Pat Summitt is considered to be a pioneer for women’s basketball by many.
On Tuesday, following news of the Hall of Fame coach’s passing at the age of 64, Summitt’s impact on women’s basketball was evident as area high school coaches weighed in on her legacy at the University of Tennessee and beyond.
“She is the legend and major groundbreaker, in my mind, for women’s basketball,” Crosby High School women’s basketball coach Michelle Trotter said. “She epitomized what being a coach is about. She was tenacious, passionate, yet caring … She definitely had a huge impact on my decision to become a coach.”
Summitt, who won 1,098 games, eight National Championships along with 16 SEC Championships as the head coach of the Lady Vols, had been battling early onset dementia “Alzheimer’s Type” since 2011. Despite being diagnosed in 2011, Summitt coached the Lady Vols in the 2012 season before retiring following the season.
“She is and will forever be a huge inspiration to us all,” Humble High School women’s basketball coach Ne’Keisha King said. “Her passion and desire to be the best has enamored and encouraged me to strive to do the same. She was instrumental in putting women’s basketball on the map.
“Growing up, she made me believe that I could use basketball as my way out. Coach Summitt is a legend deserving of the upmost respect and homage.”
When Summitt took over the Lady Vols basketball program in 1974 at 22 years old, the NCAA at the time didn’t even recognize women’s athletics. It wasn’t until 1981-1982 the NCAA would take over governance of women’s athletics. In 1982 Summitt coached the University of Tennessee to its first Final Four appearance under the NCAA.
In 1987, in her 13th season as the head coach, the first National Championship came against Louisiana Tech. In 2008, the final of her eight National Championships at Tennessee came with a 64-48 victory against Stanford.
Summitt’s Lady Vols in her coaching career would reach the Final Four 22 times, 18 times under the NCAA.
In 1999, Summitt was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, then a year later into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.
“Pat Summitt will forever be known for changing the standard for women’s basketball,” Summer Creek High School women’s basketball coach Angie McDonald said. “Her passion and drive for success is something I strive for in my own career.”
More Area High School Coaches Reactions to the passing of Pat Summitt
“Coach Summitt is a ‘legend’ and is one of the reasons I knew I wanted to coach. To see her coach and the passion that she had for the game was seen every time you saw her. She wanted to make a difference in her players lives. She wasn’t just their coach and you could see that on the court while coaching them that bond was stronger than that. So when I decided years ago to go into this profession that was definitely something that I knew I wanted to have with my players. I wanted to build that relationship and bond because when you do that your players want to play harder for you because they don’t want to let you down. There are many reasons why she was special to me and how she impacted me. One coach that I looked up to, never had a chance to meet her but never missed a moment of her success. The championship wins, the tough losses, the naming of her court, the 1,000 wins, the relationship she had with her son, her players, the news of her health and unfortunately her retirement. And now this … Heartbroken. Yes IU am big fan and this had definitely affected women’s basketball.”
–Veronica Johnson (Atascocita High School Women’s Basketball Head Coach)
“I don’t think you can be a basketball coach at any level and now have a Pat Summitt influence. She loved this game and knew how to teach this game. Coach Summitt was a visionary. I soak up every Pat Summitt knowledge I can find. Books, clinics and videos. Coach Summitt is a legend. Everything she did, she did with class. My prayers go out to her family and friends.”
– Erika Ritter (Magnolia High School Women’s Basketball Head Coach)
“Amazing coach and role model for all of us women. We would all like to ‘be like Pat’. The sacrifices and commitment she has made to women’s basketball, to make those around her great is beyond reproach. Maybe now she can rest in peace – I can still hear her singing ‘Rocky Top’! Thanks coach!”
– Angela Bell (Porter High School Women’s Basketball Head Coach)