey could have out on the recruiting trail: frank and funny, without any of the rancor that eventually enveloped the UConn-Tennessee rivalry and the larger-than-life personalities leading both programs: Auriemma and the late Pat Summitt.
Those two legends are in the Hall of Fame here in Knoxville, just two miles from Tennessee's Thompson-Boling Arena. And it seems fitting that Dailey and DeMoss would be the first to be inducted here for their accomplishments as assistants.
They were there on opposite sides on that January day in 1995 when the UConn-Tennessee series began. They've been through the many twists and turns since. And now, they are going into the Hall of Fame at the same time.
And as much as they are associated with Auriemma and Summitt, both have their own distinct personalities and legacies as coaches.
Dailey is the New Jersey native who, after brief stints as an assistant at Cornell and her alma mater, Rutgers, went to UConn with Auriemma in 1985 and never left. DeMoss is from Louisiana, and she has traveled around more, including time as a head coach at Florida and Kentucky.
Dailey is known for her precision and attention to detail, something Auriemma said she has maintained without fail throughout their time working together. But she said she has evolved in how she communicates those things to players.
"I do think I see the gray areas a little better now," Dailey said, smiling. "I still have that competitiveness, and believe there is a certain way that things should be done. And I haven't let up on that. But I've found different ways to get kids to follow that.
"You don't have to beat someone over the head to get them to do what you want them to do. When you're young, maybe you think you need to do that. But you get older, and you learn to use a little more finesse."
She's also an "enforcer," if you will, of the Huskies' professional way of appearing in public, talking to the media and interacting with fans. But Dailey does that in a way that players realize is about looking out for their future. Ask just about any Huskies player of the past 30-plus years, and she'll likely credit "CD" profusely for all that Dailey taught her beyond basketball.
The players remain close to Dailey long after they've left Storrs. She said that has been of the things she most enjoys about doing this job for so long.
Same goes for DeMoss. She acknowledges that her time as a head coach taught her that there were just aspects of that job that she was not as comfortable with. DeMoss has a personality that can fill a room; she can make anyone laugh with her mixture of Southern witticisms and wry wisecracks.
She was really a perfect complement to Summitt during the span from 1985 to 2003, when Tennessee won six of its eight NCAA titles. The cliché of good cop/bad cop greatly oversimplifies how they interacted with players. But it's accurate enough shorthand for explaining how DeMoss deftly filled in with some softness and humor when situations called for it.
"You didn't need two bad cops with Pat," DeMoss said. "Pat was a stern disciplinarian, and as an assistant, you figure out what's needed. If Pat was getting on the players pretty hard, you knew they didn't need every staff member getting on them like that."
DeMoss took Florida's head-coaching job in 1979 after two seasons as an assistant at Memphis State. DeMoss wasn't quite 24 at the time; it was just a few years after her Louisiana Tech playing career. She left the Gators after four seasons and returned to the assistant ranks, first at Auburn for two years, and then for nearly two decades at Tennessee.
By the time, DeMoss tried head coaching again, at Kentucky in 2003, she was older, wiser and had a reputation as a great recruiter. But after four years with the Wildcats, she was firmly convinced that being an assistant was really what she was best-suited to do. She was at Texas for three years working for Gail Goestenkors, and then got the call from Summitt to come back to Tennessee in 2010. The next year, Summitt was diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, and her last season on the bench was 2011-12.
That summer of 2012, DeMoss joined Lin Dunn's staff with the Indiana Fever, and helped them win a WNBA championship that year.
"I learned so much in the WNBA," DeMoss said. "It really took my thinking about basketball to another level."
When Summitt's son, Tyler, got the head coaching job at Louisiana Tech in 2014, DeMoss returned to her alma mater to be an assistant for him. DeMoss said at the time, she was struggling a lot emotionally with how Pat Summitt's health was declining rapidly, and felt joining Tyler would be the best way she could help Pat.
But then Tyler Summitt resigned in 2016 after an inappropriate relationship, and DeMoss thought her career was perhaps done. She was sad and disappointed, but then LSU's Nikki Fargas called. Fargas, a former Tennessee standout and assistant coach, had previously worked with DeMoss with the Lady Vols.
"Nikki said, 'You don't want to end your career like this,' and I said, 'You're right,' " DeMoss said. "So I went to LSU. And that was a good thing for me. ... My path, maybe in some ways it seems sporadic, but there was always a reason."
DeMoss won't be coaching at LSU this coming season; at age 62, she said she needs to take a break and evaluate what the future might hold. She complimented Dailey on how she and Auriemma have maintained their success, saying, "They're still rolling. They might go another 10 years."
Dailey often has been asked why she has remained at UConn, despite multiple opportunities to be a head coach elsewhere. There were always more reasons to stay, Dailey said, than to leave.
She has been an integral part of all 11 of UConn's NCAA titles, the 111- and 90-game winning streaks, the parade of superstars from Rebecca Lobo to Sue Bird to Diana Taurasi to Maya Moore to Breanna Stewart.
That doesn't mean Dailey hasn't had any second thoughts about the roads not taken. Or wondered if her identity was too closely entwined with Auriemma's. Because as much as they are on the same page, she is most definitely her own person.
"Now I'm at a point in my life where I know it's OK to really enjoy what you do," Dailey said. "I feel comfortable in that. If I never leave, there's something to be said for being at the same place for so long, and maybe Geno and I riding off into the sunset together."
Those relatively few times when Dailey did think about taking a head-coaching job elsewhere, one of the people she talked to was DeMoss.
"There's always been a respect between us, because there haven't been many assistant coaches who've been in the position that we have for so long," Dailey said. "Building a program, getting to the top, and then trying to stay there year after year ... and all the things that come with that. Mickie had already experienced it, and then I went through it. We were always willing to have those conversations with each other."