After Pat Summitt’s announcement that she’d be stepping down as head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols, many responded with reflections on her career, her role in the growth of women’s basketball, and her legacy as one of the greatest coaches in our nation has seen.
We had the opportunity to get a few additional thoughts from someone who was just getting to know the legendary coach that others have known so well: Lady Vols freshman forward Cierra Burdick.
Swish Appeal: How much does Pat Summitt mean to you?
Cierra Burdick: Pat has meant a lot to me. She is one of the strongest people I’ve ever met and I think she has truly maximized that with her announcement of early onset dementia. I am truly honored and blessed to say I was coached by Pat Summit.
SA: How has she inspired you?
CB: She has inspired me to not only become a better player, but a better person. Although I have always believed in academic success, she only reinforces that. She is the true definition of an all-around person. In my next three years at Tennessee I plan to lace up my sneakers for her. I will do my best to carry on the tradition and legacy that she has instilled in all of us.
SA: What have you learned from her in your one year at Tennessee?
CB: Since I’ve been at Tennessee I’ve learned many things but the biggest thing that stands out is to never give up. Pat could have easily thrown in her whistle once she found out about her disease, but she didn’t. I’ll never forget what Pat said when she told us the news in the beginning of the season. She said, “We’re going to get through this. We’re going to fight and we’re going to win. Alzheimer’s has never faced an opponent like me.” Those three lines speak so much about the character of my coach. Although she has passed her whistle to Holly [Warlick], she will be stepping into a larger role in serving as a role model and mentor to us. She will help us become greater women and greater people.
SA: And what is your message to the fans?
CB: First off I want to thank you for your continued support. You all are the best fans in America and I truly believe that. As we approach the upcoming years I can assure you that very little will change. Pat might not be on the sidelines but her style of play will be. We still full-heartedly believe that defense and board play wins ball games and the way we play will showcase that. We need you now more than ever! I just ask that you support Holly in her new position for this is what Pat wanted and I think no one else in the country could fill Pat’s shoes better than Holly. Thank you again for all you do. See you next season!