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Celebrating legendary Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt on her 70th birthday

The legendary Tennessee coach led the Lady Vols to eight national championships, had 1,098 career wins and became the face of finding a cure for Alzheimer's disease.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On this day, 70 years ago, legendary Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt was born in 1952 in Clarksville, Tenn.

Summitt was the head coach of the University of Tennessee's women's basketball team from 1974 to 2012. During her 38-year career, she was a groundbreaker in women's sports and garnered prestige for the Lady Vols.

In that time...

  • Summitt co-captained the U.S. women's basketball team and earned a silver medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
  • She coached the U.S. women's basketball team to its first gold medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
  • The Lady Vols won 8 national championships in 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007 and 2008. 
  • Summitt was a 7-time NCAA Coach of the Year
  • She was the first-ever college basketball coach to reach 1,000 wins.
  • She was named the Naismith Coach of the Century in 2000.
  • Summitt coached 34 WNBA players, at least 46 coaches, 21 All-Americans, 39 all-SEC players and 12 Olympians (as part of the 1976 Summer Olympics. A total of 14 players Summitt coached at UT played in the Olympic games at some point).
  • Her teams made 18 Final Four appearances, 31 consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament and won 32 combined Southeastern Conference titles. (From 1976 to 2011, every Lady Vol basketball player had the opportunity to play in at least one Final Four.)
  • She coached 161 Lady Vols and had a 100% graduation rate for her players who completed their eligibility.
  • She had 1,098 career wins and only 208 losses, the most career Division I wins in women's basketball until 2020. (Her record was surpassed in 2020 by a friend and rival, Stanford's head coach Tara VanDerveer.) 
  • Tennessee had 0 losing seasons under her leadership. 

More Pat Summitt in our YouTube playlist

Beyond her prowess on the court, Summitt is remembered for her desire to make a difference and her efforts to fight Alzheimer's disease after her own early-onset diagnosis in August 2011. 

She stepped down as head coach on April 18, 2012, and became the coach emeritus while she helped find a cure for the disease through the Pat Summitt Foundation, which she co-founded with her son, Tyler Summitt.

The foundation is holding a day of giving Tuesday for her birthday. People can donate online at the organization's website at this link. The foundation has set a $70,000 goal, and all money raised will be used to support programs and services that help patients battling Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

“This year would have been a big year for Coach Summitt. She would be turning 70 years old, and she would have just found out she would be the first woman to be inducted into the coaching category for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame. What better way to honor her life and legacy than to raise money for her foundation and help those battling Alzheimer’s disease,” said Morgan Vance, director of advancement for the Pat Summitt Foundation.

The organization also painted The Rock on UT's campus in honor of Summitt's birthday.

Credit: UT

In 2012, former President Barack Obama awarded Summitt the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. Fellow Vol Peyton Manning presented her with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2012 ESPY Awards.

On Nov. 22, 2013, UT unveiled a bronze statue to honor Pat Summitt across the street from Thompson-Boling Arena.

The monument to Pat Summitt on UT campus.

Summitt died on June 28, 2016, but her legacy lives on.

2016: Legendary Tennessee Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt dies at age 64

In January 2017, UT Medical Center opened the Pat Summitt Alzheimer's Clinic to serve those suffering from the disease and improve access to healthcare services.

In 2018, her hometown of Clarksville unveiled a bronze statue of Summitt as part of the Pat Head Summitt Legacy Plaza.

In 2019, the Pat Summitt Foundation announced its own PSF license plates were available with the proceeds going to finding a cure for Alzheimer's.

In 2022, Summitt was selected for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame Class of 2022. She will be the first woman inducted into the coaching category.

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