Pat Summitt, one of the true legends in all of coaching, stepped down as head of the Tennessee women's basketball program on Wednesday to focus her attention on fighting Alzheimer's Disease. We felt that some words needed to be written on Summitt's great career, but as a bunch of Auburn fans, we didn't know where to start. Thankfully, Volunteer partisan Ryan McBee was kind enough to offer his take on Summitt in this guest column.
There has more content generated in the last 48 hours about Pat Summitt than is usually generated over an entire women's basketball season. I love that Pat is garnering this attention and that she is feeling that love and respect that she deserves, but it seems a little bittersweet when I think about the seasons and tournaments that these well meaning folks missed. I'm going to miss Pat, and I'm going to miss her for more than the wins and losses. I'm going to miss her for the things that she has meant to my family and me.
You see, I grew up in a house where women's basketball mattered. It mattered as much as the football team and more than men's basketball team. When you're an eight-year-old kid watching the guys win 12 games a year, it isn't hard to fall in love with a team that actually competes for championships. Add to that a progressive and strong woman for a mother and you can see where I fell in love with girls playing basketball.
I was there when Pat coached a ten loss team through three rematches and won a national championship. I was there when she took a team 39-0 and to a third straight championship. I was there for a countless number of her 1,098 wins. If you think I'm an anomaly, you need only look at any crowd of orange in East Tennessee. You will always find a pocket of baby blue, the accent of the dynasty that Pat built. In a conference where 16,000 is a good crowd for a men's basketball game, the women drew it regularly. UT doesn't hang banners celebrating trips to the NCAA tournament; it hangs the ones that celebrate championships.
All those wins and all those rings made so many fun memories, but the thing I'm most proud of is how Pat Summitt won. In sports, we talk about "winning the right way," and the Lady Vols basketball team lived it. Every last one of her four-year players graduated. They did it because of her unrelenting standards. Lady Vols sit in the first two rows of their classes. Pat knows everything that goes on with her players -- whether they wanted her to or not. She understood that becoming champions had more to do with turning girls into women than using a zone defense -- the truth is she abhorred the zone most of her 38 seasons.
In Pat, we have our great white knight. The closest she ever came to controversy was not playing UConn because of a personal feud. She not only inspired women all over the world, but many of UT's male athletes wanted to meet her on their recruiting visits. Pat was the calming force on campus when the football and basketball programs were in chaos. We could always count her her to do the right thing.
On Wednesday, she did the right thing. Pat did what she believed was best for her son Tyler, and she gave up the only thing she has known since she was 22 years old. She gave her whistle to Holly Warlick, and she won't be coaching basketball anymore. But she will still be turning girls into women, and for that, the Volunteer nation will be forever grateful.