- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pat Summitt made it clear. She won’t accept a “pity party.”

The winningest coach in women’s basketball just wants to focus on getting Tennessee back on top.

Summitt surprised the sports world with her announcement Tuesday that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia _ the Alzheimer’s type. The Hall of Fame coach appeared stoic during a minute-long video posted on the school’s website.

“I plan to continue to be your coach,” the 59-year-old said in the video. “Obviously, I realize I may have some limitations with this condition since there will be some good days and some bad days.”

There is no cure for the disease and even Summitt’s icy glare that has struck fear in many an opponent, official or Lady Vols player, won’t be able to stop its advances.

Still she said she won’t have her time at Tennessee turn into a “pity party.”

Summitt isn’t sure how much longer she will coach only saying that she would do it “as long as the good Lord is willing”.

Before Tuesday’s news, Summitt was trying to figure out a way to end a three-year drought of missing the Final Four _ one of the longest in her 37-year tenure at the school. She does have one of the top recruiting classes coming in this year as freshmen.

She met with her team Tuesday to discuss her diagnosis. Junior guard Taber Spani said the meeting was businesslike, with Summitt telling the Lady Vols nothing would get in the way for their quest of a ninth national title this season.

“It’s shocking, just because you don’t expect that to happen to someone you look up to,” Spani said. “I admire her, and just seeing her just gave me more confidence in her as a coach. We’re going to rally.”

Summitt will rely more on her assistants _ Holly Warlick, Dean Lockwood and Mickie DeMoss _ but they aren’t sure exactly how things may change.

“We’re here to help Pat as far as coaching and will help this program continue its tradition. And I’m here for Pat as a friend,” Warlick said. “I know she’s going to be here coaching, but she is quick to say this is Tennessee basketball. We’re going to carry on the tradition no matter what.”

Warlick said Summitt also wanted to crush any speculation about her health after the announcement.

“We got on the phone immediately and called kids and commitments and had nothing but a huge amount of support,” Warlick said. “I think it’s one thing to see it on the (TV news) ticker. It’s another thing to hear from Pat Summitt that we’re here, we’re going to be here and nothing is going to change about Tennessee basketball.”

Summitt’s family and closest confidants have known about her condition since she first learned of it, but the Hall of Fame coach first revealed the news publicly to the Washington Post and Knoxville News Sentinel.

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