And there's nothing more that Summitt enjoys than a challenge.
Five wins into the 1999-2000 season, Summitt will achieve yet another incredible milestone when she reaches 700 career wins. Should UT somehow go undefeated in its opening four games, the one to clinch 700 victories would come against Purdue, the defending NCAA Champs. Ah, yes we do enjoy a challenge.
Last year, Summitt celebrated her silver anniversary season at Tennessee. Her team finished its season with an outstanding 31-3 overall record but fell one game short of the Final Four. The 1999 season also marked the end of Chamique Holdsclaw's tenure with the Lady Vols. Under Summitt's guidance and coaching, Holdsclaw set near unmatchable standards not only at Tennessee, but in the game of women's basketball. And true to her word, Holdsclaw graduated in May 1999 (on time) before landing in the WNBA as the league's top draft pick.
Accomplishments like that as a coach can land you in the Hall of Fame. That is exactly where the Tennessee coach found herself in June of 1999 when she was inducted into the newly opened Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Summitt was in the inaugural class of inductees.
Two seasons ago, everything landed perfectly in 1997-98 for Summitt. Consider the following: her 24th edition of a Lady Vol basketball team ran the table with a perfect 39-0 record; this group won an unprecedented third consecutive NCAA title; Summitt's businesslike philosophy of coaching was chronicled in a best-selling book, Reach for the Summit and was followed by Raise the Roof; Home Box Office (HBO) released a documentary about Summitt's fifth NCAA Championship team, A Cinderella Season: The 1997 Lady Vols Fight Back; and Summitt became the first female coach to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Any one of these accomplishments would be considered a lifetime achievement for any coach. However, for Summitt, it was more typical of how life has become. Because these days, Summitt's name has become fused in the same sentence as coaching great John Wooden, or joined to the accomplishments of the most recent dynasties of sports, the Chicago Bulls and the New York Yankees.
Summitt begins her 26th season in coaching at the helm of the Tennessee Lady Vols. In the 1990s alone, she brought four NCAA titles home (1991-1996-1997-1998) to the Knoxville campus.
Last season, the goal was a fourth consecutive national crown a feat never accomplished in women's collegiate basketball. The team fell short, losing to Duke in the NCAA East Regional Championships, but Tennessee had fashioned an incredible run over the last four seasons.
When the smoke cleared after the 1997-98 season, there was absolutely no doubt who the best team was. A 39-0 campaign, capped off with the program's sixth national title in 12 years, resulted in hoops analysts and fans everywhere proclaiming the 1997-98 Lady Vols as the best collegiate women's basketball team of all time.
Summitt's team didn't just win games, they dominated opponents, coasting by an average margin of 30.1 points per contest. In the Final Four, where only the nation's top tournament-tested teams have advanced, Tennessee dispatched Arkansas (86-58) and Louisiana Tech (93-75) by an average of 23.0 points. The 39-0 mark also gave UT the most wins and best record in NCAA men's or women's basketball history.
After guiding the Big Orange to those feats and to SEC regular-season title number seven and SEC postseason tourney crown number eight, Summitt was the recipient of a bevy of honors. She was named SEC Coach of the Year for the third time in her career (1993, 1995 and 1998), The Sporting News Coach of the Year and the Naismith Coach of the Year.
She was also chosen as the Associated Press Coach of the Year and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Coach of the Year in addition to receiving the Wooden Award, as presented by the Utah Tip-off Club. Furthermore, she was honored as the IKON/WBCA Coach of the Year, the Frontier/State Farm Coach of the Year and the Columbus (OH) Touchdown Club Coach of the Year.
Three seasons ago, Summitt's squad was in a rebuilding year after winning the 1996 NCAA Championship. The 1997 Lady Vol basketball team struggled during the year and lost the most games (10) of any Lady Vol team in a decade. But Summitt never stopped believing in that group, and in the end, they came together and accomplished something more highly touted UT teams never did -- they won back-to-back NCAA titles.
