KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Pat Summitt wears a smile rather than her famous stare in a bronze statue of the former Lady Vols coach that was unveiled Friday on Tennessee’s campus.
The statue was revealed at a dedication ceremony for the Pat Summitt Plaza to honor the coach who led Tennessee to eight national titles and 18 Final Four appearances. About 1,000 fans and dozens of former Lady Vols got their first look at the sculpture, located across the street from Thompson-Boling Arena at the corner of Lake Loudon Boulevard and Phillip Fulmer Way.
“I just want everybody to know that for me, today, it’s not about me,” Summitt said while speaking alongside her son, Tyler, just before the statue was uncovered. “It’s about everyone out here that loves the University of Tennessee. We just hope and pray that we can continue to do good things. Tyler has been a rock for me, and I appreciate him for that. I want everybody to know how much I appreciate what’s happened here today. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it, and I love you all.”
The statue, which is 8 feet, 7 inches tall, shows Summitt smiling with her arms folded. Behind the statue is a concrete wall bearing a giant version of Summitt’s signature. Below the signature are the words “Head Coach 1974-2012, Record 1,098-208, 8 National Championships.”
“It’s great,” said Tyler Summitt, now an assistant women’s coach at Marquette. “She loved it, so I loved it.”
Summitt stepped down as Tennessee’s coach in April 2012, one year after announcing she had early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type. She remains on staff as head coach emeritus. Her 1,098 career wins are the most of any Division I men’s or women’s basketball coach.
All her players who completed their eligibility went on to earn their degrees.
“When you look at all of us and all the things we’ve been able to accomplish not only on the basketball court, but even off the court, we’ve got coaches, we’ve got entrepreneurs, we’ve got mothers, a little bit of everything,” Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings said. “We learned (from Summitt) what it takes to be a leader, what it takes to be a great woman, what it takes to be a great lady, what it takes to have character, what it takes to have poise, how not to buckle under adversity.”
Although it drizzled around campus for much of the morning, the rain held off during the half-hour event.
“There’s a reason that it’s raining now and it didn’t during the ceremony,” said Michelle Marciniak, a Tennessee guard from 1993-96. “Pat’s just got a special touch. I knew the rain would stop just for the ceremony.”
Summitt’s statue was designed by Houston sculptor David Adickes. Tennessee alum Chris LaPorte, a Texas resident whose family donated the statue, considers Adickes a friend and has collected some of his work. The entire plaza was funded by about 600 donors.
Adickes said he never met Summitt personally, but he looked at numerous videos and photographs of her to figure out the proper pose for his statue. Adickes said he wanted the sculpture to reflect a look of content. He said the statue weighs 500 pounds.
“She looks like a winner,” Adickes said. “If there’s one word I would use, it would be that. She looks like a winner.”
Friday’s ceremony brought back numerous people from just about every stage of Summitt’s career. As Tennessee band members played “Rocky Top” on an overhead parking garage, Summitt walked into the plaza with her son, chancellor Jimmy Cheek and athletic director Dave Hart. She was joined by Tennessee’s current women’s basketball team plus numerous former players from every stage of her coaching career.
“It’s just an incredible moment,” said Tyler Summitt, who couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen such a large gathering of current and former Lady Vols. “I think what made it that is that all these people were here throughout Mom’s history and the present. She’ll be the first to tell you that it’s always about others.”
Spectators included former Tennessee women’s athletic director Joan Cronan, Tennessee football coach Butch Jones and men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin and former football coach Phillip Fulmer. Other guests included former Texas women’s basketball coach Jody Conradt and Billie Moore, who coached Summitt on the 1976 U.S. Olympic team.
‘’It’s a goosebumps day on Rocky Top,” Hart said.