Florida coach speaks after Pat Summitt’s dementia announcement

Pat Summitt, the all-time winningest basketball coach in NCAA Division I history, announced she has been diagnosed with early onset dementia on Tuesday in a video posted by the University of Tennessee Athletics.

In the video, the 59-year-old Summitt announced her diagnosis in an upbeat manner, in efforts to maintain an open book in regards to her involvement with Tennessee.

Along with increased help from her assistant coaches, Summitt said she plans to continue coaching “as long as the good lord is willing.”

Following the announcement, Florida women’s basketball head coach Amanda Butler issued a statement on the unfortunate events.

“To say that I was shocked or upset when I learned of Pat Summitt’s condition is an understatement,” Butler said. “Once you get past that initial shock of hearing such troubling news, then you think about the person and you think about the challenge that’s ahead of them, and what they’ve already been dealing with.

“I think that toughness is a word that is synonymous with Pat Summitt. She’s an example of toughness and an example of class, handling adversity and leading. We will continue to see all of those characteristics, and even more in her personality, in the way she’ll coach her team and the way that her team will continue to compete.”

As the head coach of the Tennessee women’s basketball team since 1974, the 59-year-old Summitt has led the Lady Vols to eight national championships and an overall record of 1071-199. She is one of three coaches in the history of Division I basketball to eclipse the 1,000-win mark.

Butler, who is also a native of Tennessee, also shed light on the significance Summitt has not only on her home state, but to the basketball community as well.

“When you’re a basketball fan, or a person who played basketball or someone who hopes to coach basketball and you are from the state of Tennessee, you know who Pat Summitt is,” Butler said. “You’ve followed her career. You’ve learned from her. You’ve had books signed by her. You’ve sat and listened to her many times as you possibly can. It feels personal to everyone, though. Pat is a powerful figure in Tennessee, but what she’s done on a nation level to gain notoriety for the sport is amazing.”

The Florida women’s basketball team announced its schedule for the upcoming 2011-12 season, and will play Tennessee only once, in Knoxville in the season finale on Feb.26, 2012, due to a new rotation the Southeastern Conference’s 16-game league schedule play.

For Butler, news like this is beyond sports.

“It’s easy to get caught up in wins and losses and the number of championships an individual has won. Something like this reminds us of the human aspect of people who are competing, and Coach is the best.”

Gator Country editor and reporter Safid Deen can be reached at Safid@GatorCountry.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at SafidDeenGC.