TENNESSEE -- A legendary basketball coach passed away on Tuesday, June 28th. University of Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt died on Tuesday morning after battling early-onset Alzheimer's. Her death prompted many to reflect on what her life meant for the growth of women's athletics.
Ask anyone who knows anything about basketball, and they'll tell you that Summitt was a giant.
"If Pat Summitt walked in the gym, it was like the president of the United States. Everybody stopped. Everybody, you know, clenched their jaw and your, kind of, breath was taken away for a second," Carolyn Kieger, Marquette University women's basketball coach said.
During her 38 years as the head coach at Tennessee, Summitt won 1,098 games, making her the winningest coach ever among men's and women's coaches.
"I think it's, for a female coach for us to look up to, somebody who has that many wins that has impacted the game on so many levels -- it gives us hope. It gives us something to shoot for," Kieger said.
In the years following Title IX, Summitt's dominance helped elevate the women's game from relative obscurity to what we see today.
"It's more than just basketball. It's all the women, all the little girls out there that can look up and say 'here's a trailblazer.' A female in the profession of women's basketball that gave other women a chance to say 'this is what we want to do' and players -- just to make it glamorous to play basketball, glamorous to be in sports," Terri Mitchell, former Marquette University women's basketball coach said.
As dominant as Summitt was, she was still willing to share her wisdom with the next crop of women's coaches.
Mitchell remembers meeting her shortly before her first game.
"It's the day before the tournament and I run into her and I just said, you know, 'what advice could you give to a young head coach?'And she stood there so graciously and talked to me for a half hour, just pouring out all of her wisdom to me," Mitchell said.
Summitt announced in 2011 that she had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.
She coached for one more season at Tennessee before retiring.
Both Kieger and Mitchell said her leadership was a major factor in getting women's basketball to where it is today.
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