Pat Summitt was named number 11 on the list of 50 Greatest Coaches of All-Time in 2009, and she was also the only woman on that list. And she definitely deserved that sport, as she never had a losing season in her 38 years as a head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols. Along the way, she won 8 NCAA tournaments, made 18 Final Four appearances, had 1.098 wins in her career, was voted NCAA Coach of the Year 7 times, and was named Naismith Coach of the 20th Century.
As a coach, Summit was known to be one of the toughest coaches in college basketball, men or women. She was determined, wanted to do things her way, and was very focused on winning championships. Furthermore, she was famous for her ‘death ray stare’ which she gave to players if they didn’t play or perform in the way she wanted to. Summitt herself described it as turning her 161 players into team-driven leaders.
Fresh out of college in 1974, Summitt joined the Lady Vols as a graduate assistant. But, as the head coach suddenly left, she took over the head coaching duties, and she continued to do that for 38 years. At that point, the high school girl’s teams in Tennessee still played basquette, which was six-on-six basketball where some players only played offense and others only played defense. Summitt played a big part in helping those girls transitioning from 6-on-6 to 5-on-5 basketball. During her second season as the head coach, Summitt was also earning a degree in physical education, was the co-captain of the 1976 US Women’s Olympic basketball team, which won silver, and earned a 16-11 record with the Lady Vols.
It took 13 seasons before Summitt won her first NCAA title, though it also took until 1981 before the first NCAA Tournament for women was organized. Her first championship might have been the most special of them all, as the Lady Vols had to beat two number 1 seeds to get to the Final. In the Final, they met their biggest rival, Louisiana Tech, and the Lady Vols were definitely at a disadvantage as they had a 1-11 record against them that season. But, in that Final, the power was in the Vols’ hands, and Summitt took home her first out of eight NCAA titles.
Pat Summitt announced her retirement in August 2011, because she was diagnosed with Alzheimers. The same day, it was announced that her son, Tyler, would become an assistant at the Marquette University women’s team.