More tributes are still rolling in for the late Pat Summitt (1952-2016), who died June 28, 14 days after her 64th birthday. The legendary Hall of Fame coach was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in the spring of 2011 but continued coaching for one more season before retiring in April 2012 after 38 seasons at Tennessee.
A private funeral for Summitt was held June 30 in Clarksville, Tennessee, attended by 30-35 former players, many former assistant coaches and others, reported The Tennessean.
“She commanded so much respect,” said Cappie Poindexter of Summitt during a July 1 media conference call with reporters, including the MSR. Recently named one of the 20 greatest players in WNBA history, the 10-year veteran guard now with Chicago said, “I’m truly, truly thankful for her fight for players like myself having the chance to play women’s basketball at the highest level. I’m forever grateful for that.”
“She made me a better player,” added Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus. Summitt recruited her when she was a high school phenom before she chose LSU — the coach later cut her during a USA Basketball tryout but offered heartfelt advice. “She is the reason why I am in USA Basketball,” noted the three-time Olympian, who will play for this country next month in Rio. “I never got [the] chance to say thank you.”
Poindexter’s college coach, Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer, said of Summitt, “We were both coaches in the first NCAA tournament (1982)…and we have been friends ever since that,” although their teams clashed often over the years. “No one can even attempt to represent more of the progress of women’s basketball than her.”
Said WNBA President Lisa Borders, “Her legacy will be her passion in her sport and her commitment to inspiring the next generation of young athletes.”
“She is going to leave a legacy on our game forever. Not too many people can do that, but Pat is one of them,” surmised Poindexter.
Poindexter, Augustus, and Minnesota teammate Lindsay Whalen last week were asked by the MSR to share their reflections on being named to the WNBA 20@20 team.
“It’s hard to describe in words,” admitted Poindexter, who also was selected to the league’s all-time 15 best players during an earlier celebratory landmark. “If you look at the other 19 women that were selected, it’s a great honor. It’s an elite class of women who gave so much to the women’s game. It’s such an honor for me just to be a part of it.”
Both Augustus and Whalen pointed out that the busyness of the season hasn’t allowed them time to fully reflect. Said Augustus, “I’m thankful to be in this position to be among these players,” with Whalen adding, “It’s an extreme honor.”
White House visit
The Lynx last week as a team was honored by President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony for winning the 2015 WNBA championship.
“He’s actually a big fan of women’s basketball. To go there three times in the last six or seven years says a lot about the players,” said Augustus of the president. “It’s always a pleasure to go back there. It means that you won the year before.
“Also, being the first African American president in history means a lot,” she said of President Obama, “and we’ve had the chance to [see him at the White House]. Some people haven’t had the chance to see any president in their life. Some people never will get a chance to experience that. It’s a special moment.”
The answer to the extra credit question in our Lynx diversity quiz in this week’s “Another View”: Carolyn Jenkins, Jim Lewis, Jennifer Gillom, Teresa Edwards and Shelley Patterson.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.