Sum It Up: 1,098 Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective, Pat Summitt with Sally Jenkins (Crown, 407 pages, 2013, $28)
The Eyes Have It - With The Icy Stare and Caring Heart
. . . Pat was stubborn. When she was pregnant, her water broke on a recruiting trip. The private pilot wanted to land at the nearest airport which happened to be in Virginia. The coach adamantly refused to allow her child to be born in a state where Tennessee had lost a close game: she managed to hold things together until they landed in Tennessee and were met at the airport by an ambulance.
Pat’s book focuses on her relationship with her stoic father from whom she inherited her temper, who didn’t hug her until she was 43 years old but made her into what she became – a success in many ways. He moved the family home a short ways away so Pat could attend a high school with a girls’ basketball team and then scraped to fund her college tuition (the boys had athletic scholarships – but that was before athletic scholarships for women).
Coach or Pat?
Pat’s players called her ‘Pat’ much more than ‘Coach.‘ Pat invited her teams to her house and cooked their favorite foods. Pat called her teams, her ‘sisterhood,’ reminiscent of Chi Omega (and a whole chapter of her life in Chi Omega appears in the book).
Pat raised her son on the court as well, Tyler attending his first practice at eight days of age.
The book begins and ends with Pat’s diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease* in May 2011 but in between is a woman reminiscent of Molly Ivins, a woman not afraid to tell the world who she is, a woman eternally surrounded by friends and family, a friend skilled in all aspects of basketball and also skilled in bringing out the best in people by yelling at them, not permitting them to cry. She challenged people to be better.
Professional, Easy Read
A 23-year-old head coach with players just a year younger, with a budget of essentially zero - a grad student with a load of four classes who also had to teach four classes including sports she had never played, eventually made the cover of Sports Illustrated.
If you don’t know much about basketball, Sum It Up will still be easy reading for the most part. As an added bonus, it includes a list of all of Pat’s 161 players, and her 38-year record of wins and losses by year (38 winning seasons) as well as her numerous honors.
*For an excellent novel about early-onset Alzheimer’s in a Harvard professor, read Still Alice, by neuroscientist Lisa Genova.