Pat Summitt vows to fight on

‘It’s not going to keep me from living my life’

University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt and her son, Tyler, discuss her medical condition during an interview Monday at their home in Blount County. Summitt, diagnosed with early-onset dementia after undergoing a series of tests at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., says  she is determined to continue coaching and is planning for her 38th season at UT.

Photo by Debby Jennings

University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt and her son, Tyler, discuss her medical condition during an interview Monday at their home in Blount County. Summitt, diagnosed with early-onset dementia after undergoing a series of tests at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., says she is determined to continue coaching and is planning for her 38th season at UT.

Pat Summitt is diagnosed with early onset dementia

For such a strong figure, Pat Summitt was feeling almost helpless.

Months of erratic behavior had left the Tennessee women's basketball coach bewildered, scared and asking herself "What's wrong with me?"

Summitt went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in May. She underwent a series of tests and received a stunning answer. The diagnosis was early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.

Her initial reaction to learning she had a progressive condition that could impair her mental acuity was one of anger and denial. Since then, she's moved forward in more Summitt-like fashion, formulating a plan involving medication and mental activities, such as reading and doing puzzles at night before going to sleep. She's also taken a hopeful stance about her future.

The 59-year-old Summitt, who has 1,071 career victories and has led UT to eight national championships, is determined to continue coaching and is planning for her 38th season at UT. She has the support of the University administration.

She's also feeling confident enough to go public with her condition. She spoke Monday night with the News Sentinel and the Washington Post and did a video for the Lady Vols' website. She told the players in a team meeting Tuesday afternoon, waiting until Glory Johnson and Shekinna Stricklen returned from the World University Games in China.

She sounded like herself in saying: "There's not going to be any pity party and I'll make sure of that."

According to the Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer's is caused by the destruction of brain cells. It usually progresses slowly, causing a gradual decline in cognitive abilities. Summitt said that her grandmother — "Granny Head" — had severe dementia.

No matter how grim the prognosis, Summitt seems relieved to have a definitive answer. Small wonder, considering how low she felt at times last season. She confessed to not being as confident on the court and second guessing some of her decisions.

"There were some mornings I would wake up and think I don't even want to go in," she said. "That didn't last long but it was like 'What's wrong with me? What's going on with me?' "

Summitt also has rheumatoid arthritis and there was some question as to whether her medication for that condition was the root cause of her problems. The series of tests she underwent at the Mayo Clinic, particularly a spinal tap, served to flush an unknown opponent out into the open.

"She's always better when she knows what she's fighting against,'' said Summitt's son, Tyler. "She had recommendations, what to do and what routine to get into and she's going to prepare just like a game for her health."

Tyler, who's a junior at UT and a walk-on on the men's basketball team, accompanied his mother to Minnesota and has watched her sort through her responses. Despite being the offseason, Summitt's calendar still was crowded with SEC meetings, summer camps and July recruiting. Tyler said that the sadness and anger lingered for at least a month.

"Nobody accepts this,'' Tyler said. "And there was anger. 'Why me?' was a question she asked more than once. But then, once she came to terms with it, she treated it like every other challenge she ever had, and is going to do everything she possibly can to keep her mind right and stay the coach."

Summitt said that she didn't consider retirement. She has been buoyed by the encouragement received from Dr. Ronald Petersen, the director of the Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.

"He's the one who told me you can coach as long as you want to coach and no one else had said anything like that to me,'' Summitt said, "I haven't talked to him (lately) and I even thought about calling him sometime soon and telling him where I am with this. He was so positive (saying) 'You can work through this.' "

No amount of optimism, though, can diminish the uncertainty related to Summitt's intentions. Tennessee interim athletic director Joan Cronan has considering the circumstances, acknowledging that the program could take a hit in recruiting but noting that Summitt's coaching staff of Mickie DeMoss, Holly Warlick and Dean Lockwood has 89 years worth of coaching experience with which to assist their boss.

In the end, she came back to her nearly three decades worth of experience with Summitt.

