April 18, 2012

Is Pat Summitt the Greatest College Basketball Coach of All-Time?

By - Kris Fletcher

During her 38 years at the University of Tennessee, Pat Summitt went from making a few hundred dollars a month and washing player uniforms herself, to becoming the most iconic women's basketball coach in the history of the sport.

Photo by: Getty Images
Summitt, who is battling early onset Alzheimer's disease, is without question the single most influential coach in the history of the women's game. She built the type of powerhouse that other programs strive to emulate, winning 1,098 games, 8 national championships, and appearing in 18 Final Fours.

By the way, she also had a 100% graduation rate.

Now that Summitt has decided to step down as head coach of the Lady Volunteers, there's a lot of debate as to where she ranks on the all-time list of great college basketball coaches.

Is she the best ever?

Even though Summitt has more career victories than any other Division 1-A college coach, there's not nearly the parity and competitiveness in women's basketball that there is in the men's game. It's just a fact. Grant you, the competition is just as intense, but there's a lack of depth in the quality of teams in women's basketball. That's why there's an undefeated women's squad every few years, while we haven't seen an unbeaten men's team since 1976.

Also keep in mind that there aren't nearly the number of women's programs who have committed the resources and finances to compete for national titles like Summitt's Tennessee program has.

For those reasons, I have a hard time proclaiming Summitt as the best of all-time.

I also can't give the nod to UCLA's John Wooden, even though he has more national championships (10) than any other coach in Division 1-A history. In Wooden's day, there were many schools that didn't even try to compete at the upper echelon level of college basketball. Many teams even had head coaches who also doubled as assistant coaches for other sports.

With that, my vote has to go to Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K has won more games than any other Division 1-A men's coach in history. He's won 4 national titles and been to the Final Four 11 times. Not to mention the fact that Krzyzewski has continued to excel in an era when the NCAA Tournament has been expanded multiple times and literally hundreds of schools are investing in big-time college basketball.

In the end though, no matter where history places her on some list, there's no denying that Pat Summitt is one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history, regardless of gender, era, or any other criteria one may base their opinion on. The best? Possibly. But at the very least, truly elite.

Women's college hoops is undoubtedly better for having had her in it, and she will certainly be missed.

Happy trails, Pat.


  1. Pearlee Brewer FletcherApril 19, 2012 at 10:49 PM


  2. Without question the best women's coach ever. Sad to see her go.