Pat Summitt‘s unmatched success at the University of Tennessee is well-known, but she also was the first person to play for and coach U.S. Olympic basketball teams.
Summitt, then Pat Head, was the oldest member at age 24 of the first U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team at the 1976 Montreal Games.
Amazingly, she played at the Olympics two years into her head coaching tenure at Tennessee and two years after tearing an ACL in her senior season as a player at Tennessee-Martin.
She has to lose 15 pounds, rehabilitate her knee and work out twice a day to make the Olympics…while she’s teaching four phys-ed courses at Tennessee, while she’s taking four courses to get her master’s degree, while she’s coaching the women’s basketball team. Three-mile run at 6 a.m., weights at 6:30, shower, rush to the gym to teach, dash to the lecture hall to take the exercise-physiology and sports-administration classes, sprint back to the gym to coach a 2 1/2-hour practice, hop in the car to go scout a local high school player, burn rubber back to the gym for two hours of basketball and sprints, shower again and hightail it home by midnight to study for the biomechanics midterm.
A co-captain, she helped the team to a silver medal behind the Soviet Union.
Summitt would have been the assistant coach for the 1980 Moscow Olympic women’s team, but those Games were boycotted.
She then became the head coach for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic squad, guiding the U.S. to the first of what has been seven gold medals in the last eight Games.
She was lifted up by her players on the court at the Forum after the 85-55 final victory over South Korea.
Since, Larry Brown and Anne Donovan joined Summitt as Olympic players and then Olympic head coaches.
“Pat Summitt was a trailblazer in women’s basketball,” USA Basketball said in a statement. “She set the standard and raised the bar for other players and coaches to follow. Her incredible passion for the game was evident in everything she did. Pat touched the lives of so many people and USA Basketball is grateful for all that she contributed as a player and coach during her long and illustrious career. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family. She is an icon who has left us all much too soon.”Follow @nzaccardi