This morning we learned that the legend, Pat Summitt, had passed away. She was 64.
Summitt was the coach of the Lady Vols from 1974 – 2012. She had an overall record of 1,098 – 208, won 8 National Championships, was a 7 time National Coach of the Year, was both an Olympian as a coach and player and was awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. And, perhaps the most telling aspect of her coaching career, every one of her players graduated in her 38 years as a head coach.
But this wasn’t an easy path, particularly in a sport which wasn’t held in much regard when she first began her coaching career in the 70s.
Pat Summitt was paid $250 a month to become the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee. When they didn’t have anyone to wash the team’s uniforms, she did it. She sometimes had to drive the team’s van to get the Lady Vols to their games. When she was close to giving birth to her son Tyler, she jumped on a plane to get back to Tennessee to make sure that he was Tennessee born and raised. She spoke with all of the athletes and coaches on campus. ESPN even reported that when he was deciding whether he was deciding to turn pro after his junior year, Peyton Manning spoke with Coach Summitt to get her advice. He was projected to be the number one pick and she told him to stay, which he did.
Pat Summitt’s influence over the University of Tennessee, former players like Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings, the state of Tennessee and the game of basketball cannot be put into words. RIP to one of the greatest coaches in basketball history.