Pat Summitt – In the Presence of Greatness

30 Jun

Pat Summitt passed away a few days ago. Better writers than me have written about her legacy and her impact on women’s sports. I am not going to attempt to duplicate those articles or try to encapsulate her influence in one blog post. Simply stated, her on-court records may eventually be broken, but her off-court records will stand the test of time.

Pat Summitt took a university with a deep football tradition and turned it into a women’s basketball school. She took Tennessee fans who were proud of their gridiron legends and made them more proud of the Lady Vols. She took a sport that was on the fringes of the sports pages and willed it onto the national stage. She was a force to be reckoned with.

Yesterday, someone asked if I had ever met Pat Summitt, and I was lucky enough say yes. My friend worked as an intern for the Lady Vols. A few years after graduation, we were in Knoxville, and my friend said we should stop by the offices and see what was going on.

First, we went to the football office and met Philip Fulmer, the head football coach. He was riding high. Peyton Manning was his quarterback, and the team was on the cusp of winning a national championship. We walked into his massive office and chatted for a while. However, it did not feel like a big deal. It was like talking to anyone else in any other office.

Next, we went to the women’s basketball office and met Pat Summitt. She was at the peak of her career. She was in the midst of three straight national championships, which would make a total of six. Eventually, she would win eight. Her office was not as palatial, but I felt that I was somewhere special.

Pat was friendly and open. She hugged my friend and made me feel like we had known each other forever. She even autographed a couple of basketballs for us. However, I was in awe and could not say much. Truth be told, I was intimidated. On some level, I did not want to disappoint her and receive her famous glare. I have met a lot of people, but that was the only time that I felt I was in the presence of greatness.Pat Summitt

Through the years, my dad and I have watched a lot of Lady Vols games and a lot of Lady Vols victories. Luckily, I have also been able to attend several. The 1998 NCAA Tournament game against North Carolina comes to mind.

Tennessee was undefeated and playing to go to the Final Four. However, North Carolina had a lead late in the game. It was going to be a disastrous loss. The game was at Vanderbilt’s gym in Nashville, and we had court side seats. It is as tense as I have ever been. Pat was working the officials and got a call that turned the game. My friend looked at me and said, “You’re supposed to get those calls at home.” An elderly lady who was obviously as Vanderbilt fan punched him and said, “This ain’t your home, sonny boy.” She was not at all happy that Tennessee was winning on her court.

Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols went on the win their third straight national championship.

When Pat Summitt announced that she suffered from dementia, Tennessee fans were devastated. How could something like this happen to such a powerful person? When she announced that she would coach another year, Tennessee fans hoped that she would go out on top. That did not happen, but it gave us a chance to do something else.

My wife and I were dating, and we wanted to take her daughter to a Lady Vols game. I got tickets, and we went to Knoxville to watch them play Vanderbilt. Pat was not doing much coaching, but the crowd went wild when she jumped out of her seat to glare at an official. Tennessee won, but there is something better. My stepdaughter can always say that she saw Pat Summitt coach and that she was in the presence of greatness.

As I wrote at the beginning, Pat’s records will eventually be broken, but, in my mind, she is the greatest women’s basketball coach and one of the greatest coaches of any sport of all time. She, along with many others, built a sport from nothing and showed women everywhere what they can accomplish. She also made a bunch of people in Tennessee and all over the country proud to be Lady Vols.

 

6 Responses to “Pat Summitt – In the Presence of Greatness”

  1. John June 30, 2016 at 16:10 #

    She was the John Wooden of NCAA Women’s Basketball.

    • Rick June 30, 2016 at 16:36 #

      We are proud to say that she was from Tennessee.

  2. jcalberta June 30, 2016 at 17:30 #

    Astounding – the positive impact that a single individual can have on so many lives – no matter what role they play. Hurrah !

    • Rick June 30, 2016 at 17:57 #

      We should all remember to make positive impacts.

  3. Marilyn Armstrong July 1, 2016 at 02:28 #

    She left a legacy that may never be matched.

    • Rick July 1, 2016 at 02:48 #

      Although, all of us do not have that large of platform. We can all leave a positive impact.

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