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Pat Summitt (1952 - 2016)

Getty / Paul Drinkwater

Pat Summitt (1952 - 2016)

Pat Summitt, the legendary former coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team, has died of Alzheimer’s disease, according to multiple news sources. She was 64.

Summitt coached the Lady Vols basketball team to eight NCAA championships. That was the record at the time of her retirement in 2012. That record has now been passed by Geno Auriemma and the University of Connecticut. She was the first NCAA coach to reach 1,000 victories and she has the most wins of any female basketball coach in NCAA history.

Summitt was born in Clarksville, Tennessee in 1952. She played college basketball at the University of Tennessee at Martin and was an All-American. She won a silver medal playing for the USA team in the 1976 Olympics.

Summitt was named the head coach at the University of Tennessee in 1974 when she was only 22 years old. She won her first national championship with her 1987 team. That team was led by Tonya Edwards. Her last championship came in 2008 with a win against Stanford. That team featured Candace Parker, who is now a star in the WNBA.

Summitt was known as a tough coach who let her players know when she was not happy with a performance. However, in an interview with U.S. News and World Report late in her career, she said that she had mellowed out considerably in her coaching style.


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Summitt announced just before the start of the 2011 – 2012 season that she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. She coached the rest of the season and then retired. She remained with the team as the head coach emeritus.

She has received many honors for her career. The Sporting News named her number 11 on their list of the greatest coaches of all time, she was the only woman on the list. In 2012, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.

Peyton Manning tweeted on Pat Summitt: "She meant a lot to me, I miss her. She had a huge impact on everyone she met."

Basketball Hall of Famer Dawn Staley tweeted: "A sad day in my life and the entire WBB community-Pat Summit thank you for sharing your passion and love for the game with all of us."

She started the Pat Summitt Foundation to support Alzheimer’s research. The foundation is building an Alzheimer’s clinic at the University of Tennessee which is scheduled to open in December, 2016.

She is survived by her son, Tyler Summitt. 

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