Tennessee Women’s Coach Summit Receives Dementia Diagnosis
Pat Summitt, coach legend of Tennessee’s Lady Volunteers, who has become the most recognized face in basketball for women, has announced that she has received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s type early onset dementia.
It was back in May when Summitt went through a set of tests in Rochester, Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic.
Summitt expressed her thoughts to the Knoxville News Sentinel, saying that she would make sure there would be no pity party.
The 59-year-old coach intends to lead the program in her 38th season. She has since led the team to 1,071 wins, the highest record held by ay basketball coach, regardless of gender, and a total of eight national titles. The University’s administration also supports her fully in her plans.
The coach intended to tell her team on their meeting this Tuesday.
Summitt shared that she felt better simply knowing what she was facing, and said that it was not going to keep her from living life or coaching.
Summitt’s grandmother, she shared, also suffered severe dementia.
The Mayo Clinic defines Alzheimer’s as caused by brain cells that are destructed, and it generally moves forward slowly.
Summitt admitted that she had not felt her usual confidence on the court last season.
Some mornings, she said, she would wake up and think that she didn’t even want to go in. Although that did not last long, it had led her to wonder, “What’s wrong with me?”
She said that she did not think about retirement. Apparently, even the director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Ronald Petersen, has encouraged her to go on with her coaching.
Dr. Petersen told Summitt that she could continue to coach as long as she wanted. “No one else had said anything like that to me,” shared Summitt. She had not talked to the doctor lately, and she said that she considered calling him up sometime soon to tell him where she was in all this. He had reportedly been very positive, telling her she could work through all this.
Meanwhile, Joan Cronan, interim athletic director, is also behind Summitt, saying that she was comfortable because she knew Summitt both as a person and as a coach.
She expressed confidence that if this was not the right decision for Summitt or the team, she would not be moving forward with this.
During her stay at the Mayo Clinic, Summitt’s son Tyler, who was a walk-on for men’s basketball at Tennessee, kept her company.
“There was anger,” Tyler revealed about his mom’s feelings following the diagnosis. Of course, he conceded that it was difficult for anyone to accept, and his mother’s question of “Why me?” had been asked quite a number of times.
But after she finally accepted it, he said, she saw it just like every challenge she had ever faced, and he knew she would do everything possible to keep her mind straight and continue to coach.