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SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR: Mike Krzyzewski / SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR: Pat Summitt
Alexander Wolff
December 12, 2011
The two winningest coaches in Division I college basketball history (907 for him, 1,075 for her) have more in common than just extraordinary success. For reaching far beyond their campuses and refusing to be defined by their genders, SI honors them together
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December 12, 2011

Sportsman Of The Year: Mike Krzyzewski / Sportswoman Of The Year: Pat Summitt

The two winningest coaches in Division I college basketball history (907 for him, 1,075 for her) have more in common than just extraordinary success. For reaching far beyond their campuses and refusing to be defined by their genders, SI honors them together

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There are differences between Krzyzewski and Summitt, to be sure, and one of the most pronounced breaks along gender lines. But not in the way you'd imagine.

In his book Leading with the Heart, Krzyzewski says he wants to feel about his players "what my mom felt about me."

As for Summitt, says DeMoss, "her whole life has been about proving herself to her father."

PLEASING TALL MAN

Before she became Pat Summitt, Patricia Sue (Trish) Head grew up on a farm in Montgomery county, Tenn., with three older brothers and no girl her age for miles around. Life took on a kind of circumscribed inevitability. She and her brothers played two-on-two in the hayloft once the chores were done, but those chores claimed much of their days: milking cows, chopping tobacco, baling hay, picking and shelling butter beans. She was barely 12 the day her father first left her alone in a field, with a tractor and a hay rakeā€”and orders to figure out how to use them.

People around the county knew Richard Head, 6'5" and taciturn, as Tall Man. Not knowing what to do with a daughter, Summitt has said, her father "raised me like a combination of a fourth son and an extra field hand. If I made a mistake, I got whipped. If I cried, I got whipped harder."

She learned not to cry, and found ballast in the tenderness of her mother, Hazel. The family's circumstances would steadily improve, until Tall Man became the baron of Henrietta, with a general store, feed store, hardware store, dry cleaners and a sideline in building homes. But the expectation of hard work never abated. Trish Head feared her father but respected him and yearned for some signal that he loved her in return.

Proof came just before she entered high school. The school Trish would have attended in Clarksville had dropped girls' basketball after a player struck her head on the wall behind the baseline and died. Richard Head moved the family out of a nearly new home and into a drafty old one in Henrietta so Trish could attend, and play basketball for, Cheatham County High. If he couldn't tell her he cared, Tall Man could show it.

The girl everyone called Bone was 5'11" and wiry, good enough to go on to star in "women's extramurals" at Tennessee-Martin, where she wore a uniform with felt numerals she had applied herself. Sorority sisters went to work on her, conducting fashion checks before she went off to class and purging her speech of the harshest Henriettaisms (such as saying "soup case" instead of suitcase). But on the court she reverted to the country girl who scrapped with her brothers in the hayloft, and twice coaches selected her for U.S. national teams.

When she was offered the job as Tennessee's coach in 1974, six weeks before her 22nd birthday, Pat Head had a very simple conception of work. (Administrators assumed she went by Pat when she arrived in Knoxville, and she never corrected them.) At open tryouts that first year, during suicide line drills, one flight of four women simply crossed the end line and ran out the gym door, never to come back. She taped ankles, washed uniforms and drove the team van. On road trips the team might sleep on mats laid out in the host school's gym; sometimes she'd have to hang her head out the window on the drive home to stay awake. At first she taught three phys-ed courses, took four more for her master's, and rehabbed an ACL, torn during her senior season at UT-Martin. She wanted to keep alive a chance to play in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, where women's basketball would be on the program for the first time. She not only made the team as its oldest player at age 24, but also as co-captain led it to a surprising silver medal.

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