June 26, 2022
Pat Summitt enters USOPC Hall of Fame
First female coach to be enshrined among Olympic and Paralympic greats
Pat Summitt’s legacy is now immortalized in another pantheon of excellence. On Friday, the legendary University of Tennessee coach was officially inducted into the Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs.
Summitt played on the U.S. team that won the silver medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, then won gold as a coach at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. As a result, she becomes the first female coach to enter the Hall of Fame in any sport. Her son, Tyler Summitt, was on hand to accept the honor.
“I can’t even fathom the things my mom did and others like her,” Tyler said. “She drove the team bus; she washed the laundry – the game jerseys. She taped the ankles before the games, things that now coaches would never even think about doing. They have assistant coaches and trainers and all these things largely because of Title IX, so I think my mom would be so proud of the impact it’s had and everybody who’s been a part of it.”
It was the first such Hall of Fame class since 2019 when Lisa Leslie was one of the inductees. Teresa Edwards (2009) is the only other women’s basketball player to receive the honor. A total of 14 members were honored in Friday’s ceremony, including Michael Phelps, Michelle Kwan, Lindsey Vonn, and Mia Hamm – three-time medalists in soccer from 1996 to 2004.
“One of my college teammates coached at Tennessee for a long time, Angela Kelly and Pat was a mentor for her,” Hamm said before the ceremony. “We would all come in and support her team play. We were able to meet Coach Summitt and interact with her. I just learned so much about embracing who you are and never apologizing to go after it. She set incredibly high standards for herself and her team.
She was somebody who was so willing to share information. We live in an era where everyone wants to protect what we have and one of the great stories I heard about Pat is that she would walk in, and my friend would ask her, ‘Pat, what are you doing today?’ And she would say: ‘I am trying to make myself expendable. It’s my job to share everything I know with my players and my staff.’ I think that takes a lot of courage and you have to have a lot of self-confidence to teach them that.”
Summitt won the gold medal at the 1975 Pan-American Games. She was named a co-captain, along with Juliene Simpson, in what would be the inaugural women’s Olympic basketball tournament in 1976. Tyler also mentioned that his 5’11 mother guarded Uljana Semjonova, the 7′ tall center for the Soviet national team and Naismith Hall of Famer, at the Montreal Games. The U.S. team she coached in 1984 breezed to the gold medal, slaughtering its opponents by 30 to 40 points.
Following winning the gold medal, her Tennessee teams won eight national championships with players such as Bridgette Gordon, Chamique Holdsclaw, Candace Parker and four-time gold medalist Tamika Catchings – who might be the next women’s basketball player in the USOPC Hall of Fame.
“Tamika Catchings really stands out as just a genuine person,” Tyler added. “Obviously a big part of the Olympic family, as well. Catch is really just a great person who overcame adversity. My mom didn’t have favorites, but she loved Catch.”
Summitt’s 38th and final season at Tennessee was in 2012, with one last trip to the Elite Eight. Cierra Burdick was a freshman on that team and is now on the U.S. national 3X3 team.
“Just the stamp she has made on women’s basketball,” Burdick remembered. “Her impact and legacy continues to live on. She deserves everything. Her impact has been profound on so many people, myself included. She will always be a part of me, and I am happy people continue to honor her.”
Tyler concluded his speech with an anecdote of how when his mother’s memory declined, she continued to remember people’s faces, even if she had not seen them in years. He emphasized that it was all about people and relationships for her.
Coach Summitt was also inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor in 2012. Tyler said he remains active in the Pat Summitt Foundation for Alzheimer’s Research.