(l-r) Bettye Giles, Pat Head Summitt, Nadine Gearin
July 13, 2009
MARTIN, Tenn. - Nadine Gearin, the former head coach from The University of Tennessee at Martin who guided the playing career of Pat Head Summitt, died yesterday afternoon at the VanAyer Nursing Home in Martin after a long illness. She was 73.
Gearin was the first head coach of women's basketball team UT-Martin and guided Lady Pacers basketball team from 1969-78. One of Gearin's outstanding players was Head Summitt (1971-74) who went on to become the all-time winningest basketball coach in NCAA history while leading the University of Tennessee in Knoxville to a 1,005-193 record in 35 seasons.
"Nadine Gearin was so much more than a coach to me," said Summitt. "She was a great friend who taught me so many things including how important it was to keep life-long ties to your teammates. I learned by her example and that is one of the reasons why Lady Vol basketball is such a great family today."
When Summitt was honored at the "Day of 1,000 Stories" for her 1,000th career win, Gearin and Bettye Giles, the former UT Martin women's athletics director, made the trip to Knoxville on May 3, 2009. Summitt commented at the time how special it was to have her collegiate coach and AD at the event.
"Nadine has not been able to talk or recognize anyone since June 2," said Giles. "I guess it is true what they say about people rallying when they hear someone they know."
Giles and friends have been putting Summitt on a speaker phone every day, but it wasn't until Sunday that Gearin recognized the Lady Vols head coach.
"She laughed, and I mean belly laughed yesterday while they talked," Giles said. "It was the first time she recognized us and Pat. She just had a good time."
Just like any good coach, Summitt was able to get Gearin to rally. Gearin died just a few hours later.
"I was in a gym out on the recruiting trail," said Summitt. "I heard her voice, and she sounded so good and upbeat - she was having a rare good day," Summitt said. "She was full of life, and she never lost her spirit. That's the way I want to remember her."
To Summitt, Gearin was always there for her, just a phone call away.
"She was a great friend, who cared about her players. Over the years she would watch some of the games and call me a few times, I supposed, with a coaching tip or two," Summitt said.
"The main thing is I don't want her to suffer anymore," Summitt said.
Gearin also coached the women's volleyball team from 1969-73 and the UT Martin badminton club from 1968-70. She served the university for 40 years, officially retiring June 30, 1997. She was inducted into The UT Martin Athletics Hall of Fame in 1988.
Gearin's basketball teams won the 1970-71 Tennessee College Women's Sports Federation and won three Western Division titles. Her 1971-72 team posted the most wins in Lady Pacer history and also became the only basketball team in school history to advance to the national championship tournament. Gearin sported an overall basketball coaching record of 104-86.
When Kiwanis International allowed women to join its organization, Gearin was one of the first two women inducted into the local chapter in March of 1988. She was the adviser for the local Kiwanis' Aktion Club.
"Ms. Nadine was a very hard worker whether it was Kiwanis or athletics," said Steve Lemond, the treasurer of the Martin Kiwanis Club.
"She had a real interest in working with the adults in our Aktion Club. She would help with any project that we had if her schedule allowed her to do so. She will be greatly missed."
Services for Gearin will be at 2 p.m., July 16, at Williams Funeral Home in Greenfield. Visitation is scheduled from 5-8 p.m., Wednesday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Thursday. Burial will be in Mount Hermon Cemetery in Greenfield.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Gearin Endowment Scholarship at The University of Tennessee at Martin and the Martin Kiwanis Aktion Club.
Gearin was preceded in death by her parents, Jack and Viola Gearin. She is survived by Christie Capps Shull, a friend of the family.
"Happiness is like perfume: You can't give it away without getting a little on yourself. Thanks, Coach Gearin, for sharing," said Julia White Brundige, one of Gearin's former basketball and volleyball players.
"You will be missed by all of your former players."