Yesterday was a big news day–full of many big stories – the NHL playoffs, the passing of Dick Clark (America Bandstand), and the ongoing Secret Service scandal. But the biggest news in the sporting world was the retirement of Pat Summitt as head basketball coach of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers, who announced she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers last summer.
Immediately following the announcement, a wave of responses went out from the sporting community and beyond in support of the coach, many of them through Twitter and Facebook. I certainly saw it in my own feed.
Names such as Lebron James, Swin Cash, Dick Vitale, and Candace Parker tweeted following the announcement, a tweet by Sportcenter was retweeted almost 3,500 times, and Pat Summit was the top trending topic for at least twenty minutes on Twitter. Along with releases from other head women’s college basketball coaches, statements were made by Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, and Denver Bronco’s quarterback Peyton Manning.
That response to Summitt isn’t unique to the announcement yesterday. In the past eight months, the online world has been the epicenter of support for Summitt. A quick Google search reveals numerous sites, blogs, YouTube videos, and social media accounts devoted to the legendary coach.
Throughout the 2011-2012 women’s college basketball season, other teams joined in supporting Summitt and her work to raise money for Alzheimer’s research. Over the weekend of January 20th, the 12 member schools of the Southeastern Conference banded together for “We Back Pat.” Men’s and women’s teams wore T-shirts, that were also sold to raise money for the foundation Summitt formed to raise money for Alzheimer’s research. Mississippi gave 100% of its ticket sales for its game against Georgia and South Carolina pledged $20,000.
Summitt is the winningest coach in collegiate basketball, for men or women, with 1,098 career wins. She racked up 16 SEC regular season and tournament titles, 18 Final Four appearances, and 8 national championships over her career at Tennessee. Summitt won gold at the Olympics twice, as a coach in 1984 and as a player in 1976 — the first Games during women competed in basketball.
While Summitt is leaving the world of women’s basketball, the mark she left on the game might very well be unmatched anywhere in sports.