Louisiana Tech announced yesterday that Tyler Summitt, the son of legendary coach Pat Summitt, has been selected as its new coach for women’s basketball. Summit is only 23 years old. While he may be inexperienced as a coach, he has been around the game of basketball his entire life. Louisiana Tech has a winning tradition in women’s hoops, but has languished through two straight losing seasons. The school is banking on the young coach to turn things around.
Tyler Summitt has a background in basketball broader than merely watching his mom. He played basketball at the University of Tennessee for two seasons, following two seasons as a Lady Vols student assistant for Pat. He just finished his second season as an assistant coach at Marquette University. Knowing that AAU basketball provides coaching experience and additional recruiting contacts, Mr. Summitt was an AAU head basketball coach for several teams. One of the teams he led as head coach, the Tennessee Fury 17U, won a state championship.
Louisiana Tech fired coach Theresa Weatherspoon, a former standout player for the school, on March 17th. Until the past two seasons, La Tech has enjoyed winning teams every season since the year after the women’s team was established in 1974. Known for having large crowds at its games for years, the team counted fans in the hundreds this past season instead of the thousands. Weatherspoon’s teams were 99-71 during her tenure as the head coach. Her firing by Athletic Director Tommy McClelland has not been without controversy. Former Tech player and NBA legend Karl Malone quickly criticized her dismissal and threatened to withdraw all support to the school.
Mr. Summitt’s selection as the women’s basketball coach for Louisiana Tech appears to come at a favorable time for early success. The team returns a strong cast of players, including Keila Shelton, Whitney Frazier, Lulu Perry, JaQuan Jackson and Chrisstasia Walter. Further, Weatherspoon’s upcoming recruiting class is considered a strong one. Ms. Weatherspoon left the cupboard full for young Summit to field a successful team in his opening season as head coach. In particular, Keila Shelton will be counted on to continue her scoring prowess. Ms. Shelton was dismissed from the team for violation of team rules in March 2013 and did not return until mid-February this past season. Mr. Summitt hopes to have the benefit of her play for a full season next year.
Pat Summitt retired as the head coach of the Lady Vols in 2012, having served in that position with distinction since 1974. Pat’s teams won eight NCAA titles, second only to John Wooden’s ten championships. She announced her affliction with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease in August 2011. She finished the next season as head coach and then retired. She never suffered a losing season and finished with over 1,000 wins.
Tyler Summitt comes on board with a strong cast of players and basketball wired into his DNA. Louisiana Tech hopes that Summitt’s selection as women’s basketball coach will put its team back on the winning track. If family coaching pedigree counts for anything, he should be successful. His mom is a beloved figure in his home state of Tennessee.
By William Costolo
The News Star