Pat Summitt Foundation uses the life and lessons of Coach Pat Summitt to win the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease.

Pat herself viewed the world not just as a place to live in, but as a place you change for the better. Her continued impact on this cause is an extension of her life’s hard work and dedication. Like Pat, PSF is dedicated to doing what’s needed to get the job done and see the winning side of this fight.

Pat's Legacy

When Pat Summitt found out she had early onset dementia, she reacted like anyone would with anger, tears and sadness. But then she did what made her an icon. She followed her own mantra: Left foot, right foot, breathe.

 

Summitt, along with her son, Tyler Summitt, formed the Pat Summitt Foundation in the fall of 2011, just a few weeks after the Aug. 23, 2011, public announcement that she had Alzheimer’s disease. As she told her Tennessee players about the diagnosis, they reacted with shock, confusion and tears. Lady Vol senior Vicki Baugh stood up and said: “Pat, we’ve got your back.” And with those words, “We Back Pat” became a movement.

 

Her life story begins in a small town in Middle Tennessee called Henrietta, where Patricia Sue Head Summitt – known as “Trish” to her family and friends – harvested tobacco, milked cows, cut hay on a tractor and loaded bales into the barn on the family’s farm. It was the same barn where she battled her brothers on a makeshift basketball goal and learned that nothing replaced hard work.

 

Basketball would take her to The University of Tennessee at Martin, the U.S. Olympic team as a player in 1976 and head coach in 1984 and, of course, The University of Tennessee. Summitt expected to arrive in Knoxville in 1974 as a graduate assistant in health, physical education and recreation to teach and work on her master’s degree while training for the 1976 Olympics and recovering from major knee surgery.

 

But before Summitt departed UT Martin with her bachelor’s degree, she received a letter from Helen B. Watson, a professor and chair of UT’s Physical Education for Women, dated April 10, 1974. The current women’s basketball coach, Margaret Hutson, had asked to step down, and Watson wrote: “I am hoping that you will be willing to accept this assignment.”
The rest, of course, is history.

Summitt coached for 38 seasons at Tennessee with an overall record of 1,098-208 and won eight national championships in 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007 and 2008. Tennessee won 16 SEC regular season titles and 16 SEC Tournaments. Summitt’s graduation rate for players who completed their eligibility at Tennessee was 100 percent, the stat she was most proud of during her tenure as head coach.

 

Summitt became the gold standard not just for women’s basketball, but also for leadership and empowerment of women. The Pat Summitt Plaza and statue in homage to the coach is across the street from Thompson-Boling Arena and Pratt Pavilion in a high-visibility location to every visitor, student, fan, faculty member and administrator who comes on campus.
During the statue dedication on Nov. 22, 2013, the Lady Vols head coach emeritus emerged from Pratt Pavilion followed by dozens of players, coaches and staff. They crossed the street behind Summitt and lined the back wall of the plaza, at times cheering, at other times wiping away tears.

 

“Today is not about me,” Summitt said. “It is about everyone out here that loves the University of Tennessee. I just hope and pray that we can continue to do great things. I want everybody to know how much I appreciate what has happened here today. I don’t think I will ever forget it. I love you all.”

 

On that gray November day when a light rain fell just before and then immediately after the dedication, Summitt was still able to speak for herself – and in typical Summitt fashion, she credited other people.

 

When Summitt was diagnosed with early onset dementia, she didn’t retreat into the shadows. She boldly coached another season, knowing the scrutiny that would come, and cried on April 18, 2012, the last evening she was officially the head coach of Lady Vols basketball. The news conference to formally announce her retirement was held April 19, 2012. Summitt read from a prepared statement that day and also fielded questions from the media at an event that was airing live on national television. It was one of those days in which Summitt seemed like herself.

 

But Alzheimer’s disease is a cruel thief. Of memories. Of time. Of love. A little over four years later in late June, she was near death with waves of former players coming to tell her goodbye.

Summitt’s passing on June 28, 2016, just two weeks after her 64th birthday, gutted those players, her colleagues, the Tennessee faithful and everyone connected, even in the smallest of ways, to the legendary coach.

 

Longtime sportswriter Maria M. Cornelius covered Summitt’s “Celebration of Life” service on July 14, 2016, an account of which captures the impact of the iconic coach: There goes our friend.

 

While “our friend,” has left, she also left a legacy. The Pat Summitt Foundation will live in perpetuity.

Lifetime Honors

1983

NCAA Coach of the Year

1983

WBCA/Converse Coach of the Year

1987

NCAA Coach of the Year

1987

Naismith College Coach of the Year

1989

NCAA Coach of the Year

1990

Summitt received the most prestigious award given by the Basketball Hall of Fame, the John Bunn Award. Summitt was the first female to receive the award in the Hall’s history.

1990

Women’s Sports Foundation Hall of Fame

1993

SEC Coach of the Year

1994

 NCAA Coach of the Year

1994

Naismith College Coach of the Year

1994

Coach of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus, Ohio

1995

SEC Coach of the Year

1995

NCAA Coach of the Year

1996

“Distinguished Citizen of the Year” by the Great Smoky Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America

1996

Inducted into the National Association for Sport and Physical Education’s Hall of Fame

1997

Governor Ned McWherter Award of Excellence

1997

Coach of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus, Ohio

1997

Casey Award, which is annually presented by the Kansas City Sports Commission

1997

Honored at White House and named one of “25 Most Influential Working Mothers” as selected by Working Mother magazine

1998

NCAA Coach of the Year

1998

Naismith College Coach of the Year

1998

IKON/WBCA Coach of the Year

1998

City of Knoxville’s “1998 Woman of the Year”

1998

Glamour magazine’s “1998 Women of the Year”

