Alzheimer’s caused the premature death of a legend. On June 28, 2016, women’s basketball coach, Pat Summitt died at age 64, after five years of struggling with the cruel disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, the illness is not the direct cause of a person’s death, but it develops some complications, such as infections or blood clots. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that advances fast, causing the destruction of brain cells. The consequences of the disease affect the memory, the immune system, and the patient’s abilities to move or eat. The disease has no cure and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.”
Summitt’s Struggle With the Disease
Summitt struggled with early onset dementia for five years. In May 2011, she confirmed the diagnosis and announced that she would not give up on her team at the University of Tennessee. Although, eight months later, she resigned with the title, head coach emeritus.
During her final years, Summitt engaged in raising money and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. She started the Pat Summitt Foundation, which has the mission of finding a cure for the illness. For her efforts and courage in fighting with the cruel disease, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) awarded her with their highest honor, the 2012 Andrus Award for community services. Also, as a result of her relentless work, in December 2016, the Pat Summitt Alzheimer’s Clinic will open at the University of Tennessee.
The Legendary Women’s Basketball Coach
The legendary basketball coach died prematurely, however, during her career, Summitt obtained more successes than anyone in college basketball history.
She started as head coach for the women’s basketball team of the University of Tennessee in 1974 when she was 22 years old. Summitt achieved exceptional results by requiring a great level of commitment from her players. In her 38 seasons of coaching, the legendary women’s basketball figure won 1,098 games, a number of victories that no other college basketball coach has been able to reach, so far. Moreover, Summitt’s team won eight national championships, 32 Southeastern Conference titles, and went to the Final Four, 18 times.
In her last season as a head coach, she led her team to victory in 84 percent of the games. As a reward for her entire career, in 2012, President Barack Obama conferred her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is considered one of the nation’s highest civilian awards.
America Is Mourning the Premature Death of a Legend
After Summitt’s passing, many of her former players, co-workers and national figures mourned her death. Candace Parker, Kara Lawson, Allan Houston, Earvin Magic Johnson, Holly Warlick, and Kim Mulkey are just some of the important basketball figures that grieved her death and posted messages on their Twitter accounts for Summitt’s family and friends. Furthermore, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) published a tribute to the college basketball pioneer, which can be viewed in the video below.
President Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton remembered Summitt and valued her legacy. Artists, such as Justin Timberlake and Lil Wayne also sent their good thoughts to the family and friends of the legendary coach.
Summitt’s celebration of life service was held on July 14, 2016. The public event took place at Thompson-Boling Arena on the Tennessee campus.
By Bianca-Ramona Dumitru
Edited by Jeanette Smith
AARP: Pat Summitt, Women’s Basketball Legend and Alzheimer’s Advocate, Dies at 64
LiveScience: Pat Summitt’s Death: Why Alzheimer’s Disease Is Deadly
The Wall Street Journal: Pat Summitt, Champion of Women’s Basketball, Has Died at 64
USA Today: Legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt dies at 64Featured and Top Image Courtesy of kevin813‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Arizona Shona‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License