"I'm comfortable because I know her as a person and I know her as a coach,'' Cronan said. "And I feel like if it wasn't the right thing for her or us she wouldn't be going forward."

As if for emphasis, Cronan added: "We're in uncharted waters, but we certainly have a great captain."

Summitt has progressed from feeling helpless to being resolved.

"I feel better just knowing what I'm dealing with,'' she said. "And as far as I'm concerned it's not going to keep me from living my life, not going to keep me from coaching."

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Comments » 35

iowavol writes:

My thoughts and prayers are with Coach. A friend of mine wrote a book, ICE CREAM IN THE CUPBOARD, to describe life with his wife who had early onset dementia. Not good. If anyone can push the symptoms back, it's the best coach in basketball history.

lou_vol writes:

So sorry to hear this. Praying for you Coach. We love you.

Flyfisherman writes:

CPS will make the most of this situation. She is a strong lady and will bring much attention to this disease. Determining the issues early will help her to fight. Thoughts and Prayers for CPS and the whole Vol family.

ccynthiaa#226491 writes:

"Joan Cronan has considering the circumstances, acknowledging that the program could take a hit in recruiting..."

Very sad news about Pat Summitt. Pat's statement that "its not going to keep me from coaching" is in itself a manifestation of her disease.

iprotest writes:

In nearly six decades in E. TN. I have never seen a coach with such integrity and dedication as Pat Head Summitt. Many, many coaches would do well to follow her example.
Coach Summitt, God bless you as you face yet another challenge. Somehow, I believe you will be on the winning side!

peerlessvolfan writes:

Rock on, Coach!

BigVolFaninSC writes:

Fight it with every fiber in your being and perhaps a cure will be discovered soon! In the meantime, know that MANY, MANY Vol fans will be lifting you up in prayer!

voloffaith writes:

in response to ccynthiaa#226491:

"Joan Cronan has considering the circumstances, acknowledging that the program could take a hit in recruiting..."

Very sad news about Pat Summitt. Pat's statement that "its not going to keep me from coaching" is in itself a manifestation of her disease.

Thanks for pasting this from other article on Coach Pat. Go read my response to that post as I will spare others from reading same thing twice from me.

Love ya Coach and how you've mentored many a young Lady Vol in bball and to get their degrees.

UTVolsFan writes:

Do not go gentle into that good night - Dylan Thomas

Go Pat! and Go Lady Vols!

UTVolsFan writes:

Any of you young ladies out there that are old enough to be even dribbling or kicking a basketball, you or your parents need to be thinking about working on that recruiting visit to Knoxville. It's the only way you will ever be able to say "I played for the best coach in the history of the game". Ya'll listen up now.

johnlg00 writes:

Interestingly enough, just a few days ago I saw an article saying that medical researchers have finally discovered what may prove to be the biochemical cause of Alzheimer's. This is a tremendous boost to the long-running effort to understand and eventually to cure this devastating disease. Let us all pray that this research bears fruit in time to save the precious minds of not only Pat but many of our own friends and relatives.

MusicCityVol writes:

Thoughts and prayers are with a legend. If anyone can fight anything it's Pat Summitt.

Alzheimer's Greatest Challenge
http://www.checkerboardchatter.com/20...

NOthgif writes:

Pat, you are a legend and a beautiful person. My fellow Trojans and I wish you the best. It will be a sad day in this world when you finally calls it quits. Hope that day doesn't come soon. Best of luck Pat. Fight ON!

WytheVol writes:

Pat Summit is a proven winner, period! My guess is that dementia just got the toughest fight it'll ever face. No Pity Party indeed. Pat will once again teach and lead other people through uncharted waters!

Thank you Coach Summit for choosing to be a part of the University of Tennessee!! Even those of us who don't know you personally will be here to support and help you in any way we can!

casper123404 writes:

Prayers to Coach Summitt and her family.

YankeeVol writes:

in response to ccynthiaa#226491:

"Joan Cronan has considering the circumstances, acknowledging that the program could take a hit in recruiting..."

