While an earthquake rocked the Eastern Seaboard yesterday afternoon; Rocky Top, Tennessee was shaking too. Shock and sadness rippled across the Volunteer nation with the news that Lady Vols’ head coach, Pat Summitt, had been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Choosing to be upfront and forthright with her players and fans, Coach Summitt made her public announcement with the grace and dignity that has come to be expected from one of the finest and most accomplished coaches this nation has ever produced.
Known for her fierce coaching ability on the court and her competitive will to win, Coach Summitt must now take up a different fight. One she will eventually lose.
The winningest coach in college basketball vows there will be no pity party as she prepares to coach her 38th season with the full support of The University of Tennessee’s administration.
In speaking with the team on Tuesday, it was made clear that nothing would stand in the way of the Lady Vols’ hunt for a ninth national title this season.
Not only does Coach Summitt have her players and staff behind her, but there has been an outpouring of unwavering support for the revered coach from across the country as well. Former players are flying in from all over the world to stand behind their beloved coach.
There has been much talk in the past weeks about the Vol for Life program that Coach Derek Dooley is implementing with the football team.
In this instance the title of “Vol for Life” may be more appropriately placed exclusively on the shoulders of Pat Summitt; not only for her accomplishments over her 37 seasons as a Volunteer but for the kind and gracious way she has represented herself, the Lady Vols, and The University of Tennessee.
She has run an unquestionable program of success that is untarnished and respected across the country. An ambassador for college athletics, she is venerated even by her rivals.
Personally, I have had the honor of meeting Coach Summitt on many occasions, working and living in Knoxville over the last 14 years. She is to me the embodiment of a true Volunteer and an inspiration to those around her.
If there is anyone out there with the will and the strength to fight this disease and be an example of courage and grace under pressure, Coach Pat Summitt is that person. My thoughts are with her and her family today as well as in the coming months.