That steely blue-eyed stare. Eight national titles. More than 1,000 wins.
She was a coach, a leader, a fighter, a friend.
Quite simply, Pat Summitt was a game changer.
Summitt, who died Tuesday at age 64, was a driving force in changing the sports landscape for women. While there are many shining moments in her career, below are five that illustrate her toughness and competitive fire to win.
1. 1976: An Olympics pioneer
Summitt, then Pat Head, competed in the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal, the first year women competed in basketball at the Olympics. That U.S. team, whose members included Summitt, Nancy Lieberman and Ann Meyers Drysdale, were considered trailblazers for the sport, winning the silver medal and serving notice to the rest of the world that the Americans were there to stay in women’s basketball.
For Summitt, making the team was remarkable. That’s because in her senior year at the University of Tennessee-Martin, she had suffered a torn ACL. A surgeon told her to quit the sport. Back then, ACL tears typically ended careers for many athletes. For a woman in that era? You could all but forget it. But not Summitt. Not only did she return, but she was co-captain for the inaugural Olympic team.
2. 1984: Striking gold as a coach
The United States didn’t compete in the Olympics in 1980, but Summitt returned, this time as a coach, in 1984 in Los Angeles. Putting the women’s game on the map, Summitt led the United States to its first women’s basketball gold medal. After the win, Team USA lifted Summitt up high and carried her around the Los Angeles Forum.
With that win, Summitt became the first U.S. Olympian to win a basketball medal and coach a medal-winning team.
3. 1998: Historic three-peat
The University of Tennessee became the first three-peat winner in NCAA women’s basketball history with a 93-75 win against Louisiana Tech. Tennessee also finished with a perfect record at 39-0. At the time, no men’s or women’s team had ever finished 39-0. It was Summitt’s sixth title in her career.
Summitt won national titles in 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007 and 2008.
4. 2000: Surpasses another legend in all-time wins
With her mother at the game, Summitt picked up her 880th coaching win against Purdue 75-54 to surpass North Carolina’s Dean Smith as the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division I history.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Summitt said after the game. “I never even thought about anything like that ever. I don’t think there could have been a better gift in terms of just the feeling that I had, and how much I love this university and how much I appreciate the vote of confidence. This recognition is very touching.”
5. 2009: No. 1,000
Summitt added to her accolades, earning career win No. 1,000 in Tennessee’s 73-43 win against Georgia.
“People are saying that’s a record that will never be broken, but I don’t think so,” Summitt said after the game. “Records are made to be broken.”
Summitt’s record of 1,098 wins still stands as the most of all time for men’s or women’s Division I basketball.