38 Facts About Pat Summitt’s Extraordinary Career

University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Head Summitt announced her retirement yesterday after an unparalleled 38-year coaching career.

Last August, Summitt announced that she had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s-type dementia. She continued coaching with the blessing of the university but ceded many of her responsibilities to longtime assistant Holly Warlick.

Now, at the age of 59, Summitt will step into a new role as head coach emeritus, and Warlick will take over the Lady Vols basketball program.

When the 2012-2013 basketball season begins, for the first time since 1974, Pat Summitt will not be on the sidelines for the University of Tennessee.

In honor of Summitt’s 38 years as a head coach, here are 38 facts about her extraordinary career:

1) Summitt, who was then Pat Head, played her college ball at the University of Tennessee-Martin. She began her playing career in 1970, two years before Title IX passed (and several years before its implications for athletics were clear), at a time when there were no scholarships available for female athletes.

Her Pacers were one of 16 teams selected to play in the inaugural AIAW (see below) Women’s Basketball Tournament in 1972. They lost to the Mississippi University for Women in the second round. (UT-Martin has since changed its nickname to the Skyhawks.) Summitt was an All-American at UT-Martin.

A young Pat Head suits up for the UT-Martin Pacers.


2) Pat Head went to the University of Tennessee in 1974 as a graduate assistant. She planned to work on her master’s degree and teach a couple phys ed classes. Shortly after Head arrived in Knoxville, the then-head coach of the women’s basketball team went on sabbatical to pursue a doctorate. UT offered 22-year-old Pat Head the job.

3) When she started as the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, Summitt earned a meager $250 dollars per month. Her program had few resources, human or otherwise, and her many responsibilities included washing the uniforms.

4) Summit’s first Tennessee team wore uniforms paid for by proceeds from a doughnut sale.

5) In 1976, nearly two years after beginning her coaching career, Summitt was a co-captain for the U.S. women’s basketball team at the Summer Olympics in Montreal. The 1976 games were the first to include women’s basketball as a sport.

Summitt and the U.S.A. won silver, finishing second to the Soviet Union. There was no playoff for the gold medal. Instead the six qualifying teams played a single round robin.

U.S. Olympic co-captain Pat Head puts up a jumper during the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal. (Photo by Rich Clarkson/SI)


6) When Summitt began her coaching career, the NCAA did not yet sanction women’s athletics. A separate organization, the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), governed women’s sports.

Summitt’s Volunteers advanced to the AIAW final four in 1977. They lost to eventual champion (and 1970s women’s basketball powerhouse) Delta State but defeated three-time champ Immaculata in the consolation game.

7) Summitt’s Lady Volunteers went 16-8 in her first season as coach and 16-11 in her second. She won 28 games in her third season. From that point on, Summitt won 22 or more games in every season she coached.

8) Summitt’s Tennessee Volunteers were a top seed in the inaugural NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament in 1982. They advanced to the Final Four, where they lost to eventual champion Louisiana Tech.

9) In every NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament from 1982 through 2008, Summitt’s Tennessee teams advanced to the Sweet Sixteen or further. Ball State upset the 2009 Volunteers in the first round. The 2010 team returned to the Sweet Sixteen, and Tennessee advanced to the Elite Eight in each of the past two seasons.

10) Tennessee advanced to 18 NCAA Final Fours under Summitt, most recently in 2008 when they won the title. Her teams twice advanced to the AIAW semifinals. So in 20 of Summitt’s 38 seasons as a head coach (that’s more than half), her teams played in the semifinals of the top women’s college basketball tournament.

11) This year’s group of Tennessee seniors were the first group (since the establishment of the NCAA women’s tourney in 1982) to play for Summitt not to advance to the Final Four at some point during their four-year college careers.

12) Tennessee under Summitt has been a top seed in 20 of the 31 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournaments.

13) Summitt won her first national championship in 1987. It was her fourth trip to the Final Four. Tennessee that year finished fourth in the SEC.

Pat Summitt celebrates in 1987 after winning the first of her 8 NCAA titles.


14) Summit won her second title in 1989. That team went 35-2.

