Early Tuesday morning, June 28, 2016, it was announced that Hall of Fame women’s college basketball coach and author Pat Summitt died at her assisted senior living facility. The confirmation of her death came from the Pat Summitt Foundation, made in her honor to aid the fight against Alzheimer’s disease after she shocked the world in 2011 with the announcement of her diagnosis and the decision to coach one more year.
“She could’ve coached any team, any sport, men’s or women’s,” said Peyton Manning, an alum of Summitt’s school of the University of Tennessee. Her legendary coaching career began at Tennessee in 1974 and finished in 2012, a year after she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
In her 38 years as the women’s basketball head coach, she never finished a single season with a losing record, finishing her career with a record of 1,098-208. More wins than any coach in the history of basketball–men’s or women’s.
As head coach, Summitt led her team to 16 SEC conference championships, along with eight national championships she gave to the Volunteers. Moreover, she was named NCAA Coach of the Year seven times and inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988, which was 12 years before she retired in 2000.
Her influence went far beyond basketball. In 1976, Summitt also played a major part in equalizing the role of women by being a major voice in ending the six-on-six way of play with three-on-offense, three-on-defense that was implemented in women’s basketball. This was because it was considered too taxing for women to handle a full court game at the time.
Summitt was also the main advocate behind the victory of Title IX, which was known as the “comprehensive federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity,” according to Justice.gov. She was a trailblazer and the face of women’s basketball for a generation, much like UCLA head coach John Wooden was during his tenure. Arguably more so, in regards to what she did for women and the game of basketball.
She was the coach of the 1984 Team U.S.A., which received a gold medal when the games were held in Los Angeles. Moreover, the University of Tennessee’s basketball court, which is housed in the Thompson-Boling Arena, was named The Summit in her honor. In April of 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Summitt with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The iconic coach, who was well-known for the illustrious glare at players after a bad play and referees after a bad call, had a monument made in recognition for all that she has accomplished over her 38 years of coaching. One feat that Summitt had accomplished, which not too many coaches in any sport in history can put on their resume, is that all her Lady Vols finished their career with a degree.
Many of whom are now stars in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), such as Candace Parker and Tamika Catchings. Both having made their marks on the WNBA’s 20 greatest and most influential players in history. It is safe to say that their former coach would have been very proud of this accomplishment.
Summitt briefly stepped in years ago for her son’s Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball team, and when one of the players used the words can’t, she had this to say: “Can’t? Can’t? You can’t say can’t to me,” giving the young player her infamous glare. “I can’t relate to that.”
Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University, better known as “Coach K,” said that “No one will ever win the way she won, to me, that stands forever.” Meanwhile, Tom Izzo of Michigan State said that “She’s had an impact on all sports and all people.”
By T. Aaron DeGeorge
Edited by Leigh Haugh
Bleacher Report: Legendary Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt Dies at Age 64
ABC News: Pat Summitt, Legendary Women’s Coach, Dead at 64
PatSummittFoundation: Pat Summitt’s Story
Image Courtesy of Arizona Shona’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License