It was an amazing scene when the rock star showed up at Hot Springs.
During the 2009 high school state tournament, Pat Summitt walked into, appropriately, Summit Arena. She was scouting Morrilton star Shakinna Stricklin, whom she later signed and became a standout player for the Lady Vols for four years.
Upon the Summitt sighting at the Summit, photo flashes shot about the arena like somebody such as the President or Justin Bieber had arrived. People scurried down the aisles, some carrying cell phones either calling in “you would believe who’s here” or taking a photo.
Women’s basketball won’t be the same without Summitt, who was the face and fuel behind it for almost four decades.
Sports won’t be the same.
Summitt was not only the greatest women’s basketball coach of all time; she’s one of the greatest coaches of all-time, regardless of gender and sport.
She averaged 29 wins per year over for 38 years.
It was interesting, and sad, that Summitt stepped aside as University of Tennessee coach, the same day that Dick Clark died.
Both icons transcended in longevity and success sports and entertainment. Clark made rock and roll acceptable and popular for the masses and fueled the rise of African-American performers.
Summitt brought women’s basketball, and women’s sports in general, off the radar and inspired generations of female athletes and made it cool for women to coach women.
Now, Summitt will try to stare down a terrible affliction (early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type) with the same icy calculation that she used on her players. She’s an inspiration fighter. As “coach emeritus,” she can still be an example of another generation of players — on how to handle adversity with class and courage.
She will become the face of the battle with Alzheimer’s that seems to be afflicting so many. I can think of no better person to lead the fight.
Summitt guided Tennessee teams to eight national titles and 18 Final Fours.
What is really impressive is every player who completed her eligibility under Summitt graduated.
Four decades of athletic and academic excellence.
She has arenas named in her honor at the University of Tennessee and UT Martin, her alma mater. She has streets named for in both university towns.
She’s stepping aside. Her legacy moves on.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or email@example.com)