Pat Summitt says 'I've got a game plan'

Lady Vols' first practice draws plenty of attention

Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt watches her team during this season's first  practice Wednesday at Pratt Pavillion.

Photo by Saul Young, copyright © 2011

Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt watches her team during this season's first practice Wednesday at Pratt Pavillion.

Lady Vols: Getting back to basketball

The boom microphones hovered like construction cranes above Tennessee's first official practice of the women's basketball season.

"I was hoping they wouldn't get hit by a ball,'' Lady Vols senior forward Alicia Manning said. "I figured it was for Pat."

She figured right.

UT coach Pat Summitt's offseason announcement that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type increased the media turnout Wednesday and created a skyline of sorts at Pratt Pavilion. Robin Roberts of ABC-TV was present. Roberts, a 2012 inductee to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, had interviewed Summitt for the network's news program "20/20" as well as ABC's morning program "Good Morning America."

While the workout had some typical first-day sloppiness, the tempo and energy belied an opening practice. Apparently the Lady Vols weren't distracted by the crowd or the equipment.

"When you have 20-some thousand fans you play in front of," Manning said, "things like that really don't bother you."

Summitt revealed her diagnosis in August with an eye toward October and preserving the usual practice routine. She said as much on Wednesday by saying, "That's what I want to talk about — basketball, not dementia. Believe me."

Even though her routine is different, Summitt indicated that she feels good about herself — with some assistance from her son, Tyler.

"I've got a game plan, Tyler Summitt he's got it all written out every day what I have to do,'' Summitt said.

She also feels good about her team, no matter how many microphone-threatening passes they threw on Wednesday. She thinks that her situation might bring out the best in the players.

"I think it's motivated this team,'' Summitt said. "Once they heard about it, they were like 'We're cutting down some nets.' "

Sophomore guard Meighan Simmons validated Summitt's viewpoint, characterizing the players' work as a way of showing their respect to her.

"I really feel like it touches me because I'm playing for her and she's taking care of me as far as making me become a better person, a better athlete,'' said Simmons, who said that she cried when learning of Summitt's diagnosis. "I feel like now it's our turn to return a favor to her."

Simmons sounded motivated to reach out and touch Summitt throughout the season.

"I feel like I will be able to hug her more and tell her I appreciate her because I really feel like she really needs that,'' Simmons said.

Manning related the prevailing circumstances to reading the book "Good to Great." The team has gathered like a book club throughout the preseason, repeating the practice on Wednesday. Players have led the discussion about a book by Jim Collins that details how companies improved their performance over time. Manning said that a specific chapter speaks directly to Summitt's diagnosis and the Lady Vols' response.

"One of the chapters is accepting brutal facts and moving forward," Manning said. "That's a brutal fact and we're going to move forward."

Summitt Honored: Summitt has received the 2011 Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award, given by the United State Sports Academy.

The award is presented annually to an individual who demonstrates courageous action in overcoming adversity to excel in sport.

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Comments » 21

volguy#211935 writes:

All the best to the best coach ever, Pat Summit, and the Lady Vols!

RoadTrip writes:

#9 to honor the greatest women's basketball coach ever sounds appropriate to me! Rally around her LV's!

allvol9 writes:

Coach is such an inspiration. She never ceases to amaze me.

PureOrange writes:

Terrible things like this should not happen to anyone, but for all the great things Pat Summitt has done, and all she has done for others surely does not seem fair for her to have this happen. It is another battle for Pat to fight. We all know Pat is a winner! Always have been so very proud to have her as the greatest coach of all time to be coaching our Lady Vols!

Millisa writes:

Love You Coach Summitt Go Lady Vols!!! :) :) :)

miatatom writes:

Maybe they can win the next two titles and she could tie John Woodens' record. That's a dream for sure, but wouldn't it be great?

MidTennVol writes:

Wow -- story reads like the players think this season might be Pat's last. If so, so be it, nets or not. This tough-as-nails lady has already shown the world how a Tennessee girl turns out when raised right.

Fight on, Coach.

stumpyb writes:

God is still able to heal and if all of us that are believers in Christ would pray I believe God will answer our prayers. GO LADY VOLS

ps11824 writes:

I'm not praying for a championship, albeit #9 would be nice for coach, team & fans. Sure, it would be an inspiration for others who are facing debilitating illness as well. My prayer, that Pat will have the strength and cognition to continue coaching America how to LIVE LIFE to the FULLEST despite Alzheimer's.

Fall_Creek_Vols writes:

in response to miatatom:

Maybe they can win the next two titles and she could tie John Woodens' record. That's a dream for sure, but wouldn't it be great?

For most programs, it IS a dream.

For the Tennessee Lady Volunteers and Coach Pat Summitt, it's distinct possibility.

SummittsCourt writes:

Pat will show that she is still the best basketball coach in the business this season.

Go Lady Vols!

gortrtt writes:

Go Pat! Praying for you.

Terrax1 writes:

in response to volguy#211935:

All the best to the best coach ever, Pat Summit, and the Lady Vols!

We love Pat here in Pittsburgh. We have followed her and her girls many years. We proudly display our Lady Vols UT sticker in our back car window. Our best to our fav. coach and team.

Jakevol writes:

When talking to other fans about their schools sports, I hear things like the Bear from Bama, I hear things like Woody Hayes from OSU, I hear things like J. Wooden from UCLA, I hear all kinds of things about how their university has rich history. Once they completed all their talk, I simply mention Pat at UT, and that trumps them all.

volmom8388 writes:

Some of us walk around our whole lives wondering what our purpose is....and then there is Pat Summitt whose purpose is so abundantly clear:

She is here to inspire us; to show us how life is to be lived with passion,dignity and Grace. How lucky we are to have her here in our midst!

Sending good thoughts and prayers to Coach Summitt and the Lady Vols!

beth#257262 writes:

Do we know when the interview will air on 20/20?

NeylandWest writes:

Coach Summitt is my sports hero. It's as simple as that. It takes tremendous courage to accept bad news. It takes even more to confront it and hit it head on.

I pray to God and thank Him for her often because it isn't often that we have someone such as her in our lives.

Mobbdeep4life writes:

One of my first memories of Tennessee athletics was watching a Lady Vols game. I couldn't help but notice a young coach on the sidelines with a laser like focus in her eyes. It intimidated me and I was watching on TV. LOL!
She's still an inspiration and has shown a tremendous amount of courage. If she can face this adversity then surely I can face any challenge as courageously as she has.
Go Lady Vols!!!! Go CPS!!!!

volnnwbama writes:

"CUT DOWN SOME NETS" chills anyone?

ps11824 writes:

beth#257262 writes:
Do we know when the interview will air on 20/20?]]

Don;t know about 20/20, but I know the Good Morning America show will air the Robin Roberts interview on Oct. 21st. Thats ABC?

Mama_Also_Calls_Me_Precious writes:

I've got a gameplan, and that is to go to every Lady Vol home game this year and possibly some of the away games. I don't how much longer Coach Summit will be here and I want to get in as many games as I can..

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