Former players know they owe a lot to Summitt

That initial reaction and those welling emotions were hard to articulate Wednesday for Pat Summitt's former players, just minutes after they learned the legendary Lady Vols basketball coach resigned.

So some tweeted about Summitt. Others shared stories to the News Sentinel in phone interviews.

They tried to find a way to express gratitude for what Summitt meant to the program and to them as a coach and friend.

Summitt led the Lady Vols to eight national championships in her 38 seasons as coach, making 18 Final Four appearances and winning 1,098 games along the way.

Summitt, whose battle against Alzheimer's was made public in August, was a named coach emeritus at Tennessee. Longtime assistant Holly Warlick was named coach.

"My gut reaction was I'm really happy for Pat that she can fully focus on her health. My heart also is sad that she's not going to be doing what she's been doing the last 38 years of her life," said former Lady Vols guard Michelle Marciniak, the MVP of the national championship game in 1996.

"But I'm 100 percent in support of Pat and the decision she had to make in the best interest of her health."

A tweet allows for just 140 characters. Lady Vols guard Kara Lawson, who played 1999-03, didn't come close to that limit when she tweeted "Thank You Pat Summitt!"

But Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker did.

Catchings, a four-time All-American at UT 1997-2001 tweeted "@patsummitt GREATEST coach ever!!! Stepped down today but never too far. Luv ya Pat! Congrats to Holly Warlick."

Candace Parker, who led UT to national titles in 2007 and 2008, tweeted: "4 yrs removed from UT I still hear 'PARKER REBOUND!' in my head during games ... Thanks Coach Pat, I love you! #OnceALadyVolAlwaysALadyVol"

Webb School of Knoxville girls' basketball coach Shelley Sexton-Collier played on Summitt's first national championship team in 1987. She now has four daughters, all of whom, she said, have been influenced by Summitt.

"They all, when they were born, one of the first visits I made on my way home was I always stopped by Tennessee — and Pat has held each one of my children," she said. "I remember when I had Katie, the first time she held Katie (the eldest), Katie balled and cried. I said, 'Don't worry, Katie. I know exactly how you feel. I was scared of her, too.'

"My children have all grown up knowing who Pat Summitt is. My kids wanted to play for her. That same thing that everyone feels when you're a Tennessee girl and someday you're going to grow up and play for Pat Summitt.

"Again, I don't know how to put into words how I feel about her."

Summitt has been an omnipresent figure in Marciniak's life: from her days in the WNBA, to her time as an assistant at South Carolina (2003-08) and now in the business world.

"I have the utmost respect for her, for the influence she has on her players' lives," said Marciniak. "For me, I've learned so much. Pat is with me every day of my life.

"That's a strong statement. I'm that close to her. I care about her. We don't talk every day, but she's with me. She's in my thoughts all the time. She's had a powerful influence on my life as a woman.

"She's going to give everything she has to fighting this disease. I'm personally going to do everything I can to help her and going out and being a voice with her and for her to raise awareness for Alzheimer's."

Sexton-Collier found reassurance that Summitt still will be involved in the program.

"Everybody wants what's best for her, and everybody wants her to be the one to make that decision. And it was her decision," she said. "You have to fully support that and know that she's going to be involved in that program and have an impact still. I know that's probably the way everybody wants it."

The way she said "goodbye" was vintage Summitt, Marciniak said.

No elaborate farewell tour. Only a modest resignation.

"Pat is the most humble person you're ever going to meet," said Marciniak. "That's what makes her so unique and so special.

"This was about the team. This was about the program, as far as sitting on the sidelines and staying involved last year.

"She could have totally done the farewell tour, even next year. That's not her, though. She is not a spotlight (hound). She's great in it, but she doesn't revolve her world around it. I'm not surprised at the timing of this announcement, at all.

"It's true to who Pat Summitt is."

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Comments » 6

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

Every UT fan, alumnus, and administrator owes a lot to Pat Summitt. She was a beautiful ambassador for everything that is good and true about the University of Tennessee. She was a living embodiment of the torchbearer ethos and her resignation changes none of that. She is still the shining light of UTK and we will continue to support her and her family as she takes on her next challenge.

Love you Coach!

madrigal writes:

Pat Summitt's legacy stretches a long way. Look how many of her former players are now coaching, for one thing, and how many have been successful in other areas. It has been my privilege to personally know a few of them, and they all have Pat's "never give up" attitude. There is no one else like her in the world of women's sports, and there never will be. God broke the mold when he made her. Godspeed, Pat!

RoadTrip writes:

I am glad for Pat that the stress and pressure will be reduced after this decision. She owes UT and us as fans nothing after all these years of giving. We owe her our gratitude and to make sure her legacy is preserved. It has always been about life lessons with Pat and basketball was just the tool she used.

ps11824 writes:

WE ALL owe a lot to Pat. If we are basketball fans, if we are sports fans., we owe the respect to Pat for setting the awesome example that she did. To apply the same formula for success in life as she did in the game, was a BRILLIANT winning career move. Worked then, works now, for the teams she coached, the lives she touched.

In case you doubt Holly, or Tyler as a head coach, be assured, they will be using that same formula for years to come. That kid will succed.

UTByrd writes:

What is truly sad is not just her resigning as HC. It is sad that so little attention and money is paid to Alzheimers. Millions and millions of dollars are spent on cancer and aids, yet, only $350 million is spent on Alzhemers' research.
One thing I know from experience (caregiver for my recently deceased 94 year old Mother who had dementia)that being a caregiver is a loving but extremely demanding responsibilty. Alzheimers may not be curable but there is one main thing that each community can do to help. They can get their churches and service organizations to compile a list of shut-ins and their caregivers. They can then seek out these caregivers and volunteer to "baby sit" their loved one thereby giving the caregiver a much needed day off. It is extremely stressful to caregivers, so much so that their personal health starts to suffer. Just one day off does wonders for the caregiver. Thus, by helping the caregiver you have also helped the patient. When I could catch a break and get some physical as well as mental rest, I could recharge my batteries and be a much better and happier caregiver. Believe me, it is rewarding for all people involved.
My thoughts and prayers will be with Coach Summit and her family and caregivers.
Go VOLS and Lady VOLS!!!!!

cjkendell#1408403 writes:

As a high school coach in Charlotte NC, i truly appreciate everything that coach Summit has done for womens basketball. I wish her continued success.

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