Tyler Summitt's indiscretion damages more than just his own reputation

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Tyler Summitt's indiscretion damages more than just his own reputation
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At the start of his press conference announcing 23-year-old Tyler Summitt as Louisiana Tech's next women's basketball coach two years ago, athletic director Tommy McClelland addressed his new hire's age by cracking a joke.

"Did you hear the joke about what the young guy said to the younger guy?" McClelland deadpanned. "Need a job?"

You can bet other athletic directors will be more reticent giving so much responsibility to someone so young now that a hire made to generate headlines has become a high-profile fiasco. Summitt, the 25-year-old son of legendary former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, resigned from his job at Louisiana Tech on Thursday, citing an unspecified inappropriate relationship.

"I am profoundly disappointed in myself for engaging in a relationship that has negatively affected the people I love, respect and care about the most," Summitt said in a statement. "My hope, plans and prayers are to repair those relationships. I am appreciative of the opportunity I was given to coach at Louisiana Tech. I am heartbroken that my time has ended in Ruston, but because of my respect for the institution, it is best that I resign."

Summitt's indiscretion indelibly tarnishes a name that until now stood for only determination, grace and success. Pat Summitt won eight national titles and 16 SEC championships in 38 seasons at Tennessee before stepping down in 2012 due to early-onset Alzheimer's and dementia.

The younger Summitt has been around basketball since he was in diapers, whether flying to a game in his mom's lap before he was a month old or riding the back of the bus with the players while in grade school. By high school, he attended his mom's early morning workouts before school, practiced with his team in the afternoons and then raced across town to watch as much of the Vols' practice as he could.

To prepare himself further for coaching upon enrolling at Tennessee, Tyler spent the 2009-10 season under his mom as a student assistant and the following two years as a walk-on playing for Bruce Pearl and then Cuonzo Martin. In his spare time, he also worked camps and coached several Knoxville-area AAU teams, including the talent-laden Tennessee Fury 17U Girls.

When Summitt landed an assistant coaching gig at Marquette four years ago at age 21, he was the same age or younger than several players on the team. When McClelland hired Summitt to revitalize Louisiana Tech's tradition-rich women's basketball program two years later, the oldest player on the team was only 13 months younger than her new head coach.

Why would McClelland hire a 23-year-old when there were dozens of other potential candidates with more experience and superior credentials? At the time he cited Summitt's ferocity on the recruiting trail, tactical prowess and maturity beyond his years, but there was surely more to it than just that.

First and foremost, the Summitt name ensured the type of national publicity elusive in women's basketball and even more rare at Louisiana Tech. Everyone from ESPN, to USA Today, to Yahoo Sports, to Sports Illustrated penned stories about Summitt during his tenure even though his first two seasons coaching the Lady Techsters produced a combined record of just 30-31.

It also had to appeal to McClelland that Summitt's story mirrored his own. McClelland became Division I's youngest athletic director at age 26 when McNeese State promoted him in March 2008.

Two years ago, McClelland said he met with Summitt in person for five hours and spoke to 30 people about his coaching ability and character before making the hire. What he learned was Summitt married his high school girlfriend, AnDe Ragsdale, and was deeply religious, both of which may have helped convince McClelland that the coach wouldn't fall victim to off-the-court behavior typical of a 23-year-old.

That gamble blew up in McClelland's face in unfathomable fashion on Thursday, and the ramifications are sure to be widespread.

No longer will Summitt be able to follow in his mom's footsteps because he's far too toxic for another school to give him a chance to coach anytime soon. McClelland also will face questions about whether he properly vetted Summitt and whether he paid more attention to his last name than his age. And athletic directors from coast to coast will surely be more cautious about hiring a coach who's barely older than the players over which he has authority.

When Summitt spoke at his introductory news conference, he too addressed his age with a joke about his baby-faced looks.

"I'm not 15 years old even though I look it," Summitt said with a chuckle. "I'm 23, and if that's my biggest weakness, that's great because inevitably, no matter what I do, that's going to change."

Turns out his immaturity was more of a weakness than he thought it was. As a result, he tarnished his family name, embarrassed the school that hired him and made landing a head coaching job far more challenging for the next wave of 20-something up-and-comers.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!