#PrayforPat: Pat Summitt’s Declining Health
Caroline Starr is a former Division I basketball player and a Division II basketball coach as well as a life long basketball fan. Her hope is that someday her words provide future college student-athletes little nuggets of knowledge to help them through their college athletics journey.
Pat Summitt’s Fight
Yesterday morning the basketball world woke up to worst kind of news regarding one of the pioneers for collegiate women’s basketball, Pat Summitt and her fight against early onset dementia.
The family released a statement late Sunday morning stating “the past few days have been difficult for Pat as her early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s Type, progresses.” Five hours earlier, a source told the News Sentinel that Summitt was “struggling” and those close to her were “preparing for the worst.” “I don’t think anybody knows whether she will last a day, a month, or a year,” the source said.
Generally this is where most will put all of Pat Summitt’s statistics, but I’m not going to do that because Pat deserves more than numbers. Yes, she led her team to 22 Final Fours in 38 years. Yes, she won eight national championships. The staggering numbers of a historical career go on and on, but Pat is so much more than her numbers. She changed the game. She put women’s basketball on the map and made people pay attention.
My Memories of Pat Summitt
I remember in 2011 when Pat was diagnosed with early onset dementia and how it put a knot in my stomach. Then, it was sad news, but that was five years ago. Now, it’s terrifying news because we forget that in five years how much things can change.
The first time I met Pat I was young and still a Razorback fan. I stood outside with my friend and we were waiting for the Lady Vols to arrive. They were in town to play against the Razorbacks and we came to watch. Pat was coming off the bus talking to everyone crowded around and signing autographs.
The second time I met Pat was high school. We were playing in Atlanta for an AAU tournament. Our game had just ended and we were loading up our bus to head back to the hotel. Everyone on the bus and we’re ready to hit the road until we see Her. There’s Pat Summitt. Two seconds later, our bus is empty and we have her surrounded. Again Pat spoke to all of us, she took pictures, and she signed autographs.
In those two times, Pat made a huge impression on me. She was a big time coach that always took time for everyone, and I think it’s because she understood her position for the game. I will be the first to admit I usually root against Tennessee, especially back in the day when they played Uconn, but I can’t imagine basketball without Pat Summitt.
Last month I had the opportunity to make the trek to Knoxville, Tennessee. I was in town for my best friend’s graduation and my only request was to “visit the gym that Pat built”. We walked around Thompson-Boling Arena for about an hour. I gawked at all the orange, soaked up all the pictures and memorabilia, and got my picture taken standing beside Pat. If I had a bucket list, this should be on it.
Pat doesn’t know me, but she is one of my happiest basketball memories. To me she represents everything basketball is as a player and a fan. I rooted against her most days, but today and everyday moving forward I’ll be lifting Pat up to the basketball gods. I’ll be asking them to give strength to the one who stood with the icy stare and put women’s basketball on the map.