Pat Summitt, the former Tennessee Lady Vols head coach and the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, died on June 28 at Sherrill Hill Senior Living in Knoxville. Summitt, 64, stepped down in 2012 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease following a 38-year coaching career. She coached the team to eight NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championships ad 16 SEC Championships and was named the SEC Coach of the Year eight times. Her record at UT was 1,098-208 and she never had one losing season.
On June 26, the Pat Summitt Foundation released a statement confirming reports that “the past few days have been difficult” for her and her family. A statement from her family’s representative reads:
On behalf of Pat Summitt’s family, we acknowledge the past few days have been difficult for Pat as her early onset dementia, ‘Alzheimer’s Type,’ progresses. She is surrounded by those who mean the most to her and during this time, we ask for prayers for Pat and her family and friends, as well as your utmost respect and privacy. Thank you.
On June 28, her son, Tyler Summitt, told the Associated Press, “Since 2011, my mother has battled her toughest opponent, early onset dementia, ‘Alzheimer’s Type’ … and we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease.”
The Summitt family has deep roots in Tennessee and the basketball coaching bug was passed on to her only son, Tyler Summitt. Here’s what you need to know about her family.
1. Summitt’s Father Died at Age 83 in 2005
In October 2005, Summitt had to miss a practice due to the death of her father, Richard Head, who died just days after turning 83. He had been in poor health in the year before his death. Summitt’s mother, Hazel Albright Head, is still alive and lives in Henrietta, Tennessee.
Summitt called her father “The Tall Man” and wrote about how important he was to her as an influence in her 1998 book, Reach for the Summitt, notes Inside Tennessee. Summitt wrote:
But the thing you need to understand is that my father, to a great extent, made me who I am… His peculiar combination of love and discipline was hard to take, but in the end I was grateful for it. He gave me strength. If you saw the two of us together today, you would see two people who have reached a peace. We finally understand each other. He is a man with a buried sense of humor and a fierce devotion to his family.
Richard Head was a dairy farmer and also chairman of the East Montgomery Utility Board, a Montgomery County commissioner and Cheatham County commissioner.
2. Her Siblings Still Live in Montgomery and Cheatham Counties
The Head family has spent most of their lives in Tennessee and Summitt’s siblings still live in Montgomery and Cheatham counties, ESPN reported in 2012. Summitt has three older brothers – Kenneth, Tommy and Charles – and a younger sister, Linda.
In 2012, Kenneth told ESPN that Summitt was a tough girl growing up. “We used to play baseball in there and in the house, with a little paddle and a pingpong ball,” he said. “Pat also played tackle football with us; we didn’t play touch. That’s why she was tough — she’d hit you, so you better hit her back.”
The siblings grew up on a farm and Kenneth told ESPN that Summitt never let her growing status change her.
“When she comes home, she’s the same person she always was. You ask anybody around here,” Kenneth told ESPN in 2012. “That’s one thing I always like and think more of her for: She ain’t got the big head. Money hasn’t bothered her.”
Kenneth also suggested that the last name Head should have had “hard” in front of it. “People always said we were hard-headed, and we all are. I think Charles, Linda and me are more like Mother. Tommy’s more like Daddy. And Pat’s more like both Mother and Daddy. Daddy was so disciplined, and Pat is, too,” he told ESPN.
3. Summitt Filed for Divorce from R.B. Summitt in 2007
Summitt was married to R.B. Summitt from 1980 until 2007, when she filed for divorce. The Associated Press reported at the time that she cited irreconcilable differences. They were married for 27 years and Summitt refused to comment on the divorce.
“I think she is doing all right,” her lawyer, Bernie Bernstein, told the Associated Press at the time. “She has been getting ready for the new season. Her son continues to live with her. He is in school. Things really haven’t changed that much for her.”
Summitt is a retired banker who lives in Sevierville, Tennessee. He also co-founded Leadership Sevier, a leadership program in Sevier County.
4. Tyler Summitt Coached at Louisiana Tech, but Resigned After Admitting to an Affair
Tyler Summitt spent much of his childhood at his mother’s side on the basketball court and traveling with the Lady Vols. When he was only an infant, kissing his head became good luck for the team, Outside The Lines reported. In one instance, Daedra Charles requested to kiss his head during halftime at a 1991 NCAA title game, which Tennessee ended up winning.
“I thought that was probably a good thing,” Summitt told Outside The Lines about learning that her child would be a boy. “Because if it had been a girl, I’d have had her dribbling the basketball when she was just a few months old. But Tyler and I have a really special bond. I think mothers and sons sometimes have it, and fathers and daughters. He started traveling with me when he was 14 days old. I wanted him to experience as much as he could.”
In April 2016, Tyler Summitt admitted to having an affair, reportedly with one of the players he was coaching at Louisiana Tech. He is married to Anne Dennis ‘AnDe’ Ragsdale, his high school sweetheart. Summitt was only 23 when he was hired as head coach in 2014, following a stint at Marquette University as an assistant.
5. Summitt’s Family Was By Her Side & Being Joined by Players
Summit’s family was by her side as her health worsened. A source told Knox News that her family was “preparing for the worst” and she was “struggling.”
“I don’t think anybody knows whether she will last a day, a month, or a year,” the source told Knox News.
The Tennessean reported that she hadn’t been moved out of the retirement center where she has been living since January.
Summitt announced in 2011 that she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, around 200,000 people in the U.S. have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which affects people younger than 65.
Some of Summitt’s former players are also flying to Knoxville to be with her. ESPN reported that Candace Parker, who plays for the Los Angeles Sparks, flew there on Friday, while the Associated Press reports that the Indiana Fever’s Tamika Catchings is also there.