Celebrating the Life of Coach Pat Summitt

There is currently a Change.org petition online that has over three thousand supporters who hope that the University of Tennessee will choose to change the name of the Thompson-Boiling Arena to “The Summitt” in honor of the late Lady Vols Basketball coach Pat Summitt who lost her battle with Alzheimer’s disease on June 28th 2016 at the age of 64. The Thompson Boiling Area has been the home of the Lady Vols for decades and is a popular basketball arena where many local Knoxville events have been held over the years from concerts and Disney on Ice events to circus performances and other live events. The idea to change the name of the arena would be a great way to honor the former UT Lady Vols coach who helped her team win 8 NCAA championships and 16 SEC Tournaments. Her legendary coaching record overall was 1,098–208.

The End of an Era

In August of 2011, Coach Pat Summitt announced to her fans that she had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease just three months earlier. Despite her diagnosis of this progressive disorder, Pat went on to complete the 2011-2012 season, but with a reduced role as coach with some help from longtime assistant Holly Warlick. Once the season ended, Summitt officially stepped down as coach for the Lady Vols Basketball team on April 18th 2012. This ended her 38 year long coaching career. Warlick was named her successor. Pat was given the title of Head Coach Emeritus upon her resignation. According to NCAA rules, the head coach emeritus is able to attend practices and assist the head coach in some duties, but is not allowed to sit on the team bench.

There Will Never Be Another That Inspired So Many

Pat Summitt had a coaching style that was admired by so many people. Even if you never watched a game of women’s basketball in your lifetime, you still knew who Pat Summitt was if you lived in the East Tennessee area. She brought pride to the city and counselled many young women to not only play the game but to live their life to the fullest each and every day. Summitt was widely recognized as one of the toughest coaches in college basketball history, men’s or women’s. She was best known for giving an icy stare to her players in response to a bad play. She mentioned in an interview in 2007 that she had mellowed down a bit over the years and that she did not yell at her players nearly as much as she did in the past. There were at least two instances where Summitt was offered a job coaching the men’s basketball team, but she refused.

Awards and Recognition

Along with coaching the Lady Vols, Pat Summitt also won two Olympic medals, a gold medal as the head coach of the 1984 U.S. Women’s Basketball Team and a Silver medal as a player on the 1976 team. She was honored as the Naismith Basketball Coach of the Century in 2000 and in 2009 the Sporting News placed her at number 11 on the list of the 50 Greatest Coaches of All Time, in all Sports. She was the only woman who made the list. Summitt was also awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama and she received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2012 at the ESPY Awards.

A Family Tradition

Pat has passed on her love for the game to her son Tyler Summitt who played as a walk-on for the UT men’s basketball team. He graduated from UT in May of 2012 and was hired to be an assistant coach for the Marquette University Women’s basketball team for the 2012-13 season. A columnist for ESPN.com said that Tyler’s new role was a bittersweet irony since his hiring by Marquette was announced on the same day that his mom announced her retirement from coaching.

Saying Goodbye to a Legend

The people of East Tennessee are sad to say goodbye to their legendary coach, but they are happy that she is now at peace and no longer dealing with the painful and confusing effects of Alzheimer’s disease. She will be greatly missed by anyone who was ever coached by her or any person who had ever worked alongside her at the University of Tennessee. If you would like to contribute to the Pat Summitt Foundation for Alzheimer’s research, you can visit their website at www.patsummitt.org.