Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tennessee's legendary women's basketball coach has early-onset dementia

Pat Summitt belongs in that very short list of "great" coaches. But it's possible her career could end sooner than she would have wanted.

ESPN.com reports that Coach Summitt has early-onset dementia, a condition that could lead to Alzheimer's disease.
In a statement from Summitt released by the university Tuesday, the Hall of Fame coach said she visited with doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., after the end of the 2010-11 basketball season and was diagnosed with the condition during the summer.
"I plan to continue to be your coach," Summitt said. "Obviously, I realize I may have some limitations with this condition since there will be some good days and some bad days."
The 59-year-old Summitt told the newspaper she had been feeling erratic earlier this year, and plans to rely on medication and mental exercises to manage the progressive condition that could lead to Alzheimer's, which her grandmother had.
"Nobody accepts this," her son, Tyler, told the News Sentinel. "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 to coach."
The university's former men's basketball coach, Bruce Pearl, told the Sporting News that he considers Summitt to be a sister.
Pearl learned the news late Monday, one day before they had planned to have dinner together.
“When I found out,” Pearl told Sporting News on Tuesday afternoon, “it was just comforting to hear how incredibly positive she is about this. She is going to take this and run with it, and she’s going to lead through it. And she’s going to be an inspiration for anyone that’s dealing with this type of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“She had the summer to get her arms around it, come to terms with it. Now she’s on the road to dealing with it.”
Summitt is beginning her 38th season at Tennessee, and she has the most wins of any women's basketball coach. The university's Website previews the Lady Vols' 2011-2012 season.

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