Summitt gives inspiration

By Daina Havens
March 22, 2007


Women of the past, present and future have and will always each possess immeasurable strengths, but when it comes to basketball, none have proven to be as strong as the head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball team, Pat Summitt.

This UT alumna, educator, coach and mother is known as one of the most achieved coaches in the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball history. According to, she only needs 87 wins left to conquer 1,000 career victories, but she is known for more than just her coaching credentials.

Summitt coached for 32 seasons, became the most winningest coach by earning 913 victories, 25 Southeastern Conference championships and six National Collegiate Athletic Association titles. Along with that, she produced team members that went on to become 12 Olympians, 19 Kodak All-Americans and 65 All-SEC performers.

Summit has even found the time and energy to actively support and become spokesperson for numerous pressing world and medical issues, encourage good academics within her players, serve on prestigious boards, be honored for countless achievements and attend the majority of her son Tyler’s high school basketball games, according to

As an agreement made on May 22, 2006, Summitt’s new, six-year contract extension boosts her annual total compensation package to $1.125 million in 2006-2007, which will reach $1.5 million by the 2011-2012 basketball season, according to This agreement makes her the first women’s basketball coach to reach and exceed the million-dollar pay bracket; a once unfathomable achievement for this 1974 UT-Martin graduate.

Now with 54 years of life experience behind her, Summitt started making and attaining big goals since she played as a four-year starter at Cheatham County High School and was named as a Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association All-District 20 tournament selection in 1970. Despite a nearly career-ending knee injury only four games into her final college season, Summitt graduated from UT-Martins as the all-time leading scorer with 1,045 points and a Bachelor’s degree in physical education.

While pursuing her master’s degree, Summitt was also being sought after to accept the position as the assistant basketball coach and as a graduate teaching assistant for the physical education department at UT. Because the existing head coach decided to go on sabbatical, Summitt was offered this chance of a lifetime to become head coach for the UT women’s basketball team at the age of 21,while still a senior at UT-Martin.

A short summer after graduation, Summitt assumed her position as head coach, which would be the beginning of a successful three decades.

Throughout those three decades, Summitt has had an impact on the athletic and academic lives of 138 student-athletes who have been proud to wear the white and orange.

Outside of the college world, she has raised a family, has been active in United Way, Big Brothers/ Big Sisters, Verizon Wireless’ HopeLine program, The American Heart Association, The Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Women’s National Basketball Association. She has been recognized by Hillary Clinton as one of the “25 most influential working mothers,” was named “Distinguished Citizen of the Year” by the Boy Scouts of America and was named “1998 Woman of the Year” by Glamour Magazine, according to

Born and raised in Henritta, Tennessee, this once little girl who had strict daily farm chores and played basketball with her brothers has become a grown woman full of inspiration in the lives of those she has touched. In addition, she has an overwhelming love of the game of basketball, according to

Daina Havens

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