Pat Summitt’s Toughest Opponent is Not on the Court


Growing up, my relatives would sometimes diagnose the familiar disease of forgetfulness among my elders as senility. No clinical or medical explanations were needed it was just something that happened when you got old.

Even though Alzheimer’s disease was discovered in 1907, after neurologic research in the 1970’s it became more commonly known and in 1985 the Alzheimer Association was created to help bring public awareness about the disease.  Like many diseases and disorders, they are distant fears without a face—-that is until you meet the people who live with this disease that takes no prisoners.

On yesterday at the White House, President Barack Obama awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to 13 recipients and one of them has become the most recent face of Alzheimer’s disease.  Former University of Tennessee Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt, 59, was one of the honorees.  You don’t have to be a women’s basketball fan to have ever heard of her, because she is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history among men or women.  When she resigned in April, because of early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, she had a career record of 32 SEC Tournament and regular season championships, eight national titles and the most impressive statistic of all in her 38 seasons is that every woman who has played on any of her teams has graduated or will soon graduate with an undergraduate degree.

During the ceremony President Obama said, “When I think about my two daughters who are tall and gifted, knowing that [because of] folks like Coach Summitt, they are standing up straight and diving after loose balls and feeling confident and strong……… anybody who feels sorry for Pat will find himself on the receiving end of that famous glare. Or she might punch you. She still is getting up every day and doing what she does best, which is teaching. The players, she says, are her best medicine.”

Currently there are medications to temporarily improve and manage Alzheimer’s disease but there is no cure. More and more people are becoming personally familiar with this emotionally painful and unrelenting disease that steals memories and moments from its victims and their loved ones.

No doubt the list of awards will continue for Coach Summitt, but the biggest game in the life of the winningest coach right now is facing an opponent who hardly ever loses.



  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    The Presidential Medal of Freedom is intended to recognize those individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors”.
    I am sorry for Pat Summitt’s affliction and applaud her decision to retire with dignity and honor. But I cannot understand the President’s logic that her situation merits the award.

    • Lynnette Young says:

      Perhaps under “cultural or other public…endeavors.”. I say congratulations to Coach Summitt and the other honorees. I doubt seriously if the President made this award because she has Alzheimer’s or because he feels sorry for her, so your pity is not only unwarranted but as the President said, unwanted.

  2. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ Lynette Young
    You won’t find the word “pity” in my post, so step down off your pulpit.
    You tried to find some logic in the President’s choice, but you couldn’t.
    Let me assist you. The logic in the President’s post is that he is running for re-election and pandering for votes. Everything else is secondary.

  3. Donna K Douglas says:

    @ Burroughston Broch. You are just another man who cannot handle the fact that a WOMAN can be the winningest coach in NCAA history . She has accomplished much in a Male dominated arena. Some men just can’t deal with that. Most of the USA knows her name even if they don’t follow women’s basketball! Who are you? I don’t think I’ve heard or read about your national accomplishments…The President recognized her because she deserves recognition NOT because she has Alzheimers Disease…Get a Life Mr. Broch!!!!

    • Burroughston Broch says:

      You certainly made a lot of inferences from my two posts, none of them correct.
      I am not a sports fan, don’t go to games, and don’t support athletic programs.
      I am aware of Ms. Summitt’s career, as I am those of other coaches. It makes no difference to me whether she is male or female.
      My point is that her accomplishments have not made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors”.
      I can assure you that I have not sought the Presidential Medal of Freedom and will not accept it, if offered.