Patricia Sue Head Summitt
June 14, 1952 – June 28, 2016
“You win in life with people.”
This is one simple statement that Patricia Sue Head Summitt embodied, lived by and passed on to so many throughout her 64 years of life. She ‘won’ every day of her life because of the relationships she developed, nurtured and cherished. Relationships with her family and friends. Relationships with players, coaches, and fans. And most importantly, a strong relationship with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
On Tuesday, June 28 2016, Pat passed away peacefully, following a courageous battle with early onset dementia, “Alzheimer’s Type.” This disease attacked a lifetime of precious memories, memories that she has now won back as she rests in her eternal home. Memories that will live on in each and every relationship she developed throughout her life.
Born to the late-Richard and Hazel Albright Head on June 14, 1952, in Clarksville, Tenn., Pat was the fourth of five children. Her tireless work ethic was developed early in life as she handled a variety of daily chores on her family’s farm, while never missing a day of school. She worked hard to keep up with her three older brothers, who taught her the game of basketball – a game that would later become a passion and profession for her.
After graduating from Cheatham County High in Ashland City in 1970, she went on to the University of Tennessee-Martin, earning a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1974 and leading the women’s basketball team to two national championship tournaments. Her ability to be a leader on the basketball court was evident, and shortly after graduating, she accepted a position at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville as the head coach of the women’s basketball team – as a 22-year old.
For the next 38 years, the farm girl from Henrietta, Tenn. would impact the game of women’s basketball like no one in the history of the sport. She guided the Lady Vols to eight NCAA championships, 32 combined Southeastern Conference titles and became the winningest NCAA D-1 basketball coach of all time on March 22, 2005. She was named the NCAA Coach of the Year seven times and the Naismith Coach of the Century in 2000.
Pat also excelled internationally, as both a coach and player. As a player, she was a co-captain of the 1976 U.S. women’s team, earning the silver medal during the Olympic Games held in Montreal. She then went on to coach the U.S. Junior National and U.S. National teams to multiple championships and medals, culminating with a magical run as head coach of the 1984 U.S. Women’s Olympic team, leading them to the gold medal during the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles.
Of all the records, awards, and stats, Pat would point to one number as the most significant in her career – 161. This is the number of Lady Vols who contributed to the 1,098 wins over the span of her illustrious career. To these 161 student-athletes she was more than a coach – she was a friend, mentor and a loving mother.
Motherhood suited Pat, and on September 21, 1990, she and R.B. Summitt II had their first and only child, Ross “Tyler” Summitt. The relationship between a mother and son is a special one, and they had an unbreakable bond built on their love for God and for one another. They also shared a passion for the game of basketball, a game that would provide the two of them many unique moments and milestones, side by side.
She was most proud of one special moment they shared that outshines all the others. On May 5, 2012, Pat and Tyler were baptized together. On this day, they decided together to go public with their faith and professed their love for and acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. On this day, they created the ultimate and eternal memory, together.
Pat is survived by her mother, Hazel Albright Head; son, Ross “Tyler” Summitt (AnDe); sister, Linda; brothers, Tommy (Deloris), Charles (Mitzi) and Kenneth (Debbie).
A private service and burial for family and friends will be held in Middle Tennessee. A public service to celebrate her life will take place at Thompson-Boling Arena, on the campus of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Details for the celebration of life will be shared at a later date.