The University of Tennessee announced Wednesday that Pat Summitt will step down as head coach, a decision that has deeply affected many around the basketball community, including Boston Celtics Coach Doc Rivers.
In Rivers’ postgame press conference Wednesday evening after the Celtics beat the Orlando Magic, 102-98, the NBA coach paid tribute to the winningest coach in college basketball history.
Rivers choked back tears as made the following statement:
“I want to finish with Pat Summitt. Retired. She’s a neat lady. I got to know her a little bit. And I just think it’s really sad, in a lot of ways. Not basketball, but everything. So, I didn’t want to get emotional; I’m an emotional person. And when you see a giant like that leave the game, and leave the game because of health, it’s just sad.
“But she is responsible for women’s basketball. But she’s not just a women’s basketball coach, she’s a great coach. And you know, I’m in this, and the longer I’m in this I just realize how much coaching means to all of us. You think about it today: Pat Summitt is retiring at her age, and Larry Brown is taking a job at his age. And it just tells you how much it’s in your blood, how much you love it. And for her not to be able to do it, for me is very sad.”
Summitt was diagnosed less than a year ago with early-onset dementia-Alzheimer’s type.
She coached the Lady Vols for 38 seasons, leading them to eight national championships, 18 Final Four appearances, 16 SEC titles (both regular season and tournament) and a record of 1,098-208.
Many athletes took to Twitter on Wednesday to voice their praise for Summitt.
Tweeted LeBron James: “Love and s/o to the AMAZING Pat Summitt! What she did for the game will live forever. Changed lives daily. She’ll be missed. #gamechanger”
Wrote Candace Parker: “4 yrs removed from UT I still hear “PARKER REBOUND!” in my head during games...Thanks Coach Pat, I love you! #OnceALadyVolAlwaysALadyVol.”