Former Tennessee women’s basketball player Shanna Zolman is sad but not surprised by coach Pat Summitt’s departure from the Volunteers.
The 2002 Miss Basketball from Wawasee said in a phone interview from that Summitt was eventually going to leave her post as head coach because of health reasons.
Zolman played for Summitt from 2003-06.
“It wasn’t much of a surprise because you knew it was coming sooner than later,” she said. “I hope the best for her and the best for her family. As hard as it is, I hope she is comfortable with her decision.
“It is hard to swallow, seeing that she has been there for 38 years and knowing that she has been the face of Tennessee basketball and knowing that it is all over with. That’s hard for a lot of people and not just the past and present players, but for everyone because she has been such an icon.”
Summitt announced in January she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, but continued to lead the team this past season in a more limited role.
“It was night and day different, and that was part of her decision,” Zolman said of Summitt’s demeanor on the bench. “That it wasn’t the same, and knowing she has a lot of things she is dealing with, including her health. She has a lot more than just basketball to deal with. Basketball is more than enough to deal with at that level and being Pat Summitt, the face of women’s basketball. She’s had to take on another role because of what is happening and because of a lack of confidence and because of the health.
“That’s why she kept on coaching, because she loved it. It never got old to her. But you can’t dictate health.”
Zolman said Summitt will be regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all-time, regardless of gender.
“When you think of women’s basketball, the first thing that comes to mind is Pat Summitt; when you think of basketball period, one of the first names to come to mind is Pat Summitt,” Zolman said. “She has completely put women’s basketball on the map and Tennessee basketball, in particular, on the map. She could run for office in Tennessee and win. She is that icon that will never go away. It doesn’t matter if she coaches any more or not.”
As for her own career, Zolman said she is set to resume playing after taking last season off with another knee injury. Zolman played for the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock in 2010, but had another knee injury and had an ACL repair on her left knee that led to her sitting out the 2011 season.
“I am anticipating playing the upcoming season for the Tulsa Shock,” she said. “I have been a little injury prone these last couple of years. I took last season off completely to heal because of another knee injury. But I am completely healthy and completely healed.”
In the offseason, Zolman said she is working in Seattle for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.