Legendary Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt dies at 64

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, shown working with Michelle Johnson during a practice session prior to playing in the 1995 women’s Final Four, died early Tuesday, June 28, 2016. She was 64. (AP file)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Legendary Lady Vols Head Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt has died. Her son Tyler Summitt released a statement early Tuesday morning:

“It is with tremendous sadness that I announce the passing of my mother, Patricia Sue Head Summitt.

She died peacefully this morning at Sherrill Hill Senior Living in Knoxville surrounded by those who loved her most.

Since 2011, my mother has battled her toughest opponent, early onset dementia, ‘Alzheimer’s Type,’ and she did so with bravely fierce determination just as she did with every opponent she ever faced. Even though it’s incredibly difficult to come to terms that she is no longer with us, we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease.

For 64 years, my mother first built her life upon a strong relationship with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Her foundation was also built upon love of her family and of her players, and love of the fundamentals of hard work which reflected her philosophy that ‘you win in life with people’.

She was the fourth of five children – Tommy, Charles, Kenneth and Linda – born to Richard and Hazel Head on June 14, 1952, in Clarksville, Tenn. Her tireless work ethic and her love of the game of basketball were created during the time she spent growing up on the family farm.

She’ll be remembered as the all-time winningest D-1 basketball coach in NCAA history, but she was more than a coach to so many – she was a hero and a mentor, especially to me, her family, her friends, her Tennessee Lady Volunteer staff and the 161 Lady Vol student-athletes she coached during her 38-year tenure.

We will all miss her immensely.

A private service and burial will be held for my mother in Middle Tennessee. I ask that you respect the privacy of that time.

We are in the process of finalizing the details of a public celebration of her life which will take place in one of her favorite places, Thompson-Boling Arena. Once those details are finalized, we will share them with you.

Thank you.”

Fans are able to visit Pat Summitt Plaza on the UT campus to pay respect. There will be free parking in the G-10 garage, east of Thompson-Boling Arena.

There will be a celebration of life service honoring Summitt’s life July 14 at 7 p.m. It will take place at Thompson-Boling Arena and is open to the public.

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett is also asking that flags at all Knox County properties be lowered to half staff in honor of Summitt. Gov. Bill Haslam ordered flags over the State Capitol buildings and office buildings to half-staff through sunset on Thursday.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero is lighting the Henley Bridge in orange and white Tuesday night in Summitt’s honor. “Tennessee Waltz” will be played at Ayres Hall Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in honor of Summit and her eight national championships.

Summitt’s career as the winningest coach in college basketball history spanned nearly four decades and earned her a reputation as one of the toughest coaches of either a men’s or women’s team.

In the summer of 2011, Summitt received the news she had been diagnosed with early on-set dementia, Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a disease she shares with 5.4 million Americans, but this challenge for her career and her family never took away her spirit. Friends always called her a fighter on and off the court.

“God doesn’t take things away to be cruel. He takes things away to make room for other things. He takes things away to lighten us. He takes things away so we can fly.” ? Pat Summitt, Sum It Up: 1,098 Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective

Thirty-eight years, 1098 wins, 32 conference titles, 31 NCAA tournament appearances and eight national championships are the numbers that put her in the stratosphere of coaches, but the number are far from the whole story. Summitt built a program and legacy that etched her name in sports history, from the dawn of Title IX to the 21st century where women’s basketball is not only popular, but played with all the ferocity and competitiveness of the men’s game.

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Summitt was born Patricia Sue Head in 1952 in Clarksville, Tennessee. Her family moved to nearby Henrietta when she was in high school so she could play basketball. The school in Clarksville did not have a girls’ team. She then attended University of Tennessee-Martin, where she played for the school’s first women’s basketball coach.

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