Very sad news about Pat Summitt. Pat's statement that "its not going to keep me from coaching" is in itself a manifestation of her disease.

Early onset dementia is not an immediately catastrophic disease. With medications and other treatments Coach Summitt should be a long way from the image of dementia that we all conjure up. After all she has given to countless others, she should be in control of what happens next. It is the very least that should be afforded to her, and more importantly, when has this woman done anything that might damage the LV program? You stay in charge, coach - like you always have been.

kazoo writes:

Summitt, being Summitt, will want to coach as long as possible. And lots of people will want her to show her characteristic toughness but doing just that. But, sadly, her symptoms will worsen, program and in-game decision-making will gradually get more problematic, and for that reason it's vital that her condition be monitored--and that she retire while she is still sound of mind. With this disease, you do not want to wait too long--would be a major mistake. Win another title this year--and then pass the, er, torch.

BigRMan writes:

Women's Collegiate Basketball is where it is today largely due to the efforts of Coach Summitt. The young female athletes that have played for her generally have become model citizens of society able to take their place in the world while helping those less fortunate. CPS has lectured to corporations and appeared before congress. One would be hard pressed to come up with someone with her far transcending influence. I think as long as she can help her team, her program, and UT she will and has earned the right to continue in her present position. I pray to God to give her the strength to continue to contribute and fight the good fight and win, if it be HIS Will. There is a mansion in heaven under constuction for Coach Summitt. I just hope it won't be finished anytime soon.

Mike_In_Storrs_CT writes:

Very shocked and saddened to hear the news about Pat, even though I said a lot of stuff about her over the years on this board, it was mostly all just in fun, considering our huge rivalry with Tenn. I wish her all the best to overcome this disease..

jsteele77 writes:

This breaks my heart but if anyone can press forward (or is that the forward press?) it's pat summitt. i know she's now aware that the entire country will be cheering for her!! God bless, Pat!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Interestingly enough, just a few days ago I saw an article saying that medical researchers have finally discovered what may prove to be the biochemical cause of Alzheimer's. This is a tremendous boost to the long-running effort to understand and eventually to cure this devastating disease. Let us all pray that this research bears fruit in time to save the precious minds of not only Pat but many of our own friends and relatives.

Correction: after I posted this, I remembered that the article I read was about new discoveries about ALS, aka Lou Gehrig's Disease. Sadly, I am not aware of any new progress toward ridding the world of Alzheimer's. All the best to Pat as she deals with her new reality.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Mike_In_Storrs_CT:

Very shocked and saddened to hear the news about Pat, even though I said a lot of stuff about her over the years on this board, it was mostly all just in fun, considering our huge rivalry with Tenn. I wish her all the best to overcome this disease..

Thanks for your good wishes, but if you think your previous scurrilous remarks about Pat were "mostly all just in fun", you have a pretty weird sense of humor. I'm not saying that some of our fans didn't go overboard criticizing Geno, but we wouldn't even be mentioning UConn on this board except in response to your sneering intrusions. Maybe standards and tastes are different in Connecticut, but much of your trash far transcended what we in the South would consider appropriate to even the most heated sports rivalry. Well, maybe not Alabama-Auburn, but otherwise....

utvolfan writes:

Many of us probably have wished we had a magic wand to wave at a crucial time in a Lady Vols game . . . but now is when we REALLY need it to help out our beloved Pat. This may be a battle she ultimately loses, but I have full confidence that she will put up a great fight. What an amazing person she is!

ayrbear#214586 writes:

Our prayers are with you and your family.

From The Ayres Hall family now and forever
Go Lady Vols

Barry In Houston

ccynthiaa#226491 writes:

In these very politically correct times, we have to be very careful about stepping on toes lest we "offend" someone. I can see this "carefulness" on this thread. This is not just about one person, Pat Summitt, it is about doing the right thing for the good of the University of Tennessee. She needs to step down now gracefully before things turn ugly. She herself admits, "What is wrong with me?". I am not the only one with these thoughts but perhaps the only one to actually post them. Believe me, similar unspoken thoughts are out there!

