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Legendary coach Pat Summitt felt called by God to do good work

Posted July 5

The winningest coach in college basketball history died last Tuesday, leaving behind a legacy of determination, toughness and uncommon grace.

Pat Summitt, who coached the Lady Vols at the University of Tennessee for nearly 40 years, turned her players into leaders and inspired young athletes across the country. She told her biographer, Sally Jenkins, that her faith kept her grounded and focused.

"I know that everything I've been given came as gifts from God, and he has a way of reminding us, 'This is my work.' God's plan is a mystery to me. I just know that I was given work to do," Summitt said in her 2012 biography, "Sum It Up," which was released soon after the coach was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.

After announcing her illness, Summitt stayed on with the Lady Vols for one more season. She then launched a foundation and worked to reduce the stigma surrounding dementia.

"We've always known that God has had a bigger plan for her than just coaching basketball," said Summitt's only child, Tyler, in a 2012 interview with "CBS This Morning," according to CBS News.

Tyler Summitt told USA Today in 2012 that his family's faith helped sustain them through her difficult diagnosis. The coach, who grew up Methodist but attended a Southern Baptist church in the final years of her life, would sit and read the Bible with former players.

"Our faith has helped us," said Tyler Summitt to USA Today. "I have to think God has a plan."

Summitt's impact on college basketball and the sports world in general won't soon be forgotten. Her former players and colleagues work at college programs across the U.S. and some have gone on to become WNBA stars.

"For 38 years, the trailblazing coach roamed courtside at Tennessee, racking up 1,098 wins against only 208 losses. Along the way, there were eight national championships and 16 conference titles," CBS News reported.

Her legacy is measured "by the generations of young women and men who admired Pat's intense competitiveness and character, and as a result found in themselves the confidence to practice hard, play harder and live with courage on and off the court," said President Barack Obama in a statement Tuesday, according to CNN.

Summitt received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Obama in 2012.

Email: kdallas@deseretnews.com Twitter: @kelsey_dallas

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