A heart load of Pat Summitt thoughts

I’ve been wrestling with my thoughts on Pat Summitt for the last day and a half. What to think? What to say? Coach Patricia Sue Head Summitt is the one living hero I’ve had in my life – and that’s been for most of my life.

I’ve got a framed picture of her and myself (the second time I met her) in my living room. I’ve got the Pat Summitt “pictorial retrospective” book on my bookcase. It sits right above the hand-written note she sent me when I mailed her a congratulatory card after her 1,000th win in 2009. I’ve got a Tennessee key chain; my car boasts Tennessee Vols license plate frames. For years, Pat Summitt has been among the people that I pray for each morning.

The first time I met her, I had to compose myself because I could barely speak. My kids were laughing at me because they’d never seen me like that before; they know how unimpressed I am with celebrities.

The second time I met Pat Summitt, I was cool as a cucumber. I gave her a gift and she studied it, then looked at me and asked me to write my name and address down. My Tennessee friends said, Pat’s going to send you a card. She always sends thank you cards.

And yesterday, many friends hit me up to see if I was OK. My dad even called to check on me. I was a bit numb.

I guess like many, I took Pat Summitt for granted to an extent. She has been the only coach the Tennessee Lady Vols have ever had; she took over when I was in second grade. This column begins to address that point: Pat Summitt has built a program that has stood the test of time when others haven’t. It took her 13 years from the time she was hired in 1974 before she and her team claimed a championship. These days, coaches are fired much sooner than that. Pat Summitt has always been demanding, but she’s always been patient, too.

This column bottom lines for me one crucial issue: “She’s vulnerable; therefore we’re all vulnerable. An unsettling reminder…….Like Pat, we are mortal. When Pat gets sick, we all feel sickened – and reminded that we, too, will die.”

It’s always extraordinarily shocking when a strong person falls ill. You think, if it can happen to them, it can happen to anyone.

My mother has Alzheimer’s Disease. And we all know that if Alzheimer’s was a person, Pat Summitt would beat it to death. But it’s an unpredictable beast, and there’s not much doctors or patients can do to predict how it will go. I advise all the Lady Vols, Lady Vol fans and Pat Summitt fans to just keep an open mind. Don’t expect her to rise up and slay the disease, but don’t expect her to suddenly vanish from the public eye, either. Keep her in your thoughts and prayers, and enjoy every single second of her on TV, at Thompson-Boling Arena, or other arenas around the country, for as long as she’s there.

They don’t make Pat Summitts anymore, unfortunately. But instead of staying sad about that – and this whole situation – I’m going to do what the legend herself would do, and that is remain in a place of extreme gratefulness for her. She paved the way for women’s basketball, effected countless lives, created one of the biggest fan bases in college history and has had more wins than any college coach, ever. She set the standard.

I am so thankful for her, and for being able to witness her achievements during my lifetime. I hope she can feel that love coming from all over the country.

Write to Coach Summitt and her incredibly strong son Tyler at:

Lady Vols Basketball

207E Thompson-Boling Assembly Center and Arena

1600 Phillip Fulmer Way

Knoxville, TN 37996-4610

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  1. Sue, your sentiments are so heartfelt. Pat has also been one of my heroes since I was a teen, and I have admired and occassionally feared her since then. I had the honor of meeting her many years ago and have never forgotten what a classy, strong woman she was then and is today.

    "The one thing you said is that "She’s vulnerable; therefore we’re all vulnerable. An unsettling reminder……." That is so true. Some people seem invincible, and most people live our lives like we are well. But at the end of the day, all of us, including Pat Summitt are just mere humans and susceptable (sp) to all that can be ugly.

    There will never be another Pat but hopefully the next generation of coaches will pull from her experiences, expertise, professionalism and character and continue to push women's basketball in a positive direction.

    I will keep Pat, Tyler, her family and the Tennessee family in my prayers

  2. I was wondering why I felt so "out of sorts" this morning, on the fringe of depression perhaps. Your comments about vulnerability and being mortal after hearing of Summitt's illness have helped me realize why I am feeling this way. Thanks