“What I hated most about the Alzheimer’s diagnosis was all the “can’ts” that came with it. Can’t cure it. Can’t reverse it. So many people told me about all the things an Alzheimer’s patient eventually can’t do. Can’t work. Can’t drive. Can’t travel. I seemed to be surrounded by negativity, by fear and by stigma.

There was only one “can’t” I would accept regarding the illness. “I can’t change it,” I told Tyler. “But I can try to do something about it.””

Key Takeaways:

  • Recruiting Philosophy
  • Championship Standards
  • Can Not  Can’t

Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program. Coach Summitt’s ability to turn Tennessee into a national powerhouse started by recruiting teammates from the U.S. Olympic team. Later in her career, the Lady Vol brand would do most of the talking.

“Resentments arise when you can’t just go out on a court and settle matters with a ball and a scoreboard. I didn’t do gray. I only did black and white. I believed I had a special responsibility to follow the rules closely, because whatever a coach at the top of the game did, every other coach in the country was going to do twice as aggressively.”

Talent wins games and the best coaches collect the most talent. This is why recruiting can become more cut-throat than the actual games. At any level where recruiting is involved there are a variety of philosophies:

  • Any means necessary ($$$)
  • Cast a big net
  • Aim small, miss small
  • Transfer U.
  • Target the culture

Recruiting is territorial and can get combative when two types of philosophies clash. These are just a few types of approaches that are largely spearheaded by the head coach of the program. During my time as an assistant, we focused on a short-list and invested the bulk of our time to ensure that those prospective student-athletes were considered the highest of priority. Depending on the level and affiliation (NCAA v NAIA) there are rules to follow. Then there are the unwritten rules – the grey area that Coach Summitt referred to in the quote above. How you recruit tends to be a reflection of the program and the character of the coach.

Standard for Winning

“It was my twenty-fifth year as a coach, and if there was one thing I’d learned in that quarter century, it was that losing was a far more common experience than winning.”

After winning 3 consecutive NCAA Championships (’96-’98), nearly a decade would past by until another net-cutting season (2007). During that time Coach Summitt amassed a meager [sarcasm] record of 249-34 with four trips back to the Final Four; you wouldn’t know it by reading the book. When winning championships becomes the standard, everything else seems like an underachievement. Yet, it is that mentality that gave her team’s a competitive advantage. Taking ownership of the pressure prepared them mentally for the highest stages and challenged them in and out of the season to keep moving the goalposts further.

“When you think you can’t give any more, she’s pushing you to give twice as much – and you don’t think you have anything more to give. You feel like she’s asking you to be this perfect person, and you just don’t feel like that’s going to happen. And then you realize, my gosh, she got you there. She got you to that point, better than you thought you would be. 

Can’t

There are few people that have an innate ability to strike gold in whatever it is they look to accomplish. After reading this book that’s the vibe you get about Put Summitt. Yes, she (I) can is the driving force behind the legacy of Pat Summitt – no pun intended as she was widely known as a lead foot behind the wheel.

She could compete with the boys growing up on the farm. She could make it out the sticks of Henrietta, Tennessee to travel the world with the Olympic team after tearing her ACL during qualifiers. She could take over a state university basketball program at the age of twenty-two. And she could turn that program into one of the greatest dynasties in sports.

And when diagnosed with dementia the intention of seeking third and fourth opinions wasn’t about an inability to believe in what the doctors were saying, as opposed to finding the one group that would tell her what she could do about it.

“I’d always told our players that attitude is a choice. “It is what it is,” I said, “but it will become what you make of it.”


Highly recommend taking the time to read this book. It is an opportunity to have a conversation with Summitt without talking. The words on the page literally read with a southern accent. A legend from our game telling stories about finding an identity individually and within a program through consistency, confidence, and competition.

“A memoir is not a documentary. We think we keep an accurate record of ourselves in the bean-counting tablets of our minds, but we don’t. None of us sees or remembers everything about one’s life; memories are unreliable – they smudge, and fade, like disappearing footprints in the sand. We’re too busy standing in the middle of it all to remember everything perfectly, and I was busier than most people. Always, we rely on others, the people who have known us best, and most intently, to complete the picture of ourselves.”

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s