Pat Summitt Named Women’s Head Basketball Coach
Pat Summitt transformed and legitimized the sport of basketball during her 38-year career as head coach of the Lady Vols basketball team. Speaking to countless organizations, Summitt encouraged young people in their development of self-esteem, confidence, and athleticism. Many times, college recruits from other sports even asked for an audience with Summitt. Before he committed to a college, star football recruit Peyton Manning spoke to Summitt and then chose UT. Summitt pushed for and received more TV coverage of basketball and helped create not only the brand of Lady Vols basketball but the sport in general. During some years, the Lady Vols challenged the men’s teams in attendance and exceeded them in national exposure. When Pat Head (Summitt) was named head coach in 1974, she was a 22-year-old graduate assistant coach. By the time the 59-year-old retired as head coach emeritus in 2012, Summitt—herself an Olympic silver medalist as a basketball player—had led the Lady Vols to eight national championships in 38 seasons and become the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history with 1,098 wins. Famous for her intensity, Summitt’s competitive fire was reflected in her steely blue eyes and an icy stare that often connected with, and strengthened the resolve of, her student–athletes. Along with their dominance on the court, all 161 of Summitt’s Lady Vols graduated. Her coaching career earned her the title “Naismith Women’s Collegiate Coach of the Century” for the 1900s. She was also named national coach of the year seven times and Southeastern Conference coach of the year eight times. Summitt retired a year after revealing she was suffering from early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type. She went on to create the Pat Summitt Foundation and raised awareness worldwide about Alzheimer’s disease. In 2012, Summitt received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. A statue of Coach Summitt, dedicated in 2013, stands across from Thompson-Boling Arena where the basketball court is named The Summitt in her honor. She died in 2016.