June 29, 2016
The sports world suffered two losses early on June 28 with the passing of legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt and defensive mastermind Buddy Ryan. Summitt was the major factor in the growth of women’s basketball and Ryan built, arguably, the greatest defense in NFL history.
After suddenly being thrust into the head coaching position at the University of Tennessee in 1974, Summitt built one of the greatest basketball programs in American men's or women's basketball history. Her starting salary at UT was just $8,900, but that changed before her time with the Volunteers was finished.
Before becoming the winningest coach between both men and women at the Division I level, Summitt starred on the court at the University of Tennessee-Martin. By the time she left UT-Martin, she was the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,045 points and two appearances in the national championship tournament.
She played for her country in the Pan American Games and the Olympics. While doing that, Summitt had already begun her coaching career.
Summitt built Tennessee in to a national power in basketball by the early 1980s and guided the school to its first Final Four in the 1981-1982 season and finished as runner up during the 1983-1984 season.
Finally, in the 1986-1987 season, Summitt broke through for her first national championship. She won seven more national championships, include three straight from 1996 to 1998.
Tennessee won 16 SEC Championships and 16 SEC Tournament Championships under her coaching. The Volunteers reached 31 NCAA Tournaments and 18 Final Fours with Summitt.
In 38 years with Tennessee, Summitt won 1,098 games, had a .841 winning percentage, coached 21 All-Americans and 12 Olympians, won two Olympic gold medals as a coach, got 112 NCAA Tournament wins, eight SEC Coach of the Year Awards and seven NCAA Coach of the Year awards.
Summitt broke the million-dollar salary ceiling for women’s coaches in 2006 when she signed a contract for $2.125 million a year. After winning her 1,000th game in 2009, Tennessee awarded her with a $200,000 bonus and a contract that ran until the 2014 season.
Before she could finish her final contract at Tennessee, Summitt revealed she was suffering from early onset dementia and stepped away from coaching after leading her team to the Elite Eight in the 2011-12 season.
She was named Sports Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year in 2011 and was honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2012, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 and was put in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.
Summitt never had a losing season at Tennessee, and every player who finished their eligibility under her when on to earn a degree. She only lost 208 games during her time as a college basketball coach.
At the age of 64, Summitt passed away due to early onset dementia.
While she was breaking glass ceilings and busting down barriers, Buddy Ryan was perfecting defensive schemes. The loud and boastful coach spent 26 seasons coaching in the NFL.
He will always be remembered as the man behind the 1985 Chicago Bears 46 defense that wreaked havoc on opposing offenses. Those 85 Bears led the NFL in nearly every defensive statistical category.
Ryan went on to become head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles after winning the Super Bowl with the Bears. His second head-coaching job came in 1994 with the Arizona Cardinals. As a head coach, he compiled a 55-55-1 record but never won a playoff game.
He worked for Hall of Fame coaches Weeb Ewbank and Bud Grant as he helped the team pull off one of the biggest upsets in sports history in Super Bowl III and three Super Bowl appearances with the Minnesota Vikings.
Ryan served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was hired to his first coaching job with the Buffalo Bills. Currently, his twin sons Rex and Rob Ryan are the head coach and defensive coordinator for the Bills.
One of the most controversial coaches in NFL History, Ryan was head coach during the infamous “Bounty Bowl” played on Thanksgiving Day in 1989 against the Dallas Cowboys.
During the Bears' only loss in their 1985 season, he and head coach Mike Ditka nearly came to blows. Ryan was caught punching offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride in the jaw on national TV during a game against the New York Jets.
After coaching two seasons as a Cardinals head coach, Ryan retired and never coached again. He passed away on June 28 at the age of 82 in Kentucky.
No cause of death was given.