Rutgers head coach C.Vivian Stringer reflects on friendship with Pat Summitt
Rutgers head coach C.Vivian Stringer discussed her friendship with legendary coach Pat Summitt after learning about the passing of the basketball icon. Stringer and Summitt were friends since the first NCAA Final Four in 1982 and rivals in the 2007 national championship game. Stringer was the head coach of Cheyney State in 1982 and went on to compete in the title game before losing to Louisiana Tech. Tennessee lost in the Final Four to the eventual champions.
On Pat Summitt:
“Well first of all I want to thank God for giving us Pat. She was more than what people say – a legend. She was an icon. She was all that -a brilliant, charismatic person that cared deeply about people and she is the biggest reason for the growth of women’s basketball. She was a giant amongst all of us. She was some one that I aspired to be like. We were both coaches in the first NCAA tournament – Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, Maryland and at the time I was at Cheyney State and we have been friends ever since that. I am personally hurt by the news. Initially it was like the earth stood still and then there was a giant earthquake. It has been difficult for all of us, not just in women’s basketball, but in the sports world itself. And we are all devastated. I loved her and I can’t say enough about a great woman who was so giving of herself. She transcended what it meant to be a leader, what it meant to a person that has humility and how to carry yourself in competition and in life. I can’t say enough. My heart goes out to the many players that she coached, as well as her family, friends.”
On Pat’s Strength and Grace in Battling Alzheimer’s Disease:
“She dealt with it in a public way, which I try to figure out how anyone could be that open, but that was Pat. She showed tremendous courage and the attitude that she could not be defeated. And truly she wasn’t. I know that we don’t have her with us, but the strength and faith that she showed in front of everyone is something that I will remember and I am sure that so many of us will remember all the days of our lives.”
On Pat’s Influence:
“She is irreplaceable. No one can even attempt to represent more of the progress of women’s basketball than her. We talked many times about the importance of continuing to further our sport. No one has more of an impact than her. She is a gold standard in all of what she did. On the sidelines, as well as the character that she demonstrated throughout her life, she was impeccable. She was a great friend, a great friend of women’s basketball. There is no one that could come close in furthering the sport of women’s basketball than Pat.
Even when you read her book and where she’s come from, I just smiled because this woman came up the hard way and she worked hard. There is no other person that has impacted the game more than her. More than that, being a spokesperson for us period. I am really at a loss.”
On Coaching Against Pat:
“I knew it was not just the X’s and O’s, it was the mind. She and I had exchanged over the years conversations about competitions we both had. She was consistent with the teaching. A Tennessee team was characterized by certain qualities in all of what they did. Pat set the standard about how that should be done. I think that today that is the model we should be following.
She was always evolving and always thinking about what she could do to help all of us, all of us in women’s basketball. She took on more than the responsibility of having national championships for the Tennessee program, but it was the idea of furthering women’s basketball in the national spotlight. She was great, what could you say.”
If You Were Going To Have to Lose, Would it be Pat?
“Yeah, you can say that. Needless to say I am a big competitor like she was. And I didn’t like the feeling of ever losing. It was always my intention just to win and compete. But I can honestly say, when the game was over and we turned to the outstanding friendship we always had on a personal level, it was always the same. We never held anything against each other. If you are going to lose, you are going to lose to the best and she was clearly the best.”