Pat Summitt's Impact
It’s hard to have a conversation about women’s basketball without mentioning Pat Summitt. The scope of her influence has transformed the game, and she has left a deep impression on every player she coached.
The eight-time national champion has coached 161 players in her 38 years at the helm of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball program, and every single one of them became a member of her family. There are currently three of Summitt’s former players on the Tulsa Shock’s training camp roster — Shanna Zolman, who played for Tennessee from 2003-2006, and rookies Glory Johnson and Vicki Baugh. Without a doubt, coach Summitt has played a big role in the future success of the Shock.
“It was the biggest blessing in my life playing for Pat Summitt,” Baugh said. “My favorite thing about her was that she was all business on the court, but was also a mother figure to all of us. She cares for her team as if they were her own daughters.”
When Summitt was diagnosed with early-onset dementia in August of 2011, it became a sobering reality that both Johnson and Baugh would be the final Lady Vol stars coached by Summitt.
“We weren’t able to get her that national championship,” Johnson said. “But I can honestly say every day I was on the court I worked as hard as I could for her. I gave it my all. I’m just glad she is still going to be around the program.”
Since getting drafted, both Johnson and Baugh have been contacted by Summitt, who tries to stay in touch with all her former players through texts and phone calls.
“She told me I had to bring it every day in training camp,” Baugh said. “She said to work hard and bring what you have learned to training camp. I’m always in contact with her. She sent me a text the first day of training camp to see how it was going.”
Though all of Pat Summitt’s coaching and instruction has helped prepare her athletes for the WNBA and for life outside of basketball, the players find the most satisfaction in the fact that they are now part of a family with an unbreakable bond that goes nearly four decades deep.
“Whether you played with them in the same year or not, just the fact that you went to Tennessee and played for Pat Summit, makes you a part of the Lady Vols family. We will never forget that,” Johnson said. “If there is someone else who played from Tennessee, we are already friends. I may not know anything about them, but we are all family.”
Pat Summit may have coached her last game of basketball, but her legacy will continue to define the players that play it.