US & Canada

Pat Summitt, legend of women's basketball, dies at 64

Former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt smiles before the team's NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame. Image copyright AP
Image caption Pat Summitt held the most wins in Division I college basketball history

Legendary women's basketball coach Pat Summitt has died at the age of 64.

Ms Summitt led the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers to eight national championships during her storied, 38-year career with the team.

She also had 1,098 career victories, the most in Division I college basketball history for both a men's or a women's coach, and led the women's national team to Olympic glory.

Her death comes five years after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.

Her son, Tyler Summitt, issued a statement saying his mother died peacefully at Sherrill Hill Senior Living in Knoxville, surrounded by family.

"Since 2011, my mother has battled her toughest opponent, early onset dementia, Alzheimer's Type, and she did so with bravely fierce determination just as she did with every opponent she ever faced," he said.

"Even though it's incredibly difficult to come to terms that she is no longer with us, we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease."

'Pivotal figure in drive for equality'

Over the next four decades, no one would do more than Summitt to raise the profile of women's college basketball, taking it from a niche sport to one that outranks all but men's football and men's basketball in popularity.

With her death on Tuesday at age 64 from complications from early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, the world has not just lost a great basketball coach but a pivotal figure in women's drive for equality in both sports and the world beyond.

Read tribute in full by Barbara Baker of Newsday

Ms Summitt announced in 2011 she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of 59.

She coached one more season before stepping down in 2012.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Pat Summitt was revered by many in the sport of basketball

She was named NCAA Coach of the Year seven times, the Naismith Coach of the Century in 2000 and received a 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

Ms Summitt also coached the 1984 US Women's Olympic team, which won a gold medal.

She also played for the US women's basketball team, which won the silver medal at the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976.

Ms Summitt is survived by her mother Hazel Albright Head, son Ross "Tyler" Summitt, sister Linda, and brothers Tommy Charles and Kenneth.

A private funeral will be held in Middle Tennessee and a public memorial will be planned at the school's Thompson-Boling Arena at a later date.