© 2024 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Legendary Tennessee Women's Basketball Coach Pat Summitt Dies At 64


For five years, college basketball fans have known that this morning's news was coming. The legendary coach Pat Summitt has died. In 2011, she was diagnosed with early-onset dementia. The next year, she retired as head coach at the University of Tennessee where she coached the women's basketball team. Over a nearly four decade career, she won more games than any other coach in Division I college basketball history, man or woman. Her resume also includes 18 Final Four appearances and eight national titles.

In 2009, Summitt spoke with my colleague Michel Martin, weekend host of ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, and we'll listen to some of that conversation now, starting with Pat Summitt describing her coaching style.


PAT SUMMITT: I think I am a very intense person, but I hope that intensity can help bring out the best in everyone. And when you're working with a team, you're only as good as your weakest player. And I know for me, I'm constantly trying to challenge each player to play to their strengths and improve on their weaknesses in particular - in the off-season, they do that - but to bring what they do best.

And sometimes it is a challenge because they will give in to fatigue. They will, I mean, obviously struggle at times. If their offense struggles, then they don't defend as well, so every moment is a teaching moment.

MICHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: One of the things people may not know, one of the stats people may not be aware of is that about a third of the women who come through the program are now themselves coaching. Why do you think that is?

SUMMITT: Well, I think when they go four years through our program, I think they feel like they have a good foundation and knowledge of how to teach this game, how to inspire others, how to be successful in the game of basketball. And they learn a lot of valuable life skills, and that's why I think so many of them have chosen to go on and be coaches in this profession.

And while people see my intensity, as I said, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. And I think it's important that you have the one-on-one time with every student athlete. I have them over for dinner and spend quality time with them. We have family night to get to know how they grew up and maybe some of the challenges they had earlier in life and then how we can reach out to them and be a family to them while they're here at Tennessee and even after they leave.

MARTIN: Do you have any wisdom to share with us coach, especially for a younger you or - not that you're not young but you know what I mean - somebody you - like, you coming up or others who might be listening?

SUMMITT: Life is incredibly short, and as we go through each year, we realize that. As we lose loved ones, we realize that. And you know, I want to live each day to the absolute fullest and give it my very, very best. And I want to encourage all the people around me to be what they want to be and not to sell themselves short.

But for these young women to have the self-esteem and the confidence to do whatever it is they want to do in life and to have that courage you got - it takes courage. It takes hard work. But don't ever think that you can't do what it is that you have in your mind that you want to do.

SIEGEL: NPR's Michel Martin interviewing the legendary college basketball coach Pat Summitt back in 2009. Summitt died this morning at age 64. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.