Pat Summitt greets full house for memoir

Tennessee Lady Vols basketball head coach emeritus Pat Summitt, right, talks with Brenda Kerns during a meet-and-greet session at Barnes and Noble on Kingston Pike in West Knoxville on Tuesday to promote her new book “Sum It Up,” which was written with Sally Jenkins. Summitt distributed pre-autographed copies of the book to customers who had purchased the books in advance of the event. (Adam Brimer/News Sentinel)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee Lady Vols basketball head coach emeritus Pat Summitt, right, talks with Brenda Kerns during a meet-and-greet session at Barnes and Noble on Kingston Pike in West Knoxville on Tuesday to promote her new book “Sum It Up,” which was written with Sally Jenkins. Summitt distributed pre-autographed copies of the book to customers who had purchased the books in advance of the event. (Adam Brimer/News Sentinel)

Pat Summitt distributes copies of "Sum It Up"

Floods of chatter abruptly turned into momentary silence.

Hundreds of patrons awkwardly weaved in and out of bookshelves at Barnes & Noble on Kingston Pike instantly locked onto a legend.

Fans donning different shades of orange, light blue and the occasional “We Back Pat” purple rose to their tiptoes.

Countless darting eyes eagerly peered over the wooden shelves in hopes to catch a glimpse of Pat Summitt.

Greeted by the hush of anticipation, the iconic women’s basketball coach strolled over to a fold-up table sandwiched between two large piles of books.

Glancing up at the crowd, Summitt offered a soft smile and a warm wave.

Downpours of applause followed.

“I’m so nervous,” a fan near the front of the line murmured as she snapped a photo.

Settling into her seat, the woman who was merely introduced as “quite simply the most successful college basketball coach ever — period,” by ABC’s Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America” Tuesday morning scanned the restless audience.

“How you doing?” Summitt said as she mounted her chair.

Summitt would repeat the question to what seemed to be every one of the wide-eyed fans approaching the table to retrieve a copy of her new book, “Sum It Up,” which hit shelves Tuesday.

The memoir, co-authored with Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins, tells the tale of Summitt’s humble beginnings to a storied 38-season coaching career.

Time after time Tuesday, the long-time Tennessee coach handed over a copy of her pre-signed book, posed for a picture and offered a departing “bless your heart,” or a gentle “thank you.”

But for Knoxville-native Kim Swindle, the 376-page hardcover merely scrapes the surface of Summitt’s story.

Hiding beneath the shade of a Tennessee visor bearing the signatures of Andraya Carter, Kamiko Williams and several other Lady Vols, the 50-year-old let out a faint chuckle.

“There’s not enough pages in the world,” she said. “She’s just a pioneer, a legend. All you need is 30 seconds with her to understand what I feel. She’s a friend, teacher, icon, role model — a hero, my hero.”

In one way or another, Swindle’s words were echoed throughout the line.

“You can’t sum up what Pat Summitt has done,” Sheila Swabe of Madisonville said. “She paved the way for so much more than basketball. So much more than a few pages can explain.”

Wearing a purple “We Back Pat” T-shirt paired with a miniature bobblehead Summitt pin, Jacki Sturdivant was avidly reading her electronic copy of “Sum It Up” on her tablet while pacing in line.

Glancing up, already at page 109, she talked about Summitt’s legendary coaching career.

She mentioned the 1,098 wins, the eight national championships, the countless banners flying from the Thompson-Boling Arena rafters and then paused.

Quickly collecting her thoughts, she grinned.

“She’s a legend. Can’t put a number on that,” Sturdivant said. “The top of my bucket list is crossed off each time I meet her. She’s my heroine for what she’s done for women. Not women’s sports — women.”

Jennifer Douthat of Greeneville arrived at 10:30 a.m. to claim the coveted first spot in line with her 8-year-old daughter, Kaleigh, by her side.

“I’m excited about everything,” Kaleigh said, shyly swaying side-to-side. “I’m excited to meet Pat Summitt, not very nervous.”

At 4 p.m. the ropes were lowered for fans to approach Summitt.

Some gingerly walked up to her table, arms folded, timidly batting their eyes. Others greeted her with variations of enthusiastic waves and handshakes.

But whether initially blushing or babbling, all departed the table wearing a uniform smile, book clenched in hand. “What a lady,” Brenda Kerns of Knoxville said as she left Summitt’s side.

Riley Blevins is a freelance contributor.

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Comments » 20

wigmeister writes:

The John Wooden of women's basketball, but so much more!

sstirrer writes:

Several years ago I won a golf event on what I refer to as the "disease tour." You know, the golf outings that benefit the Heart Fund, Kidney Foundation, Helen Ross McNabb, all of the benefits. Pat was giving out the awards. I was amazed that I had won and walked to the stage wide-eyed. When she gave me the trophy and prize she whispered, "Act like you've been here before."
What better advice from a great lady who had "...been there before..." many times. It is fantastic advice I remember daily and pass along when I have the chance.

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

My only question is when they make a movie about her, who is worthy enough to play her part?

MDiv writes:

Bruce Pearl? But seriously, I would vote for Meryl Streep.

tnvol4ever writes:

in response to snowpeapod#263184:

My only question is when they make a movie about her, who is worthy enough to play her part?

...and who plays the part of Geno?

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

in response to tnvol4ever:

...and who plays the part of Geno?

Probably the most disgusting man in Hollywood, once they figure out who that is.

wigmeister writes:

in response to MDiv:

Bruce Pearl? But seriously, I would vote for Meryl Streep.

Meryl is too old and too short!

jbocap writes:

A real woman of class! She IS Tennessee Basketball, a true icon for the state!

volboy81 writes:

in response to snowpeapod#263184:

My only question is when they make a movie about her, who is worthy enough to play her part?

