There have been several legends that have passed away too soon in 2016, and legendary college basketball coach Pat Summitt is no exception. The former University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach and all-time winningest Division I head coach helped shape the women’s basketball scene and mentor many head coaches that have turned into exceptional talents in their own right (i.e. Nevada‘s Jane Albright).
The 64-year-old coach has the most wins in college basketball history and her sometimes frank demeanor showed exactly how stubborn of a person she really was. According to USA TODAY, Summitt was diagnosed with the early onset of dementia in the form of Alzheimer’s disease. It is a disease that does not discriminate and it does not care what the status is of the individual it latches itself onto.
“It is with tremendous sadness that I announce the passing of my mother, Patricia Sue Head Summitt,” her son Tyler Summitt said in a statement on Tuesday. “She died peacefully this morning at Sherrill Hill Senior Living in Knoxville surrounded by those who loved her most.”
“She’ll be remembered as the all-time winningest D-1 basketball coach in NCAA history,” Tyler Summitt said in the statement, “but she was more than a coach to so many – she was a hero and a mentor, especially to me, her family, her friends, her Tennessee Lady Volunteer staff and the 161 Lady Vol student-athletes she coached during her 38-year tenure,” via USA TODAY Sports.
The Tennessee coach meant so much to the game of basketball, but also just as much to those she coached against.
“Pat Summitt is our John Wooden,” Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey said in comparing Summitt to the legendary men’s basketball coach at UCLA. “No matter how many national championships (other coaches) win, there will never be another Pat,” via USA TODAY.
Summitt won eight national championships as the leader of a dominant Lady Vols team, and she surprisingly never had a losing season as a head coach on her way to a 1,098-208 career record.
But from stories that I’ve been told by Coach Albright, Summitt was a kind, tender-hearted woman with a strong will to win that also wanted to see others succeed through her legacy. Being a mentor is no easy task, but being able to celebrate in others successes as someone who taught them how to coach like the best is something that sets Summit apart from coaches that get lost gazing at themselves in the mirror.
She had a genuine love for the game of basketball and it showed during every game that she coached. She passed on knowledge of a game that she dominated for almost 40 years and helped create many women that knew how to play basketball and win at life.
Summitt should be remembered as much as John Wooden as the foundations for basketball’s ongoing success at the college level, and she is a legend that will be passed down to generations for many years to come.
“God doesn’t take things away to be cruel. He takes things away to make room for other things. He takes things away to lighten us. He takes things away so we can fly.” — Pat Summitt (1952-2016)