Pat Summitt was not a great women’s basketball coach. She was a great basketball coach, period. That is how she is appropriately being remembered and praised this week after passing away from Alzheimer’s disease.
She redefined the women’s game, winning 8 national championships at Tennessee. It was her approach that was the game changer. She stared and glared, yelled and pointed at her players as she roamed the sideline.
Summitt brought an intensity, like most were familiar with from a men’s coach. In doing so she shattered that ceiling, it wasn’t some silliness about “can girls compete with boys?” or “Should girls be treated differently, I.e. not as tough as male counterparts?”
They were players who needed a strong coach to succeed at the highest level, it was simple and genderless. Summitt wasn’t any less accomplished, determined, or ambitious than her peers Mike Kryzewski, Roy Williams or Jim Calhoun. She was the influence on a generation to come, most notably Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma who eventually broke her record winning 11 national titles and even when coaching against her paid homage to what she meant to the game. The basketball game, not the women’s or men’s game.
I don’t know if Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, Cris Cyborg, or any of the female MMA fighters know the legacy of Pat Summitt.
All of them should understand the layers she peeled away; just as they want to be acknowledged for their hard work and achievements without a stupid qualification of could/should they compete head-to-head with a man.
It was a basketball coach, a true fighter in her own right, who made it acceptable and eventually expected for female competitors today in every sport to come out swinging!
Got something you’re burning on? Tell the man himself on Twitter.
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