Ex-Vols coach writes about Alzheimer’s
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Pat Summitt has trouble remembering records, scores and statistics from her 38-year career, but the former Tennessee women’s basketball coach says she still recalls all her former players.
Summitt details her battle with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, in her memoir “Sum It Up,” which she wrote with Sally Jenkins. The book will be released today.
“Numbers have a strange slipperiness for me, a lack of specificity; they suggest nothing,” Summitt writes. “If you ask me how many games we won in 1998, or what happened in the 2008 national championship game, I struggle to remember which one it was. But if you tell me who was on the team — if you prompt me with names rather than numbers … they bring it all back. Show me a picture of a former player, frozen in an old team photo, and I remember her.”
The book also details Summitt’s upbringing in rural Tennessee, her rivalry with Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, her family life and the circumstances of her retirement among other things. The research included interviews conducted between Summitt and Jenkins in 1997 and 1998 as well during the 2011-12 season.
Summitt, 60, stepped down as Tennessee’s coach last April after winning eight national titles and 1,098 games, giving her the most career victories of any Division I men’s or women’s basketball coach in history.
She remains on Tennessee’s staff as head coach emeritus and has attended most practices. Summitt has watched virtually every Lady Vols home game from the stands this season.
After announcing her diagnosis in 2011, Summitt led the Lady Vols to a 27-9 record and a regional final last year. She decided to step down last April.
“I’d always said that no player was bigger than the program, and the same held true for me,” Summitt writes. “I didn’t want to be bigger than Tennessee. While continuing to work was good for me, the Lady Vols weren’t my personal health clinic.”
Summitt also writes that she is back on good terms with Auriemma. The Tennessee-Connecticut rivalry was the fiercest in women’s college basketball until Summitt decided to end the series after the 2006-07 season.
She writes that Auriemma gave $10,000 to the Pat Summitt Foundation to fight Alzheimer’s and was the first person to donate to that organization.
“We are in the best place we’ve ever been,” Summitt writes.
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