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Just weeks after Ray and I were engaged in 1974, we stopped at a country store a few miles outside of my hometown. Inside was a girl I had known in high school. We had graduated a year apart, she in 1970 and I in 1971. She was excited about what was ahead of her. She had been chosen for the USA Olympic women’s basketball team. She had also just been hired as women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee. In high school she had been a star basketball player whom we called Trish, but she was soon to become known across America as Pat Head. When she married several years later, the world came to know her as Pat Head Summitt.

While folks in Northern Ireland are remembering C.S. Lewis today and folks around the world are remembering President John F. Kennedy, University of Tennessee fans will be honoring one of the most amazing coaches who has ever coached the game of basketball. During her career she won 1,098 games and lost 208. Her teams won eight NCAA championships.

Pat was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999, was named Naismith Coach of the Century in 2000, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. At 11:00 a.m. Pat Summitt Plaza is to be dedicated at a new entrance into the University of Tennessee campus and a new bronze statue of Pat is to be unveiled.

In her role at UT, Pat saw herself first as a teacher. She loved her players and taught them not only what to do on a basketball court, but also what to do in life. Pat was successful and taught them how to be successful, too. The way they played basketball mattered to Pat, but she also cared about what happened in their classes. Every player who completed their eligibility at UT graduated from UT. A one-hundred percent graduation rate for a coach’s basketball players is astounding.

Ray and I have begun to read her latest and likely her last book aloud to one another. Pat wrote Sum It Up with Sally Jenkins a few months after her diagnosis of early onset dementia, “Alzheimers Type” in 2011. Our respect for Pat Head Summit grows deeper. She tells of the agony of her many miscarriages. She speaks respectfully of her husband and their twenty-five-year marriage though it ended in divorce several years ago. She tells about the beautiful way she reared her only son with love and firm discipline and about all the time he spent with her at work.

I saw a mutual friend a few weeks ago and asked her how Pat was doing. Adrian and Pat shared the basketball court while we all were in high school; they have shared a close friendship since then. Adrian told Pat she isn’t going to let her forget her.

I’m happy now that there is one more way to remember Pat Head Summitt.

Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31:31


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