At the tender age of 22, Pat Head, could not have any idea what lay ahead for her as the head coach at the University of Tennessee.
38 years later, she will leave behind an unmatched legacy at the school as a pioneer who developed young women as both players and people.
You look around the game and see what she has done for people and you now know why Wednesday is a sad day.
Now at 59, Pat Summitt has been diagnosed with onset early dementia, a cruel condition which hampered her ability to coach her team last year. She named Head Coach Emeritus by the University on Wednesday, as classy a way as the school could have handled this and probably the least likely way Holly Warlick envisioned succeeding Summitt as Tennessee’s coach.
Summitt picked up 1,098 wins in her career, eight national titles, and win a staggering 91% of her home games in 38 years. She has only lost 15 games in SEC history at home. She won 72 percent of her games against ranked opponents.
One of my favorite moments came in 1996 when Summitt brought her Tennessee team into Norfolk to play Old Dominion and the Vols were getting hosed by one official who always worked big ODU home games, and Summitt sits on the scorers table and looks at me the PA guy and says “I know were not playing perfect but man I don’t think we’re getting a fair shake out there,” My response of course, “Coach your right, I know your not”.
She smiled and just remarked how her team needed to play that much harder, but as a sports fan, I had just had direct interaction with a legend, I felt like I was on top of the world.
We can look back on the wins, we can look back on the National Titles, I’m sure there are some who will look a the modern rivalry that turned into UCONN-Tennessee for many years in the women’s game. Long before Geno Auriema brought UCONN into prominence, Summitt had delivered a dynasty in the women’s game at Tennessee.
In a release today, Summitt said she won’t be far from the program she has spent her professional life building.
“I’ve loved being the head coach at Tennessee for 38 years, but I recognize that the time has come to move into the future and to step into a new role,” said Summitt. “I support Holly Warlick being named the next head coach, and I want to help ensure the stability of the program going forward. I would like to emphasize that I fully intend to continue working as head coach emeritus, mentoring and teaching life skills to our players, and I will continue my active role as a spokesperson in the fight against Alzheimer’s through the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund.
“If anyone asks, you can find me observing practice or in my office. Coaching is the great passion of my life, and the job to me has always been an opportunity to work with our student-athletes and help them discover what they want. I will continue to make them my passion. I love our players and my fellow coaches, and that’s not going to change.”
It will be weird for Warlick I’m sure at first to be on the sidelines without her mentor. She has been rewarded for her loyalty, 27 years on the staff and did a solid job last year under very tough circumstances.
Every player that has finished eligibility has graduated. Every player that has played there has had an experience we call all be jealous of. Pat Summitt is simply class and an example of what’s right about people in college athletics.