For those who continue to feel that it’s sad and tragic that Pat Summitt has retired due to early-onset Alzheimer’s, I would like for you to stop feeling sad about it. Rather, smile and appreciate what you were witnessed to: a great career.
Name another individual who started a program from the beginning and ended up being the winningest coach, man or woman, in NCAA Division I-A basketball history? Name another individual who became an integral part to women sports, Title IX, and the success of women as athletes?
For those of you who felt that she didn’t leave on her terms, I think you are wrong…to a point.
She did leave on her own terms. Bobby Bowden, the late Joe Paterno, and Eddie Robinson, to name a few, did not get to leave on their own terms. Despite her health situation, she made the call on her own. No one tapped her on the shoulder and escorted her out. I can think of two other coaches who left on their terms and did it their way: Dean Smith and Buzz Levick.
Keep this in mind: there is no such thing as a perfect way to leave or to end something.
Never was…never will.
It is unfortunate that we may see Alzheimer’s progressively take hold of Summitt, but like the fighter she is, it’s a new rival that she now has to game plan against. Ask Geno Auriemma, Muffet McGraw, and Kim Mulkey how it feels when they have face the coach with those cold and steely “I’m goin’ to get you sucka'” eyes glaring at you on the other side of the scorer’s table.
Today, be happy for Pat Summitt, not sad. For 38 winters, she did what she love: coaching young women and guiding them to greater success. Be happy that she was successful. She has and will continue to live a great life, in spite of early onset Alzheimer’s.
More importantly, be happy for Pat Summitt…because Frank Sinatra was on to something…
…she did it her way.