Pat Summitt, Pioneering Women’s Basketball Coach, Is Dead At 64. | Gradient

Pat Summitt, pioneering women’s basketball coach, is dead at 64.

Pat Summitt Obama

Pat Summitt, a pivotal voice in the emergence and acceptance of women’s sports through her decades-long success coaching Tennessee’s women’s basketball team, is dead at 64. She passed away this morning after a bout with early onset Alzheimers.

Summitt won more games than any other coach, male or female, in Division I history. Her 38 seasons with Tennessee’s Lady Vols produced 1,098 victories and eight NCAA titles. She also won a gold medal head coaching the US women’s team in the 1984 Olympic Games.

Eight years before the NCAA sponsored women’s basketball, and just two years after Tittle IX was passed, Summitt’s coaching career began. From the beginning, she displayed her resilient nature and firm belief in the value and necessity of women’s sports. Shortly after graduating the University of Tennessee, she took a coaching role at 22-years-old, barely older than her own players. She earned less than $9,000 a year coaching and was forced to wash her team’s jerseys herself. Yet towards the end of her career, (when Summitt earned upwards of $1 million a year) she famously rejected the idea that coaching men would ever be thought of as a “step up.”

There are plenty of astonishing anecdotes about Summitt, from holding a doughnut bake sale to raise money for jerseys, to flattening her rings because she banged them so fiercely on the hardwood during games. She was one of a kind and will be dearly missed.

Read Dave Zirin of The Nation for a stirring tribute to Summitt, written after her Alzheimer’s announcement and subsequent retirement.

Read a statement released by her son, Tyler, here.

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