"We Back Pat" Week, January 13-20

By Sandra Sylvester | Jan 14, 2013

Knox County — No woman in the sport of basketball or in fact, in all of sports, is more respected than the women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, Pat Summitt.

This week is “We Back Pat Week” in the SEC. More details at the end of this piece.

Long before Title 9 and long before I even knew who Pat was, I played basketball for Rockland High School. I fell in love with the game and like other women who have played basketball; we thank Pat for her advancement of the game and of women’s sports in general. When I moved to Georgia, I followed her career and those of her players as they strove for yet one more championship. Even though my favorite team is the UConn Lady Huskies, I have always appreciated what Pat brought to the game. She sure was fun to watch.

After 38 years as head coach of The Lady Vols at UT, we were devastated to learn that Pat has early-onset dementia. She stepped down as coach at the end of this past season. At that time she said:

“…I loved being the head coach for 38 years, but after consultation with my son, my doctors, my lawyer and several close friends, I concluded that the time had come to move into the future and step into a new role as head coach emeritus, and I am excited for the opportunities that now await my dear friend and colleague Holly Warlick as head coach.”

Where it all Began

Pat began her basketball career as a player at Cheatham County High School in Tennessee. Going by “Trish” she was voted “Most Popular” and “Basketball Sweetheart.” The gym where she played as a “Cubette” now bears her name.

She played her college career at the University of Tennessee-Martin. Although she had wanted to be an Olympian, a knee injury led to her being offered the head coaching position for the women’s team at UT in Knoxville at age 22. The rest is history.

If you don’t believe she was probably the most winningest basketball coach of all time, look at these statistics:

  • Career Record: 1098-208
  • SEC Games: 458-69
  • SEC Championships: 16 out of 32
  • NCAA Tournament: 112-23; 18 Final Fours; 8 Titles
  • SEC Coach of the Year: 1993,’95,’98, 2001, ’03, ’04, ’07, ‘11
  • NCAA Coach of the Year: 1983, ’87, ’89, ’94, ’95, ’98, 2004
  • Naismith Coach of the Century: 2000

Pat has been honored so many times that it’s impossible to list them all here. Some of the most significant include:

  • Presidential Medal of Freedom: announced by President Barack Obama on April 19, 2012. She was honored at the White House on May 29. A Lifetime Achievement Award for the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition on May 3. Named a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Council to Empower Women and Girls Through Sprots on June 21.
  • Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame: 2012 Tennessean of the Year.
  • The Arthur Ashe Courage Award: presented by NFL quarterback and former Vol, Peyton Manning at the July 11 ESPYs in Los Angeles
  • The Billie Jean King Legacy Award: which honors individuals whose outstanding courage and contributions have helped to change the global cultural landscape.

 That’s just some of the honors for this year.

Here are some more she received throughout her career:

  • Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame: June 5, 1999
  • Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame: October 13, 2000
  • WNBA Inspiring Coach Award: April 7, 2009
  • Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame: June 17, 2011
  • Sportswoman of the Year: along with Sportsman of the year, Duke’s basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, by Sports Illustrated, December 5, 2011.

Two Basketball Courts and a Gym Bear Her Name

When Pat brought her team to play at the University of Tennessee at Martin, on Nov. 23, 1997, her alma mater spent the weekend honoring the Lady Vol coach. UTM designated a street on campus, "Pat Head Summitt Drive," and named the basketball court in the Skyhawk Arena, the Pat Head Summitt Court, for their former star player. The Lady Vol team christened the newly-named court with a 73-32 victory.

UT Knoxville also named a campus street (Pat Head Summitt Street) and to commemorate reaching the top of the all-time coaching wins list with 880 victories, the University of Tennessee named its basketball court at the Thompson-Boling Arena, "The Summitt," in a surprise postgame ceremony following the win over Purdue on March 22, 2005.

Pat’s Lady Vols made an unprecedented 31 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament and produced 12 Olympians, 34 WNBA players, 21 WBCA/State Farm/Kodak All-Americans earning 36 honors, and 39 All-SEC performers earning 82 honors. Along with the success on the court, Pat’s student-athletes produced in the classroom. She held a 100 percent graduation rate for all Lady Vols who completed their eligibility at Tennessee under her tutelage.

Pat will tell you that of all her honors, seeing all the women on her watch on the basketball court graduate from college is her biggest reward. She is above all a loving caring woman who genuinely cares about people and always looks for ways to improve our world and who everyone calls just “Pat,” even her players.

Pat Summitt Foundation

The "We Back Pat" campaign sprang up overnight and went viral in the social media world following Summitt's medical announcement. A t-shirt was born with the slogan, and proceeds started pouring into Summitt-picked organizations, Alzheimer's Tennessee and the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

This week, January 13-20 is “We Back Pat” week in the SEC. Home games played by the conference during that time will increase awareness of the Pat Summitt Foundation, which seeks answers to the disease of Alzeheimers.

If you would like to donate to the foundation or would like a list of games in the SEC this week, go to http://patsummitt.org

In a recent article written by Pat for Parade magazine, Pat said, “My life experiences, combined with my faith, sustain me now in my fight against Alzheimer’s disease. As with everything in life, I play to win. With the help of my son, Tyler, I continue to take on our newest opponent, early onset dementia. We are playing to win! We have created the Pat Summitt Foundation as a vehicle to do just that—to compete on a national level.”

We Back you Pat!

Thanks for listening.

Note: If you have a picture of any of the girls basketball teams at RHS for 1957-59, I would appreciate it if you would scan it and email it to me at southendstories@aol.com.  Put RHS girls in the subject area. Thanks.





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