LAFAYETTE — Garry Brodhead is a product of his upbringing, so he couldn’t resist himself about a decade ago when legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt took a seat within arm’s reach at a recruiting event.
“I had just started coaching in college, I came from Teurlings and I was at McNeese,” Brodhead said. “I was in Atlanta recruiting. She happened to sit right by me, and you know me, I’m a Cajun. ‘Hey Pat, how are you doing?’”
It was what happened next that stuck with Brodhead, when Summitt turned to face him and struck a conversation. She seemed genuinely interested about why he wanted to get into coaching women’s basketball.
“It was surprising the interest she had in my story as much as I was just in awe sitting next to her,” Brodhead said.
They talked shop, about coaching and defense and how the game had changed.
The game has changed, and if you ask anyone almost anyone involved with women’s basketball, Summitt was the catalyst that brought it about. That means anyone, not only those she struck a casual conversation with. Summitt’s reach extends far beyond those she came in physical contact with.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in Division I college basketball h…
Summitt died Tuesday morning in Knoxville, Tennessee surrounded by many people like Brodhead that she touched personally. Summitt lives on as an idea in so many other places, including here in Acadiana, for those she never met.
“I think everybody is influenced by her,” Brodhead said. ‘She’s the Godmother of women’s basketball. I don’t think it would be where it is now without her.”
Iota coach Meghann LeJeune remembers the first time she ever saw a Sports Illustrated. Summitt was on the cover. She immediately went to her dad and said she wanted to be a Volunteer.
“He said why do you want to play for Tennessee?” LeJeune said. “And I said, ‘Pat Summit is the meanest, toughest coach out there. She’s going to make me be the best.’”
LeJeune never ended up playing for Summitt. She never met Summitt, either. But Summitt’s impact was there all the same.
When she was in seventh or eighth grade, just before embarking on a successful playing career at Iota High School, LeJeune read Summitt’s autobiography “Reach for the Summit.’ She recalls her favorite quote word for word, the one that propelled her through high school basketball into a college playing career and then a coaching career.
“‘Here’s how I’m going to beat you. I’m going to outwork you. That’s it,’” LeJeune recited. “That’s something I say to my girls all the time. You don’t have to be the most athletic, you just work harder than everybody else and you’re going to give yourself an advantage.”
Young women were not the only ones caught up by Summitt.
St. Thomas More girls basketball coach Stephen Strojny said Summitt “completely changed my view of women’s basketball.”
He had an idea of what the game was until he watched one of Summitt’s Volunteers’ teams play.
“I think she defined women’s basketball, but moreso she brought women’s basketball to the mainstream,” Strojny said. “Before, you didn’t talk to that many guys who watched women’s basketball until Pat Summitt got to the scene. She revolutionized the game. Her style of coaching and the style she demanded her players play was something fairly new.”
The eyes. That’s the thing you remember most about Pat Summitt. The eyes of a fierce competitor that could cut glass — the eyes that watched s…
Summitt acted as the accelerant for a flickering flame. Her excellence as a coach expanded the game’s reach into the living rooms of people like LeJeune, Strojny and Brodhead. Those people have gone on to spread the Summitt gospel all over the country.
“Every aspect of what I’m doing today, and actually of the girls that are here, a lot of them don’t realize that we’re on a different platform because of her,” Brodhead said. “The platform for women’s basketball is at such a high level right now.
“To me, it’s like taking something that nobody really believed in and believing in it so much that it goes to the highest level. And it’s continued to grow. It grew so fast because she believed in the game and also loved the game.”
Now they’re tasked with keeping that growth going in Summitt’s stead.
“As a coach, you’re obligated to keep the history of the game, the history of the sport and the history of the culture of women’s basketball,” Strojny said. “It’s the coach’s job to pass the stories down to the next generation.”
It’s already started.
LeJeune was working a girls biddy basketball camp Tuesday with her sister in law, who also played college basketball.
There was a moment when they gathered the girls around to let them know Summitt died, perhaps not realizing that the girls might’ve been too young to know who Summitt was, or the forces Summitt set in motion that may have resulted in their being on the court in the first place.
“One of the girls asked, ‘Who is Pat Summitt?’” LeJeune said. “We kind of used that as a lesson. We gave them the whole spiel.
“Her legacy is definitely going to live on.”