Pat Summitt Plaza unveiled to honor legendary UT coach

The Pat Summitt Plaza was officially dedicated to the former Lady Vols coach. Photo by Nichole Stevens
The Pat Summitt Plaza was officially dedicated to the former Lady Vols coach. Photo by Nichole Stevens

The unveiling of Pat Summitt Plaza took place at 11 a.m. Friday. The plaza includes an approximately nine foot tall statue of the legendary Lady Vols coach along with a sign replicating her signature and her career statistics below.

Director of Athletics Dave Hart gave the opening speech at the dedication ceremony. Although rain may have deterred some people, a crowd packed in for a first look at the new plaza. As the Lady Vols began their walk from Pratt Pavilion, the band started playing from the bridge to initiate the beginning of the dedication.

To the crowd’s surprise, Hart said that Summitt did not think she deserved a statute or a plaza dedicated to her. She told him that she felt she was just a basketball coach.

Pat Summitt exits the plaza after an emotional dedication in her honor. Photo by Nichole Stevens
Pat Summitt exits the plaza after an emotional dedication in her honor. Photo by Nichole Stevens

“To say Pat Summitt is just a basketball coach is like saying Michael Jordan is just a basketball player,” Hart said.

Hart told the crowd that Summitt has won 84 percent of her games, with an impressive 1,098 wins to 208 loses from her time coaching between 1974-2012. Summitt officially retired from coaching the Lady Vols due to early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Tamika Catchings, former Lady Vol and current WNBA player, spoke about learning under Summitt’s tutelage. Catchings graduated from UT in 2001 and won her first Olympic gold medal in 2004 in Athens when she played for the USA’s women’s basketball team.

“Once a Lady Vol, always a Lady Vol and it is so true. I mean, this is a family,” said Catchings about her twitter hashtag #oncealadyvolalwaysaladyvol.

Former Lady Vol Tamika Catchings reflects on the ceremony to local reporters. Photo by Nichole Stevens
Former Lady Vol Tamika Catchings reflects on the ceremony to local reporters. Photo by Nichole Stevens

 

When Summitt’s son, Tyler Summitt, an assistant coach for Marquette’s women’s basketball, took to the podium, he said that Summitt’s impact on people come from three values: a passion to compete, her character and her love for family.

Multiple speakers acknowledged Summitt’s reputation for demanding excellence on the court and in the classroom. The statue personifies Summitt’s famous stance that signified to her team that they need to do their best.

“The statue is awesome,” Catchings said. “I think this moment in itself: the statue, the wall, the purple, the way everything is kind of standing out. I’m just so happy to be here.”

“She really has the right idea. She believes in the student athletes. She believes they’re students first and athletes second. And she believes in the University of Tennessee,” Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said.

Cheek complimented Summitt as being an excellent mentor to young women and men, as Tyler Summitt pointed out in his speech.

Despite her influence and fame, her friends and colleagues seemed to all agree that her integrity outweighs itself. Her colleagues reaffirmed that, for Summitt, the wins were never about her. They were always about the student athletes and the university.

“I just want everyone to know, it’s not about me, it’s about everyone out there who loves the University of Tennessee,” said Pat Summitt during her speech.

Edited by Zach Dennis