Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in the history of NCAA Division I college basketball, died Tuesday at the age of 64.
Summitt, the former women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, lost her five-year battle with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Her son, Tyler, announced her passing in a statement Tuesday morning.
“It is with tremendous sadness that I announce the passing of my mother, Patricia Sue Head Summitt,” Tyler Summitt said in the statement. “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.”
In recent days, Pat Summitt’s family, friends and former players convened in Knoxville, Tenn., over concerns about her health. The hashtag #PrayforPat was prominent on social media since news of her failing health broke Sunday morning.
Known for her steely glare on the sideline, Summitt was hired as the Lady Vols coach as a 22-year-old in 1974. Two years later, she was co-captain on the silver medal-winning U.S. Olympic team. In 1984, she coached the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal.
In 38 seasons at Tennessee, Summitt won 1,098 games and eight NCAA championships, second only to Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma, who won his 11th national title this year. Despite her diagnosis in August 2011, Summitt coached the 2011-12 season before stepping down and beginning a new role as head coach emeritus.
Basketball factored into almost every aspect of Summitt’s life, and that included Tyler’s life. In 1990, even though her water had broken, Summitt finished a recruiting visit in Pennsylvania, then urged pilots not to stop on the way home so that Tyler could be born in Tennessee. After the Lady Vols won national championships, Tyler was there with his mother, cutting down the nets and waving to the crowd.
Summitt was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000 and was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportswoman of the Year in 2011, the same year Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was named SI’s Sportsman of the Year.
In 2012, Summitt received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.