You knew this was coming, and probably sooner than later. But because it was Pat Summitt, and because of everything she is and has been and represents, some piece of you figured the inevitable could somehow be halted in its tracks, be sent cringing away by that steely blue gaze.
Well. Some forces even legends can't deter.
And so Summitt, diagnosed last summer with early-onset dementia, will step down, after 38 years, 1,098 victories, 16 regular season and SEC tournament titles, an Olympic coaching gold medal and 18 Final Fours.
During her tenure, Tennessee never failed to reach the NCAA tournament.
And yet, beyond all that, her impact on the women's college game is incalculable. As a player and coach, she's spanned the entire Title IX era, and the rise of the women's game set in motion by it has her fingerprints all over it. Seventy-four of her former players, assistants, grad assistants, team managers and directors of basketball operations are in coaching at every conceivable level.
That's not just a legacy. It's history itself.
And you know the beauty of that?
No one has ever sensed that better than Pat Summitt.
"In my situation,'' she said in 1995, during a visit to IPFW, "I've been asked many times, 'Would you want to coach a men's team?' And my response has always been 'No.'
"Why? Because the men have an established program, and on the women's side we're still developing. And as much as we have made progress, folks, we're still behind. And we need women to help women. That's where I think I want to make a difference.''
No one has ever made more.