With 10 seconds left in the Great Falls District tournament championship girls basketball game, unbeaten Madison was losing by a point and Yorktown had possession. Madison senior Janet McGee stole the inbounds pass and rushed down court to take the potential game-winning shot. Her 12-footer rolled around the rim and out, ending the Warhawks' winning streak and season.
McGee was devastated. The first person to reach her was Pat Dean.
"I was so disappointed I missed the shot," McGee recalled. "Coach Dean came straight to me and all she said was, 'It's not so important you missed the shot. What is important is that you never gave up and tried hard to win the game.' "
It has been 13 years since McGee missed that shot, and she hasn't given up her memories of Pat Dean. "Coach Dean had high standards and didn't believe in bending rules for anyone; no star-player status," McGee said. "She was tough, big on discipline. But she was fair and emphasized other things rather than wins."
For 30 years, including 16 as Madison's girls basketball coach and 25 as softball coach, Dean has been the first to offer a shoulder to lean on and remind her players there is life after losses.
"Kids didn't always understand that wins and losses were just not that important," said Dean, who will retire as a physical education teacher and coach in June. "I was a player in high school and college and never liked the attitude of win at all costs or be replaced. The emphasis of the game was and is on the wrong things. We should be placing more emphasis on the kids instead of wins.
"We work hard to have the best program we can have, and I have to put my family and friends on hold during the seasons. Everything in those months was dedicated to my players. I sacrificed a lot and I wouldn't change a thing.
"I had so many good kids and there were so many good experiences. I made sure they understood I didn't expect them to make softball their life, but I didn't want them to quit either. Our practices are very structured and I insisted on two hours of uninterrupted concentration. I never liked to nag and I never believed girls responded to yelling the same way boys might. I didn't respond to yelling so I didn't do it to my players."
Dean, a native of Raleigh, N.C., graduated from James Madison and earned a master's degree from Virginia Tech. She taught three years at Albemarle in Charlottesville, moving to Madison when it became apparent Albemarle's basketball coaching job would not be available for several years.
When she became the coach at Madison, "I almost wore myself out coaching basketball, tennis and softball." She was stern, tough and conscientious.
Dean compiled a 162-56 record and three district championships in basketball. And she truly was the Dean of softball coaches in the Washington area, amassing a 285-29 record and five state championships, including titles in 1987, '88 and '89. At one point the Warhawks won 71 straight games.
Madison's season and Dean's career ended May 9 in a Northern Region semifinal game. The Warhawks finished the season 17-5. Dean's players wanted desperately to win one more state championship.
"We wanted very badly to win another title for Coach Dean," said pitcher Cammy Martin. "I tried very hard not to think too much about it but it added more pressure every game.
"I was intimidated by her my first year but once I understood just what she expected, we were fine. She stressed other things besides softball and we have a lot of respect for her. I'm glad I'm a senior so I won't get a chance to miss her."
Dean said although there was considerable stress and a few bad times, she will remember the good experiences.
"Seeing some of the kids come back as grown women or listening to a college coach rave about a Madison player makes me feel good," she said. "I received a letter from a former player who was writing to thank me for getting her through school. I didn't do anything special to get her out of school, but the thought was nice. You get nice feedback from the kids. That makes it worthwhile."
As for her reputation as a no-nonsense disciplinarian, Dean laughs and says she prefers to be called "soft-tough."
"I get upset at home when I'm alone. I'm a very intense person and I get angry sometimes," she said. "But you don't want the players to see you upset. I rarely show any emotion in wins or losses. I was emotional a bit when we won the state championship last year because that team wasn't expected to go that far."
Dean said she plans to rest at least a year, perhaps do volunteer work with handicapped children or in the Special Olympics. Afterward, she isn't sure.
"I'll come back and watch Madison play," she said. "Meanwhile, like I've always told the kids, there is life after softball."