Two years have gone by since Alzheimer’s claimed the life of Pat Summitt.
Her legacy was etched in place long before her passing. A legend on and off the court, and in her final years she became an advocate for families grappling with the same disease she faced.
Her passing on June 28, 2016, brought tears to the eyes of Orange and White Nation once the news broke.
Summitt had become a standard-bearer for women’s sports and an example even for those who never set foot on the court.
“She just impacted so many of us you know? Just with her charisma – her heart,” said Lady Vol and 2018 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee, Chamique Holdsclaw.
Summitt believed in changing the world, rather than just living in it.
“When I came to Tennessee in 1985 and joined Pat’s staff, you know my career totally changed,” said Ret. Lady Vols Assistant Coach, Mickie DeMoss. “She was so instrumental in helping shape me, my philosophy, who I was as a coach and a person. It was a family.”
Stemming from the sport she fell in love with – a sport for men – Summitt would spend the rest of her life, what we now refer to as her legacy, shattering expectations and glass ceilings. She proved women can hoop too.
She became the head coach of the Lady Vols at age 22, at a time when the NCAA still hadn’t recognized women’s basketball as a sport and years before the inception of Title IX.
“I realized from Coach Summitt, as a woman, sometimes you just naturally take a back seat and what I learned from Coach Summit was like, no! If you do the work and you feel confident about yourself, you kick down a door and no one is going to tell you no,” says Holdsclaw.
Summitt’s path would take us all on the journey of a lifetime as she rallied for equality on and off the court.
“Discipline, teamwork, commitment, you know standing up for something you believe in because I think back in the day it wasn’t cool for women to play basketball,” says DeMoss. “You know those life lessons that you learn from sports, basketball certainly teaches you those life lessons.”
By way of Pat Summitt, too.
“For me it’s not even about the game of basketball,” says Holdsclaw.” It’s just those times when you’re going through something as a young person and it’s like, meet me at my house – let’s talk. You know to go off in life as an adult – trying to figure things out and it’s always finding your way back to her couch! I’m like Coach Summit you probably could’ve made a lot of money as a therapist!”
In August 2011, Summitt would sit down and tell the world she was diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, which in true Pat fashion only led to more platforms backed by Summitt up until that Tuesday night in June.
Now, two years to the day of her death, she’s still proving she was more than a coach.
“She [Pat] goes let me tell you ladies something,” says Holdsclaw. “She goes out of y’all 12, only three or four of you have grown up with your mom and dad. She goes it’s my job to raise strong and independent women because you never know what’s going to happen in life.”