Pat Summitt, Joe Paterno, and getting rid of legendary college coaches

August 30th, 2011

How do you get rid of a legendary coach who is beyond his or her prime? It seems you can’t. Pat Summitt, a living legend in women’s basketball, has early stages of dementia. But, Tennessee will continue to pay her a multi-million dollar salary.

“My first thought was, Pat Summitt is our coach and always will be,” said Tennessee’s athletic director, Joan Cronan, who has worked with Summitt for 28 years. “But I had three things to do. I had to protect Pat, who is the most loved person at the University of Tennessee. I had to protect her legacy. And I had to protect the program she built.”

What’s changed so far?

They were small things to everyone else: continually forgetting a meeting time, hesitation in calling a play, a personality shift stemming from her frustration with herself.

Those seem like important things for a coach to forget.

It would seem incumbent on the coach to know when to step away–this would seem to be the right time. Better now, then when the dementia develops, and she is even less able to make a rational decision. It is her choice, because the school won’t be able to fire her. I don’t see this ending well.