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LINKS: Pat Summitt 1952-2016

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A few moments from a career and life that touched millions.

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First time I saw her was at a tryout in Fairfield, Iowa, for the World University Games. I had no idea who she was, but I distinctly remember her leadership skills and competitiveness [that] popped out immediately with the first drill.

This is someone who rehabbed from a torn ACL on her own. They didn’t have a great staff or trainers. In another year, had she not worked how she did, she would not have made the Olympic team. She was determined, and when she set her mind to do something, she did it. 

After you coach for four or five years, there’s not much difference in the technical knowledge between coaches. What separates out are the ones with the ability to teach, motivate and lead. That’s what separated her out... Her footprints are permanently involved with where women’s basketball is today. It’s the greatest impact anyone’s ever had in any sport. But that impact pales in comparison to the impact she had on people’s lives who crossed her path.

Billie Moore, Pat Summitt's coach at the 1976 Olympic games

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''Basketball is a tremendous teacher,'' she said. ''There is so much opportunity to gain as a person in it, so many places and people to see and learn from. Sports of any kind provides such a powerful sense of competition that you are forced to face both success and failure. Sports is always about more than sports."  

''The goal, no matter who you are, man or woman, is to have respect, to respect others, to have others respect you, to have respect for yourself.''

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... former Des Moines Register reporter [Jane Burns] wrote a story in 1994 about Iowa coach C. Vivian Stringer's pursuit of her 500th career win, a figure that, at the time, had only been reached by Summitt and former Texas coach Jody Conradt. Summitt asked Burns for a copy of the story and later responded with this note:

Dear Jane,
Thanks for the copy of the article on Vivian Stringer. It was very well done and Vivian deserved it. She is a remarkable lady.
Best wishes for an enjoyable summer!
Kindest regards,
Pat Summitt


... "Class=little things," Burns wrote on Facebook. "Did Pat Summitt need to send a thank-you note to a reporter in Iowa after asking said reporter to send her a copy of her story? No, she did not. But she did. At the end of our conversation for this story, Pat said she was looking forward to the day she, Vivian and Jody Conradt were all retired and they could sit on her boat and tell stories. I always loved that image, which has always stayed in my head." 

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She and Spurrier first met when he became Florida’s football coach in 1990, and the two frequently had dinner together during the SEC’s annual spring meetings in Florida. Spurrier and wife Jerri also spent time at Summitt’s beach house at Rosemary Beach, nearby the site of the meetings, Spurrier said.

"She sort of always liked me for some reason, and I always liked her," Spurrier said. "There’s a fact of life that people who win a lot, they admire and respect other people who win a lot. Winners admire and respect other winners. We were both doing pretty well at that time, so we got along very well."

When Spurrier was coaching the Gators against Phil Fulmer and the Volunteers in some of the most heated college football games of the 1990s, he and Summitt would visit at Neyland Stadium before the games on the years Florida traveled to Knoxville. "She’d just drive by and say, ‘Hey,’ " Spurrier said. 


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"When did I not get the stare?," McCray-Penson said. "The stare was part of her way of getting to you. You knew coming in, the standard of excellence that you had to live up to as a Lady Vol."

She found that out when she was being recruited, calling Summitt at 10 p.m. and being tersely told that coach didn’t take calls that late at night. McCray-Penson knew at once that this was no woman to trifle with – and that she wanted that kind of discipline.

She had to buy a watch in her first week of college, because Summitt’s rule was to be five minutes early to whatever was planned. McCray-Penson fell into the Lady Vols’ way of basketball and life – if it was good, you said, "Two points." If not, "Rebound."

All of the people Summitt affected wanted her to rebound from her debilitating disease, but all were happy that she no longer had to suffer. McCray-Penson broke down once, when talking about the last time she talked to coach. "I told her how much I loved her," McCray-Penson said, biting her lip. "I told her how really thankful I was to play for her and how much she meant to me."


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From A Cinderella Season: The Lady Vols Fight Back. The full HBO documentary is available here.


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But the significant moment in Pat's story isn't back there, in the past, or even in all those traumatic and giddy moments that she and her point guard shared. The story doesn't end with Michelle [Marciniak]--it goes through her, and on to people that Pat will never know, because Michelle is now the carrier of a spore.

A year after she leaves Tennessee and a few months before she joins the Philadelphia Rage of the ABL, Michelle meets a 15-year-old girl named Amanda Spengler, who plays basketball at a high school a few miles from Allentown, where Michelle grew up. Michelle takes Amanda under her wing--plays ball with her, lifts weights with her, talks about life with her and tells her all about Pat.

"She makes you feel there's nothing to be afraid of in life," Michelle tells Amanda. "If you want something, you go after it as hard as you can, and you make no excuses."

- From Gary Smith's wonderful 1998 Sports Illustrated article about Pat Summit and Michelle Marciniak


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"We was goofing around and Pat was watching," Williams wrote. "She got fed up and threw the ball, and everyone stopped. She said, ‘Run sprints, and run them fast.’"

Tennessee’s players then looked at Pearl as if to suggest, "Is she serious?"

"He looked back at us and walked away and sat down, and Pat ran the rest of practice," Williams said. "I remember I threw up twice that day."

Former Vols player Brian Williams ('07-'11)

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Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt did not look too uncomfortable Friday, jumping up and down on the sideline in the Southeastern Conference tournament in Nashville.

Not bad for someone who dislocated her shoulder in an encounter with a raccoon.

Summitt had taken her golden Labrador for a walk Wednesday night when they came back to find the raccoon on the deck at her home.  'I momentarily lost it,' Summitt told the television station WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tenn. 'The raccoon was about to attack. I just knocked it off the deck, and fortunately nothing happened but a dislocated shoulder, and it’s back in place.' 

NY Times, March 8, 2008

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Interviewer: Finally - you have been in this job for a long time, you've done so many interviews. Is there anything about Pat Summitt that the avid Lady Vol fan would not know ?

Pat Summitt: [laughs] Probably not believe! [pauses] I don't know. Probably- How much I enjoy what I do. How much I love life.

I mean- every day is a new day. But every day I want to enjoy life. I want to enjoy the people- and it's important. That's why it's important who you recruit, that's why it's important who your staff is- and it's important for me to go home and spend time with Tyler and RB, and have fun. 

You know- I'm not serious all the time. The most serious hours I spend in the day is when I step over the line on the court in Thompson Bowling. And even then: I'm having a ball. You might say, well, your players aren't having fun. Well- after you work hard- you know, you position yourself to have a lot of fun.


-Transcribed from this interview (undated)