Legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt has passed away at the age of 64 after battling Alzheimer’s disease.
Summitt’s 38 years as head coach of the Lady Volunteers was marked by incredible numbers. She is the winningest coach in Division I college basketball history — both men’s and women’s — with 1,098 victories. She led the program to 31 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, bringing home eight national championships. Summitt championed academics, too: There was a 100 percent graduation rate among her players.
In a statement, Summitt’s son Tyler Summitt said, “She’ll be remembered as the all-time winningest D-1 basketball coach in NCAA history, but she was more than a coach to so many — she was a hero and a mentor, especially to me, her family, her friends, her Tennessee Lady Volunteer staff and the 161 Lady Vol student-athletes she coached during her 38-year tenure.”
Summitt was offered the head coaching job at Tennessee in 1974 when she was just 22 years old. At the time, women’s basketball was not recognized by the NCAA. That came in 1982, and five years later, Summitt won her first NCAA Championship. She will be remembered by many as a trailblazer in women’s basketball and in sports.
In 2011, Summitt announced that she had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s but vowed to continue coaching. She retired the following year, and she was named Head Coach Emeritus. In recent days, word spread that Summitt’s health was rapidly declining, spurring the hashtag #PrayForPat on social media. Her family announced that Summitt died this morning.
Some of the most prominent players coached by Summitt include Candace Parker, Tamika Catchings, Kara Lawson, Glory Johnson and Chamique Holdsclaw.
Former players and other athletes took to social media today to express their gratitude for Summitt.
My heart is broken. Pat & I shared a very special, special BOND that will NEVER be broken! I love u Pat!
— Holly Warlick (@HollyWarlick) June 28, 2016
— Lady Vol Basketball (@LadyVol_Hoops) June 28, 2016