Longtime Tennessee Lady Vols' head coach Pat Summitt is stepping aside as coach of the program she helped earn the label of storied.
Summitt' disciple Holly Warlick will become the permanent head coach.
The 59-year-old Summitt is battling dementia, a form of Alzheimer's disease that effects the memory. Thus, she has called an end to one of the greatest coaching careers in the history of sports.
She is the women's basketball equivalent to John Wooden. It is impossible to replace her, or put into words what she has meant to the program and the game of basketball.
That said—her greatness still inspires me to try.
Putting the Women's Game on the Map
Summit began coaching the Lady Vols when she was 22 years old in 1974. She toiled through the meager beginnings of the program—as well as the low national popularity of women's hoops.
She also co-captained the US Women's Olympic team to a gold medal in 1976—the first year women competed in the event at the Olympics.
She returned to Tennessee after the Olympics to lead the Lady Vols to two 20-win seasons, and the first ever SEC tournament championship in 1979. That year the Lady Vols finished runner-up to Old Dominion in the AIAW Final Four—which was the pinnacle of women's hoops then.
It was just the beginning of the remarkably consistent pattern of winning the Lady Vols would enjoy under Summitt.
Her first huge national accomplishment came at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Summitt became the first US Olympian to win a basketball medal and coach a medal-winning team.
That type of distinction made the country and the world take notice to her and women's hoops.
The Titles and the Talent
Summitt and the Lady Vols won eight NCAA championships, as well as 16 regular season and SEC tournament championships.
Her first national title came in 1987, and the last one occurred in 2008.
No collegiate coach comes close to that success—man or woman—except John Wooden.
Her championship teams have included greats like Tonya Edwards, Chamique Holdsclaw, Michelle Marciniak and Candace Parker.
Summitt has overseen some of the best women's basketball players in the last 30 years.
Accolades and Crossover Appeal
Summitt's list of individual accomplishments are staggering. She's an eight time SEC Coach of the Year, seven time NCAA Coach of the Year and the Naismith 20th Coach of the 20th Century.
With a laundry list like that, it's no wonder that speculation of Summitt possibly coaching the men's team arose.
Though she never did make that switch, the compliment and testament to her ability to coach the game is still present.
She was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame in 2000, and her 1,098 career wins in the most ever in basketball history.
Summitt called her time at Tennessee "a privilege."
I contend, the privilege was all ours.
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