Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in Division I basketball history—man or woman—passed away on Tuesday morning at age 64.
One of the greatest sports figures of all time, she led the Tennessee Lady Vols to win 1,098 of 1,306 games—a .841 winning percentage—including 18 trips to the Final Four and eight National Championships.
As a player on the US National Team, Summitt won a silver medal in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, the first Summer Games to include women’s basketball. Then, eight years later in 1984, she won the gold medal at the Olympic games in Los Angeles, this time as head coach.
Saying that Summitt’s teams won a lot doesn’t do her justice. She was so successful that every Lady Vols basketball player from 1976-2011 had the opportunity to play in at least one Final Four. Her program produced fourteen Olympic players, 34 WNBA players, 36 All-Americans, and 39 All-SEC players.
Like most legends, Summitt was uniquely qualified to make a difference during the period she lived in.
Even though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 intended to end discrimination based on race, religion, or sex, early in her career Summitt faced the terrible inequality present in college admissions.
In spite of evidence to the contrary, stereotypes painted women as going to school to find a husband, marry, have children, and never work again. Men were therefore more heavily recruited because schools didn’t want to “waste a man’s place” on a woman.