Tennessee coaching legend Pat Summitt dies at age 64
When Pat Summitt announced in August 2011 that she had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease, the Tennessee women's basketball coaching legend pointedly said, "It's not going to keep me from living my life."
Her public battle with the brain disease ended Tuesday when Summitt died at age 64.
She is survived by her mother, Hazel Albright Head; son, Ross "Tyler" Summitt (AnDe); sister, Linda; brothers, Tommy (Deloris), Charles (Mitzi) and Kenneth (Debbie).
A private service and burial for family and friends will be held in Middle Tennessee. A public service to celebrate her life will take place at Thompson-Boling Arena, on the campus of the University of Tennessee.
Details for the celebration of life will be shared at a later date. Memorial gifts may be made to the Pat Summitt Foundation by visiting www.patsummitt.org/donate.
Tyler Summitt released the following statement Tuesday morning:
"It is with tremendous sadness that I announce the passing of my mother, Patricia Sue Head Summitt.
She died peacefully this morning at Sherrill Hill Senior Living in Knoxville surrounded by those who loved her most.
Since 2011, my mother has battled her toughest opponent, early onset dementia, 'Alzheimer's Type,' and she did so with bravely fierce determination just as she did with every opponent she ever faced. Even though it's incredibly difficult to come to terms that she is no longer with us, we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease.
For 64 years, my mother first built her life upon a strong relationship with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Her foundation was also built upon love of her family and of her players, and love of the fundamentals of hard work which reflected her philosophy that 'you win in life with people'.
She was the fourth of five children -- Tommy, Charles, Kenneth and Linda -- born to Richard and Hazel Head on June 14, 1952, in Clarksville, Tenn. Her tireless work ethic and her love of the game of basketball were created during the time she spent growing up on the family farm.
She'll be remembered as the all-time winningest DI basketball coach in NCAA history, but she was more than a coach to so many -- she was a hero and a mentor, especially to me, her family, her friends, her Tennessee Lady Volunteer staff and the 161 Lady Vol student-athletes she coached during her 38-year tenure. We will all miss her immensely.
A private service and burial will be held for my mother in Middle Tennessee. I ask that you respect the privacy of that time.
We are in the process of finalizing the details of a public celebration of her life which will take place in one of her favorite places, Thompson-Boling Arena. Once those details are finalized, we will share them with you.
The family released a statement Sunday morning through Ackermann Public Relations saying "the past few days have been difficult" as the disease "progresses."
The statement also asked for "prayers for Pat and her family and friends, as well as your utmost respect and privacy. Thank you."
Summitt lived the five years since the diagnosis in an open fashion. She coached a final season with the disease, finishing her 38-year career with 1,098 victories and eight national championships. Her victory total was the most for any Division I coach men or women. She stepped down after the 2011-12 season to become the program's head coach emeritus.
She's been inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame (1999), the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2000) and the FIBA Hall of Fame (2013).
The Pat Summitt Plaza, which features a statue of her, was built across from Thompson-Boling Arena and dedicated in November of 2013.
"Pat is one of those rare individuals whose influence crosses all boundary lines," Oklahoma women's coach Sherri Coale said when Summitt stepped down.
President Obama announced on April 19, 2012, that Summitt had received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was honored at the White House on May 29.
The "We Back Pat" campaign began almost immediately after Summitt's medical announcement. Fighting Alzheimer's became her cause before her coaching career ended as well. At halftime of a game against then-No. 1 Baylor on Nov. 27, 2011, at the arena, Summitt and Tyler announced the formation of the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund. The foundation was established to make grants to nonprofit organizations that provide Alzheimer's education and research as well as support services.
"Tyler and I have decided it's time for us to join this battle," Summitt said at the time. "It's time for us to turn this obstacle into a stepping stone leading to a cure."
Foundation officials and The University of Tennessee Medical Center announced last year a new strategic partnership to significantly expand the scope and capacity of the Medical Center's existing Alzheimer's Clinic and establish the Pat Summitt Alzheimer's Clinic.
"Obviously the first thing we want to do on behalf of the Board is express our deep sorrow to Pat's family on her passing," said Jim Haslam, the chairman of the foundation's board of directors in a prepared statement.
"Alzheimer's is such a horrific disease and as you know currently has no cure. Since Pat was diagnosed in 2011 she dedicated her life to this Foundation in the hope of helping find a cure. We will continue that work on her behalf and in fact will open the Pat Summitt Alzheimer's Clinic at the UT Medical Center by the end of this year.
"On a personal note," Haslam said, "there are not many icons that you come in contact (with) in your lifetime and we all were fortunate to know one, Pat Summitt. Her work ethic, her dedication to the young women she coached, and her integrity in everything she did will never be equalled. She set the standard for excellence in academics, athletics and life. She was a role model and an inspiration and we are all enriched for having known her."
Summitt still attended some Tennessee games last season. Tyler said in March that his mother had moved into "an upscale retirement resort" in late January while her regular home underwent renovation.
This article was written by Dan Fleser from Knoxville News Sentinel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.