Thank you, Pat Summitt.
Thank you for everything you’ve done. For being one of the best ever and for creating a women’s sports powerhouse. For representing everything that is right in college athletics and for being more than just a basketball coach.
From the time I was six years old, my family had season tickets to Lady Vol basketball games. From the stands, I watched UT win three straight national championships in the late 90’s. I watched the brutal UConn-Tennessee rivalry. I watched the domination and the decline. I watched Pat Summitt change women’s sports forever.
Hearing the news that she has passed away is completely devastating. A shattering reminder that even superheroes are mortal sometimes.
I didn’t know Pat personally, though, I met her multiple times. I can say with certainty that I’ve never encountered another person with a more commanding presence.
She had a steely stare that you never, ever wanted to be on the receiving end of. It was a stare that could melt even the iciest of dispositions. And that white hot stare paired with a diamond-hard will to always be the best at her craft, made her a champion.
As the winningest coach in college basketball history, men’s or women’s, she collected eight national championship titles in 38 legendary years on the sidelines in Knoxville. She redefined what it meant to coach women’s college basketball all the while remaining a bastion of integrity.
In college sports, a place where it’s all too common for coaches to step on the rules and find loopholes to get ahead, Pat did everything the right way.
She felt so strongly about operating within the bounds of the rules that she ended one of the greatest rivalries in sports because she discovered that UConn had committed NCAA recruiting violations.
Whether you loved her or hated her during her time as a coach, Pat was a pioneer. No one will ever be able to do what she did. Sure, Geno Auriemma may win more championships or another coach may eclipse 1,098 career wins, but no one can ever go back and single-handedly revolutionize the sport of women’s basketball.
Pat made the game into what it is today and beyond that, she completely transformed what we thought women in sports were capable of.
Although, Pat’s influence transcended gender.
By winning more than anyone and doing it with iron-clad ethics, she set the gold standard for what coaches should be, not just for women’s basketball but for coaches of all sports.
It’s a beautiful legacy that will never truly be matched.
Pat was a visionary. A revolutionary. A game changer, literally and figuratively. There’s no denying that the world is a better place because of Pat Summitt.
And the fact that I had the privilege of meeting her and watching her work her magic in person is something I will always cherish.
Thank you, Pat. For everything.
To donate to the Pat Summitt Foundation and support Alzheimer’s research, click here.