Sum It Up: 1,098 Victories, A Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective
Pat Head Summitt, Sally Jenkins
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Pat Summitt, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history and bestselling author of Reach for the Summitt and Raise The Roof, tells for the first time her remarkable story of victory and resilience as well as facing down her greatest challenge: early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
Pat Summitt was only 21 when she became head coach of the Tennessee Vols women's basketball team. For 38 years, she broke records, winning more games than any NCAA team in basketball history. She coached an undefeated season, co-captained the first women's Olympic team, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and was named Sports Illustrated 'Sportswoman of the Year'.
She owed her coaching success to her personal struggles and triumphs. She learned to be tough from her strict, demanding father. Motherhood taught her to balance that rigidity with communication and kindness. She was a role model for the many women she coached; 74 of her players have become coaches.
Pat's life took a shocking turn in 2011, when she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, an irreversible brain condition that affects 5 million Americans. Despite her devastating diagnosis, she led the Vols to win their sixteenth SEC championship in March 2012. Pat continued to be a fighter, facing this new challenge the way she's faced every other--with hard work, perseverance, and a sense of humor.
immediately ordered her to sit out and scheduled an MRI. “We don’t play at Tennessee on swollen knees,” our medical director told her. The MRI showed that she needed articulate cartilage surgery. When she found out, she burst into tears, and so did I. Not only was Candace hurt, she was away from home for the first time and her parents, Larry and Sara, had just separated. Holly and I were at her bedside along with her mother when Candace woke up from surgery. She had dreamed she was playing
photograph me. Because I just knew I had finally made it into the Swimsuit Issue.” Kathy even got ahold of an issue and superimposed my head over a swimsuit model reclining on her stomach in a thong. I laughed until I almost fell down. The Sports Illustrated story by their senior writer Alex Wolff was a glowing compliment, and I read it with immodest pleasure, until I arrived at a sidebar about Alzheimer’s. A sentence jumped out at me: “the average life expectancy” for Alzheimer’s was eight to
uneven and we’ve had our ups and downs,” he said. “But there is one thing I know. All we got is in this room. Look at the person next to you.” The kids all turned their heads. “That’s what we got,” he said. “Each other.” Now I stepped to the front of the room. There was no point in dodging the subject. Instead of avoiding it, I decided to go right at it. “Y’all, we got to have this one,” I said. “It’s a must win.” The kids nodded. “Last time it was their turn,” I said. “One-point loss, on
the winner’s podium was a pretty good place from which to conduct a women’s movement. The thing I always marvel about is that Pat and her teammates’ experiences as college basketball players was no less important to them than the ones today who go to a Final Four with all the trappings. And in fact I’m not sure it didn’t have a greater impression and mean more to people like Pat, because they had to work so hard for it, and today so much is given to them. —BILLIE MOORE Up to that point I had
loathed and forbade anyone to use. “She is not a Pee-Wee,” I announced. “She is a GIANT. We do not have any weak individuals on this team.” Carla McGhee was a six-foot-three freshman from Peoria, Illinois, with an attitude, who for much of that season wasn’t even sure she wanted to stay at Tennessee. She was tough, raw, and cocky, but she only played hard in spurts. She resented the regimented aspects of the program, and our skirmish started on the very first day of fall workouts, when I made