Childhood & Early Life
Pat Summitt was born Patricia Susan Summit, on June 14, 1952, in Clarksville, Tennessee, to Richard Summitt and Hazel Albright Head. She grew up in a huge family with four siblings-three brothers and a sister.
All the siblings grew up (to be) athletes as their parents paid special attention to their kids’ physical fitness. She expressed her desire to play sports but it was not very common for girls in those times. She played many sports, out of which, basketball resonated with her the most. She played with her brothers, but when it came to playing with girls, she found out that Clarksville had no women’s team.
Her parents moved to Henrietta, which was near Cheatham County, where she joined a local basketball team. She graduated from a local high school as a member of its girls’ basketball team and following that, she enrolled into the University of Tennessee.
She was there a member of Chi Omega Sorority and played with university’s women’s basketball team. She had to pay her way through the college as there was no scholarship system for girls. Her brothers however, studied in colleges on scholarships.
Although she played for national women’s basketball team on occasions as a co-captain, she realised that there was not a very good outlook for women’s basketball in her country. She decided to go on the coaching route instead of playing.
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Before the 1974-75 season, Pat joined the University of Tennessee’s women’s team as an assistant coach. During that time, the women basketball in USA was still in its very early stage has not yet been approved by the NCAA. When the previous head coach of the team suddenly quit, Pat was named the head coach of the team.
It was not easy at first. She had to wash the uniforms of her team members as the college management also did not care enough about that. The team was basically on its own and the team came together just out of their love for the game. In addition, Pat was only paid $250 per month, which was a feeble amount, compared to her male counterparts.
During her first year as the coach, she coached a team where many of the players were only one or two years younger than her. In the first game that the team played under her tenure, in December 1974, Pat’s team lost the match in a very close encounter.
However, the team made a solid comeback by the end of the season and ended up winning the Tennessee College Women’s s Sports Federation Eastern District Championship. It was team’s third consecutive win in the tournament and Pat’s first as the head coach. However, the team finished at the fourth spot and did not make a place into the AIAW Tournament.
In 1976, Pat earned her master’s degree in physical education from the university and coached her team for a second season. However, in the rest of the 1970s, the team performed remarkably well and made their place in the AIAW Final Four regularly. In the late 1970s, the team also ended up winning the SEC-Tournament, which was being held for the first time ever.
It was certain that the women’s basketball was growing as a sport and Tennessee’s team was also doing quite well. With successful winning streaks, the team entered 1980s.
The team made it to the final four in 1980-81 season, which was the third consecutive time.
In the next season, the very first NCAA Tournament for women was organized. The team reached the final four and lost to Louisiana Tech, which ended up winning the championship.
In the 1983-84 season, the team made not only to the final four of the NCAA tournament but also reached the finals this time, where they eventually lost to USC. However, Pat ended up winning the Coach of the Year award.
The team finally got their hands on the NCAA trophy in the 1986-87 season and defeated Louisiana Tech, the strongest team overall, to win the title. However, in the next season, the team lost the title to Louisiana Tech yet again.
The 1988-89 season turned out to be the best for the Tennessee team, as they not only won the national title, they did so by winning every single game by at least 12 points.
In the 1993-94 win, Pat grabbed her coaching career’s 500th win. With that, she was already one of the most successful female coaches in the women’s college basketball. Over the next few years, she held her position as a coach as she constantly performed well for her team.
In 2000, she was honored with the Naismith Basketball Coach of the Century Award.
Following her battles with health issues, she retired from coaching in 2012.
Personal Life & Death
Pat Summitt announced in August 2011 that she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and despite her diagnosis she kept coaching her team until the end of the season.
Summitt passed away on June 28, 2016. She had turned 64 just two weeks prior.
She had married R.B. Summitt in 1980 and the couple remained married until 2008, the year they got divorced. They had a son together, named Tyler Summitt.