Only one Division I college basketball coach won more games than Mike Krzyzewski. But that only explains part of the admiration the Duke men’s coach had for Pat Summitt, the University of Tennessee women’s coach who passed away Tuesday.
Summitt, who won 1,098 games in 38 seasons with the Lady Vols, was a pioneer for women’s basketball and all of women’s sports. She set the “bar at a really high level,” as a teacher, person and competitor, Krzyzewski said on his XM Radio show Tuesday after news of Summitt’s death was announced by her family.
“One of the great coaches of any sport, let alone basketball, was Pat Summitt,” Krzyzewski said.
Summitt, 64, had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia in the form of Alzheimer’s five years ago. She died peacefully at a senior living facility in Knoxville, Tenn., according to a statement released by her family.
Krzyzewski was hardly alone, in the Triangle and beyond, in his praise for Summitt, who won 84.1 percent of her games (1,098-208) with Tennessee from 1974 until 2012.
N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow coached against Summitt’s Tennessee teams in the SEC at both Kentucky and Florida in the 1970s and 1980s. Summitt’s teams regularly dominated the SEC, winning the league 16 times, and in the national landscape, winning eight national titles between 1987 and 2008.
“Simply put, there was no better X-and-O coach,” Yow said of Summitt, who was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2000.
Only 22 when she was hired by Tennessee in 1974, Summitt played on Team USA’s silver-medal winning Olympic team in 1976. Her second Tennessee team went 16-11, the lowest winning percentage of any of her teams, and 20 times her teams won at least 30 games. Her 1997-98 team capped off the school’s third consecutive NCAA championship with a perfect 39-0 mark.
A tenacious defense and Summitt’s scowl on the sideline were trademarks of the Tennessee program. N.C. State women’s coach Wes Moore got first-hand lessons in both as a coach at Maryville College near Knoxville and for 15 years at Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Moore used to work Summitt’s basketball camps and learned about team defense and also how Summitt motivated her players.
“It was unbelievable how hard her kids played, and she was tough on them,” Moore said. “She demanded a lot out of them, but it’s easy to see how her players loved her because of it and because of the time she put in to making them better.”
Duke football coach David Cutcliffe spent 19 years as an assistant at Tennessee while Summitt was dominating women’s basketball.
“Pat was a special individual in the truest sense,” Cutcliffe said in a statement released by Duke. “The way she handled herself both personally and professionally was inspirational to everyone who came in contact with her.”
Cutcliffe described Summitt as an “incredible educator.”
“Pat’s ability to motivate young women within the team concept while incorporating life lessons was one of the many things I admired about her, and I don’t know if anyone has done it with more class, humility and success than she did,” Cutcliffe said. “Every coach and educator should have a heavy heart today – she will be missed dearly.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio