NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee Head Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt is at the center of many prayers going up around Knoxville and the nation.
A spokesman for the Summitt family released a statement addressing her condition:
On behalf of Pat Summitt’s family, we acknowledge the past few days have been difficult for Pat as her early onset dementia, ‘Alzheimer’s Type,’ progresses. She is surrounded by those who mean the most to her and during this time, we ask for prayers for Pat and her family and friends, as well as your utmost respect and privacy. Thank you.”
ESPN reporter Mechelle Voepel reported that Los Angeles Sparks player and former Lady Vol Candace Parker left after the Sparks win Friday in Minnesota to go to Knoxville to see an ailing Pat Summit.
Parker retweeted a tweet by “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts asking for prayers for a dear friend.
Others tweeting to #PrayForPat include Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones, Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs, former Tennessee assistant football coach and Duke University head football coach David Cutcliffe and former Lady Vol Meighan Simmons.
WKRN went to Cheatham County Central High School, where the gym is named in Summitt’s honor. She played basketball there because Clarksville, her hometown, did not have a girls’ team at the time.
Summitt’s high school teammates said she was a force to reckoned with.
“Pat was just one of those people who just pulled you in. Whatever she was doing, you wanted to do it with her. And she was definitely a leader that made you want you to succeed,” said former teammate Norma Gibbs.
Summitt announced in August 2011 that she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
She completed the season with a reduced role as her assistant Holly Warlick took on much of the coaching duties, before announcing the season would be her last.
Warlick would be named head coach the following season.
Summitt’s 38 seasons of success
Legendary Lady Vols Head Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt’s career as the winningest coach in college basketball history spanned nearly four decades and earned her a reputation as one of the toughest coaches of either a men’s or women’s team.
Summitt was born Patricia Sue Head in 1952 in Clarksville, Tennessee. Her family moved to nearby Henrietta when she was in high school so she could play basketball. She then attended University of Tennessee at Martin, where she played for the school’s first women’s basketball team.
PAT SUMMITT STATISTICS
1974-2012 – University of Tennessee Head Coach
1977 – U.S. Junior National Team
1979 – Pan American Games Team
1979, 1983 – World Championships Team
1980 – U.S. Olympic Basketball Assistant
1984 – U.S. Olympic Basketball Head Coach
1970-74 – UT Martin
1973 – U.S. World University Games Team
1975 – Pan American Games Team
1975 – World Championship Team
1976 – U.S. Olympic Team (co-captain)
Summitt was hired as a graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville just before the 1974-75 season at the age of 21. She was then named head coach when the previous head coach suddenly resigned. Some of her players were only a year younger than she. Her first win came about a month into her coaching career against Middle Tennessee State University.
In her second season, Summitt led the Lady Vols to a 16-11 record, while at the same time earning her master’s degree in physical education and training as co-captain of the first United States women’s national basketball team at the 1976 Olympics as a player. The team won the silver medal.
The wins started piling up as her team got better with each passing season. The Lady Vols closed the 1970s by winning the first-ever SEC tournament and competing in back-to-back Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Final Fours.
The 1981-82 season had the first-ever NCAA Women’s basketball tournament. The Lady Vols were one of 32 teams invited and named a No. 2 seed. The team upset top-seeded USC to advance to the Final Four, where they lost to eventual tournament winner Louisiana Tech.
Summitt won her 300th game in December 1982. Summit was named head coach of the team that eventually represented the USA at the 1984 Olympics. The team won all eight of its games and the gold medal.
The Lady Vols’ first national title came in 1987 when they defeated Louisiana Tech. Their 500th win came early in the 1993-94 season.
The 1997-98 season is generally considered Summitt’s best, with a top-ranking recruiting class and star player Chamique Holdsclaw. The team went undefeated with a 39-0 season and only three teams came within 10 points of beating the team. The Lady Vols defeated Louisiana Tech for a third straight national title.
The Lady Vols was named co-team of the decade at the 2000 ESPY Awards along with the Florida State Seminoles football team.
Summitt’s team continued powering through the 2000s, with such highly regarded players as Candace Parker and her 880th win, making her the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history.
Retirement and ‘We Back Pat’
After retiring, Summitt was named head coach emeritus. She ended her 38-year coaching career with 1,098 wins.
Summitt won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2012 ESPYs and the Presidential Medal of Freedom that same year for her courageous announcement and the amount of awareness she was helping to bring to dementia-related illnesses.
The “We Back Pat” campaign sprung up overnight upon Summitt’s retirement announcement, going viral worldwide. In her retirement, her Pat Summitt Foundation worked tirelessly to raise funds for cutting-edge research for Alzheimer’s and other similar diseases. The Pat Summitt Alzheimer’s Clinic at the University of Tennessee Medical Center is set to open this December.
Her son, Tyler, followed in her coaching footsteps, coaching the Louisiana Tech Techsters from 2014-16.
Pat Head Summitt Drive on the UT Martin campus and Pat Head Summitt Street on the UTK campus were named in her honor. The basketball court at Thompson-Boling Arena was named “The Summitt” in her honor in 2005. UT Martin also named its basketball court the Pat Head Summitt Court for the former star player.