Very sad news today. Pat Summitt has passed away. Her family had asked for prayers over the weekend as her condition worsened, and early this morning the legendary basketball coach died five years after being diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type. She was 64 years old.
She was an absolute giant of the game. Women’s basketball wouldn’t be what it is today, if not for Pat Summitt.
She was simply, one of the best coaches ever. Not one of the best female coaches ever: one of the best coaches, male or female, in any sport.
This is a woman who took over the head coach position for Tennessee Women’s Basketball at age 22, making 250 dollars a month. 38 years later she had won over 1,000 games, 16 SEC championships and 8 National titles.
She’s such an icon in Tennessee that she doesn’t just have a street named after her, She has TWO.
And I don’t think we’ve ever had a great example of a leader who can be absolutely tenacious on the sideline, but so gracious in an interview. Those images of her screaming and spitting fire up and down the court that you’re seeing today… Such a contrast to the stories about how accommodating and open she was with talk show host you’re hearing today.
And I know I’m not the only one. One of my favorite Pat Summitt moments had nothing to do with basketball at all. It was her wild raccoon brawl.
Pat Summitt, at 56 years old, separated her shoulder fighting a raccoon she encountered while walking her dog. For real. The raccoon attacked her dog, and she jumped in to protect it.
Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Not with Pat Summitt.
I don’t think Jim Calhoun would throw with a puma in his backyard. I doubt Phil Jackson would give the hands to a rabid possum. But Pat Summitt was already to go to battle for anyone or anything close to her. Total gladiator when it was go time. Total grace when it wasn’t.
Personally I remember asking her years ago on live TV for her reaction to Geno Auriemma chirping at her in the media, and she said “Jim, I just laugh. It’s really all I can do with Geno.”
It was a great, high road response from an icon.