SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Basketball fans around the country are mourning the loss of former Tennessee women’s college basketball coach, Pat Summitt. The Tennessee native died early Tuesday morning at the age of 64, 5 years after being diagnosed with early onset dementia.
Summitt was a great player, and even better coach. She began coaching the women’s basketball program at the University of Tennessee in 1974. Summitt led the team to 8 national championships, including an undefeated season.
She’s the winningest coach in college basketball history, for men or women. The Basketball Hall of Fame has an exhibit dedicated to Summit, and she is remembered at the Hall for her knowledge and dedication to the game.
“She’s just one of the true innovators, one of the true historic figures in our world. We mourn with her family today, but we celebrate her great life and her remarkable accomplishments and her unbelievable spirit she brought to everything she did,” said Paul Lambert, Vice President, Enshrinement Services and Community Engagement at the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Summitt was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.
Summitt created her own foundation to fight Alzheimer’s. Her coaching rival, Geno Auriemma at UConn was the foundation’s first contributor, writing a check for $10,000.