Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pat Summit Diagnosed with Early-Onset Dementia, Plans to Continue Coaching Basketball

Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt has no plans to stop coaching despite being diagnosed with early onset dementia, according to her video on YouTube and Sports Illustrated:

Speaking from her home in Blount County, Tenn., with her dog Sadie sleeping on her lap, Summitt said she would not stop coaching. "I plan to continue to be your coach," Summit said. "For that reason I will be relying on my outstanding coaching staff like never before. We have always collaborated on every facet of Lady Vol Basketball; and now you will see [assistants] Holly Warlick, Mickie DeMoss and Dean Lockwood taking on more responsibility as their duties will change significantly. I love being your coach and the privilege to go to work every day with our outstanding Lady Vol student athletes."

The UT athletic department confirmed to that Summitt told her players about her early onset dementia in a team meeting on Tuesday. " Obviously, I realize I may have some limitations with this condition since there will be some good days and some bad days," Summitt said in letter posted on the university's website.

Summitt told The News Sentinel that she often felt low at times last season and second guessed some of her decisions. "There were some mornings I would wake up and think I don't even want to go in," Summitt said. "That didn't last long but it was like 'What's wrong with me? What's going on with me?' She told The Washington Post that "sometimes I draw blanks."

Her son, Tyler, a junior at Tennessee and a walk-on on the men's basketball team, told The News Sentinel, "Nobody accepts this. 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 told The News Sentinel that she was encouraged after speaking with 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 told the newspaper. "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.'"

The paper reported that Summitt has formulated a plan that involves mental activities, such as reading and doing puzzles at night before going to sleep. Summitt told The News Sentinel that her maternal grandmother had suffered from severe dementia.

One of the icons of women's basketball, Summitt has led UT to eight national championships and 1,071 career victories, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, regardless of gender. This will be her 38th season coaching at the university. Summitt said she does not plan on speaking about her condition in the immediate days ahead.

"I've been honest and shared my health concerns with you and now we'll move forward to the business at hand -- coaching a great group of Lady Vols," she said. "For the time being, I hope you will respect my privacy regarding this matter."

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