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Iron-willed Pat Summitt faces the scariest diagnosis there is

Pat Summitt after winning the 2005 SEC tournament. (AP photo)

Pat Summitt after winning the 2005 SEC tournament. (AP photo)

Cancer would be one thing. People of all ages get cancer, and famous coaches are people, too. Jim Calhoun has had it. George Karl has had it. Jim Valvano and Vince Lombardi died from it.

Cancer is bad, but with most cancers you figure you stand a fighting chance. Pat Summitt doesn’t have cancer. She has been diagnosed with early onset dementia, and in her two-minute videotaped statement to Vol Nation she was brave enough to mention the scariest word there is.

That word: Alzheimer’s.

Pat Summitt is 59. She’s among the half-dozen greatest coaches in the history of college basketball. Auriemma, Knight, Krzyzewski, Smith, Summitt and Wooden — there, in alphabetical order, is your list.

She has been the best thing about Tennessee sports for nearly four decades. I met her in 1977, back when she was Pat Head. Already in her third season as the Lady Vols’ coach, she was coming off a silver medal as a player for the U.S. …

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