Pat Summitt diagnosed with early onset dementia; will continue to coach Lady Vols
August 23, 2011 5:17 PM   Subscribe

University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history (men or women) has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. Regardless, she plans to continue coaching the Lady Vols for the 2011-12 season.
posted by The Gooch (16 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Damn. Just...damn.
posted by Morrigan at 5:28 PM on August 23, 2011


I have been a fan of hers for many years, and will never forget the time I met her in person. The last 4 years have been very hard on the Volunteer nation, but this one hurts the most. I don't doubt she will meet this head on and fight hard. I will be cheering you hard as always this season Coach Summitt. Go Vols!
posted by UseyurBrain at 5:36 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


My father is slightly older than Coach Summit and suffering from it as well. It's tough to see happen to someone who is still engaged in their career; one usually associates it with people who are "old." While I'm not the praying type my thought go out to her, but even more so to her husband or partner and her kids. I'm watching the toll this is taking on my Mom, my sister and I, and while it's tough on the afflicted, it can be just as so on their loved ones.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 5:38 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


This made me so sad earlier today. I have had years - decades! - of delightful hate for Summitt and her program - hate born of profound respect (and fear, okay) for her ability to build and coach successful teams year after goddamn year. This news just completely sucks.
posted by rtha at 5:41 PM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow, I'm not a colleg hoops fan at all, but I know who she is and she seems pretty cool. Like MarvinTheCat I'm not a pray-er but putting out good thoughts for her.
posted by NorthernLite at 5:45 PM on August 23, 2011


Not being a sports person I had never heard of her, but of course I sympathize; especially for such an active person a diagnosis of EoA is one of the most terrifying things possible. But a few paragraphs in, this struck me:
You don't know who you're dealing with!
And I couldn't help think, well, someone certainly doesn't know what she is dealing with. I suppose it is this unflappable determination that made her into the power she is in her sport.

I won't put in a dot for her yet, and I'll keep my fingers crossed for the miracle that might save her and the millions of others who share her affliction. But if she is already misplacing her car keys and forgetting to go to appointments, I have to wonder if it's the best thing for her players to keep coaching. She should at least have a very powerful and responsible protege who can step in when her disease fails her. It's clear she does not yet really believe it will come to that.
posted by localroger at 5:51 PM on August 23, 2011


But if she is already misplacing her car keys and forgetting to go to appointments, I have to wonder if it's the best thing for her players to keep coaching.

Ugh! This is the toughest part in my experience. The person suffering doesn't know! At least fully. It's those around them who notice that they are out of sorts or out of routine. And then you try to discuss it with them and there is disbelief and denial...You don't know that you don't remember because you don't remember you don't know.

It sounds like she's going to receive excellent treatment and has a supportive family and millions of fans though. Maybe she'll bring more attention to this complication. Such a great person for young women. And men.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 6:04 PM on August 23, 2011


I know we aim for a higher discourse here, but as I said to myself when I read about this earlier and out loud when I saw this on the news when I got home, 'This fucking sucks."

However, the eternal optimist in me hopes that not only will she beat it but that she will, as is her style, beat it again and again and again and again...
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:07 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


But if she is already misplacing her car keys and forgetting to go to appointments, I have to wonder if it's the best thing for her players to keep coaching. She should at least have a very powerful and responsible protege who can step in when her disease fails her. It's clear she does not yet really believe it will come to that.

They're not just leaving her roles the same as they've always been. The second link talks about this...

Summitt has agreed to a significant redistribution of her duties. In consultation with Cronan and her staff, her role will be redefined to give her colleagues more formal responsibility, such as calling plays during games. Summitt will continue to do what she has always done best: teach, and lead.

Tennessee is uniquely positioned to make the experiment work. Summitt has constructed a stable, deeply experienced staff: Assistants Holly Warlick and Mickie DeMoss have each been with her for at least 20 years, and Dean Lockwood has been around another seven. Together they have helped Summitt build Tennessee’s juggernaut: 1,037 career victories against 196 losses; 18 Final Fours; and eight national championships.

posted by BlooPen at 9:16 PM on August 23, 2011


It's a very disorienting feeling to find out that a long-cherished enemy is now failing for reasons that are completely unrelated to the competition.
posted by colfax at 9:32 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because I'm a terrible person, my first thought was, "Oh, so that's why she won't play Uconn."

Still, hope she beats it. She's been a fantastic coach, well, forever now.
posted by klangklangston at 11:10 PM on August 23, 2011


Still, hope she beats it.

Ain't nothing to beat brother. It's like playing Uconn: Alzheimer's disease is terminal. There is no cure and no win.
posted by three blind mice at 3:30 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Still, hope she beats it.

As TBM says, there's really no "beating it." There is no cure for dementia/Alzheimer's. There is only medication to help smooth-out the effects. Eventually, though, the disease wins. It's a terrible, frustrating, and frightening thing to watch a loved one go through.

She's one of the lucky ones, though, in that she will be able to afford the best level of care for as long as she needs it.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:46 AM on August 24, 2011


Graham Hays has a great column on ESPN.com about Coach Summitt.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:37 AM on August 24, 2011


I don't know Coach Summitt and I don't follow sports. However, I'm brought to tears by the determination evident in the article. I admire her employers for working with her and valuing the role she can continue to play for as long as she can do so.

Her son is facing a tremendous set of challenges as her disease progresses. May he find the strength and support to accept the changes she will undergo and enjoy his remaining time with her. May they both find moments of joy and peace that will ease them through the days ahead.

May her friends, colleagues and students walk away at the end of all this having become better people for having known her both before her diagnosis and after her diagnosis. May they continue to seek an active presence in her life even after she retires and progresses deeper into her disease.
posted by onhazier at 7:17 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of my true idols has always been John Wooden. Recently, as men's college basketball has become more and more pro like with the one and done players, I have started focusing on the women's game. Pat Summit is the John Wooden of the women's game or maybe I should be saying that John Wooden is the Pat Summit except Coach was much much older.

Not much of a Tennessee fan, but rooting for Summit to remain productive and lucid for as long as possible. Like Wooden she is a teacher first then an X's and O's coach. She has had a huge positive influence on so many young woman.

Godspeed Pat Summit.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:43 AM on August 26, 2011


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