Pat Summitt, lauded women’s basketball coach, dies of younger onset dementia

Pat Summitt, famed coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team, died Tuesday died just five years after her diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Summitt, 64, was the winningest coach in Division I history and is largely credited with raising women’s basketball from a novelty to a respected sport. During her 38-year career with the Lady Vols, she never had a losing season. The team won eight national titles and reached the NCAA FINAL Four 18 times.

Known for her “icy glare” on the sidelines and her tough coaching style on the court, Summitt was named NCAA coach of the year seven times.

“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,” son Tyler Summitt said in a family statement. “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.”

Summitt founded an organization in her name in 2011 to fight Alzheimer’s and wrote about her experiences with the disease in a 2013 memoir, “Sum It Up.”

“It’s hard to pinpoint the exact day that I first noticed something wrong,” Summitt wrote in the memoir. “Over the course of a year, from 2010 to 2011, I began to experience a troubling series of lapses. I had to ask people to remind me of the same things, over and over. I’d ask three times in the space of an hour, ‘What time is my meeting again?’—and then be late.”

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia