I never met Tennessee women's coach Pat Summitt.  But I saw her in action.

I was in Tennessee to call the USL-Tennessee NIT game in 1985.  I got there early.  And, I got to watch her conduct the last 1/2 hour of practice.

She was demanding.  She was tough.  I saw the icy stare that made her famous.

But I also saw a softer side at the end of practice as she smiled and praised her team's effort.  I don't know that I appreciated it as much as I should have.

But I do now.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Summitt, who led the Tennessee Lady Vols to eight national titles and 22 Final Four appearances, passed away Tuesday after a four year battle with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's-type.  She was 64.  Her son Tyler announced her death in a statement Tuesday morning.

Summitt coached the Lady Vols for 38 seasons, amassing 1,098 victories before retiring after the 2012 season.  Following her retirement, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award for a civilian, and the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

Summitt was known as a fiery coach and competitor who won sixteen SEC Tournament titles and made it to the NCAA Tournament a record 31 consecutive years.  With the advent of Title IX in 1972, more opportunities were given to female athletes and Summitt, perhaps more than any other, showed how women could make that work.

Summit won a silver medal playing for the United States Olympic team and coached the USA to a gold medal in 1984.  Summitt joined the University of Tennessee as a graduate assistant coach in 1974 but was promoted when the head coach abruptly resigned.  She coached the Lady Vols while working on her Master's degree and continued to coach as she trained to join the Olympic team as a player.

Funeral services will be private.  A memorial will be held at Thompson-Bolling Arena at a later date.