R.I.P. PAT SUMMITT
This week, we lost Pat Summitt, the former head coach of the University of Tennessee.
Well-known as the “winningest college basketball coach ever,” Summitt never had a losing record and her teams made the NCAA Tournament every season. She began her coaching career at Tennessee in 1974 and was forced to retire in 2012 because of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. She was coach of the year many many times, coached the U.S. women’s Olympic team to the 1984 gold medal in LA and is often credited with taking women’s college basketball to a new level. Even in so-called retirement, she became an advocate for Alzheimer’s.
There were so many remarkable things about Summitt, it is hard to write a short note about her — the superlatives go on and on. But to us, one of the most remarkable is how she is being remembered. Listening to the initial news reports, if you didn’t know she was a woman (maybe you didn’t follow college basketball), you might be well into the story before a pronoun or situation alerted you to her gender. (Perhaps it was the famous incident where she didn’t allow a pilot to land in Virgina when she went into labor mid-flight. Virginia had beaten her team a few months earlier, preventing them from playing for a national title on their home court.) Or maybe an errant “she” or “her”. Her gender-neutral name didn’t give things away.
We applaud the media coverage that is gender-blind and celebrates a great career without “limiting” those accomplishments.