Pat Summitt’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease is finally over. Her son, Tyler Summitt announced that his famous mother died peacefully Tuesday morning surrounded by those who loved her the most. She died at the age of 64 after a five-year battle with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
Summitt was a remarkable basketball coach – more than just the winningest coach in NCAA history, she was considered the gold standard in women’s coaching circles (including the men’s teams she had coached). But she did more than teach basic basketball skills and create winning basketball teams.
In a 2014 interview with ESPN, Hall of Fame men’s coach Bobby Knight said she “prepared them for life after basketball. Her kids probably had the best situation of any group of players at the college level, male or female, for learning what life would be all about. Through what they had learned through her practices and games, Pat’s players were ready to go out and be successful beyond basketball.”
Tamika Catchings, star of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, was one of many talented basketball players coached by Summitt at the University of Tennessee, winning two national titles while a student there. Of her mentor, Catchings said, “We learned [from Summitt] what it takes to be a leader, what it takes to be a great woman, what it takes to be a great lady, what it takes to have character, what it takes to have poise, how not to buckle under adversity.”
Wins count, to be sure. But the above tributes and the many, many others being offered say more about who Summitt was at her core; she was more than simply numbers on a scoreboard. She knew how to motivate people and get them to give their best; she also knew that they needed to learn about how to live successfully when they were no longer playing basketball.
After her retirement in 2012, one of Compete Magazine’s Sports POP quizzes asked the following:
What do the Central Intelligence Agency, Victoria’s Secret, Federal Express and
the Federal Reserve Board all have in common?
The answer was Pat Summitt. Understanding that her value and worth transcended basketball, these four very different agencies and businesses had hired her as a motivational speaker.
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