She's right up there in my pantheon of "if I weren't me I'd be..." women. Right up there with Sally Ride and Sandra Day O'Connor, women who did what they wanted to do even if it was really a boy's game. Millenials may have no interest in hearing about Title IX, but it changed the landscape of after school activities forever
All of a sudden, tall girls with hops had someplace to go. And when they grew up and still wanted to play they could apply to the University of Tennessee and hope that Pat Summitt would take them under her wing.
It wasn't a very comfortable wing for most of the time. There were high expectations and compliments were few and far between. She'd grown up with a tough father, a hard to please man whose standards redefined impossible to meet. There was a lot of him in her coaching style, it seemed.
But if a real problem arose, if there was a need, if help were required, Pat Summitt was there. Her style -focused and driven - and her inter-scholastic rivalries - Geno Auriemma's Connecticut Huskies no longer play the Lady Vols in the regular season - have led to a perception that she is crusty. Perhaps she is.
But I've never heard anyone talking trash about her. Partisan rivalries aside, she is a well-respected member of the coaching fraternity. She's won more college basketball games than any man or woman who's ever coached the game. In 39 years she's led 8 teams to national championships. She has a stare that could stop most anything in its tracks.
Anything but early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.
She found out in May and reports have it that she tried to punch out the doctor who delivered the news. She's planning to coach this season, knowing that her assistants have her back. She's my age and she knows the general direction that her life will take and it's not a pretty picture and she's waking up each morning determined to go to work and do her job.
Every time I think that the world is done throwing curve balls for a while, there's an earthquake in New Jersey. Pat Summitt's news sends me to my own vulnerability, to Gabby's deficits, to success and fate and karma. My sense of control is an illusion; I am reminded that man plans and God laughs.
But Pat Summitt is showing up for work on the court they named for her. She's doing what she loves and not letting the diagnosis get in the way of what she wants. She may not be doing it as well or for long but she's not doing it alone.