Pat Summitt charity golf tournament in Knoxville
Legendary Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt spent a brisk Monday morning greeting golfers and sharing laughs before her charity golf tournament got under way at the Cherokee Country Club.
“You sure you want a picture with me?” she joked to one group of golfers.
Summitt was all smiles for the charity event, but when her statue is unveiled later this year, it might be more likely to feature her trademark icy stare.
Tennessee plans to unveil a statue of Summitt as early as this fall as part of the renovated streetscape on Lake Loudon Boulevard near the university’s athletic facilities, UT athletic director Dave Hart told the News Sentinel Monday.
Summitt, who officially stepped down from full-time coaching and assumed the title of head coach emeritus last year, has already been honored with a statue at UT Martin, her alma mater.
Soon she’ll have a second statue in Knoxville.
“It’s a very important component of the larger Lake Loudon project,” Hart said. “There’s a natural embankment by Thompson-Boling Arena, and we’re working with architects to find the best place for the statue.”
Hart said the timing of the project is still uncertain, but he hopes it can be completed soon.
“We’re hopeful that by fall the entire project will be completed. I can’t say for certain that the statue will be there by then, but it will be obvious where the plaza and the statue will go,” he said.
Hart said the decision to honor Summitt was a no-brainer.
“It’s very exciting to be able to present this to the greatest coach of all time,” he said.
Tennessee recently announced a one-year extension for Summitt to continue in her role as head coach emeritus at a salary of $85,000. She earned $354,375 in the role last year.
“It’s a chance for Pat to be around the program and our players,” said UT coach Holly Warlick, who succeeded Summitt after serving as a UT assistant since 1985. “It’s so important that the young players understand the tradition, and Pat is the tradition of the program. I love having her around and I’m just very thankful she wants to be around for another year.”
Warlick said Summitt’s role wouldn’t change.
“She’ll be at all the practices, she’ll do exactly what she’s been doing this year,” Warlick said. “I’m glad she’s
in for one more year.”
Monday’s tournament raised funds for the Helen Ross McNabb Center, a nonprofit provider of services for families facing mental illness, addiction and other challenges.
Summitt, who revealed her diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease two years ago, did not speak to media, and reporters were asked not to film her speaking to the group. In a statement, however, she said she was glad to continue her longtime support of the Center.
“Helen Ross McNabb had a huge heart for those in our community living with mental health, addiction, and social service challenges. It was her goal to take care of the sickest and poorest among us. Through the work of the Helen Ross McNabb Center, that goal is being accomplished in East Tennessee each and every day,” Summitt’s statement read.
“The proceeds from this tournament benefit mental health and addiction treatment programs being provided in our communities. I applaud everyone who has participated throughout the years and all those playing in this year’s tournament. Although we have made a difference for many in our community, there is still much work to do. I encourage everyone in our community to support the Helen Ross McNabb Center and assist the Center in achieving their goals.”
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.