The first time I saw Pat Summitt in person was when the Lady Vols came to Ft. Worth to play the TCU women. The place was packed, as all Tennessee WBB games are. Being short and sort of unassuming, I was able to sneak down to a spot right behind the UT bench. And I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She was intense, focused and animated. And she didn’t miss a thing. My hero worship kicked into high gear — and I became almost as passionate about Pat Summitt as she is about basketball.
A few months ago, when Pat announced her Alzheimer’s-related dementia diagnosis, the outpouring of support was phenomenal. We heard from former players, staff, rivals, and more. All were stunned, but they knew that she would fight the disease with the same determination that has made her the best basketball coach in history.
Tonight on 20/20, ABC’s Robin Roberts, brings us the first sit-down interview with Coach Summitt about how she is contending with dementia. Robin has known the coach for more than 25 years and considers her a dear friend. When Robin heard Pat’s diagnosis, she was stunned.
“I cried,” she said. “I got a call early before she was going to announce it [from] a mutual friend that didn’t want me to hear it on a news ticker. Because she has provided so many memories and the thought that she may be robbed of some of her memories was very painful.”
Robin brings more than the perspective of a friend to the interview. The journalist battled major illness herself — she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. During treatment, Pat often called Robin to offer advice and support. “The way I approached cancer, a game plan, is exactly the way [Pat] is approaching this.”
Here’s a preview of the interview.
Robin admitted that she was emotional when she approached the interview, not really knowing what to expect — until she saw her friend. “Pat greeted me with a big hug and an invitation to stay for dinner after the interview. That’s Pat.”
I love these two women so much that my heart may explode during the interview. I know I’ll cry — but I can’t wait.
20/20 airs tonight at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. Will you be watching?