ABC News’ Kristi Berner reports:
Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt breaks a record every time her team wins a game. She’s the winningest coach in Division I college basketball — men or women, living or dead. But Thursday night Summitt reached the magic number of 1,000 victories when the Lady Vols topped Georgia 73-43 on their home court in Knoxville.
I spoke to USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan this afternoon and she said Summitt’s number 1,000 was a great moment for women’s sports and a positive step forward.
"It’s a huge milestone," Brennan said. "The entire world of basketball — male and female — stopped and took notice. And that hasn’t always been the case for the male basketball world, to give credence and respect to the female basketball world."
Summitt’s first win at Tennessee came 34 years ago, a 69-32 victory over Middle Tennessee State in Knoxville. She was barely older than her players – just 22-years-old. And Title IX, the landmark legislation that requires equality in men’s and women’s sports (that’s a rough translation of a very technical law), had only been in effect for two years.
Last night, even Summitt herself seemed a bit awestruck at her accomplishment.
“It’s a wow from the standpoint that I never imagined I would coach this long. Nor did I ever envision this program winning 1,000 games,” she said during the post-game celebration. “It certainly is a time for me to reflect and think about all those players who scored all those points.”
Summitt is in the midst of her 35th season at Tennessee, but the 56-year-old still has many years ahead to increase her record wins. Currently the only other coaches with at least 900 victories are Bob Knight (902), the former men’s coach at Indiana and Texas Tech, and retired Texas women’s coach Jody Conradt (900). Last night, Summitt joked that her reaching 1,000 might be why Knight may be thinking about coaching again.
Brennan said Summitt’s milestone is making a lot of people think.
“Because of her success, Pat Summitt is getting people to look at all of women’s basketball in a different way,” Brennan said.
But Coach Summitt is already putting the accolades aside and focusing on winning the next game, pushing one of her least-experienced squads to another championship. She calls them her “Baby Vols.”
“We may be young and we may be inexperienced, but our goal is to be in St. Louis at the Final Four,” Summitt said. “We have a vision, and that’s where we want to be.”
That vision has already led Summitt to eight NCAA championships, so number nine could soon be on the horizon.