I'm of course talking about the legend, Pat Summitt. When I was a kid, basketball was my life. I grew up watching Pat coach, and I'm not going to sugarcoat this, she was absolutely terrifying. There were so many times I swore up and down that we were all going to see her head literally explode from anger. To this day, I cannot believe that never happened.
She was scary, but her players loved her. As intimidating as she must have been, I can't imagine the swell of pride that one must feel upon receiving her praise. Her players then and now would do absolutely anything for that woman, the woman who is still to this day, the winningest coach (yes, both men and women) in NCAA history. In 38 years as a coach, she never once had a losing season.
Pat Summitt is the reason I went to the University of Tennessee, which was the greatest 4.5 years of my life. As a kid, I of course dreamed of playing for Pat. As it turned out though, you need more than a 3 point shot -- think height, speed, agility, stamina, heart, aggression, defense, perseverance, dedication -- to play for Pat. All I could do was shoot... and I had a bit too strong of a lust for pizza.
For those of you that don't know, in 2011, at the age of 59 Pat Summitt was diagnosed with Early Onset Dementia and was forced to retire from coaching. I've dealt with my fair share of death of people close to me, but I've never experienced a family member go through what must be unbearable memory loss. I cannot imagine what that must feel like to have your own mother/friend/sister not recognize you.
I wrote this post while Pat was still alive, but this morning I woke up to an alert from ESPN informing me my hero had died. I'm just really sad today.
I'll end with a story I heard about Pat on Mike and Mike this morning. She boarded a flight several years ago and, when a flight attendant walked up to Pat and started sobbing.
Pat of course asked what was wrong?
The flight attendant told Pat that when she was a little girl she was in a wheelchair after an auto accident, and was told she probably wouldn't walk again. Pat had come up to her on the sidelines of a game many, many years earlier and told her to never let this chair define her future. You can do anything you set your mind to.
Pat, you will forever be one of my greatest heroes. You taught me that Tennessee is the greatest University of all time, that a woman can do absolutely anything she wants to do, that you can make someone pee their pants just by a single stare and that Geno Auriemma is quite literally the worst human on the planet.
J/K on that last part. Except not J/K.