Mike_In_Storrs_CT writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Thanks for your good wishes, but if you think your previous scurrilous remarks about Pat were "mostly all just in fun", you have a pretty weird sense of humor. I'm not saying that some of our fans didn't go overboard criticizing Geno, but we wouldn't even be mentioning UConn on this board except in response to your sneering intrusions. Maybe standards and tastes are different in Connecticut, but much of your trash far transcended what we in the South would consider appropriate to even the most heated sports rivalry. Well, maybe not Alabama-Auburn, but otherwise....

Very typical of you to start trouble,,I try to be nice, and I really do send my best wishes to Pat and her whole family, its a terrible thing that happened to her., You gotta turn it into a fight, and by the way you say standards and tastes are different in the south? WELL, WELL, WELL, I just got finished reading last weeks sports illustrated where they had a 12 page story on that Alabama guy who poisened that Auburn tree..Oh thats right, Alabama and Auburn are not southern schools...

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Mike_In_Storrs_CT:

Very typical of you to start trouble,,I try to be nice, and I really do send my best wishes to Pat and her whole family, its a terrible thing that happened to her., You gotta turn it into a fight, and by the way you say standards and tastes are different in the south? WELL, WELL, WELL, I just got finished reading last weeks sports illustrated where they had a 12 page story on that Alabama guy who poisened that Auburn tree..Oh thats right, Alabama and Auburn are not southern schools...

If you look at all my posts, and I have been on here for years, you can't honestly say that it is "typical" of me to start trouble. You seem to have confused me with someone else. If I have ever said anything bad about UConn, none of it was close to what you said darn near every day about Pat, and in any case I was responding to YOUR intrusions on OUR site. You can't come on here day after day saying nasty things about Pat and then come on with one fairly gracious post and expect that to make up for all the other stuff. I will be most interested to see if you can keep up your "civil" pose once the basketball season starts.

BTW, you need to brush up on your reading comprehension. See the end of my post where I implied that Alabama-Auburn was in a class by itself when it came to sports rivalries. But then, reading, taste, and knowledge have never really been your strong points.

Theo writes:

in response to Mike_In_Storrs_CT:

Very shocked and saddened to hear the news about Pat, even though I said a lot of stuff about her over the years on this board, it was mostly all just in fun, considering our huge rivalry with Tenn. I wish her all the best to overcome this disease..

Hi Mike,
you have indeed chapped my rear on numerous occassions but I believe you are sincere in your good wishes for Pat. It's funny how serious illness puts things into perspective for all of us.
It is also my sincere hope that Pat continues to chap your rear, and Gino's for many years to come:)

utvolfan writes:

in response to WytheVol:

Pat Summit is a proven winner, period! My guess is that dementia just got the toughest fight it'll ever face. No Pity Party indeed. Pat will once again teach and lead other people through uncharted waters!

Thank you Coach Summit for choosing to be a part of the University of Tennessee!! Even those of us who don't know you personally will be here to support and help you in any way we can!

Very well said!

utvolfan writes:

in response to ccynthiaa#226491:

In these very politically correct times, we have to be very careful about stepping on toes lest we "offend" someone. I can see this "carefulness" on this thread. This is not just about one person, Pat Summitt, it is about doing the right thing for the good of the University of Tennessee. She needs to step down now gracefully before things turn ugly. She herself admits, "What is wrong with me?". I am not the only one with these thoughts but perhaps the only one to actually post them. Believe me, similar unspoken thoughts are out there!

I haven't noticed that people who post here are overcome with "carefulness" or concern about not "offending" anyone. I believe that having Pat Summitt continue as head coach IS "doing the right thing for the good of [The] University of Tennessee." I'm sure Pat would NEVER do anything else. Perhaps you missed the assessments by her physicians that she should be able to continue coaching for a while longer, the assurance by Cronan and others that her situation will be monitored closely, and the statements by Pat and her assistants that duties are being reassigned (including her not calling plays on the floor during games). As someone else noted in response to another story, a small percentage of Pat's knowledge still is a lot more than most of us have at our best. Think of the contribution of her presence and determination alone--not to mention her ability to teach (which really is at the heart of coaching). I'm so glad that your perspective (which seems really short-sighted) is not the one being used by Pat, the UT administrators, or most of the fans. Pat has made history (in ways hardly even imaginable by most people) by her grit, courage, and determination, and I am confident that those same qualities not only will serve HER well during this personal battle but will continue to serve UT and the Lady Vols (and ALL of us) well.

ccynthiaa#226491 writes:

Regarding Pat Summitt, this region is greatly "muddled by sentiment". Outside this region are different opinions: (Yes, they really exist!)

Jack Marshall from the "Ethics Alarms" blog writes:

Everyone in the Tennessee and sports community as well as the media and all of us who have seen loved ones suffer with the disease are rallying behind Summitt, who is one of the toughest, smartest, most determined figures in sports. But Coach Summitt has decided that her symptoms are not yet severe enough to force her into retirement, and she intends to stay at the helm of the Tennessee women’s basketball team at least three more years.

It is the wrong decision. It is a selfish and unethical decision. The question is whether anyone will have the courage to try to convince Summitt that she has a duty to the team, the school, her own legacy and basic principles of ethics to change course and do the right thing. Quit.

http://ethicsalarms.com/

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

From "A Pleasant Conversation" blog regarding this topic:

Regardless of what you may read or hear, this is not an act of courage or resilience. It is an act of selfishness, pure and simple. And Pat Summitt needs to rectify this before she does serious damage to the very program she built.

The most courageous act by any leader is to give up power when the leader knows that he or she can no longer meet the obligations of the job.

http://danemamula.wordpress.com/

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A key word Jack Marshall used above is "courage", would anyone from around here possess the courage to persuade Summitt "to do the right thing."

Backbones (courage) have become so politically incorrect that neither one seems to exist anymore.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ccynthiaa#226491:

Regarding Pat Summitt, this region is greatly "muddled by sentiment". Outside this region are different opinions: (Yes, they really exist!)

Jack Marshall from the "Ethics Alarms" blog writes:

Everyone in the Tennessee and sports community as well as the media and all of us who have seen loved ones suffer with the disease are rallying behind Summitt, who is one of the toughest, smartest, most determined figures in sports. But Coach Summitt has decided that her symptoms are not yet severe enough to force her into retirement, and she intends to stay at the helm of the Tennessee women’s basketball team at least three more years.

It is the wrong decision. It is a selfish and unethical decision. The question is whether anyone will have the courage to try to convince Summitt that she has a duty to the team, the school, her own legacy and basic principles of ethics to change course and do the right thing. Quit.

http://ethicsalarms.com/

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

From "A Pleasant Conversation" blog regarding this topic:

Regardless of what you may read or hear, this is not an act of courage or resilience. It is an act of selfishness, pure and simple. And Pat Summitt needs to rectify this before she does serious damage to the very program she built.

The most courageous act by any leader is to give up power when the leader knows that he or she can no longer meet the obligations of the job.

http://danemamula.wordpress.com/

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A key word Jack Marshall used above is "courage", would anyone from around here possess the courage to persuade Summitt "to do the right thing."

Backbones (courage) have become so politically incorrect that neither one seems to exist anymore.

Those are surely thoughtful, forthright opinions which deserve as much respect as any other such. Which is to say, they don't matter all that much to those who have different ones, and still less to those most closely affected. Although the three-year time-frame was mentioned, I don't think anyone regards that as a hard-and-fast limit either way. My personal preference, as stated by another poster, is for the Lady Vols to win Pat's ninth national championship this season and for her then to bow out gracefully while still on top, perhaps with some title and role with the team such as "coach emeritus" for as long as she wishes. I think she deserves to chance to go out on her own terms, but then that is just MY opinion.

YankeeVol writes:

in response to ccynthiaa#226491:

Regarding Pat Summitt, this region is greatly "muddled by sentiment". Outside this region are different opinions: (Yes, they really exist!)

