Evidence of the greatness her teams and players achieved during her 38-year head coaching career hangs from the rafters at Thompson-Boling Arena. Soon, Lady Vol Head Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt will have a banner of her own hoisted high above the basketball court that bears her name.
University of Tennessee Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart announced Friday at the Salute To Excellence fundraiser that a ceremony to raise Summitt’s banner will be held prior to the Lady Vols’ home game vs. Notre Dame on Jan. 28. That contest starts at 7 p.m. Eastern time and is a Big Monday match-up that will be televised by ESPN2.
“We are thrilled to honor Pat and her outstanding career,” Hart said. “She is a legend who transcends women’s basketball. This banner will serve as yet another reminder of the impact Coach Summitt has at our University and throughout the country. Her integrity, class and competitiveness continue to inspire the world of sports and, now, the fight to beat Alzheimer’s.”
Summitt, the NCAA’s all-time winningest basketball coach in the men’s or women’s game with a record of 1,098-208 (.840), will join five players she coached as well as esteemed UT men’s coach Ray Mears, Vol Network broadcasting legend John Ward and three former Vols in the lofty reaches of Thompson-Boling.
Previous Lady Vol player honorees include Holly Warlick (No. 22 -- Feb. 18, 1980), who has followed in her mentor’s footsteps as Tennessee’s head coach, Bridgette Gordon (No. 30 -- Jan. 17, 1990), Daedra Charles (No. 32 -- Dec. 28, 1991), Chamique Holdsclaw (No. 23 -- Feb. 1, 2001) and Tamika Catchings (No. 24 -- Dec. 7, 2003).
Vol honorees include Mears and John Ward (March 1, 2006), Bernard King (No. 53 -- Feb. 13, 2007), Ernie Grunfeld (No. 22 - March 2, 2008) and Allan Houston (No. 20 -- March 6, 2011).
“It will be quite an honor to join those with a banner already hanging in the rafters at Thompson-Boling Arena,” Summitt said. “I appreciate the honor and feel very blessed to have been able to spend my entire career at the University of Tennessee. I will be forever grateful for the opportunities afforded me by such a great institution.”
During her time at the helm of the Lady Vol program, Summitt guided Tennessee to an NCAA-record eight NCAA National Championships. Her squads brought home the top prize in 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007 and 2008, with the ’98 edition running the table with a 39-0 record. During her tenure, UT competed in all 31 NCAA Tournaments, advancing to 18 NCAA Final Fours and carding five runner-up finishes to accompany the eight title game victories.
In the Southeastern Conference, her squads won 16 SEC regular-season crowns and 16 postseason tournament titles. The Lady Vols captured the tourney trophy in each of her final three seasons, including last year in Nashville, and eight times Summitt’s charges claimed season sweeps of the hardware. In 33 seasons of SEC play under her direction, the Lady Vols accumulated a 317-44 record (.878) during the regular season and a 69-17 mark (.802) during the postseason.
While Summitt developed 12 Olympians, 34 WNBA players, 21 WBCA All-Americans who earned 36 honors and 39 All-SEC players who received 82 total accolades, her most respected statistic is the 100 percent graduation rate of her players. All 122 of the young ladies who completed their careers as Lady Vols have earned degrees.
Summitt’s personal honors could fill a book. For her on-the-court body of work, she was named the Naismith Coach of the Century in 2000, No. 11 on Sporting News’ 50 Greatest Coaches of All-Time and the 2011 Sports Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year. She has been inducted into numerous halls of fame, including the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She was a five-time Naismith Coach of the Year, the 1998 AP Coach of the Year, the 1998 IKON/WBCA Coach of the Year and the 1983 and 1995 WBCA/Converse Coach of the Year. She added SEC Coach of the Year on eight occasions (1993, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2011).
In the past year and a half, since Summitt announced a diagnosis of early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type on Aug. 23, 2011, and that she was stepping away from her head coaching position on April 18, 2012, she has been recognized far and wide not only for her prowess in the realm of athletics but also for the impact she has had on society as it pertains to women, leadership and the determination and open nature in which she has handled her diagnosis and fight against the disease.
Just a few of the awards among her lengthy list of recent accolades are the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the ESPYs’ Arthur Ashe Courage Award, the USTA’s Billie Jean King Legacy Award, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Lifetime Achievement Award, AARP National Inspire Award and the Alzheimer’s Association’s Sargent and Eunice Shriver Profiles in Dignity Award.