Pat Summitt (Getty Images)
"It was entirely my decision to step down from my position as Head Coach of women's basketball at the University of Tennessee," Summitt said. "As I stated at my press conference in April when I announced my decision, I loved being the Head Coach for 38 years, but, after consultation with my son, my doctors, my lawyer, and several close friends, I concluded that the time had come to move into the future and step into a new role.
"I did not then, and I do not now, feel that I was "forced out" by the University. Anyone who knows me knows that any such effort would have met with resistance. If my affidavit has caused confusion on that point, it needs to be dispelled."
Six months after Pat Summitt insisted it was her decision to step away from the program she built into a national power, evidence has surfaced suggesting the legendary Lady Vols coach may have been coerced into retiring.
In a signed affidavit that's part of a lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee by former Lady Vols media director Debby Jennings, Summitt said she felt athletic director Dave Hart was forcing her to step down due to her early-onset dementia. Summitt said she and Hart met one-on-one on March 14 just before the Lady Vols left for Chicago to begin NCAA tournament play.
"Dave Hart indicated to me that I would not be coaching the Lady Vol Basketball Team in the next school year (2012-13) and he planned to name Holly Warlick as the head coach," Summitt wrote.
"Dave Hart told me I would still have an office in Thompson-Boling Arena and my title could be Head Coach Emeritus. This was very surprising to me and very hurtful as that was a decision I would have liked to make on my own at the end of the season after consulting with my family, doctors, colleagues and friends and not to be told this by Mr. Hart. I felt this was wrong."
The sworn affidavit from Summitt was notarized in August, but it's coming to light now because Jennings filed her lawsuit. Later in the affidavit, Summitt said Hart met with her again after the March 14 meeting and told her she misinterpreted what he said.
Neither Tennessee officials nor Summitt's son, Tyler, were willing to comment when reached by the Associated Press, so it's still difficult to determine exactly what happened to cause the friction.
Whether or not Hart actually asked Summitt to step aside, the fact is one of the greatest coaches in basketball history appears to believe she did not get to retire on her own terms. That's a shame, to say the least. Considering everything Summitt has done for Tennessee and for women's basketball, she deserves better.
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