By Chamique Holdsclaw
For the Associated Press
I remember the first time I met coach Summitt. My grandmother and I were in awe of how powerful and sharp she was in person when she came to my projects in Astoria, New York, to recruit me to UT.
She promised me three things that day: I would graduate college, I would always have my family and sisterhood at UT, and that she would always be there for me.
As amazing as she was as a coach she was so much more as a person. No matter what I was going through during and after my college playing days, she was there for me. I remember when I first was having issues in college, she met with me and told me, “You have to do what makes you happy.” She got me the help I needed.
When things spiraled out of control when I was in D.C., having these blackouts and things, Coach Summitt was knocking at my door. She spent time talking with me after the season. She wanted to make sure I was OK and getting the medical attention I needed. When I lost my grandmother, when I was really struggling with my mental illness, whenever I needed her, she was there for me. When she first went public with her battle with dementia, our UT family rallied around her, but we all believed that if anyone could beat the odds it would be coach Summitt.
She was something like a superhero to me. In the face of adversity she never showed weakness, she never backed down.
Even up until these final days, she lived up to her promise to me and I’m sure to so many others. I went to Knoxville this weekend with a heavy heart. I had received word that coach Summitt’s health was declining rapidly. I did not know how I would feel when I saw her.
When I arrived, I was overwhelmed by the love and outpouring of support for coach Summitt.
My UT family was there sharing stories, laughing, crying, wanting to be there for the woman that had never let them down. I spent some time with her and I thanked her for everything she has done for me and for every other life that she touched. People came from far and wide to be there in her presence for one last time, hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. If anyone could pull out a miracle it would be coach Summitt. But the miracle was her life and her legacy. Her incredible journey and the lives that she touched on and off the court. Her impact on the world is far greater than the game of basketball. She will forever and always be my superhero.
Thank you coach Pat Summitt.
(NOTE: Chamique Holdsclaw played at Tennessee from 1995-1999 and the 6-foot-2 forward won three national championships with the Lady Vols; was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 WNBA draft and was the league’s rookie of the year; a 6-time WNBA All-Star, led the league in rebounding twice and scoring once.)