A coach needs to motivate, needs to inspire — the great ones leave a mark and a legacy by doing that both during and away from the game.
A legend, a fighter, a motivator and a giant for women’s basketball — that was Pat Summitt.
The Hall of Fame coach, who won eight national championships at Tennessee, died on Tuesday, two weeks after her 64th birthday. She had been battling Alzheimer’s for the past five years.
Dallas Wings coach Fred Williams spent three years at Southern California as head coach from 1995-97 and in the 1980s as an assistant and recalls his relationship with Summitt.
She was a giant voice for women’s basketball. For me being a male in a female’s world of basketball, she was a voice for me too.
Dallas Wings coach Fred Williams, on competing against Pat Summitt’s teams when he was an assistant and head coach at Southern California
“One of the first coaches I’ve met in the game when I first started out at Southern Cal. We set scrimmages with Tennessee and she has always been, in my books, respected,” Williams said. “A great coach, legend, great person — and we had plenty of battles.”
Summitt spent 38 years with Tennessee, amassing 1,098 career wins — the most ever in NCAA Division I history, men’s and women’s. She was named NCAA Coach of the Year seven times, and SEC Coach of the Year eight times.
“She was a giant voice for women’s basketball. For me being a male in a female’s world of basketball, she was a voice for me too,” Williams said. “In an era with her, she was always helpful to me and giving me guidance of what can be done on and off the basketball court.”
Wings forward Glory Johnson played under Summitt for four years from 2008-12, where she averaged 11.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
“Pat Summitt has always been my inspiration. In high school, she came to see me play and she was someone that believed in you and she’s been amazing for so many other people, inspiring their lives even though they’ve never met her,” Johnson said. “She’s an inspirational woman who can easily motivate anyone into playing the best they could play and being the best player they could be.”
But for so many things Summitt could do on the court, she could do much more off it.
“She had a big heart for the game and talked basketball a lot, but her main thing was she talked about life in general and how to treat people with respect,” Williams said.
She pretty much showed that women can do anything men could do. She pushed us to do that.
Dallas Wings player Glory Johnson, a former Lady Vols standout on Pat Summitt’s legacy
Summitt coached the U.S. women’s basketball team to gold in the 1984 Olympics, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, received the 2012 Arthur Ashe Courage Award, and wrote three books, including Reach for the Summitt, which was both a biography and motivational piece.
But the most telling stat of them all — a 100 percent graduation rate — every player that played for Summitt in 38 years at Tennessee, graduated.
“She pretty much showed that women can do anything men could do. She pushed us to do that,” Johnson said. “Anything that men could do in basketball, even off the court, business wise, professionally, she showed us that we could do the same thing and there should be no reason why mentally we shouldn’t believe that and she instilled that in us.”