This weekend, the world took a break from all the football action to watch
as Lady Vol head coach Pat Summitt reached a new plateau in college
With Sunday's win over Wisconsin, Summitt gained her 700th victory, and
became the fastest women's coach ever to do so. Only Texas head coach Jody
Conradt joins Summitt in the women's NCAA basketball 700-win club.
After the game, her counterpart had nothing but praise for Summitt.
"She's an icon. She is the single biggest ambassador for this game, and if
she ever leaves, it will never be the same," Wisconsin coach Jan Albright
said. "The only people you can compare her to are John Wooden and Dean
Smith. No one else has had this kind of impact on the game."
When I met Coach Summitt for the first time this year, I have to admit that
I was completely in awe of such a huge figure in basketball. For the last
26 years, Summitt has graced the sidelines as a head coach, and because of
her accomplishments, she demands attention and respect.
But during our first meeting, it became evident to me why Summitt is such
an irreplaceable icon in her field. Not only does she have the knowledge of
basketball to run the court, but she has a way of teaching and nurturing
students few coaches can claim.
In fact, Summitt loves that aspect of the game. When asked last year why
she has yet to leave UT for a WNBA coach's position, she made it clear that
her biggest achievement is molding student-athletes to maturity.
Summitt takes each incoming Lady Vol under her wing, and becomes a sort-of
surrogate mother to them. Though she holds a strict demeanor on the court,
she takes care of her players and helps teach them lessons about basketball
Perhaps Summitt's knack for building up her players is exactly why she
holds so many NCAA records. Her players grow to love and respect her, and
raise their games to a new level as a result.
She isn't held in awe simply because of her 700 wins in 27 years. Her six
NCAA national championships are second only to UCLA's John Wooden. Her
squads have held at least 20-win seasons for the last 23 consecutive
seasons, and gone to the final four 15 times in her tenure as head
What impresses me most about Coach Summitt isn't necessarily her basketball
skills, but the span of her involvement in UT, the Knoxville community and
the rest of the country.
Her motivational skills continually put her in high demand as the featured
speaker around the nation. In the university, Summitt has a 100 percent
graduation rate for her Lady Vol athletes.
And even her off-court actions gain honors.
Over the past several years, Coach Summitt has received several awards
pertaining to her role as an influential woman. Her awards vary from being
named as one of the "25 Most Influential Working Mothers" to being a 1998
"Glamour Woman of the Year."
Too often in college athletics, it is only the action on the court or field
that garners attention. But when it comes to Pat Summitt, there is no way
to describe her as only a head coach.
Summitt is an icon of what a head coach should be: a teacher, a role model,
a mother figure, and a motivator. She's an all-round stronghold in women's
basketball, and now she's one with 700 victories at that.
Summitt contributes much to UT, sports
Published: Tue Dec 07, 1999 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 02:05 p.m.