KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Pat Summitt was the women's basketball coach at the University of Tennessee for more than four decades. She was an outsized presence who helped bring women's athletics to the forefront in America. Along the way, she touched thousands of lives both inside the gym and out.
As news of her death after a difficult fight with Alzheimer's disease spread Tuesday, there was an outpouring of grief from her adoring players, coaches, fans, and admirers.
For the state of Tennessee, few if any people born there had a bigger presence on the national stage than Summitt.
The current Lady Vols head coach, Holy Warlick, was also a player under Summitt from 1976 to 1980. Summitt handed over the reigns to Warlick in 2012, but admitted the current coach had been "doing the bulk of it" since her Alzheimer's diagnosis the year before.
Every athlete at Tennessee seemed to be influenced by the coach's presence.
NFL great Payton Manning, who sits on the board of The Pat Summitt Foundation and played college football at Tennessee, said in a statement that Summitt gave him valuable advice in college, and that they were supportive of each other's careers.
"It would have been a great experience to play for her. She could have coached any team, any sport, men's or women's," Manning said. "I will miss her dearly and I am honored to call her my friend."
Till the end, she appeared to have an influence over everyone the school.
Her influence extended well beyond the state of Tennessee after all the years of racking up wins, awards, and miles jetting across the country collecting them and touching lives.