By DAVID HUNTER
The best female head coach in sports history, former University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summit, passed away recently after dealing with Alzheimer's at the age of 64. Her impact on women's basketball has been felt on all levels on the sport, including locally in Cannon County.
Of course, the wonderful working relationship Summit had with current Cannon Courier Hall of Famer and MTSU women's basketball coach, Rick Insell, has been well documented. Part of the reason the friendship became legendary was both of them were willing to do whatever it took to grow women's basketball, all while winning a lot of titles during the same time period either on the high school or collegiate level.
Insell had this to say about Summit via email on June 30, "Pat Summit was the pioneer for women's basketball as we know it today. The TV exposure, the coaches' salaries, the crowds at games, we owe it all to Pat. She gave of herself so others could prosper. It seemed like the more success she had, the more humble she became. Pat Summit had built the premier women's basketball program in the nation and people wanted to see the Lady Vols. She took her team from the west coast to the east coast in an effort to grow the game. She did not set out to be the ambassador for women's basketball, but she became that and the game is so much better because of Pat Summit."
Before she retired in 2012 due to health issues, Summit and the Lady Vols came to the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro to take on the Lady Raiders. Those were some of the biggest basketball crowds in the arena's rich history, and she did not have to do it. However, that was the kind of person she was as she wanted to grow the sport by any means necessary.
I was not able to attend those games, even though growing up, I became a fan of women's sports by watching the Lady Vols. I always had other obligations on those legendary nights at MTSU.
However, a few years ago before her health issues ended her coaching career. I along with my uncle Kenneth Braswell traveled to now Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville to watch the Lady Vols play at the SEC tournament.
It was one of the coolest sporting events I had ever witnessed as a fan. Of course, I have covered several famous moments as a journalist, but by far seeing the Lady Vols in action under Summit was the best sporting event I had ever attended, period.
Summit will be missed for what she has meant to all sports.