ESPN Films Nine for IX ‘Pat XO’: Spotlight on Pat Summitt Is Well Deserved

Pat Summitt received countless different awards and honors during and immediately after her legendary coaching career. Luckily, just as her impact was beginning to fade out of the spotlight, ESPN Films released the special “Pat XO” to reinvigorate her story.

College basketball lost an all-time great coach when Summitt decided to step aside as she continued to fight health issues. Unsurprisingly, when she transitioned into a new role last spring, one of her main goals was ensuring the stability of the Tennessee program, as per ESPNW.

I’ve loved being the head coach at Tennessee for 38 years, but I recognize that the time has come to move into the future and to step into a new role.

I want to help ensure the stability of the program going forward. I would like to emphasize that I fully intend to continue working as head coach emeritus, mentoring and teaching life skills to our players, and I will continue my active role as a spokesperson in the fight against Alzheimer’s through the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund.

What makes the film stand out is its ability to showcase her wide-ranging effect on Tennessee, college basketball and sports as a whole. Even in a less publicized sport like women’s college hoops, she was an icon respected around the sporting world.

“Pat XO” illustrates that by not only getting input from her former players and counterparts from around college basketball but also people like Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. The Tennessee product talks about wanting a chance to play for Summitt.

Perhaps the most amazing stat from her coaching career—and there are plenty to choose from—is the fact she never had a losing season at Tennessee. Nearly four decades in charge of the program and not once did she fall below .500.

It goes back to her comments about program stability. Every team is going to go through some tough times, whether it is due to injuries or a brief recruiting dry spell, but the Lady Vols were built to overcome adversity because of the stable environment.

In today’s sports world, where coaches and players change franchises or programs at a rapid rate, the type of sustained competitiveness Summitt established at Tennessee is quickly fading away.

Showing it’s possible to stay in one place for an extended period of time and maintaining a high level of success is an important lesson. At first, honors like the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Arthur Ashe Courage Award helped tell the story.

As Summitt‘s unmatched coaching career gets further away in the rear-view mirror, however, it’s important to have reminders about the story. That’s where things like “Pat XO” come into play to make sure her legacy remains prominent.

Plenty of college basketball coaches will come and go over the years, but there will never be another Pat Summitt. Anything that helps tell her story is a positive.


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Robinson, Edwards, Summitt chosen for FIBA Hall (Yahoo! Sports)

David Robinson, Pat Summitt and Teresa Edwards headline the 2013 FIBA Hall of Fame class.

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Pat Summitt and the 50 Best College Basketball Coaches Ever—Male or Female

Last week, one of the greatest coaching careers in sports history came to a close with Pat Summitt’s retirement at Tennessee. In her 38 years at the Lady Vols’ helm, Summitt won more games than any Division I basketball coach ever.

Summitt is without doubt the greatest coach women’s hoops has ever seen, but she’s far from the only one whose accomplishments can stack up against the greatest basketball minds on the men’s side. Her longtime rival Geno Auriemma and Baylor’s Kim Mulkey (fresh off her second national title) can match their careers against the likes of Tom Izzo and Jim Boeheim any day.

Herein, a look at the 50 greatest coaches—male or female, men’s or women’s—in the history of college basketball. 

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Pat Summitt Retires: Analyzing Summitt’s Lasting Effect on College Basketball

Longtime Tennessee Lady Vols’ head coach Pat Summitt is stepping aside as coach of the program she helped earn the label of storied.

Summitt’ disciple Holly Warlick will become the permanent head coach.

The 59-year-old Summitt is battling dementia, a form of Alzheimer’s disease that effects the memory. Thus, she has called an end to one of the greatest coaching careers in the history of sports.

She is the women’s basketball equivalent to John Wooden. It is impossible to replace her, or put into words what she has meant to the program and the game of basketball. 

That said—her greatness still inspires me to try.


Putting the Women’s Game on the Map

Summit began coaching the Lady Vols when she was 22 years old in 1974. She toiled through the meager beginnings of the program—as well as the low national popularity of women’s hoops.

She also co-captained the US Women’s Olympic team to a gold medal in 1976—the first year women competed in the event at the Olympics.

She returned to Tennessee after the Olympics to lead the Lady Vols to two 20-win seasons, and the first ever SEC tournament championship in 1979. That year the Lady Vols finished runner-up to Old Dominion in the AIAW Final Four—which was the pinnacle of women’s hoops then.

