When Legends Fall

HC is a big orange cat, living in the heart of big orange country – the Volunteer State of Tennessee. Her Mom, JB, graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, a school that bleeds orange.

In the land of all that’s HC color, no figure is more powerful in athletics than former UT Lady Vols Basketball Coach Pat Head Summitt. Coach Summitt commanded respect, stood for perseverance, digging in and conquering in the face of adversity.

When she was diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type in 2011, fans wanted to believe that she would be one of the fiercest competitors against a terrifying disease. For awhile, it seemed that was possible. Coaching for another year after diagnosis, Summitt continued to lead the team with those piercing blue eyes – eyes that saw all, knew all, and simply refused to acknowledge the word loss.

But then, she stepped away from the coaching limelight and over the past few years, slipped further and further out of sight. The intimidating coach retreated, taking a back seat for the first time in her life.

Recent news confirmed that Summitt is losing the battle against a disease that, like the Coach herself on the basketball court, refuses to surrender.

Alzheimer’s disease has yet to experience defeat. And, it’s taken down a giant this time.

The world lost Muhammed Ali to Parkinson’s disease earlier this month. The man who floated like a butterfly can sting no more.

Now, a lady warrior seems poised to join Ali.

When legends fall, we all fall a little bit too. We lose a piece of ourselves, realizing that mighty men and women are not superhuman, super powerful. They get sick, and struggle and fade away.

HC and JB back Pat in prayers and paws up, hoping that when it’s time, she finally chooses to go gently into that great night.

And, HC will proudly wear her orange fur.

And when she looks in the mirror, she’ll see a lion.

Just like Pat.



No one feels strong when she examines her own weakness. But in facing weakness, you learn how much there is in you, and you find real strength.
-Pat Summitt



And, strong people have soft hearts – for furs.




2 thoughts on “When Legends Fall

  1. She is a hero of mine. I remember her coaching volleyball when I was a student at UT. Volleyball was my sport to play and I knew then and there that had I known her as a coach I’d have been so much better and I actually dreamed of that one night. I was an ardent fan and watcher of her basketball women her whole career. Her legacy is so much more than basketball, women’s sports, and winning. Her legacy is strength, excellence, and determination. I will miss seeing her arrive for games as she struggled to battle thru her last and most insidious challenge. She is and will remain a hero in my opinion, and I’m so very lucky to have known her.
    Thanks JB for a fitting and well written tribute.


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