Pat Summitt gets star, leads crowd in 'Rocky Top'

Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, left, was joined by Susan Richardson Williams, right in revealing the star that will honor the live time accomplishments of Coach Pat Summitt, center. Haslam made the announcement that Summitt would honored after she won her 1,000th game as the Lady Volunteers coach in February and Susan Richardson Williams approached the city early last year with the concept of a Riverwalk of Fame honoring accomplished individuals from Knoxville and East Tennessee.

Photo by J. Miles Cary

Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, left, was joined by Susan Richardson Williams, right in revealing the star that will honor the live time accomplishments of Coach Pat Summitt, center. Haslam made the announcement that Summitt would honored after she won her 1,000th game as the Lady Volunteers coach in February and Susan Richardson Williams approached the city early last year with the concept of a Riverwalk of Fame honoring accomplished individuals from Knoxville and East Tennessee.

Pat Summitt honored with star on Riverwalk Walk of Fame

Pat Summitt went to the podium Wednesday morning to accept the inaugural star on the new Riverwalk of Fame during a ceremony on Volunteer Landing.

The longtime Tennessee women’s basketball coach had the perfect opening line for the crowd of fans, local politicians, and UT coaches who braved the near-freezing temperatures.

“I know you all probably want to hear ‘Rocky Top’ but I don’t know if I have it in me right now,” Summitt told the crowd. “But I would say. …”

And then Summitt sang ‘Rocky Top,’ along with several fans and coaches.

When the singing ended, Summitt said: “I don’t know that I deserve this, but I’m gonna accept it!”

The crowd laughed and cheered. It was that kind of morning.

Knoxville mayor and governor-elect Bill Haslam was the first to speak and soon turned a slight glitch into some humor.

Haslam explained that Summitt’s star — the first to be placed in a row honoring people from Knoxville and the area who have gained acclaim nationally and internationally — was actually a replica, and that the original was involved in “a slight mishap.”

“Things happen sometimes, right Coach?” Haslam said, looking at Summitt. “Players get away for a breakaway layup, things happen every now and then. So today, we don’t have the real star here, OK, and you might say, ‘Well, why are you here?’ ”

Summitt interrupted: “I thought I was the star!”

The crowd laughed.

Haslam said, “We don’t have the star that’s going to stay on the ground here, how about that.”

Also speaking before Summitt were UT provost Susan Martin and Susan Richardson Williams, former Lady Vols director of development. Williams, now a public affairs consultant, came up with the Riverwalk of Fame concept several years ago.

Others attending Wednesday’s ceremony were UT men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl, UT co-head softball coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly, Lady Vols soccer coach Angela Kelly, Summitt’s staff, and her son, Tyler.

“This is a tremendous honor for me,” Summitt said. “I accept it on behalf of all the Lady Vol coaches and men’s coaches because we are one big family.”

Summitt, who was born in Clarksville and grew up in nearby Henrietta, played for Cheatham County High School and UT Martin (1970-74) before landing the job as coach of the Lady Vols in the spring of 1974.

Thirty-seven seasons later, Summitt has accumulated 1,050 victories and eight NCAA national championships. She remains humble.

“It’s a great idea and a fun way obviously to honor someone,” Summitt told the crowd, “but I never thought it’d be a country girl from Cheatham County. I’m sure my family’s shakin’ their head: ‘How’d she get it?’ ”

After Summitt finished speaking, Haslam went to the podium and said he wanted to recognize one more person, Tyler Summitt.

“Here’s the goal,” Haslam said. “Tyler, in several years, hopefully you’ll be bringing grandchildren down here and there will be a row of stars all along here. …”

“Not too soon!” Summitt interrupted again.

“I said grandchildren!” Haslam said. “And someday, 50 years from now, you’ll say, ‘That’s my mother, and she was the very first of all these stars who are worthy of this, but she was the first.’ Tyler, I hope that happens someday.”

Dave Link is a freelance contributor.

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Comments » 11

Caspian writes:

What a great story. Humble, humorous, spontaneous. "I thought I was the star." Nice.

froggy writes:

Is the headline just another KNS @#$% up or is the editor trying to be cute? Either way, it's poor journalism.

tnvol4ever writes:

watch, listen, and learn B. Pearl!!!

tovolny writes:

THIS IS GREAT!... I don't like the "Rocky (Talk)" however. Sometimes I wonder if ESPN owns KNS. On the bright side, I think Haslam's remarks were apropos and set the tone for the event.

The QUESTION now looms: who is next?

ANDY HOLT?...Bob Neyland?...Admiral Farragut?...talk about a Pandora's Box.

bmgvirgo#210233 writes:

How about Patricia Neal???

pammyvol1000 writes:

Classy Lady that Pat!!

tovolny writes:

in response to tovolny:

THIS IS GREAT!... I don't like the "Rocky (Talk)" however. Sometimes I wonder if ESPN owns KNS. On the bright side, I think Haslam's remarks were apropos and set the tone for the event.

The QUESTION now looms: who is next?

ANDY HOLT?...Bob Neyland?...Admiral Farragut?...talk about a Pandora's Box.

Thanks to KNS for changing the Headline's 'Talk' to 'Top'... I feel better now.

UTByrd writes:

in response to tovolny:

THIS IS GREAT!... I don't like the "Rocky (Talk)" however. Sometimes I wonder if ESPN owns KNS. On the bright side, I think Haslam's remarks were apropos and set the tone for the event.

The QUESTION now looms: who is next?

ANDY HOLT?...Bob Neyland?...Admiral Farragut?...talk about a Pandora's Box.

Dolly Parton.

Go VOLS!!!!!

SoddyVol writes:

in response to UTByrd:

Dolly Parton.

Go VOLS!!!!!

I think there's no better suggestion. Hope they do it.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to UTByrd:

Dolly Parton.

Go VOLS!!!!!

I agree that Dolly would be an EXCELLENT choice for the second star. Her various charities and support for many worthwhile endeavors in East Tennessee and elsewhere puts her in very rare company among philanthropic celebrities. Even those who don't like country music would be astounded to discover how many top-10 songs she has written, many of which have become pop music standards covered by some of the top artists of the era.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to WEAREBETTERTHANVANDY:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

See my comment about Mike_the_Con on the other article on this subject. Now replace your name for his in that comment. Loser.

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