Relive Legendary Tennessee Women’s Basketball Coach Pat Summitt’s 10 Best Career Moments
College basketball is losing a legend now that Tennessee Lady Volunteers’ women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt announced that she’s coached her last game. She ends her career with an unfathomable 1,098-208 coaching record and eight NCAA championships.
Just 59 years old, Summitt is stepping aside for health reasons after she announced last summer that she is suffering from early-onset dementia. As Summitt heads off into the sunset, let’s look back at her 10 most glorious moments of coaching:
It was early in her career — before she even landed herself her first NCAA championship — but Summitt was asked to head up the women’s Olympics summer team at the Los Angeles games. The team, led by USC’s Cheryl Miller, took home the gold. “This particular team is the best ever the US put on the floor,” Summitt said then.
After reaching the Final Four seven times in her first 11 seasons, Summitt earned her first championship in 1987. “The monkey is finally off my back, how about it!” she exclaimed after the game. The win also established Tennessee as a viable rival for powerhouse Louisiana Tech.
Summitt got her 500th career win with a 80-45 shellacking of Ohio State at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic. Proceeds from the tournament benefited the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. It took Summitt just 20 years to reach the mark — not bad for someone who had never coached before she was handed the keys to the Lady Vols at age 22.
It was a sweet homecoming for Summitt when more than 50 of her former players returned on a winter day to celebrate Summitt’s silver anniversary with Tennessee students, faculty, and alumni. The Lady Vols’ team did their jobs by trouncing Kentucky, 98-60, in front of the hometown crowd.
Still active as a coach, Summitt achieved the ultimate dream when she was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. At the time, she’d taken home six national championships, including a 39-0 record and a national title in the 1997-98 season.
Summitt’s 880th career victory was probably the most special, as it made her the all-time career leader in college basketball wins — men’s or women’s — passing UNC legend Dean Smith. “It’s more than just ‘Hey, we won the game,'” Summitt said. “It’s this team and these players did something really special together.”
It wasn’t necessarily her proudest moment, but it’s definitely one of her most memorable. As reciprocation for Tennessee men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl painting his body at a Lady Vols game the previous month, Summitt donned a cheerleader uniform and sang a rendition of ‘Rocky Top’ before a surprised and amused audience during a men’s basketball game. She had been a cheerleader in middle school, but had long ago retired her pom-poms.
It might not have been a public display, but Summitt made headlines in 2007 for her generosity and gratitude for her assistant coaches. She gave each of them their own Mercedes SLK 280 roadster. While Summitt could often be found looking angry or disappointing on the sidelines during games, those who worked with her have always spoken about what a pleasure she was as a person and as a friend.
Summitt made history when she reached 1,000 career victories, a number that nobody else is going to come close too anytime soon. “People are saying that’s a record that will never be broken, but I don’t think so. Records are made to be broken,” Summitt said. She was rewarded partly with a new contract worth up to $1.4 million that year. For comparison, she made just $8,900 during her rookie year.
It was perhaps the most fitting accolade Summitt could have received when she was named Sportswoman of the Year by Sports Illustrated at the end of 2011. She put women’s college basketball on the map, and it was her final curtain call as her days on the sidelines were beginning to dwindle. Most impressive, though, might be a stat you can’t find in a box score. During Summitt’s tenure, every single player she coached who stayed all four years at Tennessee graduated.