Pat Summitt was the record setting head coach of Tennessee’s women’s basketball team. She blazed a trail for women in sports – making an impact that would forever change the game and inspire millions of women to follow their dreams.
One of those women – Felisha Legette-Jack, the head coach of UB's women's basketball team – says the death of coach Summitt is a big loss both on and off the court.
“She never apologized for her passion or her intensity or purpose and to see that from a woman I was just in awe of that growing up,” Legette-Jack told 7 Eyewitness News.
“The only thing I remember her saying is be yourself . . . be all of you.”
Legette-Jack says she had the opportunity to meet summit years ago at a gathering of coaches – and in true coach pat fashion she “kept it real” offering life advice as if the pair were old friends.
That chance encounter gave Legette-Jack a glimpse into the life of the record setting coach -- but it was her five year battle with Alzheimer’s disease that really resonated with the bulls coach. Alzheimer’s was a disease that she witnessed over the last three years in her mother.
“It’s an interesting journey some days you know you’re excited. She’s doing everything right and she’s understanding I’m a basketball coach and some days she asks me what I’m doing for a living and why do I live so far away.”
And her journey, watching a loved one battle the neurological disease, is becoming more and more common.
“When I first started in this field about 10 years the stats were your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease was one in 10.
Today, Michelle Rainka a clinical pharmacist with Dent Neurologic, says those risks have increased with one in six people developing the disease.
Rainka says researchers are working hard developing treatments and vaccines for the disease.
Legette-Jack says as researchers work, loved ones need to take it day by day and cherish the precious time despite the diagnosis.
“Dance, have fun enjoy the moments because you may not know who will be here so in the meantime just celebrate the blessings you do have and just dance,” Legette-Jack says.