CHARLESTON, S.C. – Debbie Antonelli has seen a lot of basketball. There’s no sugarcoating it, the lowcountry resident is living the dream, talking X’s and O’s on ESPN as a college basketball analyst. It’s a career that was paved by Pat Summitt, the legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach who died Tuesday morning at the age of 64.
“I’m not sure if I’d be standing here and have the 28-year television career I’ve had if it wasn’t for Pat, fighting for women to have an opportunity to play and be on television, and get the media coverage [women’s college basketball] deserves,” said Antonelli.
Antonelli’s career in TV led to her developing a close friendship with Summitt, so close that Debbie went to Tennessee to visit Pat this past Saturday.
“I got a chance to say goodbye and say a prayer,” said Antonelli. “It was a tough moment but it was a moment that I know that I’m thankful I got to share with her.”
Summitt won 1,098 games, eight national championships, and went to twenty-two final fours, all with the Lady Vols. The numbers are absolutely staggering. Summitt’s thirty-eight seasons on Rocky Top changed the way women’s basketball was coached, played, and perceived by the public.
“I hope I can fight for the same things that she fought for,” said Antonelli.
Now it’s Antonelli’s goal to extend Pat’s legacy by giving back to the game they both love.
Antonelli is teaming up with USBA Hoops to sponsor the “Stall High School League” for girls, with 12 teams coming together Tuesday’s and Thursday’s in June.
“We’ve never had a league like that in Charleston and I’m proud to be a part of this,” said Antonelli.