Jack Marshall from the "Ethics Alarms" blog writes:

Everyone in the Tennessee and sports community as well as the media and all of us who have seen loved ones suffer with the disease are rallying behind Summitt, who is one of the toughest, smartest, most determined figures in sports. But Coach Summitt has decided that her symptoms are not yet severe enough to force her into retirement, and she intends to stay at the helm of the Tennessee women’s basketball team at least three more years.

It is the wrong decision. It is a selfish and unethical decision. The question is whether anyone will have the courage to try to convince Summitt that she has a duty to the team, the school, her own legacy and basic principles of ethics to change course and do the right thing. Quit.

http://ethicsalarms.com/

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

From "A Pleasant Conversation" blog regarding this topic:

Regardless of what you may read or hear, this is not an act of courage or resilience. It is an act of selfishness, pure and simple. And Pat Summitt needs to rectify this before she does serious damage to the very program she built.

The most courageous act by any leader is to give up power when the leader knows that he or she can no longer meet the obligations of the job.

http://danemamula.wordpress.com/

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A key word Jack Marshall used above is "courage", would anyone from around here possess the courage to persuade Summitt "to do the right thing."

Backbones (courage) have become so politically incorrect that neither one seems to exist anymore.

Wow, you're really on a mission to chuck her out to pasture.....just remember karma, my friend. Someday it might be you trying to hold onto a sense of self-respect and dignity in the face of a personal tragedy.

royalblue writes:

Pat Head Summit is my favorite sports person of all time. Forget Rupp, Calipari, Pitino , Ray Mears and all the names associated with college basketball. Pat is head and shoulders above all others, past and present. God bless you Pat, as you go forward with this burden.

voloffaith writes:

in response to ccynthiaa#226491:

Regarding Pat Summitt, this region is greatly "muddled by sentiment". Outside this region are different opinions: (Yes, they really exist!)

Jack Marshall from the "Ethics Alarms" blog writes:

Everyone in the Tennessee and sports community as well as the media and all of us who have seen loved ones suffer with the disease are rallying behind Summitt, who is one of the toughest, smartest, most determined figures in sports. But Coach Summitt has decided that her symptoms are not yet severe enough to force her into retirement, and she intends to stay at the helm of the Tennessee women’s basketball team at least three more years.

It is the wrong decision. It is a selfish and unethical decision. The question is whether anyone will have the courage to try to convince Summitt that she has a duty to the team, the school, her own legacy and basic principles of ethics to change course and do the right thing. Quit.

http://ethicsalarms.com/

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

From "A Pleasant Conversation" blog regarding this topic:

Regardless of what you may read or hear, this is not an act of courage or resilience. It is an act of selfishness, pure and simple. And Pat Summitt needs to rectify this before she does serious damage to the very program she built.

The most courageous act by any leader is to give up power when the leader knows that he or she can no longer meet the obligations of the job.

http://danemamula.wordpress.com/

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A key word Jack Marshall used above is "courage", would anyone from around here possess the courage to persuade Summitt "to do the right thing."

Backbones (courage) have become so politically incorrect that neither one seems to exist anymore.

Interesting tidbit of info.....You started this poster name in 2007 and have a grand total of 5 postings and they are all this week and this topic.

FYI I believe Coach will do the right thing for UT as has been her style since the beginning. So as some of already said we don't think that 3 yr line is hard and fast. Glad that in our region the sentiment is still "muddled" with grace and not so critical as to call Coach Summitt selfish. Selfish is a perception based on facts that aren't in yet as to the speed and depth of the affliction. I feel comfortable with the present admin that they already have things in place if this hard infirmity speeds up to indisputable detriment to her/program etc. Remember her attorney was also present at the meeting of her private announcement to UT admin. So we all hope and pray for as normal(under the microscope of everybody of every move)a season as possible. Thanks for reading(if you came back to check responses) and I hope you are extended if ever needed "muddled" sentiments.....

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