Summitt's father, Richard Head, passes away

There was one voice missing from Monday's practice – that of coach Pat Summitt's – who missed a Lady Vols basketball practice for the first time that anyone could remember. Summitt was in her hometown in Henrietta, Tennessee, because her father, Richard Head, had passed away.

Mr. Head, who turned 83 on Oct. 13, died at home Sunday evening with his family at his side. Summitt made it home and was able to speak with her father before he died. He had been in poor health over the past year, and Pat Summitt had been making trips to Henrietta to see him.

Assistant coach Holly Warlick ran practice Monday in Summitt's absence, along with assistants Nikki Caldwell and Dean Lockwood. The team learned of the death shortly before practice.

Warlick had spoken Monday morning with Summitt and said she was "emotional but doing OK. … It wasn't a surprise, they knew it was coming, but still when it happens …. . She's very emotional. She's very close to her parents. They anticipated this would happen, but when it does happen, it's very difficult."

Warlick said the extended family made it to Mr. Head's home before he died, and Summitt was able to spend about 20 minutes talking to her father.

"They talked," Warlick said. "She spoke what she wanted to tell him. He passed after they spoke. She was very thankful that she got to speak to him before he passed. She was at peace with that. Pat is an emotional person, and this is a very trying time for her. I lost my father in high school so I know exactly what she is going through. She spent some quality time with him, especially when he started getting ill. She really made an effort to get down and visit him on her days off."

The team's reaction was for Summitt's well being, Warlick said.

"They wanted to know how she was; they wanted to make sure she was fine," Warlick said.

The team will practice Tuesday morning, and then the coaching staff will leave Knoxville for family visitation on Tuesday afternoon and funeral services on Wednesday. Summitt's son, Tyler Summitt, will serve as a pallbearer.

The family will receive friends for visitation at Boyd's Funeral Home, 101 Elizabeth Street, Ashland City, Tenn., 37015, (615-792-4677) on Tuesday from 2 to 8 p.m., Central Time, and again on Wednesday at Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church, 5050 Pickering Road, Clarksville, Tenn., 37403, from noon until 2 p.m.

Mr. Head's funeral service will be on Wednesday at 2 p.m., Central Time, at the Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church with Brother Steve Kelley, Brother Duane Cowan and Pastor Regina Hall officiating. The other active pallbearers are Chuck Head, David Head, Brandon Douglas, Derrick Head, Richie Head, Jason Carney and Chris Head. Burial will be at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Clarksville.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church Building Fund, 5050 Pickering Road, Clarksville, Tenn., 37403.

The players, who will remain in Knoxville so as not to miss classes, will have Wednesday off from practice.

"They want to go; they all asked to go," Warlick said. "We made the decision that we didn't want them to miss any school."

SEC Media Days are Thursday in Birmingham, Ala. Warlick will travel with seniors Shanna Zolman and Tye'sha Fluker for Tennessee's media session, and then they will return to Knoxville. The team will regroup on the practice floor Thursday evening. Warlick said she will accompany the players and be available, if needed, for the media if Summitt can't be in Birmingham. It was not yet known if Summitt would make it to Media Days.

"They weren't great today; they weren't bad. They were just OK and rightfully so. They were concerned," Warlick said after Monday's practice. "Their first reaction was to ask how Pat was doing."

Summitt's thoughts weren't far from her players when she spoke to Warlick.

"She told me before I got off the phone, ‘Don't let up on them.' And we didn't," said Warlick, who agreed it was strange to not hear Summitt's voice at practice and added that she couldn't recall Summitt ever missing a practice. "I spoke to Shanna – she was in my office – and she said, ‘You don't feel like practicing.' And I said, ‘No you don't, but it's something that Pat would want us to do, and it's what we're going to do.' So that's what we did. We did some good things. We practiced as usual. We just didn't have Pat here."

Warlick broke the news to the team and let the players know that "Coach is with her family, where she needs to be, but in the same breath she's saying, ‘Work hard so that she doesn't also have to worry about what we're doing down here,' " Fluker said. "So as a team and the rest of the coaching staff, we made a vow that, one, we're going to keep working hard so that she doesn't have to worry – she knows we're taking care of business – and, two, being support for her."

Fluker lost her grandmother last February and had to leave the team to return to Pasadena, Calif., to see her grandmother before she died, be there for the funeral and also help her mother through the death.

"I totally feel the pain that she has right now," Fluker said. "It's important to be with your family at this time. We're going to let her take care of her family's business, and we're going to take care of business for her here."

Mr. Head was survived by Hazel Albright Head, his wife of 63 years; sons and daughters-in-law, Tommy and Deloris Head of Henrietta, Tenn.; Charles and Mitzi Head of Thomasville, Tenn.; and Kenneth and Debbie Head of Oak Plains, Tenn.; and daughters and sons-in-law, Patricia and R.B. Summitt of Knoxville, Tenn., and Linda and Wesley Attebery of Thomasville, Tenn. Mr. Head was survived by brothers and sister-in-law Conroy and Eleanor Head of Mt. Carmel, Tenn.; and Hughes and the late Ruth Head of Stroudsville, Tenn., as well as nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, James Clay and Lucy Elliott Head.

Mr. Head was an active member of Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church for more than 73 years and served as chairman of the East Montgomery Utility Board for 40 years, a Montgomery County commissioner for six years and a Cheatham County commissioner for 18 years.

Warlick said that Summitt mentioned she would like to speak at her father's funeral if she feels emotionally capable of doing so Wednesday.

Summitt spoke in her speeches about her 6'5 father, known as "The Tall Man," and in interviews about her life story she would always mention the work ethic instilled by her father, who was a dairy farmer and whose children grew up working on the 1,000-acre farm he steadily acquired. He was a strict disciplinarian, who also made sure that his children got what they needed to succeed. Summitt wrote about her father in her 1998 best-selling book, "Reach for the Summit."

"But the thing you need to understand is that my father, to a great extent, made me who I am," Summitt wrote. "His peculiar combination of love and discipline was hard to take, but in the end I was grateful for it. He gave me strength. If you saw the two of us together today, you would see two people who have reached a peace. We finally understand each other. He is a man with a buried sense of humor and a fierce devotion to his family."

Warlick said she knows the coming months will be difficult for Summitt.

"I'm sure at times it will affect Pat," Warlick said. "But Pat's a competitor – y'all know how intense she is – so she's going to bounce back. She's going to have her moments, and that's understandable. She'll get through it, but she's having a hard time right now."


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