‘She has been ours’: Many speak on Pat Summitt’s legacy

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt yells instructions to her team at the NCAA Midwest Regional finals in Iowa City, Iowa, Monday, March 24, 1997. (AP Photo/Rodney White)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Many gave their regards to the family of Pat Summitt and spoke of her legacy. The Lady Vols Head Coach Emeritus passed away Tuesday morning.

President Barack Obama stated:

Nobody walked off a college basketball court victorious more times than Tennessee’s Pat Summitt. For four decades, she outworked her rivals, made winning an attitude, loved her players like family, and became a role model to millions of Americans, including our two daughters. Her unparalleled success includes never recording a losing season in 38 years of coaching‎, but also, and more importantly, a 100 percent graduation rate among her players who completed their athletic eligibility. Her legacy, however, is measured much more by the generations of young women and men who admired Pat’s intense competitiveness and character, and as a result found in themselves the confidence to practice hard, play harder, and live with courage on and off the court. As Pat once said in recalling her achievements, “What I see are not the numbers. I see their faces.”

Pat learned early on that everyone should be treated the same. When she would play basketball against her older brothers in the family barn, they didn’t treat her any differently and certainly didn’t go easy on her. Later, her Hall of Fame career would tell the story of the historic progress toward equality in American athletics that she helped advance. Pat started playing college hoops before Title IX and started coaching before the NCAA recognized women’s basketball as a sport. When she took the helm at Tennessee as a 22-year-old, she had to wash her players’ uniforms; by the time Pat stepped down as the Lady Vols’ head coach, her teams wore eight championship rings and had cut down nets in sold-out stadiums.

Pat was a patriot who earned Olympic medals for America as a player and a coach, and I was honored to award her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was a proud Tennessean who, when she went into labor while on a recruiting visit, demanded the pilot return to Knoxville so her son could be born in her home state. And she was an inspiring fighter. Even after Alzheimer’s started to soften her memory, and she began a public and brave fight against that terrible disease, Pat had the grace and perspective to remind us that “God doesn’t take things away to be cruel. … He takes things away to lighten us. He takes things away so we can fly.”

Michelle and I send our condolences to Pat Summitt’s family – which includes her former players and fans on Rocky Top and across America.

Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker announced late Tuesday they would introduce a Senate resolution honoring Summitt’s life and achievements:

Whereas coaching was the great passion of Pat Summitt’s life and was an opportunity for her to work with student-athletes, help student-athletes discover their true potentials, and change the lives of the young women she coached;

Whereas Pat Summitt won 8 National Collegiate Athletic Association (referred to in this preamble as the “NCAA”) championships, received National Coach of the Year honors 7 times over her career, and was recognized as the Naismith Women’s Collegiate Coach of the Century in 2000;

Whereas Pat Summitt won the Gold Medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics as the head coach of the United States women’s national basketball team;

Whereas the last team at the University of Tennessee that Pat Summitt coached finished the season with an overall record of 27–9, winning a Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship and earning a spot in the Elite Eight in the NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Championship in Iowa;

Whereas Pat Summitt, who had more wins than any other basketball coach, male or female, in NCAA history, concluded her coaching career after 38 seasons at the University of Tennessee on April 18, 2012;

Whereas Pat Summitt also worked off the court, holding a graduation record of 100 percent for all members of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team who completed their eligibility at the University of Tennessee during Coach Summitt’s tenure;

Whereas Pat Summitt announced on August 23, 2011, that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type;

Whereas later in November 2011, Coach Summitt announced the Pat Summitt Foundation, which helps provide funding and research for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia; and

Whereas, on May 29, 2012, President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States, to Pat Summitt for her remarkable career as an unparalleled figure in women’s team sports and for her courage in speaking out openly and courageously about her battle with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That—

(1) the Senate has heard with profound sorrow and deep regret the announcement of the death of Pat Summitt, head coach emeritus of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team; and

(2) the Senate instructs the Secretary of the Senate communicate these resolutions to the House of Representatives and transmit an enrolled copy thereof to the family of the deceased.

UT football head coach Butch Jones stated:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Pat Summitt. I had the privilege of spending time with Pat during my first year at Tennessee, and those are conversations I will cherish forever. When you think of all the great coaches in all sports, Pat Summitt is at the top of that list.

As a coach, I stand in awe of Pat and what she accomplished on and off the court. She is someone I admired when I decided I wanted to get into coaching. You study all the great coaches, the traits that made them successful, and you try to incorporate those into your own program and teams.  She demanded excellence and her teams played to her personality.

It was about more than basketball for her, it was about life. She wanted every player that left the program to be prepared for the next stage of their life. Every player received a degree, and that was as important to her as any win on the court. She wouldn’t settle for anything but the best effort on the court and in the classroom.”

