Rooting, and Fearing, for Pat Summitt

Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee Lady Vols coach
Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee Lady Vols coach

ESPN's Jemele Hill considers the predicament of Pat Summitt, the legendary head basketball coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers, who was recently diagnosed with early-onset dementia. She also looks at the future of the team.


Late in her life, I saw my grandmother transform from a crossword-puzzle-loving, "Law-and-Order"-watching, active woman to someone who couldn't take care of herself. And in the final months of her life, she was unable to speak and could only show that she recognized me by reaching helplessly for my hand.

It is devastating to see someone you love wither. My grandmother survived one stroke, but she suffered a second one in February 2010 and died a few months later.


I immediately thought of my grandmother's struggles when Tennessee coach Pat Summitt revealed Tuesday that she is suffering from early-onset dementia, a prelude to Alzheimer's disease. It's unfathomable, and a cruel sentence for one of the sharpest basketball minds in history.

I have covered Summitt's Tennessee Lady Vols a few times in the NCAA tournament. And I've personally interacted with Summitt on a couple of occasions, including a few years ago when she and I were stuck at the Los Angeles airport. We passed the time drinking beer and arguing over who her greatest player was. She won.

I have tremendous respect for the way Summitt has single-handedly grown the sport of women's basketball and championed women's athletics. She is one of the greatest coaches ever in any sport and of either gender.

But I am scared for her.

Read Jemele Hill's entire post at ESPN.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter