Pat Summitt diagnosed with early-onset dementia

The news broke late this morning, that coaching legend Pat Summitt has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post has the best story on this tragedy:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Pat Summitt’s doctors are lucky they are still standing. When the first neurologist told her she had symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, she almost dropped him with one punch. When a second one advised her to retire immediately, she said, “Do you have any idea who you’re dealing with?”

This is precious:

When the season ended, Summitt decided to visit the Mayo Clinic for a full examination. For three days she underwent a battery of tests, an MRI exam, a PET scan, a neuro-psychological evaluation, and a spinal tap. After the spinal tap, she was told to remain lying down for 20 minutes. Sitting still is not something that comes naturally to her. Five minutes later she announced, “I feel fine,” and jumped off the table. A nurse looked at Tyler, and lifted an eyebrow. “I’m not going to be the one to stop her,” the nurse said.


“They didn’t test for leadership,” Tyler says. “They didn’t test for relationships. They didn’t test for basketball IQ. None of those things are on the test, it was just math problems. They asked questions she wouldn’t know on a regular basis. So I don’t think the test applies to what she does as a coach.”


Through it all, there has always been a sense of centeredness in Summitt. She is like a marble pillar, ramrod straight, that seems to have stood for a thousand years, while everything around it falls.

“Everyone has always wanted to know what Pat’s really like,” DeMoss said. “The word I’ve always used is ‘resolve.’ Pat has more resolve than any one I’ve ever known. She has a deep, deep inner strength.”

This part had me crying:

Over the last few days, with the clarity of her diagnosis and decision to go public, Summitt has recovered her confidence. More often than not, it is she who comforts others, as usual. Her staff have grief-stretched looks around their eyes, and seem quietly destroyed under their skins. Every so often you find one of them has ducked into her laundry room to weep. It’s Summitt who puts her arms around them and talks quietly into their ear. “I don’t want you worrying about me,” she says. Strong has always been her natural, preferred state.

Coach Summitt released a statement, via video.

Reactions from former Lady Vols, coaches and sports staff were quick.

Geno Auriemma reaction, and others.

Kara Lawson discusses the diagnoses.

Nikki Caldwell statement.

Vol fans are stunned, but supportive.

What does this diagnosis mean for the best coach of all time?

ESPN’s Graham Hays and Mechelle Voepel each weigh in on the matter. (Graham Hays is worth gold…)

Coach Summitt is ready to do battle.

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  1. Such heartbreaking news. The one good thing that can come out of this situation is that Coach Summitt can spark so much research and funding towards finding a cure by continuing to be in the public eye. I admire her courage and strength, and her determination to continue fighting the good fight.

  2. Around noon yesterday in Seattle, a co-worker told me to check the news on-line. On Google News, the top two stories: earthquake, Pat Summitt. I will forever believe that the shock of learning of her diagnosis caused that quake.

  3. As with the many people, I could not find the words to describe my reaction.. Shocked, saddened, speechless all come to mind, though. If anyone has fight within them, then Pat Summitt IS that person. My prayers will be with her, her family and the Volunteer nation. She doesn't want or need our sympathy, she needs our strength and support. God bless the coach.

  4. Yesterday was a heartbreaking day… I cried too, like many others who admire Coach Summitt, when I read the news. It's still hard to believe. The only positive is that Coach Summitt is a determined, unrelenting fighter, with a wonderful family and Vol-Nation supporting her. Hopefully she can hold off the devastating effects for years to come and continue to coach the Lady Vols for as long as she wants.

  5. Voepel's piece on this is one of the best short works I've read in many months, on any topic. I dare anyone to get all the way through it without stopping to catch your breath, or dry your eyes.