UT Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said,

It is a very sad day on Rocky Top. Volunteers around the world are mourning the loss of the legendary Pat Summitt. Pat was the greatest coach of all time; her fierce spirit will live on through her players, and through all of us who were inspired by her on a daily basis. Our sincerest sympathies go out to Tyler and all her family and friends.”

Senator Bob Corker released a statement on the legendary coach.

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Pat Summitt. Basketball has lost a legend, and Tennessee has lost one of its most beloved daughters. There is perhaps no one who left a more indelible mark on his or her profession than Coach Summitt. Through her 38 years as head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers, she amassed a historic record of achievement and blazed a trail for women across our country. The impact she had on her players, the University of Tennessee, the Knoxville community, and the game of basketball will be felt for years to come. I join all Tennesseans today in celebrating her life and extend my thoughts and prayers to her son, Tyler, the Lady Vol family, and all those who were touched by her remarkable life.

The president of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame spoke to WATE 6 On Your Side. “Pat has been such a leader in women’s basketball for so many years, said Dana Hart. “But I think here in Knoxville, she has been ours.”

The former Lady Vols Media Director Debby Jennings told WATE, “Pat Summit gravitated to your soul. That’s what made her such a beloved coach.”

University of Tennessee Athletics Director Dave Heart released a statement saying:

“We are deeply saddened by today’s news of Pat Summitt’s passing.  We send our deepest condolences to her son, Tyler, and to her family and friends. Pat Summitt is synonymous with Tennessee, but she truly is a global icon who transcended sports and spent her entire life making a difference in other peoples’ lives. She was a genuine, humble leader who focused on helping people achieve more than they thought they were capable of accomplishing. Pat was so much more than a Hall of Fame coach; she was a mother, mentor, leader, friend, humanitarian and inspiration to so many. Her legacy will live on through the countless people she touched throughout her career.”

Related: Legendary Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt dies at 64

Superbowl champion Peyton Manning stated:

“I’ve always been honored to call Pat Summitt my friend. She was always very supportive of my career and I enjoyed seeing her back at a Tennessee football game or when she would come to Indianapolis to see Tamika Catchings play. We would always get together and I made it a point when I came to Knoxville to visit with her.

She was one of the people I consulted with following my junior year when I was deciding whether to turn pro early or stay in college. She gave me some very valuable advice during that time. My teammates and I went to a lot of Lady Vols games when we were in school, and I really enjoyed watching her teams play.

I just always appreciated Pat’s friendship and support. I was always impressed with how all of her former players spoke about her. You speak to people like Tamika Catchings or Chamique Holdsclaw, and they just talk about the role that Pat played in all their lives on and off the court. You can just tell the impact that she had on those players.

It would have been a great experience to play for her. She could have coached any team, any sport, men’s or women’s. It wouldn’t have mattered because Pat could flat out coach. I will miss her dearly, and I am honored to call her my friend. My thoughts and prayers are with Tyler and their entire family.”

Lady Vols head coach Holly Warlick said:

Pat was my coach, my mentor, my colleague and a very dear friend. It is impossible to put into words how much she has meant to me and so many other individuals here at Tennessee and beyond.

She played a very significant role in molding me into the person I am, and I will forever be grateful for the genuine care, guidance and wisdom she unselfishly shared with me and so many others through the years. I’ll always treasure the laughter we shared, the stories we loved to tell and certainly those stories we embellished.

Pat gave me strength and courage to face anything. She was driven to perfection and always remained true to her standards. That meant doing things the right way, no matter what. In my eyes, there’s never been anyone better than Pat Summitt. She entrusted me with her legacy, and I will continue embracing her passion and doing everything in my power to uphold that.”

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander was the UT president from 1988 to 1991. He said of the coach:

“It’s hard for people outside Tennessee to understand just how much Pat Summitt became a part of the lives of so many citizens in our state. She took time for community events. She taught us the game of women’s college basketball. And she was so up front and personal about it, with her famous stare and her discussion of her extraordinary athletes, what their strengths were and what they had to work on. We all felt we not only knew her—we knew the athletes as well.

Pat did far more than win eight national championships: she changed the lives of the young women she coached, she showed us the measure of a real champion and her fight against Alzheimer’s set an example for us all.”

WATE spoke to UT’s Women’s Athletic Director Emeritus Joan Cronan.

She later sent a statement saying,

“Words are not adequate for my feelings at this time.  Pat Summitt was the most courageous person I’ve ever known in fighting this disease. She was determined to make a difference in bringing attention to the disease and she has done that. She fought the good fight and all of us who loved her will continue that fight on her behalf through the Pat Summitt Foundation.

As you know I worked with Pat for over 30 years. People would refer to me as her boss and I always remarked, Pat Summitt has no boss.  She was the ultimate leader who led by example with strength, character and integrity but also with care.  She loved her family and players with a fierceness equalled only by that renowned stare of hers.

The legacy she leaves is immense.  Her players, who all have college degrees, have been enriched by her teaching. They are coaches, professors, television personalities, businesswomen, all now making a difference in their world because of Pat Summitt.

There will never be another Pat Summitt. She belongs to the ages now and we are sad but so fortunate to have called her a colleague and friend.”

Former Lady Vol and Webb School basketball coach Shelley Collier told WATE, “Pat, she is the best.” Collier believes Pat made the game about family.

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett stated:

Pat Head Summitt was more than a legendary basketball coach; she was a legendary person. Her character went beyond the basketball court, and she worked to ensure her players knew the same was expected of them,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. “Our families have known each other since they all lived in middle Tennessee years ago, when my grandfather was her family’s banker. She was always kind to my family, and I appreciate her encouraging words when my parents passed away. I pray that Tyler and the rest of Pat’s family can find peace at this time. She will be missed.”

The Pat Summitt Foundation Director Patrick Wade told WATE that the coach helped create awareness for Alzheimer’s disease.

Former UT football head coach Phillip Fulmer released a statement:

Pat Summitt was many things to many people. Pat was a great person, loving mother, passionate coach, and loyal friend. We shared a lot of years working together and spreading the word about Tennessee Athletics. We had wonderful personal times talking about life, our respective teams, or helping each other recruit. Her legacy as a basketball coach is iconic, but her greatest legacy may well be through The Pat Summitt Foundation and her role in leading the battle against Alzheimer’s!”

Sports radio host Josh Ward shared with WATE on his memories of Summitt.

Mayor Madeline Rogero stated:

“Pat Summitt was a great leader, a great coach and most of all a great spirit. She was a towering figure who was also humble and down to earth. She always made it clear that her work was not about her — it was about her players, her teams, and her commitment to excellence in sports, education and life.

It is impossible to overstate her importance as an inspiration to all and, especially, to girls and women everywhere. As a coach, she shaped the lives and characters of hundreds of young women. As a role model, pacing the sidelines, urging her players on, she sparked the confidence and dreams of millions more. The world has lost a great woman, and Knoxville has lost a great friend. My thoughts and prayers are with her family, her friends and Lady Vols everywhere.”

President and CEO of the University of Tennessee Medical Center Joseph R. Landsman, Jr. said:

It is with much sadness that we learn of the passing of Pat Summitt. She was one of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the privilege to meet. On the court, in the community, and even as she faced a terrible disease, Pat Summitt was always an unmistakable leader who did so much to help others. As we approach the opening of the Pat Summitt Alzheimer’s Clinic at The University of Tennessee Medical Center, we understand the significance of our charge in meeting Pat’s standards to make great advances in Alzheimer’s research, detection, treatment, family caregiver support, and ultimately, a cure.”

Bishop Richard F. Stika admired Summitt for her work.

Pat Summitt’s character, and the ethics that defined her life and her career, made her one of those special human beings that was admired worldwide. We should all take comfort knowing that those traits have now opened a door for her to everlasting peace in heaven; and I have no doubt, in the presence of Jesus, that Pat is now free of the pain she has suffered these past few years. God bless her, her family, and all those many players, coaches, colleagues and friends who Pat Summitt influenced in such a positive way throughout her wonderfully fulfilling life.”

Representative John Duncan, Jr. said,

Tennessee lost a true legend today.  While she holds NCAA records for men or women sports and won many championships and awards, her most impressive is the 100 percent graduation rate of her players.

“Pat Summitt was certainly the most admired and respected woman in Tennessee, sports, and this Nation. Her fans and influence reach far beyond the borders of Tennessee.

“I had the privilege of being her honorary coach twice.  She also invited me to join her on her many trips to the White House including when she won the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award, the Nation’s highest civilian honor.

“She was a true friend to me and all of Tennessee.”

Congressman Steve Cohen said:

I was saddened to learn of the passing of legendary Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt,” said Congressman Cohen. “Coach Summitt was an inspiration to us all, facing her disease with courage and trying to help others along the way by raising money for Alzheimer’s disease research. My thoughts are with Coach Summitt and her family.”

Former University of Tennessee men’s head basketball coach Bruce Pearl said:

Pat Summitt saw things in people that they did not see in themselves. Pat Summitt never apologized to any one of her players for expecting the most out of them, demanding it and getting it. She was a great friend. She was as loyal as they came. If you were a friend of Pat Summitt’s, she was always there for you. She was a great mother. But she had the ability to get the most out of her ladies as much as anybody. She was the most accomplished person in her field and the humblest woman I knew. She was the best at what she did. She was always reading, writing, asking questions, watching tapes, watching the Olympics, watching European basketball trying to stay on the cutting edge, always trying to get better. She created a brand called the Lady Vols. Enough said. You say Lady Vol, and Pat created a brand that said it all.

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