Pat Summitt stands one win away from passing Dean Smith for the all-time lead in NCAA Division I coaching victories, but is it fair to compare their accomplishments?
We asked for your thoughts on Summitt's impending record and you responded in droves. Here are some responses on both sides of the debate.
SportsNation's Take: Summitt Deserves Respect
Pat Summitt is one of the greatest college basketball coaches in the history of the game. Period. The stated "Pro" resonates because the stated "Con" makes no sense unless the same argument is made against John Wooden or Adolph Rupp, both of whom coached in a less ethnically/racially diverse sport than today, monopolized talent and coached teams against inferior competition. But I don't see anyone attempting to diminish their accomplishment as this very topic diminishes what Pat Summitt has done.
New York, N.Y.
It's all relative. A win is a win. Why is that we vote every year for equal rights, and everyone wants to be equal, yet those same people who want equal rights continue to hold progress back? A win is a win no matter what. It is sickening that we continue to put men as superior individuals. When will everyone grow up? If you don't like women's sports, then don't watch. No one is putting your face to a fire to make you watch. So don't. So don't try and tell other people what they can and can't like because you continue to want to compare women to men. It is old! As a former Division I basketball player, I respect all athletes -- men or women -- and I laugh extremely hard when these "arm chair quarterbacks" who have never stepped foot on the big time make the assessment that women's basketball couldn't beat high school boys. Please, Mr. "I get all my sports knowledge off the website," step foot on the court with these women, and I guarantee you will lose. Step foot on the court with Pat Summit as your coach, and I promise you will go runnin to your mama! You couldn't make it through one of her practices. Once again my point is it is all relative --- A win is a win!!! Get over yourself!
I'm a UConn fan, and as a rule we don't like Pat Summitt. That said, the best sports experience of my life was watching the Huskies defeat Tennessee at the 2000 Final Four. That's because the Lady Vols had owned women's college hoops for a very long time. However, at today's level of competition, I don't believe Summitt would have nearly as many wins and maybe not as many championships. She benefited by being in the right place at the right time early in her career. That said, talking about the numbers obscures the real accomplishment of helping to put the sport of women's basketball on the map, and of course, on ESPN. Love her or hate her, she's been very good for the game.
I think it's so unfortunate that this is even a debate. Basketball is basketball, and greatness is greatness Coach Summitt has done more than just leave an imprint on the game of basketball. It's so disappointing that this milestone is being overshadowed by comparison of Coach Smith. He, too, is a great coach and it will be nice in society when we can recognize a good coach, regardless of his or her gender! No matter what anyone's personal thoughts are, Coach Summit will stand next to the greatest coaches of all time and that is a FACT!
Las Cruces, N.M.
Coaching is coaching. It is clear from the responses to the ESPN.com polls that men don't think that women can coach men. Exactly how many women have done that in Div. I sports? Is it fair to Coach Summitt that she didn't have an opportunity to coach men's basketball? People will point to inferior talent, but how can one assume that the talent is inferior? Oh wait, they are women, therefore inferior. Should an asterisk be placed on men's basketball because all the top talent is now jumping to the NBA? Coach K didn't really pass Dean Smith on NCAA tournament wins, because all the best guys went to the NBA. Oh wait, they are still men, therefore superior. Summitt's record counts.
Do we debate Eddie Robinson's football coaching record because Grambling isn't D-I football? Do we debate the D-III football coach's record? No! Their accomplishments stand on their merit and Pat Summitt's should as well. She has grown the game, and she has she has never had a losing season. Coach K was horrible his first several years at Duke. Pat Summitt started at the very beginning of women's basketball and she demonstrated tenacity and developed into the most successful coach of any sport of all time. Why are we even having this debate?
Pat accomplished her 879 wins in 31 years, and it took Smith 36 years. Personally, I think any win is a win, and the University of Tennessee Lady Vols have played the toughest schedule in the nation for years. Pat could coach a men's team and still be No. 1 in the standings with the most wins. Her coaching is about basketball and life. Go Lady Vols!!!
