PAT SUMMITT … WINNINGEST BASKETBALL COACH (MEN OR WOMEN) IN NCAA HISTORY … 6-TIME NCAA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACH OF THE YEAR, 1983, 1987, 1989, 1994, 1998, 2004 … NAISMITH COACH OF THE CENTURY, 2000 … WOMEN’S BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME, 1999; BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME, 2000 … 6-TIME NCAA CHAMPION, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998 … OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL, 1984, COACH OF U.S. WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM … HEAD COACH, UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL, 1974 PRESENT My idea of discipline is not makin’ guys do something, it’s getting ‘em to do it. There’s a difference in bitchin’ and coachin’. B UM P HILLIPS, former NFL head coach 128 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME Acouple situations happened that impacted my coaching philosophy and my toughness. The first one was the knee injury I incurred in the fourth game of my senior year at the University of Tennessee-Martin, which ruined my dream of playing on the Olympic team in 1976, after playing in the World University Games in 1973. The injury stopped me in my tracks.
I now had to spend my time in rehab, not on the hardwood. It was a defining moment in my life because it played a major role in my future, in terms of becoming a coach. After that injury, which was a heavy blow, I realized how much I loved basketball. In order to satisfy my love for the game, I took the graduate assistant’s job at the University of Tennessee. I was able to rehab my knee, but because I was far from 100 percent, it didn’t look like I was going to be able to play in the Pan Am games. RISING TO THE CHALLENGE The other player who didn’t get to play, because she was the youngest player on the team, was future Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman. We were playing Cuba and we were twenty-seven points behind with less than two minutes to play and the coach told us to go into the game. Nancy said, I’m not going in. I guess she was insulted to be playing only because it was garbage time. I told her, You’re going in. Let’s go, and we headed to the scorer’s table.
I think going in helped save her basketball career, because if she had refused to go in, it would have been ugly. Meanwhile, the drama for me personally was just beginning. After seeing me play, the executive director of the team said, You won’t make the Olympic team. The knee is still bad and you need to lose weight. I’m betting against you being able to do it. I said simply, You’re wrong. I will make it. OH, YEAHI THINK I DO HAVE WHAT IT TAKES! I worked out hard, stopped feeling sorry for myself, ate healthy for the first time in my life, dropped all the weight, made the team, and was named one of the co-captains by my teammates. Yes, I was an Olympian! PAT SUMMITT 129 I knew then, and for the rest of my life, that I had the self-discipline to do what it takes in any situation. I later found out that that executive director was pulling for me and threw out that challenge so I would take it and make the team. Let’s just say he knew how to offer incentive. HOW THIS MADE ME A BETTER COACH Sitting on the bench gave me compassion for what reserves go through. I had started and stood out throughout my career, and the knee injury showed me the other side of the equation. I also now had a better understanding of the kids who think they have discipline but don’t. I thought I had it, but I had to dig deeper and go to a different place.
I had to learn how to eat and how to train, and in the meantime I had to sit on the bench and not disrupt the team. THE COACH WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE The coach who really taught me how to play the game and gave me the mind-set to be successful was my coach at the World University Games, Billie Moore, from UCLA. She had a way of challenging all of us. I had never been through practices so demanding. We’d begin thirty minutes, one-on-one, full-court, and then start drills. She really got a bunch of talented players to become one team, and she did it quickly. WINNING? It makes me physically ill to lose. I don’t care if I’m playing checkers or marbles, I want to win. I got that from my father. He would never let us win at anything. We had to learn how to beat him. I grew up as one of five kids and as the second youngest, if my dad wasn’t beating me at something, then my brothers were. Also, growing up on a dairy farm, we were working from five in the morning to seven at night. That’s where I got the work ethic along with my will to win. My dedication can be found in my school attendance record. My parents didn’t let us miss a day of school in all twelve years. I slept through an English class in college once and I was crying to my professor, who told me to calm down because he didn’t even take attendance.
Principles my dad would also drill into our heads were: don’t ever cry when you lose, and don’t you dare show anyone you have 130 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME any weakness in you and never brag about what you have done. If you are as good as you think you are, people will talk about you and you’ll get your due. Don’t let it come from you. HOW DAD HANDLED HIS INCREDIBLY SUCCESSFUL DAUGHTER My dad gave me so much, but he was a man of few words and he wasn’t much for expressing his feelings. In 1996, after winning the national title, he stayed the night with me in Knoxville and he said he loved me. It was special, and although I knew it all along, there’s something about hearing it that I will never forget. FINAL THOUGHTS I became a better coach when I went through my toughest time after the knee injury. I never took the game or anything else for granted again.
I guess you could say it was the year I grew up. Before anyone says that I’ve had nothing but success in coaching, remember I went to seven Final Fours before winning one, so I know exactly how hard it is to win at this level. And let me add, I always love trying. MY WRAP It’s rare when a super player becomes a legendary coach, but that’s exactly the career Pat Summitt has had. It is heartening, yet noteworthy, that even with her great parents and tremendous work ethic, she was far from a finished product at twenty-one. So for anyone who thinks that they should not stumble during or after college if they want success in life, think of Pat Summitt. For me, it’s no longer a secret why she’s the best college sports can offer. PAT SUMMITT
PAT SUMMITT Photo Gallery