You won’t start many arguments by suggesting Pat Summitt will be remembered as one of the greatest coaches of any sport, of any gender, of any generation.
Sadly, though, a legendary career that stretched almost four decades ended sooner than anyone anticipated. Summitt, 59, announced her resignation as Tennessee’s women’s basketball coach Wednesday, less than a year after she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Longtime assistant Holly Warlick will take over as head coach with Summitt remaining at the school as “head coach emeritus.”
Summitt said she intends to continue “mentoring and teaching life skills.”
“I loved being the head coach at Tennessee for 38 years,” she said in a statement. “But I recognize that the time has come to move into the future and to step into a new role.”
Summitt’s Tennessee teams won eight NCAA championships and 1,098 games with 208 losses. She led the Lady Vols to 22 Final Four appearances, 18 with the NCAA and four with the now-defunct AIAW. Her teams won 16 Southeastern Conference regular-season titles and 16 SEC tournament crowns.
Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart said Summitt did for women’s basketball what a legendary UCLA coach once did for his sport.
“Just like there will never be another John Wooden, there will never be another Pat Summitt,” Hart said.
Summitt was more than a coach. She was a tough disciplinarian who demanded excellence from her players and staff. But she was also a mentor. Every player who completed her eligibility during her tenure at Tennessee left as a graduate.
“She is a model of class and courage,” Stanford Coach Tara Van Derveer said of Summitt. “Pat is Tennessee basketball.”
Tennessee, under Summitt, has played in all 32 NCAA tournaments contested since its inception in 1982. She also owns a 63-4 record as an international coach and led the U.S. team to Olympic gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Duke men’s Coach Mike Krzyzewski called Summitt a “pioneer in basketball.”
Summitt revealed her battle with dementia last Aug. 23 and relegated many duties this season to her coaching staff. Tennessee advanced to an NCAA regional final last season, but lost to eventual national champion Baylor.