Friday, March 25, 2005

ABC News: Person of the Week: Pat Summitt

Winningest Basketball Coach in NCAA History

Pat Summitt, coach of the women's basketball team at the University of Tennessee, this week won her 880th career victory when her team advanced in the NCAA championship. Summitt has now won more games than any coach, male or female, in college basketball.

"It's more than just 'Hey, we won the game,'" Summit said. "It's this team and these players did something really special together."

Summitt, 52, was only 22 when she first got the job, having never coached before.

"I don't do well with laid-back or lazy players," said Summitt. "I just can't relate to people who don't want to be at the top of their game every day and [don't] want to compete on every play."

Summitt's no-nonsense approach has been a pretty good formula. But she says she's cooler and calmer than she used to be.

"I think earlier in my coaching career, when I was single, I was a total workaholic," she said. "With time and years of experience, you have to learn to shut the door and really leave it."

Summitt's rules are clear on and off the court. Players have to attend all of their academic classes and sit in the front three rows, so professors will notice if they are not paying attention.

"When you talk about stats you can talk about national championships, but I like to talk about graduation rates and career opportunities for our young women," said Summitt.

From a Farm to the Court

Summit grew up on a dairy farm in Henrietta, Tenn., where she planted tobacco and milked cows.

"I look back now and I think that just made me who I am, in terms of my drive and my work ethic," she said.

She and her three older brothers learned to play basketball using a hoop her father put up in the hay barn. As a teenager, she was good enough to play for the U.S. Olympic team in 1976.

Summit is married to a banker, and their teenage son, of course, plays basketball. She makes an effort to attend all of his games.

"The travel is probably the hardest thing," she said. "It's like sometimes you can't have a quote 'normal' or routine schedule, and that makes it tough."

College sports for women were in their infancy when Summitt was hired at Tennessee, and she thinks colleges can always do better for women.

For now, however, Summitt is basking in the glow of being the best.

"You win in life with people," she said, "and if you think you can do this alone, you're wrong."

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