As a woman who grew up with a dream to play basketball, I know now that never would have been a possibility without the legendary Pat Summitt. I didn't personally make it into the WNBA.
But maybe I would have if she would have been my coach, burning holes in the back of my head every day in practice with those ice blue eyes and her famous stare, pushing me every day, as she did so many of the great women's players in our nation such as Candace Parker and Tamika Catchings.
However, this isn't about me; it's about the greatest college basketball coach in history, and the barriers she broke down to change the lives of so many young women.
If you really sit and reflect, you can come to the conclusion that there would be no WNBA if there were no Pat Summitt. As she rose, the women's game rose and for that, all women who grew up with dreams of doing what the boys could do, will eternally be grateful.
When the news hit of Summitt's death this morning, I was deeply saddened along with the rest of the nation and started to reflect on some of the qualities she possessed that stood out to me and made her unforgettable.
PASSION: When I say she started with a dollar and a dream, that was almost quite literally the case. She was hired at Tennessee at the young age of 22 and started out making just $250 a month- that's $8000 a year!
You definitely couldn't survive on that salary these days, and even back then, you would have had to have just a burning passion for what you do to accept that salary. That's love. That's sacrifice. That's passion, and the greatest of the greats in any sport or career in this world are the ones who have a passion for what they do.
Trailblazer: She did not consider herself a feminist, but because of her fight and dedication to her craft, women around the world in sports have incredible opportunities today that may not have ever come to fruition. She transcended the barrier gender, and it's almost insulting to call her the greatest women's coach, she was the greatest coach period.
I found it funny that she was even asked to become the head coach of the men's team at Tennessee twice and turned it down. She didn't need to be in the men's division to be the greatest. She blazed her own trail and opened up the door for thousands of women to do the same after her.
Teacher and Mother: She was a life changer, a molder of youth and talent and taught her players lessons besides just those on the hardwood. She taught her players who they were and lessons that allowed them to be great in whatever they chose to do after they left Tennessee.
She also was a mother, and was one of the first to really prove to the rest of us that you could be a successful full-time working mom with an important job and still have a family life and be there for your kids.
She was not just a mother to her son Tyler, but a mother to hundreds. She was not easy on her girls, but rather something much better, someone that would challenge them to be great in every aspect of life.
One of her most famous players, three-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker, reflected on her former coach today and the love and dedication she had for people.
"No matter who needs her -- from the last person on the bench to a manager to whoever -- she knew everybody by name and treated them as if they were her own. She's made a tremendous impact on women's basketball. And she would be more excited and more proud in making an impact on an individual.
"Whenever I was going through things at Tennessee, she would open her door, and I'd come in and sit down."
WINNER: This is probably the trait that Pat will be the most remembered for in her life. Her 1,089 wins in her career may never be matched and indeed hold the record in all of NCAA basketball today, men's or women's. She won 7 national titles. She never had a losing season. NEVER. That can't all be talent.
There is one common denominator in the equation of all of her teams through the years, and that is her. Teams are only as good as their leaders, so I attribute Tennessee's success almost solely to her leadership and her inability to let her teams not be great.
She had a very simple philosophy for winning, so simple yet so great. "Here's how I'm going to beat you. I'm going to outwork you. That's it. That's all there is to it," said Summitt in her book "Reach for the Summit."
ICON: There aren't many people in history that you can say are true icons. Those are few and far between. They are the rare individuals who make people stop and take notice of what they are doing in this world. Pat Summitt was one of those people.
She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2012. The only other people with direct ties to basketball to receive the honor: Bill Russell, Dean Smith, and John Wooden. That's some pretty good company.
"There's something about that woman," said Abby Conklin, who played on two NCAA championship teams for Summitt. "She gets things out of you that you never knew were in you."
"Pat Summitt is our John Wooden," Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey said in comparing Summitt to the legendary men's basketball coach at UCLA. "No matter how many national championships (other coaches) win, there will never be another Pat."
Thousands around the world are remembering the lasting impact of the great Pat Summitt today after she lost her battle with Dementia at the age of only 64.
Pat, you will be greatly missed. Thank you for making so many dreams come true.