Summitt, Tennessee need to part

By Jimmy Johnson

Pat Summitt is a legend in women’s college basketball.

She’s won eight national championships, accumulated the NCAA record for all-time victories, both men and women’s basketball, and is a hall-of-famer.

Tennessee’s head coach has done it all, but her latest challenge shouldn’t require her to be coaching on the basketball court.

Earlier this week, Summitt announced she has “early-onset dementia.”

In a resilient manner, the longtime Lady Vols coach declared she would coach “as long as the good Lord is willing.”

Without any overruling from Tennessee’s athletic department, Summitt will be allowed to coach the Lady Vols for this season, and beyond.

This is flat-out unacceptable.

Unintentionally, Summitt is highjacking Tennessee’s basketball program.

Regardless of her accolades and accomplishments and what she’s done for the game, Summitt shouldn’t be focusing on X’s and O’s.

Instead, her attention should be focused on her well-being.

It’s both unfair and a questionable decision to allow Summitt to keep coaching.

I can assure you that I’m in no way a medical doctor, nor do I aspire to be one, but this is the wrong choice.

This isn’t as if she’s battling an early stage of cancer or any other potentially life-threatening disease.

According to the Mayo Clinc’s official website, dementia “isn’t a specific disease. Instead, dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting intellectual and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning…dementia indicates problems with at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and impaired judgment or language. Dementia can make you confused and unable to remember people and names. You also may experience changes in personality and social behavior.”

Granted, Summitt’s case is labeled as “early,” so the alarming effects could arise down the road.

But that should be an immediate red flag for Tennessee.

If we want to play the “what if” game, what happens if Summitt makes the wrong substitution?

Or if she blanks for a moment and loses herself from reality while coaching a game?

It’s easy for someone like myself to throw this out there, but I have a hunch I’m not the only one sitting in this boat.

Later in the Mayo Clinic’s definition, it’s stated that “some causes of dementia are treatable and even reversible.”

So eventually, Summitt could find a way to get through this.

But for the time being, she shouldn’t be coaching.