Legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt passed away this week after a battle with Alzheimer’s-type dementia, she was 64.
She inspired millions as a champion for women athletes, and in creating a dynasty with the Tennessee Lady Volunteers, changed the way women in sports are perceived across the world.
Summitt concluded a 38-year tenure at the helm of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers on April 18, 2012, with a 1,098-208 overall record, the most wins of any basketball coach in NCAA history (a title she still holds) with 1,098 victories, eight NCAA Championships and 32 combined Southeastern Conference titles. During her tenure, Tennessee made an unprecedented 31 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and produced 12 Olympians, 21 WBCA (State Farm/Kodak) All-Americans named to 38 teams, and 77 All-SEC performers. Coach Summitt’s players held a 100 percent graduation rate for all Lady Vols who completed their eligibility at Tennessee.
On Aug. 23, 2011, Summitt bravely revealed that she was experiencing the onset of Alzheimer’s-type early onset dementia, after doctors at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed her at the age of 59.
In characteristic fashion, Summitt approached her struggle with the disease with openness and unwavering courage. Famously telling the Knoxville News Sentinel, “there’s no pity party, I’ll make sure of that.” She remained on as coach after her diagnosis for the 2011-12 season, and guided her team through one of its toughest schedules in history, finishing with a 27-9 overall record and as 2012 SEC Tournament Champions. Fans across the United States gave Summitt standing ovations, as she led her team on the road with resolution and courage while combating her illness.
In addition to being inducted into the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame in 2012 at the IWF World Leadership Conference in San Francisco, Summitt received hundreds of accolades and honors throughout her career. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented by President Barack Obama in May of 2012. She also earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and was named a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Council to Empower Women and Girls Through Sports. She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on June 5, 1999 and into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on October 13, 2000. Other accolades include an honorary doctorate from the United States Sports Academy on May 19, 2009; receiving the 2009 WNBA Inspiring Coach Award on April 7, 2009, and being honored by her peers with the RUSSELL ATHLETIC/WBCA Victory Club Award for 1,000 career wins on April 6, 2009. She was inducted as the third member of the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame on June 17, 2011, and was announced on Dec. 5 as the 2011 Sport Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year alongside 2011 Sportsman of the Year, Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
IWF honors her legacy and salutes a leader and game-changer who forwarded women’s leadership in uncountable ways, leaving an indelible impact on sport and the global cultural landscape.