Pat Summitt has been the University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball coach longer than I have been alive. She doesn’t know me, but I know her.
I know her eyes. Her intimidating glare has watched over the Lady Vols basketball team for 37 years. She has watched over 8 National Championship teams. Her eyes have seen women’s basketball evolve dramatically throughout the years.
I know her competitive drive. She has won 1,071 games over the years by getting players of varying skill and committment to perform at the highest level. Year after year after year she has shown that a person with determination can reach the loftiest of goals.
I know what she means to the people of Knoxville. No–not everyone here loves her, but a lot of us do. And I am convinced that all of us appreciate that she has accomplished all that she has with dignity and class. While other coaches have come and gone, Summitt has continually been a source of succcess that the people of my hometown can be proud of.
I know other things about Pat Summitt, but there is one thing that I know right now more than I ever have.
Pat Summitt needs our prayers.
Yesterday it was revealed that Summitt, the winner of more games than anyone else in U.S. college basketball history, has early onset dementia.
Behind all of the wins, behind all of the accolades, behind all of the championships–there is a real person. A real person who isn’t invincible. A real person facing an uncertain future. A real person with a often devastating diagnosis.
She is going to fight it, doing all that she can to slow its progression. She is going to keep coaching, giving it all that she can for as long as she can. She is going to need more help than ever before, relying on her assistants to fill the gaps.
Pat Summitt doesn’t know me and probably never will, but I know her.
And I know that I will be praying for her, her family, and those closest to her.
I hope you will be doing the same.