By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Bruce Pearl, Joe Ciampi and Terri Williams-Flournoy remember Pat Summitt as a great basketball coach, a competitor who brought out the best in people -- and a friend.
Summitt, the legendary coach of the Tennessee women's basketball team, died at age 64 Tuesday after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease five years ago. Pearl, Ciampi and Williams-Flournoy, Auburn coaches past and present, saluted Summitt this week.
Pearl, Auburn's men's basketball coach the last three seasons, shared Tennessee's Thompson-Boling Arena when Summitt was leading the Lady Vols to championships and Pearl had Tennessee on a roll from 2005-11. Ciampi, Auburn's women's basketball coach from 1979-2004, matched wits with Summitt as Southeastern Conference women's basketball grew into national prominence.
''Pat Summitt is without a doubt the most iconic and important figure in the history of women's basketball,'' Ciampi said Tuesday morning of his Women's College Basketball Hall of Fame counterpart.
Williams-Flournoy, Auburn's current women's coach, said Summitt "is the reason our game is where it is today."
Summitt remains Division I's basketball all-time winningest coach. Pearl and Ciampi said that's only part of the Pat Summitt story.
''She was a great friend. She was as loyal as they came. If you were a friend of Pat Summitt's, she was always there for you,'' Pearl said this week. ''She's a great mother. She had the ability to get the most of out of her ladies. She was the most accomplished person in her field, and the humblest woman I knew. She was the best at what she did.
''She created a brand called the 'Lady Vols.' Enough said.''
Pearl said Summitt ''saw things in people that they did not see in themselves. Pat Summitt never apologized to players for expecting the most out of them, demanding it, and getting it.''
Ciampi said Summitt ''set the benchmark for all coaches to attain because of her passion and desire to win on and off the court. Her work ethic challenged each of us as coaches to improve each day by working harder and smarter. Pat's competitive spirit, attention to detail with her trademark defense, and her ability to motivate each player to play their role and trust their teammate was her formula for championships.
''I lost a friend today, but know Pat's spirit will live forever within me and the countless people she impacted during her lifetime.''
Summitt was hired as Tennessee coach at age 22, coached the Lady Vols fro 38 seasons and won eight national titles and 1,098 games. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 and the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian award.
Williams-Flournoy said Tuesday that Summitt "was the coach that everyone in our game aspires to be. But more importantly, she was the person that we all should aspire to be. Pat was a fierce competitor on the court and a strong, caring, compassionate woman off the court. Her desire to win with defense was an inspiration to my coaching philosophy. And her demand for excellence carried over to the classroom -- her 100% graduation rate is a testament to her refusal to accept anything less than the best from her players.
"On behalf of the Auburn women's basketball family, I extend my heartfelt condolences, sympathies and prayers to the Summitts and the Lady Vol family. There will never be another like Pat Summitt."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine