"I want you to listen to this," Pat Summitt said on Thursday afternoon as she began spinning a yarn about the hiring letter she had received from the University of Tennessee nearly 40 years ago. As she joked about "bouncing checks all over the place" as an underpaid, fledgling basketball coach, the 59-year-old Hall of Famer again implored the crowd, "now, listen."
Even at the press conference to address her decision to step aside as head coach of the women's basketball team at Tennessee, a decision hastened by her Alzheimer's diagnosis, Summitt still knew how to command a huddle. Reading, tentatively at first, from notes, Summitt reflected on her historic career in Knoxville -- eight national championships, 18 trips to the Final Four and 1,098 career wins -- as well as her decision to officially turn over the reigns to longtime lieutenant Holly Warlick.
After concluding her prepared statement, Summitt took questions from the media contingent crowded onto the court named in her honor. Speaking off the cuff, Summitt flashed a self-deprecating sense of humor as she referenced her upcoming 60th birthday. The 7-time "NCAA Coach of the Year" also offered a simple but poignant response to a question about the timing of her decision to step down.
"It's never a good time," Summitt admitted. "But you have to find the time that you think is the right time and that is now."
In a symbolic move, Summitt called over Warlick, one of several people, including Summitt's son Tyler, seated alongside her, and turned over her whistle. Summitt stood as Warlick approached and the pair embraced as an ovation broke out.
"I know this works," Warlick quipped. "Because I've heard it a lot of times."
Despite, symbolically passing control to Warlick, Summitt pledged that she would remain a presence around the Lady Vols program.
"I'm going to be at practice," Summitt said. "I'm going to be yelling at them still. They may not like that, but it makes me feel good."
In part to honor of all that yelling that she has done at so many previous practices, Summitt will soon be receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest honor for a civilian.
"Obviously, I didn't see it coming, but that's a tremendous honor," Summitt said on Thursday.
Being awarded the President Medal of Freedom is yet another milestone in a career that has been peppered with accomplishments seemingly as frequently as the shrill bursts from that whistle have pierced the air at the Lady Vols' practices through the years. To put the depth and breadth of Summitt's achievements in perspective, here are more than 20 of her signatures coaching moments.