Born Patricia Susan Head on June 14, 1952, Pat Summitt is best known for her tenure as head coach for the University of Tennessee’s Lady Vols. Summitt was born to Richard and Hazel Albright Head in Clarksville, Tennessee. The Heads moved to nearby Henrietta when Summitt was in high school so she could play basketball in Cheatham County, as Clarksville did not have a girls’ team.
Summitt played collegiate at the University of Tennessee at Martin for Nadine Gearin, the first women’s basketball coach in the school’s history. As the passage of Title IX was still two years away in 1970, there were no athletic scholarships for women. While each of Summitt’s brothers had received athletic scholarships, the Heads paid her way.
Summitt was co-captain of the 1976 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team, playing in Montreal as women’s basketball made its Olympic debut. Team USA took silver. Summitt returned as head coach in 1984, leading the U.S. women to Olympic gold in Los Angeles.
Summitt spent 38 seasons at Tennessee. During this time, Summitt led the Lady Vols to eight NCAA Division I championships. She retired with 1,098 wins, the most in college basketball history at the time of her retirement.
She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in its inaugural class in 1999. She was named the Naismith Basketball Coach of the Century in 200. Summitt received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2012 and was awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2012 ESPY Awards. She was also inducted into the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Hall of Fame in 2013.
Summitt was inducted into the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2022, the first female coach to be inducted.
In August 2011, Summitt announced that she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She passed away on June 28, 2016, two weeks after her 64th birthday.