A legend has passed and the world will never be the same without her. Those who were coached by her know that their lives are forever touched by her. Those who watched her coach know the intensity and passion that she possessed when she ran the sidelines for the Big Orange. Not only did she make great basketball players but she made great leaders and women too.
Through her 38 years as the head of the Lady Vols program she recorded 8 National Championships, 18 Final Fours, and 1,098 wins. Those 1,098 wins are more than any Division 1 basketball coach whether they are a man or a woman. For all the talk of the greatest coaches in college basketball history, Pat Summitt will always be the one that I admire.
Growing up in eastern Tennessee in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains, the University of Tennessee ruled my life. From the Big Orange football team to watching Summitt coach in the “House That Pat Built,” the Thompson-Boling Arena. Summitt’s teams dwarfed the men’s basketball program and she wrote her own script as challenged the football program’s legacy as the most successful team on campus.
In Summitt’s later years she struggled with symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the disease that would finally take her on June 28,2016. I never wanted to write this post about the death of Summitt because for as much of a fan of Tennessee football I was always a fan of the way she coached. Whether right or wrong, it wasn’t so much her pushing the players so she could win, it was pushing them so they could find something in themselves. Sometimes the viewer’s focus could get lost on the way that she stared at the players after they made a mistake.
Some players are able to handle things like that and some aren’t. Coaches know how to handle things like that and as someone who has coached before, you see different kids who have different buttons that you can push. The best coaches know how to push the right buttons and obviously Summitt knew how to push buttons but she did it with the best intentions. To make them better individuals and better players. Summitt is famous for saying that “you can’t always be the most talented person in the room. But you can be the most competitive.” I hope that we never lose sight of those words no matter what we are doing. May we never forget Summitt, I would hate to think she’s somewhere staring at us from the sidelines.