Tuesday, June 28, 2016

In Memoriam: Pat Summitt (1952-2016)

Coach Pat Summitt
Photo from Twitter
Besides failing health, I think one of the toughest thing about getting older is watching those around you go away.  It's watching family, friends, and heroes grow older and then have to say goodbye.

It is, however, a part of life.  No one makes it out alive.

One of my personal heroes, Pat Summitt, passed away today at the age of 64.

Five years ago, Pat was a fearsome competitor stalking the sidelines at the University of Tennessee as the head women's basketball coach.  Then, the unthinkable happened.  One of the toughest minds ever made, in my opinion, was invaded by early-onset dementia.  Alzheimer's.

Coach Summitt stayed on for one more year leading her team to the NCAA Elite Eight.  She retired at the end of that season with an amazing record of 1,098 wins and only 208 losses.  Coach Summitt won eight National Championships and was inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.  I could list her accolades for hours here.  Possibly most impressive is her 100 percent graduation rate, especially in this day and age of college sports.

No one did more for women's college basketball to bring the sport where it is today than Summitt.

Probably her most dogged and determined fight, though, has been the way she has fought Alzheimer's.  She did it with her head held high and without hiding.  Her fight was public, and she showed that you can still make a difference no matter the odds.  As she was fond of saying, "It is what it is so make it what it will be."

I used to hate that quote, "It is what it is."  Summitt's addition to that quote changes the meaning entirely.  It puts you in the equation.  We can't stop what happens to us, but we can make something out of it.  She certainly did her entire life.

Pat was a great coach, a devoted mother, and a fierce competitor.  As a teacher, I'm not sure there was anyone better in college sports.

It's really hard to believe, but Pat Summitt is gone at 64.  Too soon.  My condolences to her family, her son, Tyler, and her many friends.

Let's cure Alzheimer's Disease.

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