Ed. Note: This story isn’t explicitly about Georgia Tech sports, but it concerns an icon who has undoubtedly had an impact on the lives of Yellow Jackets head coach MaChelle Joseph, all of her current and former players, and of sports fans everywhere. Our condolences go out to the Summitt family on their loss.
Some of you may know that I am a student at the University of Tennessee. That being the case, it would have felt weird for me to not write something about Coach Summitt today. The Lady Vols are an institution in Knoxville.
When basketball season rolled around during my freshman year, I was excited to see what the men’s team would be able to do. I had never before cared about women’s basketball. But on Rocky Top, the women’s game is met with equal, if not greater, fervor than the men’s. That’s the culture Pat Summitt created. When you look into the rafters of Thompson-Boling Arena, her name hangs resolute among the eight national championship banners she collected in her 38 years as head coach of the Lady Vols.
But Pat Summitt’s impact went so far beyond the basketball court. She inspired a generation of girls that may not have otherwise attempted to shoot a basketball or do anything else they may not have previously viewed as possible. She truly was an amazing person and an American icon that changed the landscape of sports.
Many people in the past couple of days have shared their Pat Summitt stories. Mine is a seemingly mundane, uneventful one, but yet it had an impact on me. At a women’s game this past season, I was in the front of the student section. Coach Summitt still came to as many Lady Vols games as she could, even as her health continued to decline. Pat left the game at halftime, presumably because she was in such bad shape that sitting through another half of basketball just wasn’t an option. As she walked by the student section on her way out of the arena, it was pretty quiet. I got her attention as she slowly made her way to the exit. She saw me, looked over and smiled and waved.
That’s it. That’s my Pat Summitt story. But after being in Knoxville, you know how much something that simple means coming from Pat.
I’m glad I had that opportunity before such a legend was taken from us all too soon. Thanks for the memories, Coach. We won’t soon forget them.