October 2017 Book Review by Mary Ellen South
It is not how big you are, it is how big you play. This quote aptly fits the description of Pat Summitt’s attitude toward basketball.
Pat started her career at age twenty-two at the University of Tennessee who over years became the winningest coach in women’s athletics programs in the nation. Eight national championships and 1,098 wins were an accomplishment hailed by every player and coach in our country.
This book tells the story of her final coaching season through the eyes of those who knew her best, from players to support staff. It is detailed with plays and experiences that the young women under her guidance experienced.
She was facing her fiercest adversary ever; the diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. This story tells of her brave battle but more importantly the support from her players during the entire 2011-12 season. There are details and comments from the players; there are comments from administration and there are also keen expressions from competitive coaches. Cornelius’s portrayal of a beloved leader details the triumphs and defeats of a determined leader.
In a flattering forward, Mike Robinson Editor of SB Nation’s Swish Appeal states that women’s basketball needs to follow her example. Follow her ways, follow her principles, follow her leadership and most importantly, follow her integrity.
Eventually the disease took the best of her, putting her on the sidelines. But she continued to be there for all her young people. She eventually started a foundation for Alzheimer’s research with her son,Tyler.
For the first time since 1974 Lady Vol was forced to welcome a new head coach on April 18, 2012. Senior women who had come to the program needed desperately to hear that Summitt would “stick around” to help out as she always had. She had a new title, Coach Emeritus.
Pat Summitt passed on June 28, 2016. It is sometimes said that no one is bigger than the game. That adage crumbles when it came to Summitt.