Bleacher Bits: Coach reached Summitt of her game
I'm not about to argue that NCAA womens basketball has the drawing power of the mens game or creates nearly the buzz. But its ascent to its current level of popularity and national media exposure is due in large part to the dedication and accomplishments of one woman.
But now she's stepping down, being unable to design any defense that can shut down her toughest opponent.
Pat Summitt, who has coached the University of Tennessee womens basketball team for 38 years, and is the winningest basketball coach in NCAA Division I history, announced her plans to retire from active coaching at a Thursday press conference.
On August 23 of this year, Summitt revealed that she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.
During her press conference, the coach said of coaching the Lady Volunteers, "It has been a privilege. I just felt it was time for me to step down knowing that Holly (assistant coach Holly Warlick who was promoted to replace her) was going to be in great hands. You know it's never a good time but you have to find the time that you think is the right time, and that is now. It was really a great ride for me."
Her career numbers are staggering. Her win-loss record stands at 1,098-208, and her teams have won 16 regular-season Southeastern Conference championships and 16 SEC tournament titles. Along with winning eight national championships, her Lady Vols have never failed to reach the NCAA tournament.
And in the age of high-profile college athletics sometimes pushing academics back onto the bench, her most impressive number may be the one most easily overlooked. Every player that completed their eligibility at Tennessee during Summitt's tenure graduated.
Kim Mulkey, the head coach of womens basketball at Baylor University said of Summitt's achievements, "There may be coaches that have more national championships but there will never be anyone who has meant so much to womens basketball."
My mother was also diagnosed with dementia before she died, so I've seen the toll it can take.
That's why I can say that while there may come a time when Summitt has difficulties remembering all she did for womens college basketball, her tremendous impact on the game will never be forgotten.
CONTACT Craig Purcell at 824-1036 or email@example.com.