Twenty-five seasons at the University of Tennessee as a proven winner, champion, master motivator and role model. They've even started talking about her as a "living legend."
The facts support it if one considers the following information. In all of men and women's collegiate basketball history, Summitt trails only UCLA's legendary coach John Wooden for the most NCAA titles. Wooden grabbed 10 titles in 29 years; Summitt has picked up six in 25 complete seasons (including the NCAA's first back-to-back-to-back women's titles in 1996, 1997 and 1998) to pass Kentucky's legendary coach, Adolph Rupp.
In this elite company of the legends -- of the top NCAA Champion titleholders -- Summitt's teams have played in and recorded the most NCAA tournament victories, winning 64 of 76 NCAA contests. Wooden's Bruins played in 57 NCAA games, winning 47 times, while Bob Knight's Indiana Hoosiers have played in 59 NCAA games, claiming 41 victories through the years. Rupp's Wildcats won 30 games while making 48 appearances at the "Big Dance." Summitt a living legend? You bet.
Three seasons ago, she reached yet another coaching milestone 600 collegiate victories. The victory over Marquette on Nov. 23, 1996, (her 600th) vaulted her into an elite group of 16 active college coaches with 600 victories. In this group, only one woman ranks ahead of Summitt, Texas' Jody Conradt (725 wins in 30 years). At the very top is former North Carolina great Dean Smith with 879 wins in 36 years.
Through the years she has reached numerous goals and worn many hats at the University of Tennessee as a student, an educator and a coach. Six hundred and ninety-five wins and six national championships later, it is still safe to say that she is an educator and role model to her players, a student of the ever-changing game, and one of the most successful women's basketball coaches in the nation.
In so many ways, she is more than just a coach.
To her athletes, she is just "Pat" from the minute she meets them for the first time on a recruiting visit to the day they walk across the stage in the Arena to receive their diploma from UT. To the University of Tennessee she is a goodwill ambassador, taking her teams to play basketball in more than 40 states and six foreign countries. To the CEO of a corporation whose morale needs a lift, she is the perfect motivational speaker in the last year she has traveled extensively making motivational speeches from Federal Express to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Of course, there is the incredible graduation rate of her players and the successes they have garnered in life long after their playing days were over at Tennessee. Every Lady Vol who has completed her eligibility at Tennessee has received her degree or is in the process of completing her degree requirements. Summitt instills a pattern of success in her players and constantly challenges them to reach their potential as a student and an athlete.
No other basketball coach in the country, male or female, has enjoyed the success of Summitt. As a player, she won an Olympic silver medal in 1976; as an international coach she brought home the first USA women's hoops gold medal in Olympic competition in 1984; and in 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997 and 1998 she led her Tennessee teams to NCAA Championships.
Summitt, who was named the 1987, 1989, 1994 and 1998 Naismith College Coach of the Year, the WBCA/Converse Coach of the Year in 1983 and 1995 and the IKON/WBCA Coach of the Year in 1998, has coached many teams to national and world championships. However, she called the 1987 title her most special victory because of the time and commitment both she and the University of Tennessee had given to each other.
During her career, she has enjoyed 322 of her wins in the friendly confines of a home arena (against just 32 losses), and another 373 wins have come on the hostile road (suffering 114 losses). It's hard to imagine that this 47-year-old has already coached in almost 900 games and picked up nearly 700 collegiate wins. In 1990, she received the most prestigious award given by the Basketball Hall of Fame, the John Bunn Award. Summitt was the first female to receive the award in the Hall's history.
In October 1990, Summitt was enshrined in the Women's Sports Foundation Hall of Fame at a gala event in New York City. In the spring of 1994, 1997 and 1998, Summitt was named the Coach of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus, Ohio and also was a recipient at the 28th and 32nd Victor Awards (benefiting the City of Hope) as the Women's Basketball Coach of the Year in 1994 and 1998.
