Last Thursday, Summitt reached another career milestone, as the Lady Vols handed her her 1,000th victory, a milestone which, as The New York Times points out, "many feel is a milestone that will not be reached by another college basketball coach." Summitt, who has been coaching for 34 years, began at the age of 22, and said on Thursday night: "Never ever did I think I would coach this long, never did I envision this program winning 1,000 games. The fact this program was the first to do it is a great source of pride."
Full disclosure: I grew up in Connecticut, where, during women's basketball season, Pat Summitt was Public Enemy No. 1. She was our Darth Vader, our Joker, our Lord Voldemort, set to steal victory away from the hands of the Huskies. But like those legendary villains, I could not help but be fascinated by her. She was so badass. She was tough and ruthless and whenever the Vols beat the Huskies, you couldn't deny that they'd earned it— that she'd earned it.
Her impact on women's basketball is legendary: the UConn/Tennessee rivalry alone boosted the sport into the public eye, and 45 of Summitt's former players have gone on to become coaches in their own right, taking her intense coaching style with them. "The ones that choose to go into coaching," Summitt says, "people usually say, ‘Well, there's a little Pat.'" Nikki Caldwell, a former Vol who now coaches at U.C.L.A., claims that Summitt's style has been an inspiration: ""Pat just has a balance," Caldwell says. "She makes time for people. She treats her players like family. It's really admirable."
Summitt's latest accomplishment only ensures her legendary status. As Joan Cronin, Lady Vols' athletic director tells the Times: "She was hired at 22, she's coached 35 years. I can't imagine anyone doing what she has done ever again."