Pat Summitt diagnosed with early onset dementia

Pat Summitt diagnosed with early onset dementia

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Coach Pat Summitt (source: utladyvols.com) Coach Pat Summitt (source: utladyvols.com)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Lady Vols head basketball coach Pat Summitt says she has been diagnosed with early onset dementia.

In text and video statements released Tuesday, Summitt, 59, said she talked to doctors after the 2010-2011 season ended about her health concerns.

"After consulting with my local physicians, I decided to visit the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota," she said. "Earlier this summer, the doctors at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed me with early onset dementia ("Alzheimer's Type") at the age of 59."

Summitt said she plans to continue to coach the Lady Vols.

"Obviously, I realize I may have some limitations with this condition since there will be some good days and some bad days," she said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, dementia describes a group of symptoms that "affect intellectual and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning." Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of a progressive dementia.

Since the announcement there has been an outpouring of support from former Lady Vols players, UT officials, and fans. 

"It takes amazing courage for Pat to come forward and discuss her health with her players, our fans and the entire country, but that's who she is. Pat Summitt stands for courage and integrity," UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said in a statement issued Tuesday. "We will stand behind her and support her in every way possible. We look forward to her continued leadership as the Lady Vols head coach and I know that even through this adversity she will be an inspiration to all of us."

"Pat Summitt is our head coach and she will continue to be," Interim Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Joan 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."

"Pat Summitt is not only my mom, but also an incredible role model and mentor for me," said her son, Tyler Summitt. "It seems like she teaches me something new every day, and she is currently giving me one of the best life lessons of all: to have the courage to be open, honest, and face the truth. "This will be a new chapter for my mom and me, and we will continue to work as a team like we always have done. We both appreciate the continued support of the Lady Vol family. Our faith is in the Lord and we trust that God has a plan for us. Looking forward, nobody is as ready for the 2011-12 basketball season to start as much as the Summitt family. God Bless."

Dr. Amy Bentley, with Internal Medicine Associates in Knoxville, also issued a statement. She said, "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. After extensive testing, a diagnosis of early Alzheimer's was made and appropriate treatment was initiated."

Perhaps Summitt's arch rival head coach, Geno Auriemma, with UConn, said, "I was shocked and saddened to hear about the news regarding Pat Summitt's diagnosis. You don't necessarily associate dementia with people our age so this announcement really put things in perspective. Pat has great support from her family, friends and staff and I know they will help her immensely. There is no doubt in my mind that Pat will take on this challenge as she has all others during her Hall of Fame career - head on. I wish her all the best."

Former Lady Vol now LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell said, "I've known Coach Summitt for 23 years and there has never been a fight that she's backed down from. All of us who have played or coached under her leadership, we know she will take this fight on like she does with every task. She will do it with dignity, toughness, courage and an unwavering commitment. Those are the same qualities she has always expected and instilled in her players for 37 years at Tennessee. She's been a friend and a mentor for me my entire playing and coaching career. More importantly, she is the standard in the coaching profession and taken women's basketball to unparalleled heights. I know she is going to coach as long as she wants to and continue to be the ultimate competitor she has always been. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her, her son Tyler and her entire family. I will always be here for her as a friend and I look forward to seeing her on the bench this season."

Summitt has coached the Lady Vols to eight national championships, 15 SEC championships and 29 NCAA Tournament appearances.

She is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, men or women.

Under Summitt, the Lady Vols have produced 12 Olympians, 19 Kodak All-Americans named to 33 teams and 74 All-SEC performers.

Summitt played at Cheatham County High School in Ashland City, Tenn., 1967-70, where she was a four-year starter.

She played college ball at UT-Martin from 1970-74. She led the Lady Pacers to the national championship tournament in 1972 and 1973 and graduated as the all-time leading scorer.

As the co-captain of the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team, Summitt helped her team win a silver medal.

The court in Thompson-Boling Arena is named The Summitt, in the coach's honor. The gym where she played in high school also bears her name.

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