In April 1996, she was inducted into the National Association for Sport and Physical Education's Hall of Fame. She was a June 1997 recipient of the Casey Award, which is annually presented by the Kansas City Sports Commission, and a September recipient of the 1997 Governor Ned McWherter Award of Excellence.
She was enshrined in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in June 1999 in Knoxville, Tenn., and has been nominated to the Class of 2000 for the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Summitt begins the 1999-2000 season as the second-winningest active coach in the NCAA (with 695 victories in 25 years). She has narrowed the gap between herself and Texas' Jody Conradt (725 wins), who is 30 wins and six seasons (in her 31st campaign) ahead of Summitt. In a poll conducted before the 1997-98 season, Summitt was found to be the youngest coach in the nation to reach 300 victories (34 years old), 400 victories (37 years old), 500 wins (41 years old), and 600 victories (44 years old). A quick look at Summitt's season finishes tells the story: 15 trips to the Final Four in the last 23 years and 23 consecutive seasons with 20 or more wins.
Success and accomplishment have always followed Pat Summitt. The folks at the University of Tennessee-Martin thought she was better than pretty good when she enrolled at the west Tennessee university to play basketball and volleyball.
By the time Summitt graduated in 1974, she symbolized the prototype player of the 80's. She was strong ... had great instincts ... was awesome on defense ... took a charge like a greedy housewife ... denied the ball all over the court ... rebounded with authority ... took the ball to the hoop ... and then could knock the lights out over a zone defense.
In 1973, she made her first U.S. national team when she represented the United States at the World University Games in the Soviet Union. She returned to UT-Martin for her senior season with loftier goals, such as making the 1976 Olympic team. However, four games into her final season as a Lady Pacer, she suffered a near career-ending knee injury.
She was determined to get the knee back into shape and try out for the Olympic Games, but not many people gave her a chance. The University of Tennessee in Knoxville, though, showed its confidence in her abilities as a coach when the school offered her a graduate teaching assistantship and the reins to the women's intercollegiate basketball team as a 22-year-old. The position suited her needs to a "T" -- she could pursue her career and stay close to basketball as she rehabilitated her knee.
In her first year as a collegiate coach, she led her team to a 16-8 overall record, attended classes as a master's degree candidate, taught physical education classes and stayed in playing shape. As the summer of 1975 approached, she thought the knee was ready for a big test. The knee held and so did Summitt -- held, that is, a spot on the U.S. Women's World Championship team and the 1975 Pan American Games team.
After another summer of international experience, she returned home to coach her Lady Vols to a 16-11 record, a second-place finish in the state tournament and a spot for herself on the 1976 U.S. Olympic team.
Playing on the Olympic team in Montreal at the Games of the XXI Olympiad was the high point of her competitive playing career, as she helped lead the United States to a silver medal finish while serving as the team's co-captain.
If success follows success, then it certainly followed Summitt. The 1976-77 season found the Tennessee team in its first Final Four with a 28-5 overall record. This upstart coach came within a few points of upsetting defending national champion Delta State.
Upsets and wins continued to be the rule at Tennessee rather than the exception. The year-by-year success of the coach and her teams at Tennessee is evidenced by the numbers ... 547-110 (.833) during the regular season, 148-36 (.804) in the postseason, and 695-146 (.826) overall for 25 years. Her worksheets include 16-8, 16-11, 28-5, 27-4, 30-9, 33-5, 25-6, 22-10, 25-8, 23-10, 22-10, 24-10, 28-6, 31-3, 35-2, 27-6, 30-5, 28-3, 29-3, 31-2, 34-3, 32-4, 29-10, 39-0 and 31-3 records for an average of 28 wins and five losses per season.
Summitt has led her teams to the Final Four of women's college basketball 15 times in the last 23 years. Nine of her last 14 teams have advanced to the Final Four, with the 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997 and 1998 teams winning the NCAA title. By winning back-to-back-to-back titles in 1996, 1997 and 1998, Tennessee became the first team ever to accomplish that feat in NCAA women's basketball championship history. In other national finishes, the Lady Vols have finished second four times and third five times at the Final Four. Additionally, Summitt has produced 10 U.S. basketball Olympians, 16 Kodak All-Americans receiving 27 citations, over 40 international performers, and 22 professional players representing the ABL, WNBA or overseas teams.