SportsNation's Take: She's Not Dean Smith
I believe Coach Summitt is a great coach. Just watch her on the sideline or at practice, coaching, teaching, grooming, educating. With that being said, the women's game is just a different game, comparatively speaking. How many three-foot put-backs are routinely blown in the women's game, even in the tournament, which should be the showcase? There is too much of a gap between the haves and have nots in the women's game. I can't envision any games in the men's tourney where a team is leading 80-30, that doesn't happen, but it's not uncommon in the women's tourney. At least in the opening rounds. I'd say Summitt is a great coach, great at getting more from her players than they even know they are capable of achieving, but the win totals are not comparable.
If you think about it, Pat Summitt's record for most wins should have an asterisk next to it, saying she coached WOMEN'S BASKETBALL. Never, ever, in any game or tournament has their been an upset like in men's basketball. Women's basketball should never ever be compared to men's, and it's a crying shame Dean Smith has to be compared to a woman who coaches in the most predictable sport in college. By that I mean in women's basketball. It's always going to be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the Final Four. Women's basketball is so important it gets a 30-minute selection show, while the men get a three-hour show, what else does that tell you? NO ONE CARES ABOUT WOMEN'S BASKETBALL PERIOD!!!!
I believe this comparison is way out of left field and too caught up in political correctness. That's the only way that I can see them being compared in the first place. In fact, it's silly. Ok, let the women play basketball with the men. Better yet, has Pat Summitt ever coached a men's team? Let's just have a basketball league with no distinctions of gender. Let's see if gender equality would work in the NBA. I guess the next thing you're going to say is some player from the WNBA could make an NBA team. RIGHT!! If this lady is such a great coach, then let's put up her best team against Dean Smith's "worst" team and lets see what happens. What do you think? Here's what I think. This useless comparison does not make any sense at all.
No one cares. Women's basketball is an afterthought, an apology for those who think that differences between genders should be abolished. Summit's accomplishment is the manifestation of that system, where competitive balance comes from a greater number of programs gunning for the championship with a large amount of resources. The payoff isn't there for a women's program, and, therefore, less schools invest in a top-flight program. Hence the permanent imbalance. If the public cared, money would flow, competitive balance would flourish. But that is not the case. Women's basketball is stuck in limbo, with some schools getting a second-rate benefit, and others foregoing that second-rate benefit because they estimate the investment is not worth the payoff. In short, dunks and high-jumping jump shots are more entertaining than lay-ups and from-the-hip set shots in slow motion. End of story.
No question that Pat Summit's accomplishments in women's basketball should be noted. However, comparing those accomplishments to Dean Smith's in men's basketball is ludicrous! Apples and oranges, just goes to show that some in our society will never be happy with who they really are. Pat Summit is a female coach for a female team, and should once again be celebrated for her accomplishment, she should not be mentioned in the same breath as male coaches who coach for male teams. Pat Summit has never coached a game involving men, nor should she be judged against those that do. If some women feel that Pat Summit is slighted by not being held in the same regard as male coaches, what kind of message is that sending? That women should always compare themselves to men. This logic is fruitless and unfair to women, who are different and should be celebrated for who they really are: women.
I don't see the need to combine the records from two different sports into one all-encompassing record. The fact of the matter is that women's basketball in Summitt's time has lacked the parity of the men's game (though this is changing). Currently, only a handful of teams can enter the season with any chance of a championship (LSU, UConn, Tennessee), and seeing a "surprise" winner like Syracuse in the men's tournament a few years ago is nearly unheard of. Summitt is a phenomenal coach, and I'd be willing to say that she'd be a great men's coach as well - but her record is, simply, different.
Until women play against men in college basketball, it is not fair to compare accomplishments in one against the other. It is like trying to compare records from one sport to another - it is fun for sportswriters, but not realistic for the rest of us. I am sure there are some little league or high school basketball coaches who have higher winning percentages than Summitt. Or if we want to compare one league to another, Doug Flutie might be the best professional football player ever based on his Canadian football league accomplishments.
New York, N.Y.