Courage can show itself in the face of adversity and under the most difficult of hardships, but only by the brave fight on. Pat Summit, the University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach was recently diagnosed with early-onset dementia. These hard times will not keep the 59-year-old Lady Vol coach from her job. Joan Cronan, the UT Athletic Director, was quoted by ABC saying, “Pat Summit is our head coach, and she will continue to be.”
Early-onset dementia is a rare form of Alzheimer’s that strikes those under 65. It is possible Summit may remain cognitive for several years or may suffer a more rapid decline, only time will tell. Summit, again quoted by ABC, recognizes the obstacles ahead of her, “Obviously, I realize I may have some limitations with this condition, since there will be some good day and some bad days. For that reason, I will be relying on my outstanding coaching staff like never before.”
But Summit will continue at UT for her 38th season, “I love being your coach, and the privilege to go to work every day with our outstanding Lady Vol basketball student-athletes,” she said. With an outstanding 1,037- 196 (.841) collegiate record, losing the Lady Vol coach would be detrimental to the UT women’s basketball program.
Not only did Summit engineer eight National Championship teams, she is an icon not only for for all of women’s athletics.
Past Lady Vol athlete under Summit, Michelle Marciniak, wrote her own reaction for Sports Illustrated on the recent news of her old coach, “The illness may progress but I don’t see her stepping away from the game anytime soon. I think she will fight it till the very end. What has changed is that Pat has come forth with her struggle. But that is Pat.”