As we mourn the loss of Pat Summitt, we should remember her for the stellar impact she had on women’s basketball. Summit lost her battle with Alzheimer’s, yet she won an even bigger battle in life. Summit was from a generation of female athletes that broke down barriers for many of the female athletes of today. She was a member of the first women’s Olympic basketball team in 1976, which won a silver medal, and many of the opportunities that were awarded to male athletes were not afforded to her because back then, female involvement in sports was still a major struggle.
Summit became the head coach of the university of Tennesee’s women’s basketball team in 1974, and this was allowed due in part to Richard Nixon’s signing of Title X-act, which prohibited gender discrimination under any educational program or any other activity that received federal funding. Summit who was 22 at the time was initially offered an assistant coaching position at UT but was quickly promoted to head coach when the former head coach announced she was taking a Sabbatical. At the time, Women’s basketball as a NCAA sanctioned sport was in its infancy. This was the beginning of Patt Summitt’s reign at Tennessee and where she would begin to make history.
During Summitt’s 38 years as head coach of the Lady Vol’s, she won 1,098 games (3 wins shy of the winningest male coach in NCAA history) and coached her team to eight national titles. Summitt owns nearly every single NCAA Tournament record as a women’s coach. Because of her philosophies, she was able to teach these young women, not only basketball but how to win in life. Everyone Summitt coached, at UT not only was successful on the court but was also succeeded in graduating. Summitt produced 34 WNBA players, 21 All-Americans and 39 All-SEC players.
She coached the 1984 Women’s Olympic basketball team and won the gold medal becoming the first American to earn an Olympic medal as a player and winning one as a coach. She had led an amazing life and was an amazing person, she will be missed by all, and will continue to be an inspiration, forever.