If the SEC had a Mount Rushmore of coaches, I imagine there would be a lot of argument over who belongs on it. One person who there would be no argument over inclusion is Tennessee's Pat Summitt.
When looking at her career, it's more difficult to find some kind of championship or title she hasn't won. Let's start with the basics: at 1,078 wins and counting, she's the all-time winningest head coach on any level in any NCAA sanctioned sport. That she won all those games with only 201 losses (.843 winning percentage) is even more remarkable. She has won the national title eight times, SEC title 16 times, and SEC tournament 15 times. She's been SEC Coach of the Year eight times and national Coach of the Year seven times. She even coached the USA women's basketball team to gold medals in both the Olympics and Pan Am games.
In 2011, we learned that her greatest challenge is the one to come: she was diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.
Her reaction to it was pure Summitt. She declared that, "There's not going to be any pity party and I'll make sure of that," to the Knoxville News Sentinel. She also stated that she's got no plans to retire any time soon and has led the Lady Vols to a 7-2 start and No. 6 ranking nationally. She began experiencing symptoms over the past year, but the firm diagnosis made her feel confident in being able to deal with it.
And if anyone can successfully deal with it, Summitt can. She's as fierce a fighter as anyone across the landscape of sports, and she's been working with the medical experts at the Mayo Clinic. The sad fact remains though that this awful degenerative disease will slowly rob one of the best ambassadors of women's basketball, and indeed all of college sports, of her basic mental faculties.
In the meantime, she's showing the world that such a diagnosis doesn't end your life. It doesn't mean you stop working or stop living. It means you make some adjustments and keep on going. Regardless of what life throws at Summitt, she continues to be someone we all could learn a few lessons from.