When you think of college basketball, especially women's college basketball, one of the first names that should pop into your mind is Pat Summitt.
The legendary former head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols, who helped bring the sport into national prominence, passed away today at the age of 64.
"Pat inspired a generation of women, motivated student-athletes, influenced coaches and transformed lives," the U.S. Basketball Writers Association said in a statement released earlier today. "Her fierce spirit will live on through her players."
Patricia Sue Summitt began her coaching career in 1974 as a grad assistant at Tennessee-Knoxville after earning her degree at Tennessee-Martin. When predecessor suddenly resigned later that season, Summitt stepped up.
During her 38-year career in Knoxville, Summitt won 1,098 games while the Lady Vols won eight national titles (including three in a row from 1996-1998) in 22 Final Four appearances (including four during the AIAW-era which predated the NCAA) and a record 15 national championship game appearances. The Lady Vols did not record a losing season during Summitt’s tenure and won at least 30 games in 20 of those seasons.
By the time the new millennium rolled around, Summitt was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Summitt would lead the Lady Vols to back-to-back national titles in 2007 and 2008.
Summitt won her 1,000th career game on Feb. 5, 2009 as the Lady Vols defeated Georgia 73-43 inside Thompson-Bolling Arena.
In addition to her on-court accomplishments, one of the things coach Summitt was most proud of was her program's 100 percent graduation rate. Fifteen of her former players and assistant coaches are now head coaches at institutions ranging from Power Five programs (Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina; Nicki Fargas, LSU) to lower divisions (Tanya Haave, D2 MSU Denver; Trish Roberts, D3 Agnes Scott).
Thank u for everything you've done for me and so many others…you are an inspiration…I love u and will miss u profoundly RIP #PatSummitt
— Tanya Haave (@CoachTHaave) June 28, 2016
Despite her business-like demeanor on the court, Summitt wasn’t afraid to let her guard down and have a little fun, as was the case in 2007 when she dressed up as a cheerleader during a Tennessee men’s basketball game.
And then there was a time during a booster club gathering in 2012 when assistant coach Dean Lockwood told a story about Summitt and a raccoon which might not have been meant for public consumption.
By the end of the 2011-2012 season, Summitt turned over the reins to long-time assistant Holly Warlick after the veteran head coach was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, and was named head coach emeritus.
One year after her retirement, the University of Tennessee officially dedicated Summitt Plaza in honor of the long-time coach.
Summitt’s impact was felt beyond the confines of Thompson-Bolling, as explained by UT alum and future NFL hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning.
When you look at the success of her teams over nearly four decades in Knoxville and the impact her coaching has had on women’s basketball as a whole, there’s no other way to describe Pat Summitt than “the greatest coach of her generation.”