It was just the beginning of the remarkably consistent pattern of winning the Lady Vols would enjoy under Summitt.

Her first huge national accomplishment came at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Summitt became the first US Olympian to win a basketball medal and coach a medal-winning team.

That type of distinction made the country and the world take notice to her and women’s hoops.


The Titles and the Talent

Summitt and the Lady Vols won eight NCAA championships, as well as 16 regular season and SEC tournament championships.

Her first national title came in 1987, and the last one occurred in 2008.

No collegiate coach comes close to that success—man or woman—except John Wooden.

Her championship teams have included greats like Tonya Edwards, Chamique Holdsclaw, Michelle Marciniak and Candace Parker.

Summitt has overseen some of the best women’s basketball players in the last 30 years.


Accolades and Crossover Appeal

Summitt’s list of individual accomplishments are staggering. She’s an eight time SEC Coach of the Year, seven time NCAA Coach of the Year and the Naismith 20th Coach of the 20th Century.

With a laundry list like that, it’s no wonder that speculation of Summitt possibly coaching the men’s team arose.

Though she never did make that switch, the compliment and testament to her ability to coach the game is still present.

She was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame in 2000, and her 1,098 career wins in the most ever in basketball history. 

Summitt called her time at Tennessee “a privilege.”

I contend, the privilege was all ours.


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Pat Summitt Retires: President Obama Among Stars Honoring Legendary Coach

It goes without saying that Pat Summitt deserves every bit of recognition she’s receiving.

The legendary women’s basketball coach at Tennessee is women’s college basketball, but her reach stretches far beyond just the women’s hardwood.

Summitt is known for more than just her eight national championships. Her legendary stare, her unmatched work ethic and the impact she’s made on people’s lives are more legendary than her abundant amount of on-court achievements.

It comes as no surprise that stars from all walks of the world have recognized her as she gets set to step down from her post as head coach of the Lady Vols.

Chief among those stars is the commander-in-chief himself (via @wesrucker247):

A Medal of Freedom is the highest award any civilian can receive. Again, it goes without saying that Summitt deserves it.

Peyton Manning, a former Volunteer, also had a few things to say about the legendary coach (via

“Without question, Pat is one of the strongest people I know. It is no surprise that she has not backed down from a challenge.

I have always had a great deal of respect and admiration for Pat, and I am truly honored to call her a friend. I look forward to watching her continue to inspire others in her new role at the University of Tennessee.”

Summitt is stepping down from active duty, but will remain as head coach emeritus in an advisory capacity.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers was visibly emotional when discussing Summitt, saying:

“I want to finish with Pat Summitt. Retired. She’s a neat lady. I got to know her a little bit. And I just think it’s really sad, in a lot of ways. Not basketball, but everything. So, I didn’t want to get emotional; I’m an emotional person. And when you see a giant like that leave the game, and leave the game because of health, it’s just sad.

But she is responsible for women’s basketball. But she’s not just a women’s basketball coach, she’s a great coach. And you know, I’m in this, and the longer I’m in this I just realize how much coaching means to all of us. You think about it today: Pat Summitt is retiring at her age, and Larry Brown is taking a job at his age. And it just tells you how much it’s in your blood, how much you love it. And for her not to be able to do it, for me is very sad.”

The retiring coach was diagnosed with early-onset dementia-Alzheimer’s type a little less than a year ago.

She may no longer be on the sidelines staring down her players, but she’s an inspiring figure that will never completely disappear.

Not just to coaches and athletes either, but to people everywhere.

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Pat Summitt Retires: Legendary Tennessee Coach Set the Example for Excellence

Legendary Tennessee Volunteers women’s basketball coach Pat Summit stepped down on April 18, 2012, according to Dan Fleser of Go Vols Xtra.

Summitt leaves the sport as the all-time winningest coach in college basketball history after 38 brilliant seasons in Knoxville. Holly Warlick has been named as her replacement, while Summitt will serve as coach emeritus.

“I feel really good about my decision,” Summitt said. “I think this is going to be a win-win situation for everybody. Holly and I will work really well together.”

The 59-year-old coach was diagnosed with early onset dementia in May of 2011, which began to take its toll on Summitt. But while she doesn’t have the same energy that she did before battling the illness, her competitive fire still burns strong.

Simply put, if you love basketball, you must respect and admire Summitt’s extraordinary career.

“None of us will ever have the impact Pat Summitt has” on women’s basketball, Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said, via the New York Times. “She’s our John Wooden.”

