Coach Summitt: A Reflection
Added by Shannon Hovan on April 19, 2012.
Pat Summitt totalled 1,098 wins and 8 National Championships throughout her Hall of Fame coaching career.
I toyed with the seemingly endless question, “to write or not to write,” in regards to Pat Summitt’s decision to step aside as the head coach of the Tennessee Women’s Basketball program. Mostly, because it seems as though something has shifted. Coach Summitt and the game of basketball, in my eyes, and in the eyes of so many others, are synonymous. What is women’s college basketball without her on the sideline, without her coaching? I don’t know. It seems as though the game itself has tilted on it’s axis.
I grew up in the decade that Coach Summitt won four of her eventual eight National Championships. I knew nothing of the legacy that she was building. Even now, years later, it is hard to comprehend what she has done. Sometimes, only when we are forced into perspective, can we begin to grasp the impact certain things and people have had on us. All I know is, as I grew up as a young athlete, the women’s game grew up as well; both nurtured by Coach Summitt.
The University of Tennessee has officially stated that Coach Summitt will attain the title “head coach emeritus,” aiding the university’s athletic director in guiding the program she built from the ground up. Her 27-year assistant, Holly Warlick, has been named her successor.
After being diagnosed less than a year ago with early onset dementia-Alzheimer’s type, Summitt spoke in an interview, saying she thought she had three more years left in her. Although, after 38 on Tennessee’s sideline, it is time, as she says, “to step into a new role.”
Born and raised in Connecticut, and a female athlete, by nature I am Husky Blue, not Tennessee Orange. I recall that, as I grew older, I became more and more conflicted with the great rivalry. It eventually hit me that I have far too much respect for Coach Summitt and her contributions to the game to wish even a loss on her team or her program. And, it is her team. Her program. It always will be. Her ideal exists in the few who have worn (and will wear) the Tennessee jersey; and to every girl who has, is, or will, in the future, grow up loving the game of basketball.
1,098 wins. 16 SEC Tournament Championships. 32 NCAA Tournament Appearances. 18 Final Fours. 8 National Championships.
Before the conversations begin predicting and speculating who might pass Coach Summitt in wins or tournament championships, let us remember, first and foremost, there would be no records to break or milestones to surpass, if she had not set them to begin with.
I will turn 23 in August. By the time Coach Summitt turned 23, she had already begun coaching in Knoxville. As a young girl in the 1990’s, the dream of becoming a professional female athlete seemed more an ideal than an actuality. Coach Summitt was a figure that I, and so many others, identified with: a woman who literally “changed the game.”
Grow the game. Play the game. Teach the game. Love the game.
Thank you, Coach Summitt. I wish you all the best.