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Saluting Coaching Great Pat Summitt

Women’s basketball had its own John Wooden

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Pat Summitt
Head coach Pat Summitt talks to Shanna Zolman #1 of the Tennessee Lady Vols during a break in the action against the Michigan State Spartans in the Semifinal game of the Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship on April 3, 2005, at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Pat Summitt was only 59 when she was diagnosed with dementia, which took her life at just 64 on June 28. This didn’t stop her from coaching 38 seasons at the University of Tennessee, posting a winning record in each of them. She won her first national title in 1987 at age 34 and her eighth and final in 2008 at 55. She posted a 1,098-208 record, becoming the first college coach to reach 1,000 victories, and she still has the most wins in women’s or men’s college basketball history. She also played a crucial role in U.S. Olympic basketball history, coaching the U.S. women to their first gold in 1984.

Her legacy goes beyond mere wins: Quite simply, she was key to elevating women’s basketball to the point it couldn’t be ignored by the greater world. She was the only woman to make the Sporting News‘ list of the 50 greatest coaches, coming in at No. 11. Tennessee’s rivalry with the equally successful University of Connecticut ensured there were at least two women’s programs with achievements (and followings) to match that of the men.

Click here to read 2014 tributes by her greatest rival, UConn’s coach Geno Auriemma, and her one-time Olympic mentor, Indiana’s legendary coach Bobby Knight.

Pat Summitt
Tennessee coach Pat Summitt celebrates with Volunteer fans following a 64-48 victory over Stanford in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship game at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida, Tueday, April 8, 2008. (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)