The Crusader Newspaper Group

Coach Pat Summit who influenced many Black female athletes, dies at 64

By Mechelle Voepel,

The lanky Tennessee farm girl they nicknamed “Bone” grew to heights that no one could have anticipated. She traveled the world, became a kind of surrogate mom to hundreds of daughters and helped fundamentally change collegiate athletics.

She was born on Flag Day, June 14, 1952, and personified the American Dream. Like most iconic figures, she inspired an almost mythical kind of devotion. But how could someone be so larger-than-life magnificent and yet so humbly warm and real?

That was the essence of Pat Summitt, the longtime Tennessee women’s basketball coach who died Tuesday morning at age 64, nearly five years after making public her diagnosis of early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.

To say there will never be anyone else like Summitt is not hyperbole. On the contrary, it seems inadequate. She won eight NCAA titles and went 1,098-208 in 38 seasons as coach at Tennessee. She was one of the most accomplished and influential figures in the history of women’s sports, but also was universally respected and beloved.

“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 Candace Parker, the star on Tennessee’s 2007 and ’08 national championship teams.

“She’s made a huge impact on women’s basketball. And she would be more excited and more proud in making an impact on an individual. Whenever I was going through things at Tennessee, she would open her door, and I’d come in and sit down.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 9.33.11 AMParker left her Los Angeles Sparks team after their victory in Minnesota on Friday to fly to Knoxville, Tennessee, to see Summitt once more.

“I’ve coached several Tennessee players, and they keep her in such high regard after they’ve left,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “And I know it’s not like she was there just patting them on the back the whole way. She challenged them to be great people and great players, and they have so much respect for her.

“I think she brought the women’s college game from the back page to the front page. The Tennessee program, they were really the foundation that the modern era of women’s basketball was built on.”


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