NBC News: Legendary women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt has died. She was 64.
Summitt’s son Tyler said his mother died “peacefully” Tuesday morning, surrounded by “those who loved her most,” in Knoxville, Tennessee.
He said she had been battling her “toughest opponent” — early onset dementia.
“She did so with bravely fierce determination just as she did with every opponent she ever faced,” Tyler Summitt said in a statement. “Even though it’s incredibly difficult to come to terms that she is no longer with us, we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease.”
Summitt served as head coach of women’s basketball at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville for 38 seasons. She was recognized as the “winningest basketball coach in NCAA history” for both men’s and women’s Division I teams.
The University of Tennessee paid tribute to Summitt’s “relentless pursuit of excellence” and lasting legacy: eight national championships, a 100 percent graduation rate and 1,098 total wins.
“Pat’s legend transcends numbers,” the university said. “It transcends sport, gender and all things quantitative.”
Following Summitt’s announcement in August 2011 that she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, the coaching icon set up a foundation aimed at advancing a cure for the disease.
“I thought I would be remembered for winning basketball games, but I hope I’m remembered for making a difference in this disease,” she once said, according to The Pat Summitt Foundation.
The foundation expressed “deep sorrow” over Summitt’s passing and pledged to continue her mission in hopes of finding a cure.
“There are not many icons that you come in contact with in your lifetime and we all were fortunate to know one, Pat Summitt,” it said in a statement. “Her work ethic, her dedication to the young women she coached, and her integrity in everything she did will never be equalled.
“She set the standard for excellence in academics, athletics and life. She was a role model and an inspiration and we are all enriched for having known her.”
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker said Summitt’s impact on her players, the university and game of basketball will be felt for years to come. “Basketball has lost a legend, and Tennessee has lost one of its most beloved daughters,” Corker said in a statement.
Holly Warlick, who stepped in as head coach of the Lady Vols following Summitt’s retirement, said: “My heart is broken.”
Patricia Sue Head Summitt was born on June 14, 1952 in Clarksville, Tennessee — the fourth of five children on her family’s farm. After high school, she attended the University of Tennessee—Martin, where she led the women’s basketball team to two national championship tournaments before graduating in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education.
She accepted a position as head coach of women’s basketball at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville shortly after graduating, at the age of 22.
Beyond her tenure at UT-Knoxville, Summitt was co-captain of the U.S. women’s team and earned a silver medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. As head coach she later led the 1984 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team to a gold medal in Los Angeles.
In addition to her son Tyler, Summitt is survived by her mother, sister, three brothers and three sisters-in-law.