Legendary U.S. women's basketball coach Pat Summitt dies at 64

Tue Jun 28, 2016 10:10am EDT
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By Laila Kearney

(Reuters) - Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in U.S. Division I college basketball history, died on Tuesday at the age of 64, the University of Tennessee said.

Summitt, who coached the University of Tennessee's Lady Vols women's team and helped build women's college basketball into a national sport, announced in August 2011 that she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

"Pat was the greatest coach of all time," university Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said in a statement. "Her fierce spirit will live on through her players and through all of us who were inspired by her on a daily basis."

Summitt died at Sherrill Hill Senior Living in Knoxville surrounded by her family, son Tyler Summitt said.

"Since 2011, my mother has battled her toughest opponent, early onset dementia, ‘Alzheimer’s Type,’ and she did so with bravely fierce determination, just as she did with every opponent she ever faced," he said in a statement. "We can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease."

Summitt was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian honor, by President Barack Obama four years ago.

"Coach Summitt is an inspiration, both as the all-time winningest NCAA coach, and as someone who is willing to speak so openly and courageously about her battle with Alzheimer’s," the president said at the time.

Summitt was born on June 14, 1952 in Clarksville, Tennessee, the youngest of five children.   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama awards a 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom to former University of Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 29, 2012.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque