On the Passing of Pat Summitt: A Tribute From Lafayette Coach Theresa Grentz
Editor’s note: Theresa Grentz has known Pat Summitt for over four decades. Grentz and Summitt were teammates and roommates during the 1973 World University Games. Both Grentz and Summitt went on to become Women’s Basketball Head Coaches at the age of 22, and both eventually became United States Olympic Team Head Coaches. Grentz writes this tribute to her colleague, teammate, and friend.
“When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” Today is such a day. With a heavy heart there are many tears over the loss of a mother, wife, coach, mentor, colleague, teammate, and friend: Pat Summitt.
The legacy of Pat Summitt will remain as the standard for all leadership positions in any walk of life. Pat defined the excellence that is necessary to compete in life. Her life was conducted and lived for others. Her leadership was defined by servanthood. There will never be another Pat Summitt. She was and always will be the best. It’s an unfortunate situation that she is no longer with us on earth, but there is no doubt, Pat Summitt left her mark in this life through the countless players, coaches, fans, and people she interacted with during her journey.
The news of the last several days has been very difficult to make any sense of. Watching a full day of the ESPN Tributes to Pat has not assisted in trying to bring reality into focus with any sense of lucidity. How could this be happening? Women’s basketball needs its leader and biggest advocate to grow the game. This news must be mistaken. The TV shows are just reminding us about her record.
The tears flowed freely and unashamedly throughout the day. Pat coached because she was born to coach. She crossed lines of gender; she could have coached males or females in any sport. Leadership traits were plentiful when you mentioned the name of Pat Summitt. A magnanimous personality that shared love, instruction, and a zest for living life to its fullest. Could the reports really be true?
Today, I have no answers to these questions. Pat was a God fearing woman and I must find consul in her faith and belief in her God. Many of the most recent pictures of Pat have her wearing a simple cross around her neck.
The cross is an outward sign of her faith in a Higher Being for all to see. Pat was blessed with a great responsibility to teach others how to succeed. She embraced that challenge. She met each of her own encounters with grace and dignity.
Many of those tests would have reduced others to a broken spirit. However, we are talking about Pat Summitt. She was the teacher who taught young women to be invincible. She taught her players how to take their proper place in the world after spending four years with her on a basketball court.
Those life lessons would serve those 161 women for life. Some coaches can impact lives, Pat changed lives for the better. Everyone who watched this process gained an appreciation for Pat’s work and her style. Today we must celebrate Pat and her life choices.
Today we must face the reality that this great lady is no longer with us. The time Pat was with us was too short, however, we don’t have a say in that timeline. I can only be thankful that during the last four decades I had the distinct pleasure and honor to be a colleague, teammate, and friend with this wonderful woman. I will miss her smile and her friendship terribly, but I will continue to keep her in my prayers and thoughts until we meet again. In Pat’s own words, we must “keep on keeping on.”