Friends, former players react to Summitt's decision
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Pat Summitt is not going very far, but the fact that she's going anywhere other than the Tennessee women's basketball sidelines is still seen as a significant blow to women's basketball and all of women's athletics.
"I think its probably the biggest loss you could imagine," said University of Tennessee at Chattanooga head coach Wes Moore. "I think in women's basketball, for all of us who've been around, there will never be another Pat Summitt."
The loss stings a little more for those who played for Summitt, and learned so many life lessons under her guidance.
"Pat Summitt is Lady Vols' basketball," said former Lady Vol and Bradley Central grad Brittany Jackson. "It's just a sad day because Pat has meant so much to that program and so much to us that have played for her."
Her career and impact are unrivaled.
Summitt leaves as the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history with 1,098 career victories. She changed and elevated the women's game over a 38-year career that included eight national championships and 32 combined SEC regular season and tournament titles.
Yet to those who new her, she was never bigger than the game.
"She's very unassuming for someone's who is a legend," Moore said. "She'd ask a little coach like me his opinion and she'd always share ideas.
"I worked for her camp 25 years ago while I was on the Division III level at Maryville College, and she was always a friend."
For former players like Jackson, who is currently planning a local fundraiser for the Pat Summit Foundation, vivid moments of intensity are what stand out the most.
"The stare," Jackson said with a smile. "That's not the best thing when you're playing for her, but it's okay when you see her give it to current players.
"That's what she's known for. She's intense. She's strong, and she's taught me so many things not only on the court, but off it. discipline and things in life every single day."
If there is a silver lining to the news, it's that the 59-year-old Summitt will stay visible at UT as head coach emeritus. She'll be active on campus in mentoring of players and meeting with recruits, in addition to observing practice and working with the team.
"I actually think it's a great opportunity," said recent WNBA draftee and Lady Vol forward Glory Johnson. "It takes a lot of stress off Pat, but she still gets to help with recruiting and she gets to talk to our players and mentor our players.
"It's really great for the program and it's great for the game of women's basketball."
On the floor, those around the program don't expect much of a change with long-time assistant Holly Warlick taking over head coaching duties. The former Lady Vol point guard spent 27 years as Summitt's assistant, and assumed many of the head coaching duties this past season as associate head coach.
"Pat's not going anywhere. She's still going to be involved in that program," Jackson said. "It's a little different, but Holly has been there a really long time right by Pat.
"Pat has taught her the in's and out's, so Holly knows all the secrets Pat knows, too."
It's no secret the game as a whole will be different without Summitt pacing the sidelines next fall, but Moore notes her effect on the sport, especially locally, will remain noticed and unchanged for years to come.
"Women's basketball gets more respect in this state than any other place in the country," Moore said. "I think that's a tribute to Pat Summitt and what she built over in Knoxville. She made it relevant."