Those in the world of college basketball and others around the country are mourning the loss of head coach of the University of Tennessee’s (UT) women’s basketball team Pat Summitt, who won more games than any coach — man or woman — in college basketball history. She was 64.
Summitt had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2011. Her son Tyler Summitt announced early Tuesday that she died “peacefully … in Knoxville surrounded by those who loved her most.”
In her 38 years leading the UT women’s basketball team, she won 1,098 games and eight national championships. Even after her diagnosis five years ago, she continued coaching at the university, finishing out her last season with much help from her assistants. Summitt ended her career winning 84 percent of all her games, with a 1,098-208 record.
“She’ll be remembered as the all-time winningest D-1 basketball coach in NCAA history,” Tyler Summitt said, “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.”
President Barack Obama — who awarded Summitt the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, which is recognized as one of the nation’s highest civilian awards — remembered the legendary coach as a role model.
“Nobody walked off a college basketball court victorious more times than Tennessee’s Pat Summitt,” he said in a statement. “For four decades, she outworked her rivals, made winning an attitude, loved her players like family, and became a role model to millions of Americans, including our two daughters.”
Obama also applauded Summitt for her student-athletes’ academic success, citing a 100 percent graduation rate among players who completed their athletic eligibility.
“Her legacy … is measured much more by the generations of young women and men who admired Pat’s intense competitiveness and character, and as a result found in themselves the confidence to practice hard, play harder, and live with courage on and off the court,” Obama said.
A public celebration of her life will take place at 7 p.m. on July 14 at Thompson-Boling Arena on UT’s campus in Knoxville, Tenn.