I was sad to read yesterday that Pat Summitt had passed away at the age of 64. The cause was not immediately revealed, but she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease the last few years of her life. I saw my grandparents die of this disease when I was younger, and I can assure you it’s not a pretty thing to watch. Memories fade, and you constantly have to remind them of who you are, which can get a bit frustrating.
I’m sure you sports fans know of her credentials. Eight national titles coaching the Lady Vols of Tennessee, and 1,098 wins with a .841 winning percentage as their coach. She also played on the original women’s basketball team at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal early in her Tennessee coaching career, earning a silver medal. Eight years later, she coached the 1984 Olympic team to gold in Los Angeles.
I would rank her up there with Billie Jean King and Babe Didrikson Zaharias among the pioneers of women’s sports. Like Babe’s death of colon cancer at the age of 45 in 1956, it seems Summitt’s passing has come way to soon.
A little later on in the morning came word that Buddy Ryan, former head coach and defensive coordinator (most notably of the Chicago Bears that won Super Bowl XX), had also died at the age of 82 in Kentucky.
As I said earlier this year, I consider the 1985 Chicago Bears the best NFL team over a single season I have ever seen. They had decent talent offensively, but considerable talent on the defensive side of the ball. I don’t think you’ll ever see another team like those ’85 Bears in the modern era which stresses competitive balance via the salary cap rules.
Two coaches leaving their mark, also leaving the world on the same day. Not something that is often seen. May they both rest in peace.