Niya Butts shares thoughts of Pat Summitt
Niya Butts played for Pat Summitt at Tennessee from 1996 to 2000 and talks about her recent decision to step aside as head coach of the Lady Vols.Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Jake Knapp
TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9 TV) -- Pat Summitt coached 161 players in her 38 years at the helm of the Tennessee women's basketball program. It's an exclusive club and UA women's basketball coach Niya Butts is part of it, not that she ever thought of it that way. "No, not until just now," she said.
Summitt will step aside as head coach of the Lady Vols due to early onset dementia. Her 1,098 wins are the most in NCAA basketball history, men's or women's. Summitt also won eight national titles.
Butts won two national championships in her four years (1996-2000) as a player under Summitt. And success wasn't the only thing she enjoyed with the Lady Vols. "I learned so much about myself being a part of that program."
It's the discipline Butts remembers most about Summitt's coaching style. That, and the piercing looks she was capable of giving her players.
"Her eyes, they can be a good thing and they can be a bad thing. When she is speaking to you and she is not happy with you, those are the worst eyes in America," Butts said with a serious look. "If she is happy and pleased with what you are doing or saying or what she is seeing then her blue eyes, they'll light up a room."
Summitt is just 59 years old. Who knows how many more wins and accomplishments she could have amassed in the years to come, if her future wasn't clouded with a diagnosis of a type of Alzheimer's.
"The thought that one day, hopefully it's farther down the line, that she's not going to remember doing any of those things," said Butts. "That is probably the saddest thing for me."