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Pat Summitt remembered as ‘a hero and a mentor’

RIP Pat Summitt. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in Division I NCAA basketball history, died Tuesday morning after a years-long battle with early-onset dementia. She was 64.

Pat Summitt, legendary Tennessee women’s basketball coach, dies at 64

Her son, Tyler, released a statement Tuesday morning:

It is with tremendous sadness that I announce the passing of my mother, Patricia Sue Head Summitt.
She died peacefully this morning at Sherrill Hill Senior Living in Knoxville surrounded by those who loved her most.
Since 2011, my mother has battled her toughest opponent, early onset dementia, ‘Alzheimer’s Type,’ and she did so with bravely fierce determination just as she did with every opponent she ever faced. Even though it’s incredibly difficult to come to terms that she is no longer with us, we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease.
For 64 years, my mother first built her life upon a strong relationship with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Her foundation was also built upon love of her family and of her players, and love of the fundamentals of hard work which reflected her philosophy that ‘you win in life with people’.
She was the fourth of five children – Tommy, Charles, Kenneth and Linda – born to Richard and Hazel Head on June 14, 1952, in Clarksville, Tenn. Her tireless work ethic and her love of the game of basketball were created during the time she spent growing up on the family farm.
She’ll be remembered as the all-time winningest D-1 basketball coach in NCAA history, but she was more than a coach to so many – she was a hero and a mentor, especially to me, her family, her friends, her Tennessee Lady Volunteer staff and the 161 Lady Vol student-athletes she coached during her 38-year tenure.
We will all miss her immensely.

According to her son’s statement, a private service and burial will be held in Middle Tennessee, with a public celebration of her life to be held at Thompson-Boling Arena at the University of Tennessee. Further details will be released at a later date.

In 2011, Summitt and her son sat down with The Post’s Sally Jenkins to talk about her diagnosis.

Legendary Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt spoke about her battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. (Video: The Washington Post)

Sally Jenkins on her friend Pat Summitt

Summitt went 1,098-208 at Tennessee and won eight national titles, a record at the time of her retirement in 2012. A player on the U.S. women’s basketball team that won silver at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, she also coached the team to gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who graduated from Tennessee in 1974 (the same year Summitt’s tenure began), released the following statement:

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Pat Summitt. Basketball has lost a legend, and Tennessee has lost one of its most beloved daughters.
There is perhaps no one who left a more indelible mark on his or her profession than Coach Summitt. Through her 38 years as head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers, she amassed a historic record of achievement and blazed a trail for women across our country. The impact she had on her players, the University of Tennessee, the Knoxville community, and the game of basketball will be felt for years to come. I join all Tennesseans today in celebrating her life and extend my thoughts and prayers to her son, Tyler, the Lady Vol family, and all those who were touched by her remarkable life.

“She made everybody around her feel good. She just had that presence about her where you wanted to be around her,” NFL great Peyton Manning, who attended Tennessee, said Tuesday morning in a telephone interview on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” “I’m just grateful for the time and experiences I had with her. …

“Everybody was proud to have Pat Summitt as a representative of the university and the state. … She truly was the best.”

Summitt’s toughest rival, Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma remembered his competitor in an appearance on ESPN on Tuesday morning.

“There are great coaches that come and go in this profession … and then there are those who will be there forever,” Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey, who played for Summitt on the 1984 Olympic team, told “SportsCenter.” “Everybody, generations from now, will know who Pat Summitt is, whether they met her, or saw her, anything. … There will never be another coach like Pat Summitt.”