A Tribute to Pat Head Summitt

April 19, 2012

It is bitter-sweet, mostly bitter.  A momentous even has taken place these past two days, and until now I have not had time to sit down to write anything.  What is the event?  Pat Summitt stepped down yesterday after coaching the womens basketball team for 38 years at my alma mater, University of Tennessee. Today I had the opportunity to listen to the press conference where she turned over the reigns – and her whistle – to her protege, Holly Warlick.

Coaches come, and coaches go.  But Pat Summitt is peerless as the epitome of what a coach ought to be.  While her departure has not gone un-noticed, if anyone wonders if a bit too much is being made about this transition, I will say unequivocally that even with all things considered not enough is being made about it.  If anything is lacking it is not because of anyone’s neglect.  It is just that it is nearly impossible to do justice to Pat Summitt’s legacy.

Gene Wojciechowski penned a a fitting tribue for ESPN: Tennessee’s Summitt Changed Game. Others have added their two cents.  It was announced this afternoon that President Obama will bestow the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Coach Summitt sometime soon – the highest honor an American civilian can receive.  All well deserved.  But still, I am not sure even these things adequately mark her contributions.  She changed a game. She changes women’s athletics.

Pat Summitt’s record is being well chronicled.  To put some things in perspective, she is not only the winningest college basketball in history, in a sport where coaches will cheat to get to the NCAA Tournament, Summitt never missed going to the tourney – never – all while running a clean program.  She coached 38 years, won well over 1000 games, and lost just over 200.  Two hundred losses may sound like a lot – but it took 38 years!  And in 38 years she graduated 100% of her players. That’s right 100%.  ALL of them graduated!

But most important, she changed the lives of pretty much everyone she has been around.

I cannot claim to know Pat Summitt. She would not remember me. Though while a student-athlete at UT in the ’80’s I did have the opportunity to spend a fair amount of time around Pat Summitt (then Pat Head), most often at Bible studies.  This was before the legend was cast. It was still only in the making. But I knew her well enough back then to know without doubt that she is the REAL DEAL.  The epitome of a coach, of a lady, of an individual.

Everything Pat Summitt has bestowed upon her is done rightly so. And I have confidence Holly Warlick will continue the tradition. So seeing the lauds is sweet… BUT it has come all too soon.  Pat Summitt should not have to step down; but she does. Her condition will not allow her to continue.  This post, with the above video, is just my contribution among many to say “Thank you” and “Bravo”.  And I find myself thinking: This is just another reminder that in this fallen world things are not the way they are supposed to be.

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