On the first anniversary of Pat Summitt’s passing, we continue to honor her as the winningest basketball coach of all time, a teacher, a role model, a co-worker, and a friend.
During her thirty-eight years as head coach, Summitt led the Lady Vols to eight NCAA championships and thirty-two combined Southeastern Conference titles.
“Pat Summitt didn’t just change the history of Tennessee basketball or make this arena notable well beyond the borders of this state. She changed the history of the sport she loved and of sports in general. She almost single-handedly made women’s sports relevant well beyond mothers and daughters, sisters, and grandmothers,” said Super Bowl champion and former Vol quarterback Peyton Manning (‘97) at Summitt’s memorial service in Thompson-Boling Arena.
As much as she pushed her players to win on the court, Summitt, who earned a bachelor’s degree from UT Martin and a master’s degree from UT Knoxville, also insisted on excellence in the classroom.
Every Lady Vol who completed her eligibility at Tennessee under Summitt’s watch graduated, and the coach remained a mentor to her former players as they went on to careers in basketball and other ventures.
“The confidence she instilled within me to stand up and speak out was life changing. Pat helped me discover a voice I didn’t know I had,” said Michelle Marciniak (’95), CEO of SHEEX, Inc., and a former Lady Vol point guard and assistant coach at South Carolina. “If she did this for me, imagine what she did for the 160 other players.”
For the last five years of her life, Summitt battled her fiercest opponent ever—Alzheimer’s disease.
“No one feels strong when she examines her own weakness,” Summitt said, “but in facing weakness, you learn how much there is in you, and you find real strength.” Relying on that strength and grace, she shared her struggle with the world, raising awareness and resources to combat the disease.
Summitt and her son, Tyler Summitt, created the Pat Summitt Foundation to award grants to non-profit organizations dedicated to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s.
Summitt passed away on June 28, 2016 at the age of 64.
As a testament to her accomplishments, the basketball court in Thompson-Boling Arena is named “The Summitt.”
Pat Summitt Plaza, which features a bronze statue of Summitt, is located at the corner of Lake Loudoun Boulevard and Phillip Fulmer Way, near the most-used entrance to the UT campus.
Words fail to express how proud we are that Pat Summitt’s name will forever be linked to the University of Tennessee. She is always a Volunteer.