Today I found out Pat Summitt, Tennessee Lady Vols Basketball Coach and current all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, has early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
This made me incredibly sad. I wrote about her prowess in a previous blog post, almost a year ago to date. She has always fascinated me – a woman at the top of the heap of the NCAA coaching roster, championed for her tenacity and fire at the helm of the Lady Vols program. She was offered the chance to become the Men’s Basketball coach and turned it down, calling it a “lateral move.”
Before I stepped foot on a court competitively (I played purely recreationally until trying out and making the team my freshman year in high school), I used to dream of playing at Tennessee, purely because of Coach Summitt. Sure, she scared the shit out of me, but that was part of the appeal. I respected her, and I felt like she could make anyone a winner – you just had to listen to Summitt.
To borrow from the USA Today article I linked to, “Summitt, 59, will continue to coach, and that’s the part of Tuesday’s shocking news that makes it seem as if she is staring down her disease with the same icy glare she made famous while winning eight national championships, 1,071 games and the respect of a nation that didn’t pay much attention to women’s sports in the days when she was growing up.”
“Summitt learned of her diagnosis at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Jenkins wrote that Summitt almost punched the first doctor who told her. When a second advised her to retire immediately, Summitt said, ‘Do you know who you’re dealing with?'”
She’s hardcore, and always will be.