The news that Tennessee coach Pat Summitt has been diagnosed with dementia has been met with sadness and shock by UConn coach Geno Auriemma and former UConn All-American Rebecca Lobo. They both took some time today to share their thoughts.
Regarding Summitt’s diagnosis
“I was shocked and saddened to hear about the news regarding Pat Summitt’s diagnosis,’’ Auriemma said. “You don’t necessarily associate dementia with people our age so this announcement really put things in perspective. Pat has great support from her family, friends and staff and I know they will help her immensely. There is no doubt in my mind that Pat will take on this challenge as she has all others during her Hall of Fame career – head on. I wish her all the best.’’
“Completely (stunned). I’m floored,’’ Lobo said. “I’m kind of heartsick about it. I might be one of the few people who live up here who really have a fondness for Pat Summitt. I like her a lot.’’
Lobo’s thoughts on Summitt
“I think her accomplishments speak for themselves,’’ Lobo said. “Her championships. The players she’s produced. On a personal level, she’s always been phenomenal with me and my family. When my oldest daughter (Siobhan) was an infant when they had the WNBA combine down in Westchester … At the time Pat was doing some work with the Washington Mystics. And she came over and was talking to me and was great with my daughter. When I first went to the funeral home for my mom’s wake (last month), when I first got there and I was kind of looking around at all the flowers I held it all together until I saw a bouquet from the Tennessee women’s basketball team. For me and my family, she’s always been ridiculously classy. She’s been great for me when I’ve had to work games. Even if it was Tennessee-UConn games she would open her locker room to me and her practices to me. She’s been nothing but phenomenal with me and I really am heartsick about the news.’’
Lobo’s relationship with Summitt over the years
“I went from being somebody who feared and admired her when I was a high school athlete and a college athlete, but didn’t know her at all,’’ Lobo said. “I played against her twice my senior year (1994-95) and I knew her as the legendary coach and a really imposing sideline figure. But I didn’t know her. And then kind of a great rivalry of that developed. My respect really grew for her when I got into the broadcasting side because she was wonderful with me. I think one of my early years doing studio, again I didn’t have any kind of personal interaction with her because I wasn’t out doing any of her games. But she sent me a lovely note in the mail just saying that she enjoyed watching me on TV or something like that. Just kind of an out-of-the-blue thing. And then when I’ve done her games, there are other coaches who I never played against who just might not be as willing to share things with me. But she’s not one of them. When I’m a sideline reporter she’s welcomed me into her locker room at halftime. The access has been complete and better than almost any other program in the country. She was at the induction when I was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (in 2010). I’m sure she goes every year because it’s right in Knoxville, but she didn’t have any of her former Tennessee players going in or anything. I think a lot of her.’’
Surprised Summitt will try to coach the 2011-12 season?
“It seems like she’s always faced things head-on in life,’’ Lobo said. “So, no, I’m not surprised at all. And she’s got such great assistant coaches there. They’ll be fine.’’