Legends of the Game: Pat Summitt

February 12, 2024
Since we’re spending today celebrating women, there’s no better place to start than with the late, great Pat Summitt — a winner in every sense of the word, a champion, a role model, and an inspiration to everyone who had the honor of crossing paths with her.
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Legends of the Game: Pat Summitt
Source: Patrick Murphy-Racey/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

🏀 The history

The beginning: Born, raised, and beloved in the Volunteer State, Summitt was a Tennesseean through and through. She learned to play basketball in the barn loft on her parents’ farm before joining the Cheatham County Central High School team.

  • Two years before Title IX — the landmark U.S. civil rights law passed in 1972 that ensured equal educational opportunities regardless of gender — Summitt began competing collegiately at the University of Tennessee at Martin, where she graduated as the team’s all-time leading scorer.
  • Her playing experience extended to the international stage where she co-captained the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team winning the first-ever women’s hoops Olympic silver medal in Montréal.

At the helm: Twenty-two-year-old Summitt secured her first head coaching position at the University of Tennessee in 1974, and the rest, as they say, is history. She spent 38 years leading the Lady Volunteers, amassing a stunning 1,098-208 record.

  • While Summitt’s signature stare was intimidating and she demanded a lot of her players, she was simultaneously compassionate and kind. She maintained relationships with her student-athletes long after they graduated, continuing to empower and support them.
  • Summitt demonstrated that women, particularly women in sport, can be strong, tough, and powerful — she single-handedly transformed the Lady Vols into a perennial powerhouse and a national brand during her tenure.

The legacy: The basketball world lost the legendary bench boss far too soon: Summitt died on June 28, 2016 at only 64 years old. But her influence remains, both on and off the court. She founded the Pat Summitt Foundation during her final season on the sidelines to support research for Alzheimer’s disease.

  • But perhaps Summitt’s most enduring legacy is her fight for gender equality in sports. From fighting for gym time at the beginning of her tenure to having a basketball-only facility with a court named after her at the end of it, Summitt was a transcendent force in women’s hoops.

🔢 By the numbers

Legends of the Game: Pat Summitt
Source: Damian Strohmeyer/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

The beginning: Born, raised, and beloved in the Volunteer State, Summitt was a Tennesseean through and through. She learned to play basketball in the barn loft on her parents’ farm before joining the Cheatham County Central High School team.

  • Two years before Title IX — the landmark U.S. civil rights law passed in 1972 that ensured equal educational opportunities regardless of gender — Summitt began competing collegiately at the University of Tennessee at Martin, where she graduated as the team’s all-time leading scorer.
  • Her playing experience extended to the international stage where she co-captained the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team winning the first-ever women’s hoops Olympic silver medal in Montréal.

At the helm: Twenty-two-year-old Summitt secured her first head coaching position at the University of Tennessee in 1974, and the rest, as they say, is history. She spent 38 years leading the Lady Volunteers, amassing a stunning 1,098-208 record.

  • While Summitt’s signature stare was intimidating and she demanded a lot of her players, she was simultaneously compassionate and kind. She maintained relationships with her student-athletes long after they graduated, continuing to empower and support them.
  • Summitt demonstrated that women, particularly women in sport, can be strong, tough, and powerful — she single-handedly transformed the Lady Vols into a perennial powerhouse and a national brand during her tenure.

The legacy: The basketball world lost the legendary bench boss far too soon: Summitt died on June 28, 2016 at only 64 years old. But her influence remains, both on and off the court. She founded the Pat Summitt Foundation during her final season on the sidelines to support research for Alzheimer’s disease.

  • But perhaps Summitt’s most enduring legacy is her fight for gender equality in sports. From fighting for gym time at the beginning of her tenure to having a basketball-only facility with a court named after her at the end of it, Summitt was a transcendent force in women’s hoops.

🗣 What other legends are saying

Legends of the Game: Pat Summitt
Source: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The beginning: Born, raised, and beloved in the Volunteer State, Summitt was a Tennesseean through and through. She learned to play basketball in the barn loft on her parents’ farm before joining the Cheatham County Central High School team.

  • Two years before Title IX — the landmark U.S. civil rights law passed in 1972 that ensured equal educational opportunities regardless of gender — Summitt began competing collegiately at the University of Tennessee at Martin, where she graduated as the team’s all-time leading scorer.
  • Her playing experience extended to the international stage where she co-captained the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team winning the first-ever women’s hoops Olympic silver medal in Montréal.

At the helm: Twenty-two-year-old Summitt secured her first head coaching position at the University of Tennessee in 1974, and the rest, as they say, is history. She spent 38 years leading the Lady Volunteers, amassing a stunning 1,098-208 record.

  • While Summitt’s signature stare was intimidating and she demanded a lot of her players, she was simultaneously compassionate and kind. She maintained relationships with her student-athletes long after they graduated, continuing to empower and support them.
  • Summitt demonstrated that women, particularly women in sport, can be strong, tough, and powerful — she single-handedly transformed the Lady Vols into a perennial powerhouse and a national brand during her tenure.

The legacy: The basketball world lost the legendary bench boss far too soon: Summitt died on June 28, 2016 at only 64 years old. But her influence remains, both on and off the court. She founded the Pat Summitt Foundation during her final season on the sidelines to support research for Alzheimer’s disease.

  • But perhaps Summitt’s most enduring legacy is her fight for gender equality in sports. From fighting for gym time at the beginning of her tenure to having a basketball-only facility with a court named after her at the end of it, Summitt was a transcendent force in women’s hoops.

📌 The bottom line

Legends of the Game: Pat Summitt
Source: Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY Sports

The beginning: Born, raised, and beloved in the Volunteer State, Summitt was a Tennesseean through and through. She learned to play basketball in the barn loft on her parents’ farm before joining the Cheatham County Central High School team.

  • Two years before Title IX — the landmark U.S. civil rights law passed in 1972 that ensured equal educational opportunities regardless of gender — Summitt began competing collegiately at the University of Tennessee at Martin, where she graduated as the team’s all-time leading scorer.
  • Her playing experience extended to the international stage where she co-captained the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team winning the first-ever women’s hoops Olympic silver medal in Montréal.

At the helm: Twenty-two-year-old Summitt secured her first head coaching position at the University of Tennessee in 1974, and the rest, as they say, is history. She spent 38 years leading the Lady Volunteers, amassing a stunning 1,098-208 record.

  • While Summitt’s signature stare was intimidating and she demanded a lot of her players, she was simultaneously compassionate and kind. She maintained relationships with her student-athletes long after they graduated, continuing to empower and support them.
  • Summitt demonstrated that women, particularly women in sport, can be strong, tough, and powerful — she single-handedly transformed the Lady Vols into a perennial powerhouse and a national brand during her tenure.

The legacy: The basketball world lost the legendary bench boss far too soon: Summitt died on June 28, 2016 at only 64 years old. But her influence remains, both on and off the court. She founded the Pat Summitt Foundation during her final season on the sidelines to support research for Alzheimer’s disease.

  • But perhaps Summitt’s most enduring legacy is her fight for gender equality in sports. From fighting for gym time at the beginning of her tenure to having a basketball-only facility with a court named after her at the end of it, Summitt was a transcendent force in women’s hoops.