“I don’t think I’ll ever forget it,” Pat Summitt said during a dedication ceremony, unveiling Pat Summitt Plaza Friday morning.
Pat Summitt has eight national titles, over one-thousand wins, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. On Friday morning – the legendary coach added another honor to the stack – a permanent place honoring her achievements at the University of Tennessee.
Many of her former players, her son Tyler, UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, and Director of Athletics Dave Hart were among the large crowd that attended the 11 a.m. dedication ceremony for “Pat Summitt Plaza.”
Hart opened the ceremony saying it was “a goose bumps day on Rocky Top.” And that it was – with Tyler Summitt constantly at his mother’s side along with the Lady Vols lining the stage in their coach’s honor.
For many, including Tamika Catchings, the event was a way to say thank you to the coach who shaped so many lives on and off the court.
“Thank you Pat. . . thank you for everything. . . We love you,” Catchings tearfully said before giving her former coach a hug.
“Every moment is a teaching moment – a very common phrase that my mother used – that she still uses today,” said Tyler.
And teaching others is something Tyler said still makes his mother “light up.” He told the crowd he wouldn’t be where he is today without the lessons his mother taught him along the way.
“This happens because of you,” Tyler said looking at his mom. “I used what you taught me to make this happen.” When Pat Summitt took the podium, she exuded exactly why she has made such a lasting footprint in sports history – her humility. “I just want everyone to know – for me – it’s not about me. It’s about everyone out there who loves the University of Tennessee,” said Pat.
At end of the speeches, the players, Tyler, and Hart unveiled the nearly nine foot, 500 pound, bronze statue of the legendary coach. David Adickes, 86, has sculpted many historical figures – the Beatles, Stephen F. Austin, and 43 U.S. presidents. Now, the next figure cemented into his sculpting portfolio is Lady Vols legendary coach Pat Summitt.
Adickes has never actually met Summitt, so he relied on countless pictures and videos to encapsulate Summitt’s character. Their only face-to-face contact was on FaceTime. “Well I just wanted to get the right pose of her and the right attitude and expression,” said Adickes. “I have her leaning back; she always had her arms crossed. There’s hardly an exception. It’s a pose of triumph.”
Tamika Catchings couldn’t agree more, saying the statue embodied her former coach and mentor. Now, everyone can remember why Summitt has changed basketball and women’s history – her shinning confidence, strong character, and powerful leadership. Friday was truly a fitting honor to a basketball powerhouse who personifies what it means to be a Lady Vol.