Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt has died at the age of 64 after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease, her family announced.
Summitt, who coached the Tennessee Volunteers from 1974 to 2012 and was the winningest coach in Division 1 college basketball history, passed away this morning, according to a statement from her son, Tyler:
It is with tremendous sadness that I announce the passing of my mother, Patricia Sue Head Summitt.
She died peacefully this morning at Sherrill Hill Senior Living in Knoxville surrounded by those who loved her most.
Since 2011, my mother has battled her toughest opponent, early onset dementia, ‘Alzheimer’s Type,’ and she did so with bravely fierce determination just as she did with every opponent she ever faced. Even though it’s incredibly difficult to come to terms that she is no longer with us, we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease.
For 64 years, my mother first built her life upon a strong relationship with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Her foundation was also built upon love of her family and of her players, and love of the fundamentals of hard work which reflected her philosophy that ‘you win in life with people’.
She was the fourth of five children – Tommy, Charles, Kenneth and Linda – born to Richard and Hazel Head on June 14, 1952, in Clarksville, Tenn. Her tireless work ethic and her love of the game of basketball were created during the time she spent growing up on the family farm.
She’ll be remembered as the all-time winningest D-1 basketball coach in NCAA history, but she was more than a coach to so many – she was a hero and a mentor, especially to me, her family, her friends, her Tennessee Lady Volunteer staff and the 161 Lady Vol student-athletes she coached during her 38-year tenure.
We will all miss her immensely.
A private service and burial will be held for my mother in Middle Tennessee. I ask that you respect the privacy of that time.
We are in the process of finalizing the details of a public celebration of her life which will take place in one of her favorite places, Thompson-Boling Arena. Once those details are finalized, we will share them with you.
Summitt, born Patricia Sue Head in Clarksville, Tennessee, is survived by her son, Tyler, her ex-husband and four siblings.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. She Was Diagnosed With Early Onset Dementia in 2011
Summitt was diagnosed with early onset dementia in 2011. The dementia was classified as “Alzheimer’s type.”
She co-wrote a memoir, Sum It Up, with Sally Jenkins, which was released in 2013, as she battled the disease. She talked about how dementia had impacted her memory at the time, writing:
Numbers have a strange slipperiness for me, a lack of specificity; they suggest nothing. If you ask me how many games we won in 1998, or what happened in the 2008 national championship game, I struggle to remember which one it was. But if you tell me who was on the team — if you prompt me with names rather than numbers … they bring it all back. Show me a picture of a former player, frozen in an old team photo, and I remember her.
She moved into a retirement center in Tennessee in January 2016, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
“She loves the daily interaction with her neighbors there,” her son, Tyler Summitt, told the newspaper. “They have fun watching Lady Techster and Lady Vol games together in an on-site movie theater. She often joins her neighbors for dinner and for other activities. She is happy and content in her surroundings and I am grateful that she could stay in such an awesome place.”
2. She Stepped Down as Tennessee’s Coach in 2012 After Winning 1,098 Games & 8 NCAA Championships
Summitt won 1,098 games at the University of Tennessee. She resigned in 2012 after attempting to coach while battling the symptoms of early onset dementia.
She coached the Volunteers to eight NCAA championships, which was an NCAA record at the time of her retirement. It was later topped by her longtime rival, Geno Auriemma, who has won 10 championships at UConn.
Summitt’s own basketball career began in high school, when she moved to Henrietta so she could play for the girl’s team there. She then went on to the University of Tennessee-Martin. She became the co-captain of the women’s national basketball team during the inaugural women’s tournament at the 1976 Summer Olympics. The team won the Silver Medal.
She became an Olympic gold medalist in 1984 while coaching the U.S. team.
3. She Started a Foundation to Find a Cure for Alzheimer’s After She Was Diagnosed With the Disease
Summitt started The Pat Summitt Foundation in an effort to find a cure for Alzheimer’s after she was diagnosed with the disease.
The foundation recently presented the University of Tennessee with a $400,000 check for the Pat Summitt Alzheimer’s Clinic,
It previously raised $100,000 for the clinic, and has pledged an additional $500,000.
“On behalf of so many who have been impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, we are very grateful for our ongoing partnership with the Pat Summitt Foundation to form the Pat Summitt Alzheimer’s Clinic,” said Joe Landsman, president and CEO of The University of Tennessee Medical Center, said in a statement. “We have completed the design and will begin construction later this year of a new facility to serve patients and their families through diagnosis, treatment, care giver support, and community education. We are thankful to everyone who has generously contributed to make this dream a reality.”
To donate to The Pat Summitt Foundation click here.
4. She Had 6 Miscarriages Before Giving Birth to Her Only Son, Tyler
Summitt overcame personal battles during her life, which she rarely talked about. She had six miscarriages before giving birth to her son, Tyler, in 1990, she wrote in her memoir, Sum It Up.
Summitt was married to R.B. Summitt from 1980 to 2007, when they divorced.
She is also survived by her four siblings, Tommy, Charles, Kenneth and Linda.
5. Funeral & Memorial Services for Summitt Have Not Been Finalized, Her Family Says
Funeral and memorial plans for Summitt have not yet been finalized, but the family plans a private service and burial in Tennessee and a public celebration at Thompson-Boling Arena.
She has been mourned by former players, fellow coaches and others around the sports world and beyond.