1998

Coach of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus, Ohio

1999

Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

1999

ARETE Award for Courage in Sports

1999

WISE 1999 Women of the Year

2000

Naismith Coach of the Century

2000

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

2001

SEC Coach of the Year

2003

SEC Coach of the Year

2004

SEC Coach of the Year

2004

NCAA Coach of the Year

2004

Naismith College Coach of the Year

2007

SEC Coach of the Year

2007

“Winged Foot” Award by the New York Athletic Club

2007

Dick Enberg Award winner by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA)

2007

Named one of “Americas Best Leaders for 2007” by U.S. News & World Report

2008

John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching lifetime achievement award

2008

“Winged Foot” Award by the New York Athletic Club

2008

Best Coach/Manager (collegiate or pro level) ESPY

2008

Joe Lapchick Character Award

2009

Honorary doctorate from the United States Sports Academy

2009

WNBA Inspiring Coach Award

2009

RUSSELL ATHLETIC/WBCA Victory Club Award for 1,000 career wins

2011

SEC Coach of the Year

2011

Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award by The United States Sports Academy

2011

Maggie Dixon Courage Award

2011

Named a 2011 Game Changer by The Huffington Post

2011

Communicator of the Year by The Tennessee Communication Association

2011

Third member of the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame

2011

Sports Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year alongside 2011 Sportsman of the Year, Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski

2012

Presidential Medal of Freedom

2012

Lifetime Achievement Award from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports & Nutrition

2012

Named to the U.S. Department of State’s Council to Empower Women and Girls Through Sports

2012

Pop Warner Female Achievement Award

2012

Global ATHENA Leadership Award

2012

Tennessean of the Year by the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame

2012

Michael J. Cleary Merit of Honor Award by NACDA

2012

Arthur Ashe Courage Award

2012

Billie Jean King Legacy Award presented by the USTA

2012

UT Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumna Award

2012

Knoxville Association of Women Executives Notable Woman Award

2012

The NCAA also honored her legacy, and that of UCLA men’s basketball coaching great John Wooden, by naming a room in its new Myles Brand headquarters building the Summitt-Wooden Room

2013

AARP Andrus Lifetime Achievement Award

2013

New York Athletic Club “Winged Foot” Legend Award

2013

Mannie Jackson – Basketball’s Human Spirit Award

2013

FIBA Hall of Fame

2013

Keith Jackson Eternal Flame Award presented by CoSIDA

  • Coach Summitt is the only person to have two courts used by the NCAA Division I basketball teams named in her honor: “Pat Head Summitt Court” at The University of Tennessee, Martin and “The Summitt” at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
  • Summitt also has two streets named after her: “Pat Head Summitt Street” at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus and “Pat Head Summitt Avenue” on The University of Tennessee, Martin campus.

The Definite Dozen

Pat Summitt was a leader in the truest sense of the word, helping her players grow both athletically and as people. She had a list of rules for success that she viewed as fundamental to leadership excellence, known as the “Definite Dozen.” 

Respect Yourself and Others

There is no such thing as self-respect without respect for others.
Individual success is a myth. No one succeeds all by themselves.
People who do not respect those around them will not make good team members and probably lack self-esteem themselves.
When you ask yourself, “Do I deserve to succeed?”, make sure the answer is yes.

Take Full Responsibility

There are no shortcuts to success.
You can’t assume larger responsibility without taking responsibility for the small things, too.
Being responsible sometimes means making tough, unpopular decisions.
Admit to and make yourself accountable for mistakes. How can you improve if you’re never wrong?

Develop and Demonstrate Loyalty

Loyalty is not unilateral. You have to give it to receive it.
The family business model is a successful one because it fosters loyalty and trust.
Surround yourself with people who are better than you are.

Seek out quality people, acknowledge their talents, and let them do their jobs. You win with people.

Learn to Be a Great Communicator

Communication eliminates mistakes.
Listening is crucial to good communication.
We communicate all the time, even when we don’t realize it. Be aware of body language.
Make good eye contact.
Silence is a form of communication, too. Sometimes less is more.

Discipline Yourself So No One Else Has To

Self-discipline helps you believe in yourself.
Group discipline produces a unified effort toward a common goal.
When disciplining others, be fair, be firm, be consistent.
Discipline helps you finish a job, and finishing is what separates excellent work from average work.

Make Hard Work Your Passion

Do the things that aren’t fun first, and do them well.
Plan your work, and work your plan.
See yourself as self-employed.

Don’t Just Work Hard, Work Smart

Success is about having the right person, in the right place, at the right time.
Know your strengths, weaknesses, and needs.
When you understand yourself and those around you, you are better able to minimize weaknesses and maximize strengths. Personality profiles help.

Put the Team Before Yourself

Teamwork doesn’t come naturally. It must be taught.
Teamwork allows common people to obtain uncommon results.
Not everyone is born to lead. Role players are critical to group success.
In group success there is individual success.

Make Winning an Attitude

Combine practice with belief.
Attitude is a choice. Maintain a positive outlook.
No one ever got anywhere by being negative.
Confidence is what happens when you’ve done the hard work that entitles you to succeed.

Be a Competitor

Competition isn’t social. It separates achievers from the average.
You can’t always be the most talented person in the room, but you can be the most competitive.
Influence your opponent: By being competitive you can affect how your adversary performs.
There is nothing wrong with having competitive instincts. They are survival instincts.

Change Is a Must

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts the most.
Change equals self-improvement. Push yourself to places you haven’t been before.
Take risks. You can’t steal second base with your foot on first.

Handle Success Like You Handle Failure

You can’t always control what happens, but you can control how you handle it.
Sometimes you learn more from losing than winning. Losing forces you to reexamine.
It’s harder to stay on top than it is to make the climb. Continue to seek new goals.