KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s Pat Summitt plans to coach “as long as the good Lord is willing” despite recently being diagnosed with early onset dementia.
In a statement from Summitt released by the university on 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 ended and was diagnosed with the condition over 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 Knoxville News Sentinel first reported Summitt’s condition. The 59-year-old Summitt told the newspaper she plans to rely on medication and mental exercises to manage the progressive condition that could lead to Alzheimer’s and planned to inform the current Lady Volunteers of her diagnosis on Tuesday afternoon in a team meeting.
Summitt said longtime assistants Holly Warlick, Dean Lockwood and Mickie DeMoss will take on more responsibilities with the team going forward.
As college basketball’s winningest coach, Summitt has spent 37 seasons at Tennessee and has 1,071 career victories and eight national championships. The Lady Vols have failed to reach the Final Four since they last won the national championship in 2008.
Both UT-Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and athletics director Joan Cronan pledged their support of Summitt’s decision to continue coaching.
“Pat Summitt is our head coach and she will continue to be,” Cronan said. “She is an icon not only for women’s basketball but for all of women’s athletics. For Pat to stand-up and share her health new is just a continuing example of her courage. Life is an unknown and none of us have a crystal ball. But I do have a record of knowing what Pat Summitt stands for; excellence, strength, honesty and courage.”
Summitt said she met with local doctors after becoming concerned about her health, and those physicians recommended she undergo a more extensive evaluation. Summitt told the News Sentinel that her maternal grandmother had suffered from severe dementia.
“Pat came to us with concerns about her health and our preliminary evaluation was suggestive of dementia. Because of her young age, Pat was referred to neurology for formal evaluation,” Dr. Amy Bentley, with Knoxville’s Internal Medicine Associates, said in a statement. “After extensive testing, a diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s was made and appropriate treatment was initiated.”