President Barack Obama will award a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Pat Summitt, who is stepping down as the winningest basketball coach in the NCAA, eight months after her diagnosis of early onset dementia.
Obama, in a statement today announcing Summitt will receive the nation’s highest civilian honor, called her an inspiration both because of her coaching record and her willingness “to speak so openly and courageously about her battle with Alzheimer’s” disease.
Summitt was notified last week of Obama’s decision.
Summitt, 59, announced yesterday she is stepping aside as head coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team. She won eight national championships and a college basketball-record 1,098 games in 38 seasons at Tennessee. She retains the title of head coach emeritus and will assist the coaching staff, help with on-campus recruiting and serve as a mentor to players.
Summitt said in August that she had been diagnosed last year by doctors with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
She said she’ll continue her role as a spokeswoman in the fight against Alzheimer’s through the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund, while remaining close to the Tennessee women’s basketball program in her new role.