She was one of the greatest coaches in the history of basketball at any level, and it was announced that Pat Summitt passed away on Tuesday at the age of 64. She had been battling Alzheimer’s for the past five years and fought valiantly during that time.
Her son, Tyler Summitt, spoke tremendous words about his mother, saying she battled the disease with “fierce determination just as she did with every opponent she ever faced.” He continued by saying, “Even though it’s incredibly difficult to come to terms that she is no longer with us, we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease.”
She spent 38 years as head coach of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers from 1974-2012 and remained the head coach for one year after being diagnosed early onset Alzheimer’s in 2011. In those 38 years, she compiled a resume that eclipses almost every great college basketball coach in either the men’s or women’s league. She turned the University of Tennessee into a powerhouse in the SEC, winning 16 SEC Tournament Champions, and also capturing 16 SEC Titles.
It didn’t stop there, and Summitt’s teams went to the Final Four a staggering 18 times and won eight NCAA Tournament Championships, trailing John Wooden (10) and Geno Auriemma (11) for the most ever.
Over the course of her 38 seasons, the seven-time NCAA Coach of the Year won a record 1,098 games and is one of four college coaches to have won 1,000 games or more. She was also inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.
Aside from everything she did with her program, she did more for women’s sports as a whole and helped it gain national notoriety. When she started in 1974, to say the women side of sports were overlooked would be an understatement, and Summitt used to have to drive her teams to away games and wash their uniforms. As her career progressed, Summitt became a household name among all-time greats and, in 2009, was the only woman on Sporting News’ list of the 50 greatest coaches. On a list that covers the NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL, and college basketball and football, Summitt was ranked at number 11.
Rest easy, Pat Summitt. And know that no one will ever have such a profound impact on women’s sports ever again.