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Lady Vols speak on what it means to carry Pat Summitt's legacy

2023 marked the 12th year that Tennessee and other SEC teams have taken part in the "We Back Pat" initiative.
Credit: Getty Images
Legendary Lady Vol coach Pat Summitt.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The "We Back Pat" initiative has been going strong for over a decade, and while Pat Summitt's legacy will never fade on Rocky Top, the events allow the Lady Vols to continue to honor the legendary head coach.

"It means everything. She led the way for women in general, and I'm just glad that we just got to win in that jersey," said Jordan Horston, a senior guard/forward. "I think I might be undefeated in that jersey, to be honest. You know, we went out there and coach gave a speech (saying,) it's the perfect opportunity to give thanks and show that we are grateful."

The Lady Vols wore jerseys with "Summitt" on the back featuring purple accents in Thursday's 74-56 win against Florida inside Thompson-Boling Arena. Even players like Rickea Jackson who are playing their first season for Tennessee understand the type of figure Summitt was.

"Pat was the one who paved the way and made it cool to support women in sports, and I just feel like it means a lot, and I feel like we got this win and honor of her," Jackson said. "So, it just feels good to have that on our back and to honor her in the way we did tonight."

Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper played under the famous coach and was part of three-straight NCAA Championship-winning teams (1996-1999). She said Summitt's presence was one of the most memorable things about her.

"You knew something changed when she walked into a room. There are just too many stories to just dial it down to one. Obviously, what she means to this program, to me, to this university — her touch was nationwide, worldwide, and it wasn't just about sports," Harper said. "I'm reminded of that constantly in this position. So many people want to come tell me their story. Everybody has a Pat Summitt story. Everybody. It's always really good to hear."

Summitt led the Lady Vols to eight NCAA Championships and 16 SEC titles in 28 years at the helm of the program. She amassed 1,098 college coaching victories, a slew of Coach of the Year honors, and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000. She is also a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and the FIBA Hall of Fame as a player.


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