- By Andrew Woolfolk
- Published: April 24th, 2012
Certain names are viewed as synonymous with their respective sports. Babe Ruth is baseball, Pele is soccer, Michael Jordan is basketball. In women’s basketball, one name comes to mind: Pat Summitt. After 38 years as the leader of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers, Summit decided to resign as head coach. Summit’s recent Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis in August of last year escorted her from the program she built.
Summitt will now serve as head coach emeritus for the Vols, which means she no longer serves her position but is allowed to keep her title in a show of honor and appreciation.
Summitt leaves behind a legacy that hardly any coach, man or woman, can compare to. Hired as head coach in 1974 as a 22-year-old, Summitt was the major factor in the movement that brought the entire sport of women’s basketball out of obscurity.
“We have grown the game of women’s basketball, each and every day along the way supported by the best fans in the country. No doubt,” Summitt said in her retirement press conference.
Working on a starting salary of $250 a month, Summitt laid down the foundation of a dynasty. Year after year, you could bet that Summitt and her Lady Vols would be a force to be reckoned with come March. Excellence was an expectation for Summitt at Knoxville.
She showed dominance by winning eight championships, more than anyone in women’s basketball, and 1,098 games, tops in men and women’s basketball. She showed consistency by never having a losing season.
She showed leadership by making every one of her players earn a degree. Through it all, she did it with class, never suffering from allegations of violations of any sort that seem to shadow winning coaches today.
Instead, Summitt used her coaching style to reach the top. She had the wisdom and stoic intensity of John Wooden. She had the demanding determination of Bob Knight. As with Dean Smith, players looked to her as a second parent. She was the consummate matriarch figure for her team.
Now, Summitt embarks on her next endeavor, fighting off the detrimental effects of Alzheimer’s disease with the help of donations made to the Pat Summitt Foundation. Like the Jimmy V Foundation in men’s basketball, The Pat Summitt Foundation holds a yearly slate of games to raise money for research of the disease.
“There’s not going to be any pity party, I’ll make sure of that,” Summitt said in an interview with GoVols.com
She will undoubtedly fight the disease with the same intensity as she had on game day with her players. Through it all, Summitt can take solace in this fact. She has given fans memories that will never fade away.