Friday, October 28, 2011

On battling dementia, Summitt says, 'you've got to have a game plan'

Vols coach stays active in practice

With Associate Coach Holly Warlick sitting protectively by her side, Tennessee women's coach Pat Summitt spoke with reporters Thursday about the Lady Vols and, more importantly, her ongoing battle with early-stage dementia.

"You've got to have a game plan in everything you do," Summitt said.

Summitt's plan is to wake up each morning, drink coffee and work 12 puzzles on her I-pad.

"They really attack your brain," Summitt said of the daily puzzles. "But that's the purpose."

Warlick, who took the SEC basketball Media Day microphone whenever Summitt hesitated, said the coaching icon challenged her staff to puzzle competitions. "We won't do it," Warlick said.

Summitt said she has gotten her mother to also work puzzles.

After the puzzles, Summitt goes to her UT basketball office. She no longer answers fans' email nor performs other mundane coaching chores.

"She's vocal in practice," Warlick said. "... She does a great job in recruiting."

Lady Vols player Vicki Baugh said that she took it as a good sign when Summitt chewed her out for a practice mistake.

"It was a relief," Baugh said. "Then again, I need to get my stuff together. She shouldn't be yelling at a fifth-year senior."

The diagnosis of early-stage dementia came earlier this year. Summitt called a team meeting to inform the players.

"She told us like we were having a casual conversation," Baugh said.

A Hall of Fame coach and winner of 1,071 games in 37 seasons, Summitt decided to continue coaching.

"I love it," she said. "... What I want everyone to know is I'm doing great. Every day I want to get up and I want to go to work. That keeps me going."

Another UT assistant, former UK women's head coach Mickie DeMoss, watched from the periphery of the crowd of reporters listening to Summitt. DeMoss acknowledged her concern.

"It wears on her, the fatigue of it all," DeMoss said of the trip to SEC Media Day and the round of interviews. "She's better in short intervals."

Then DeMoss added, "You know she's a fighter."

UK women's coach Matthew Mitchell noted how Summitt hired him as an assistant in 1999.

"She could have hired any of 5,000 high school coaches," he said. "She just gave me the opportunity because she sensed I have passion and some work ethic."

Summitt made the hire to help Mitchell rather than herself or UT basketball.

"That's an indication of what kind of person she is," Mitchell said. "... She's a tremendous giver."

No comments: