Even for Pat Summitt, commitment can be scary

Photo with no caption

Photo by Chad Greene, 2013

University of Tennessee icon Pat Summitt has commitment issues.

She talks about them in her new book “Sum It Up” (out Tuesday) that she has been hestitate to emotional commitment.

Known as a mentor for many of the college women she has coached over the years, Summitt addresses her commitment fears when touching on her marriage of more than a quarter century to Sevier County banker R.B. Summitt.

“A lot of people are afraid of commitment because it means they’ll have to say, ‘That’s the best I can do.’ They elect to be average,” Summitt says in the book written by journalist Sally Jenkins. “... When it came to emotional commitment, the off-a-cliff peril of grasping another hand and saying ‘I do,’ I was more hestitate. The problem was I understood the word too well.”

She dated Summitt for years. They even broke up a few times. During those periods, she never gave up.

What made them work? According to the former Lady Vols head coach, they were opposities in many ways. She was better at sports, and they competed a lot. He kept her interested.

“Sum It Up” never really digs into the dynamics of their marriage or offers any insight into why it ended. The book is half inspirational and half recollections about the women she coached and the trials they endured.

“Commitment is all about risk: the payoff is either heartbreak or exhilaration,” Summitt says.

Summitt mentions her miscarriages, but a great deal of the book focuses on what went right in her life: giving birth to son Tyler Summitt.

Their son came, but she had six miscarriages, too.

“I just remember how thrilled I was each time I learned I was pregnant, and then the abrupt, empty despondency when I no longer was,” she says.

Summitt describes Alzheimer’s disease as being like footprints being erased by a surf. “Some days are better than others,” she says. “The waves come in, and they recede, bringing a fog with them that sometimes clear.”

On those bad days, “When I first wake up, I don’t remember where I am. For a moment, I am disoriented and uneasy,” Summitt says, “and I have to lie there until it comes to me.”

Already dealing with an irregular heartbeat and rheumatoid arthritis, Summitt is colorfully sharp when recalling her doctors giving her the Alzheimer’s news. She was heartbroken and angry; In a bit of odd levity, Summitt even recalls wanting to punch her doctors.

Words to her players are now her mantra for this latest crisis and living a productive life no matter how long she has to do it: “You can’t say ‘can’t’ to me ... Don’t ever say that word; I won’t accept it.”

Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or morrowt@knoxville.com.

© 2013 Knoxville.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Already activated? Login