Summitt’s effect on women’s basketball was immense. She was never willing to put women’s basketball below the men’s game or allow people to think of it as being a “lesser” form of the sport. She treated her student-athletes like basketball players and not girls.

She did everything possible to make the NCAA recognize the importance of women’s basketball, which finally began to happen when the NCAA sponsored its first women’s basketball tournament in 1982.

Summitt is the model example of how to be the perfect coach in achieving success both on the court and in the classroom.

How successful was Summitt during her Volunteers career? Well, for starters, she won 1,098 games, and her teams failed to win 22 games in a season just twice in her 38 years as Tennessee head coach.

She also won 112 NCAA tournament games at Tennessee—no other Division I women’s basketball program has even appeared in 112 tournament games. Her eight national titles are the most of any coach in the history of women’s basketball and are second all-time to John Wooden’s 10 national titles as UCLA’s men’s basketball coach.

More important and impressive than her on-court success was her ability to make her players understand the importance of having an education.

According to Yahoo! Sports’ Eric Adelson, Summitt has been able to reach amazing success in graduating her players.

“Every player who has completed her eligibility either has earned a degree or is on schedule to earn a degree. Think about that,” Adelson wrote.

This accomplishment is incredibly impressive, especially in today’s world of college sports, where academics has taken a backseat to money and athletic success time and time again.

Summitt has proven that it’s possible to dominate both arenas and do it in a way that doesn’t violate any rules or cut corners. She demanded that her players play the game with passion and respect, while also enforcing that an education is a top priority.

Few coaches in history have affected their sport as much as Pat Summitt has, which proves why she’s a basketball legend and one of the finest coaches we’ll ever see.


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Pat Summitt: Have We Seen the Legend Coach Her Last Game at Tennessee?

Have we seen the last of Tennessee’s Pat Summitt on the sidelines as the head coach of the Lady Volunteers?

After Monday’s emotional Elite 8 loss to Baylor, not a lot is known in Knoxville about whether the 36-year veteran will step down from the helm of the program to deal with her health issues.

Given all of the circumstances going on in her life, nobody would blame her for stepping down to take care of herself.

But, it would be a huge loss for not only women’s college basketball, but also the coaching fraternity.

Summitt had a way about her on the sidelines with that cold stare if one of her players was playing poorly.

However, there’s never been any doubt about how much she’s cared for each of her players, teaching them what it takes to be successful not only on the basketball court, but also in life.

And, it seemed to work, as she’s gone 1,078-201 over her career, only losing 10 or more games seven times in her 36 years, five of which came in the early part of her coaching career.

Add in the eight national championships, 16 SEC championships and nine other trips to the Final Four, and it’s easy to see how good of a coach she really is.

Simply put, Summitt is the greatest coach in women’s college basketball history.

In my opinion, she also ranks in the top five for all of college basketball, along with Bobby Knight, Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith and John Wooden.

But, that may be coming to an end here sometime soon.

I hope that it doesn’t, but will understand if it does, as a person’s health is more important than a game.

In the end, one thing we can all say with confidence is that Summitt has left a legacy on the game of basketball as a whole, and will never be duplicated or replaced.

Summitt is everything you want in a coach and then some.

Wherever she goes, whatever she’s doing, no matter what illness she may be battling, Pat Summitt will be forever remembered.

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Krzyzewski and Summitt: SI Misses the Boat by Saluting Coach K

In a decision that speaks to the worst impulses of a proud magazine, Sports Illustrated has chosen the two active legends of College Basketball coaching, Mike Krzyzewski and Pat Summitt, as their Sportspersons of the Year. 

It’s impossible to quibble with the choice of Tennessee’s Summitt, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA hoops history, after 38 seasons and eight championships leading the Lady Vols.

The tough-as-leather coach who insists her players refer to her as “Pat” was diagnosed earlier this year with Alzheimer’s disease. She has insisted on coaching as long as her body will allow while also starting a foundation to fight the crippling illness. Coach Summitt is without question an absolute inspiration in how one can use sports to leverage the greater good.

The choice of Krzyzewski speaks to a far different impulse. Certainly his accomplishments speak for themselves. He recently set the all-time record for men’s coaching wins, but that is only part of the majesty of Coach K’s recent history.

As Sports Illustrated’s Alexander Wolff put it succinctly, “No other coach has ever won the Olympics, the NCAAs and the Worlds—and Coach K did so in a span of 26 months.”

