Summitt Voted To Basketball Hall Of Fame

Pat Summitt

May 24, 2000

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Another exclamation point has been added to the basketball coaching career of Pat Summitt.

It's a big one, too.

The Tennessee Lady Vols coach has been voted into the Class of 2000 for the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Summitt will join former NBA stars Isiah Thomas and Bob McAdoo, retired Kentucky athletic director C.M. Newton, high school coach Morgan Wootten and NBA pioneer Danny Biasone.

The formal induction ceremony is Oct. 13.

Summitt, who is vacationing in Florida, said she had chills when informed of the honor. She was playing in a golf scramble with friends and colleagues on Wednesday when she broke for a teleconference. Not even trailing after nine holes could dampen her day.

"I'm happy," she said. "I think I'm the only one."

Summitt joins 16 other women in the Hall. Three are coaches: Texas' Jody Conradt, former Olympic/collegiate coach Billie Moore and former Delta State legend Margaret Wade.

The aforementioned group is like family to Summitt. Moore has been Summitt's mentor. Wade asked Summitt to be her escort when Wade was inducted in 1985.

The current group of inductees also celebrates a personal bond. Summitt and Newton have served together on numerous USA Basketball committees. Newton already has sent Kentucky scholarship papers to Summitt for her son, Tyler.

"For Pat Summitt, there's a huge family that's influenced my selection," she said widening her embrace to include the multitude of players, coaches and administrators in her life. "It's an honor I share with so many people. That's what makes it so special."

At moments like this, Summitt is inclined to recall her formative years, which were characterized by a question mark.

"I wasn't even sure what my philosophy, my style would be like," said Summitt, whose UT career began in 1974.

She was a 22-year-old, coaching 21-year-old players. She was excited and frightened, in over her head by her own admission. She settled on a basic course of action: "Go in and be tough. You can always let up."

Summitt might not be quite as tough as she once was, but she definitely hasn't let up. This past season, Summitt surpassed the 700-mark in career victories. Since last June, she also has been inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville and been named Naismith women's coach of the century.

This season ended in the national championship game in Philadelphia. The Lady Vols' quest for the program's seventh national championship came to a harsh end at the hands of Connecticut, 71-52.

A loss like that could have left the 47-year-old Summitt feeling the weight of her 26 years of coaching. Such was not the case.

In the immediate aftermath, she sounded beaten but hardly broken. She referred to Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma in saying: "I am not as old as Geno thinks I am, and I'm certainly not on my way out." Nearly two months have passed and this sentiment still echoes through her words.

"There are days at the end of a season where you do feel drained," she said. "At the end of this season I didn't feel drained. I'm excited already about next year."

Summitt's many honors allow for a comparative perspective. She has served on the Naismith Board of Trustees and was instrumental in bringing the women's Hall to Knoxville. Summitt doesn't consider the two halls to be in competition with each other.

"It's all about recognizing the people that have influenced the game," she said.

Her latest induction, though, will evoke a special sense of history. The Springfield Hall encompasses the width and breath of basketball's legacy.

Summitt remembered learning about the game's inventor, James Naismith, when she was a young girl.

"The people that have gone before, so many great players and coaches," she said. "As a kid, I watched them growing up, admired and respected them."

She wasn't far removed from the admiration stage when she became the head coach at Tennessee.

"I think life is so much about timing," she said. "I fell into this position."

Since then, she's risen to great heights.

"Inclusion into the Hall of Fame represents no forgone conclusion," Moore said. Then she added, "If there ever was a time I'd say someone was a sure bet to be included, it was Pat."

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