It was only a matter of time, of course, before Pat Summitt stepped down as the women's basketball coach at Tennessee. She was diagnosed with early-onset dementia almost a year ago, and while she remained on the bench throughout this past season, there was little chance of her returning for a 39th season.
Summitt, 59, officially relinquished the job Wednesday to longtime assistant Holly Warlick, who already had assumed most of the coaching responsibilities. In her final year with the Lady Vols, Summitt's struggles hampered communication with her players and caused her to distance herself from the news media no easy task for a woman who was the game's pre-eminent figure for the better part of three decades.
She guided Tennessee to eight NCAA championships, won seven Coach of the Year awards, and never had a losing season. Only UCLA's John Wooden retired with more NCAA basketball titles (10).
Her personal story is no less compelling than her fierce competitiveness as a coach. Summitt learned to play basketball in a barn on the family farm in Henrietta, Tenn., a small town about 30 minutes from Nashville. She delighted in telling visitors she grew up in a house built by the outlaw Jesse James and related stories about milking cows, pitching hay and working the tobacco fields among the family's assorted businesses during her childhood.
Because the high school in her district didn't have a girls basketball team, her father, the strict, intimidating Richard Head, relocated the family to nearby Cheatham County. After she graduated from Tennessee-Martin, Summitt, who was known as Trish Head before marrying and divorcing R.B. Summitt, began her career as a graduate assistant with the Lady Vols. The rest is her unique, remarkable history.
What to watch
NBA, Chicago at Miami, 5 p.m., TNT: As the regular season winds down, there seems to be a great matchup every night.
Who is the top college basketball coach of all time?
Vote above or leave your comments in the comment field; Or, go to www.sacbee.com/sports
What does Tim Lincecum's pitching so far this season suggest?
He's finished as an elite starter: 27%
He's about to start dominating again: 49%
He needs to cut his hair even shorter: 24%
Total votes: 205