Nadine Gearin Broke Down Walls

Nadine Gearin has died.

For those of you who A.) Don’t watch Lady Vols Basketball or B.) aren’t from Hoots,  Nadine was an icon of women’s basketball.

Pat Summitt went to school at the University of Tennessee at Martin and her mentor was Ms. Nadine. To know Coach Gearin, you have to understand that she was a tough coach who led the Lady Pacers (now the Women’s Skyhawks) during a time before Title IX. It was different world back in the 70 and the late 60s.

You see, Nadine broke barriers. And the pebble that she threw in the water created an eventual tsunami with a woman who would become the coach in college history with more wins than you could shake a stick at.

And Nadine fueled that fire within Summitt nearly 40 years ago.

From a story from 2005 at the Knoxville News Sentinel where Summitt talked about Gearin.

By comparison, Gearin, Summitt’s coach at Tennessee-Martin, was more improvising than exacting.

She coached basically in order for Summitt and her teammates to have a coach.

The team often played several games in a day. If Gearin noticed that her players were sagging, she’d call them together in a timeout huddle, break an ammonia stick and wave it under their noses.

“We had no weights, no conditioning,” Summitt said. “But we had ammonia sticks.”

And they had a team.

“She was more of a friend, still is today,” Summitt said of Gearin. “She did this to allow us to have an opportunity.”

As I said, Nadine Gearin created a tsunami.

Coach Gearin and former UT Martin Women’s Athletic Director Bettye Giles have been the heart and soul, as well as an inspiration, for women athletes across the country for decades. They opened doors that had been nailed shut.

Here in Hoots, both women were at most community events and have supported the area with a fervor.

To say that West Tennessee has lost an icon is an understatement.

For more information about women who helped basketball get where it is today that have a history from this area, go here where you will see Lin Dunn, Pat Summitt, Bettye Giles and Nadine when they were honored in 2003 at UT Martin.

Gearin and Giles also claim impressive resumes built during more than 40 years of UT Martin service. Gearin, a Weakley County native and a member of the UT Martin Athletics Hall of Fame, led efforts to develop women’s basketball at the university. She coached the Lady Pacers from 1969-74, taking her 1971 team to the first national basketball tournament of
the Division of Girls and Women’s Sports. One of her brightest basketball players was Pat Head, who first rose to national fame in 1973 by qualifying for the USA World University
Games team.


Giles and Gearin both worked to secure Summitt a graduate assistant position with the UT women’s basketball team after Summitt’s graduation. The opportunity for a graduate assistant position became an offer to coach the team. Summitt remembered questioning whether a 22-year-old college graduate was ready to coach the UT women’s basketball team. She was hesitant, but Gearin and Giles never lost faith in their
prize pupil.

Coach Nadine Gearin will be missed.

UPDATE: Skyhawk BB Girl reports this:

Nadine Gearin visitation 5 pm-9 pm Wednesday at William Funeral Home in Greenfield. Funeral at two o’clock on Thursday.

2 comments for “Nadine Gearin Broke Down Walls

  1. Kay
    July 14, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Greenfield is proud to call Nadine a native daughter. Pat did her student teaching at Greenfield High School. Great things/people come from our little town.

  2. Nancy Stafford Griesinger
    July 14, 2009 at 7:46 am

    Nadine was my mother’s first cousin, but being close to my age, she always seemed like my first cousin. My husband Dale, has become a big fan of Pat Summit and the Lady Vols and therefore is very proud of our family connection. Nadine has called Dale from time to time and chatted with him about her experience with Pat. She also graciously mailed him some treasured momentoes a few weeks ago. We sent Nadine a bouquet of flowers to thank her for that, never dreaming that she would leave us so soon. She will be sorely missed by so many. I know her mother and father are smiling down on her now, so proud of their daughter. Nancy and Dale

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