Yesterday was a sad, sad day for students, alumni (myself included), and fans of the University of Tennessee, as Pat Summitt officially resigned as head coach of the Lady Vols after 38 years. And to say this is the end of an era for UT (and women's basketball in general) doesn't really seem to do justice as far as capturing what a legend Pat was -- and always will be to the countless number of people who watched her guide the Lady Vols since 1974.
With 1,098 game wins in her career, eight of which were national championships, she is the perfect example of where hard work, dedication, and loyalty can take you. And even though her decision to step down as coach was undoubtedly gut-wrenching, once again, Pat put the best interests of her beloved team before her own sentiments about leaving.
At only 59 years old, she's battling the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and dementia, and she knew that she couldn't lead the Lady Vols anymore due to her declining health. Can you even imagine how hard it must have been for her to give up a career she worked so hard for, and to know that there will come a point in her life where she won't even remember her time as coach? My eyes are stinging with tears just thinking about the harsh reality she's facing. The memories of my days spent at UT will always be near and dear to my heart, and I often call them up and reminisce whenever I need a good laugh or want to smile. And it makes me absolutely sick inside to think that the gift of being able to recall those images has been taken away from Pat.
But the Lady Vols players (both past and present) must be feeling the incredible weight of her exit more than anyone. As the winningest coach in both women's and men's college basketball history, odds are good that they will never play for a leader quite as legendary as Pat -- because there will probably never be one. Sigh. If only the world had a few more people as passionate as Summitt.
As a proud alum of the University of Tennessee, and as a woman who really wants to make a difference and leave my mark on the world in some way, I can't help but have a heavy heart over the fact that Pat's coaching journey has come to an end. She's a true inspiration, and she will be greatly missed.
Take a look at this video clip to hear more about the devastating diagnosis that led the end of Pat Summitt's UT journey.
What will you remember most about Pat Summitt's incredible career?
Image via Doug Benc/Getty