Meant to get to this much sooner — From Gene Wojciechowski at ESPN:
You can make the argument — without apology or hesitation — that Pat Summitt is the greatest college basketball coach of our time. At the very least, she’s in the starting five.
And it’s not because she won more games than any other Division I coach from A (Geno Auriemma) to K (Mike Krzyzewski) to W (John Wooden). Or that she has the same number of national championships as Krzyzewski and Adolph Rupp combined. Or that in the 31 years there’s been an NCAA women’s basketball tournament, her team has been in it every year — and won eight times.
Greatness isn’t measured simply by victories. It is measured by the depth and width of a coach’s impact on the sport itself, on the players, on the university they represent. Find me another basketball coach who transformed and legitimized her sport more than Summitt. Find me another basketball coach whose legacy exceeds hers. I can wait.
After 38 seasons as Tennessee’s women’s head coach, Summitt relinquished her duties Wednesday to longtime assistant and former UT player Holly Warlick. She had little choice; the effects of early-onset dementia-Alzheimer’s type had begun to leave footprints on her ability to run the program on a day-to-day basis.
Alzheimer’s is such a cruel and selfish disease. It steals your memory. It steals away the likes of Summitt, who has spent more time on basketball courts than varnish.
Late Wednesday afternoon, I talked with associate athletic director Debby Jennings, who has spent the past 35 years in the UT athletic department. As an undergrad, Jennings had taken tennis and basketball classes taught by Summitt at Tennessee. Few at UT have known Summitt longer.
I asked Jennings to quantify Summitt’s impact on women’s college basketball. I should have known better. Asking that question is like asking someone to come up with a mathematical formula for love.
But Jennings tried, explaining how Summitt helped make women’s basketball credible, how she pushed for more TV exposure for the game, how she helped create a brand not only for UT women’s hoops, but for the sport. …
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