In a game where numbers measure success, Pat Summitt played it differently.
The winningest coach in Division I college basketball history, she uprooted the women's game from obscurity to national prominence during her 38-year career as head coach for the University of Tennessee (and did it all without ever recording a losing season).
Summitt started playing basketball before Title IX and started coaching before the NCAA recognized women's basketball as a sport. Merging as an iconic face of women's college basketball, she became a role model to millions.
In 2011 at age 59 Summitt announced that she'd been diagnosed with early onset dementia. She would go on to coach one more season before stepping down. At her retirement, Summitt's coaching stature placed her in the rankings of former UCLA's men's coach John Wooden and UConn coach Geno Auriemma.
Tuesday morning, Summitt died. She was 64.
While words aren't large enough to capture Summitt's contributions, there is a collection of words quoted by Summitt that exemplifies the type of game she played. In recalling her accomplishments, she once said,
"What I see are not the numbers. I see their faces."Pat Summitt
Summitt's human approach to coaching was impressed upon generations of young women. In her early days of coaching, she would wash players uniforms, drive a team van, even make sandwiches for trips- almost acting like a surrogate mom to countless daughters.
"No matter who needs her- from the last person on the bench to a manager to whoever- she knew everybody by name and treated them as if they were her own, said Three-time WNBA MVP Candice Parker, the star on the Tennessee's 2007 and '08 national championship teams. "She would be more excited and more proud in making an impact on an individual."
One of Summitt's most remarkable accomplishments was a 100 percent graduation rate among her players who completed their athletic ability. After all, this was her family.
Competitive? Fierce? Dominant? Yes. Warm? Real? Human? Absolutely.
In a game where success is measured by stats, here's how Summitt's game measured up:
- 1,098 wins
- 38 seasons
- 18 Final Fours
- 8 National Championships
- 0 losing seasons
- Innumerable life impressions
Nobody in college basketball was more victorious than Pat Summitt.
While stats are meant to be broken, your legacy lives on.
To one of the most accomplished and influential figures in the history of sports- the type of game you played is never over.
RIP Pat Summitt.