If her exploits of success in the collegiate ranks are not enough for 25 years of coaching, then consider her brilliant international coaching record. In 1977, Summitt was given the first U.S. Junior National team to coach, and she led it to two gold medals in international play. What makes it so remarkable is that one year earlier Summitt was a player on the U.S. Olympic team.
Her next international challenge was taking the U.S. national team to the 1979 William R. Jones Cup Games, the 1979 World Championships and the 1979 Pan American Games. Summitt and her team returned home with two gold medals and one silver medal.
When the Olympics rolled around in 1980, she was honored as the assistant coach to Sue Gunter. Although the United States boycotted the Games, the team still captured the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament title.
In August 1982, Summitt was named the 1984 U.S. Women's Olympic basketball coach, and the rush for the gold was on! She coached the 1983 World Championship team to a silver medal finish; but the silver was not indicative of the team's play.
The XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles, Calif., found Summitt's U.S. squad tearing through the opposition by a bundle of points. When the gold medal was a reality, Summitt's team lifted her high and carried the "All-World" coach around the Los Angeles Forum for all to applaud.
It seems like a natural progression for a winner like Summitt: outstanding player to outstanding coach both collegiately and internationally.
A celebrated figure in women's athletics, Summitt is busy off the court as well. In February 1997, she was honored at a White House luncheon given by First Lady Hillary Clinton recognizing the "25 Most Influential Working Mothers" as selected by Working Mother magazine. In 1996, she co-chaired the United Way Campaign in Knoxville. She gave hundreds of speeches and logged incredible amounts of time visiting the various United Way agencies while recruiting, running camps and continuing to direct the most successful program in the nation.
Additionally, she holds or has held the following positions: current associate athletics director at the University of Tennessee; a past vice-president of USA BASKETBALL; past Olympic representative on the Advisory Committee to USA BASKETBALL; a member of the Board of Trustees of the Basketball Hall of Fame; and a member of the Board of Directors for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
Coach Summitt has worn many hats during her career -- commencement speaker, color commentator for network television, clinician, contributor to a film series, and both author and subject of books, including "Reach For The Summit," a motivational publication released in 1998 which made numerous best-seller lists. And "Raise the Roof," a book which recaps the undefeated 1998 season that was released in October of 1998. "Raise the Roof" will be released in paperback in October 1999.
Away from the game she has been involved in a number of community activities. She is an active spokesperson for the United Way, The Race for the Cure and Juvenile Diabetes. She has been a member of Big Brothers/Big Sisters and was the honorary chair for the Tennessee Easter Seal Society in 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1989. She is still active as an alumna with the Chi Omega sorority. In 1994, she served as the Tennessee chair of the American Heart Association. In January 1996, she was named "Distinguished Citizen of the Year" by the Great Smoky Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The Lupus Foundation also bestowed an award on Summitt in the winter of 1996. In May 1997, Proffitts and the Tennessee Lung Association presented her the "Tennessee Woman of Distinction Award".
More recently, she was honored as one of the WISE 1999 Women of the Year, the 1999 ARETE Award for Courage in Sports, as one of Glamour magazines "1998 Women of the Year," the City of Knoxville's "1998 Woman of the Year." At the February 1999 ESPY Awards, she was nominated for Coach of the Year (won by Joe Torre of the N.Y. Yankees) and Team of the Year (won also by the Bronx Bombers). When she can fit it into her busy schedule as a mom to nine-year-old son Tyler, she enjoys running, water and snow skiing, and boating.
A native of Henrietta, Tenn., Summitt is the daughter of Richard and Hazel Head. She is married to R.B. Summitt and, along with Tyler, they make their home along the banks of the Tennessee River.