If there’s an active men’s basketball head coach best positioned to give an opinion on the legacy of Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, it is probably Auburn coach Bruce Pearl.
The outspoken Tigers coach spent six seasons (2005-11) as the men’s basketball coach at Tennessee during Summitt’s tenure. A time during which he generated one of the most noted photographs in Vols basketball history, when he went shirtless and painted himself up in the student section in support of Summitt’s Lady Vols:
With Summitt’s family preparing for a potential end to her hard-fought battle against early onset dementia, the photograph serves as memento of the mutual respect shared by two of the school’s most successful basketball coaches.
On Monday, Pearl was asked to think back on his time coaching alongside Summitt in Knoxville and recall what his biggest takeaways were. With a hint of emotion in his voice, Pearl delivered a well-crafted response:
“Pat Summitt saw things in people that they did not see in themselves,” Pearl said during Monday’s SEC coaches teleconference. “Pat Summitt never apologized to any one of her players for expecting the most out of them, demanding it and getting it.
She was a great friend. She was as loyal as they came. If you were a friend of Pat Summitt’s, she was always there for you. She’s a great mother, and she had the ability to get the most out of her ladies. As much as anybody.
She was the most accomplished person in her field and the humblest woman I know. She was the best at what she did, but she was always reading, writing, asking questions, watching tape, watching the Olympics, watching European basketball. She wanted to be on the cutting edge and was always trying to get better.
She created a brand called the Lady Vols. Enough said. You say ‘Lady Vol,’ and Pat created a brand that said it all.”