15) In 1991 Summitt’s Volunteers continued a pattern of winning the national championship every other year, winning Summitt’s third title.

16) Four-time All-American Chamique Holdsclaw played for Summitt from 1995 to 1999. Led by Holdsclaw, the Volunteers won national titles in 1996, 1997, and 1998.

17) As of 1997, Summitt had won five national championships and six SEC regular season championships. But she had yet to win an NCAA title and an SEC regular season title in the same season.

18) Summitt’s 1998 team went 39-0 en route to her sixth NCAA championship. It was Summitt’s only undefeated team.

19) After an eight-year championship drought (and there are few coaches for whom eight years without winning a title would be considered a drought), Summitt’s Lady Vols won back-to-back NCAA titles in 2007 and 2008.

Summitt cuts down the nets after winning the 2008 national championship.

20) Summitt has coached her way to eight NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament championships, more than any other coach in the women’s game. Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma is second with seven.

21) Summitt coached the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team in 1984. That team, led by Cheryl Miller, won the gold medal.

22) Under Summitt, the Lady Vols won 16 SEC regular season titles and 16 SEC Tournament titles.

23) Summitt won 1,098 games during her 38-year career, most for any college basketball coach. The second winningest women’s college basketball coach, Jody Conradt (who spent most of her career at Texas), won 900, 198 fewer than Summitt.

24) Summitt is the only college basketball coach, men’s or women’s, to have won more than 1,000 games. Mike Krzyzewski currently has 927.

25) Summitt averaged 28.89 wins per season.

26) Summitt lost only 200 games in 38 seasons, an average of 5.26 per season. Her career winning percentage was .841.

27) Summitt holds the record for 20-win seasons in women’s college basketball. She coached 36 consecutive 20-win seasons from 1976 to 2012.

28) She also holds the women’s college basketball record for 30-win seasons, with 20. (To put that in perspective, her Lady Vols teams won 30 games more often than not.)

29) As of last season 11 of Summitt’s former players were on WNBA rosters. Three Tennessee players were selected in the first round of this week’s WNBA Draft, including number two overall pick Shekinna Stricklen.

30) Summitt coached two future WNBA MVPs: Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks (2008) and Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever (2011).

31) Sixteen of Summitt’s former players, assistants, and graduate assistants are currently head college basketball coaches. Her coaching tree includes current LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell and current NC State head coach Kellie Jolly Harper.

32) Tyler Summitt, Pat’s son and a former walk-on for the University of Tennessee men’s team, accepted an assistant coaching position at Marquette the same day that his mom retired from Tennessee.

33) Summitt was elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.

34) That same year she was named the Naismith Women’s Collegiate Coach of the Century.

35) The court at Thompson-Boling arena at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville is named “The Summitt” in Pat’s honor.

"The Summitt" inside Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)


36) The court at the University of Tennessee-Martin, Pat Head Summitt Court, is also named in her honor. She is the only person with basketball courts at two Division I schools named for her.

37) Summitt also has two streets named in her honor: “Pat Head Summitt Street” in Knoxville and “Pat Head Summitt Avenue” in Martin, Tennessee.

38) Finally, and perhaps most impressively, every player who has completed her NCAA eligibility under Pat Summitt has earned a bachelor’s degree.

About Josh Tinley

Josh Tinley writes the Away From The Action column at Midwest Sports Fans, covering all aspects of sport aside from what actually happens on the field, court, or track. Josh grew up in Indianapolis and graduated from the University of Evansville and Vanderbilt Divinity School. He is the author of Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports and the managing editor of LinC, a weekly curriculum for teens that explores the intersection of faith and culture. Josh lives outside Nashville with his wife, Ashlee, and children, Meyer (7), Resha Kate (5), and Malachi (3). He will not allow himself to die before the Evansville Purple Aces make another trip to the NCAA Tournament. Follow him on Twitter @joshtinley or send him an e-mail.


  1. Such a wonderful person.. Her colleagues and players must surely morn her demise sp much as i do

  2. Jaci Mendez says:

    she so coooool i’m doing her for my wax musium

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