With legendary NCAA Women’s Basketball Coach Pat Summitt suffering from early onset dementia (indicative of Alzheimer’s Disease), Tennessee’s loss to Baylor in the Elite Eight of the Women’s Basketball tournament might have seen Summitt coach her last game.
And what a career it’s been. Eighteen Final Four trips and eight national championships solidifies her as one of the greatest coaches in North American sports history.
With her in that list? Phil Jackson. Mike Krzyzewski. And, of course, UCLA legend John Wooden.
Among those coaches, it seems as if the consensus pick for greatest coach of all time is John Wooden, with ESPN and Sporting News having Wooden topping their respective lists of greatest coaches of all time.
And here at Go Joe Bruin, we agree wholeheartedly: You cannot top John Wooden, you can only hope to compare yourself to him.
Pat Summitt has bullied her way through to be worthy of those comparisons.
Because Summitt’s feats go beyond being competitive each and every year: Her feats are those of longevity and stamina. In the past 31 seasons as coach of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers, Coach Summitt has taken her teams to the Sweet Sixteen 30 times, and has won eight national titles. Tennessee is a force to be reckoned with each and every year because Summitt is the head honcho of the Lady Vols’ basketball squad.
Of course, some crazy people (and the rest being, rightfully, Tennessee fans) will argue that Summitt has surpassed John Wooden as the greatest coach in sports history.
Sure, the numbers are pretty dead even (with Wooden earning ten national titles in a more competitive field), but the legend of John Wooden goes beyond that.
Because, as far as we’re concerned, Pat Summitt fits the leadership qualities that indicates she was probably following John Wooden’s Pyramid of Greatness, and not the other way around.
Wooden’s teachings went beyond the court, and we all know this. Wooden was more than a basketball coach: He was a philosopher, a philanthropist.
We won’t get into all that in one blog post — it really wouldn’t do Wooden, or Summitt, justice.
But is it fair to say Summitt is the John Wooden of NCAA Women’s Basketball? Sure, just as we can say Phil Jackson was the John Wooden of the NBA.
And that, in itself, is a hell of an honor.