Legendary–in the non-hyperbolic, actual sense of that word–basketball Coach Pat Summitt died Tuesday at age 64 from complications of Alzheimer’s-type dementia. She essentially founded the women’s basketball game in America and has had a direct hand on all 10 U.S. medals earned in Olympic play.
Written by Kyle Magin
You’ll read far more in-depth pieces on former Tennessee Lady Vols and U.S. National Team Head Coach Pat Summitt today. Rightfully so, as Summitt pioneered the women’s game in America, which existed more in concept than practice before she kicked the door open as a coach and hardwood demigod.
Summitt’s early years were spent driving the team bus, doing its laundry, recruiting its players, fighting for TV time, coaching the squad, and eventually winning eight titles in a sport that didn’t even have a tournament for her first 10 seasons.
If you’re a woman who has played basketball in the modern era, or any college sport, you have Summitt to thank for validating the existence of the little-known Title IX through sheer force of will.
In between all that, Summitt found her way onto the Olympic podium as a player for the silver medal winning U.S. squad in 1976 in Montreal–the first women’s Olympic basketball tournament ever. She was 24, two years into her coaching career.
Summitt would go on to coach the U.S. squad to a gold medal in L.A. in 1984–with an average margin of victory totaling 33 points–and her Lady Vols players would have a hand in every U.S. medal won since then. To be clear, Summit and her American-born Lady Vols players have won 10 of 33 Olympic medals handed out for women’s basketball, ever, and 8 of the 11 up for grabs during that stretch.
Pat Summitt is the Mother of American women’s basketball, the progenitor of the most dominant international sports dynasty running.
In Rio, American Hoops Goddess/Tennessee alum Tamika Catchings will take the court for the fourth time wearing the Red, White and Blue. Over the years, 10 other Lady Vols have joined her in making this dynasty, in using the skills Summitt drilled into their collective muscle memories to hold off the ever-advancing global competition. Their names litter the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, led by the Summitt’s.
Ladies, bring one more gold medal home for coach, whose impact on American basketball will long outlast her life.