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A true basketball giant is lost with the passing of Pat Summitt


I remember writing a piece last summer about Lisa Thomaidis being the lone female coach at the FIBA Americas championship in Edmonton and how it spoke to logic and talent and ability ahead of anything else.

And while chatting with someone about that story, it might have been Lisa, it could have been Allison McNeill, it might have been Bev Smith, this line came up when we were discussing the role model nature of Lisa’s astounding success and her place in the hierarchy of the very best basketball coaches around.

“You can’t be what you can’t see”

That’s pretty good, terrifically astute and something I’ve never forgotten.

It came flooding back to me this morning when the news broke that the legendary Pat Summitt had passed away at age 64 of early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.

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Summitt’s record is beyond description, really. Her teams at Tennessee won 1,098 games and lost 208, the Lady Vols won eight NCAA championships and she was generally regarded as the best women’s coach by a country mile.

But it’s more than that. Far more.

You’ll read and hear all day about how she set the standard for female coaches, advanced the cause more than anyone on earth, she was the first and I am sure a handful of Canadian coaches I know personally will feel that the trailblazing nature of her career had an impact on them pursuing their coaching dreams and careers.

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“You can’t be what you can’t see.”

I am certainly not close enough to women’s basketball at the NCAA or professional level to know where the game is headed vis a vis female coaches but I am cognizant enough about history to realize what Summitt was and what she meant to the game, the profession. To history.

I was in her presence once – it was at a reception somewhere and I honestly don’t recall where or what the circumstances were – and when she walked into the room, it alternately stopped and lit up, if you know what I mean.

There aren’t too many athletes and even fewer coaches or officials whose mere presence can cause that kind of stir; you knew someone special was among us.

What Summitt did for women’s basketball and for women who wanted to coach basketball was basically indescribable. Since news broke on the weekend that she had taken a turn for the worse and that the tragic end was nearing, I went in search of stories and profiles to refresh myself, the best of which is this brilliant Gary Smith piece from Sports Illustrated.

I would suggest that every female basketball player and especially every woman who harbours coaching dreams spends sometime around the google and the interwebs today soaking up the tributes.

We continue to lose sports icons, far too frequently it seems, the loss of Summitt is another huge blow.

Gotta be this, right?

Yes, I totally mocked She Who Supports Arsenal for her choices for the Mt. Rushmore of soccer and went off the board a bit for mine but it was all in I’ll Have Another fun.

Yep, the podcast is back with Episode 4, our initial foray into a beginning-of-the-week endeavour and we think it turned out okay.

Have a listen here and reach out with any comments, praise or criticisms but keep the criticism down a bit, we’re sensitive.

Anyone know where a guy might pick up an Iceland soccer jersey in the next couple of days?

Asking for hundreds of friends.

And England’s had better weeks, hasn’t it?

Tristan Thompson has done the right thing and is headed off to Manila to meet Canada’s senior men’s team for the last-ditch Olympic basketball qualifier.

Solid move that shows an impressive commitment to the program that’s still in tough to make it to Rio but the chances are better now.

Talking to Jay electronically earlier today, he’s quite happy to have Cory Joseph and Joel Anthony joining the team in Italy today for a final exhibition game against Puerto Rico tomorrow before they head to Philippines on Thursday and quite excited that Thompson will meet them there.

He understands the time pressure – “Have to get everyone acclimatized and up to date really quick,” he said – but there is a far greater sense of optimism.

For Thompson, I think he should be lauded for making the trip. Yeah, it was a long hard season with Cleveland and I’m sure some people would have given him a pass if he extended his post-season vacation a few more weeks.

But I have the utmost respect for athletes who feel compelled to help their country if they can – unlike Andrew Wiggins and Nik Stauskas who bailed and let the program down facing long odds after failing last summer – and Thompson showed me something with this decision.

I certainly didn’t watch an awful lot or dissect the intricacies of game critique but I didn’t mind George Stroumboulopoulos as the front for Hockey Night in Canada at all.

Found it a bit refreshing, I presumed it would resonate a bit with younger viewers and perhaps draw them in but, man, was that line of thinking off-base.

And I have no clue what’s going to happen to the show now – nor do I really care an awful lot – but admitting failure so early into what was supposed to be a bold new era is sure going to make it hard to institute any major change in the future, isn’t it?

That day is coming and it’ll be interesting to see how a venture that fully admits the past is better than the present deals with the future when it arrives.

And Andy Frost getting whacked by MLSE just strikes me as wrong.

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