Friday, February 6, 2009

At The Summitt

Yes, I know how to spell "summit", as in "the top". My title refers to Pat Summitt, the University of Tennessee women's basketball coach, who has just become the first person ever to win 1,000 games coaching college hoops.

She doesn't need any more honors. Pat Summitt is already acknowledged to be the greatest coach women's basketball has ever seen. Yet she plows ahead, layering success upon success.

Think about what it takes to pile up a thousand wins. You'd need to win 30 games in a season 33 times to get there. In fact, Summitt's Lady Vols have notched 18 of those 30-win seasons (plus 3 more 29-win campaigns). Tennessee's women have never had a losing season with Pat Summitt on the sidelines, and she's been there since the 1974-75 season.

But it's more than the win totals. It's the absolute demand for perfection that has always marked Summitt's teams. Do me a favor: even if you think women's basketball is less exciting than the men's game (not as fast, nobody dunks, etc.--I've heard all the arguments), check out a Tennessee game sometime. You'll see superior athletes executing a well-coached system.

Summitt insists that her teams still be called the "Lady Vols", in an era when the feminized moniker is disappearing. Yet, she'll ream a player on the sidelines or the practice court just like the guys do.

Pat Summitt is not even 57 years old yet. Who knows how many more years she plans to coach, how many more wins she'll pile up? But even if she were to walk away tomorrow, she's set the standard for everyone else trying to reach the summit.

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