Pat Summitt: Losing A Legend

Pat Summitt, Legend.

Pat Summitt, legendary former basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, died Tuesday morning of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA Division I basketball history, was only 64.

Sunday morning we woke up to the news of Pat Summitt struggling. Her family and friends were by her side and they weren’t sure how much longer she had. Days later, Pat’s struggle had come to an end.

Her son, Tyler Summitt, issued a statement Tuesday morning saying his mother died peacefully at Sherrill Hill Senior Living in Knoxville surrounded by those who loved her most.

“Since 2011, my mother has battled her toughest opponent, early onset dementia, ‘Alzheimer’s Type,’ and she did so with bravely fierce determination just as she did with every opponent she ever faced,” Tyler Summitt said. “Even though it’s incredibly difficult to come to terms that she is no longer with us, we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease.”

Pat Summitt, Coach.

Pat was diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type in 2011. A year later, she stepped down from her role as head coach and eventually assumed the role of head coach emeritus. She would visit the team practices and be on the sidelines during games. In her final years, Summitt used her own illness as a means of bringing awareness and research to fight Alzheimer’s. She created The Pat Summitt Foundation and raised millions of dollars.

In recent days, Pat’s health had taken a turn for the worse. News that her family, friends, and former players had gathered by her side brought an outpouring of sympathy from the entire basketball community and sports world.

What we can do now is reflect on Pat’s life and career. President Obama summed Pat up the best. He said “Pat’s gift has always been her ability to push those around her to new heights, and over the last 38 years, her unique approach has resulted in both unparalleled success on the court and unrivaled loyalty from those who know her and those whose lives she has touched.”

Her unparalleled success:

  • Loyal. 38 seasons at One School. Pat Summitt spent her entire career at the University of Tennessee, which is unheard of in today’s sports. She was loyal to her team.
  • Dominate. She has the most wins (1,098-208 record) for any basketball coach, men or women. If you’re doing the math of her record, she won 84% of her games. Eighty-four-percent.
  • Winner. Eight NCAA Championships. Eighteen Final Four appearances. Sixteen Southeastern Conference titles and 16 SEC tournament titles.
  • Mentor. 100% graduation rate. She made sure her players got their education. Every single player who walked through her doors.

Pat Summitt, Legacy.

Although Pat Summitt is no longer with us, her legacy lives on. She will forever be the woman who created and set the standard for women’s basketball. Her former players and basketball community will make sure that every basketball player knows Pat Summitt and her greatness.

Summitt has left us and taken her rightful place with the other basketball gods who have gone before her. I picture her sitting down with Dean Smith, Kay Yow, and John Wooden. All welcoming her with open arms. I see Pat with a smile instead of her icy glare as her burden has been lifted and is now back among friends talking basketball.


About the Author:

Caroline Starr is a former Division I basketball player and a Division II basketball coach as well as a life long basketball fan. Her hope is that someday her words provide future college student-athletes little nuggets of knowledge to help them through their college athletics journey.

Caroline Starr