But Wolff and company could not have picked a worse time in our sports history to burnish the legend of Coach K. I don’t object to the choice of Krzyzewski because I dislike, as so many do, the elitist trappings of Duke University.  I don’t object because, for all his pretensions of sportsmanship, Coach K swears at players and refs in a manner that would make his mentor, Bob Knight, blush. I don’t even object because I’m a proud fan of the University of Maryland.

I object because of the unspoken reason he is receiving this honor. It’s because at no time in the history of amateur sports has the NCAA been so mired in crisis, crippled under the weight of its own culture of corruption.

Sports Illustrated is not merely honoring Coach K, but giving reassurance to a rotten system.

In 2011, we all learned just how low the NCAA and its member schools would go to defend their bottom lines. We learned how people in power at Penn State University would put the lives of children at risk, if it meant preserving the lucrative legend of coach Joe Paterno. We learned what Syracuse University and the surrounding community would be willing to cover up—and how many children they would endanger—to protect their own Hall of Fame Coach Jim Boeheim and the $19 million annual cash-cow of Syracuse hoops. We saw Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel resign after a series of scandals that now look quaint, and we witnessed the University of Miami Athletic Department reel under the weight of the gutter economy of exchange between criminal boosters and the school’s President Donna Shalala.

This was also the year that Dr. Martin Luther King’s Pulitzer Prize winning biographer, Taylor Branch, published The Cartel: The Rise and Imminent Fall of the NCAA, which exposes just how corrupt and ugly the amateur industry is. As Branch writes, “College athletes are not slaves. Yet to survey the scene…is to catch the whiff of the plantation.”

Coach K has acquired power by inhaling deeply this “whiff of the plantation.” His salary at Duke now stands at over $5 million a year. Nike also pays him seven figures so his players can advertise the Swoosh as they run up and down the court. He defended his income last year by saying, “If you’re at a program for a long time, if you’re at a school for a long time, you become much more than just a basketball coach at the school. You become an ambassador for the school.”

As an ambassador, that’s still one hell of a paycheck.

If we really need to honor an NCAA coach, I’d go with South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier. Not because his Gamecocks are particularly good, but because earlier this year he called for his fellow NCAA coaches to pay players out of their own salaries.

As Spurrier said, “We make all the money. We need to get more to our players…they bring in the money. They’re the performers.”

Or SI could have chosen Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini, who had the guts to say following Nebraska’s visit to Penn State just four days after Joe Paterno was fired, that the “game shouldn’t have been played…It’s about doing what’s right in society. It’s about doing what’s right and wrong…It is a lot bigger than football, the NCAA, the Big Ten and anything else.”

Choosing Spurrier or Pelini—or even Taylor Branch—as Sportsperson of the Year would have been a powerful statement from SI that “business as usual” in the NCAA has to come to an end.

The choice of Coach K is a choice that says: “Have no fear, villagers. We must keep faith in our all-powerful and benevolent Coach-God Rulers.”

It’s an awful choice, serving a collegiate status quo currently residing in a moral abyss. Sports Illustrated should be leading the charge to democratize college sports, not burnishing the legend of our last Sun King, Mike Krzyzewski.


Originally published in The Nation.
Dave Zirin is the author of The John Carlos Story (Haymarket) and just made the new documentary Not Just a Game. Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at


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Krzyzewski, Summitt named SI’s Sportspeople

Together, Mike Krzyzewski and Pat Summitt have combined for 1,982 wins (1,075 for her, 907 for him).

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Pat Summitt and the Top 10 College Basketball Coaches of All Time

Yesterday, the college basketball world was given shocking news. Pat Summitt the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history announced that she has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. 

Summitt, 59, is one of the game’s great ambassadors and plans to continue coaching while battling the symptoms. She plans to use her longtime assistants more this upcoming season.

In a statement from Summitt released by the university Tuesday, the Hall of Fame coach said she visited with doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., after the end of the 2010-11 basketball season and was diagnosed with the condition during the summer.

Through the years Pat Summitt has coached some of the greatest women’s players ever. She has touched the lives of so many and is no doubt a legendary coach. 

Coaches in college athletics are allowed to develop athletes not only as a player, but also as a person.  The great coaches can win all while teaching life lessons and helping athletes mature. 

Summitt has that ability and is arguably the greatest coach in history.  Here is my list of the top 10 college basketball coaches of all time. Where does Pat Summitt rank?

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