I never thought about that, but there really should be a movie made about her. All of us Lady Vol fans can be extras! When the women's game first started in the mid 70s, I would scour through the Chattanooga News-Free Press to see if I could find a score. That was WAY before ESPN/cable TV, the internet or any other instant info system that we have now! There might be a 1 or 2 sentence "article" telling the score and a few details. Look how far that sport has come in about 40 years, much of it due to Coach Summitt. It's sad she had to retire before her time, but she will always be a legend. So proud she is a Tennessean!

LVFL90 writes:

I agree with LindatoTenn, I cry everytime I think about what has happened to Pat Summitt. Things have never come easy for her, she has always worked so hard. You would think,she would get to rest on her laurels at about 70 or so. Instead, a brand new daunting challenge. I would bet my last dollar, though, that she will make her mark on Altzheimer's research. Very, very proud of her.

volfan#207874 writes:

Wonder if it would be possible for Pat to come to Kingsport, the tri-cities area, to sign copies of her book? I think that it would be a great act and I am sure it would be well received. Thank you, Pat for all that you have done for the University of Tenn, women's sports, especially women's basketball, and the entire state of Tennessee. We are so proud of you!
May God Bless you in all ways.

johnlg00 writes:

Darn it, I missed the interview on GMA. I will try to see if I can find it on ABC's website. I couldn't think of anybody better to interview Pat on TV than Robin Roberts. She has the athletic background to be credible talking about Pat's impact on sports, the journalistic credibility to talk about her impact on society, and the experience of dealing with physical hardship that provides the emphathy to get at the human side of Pat and her burdens and triumphs.

volfan#207874 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Darn it, I missed the interview on GMA. I will try to see if I can find it on ABC's website. I couldn't think of anybody better to interview Pat on TV than Robin Roberts. She has the athletic background to be credible talking about Pat's impact on sports, the journalistic credibility to talk about her impact on society, and the experience of dealing with physical hardship that provides the emphathy to get at the human side of Pat and her burdens and triumphs.

You said it well!

Theo writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Darn it, I missed the interview on GMA. I will try to see if I can find it on ABC's website. I couldn't think of anybody better to interview Pat on TV than Robin Roberts. She has the athletic background to be credible talking about Pat's impact on sports, the journalistic credibility to talk about her impact on society, and the experience of dealing with physical hardship that provides the emphathy to get at the human side of Pat and her burdens and triumphs.

It is on You Tube in two parts.
If you have never see the original "dog tease" video I would highly recommend that as well.
The maple kind? LMRO!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Theo:

It is on You Tube in two parts.
If you have never see the original "dog tease" video I would highly recommend that as well.
The maple kind? LMRO!

Thanks for the tip. I'll try to find it in the next day or so. Lots of silly stuff on there but lots of really good stuff, too. Kinda like this board, come to think about it!

LaneBrains writes:

Best Coach Ever.

volfaninbuckeyeland writes:

I was in Lansing, Mi., a couple of weeks ago and met a young woman who was recruited by Pat but ended up playing for THAT team in the northeast. I asked her why she chose to play for the other coach and she explained that Pat was too controlling. It was this young woman's desire not just to play BB, but to enjoy the "college experience." She was implying that Pat demanded an exemplary life not just on the court, but just as importantly, if not more so, she expected her players to maintain an exemplary lifestyle in all aspects of their college tenure. This young woman was on the 2000 UConn team that beat the LVols in San Antonio where all but one of the all tournament team was a Husky--the lone exception, TCatchings. This young woman expressed nothing but genuine respect for CPS, but what I found was truly ironic was the fact that even though she is the manager of the facility, the facility is named "The Summit."

madrigal writes:

I got the book on my e-book reader and have already read through it twice! Fascinating reading, and quite a few things I didn't know were explained. Anyone who thinks the current Lady Vol team is "going downhill" must have a faulty memory....just look in the back of the book!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to volfaninbuckeyeland:

I was in Lansing, Mi., a couple of weeks ago and met a young woman who was recruited by Pat but ended up playing for THAT team in the northeast. I asked her why she chose to play for the other coach and she explained that Pat was too controlling. It was this young woman's desire not just to play BB, but to enjoy the "college experience." She was implying that Pat demanded an exemplary life not just on the court, but just as importantly, if not more so, she expected her players to maintain an exemplary lifestyle in all aspects of their college tenure. This young woman was on the 2000 UConn team that beat the LVols in San Antonio where all but one of the all tournament team was a Husky--the lone exception, TCatchings. This young woman expressed nothing but genuine respect for CPS, but what I found was truly ironic was the fact that even though she is the manager of the facility, the facility is named "The Summit."

Nice story. Not everybody is cut out to be a Lady Vol, for sure, nor should they be. It takes all kinds to make the world go round. Glad that lady you met was smart enough to realize that Pat's way works pretty well, too, for the right people, but no one can just slavishly copy it. There are comparatively few people who can get both parts of "tough love" in perfect balance; Pat came closer than most.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to madrigal:

I got the book on my e-book reader and have already read through it twice! Fascinating reading, and quite a few things I didn't know were explained. Anyone who thinks the current Lady Vol team is "going downhill" must have a faulty memory....just look in the back of the book!

I think some people who think the program is declining are all too ready to swallow myths about "golden ages" that rarely looked that way to the people who actually lived through them. They imagine a time when everything was "perfect", so when they look around in their own time and see that things clearly are NOT perfect, they think the present age is in decline. That is why their efforts to "return" to those golden days are often so misquided. There are good and bad things about every era and there was NO era when everything was perfect for everybody. Live with it. Work to improve what you think needs improving, but never imagine in doing so that things will ever be "perfect".

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