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Passing of a Pioneer

Pat Summitt died this week from an advanced case of dementia. She was a pioneer for women's sports coaching the University of Tennessee, Lady Vols from 1974 to 2012.  Her obituary could read something like this. "Patricia Sue Summitt was an  college basketball coach who achieved the most wins in NCAA basketball history of any coach, male or female.

Coach Summitt won eight NCAA championships (an NCAA women's record when she retired. She was the first NCAA coach, and one of four college coaches overall, to achieve at least 1,000 wins (she achieved 1,098). Summitt also won an Olympic Gold Medal as head coach of the 1984 U.S. women's basketball team, and was named the Naismith Basketball Coach of the Century in April 2000.

In 2009, the Sporting News placed her at number 11 on its list of the 50 Greatest Coaches of All Time in all sports; she was the only woman on the list. In 38 years as a coach, she never had a losing season. In 2012, Pat Summitt was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, and the ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

Those are her accomplishments, but she was so much more. When Summitt made the announcement to the world in August of 2011 that she had Alzheimers, the coaching legend said that it was not going to keep her from living life. She was that kind of person. Her battle ended on June 28th, at a Tennessee Retirement facility. Perhaps words from a longtime rival best sum up her career as well as the kind of person she was. Geno Auriemma, Womens Basketball Coach at UConn, reflected on the life and career of Coach Summitt in this way.

"From a competitive standpoint, it was the one program, the one game that you... each year you kinda measured yourself and your team. 'Hey, when we play that game, we'll know if we're good enough to win a national championship or not.”

Auriemma went on to say, “From a personal standpoint I think you can see how difficult it was back then for a woman to try to do something that really no one had ever done before, and no one thought you could do it. Trying to juggle being a mom and being a coach and being a representative for the game. From all the different aspects of looking at what her career was, there were a lot of things that she was the first. There were other people that did it, but nobody did it better or did it longer.”

Several years ago Dave and Nate read and reviewed the book Sum it Up, a biography about Summitt.  Read the article at


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