Pat Summit is the head basketball coach for the women's basketball team at the University of Tennessee. Tonight, she will lead the Lady Vols against Georgia at Thompson-Bowling Arena in Knoxville, as her team takes the court named for her.
She will be going for win career coaching win No. 1,000.
Watching the Lady Vols fall to No. 2 Oklahoma on Monday night, the numbers began to whirl in my head.
She won her first game as a head coach in January 1975 while still a graduate student at UT, just shy of 23-years-old.
Since that first win, she has averaged more than 29 wins per season.
Read that again please—more than 29 wins on average, year-in-year-out.
I looked for some comparisons. The coach closest to Summitt is Bobby Knight, who coached at West Point, Indiana University, and Texas Tech. He finished his career with 901 wins over 42 years—an average of 21 victories per season.
Dean Smith, the North Carolina coaching legend, garnered 879 wins in 36 years for an average of 24 wins per season.
Adolph Rupp at the University of Kentucky won four National Championships and a total of 876 wins in 41 years, averaging the same number of wins each season as Knight.
John Wooden, who coached at Indiana State before heading to the West Coast to lead UCLA to 10 National Championships, had 664 wins in his career of 29 years, snagging one fewer victory per season on average than Smith.
Therefore, what Summitt has done is truly unbelievable. She is just short of averaging 30 wins per season for 34 years.
Some will say, "Yeah, but this is the women's game. You can't compare her with the men."
Others will point out that, when she started, there weren't even conferences in the women's sport; they were all just labeled women's NAIA.
Some will say that the competition just hasn't been there. But in fact, Summitt—since the women began competing in conferences—has always played in the best conference in women's basketball year in and year out in the SEC.
Summitt has always played the toughest schedule of any team in the country, taking on the top teams every year, competing against more ranked teams than any other college women's program.
Every player who has ever played four years under Summitt has at least one National Championship. Also, every player who has stayed with her for four years has earned a degree.
Maybe you better read that one again, too. Every single woman who has finished her career at UT under Summitt has a degree. No other coach can say that.
She has won eight National Titles, has coached the Olympic team to a gold medal, and has been an example for all in athletics to follow. She has raised her sport to levels no one could have ever imagined 34 years ago.
What Pat Summitt has done will probably never be equaled again. And there is no sign that she is finished.
She will turn 57 later this summer, and still has the competitive fire she has always had. There is no reason to think she can't add at least another 200 more wins to her unbelievable total.
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