Legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt, 64, died early Tuesday, surrounded by her family and a handful of her former players – who flew in from around the nation – after a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease, her son has said.
Summitt was hired in 1974 as the Lady Vols head coach at 22. She resigned from her coaching job in 2012, one year after going public with her diagnosis of early-onset dementia.
“I think it is what it is,” Summitt told PEOPLE in February 2013. “I didn’t want to hear it [the diagnosis]. But it was reality, you know. You don’t want to run away from it. For me, it’s very important to keep living my life.”
Summitt, who has the most career wins of any Division I men’s or women’s basketball coach, spent a portion of the past few years leading a high-profile fight against Alzheimer’s. Her Pat Summitt Foundation is focused on research and education, along with providing support services to patients and caregivers.
During her 38 seasons as the Lady Vols head coach, she went 1,098-208 with eight national titles. She served as co-captain on the silver-medal winning U.S. Olympic basketball team in 1976. Eight years later she coached the Olympic team to a gold medal.
Before her death, Summitt’s long time friend and former Olympic coach Billie Moore told PEOPLE that Summitt displayed the same grit fighting Alzheimer’s as she did coaching.
“She has good days and bad days,” Moore says. “When she got diagnosed, her strength has always been her determination, her stubbornness. Her attitude was ‘no matter what you throw at me, I can handle it, and I can defeat it.'”
Summitt , who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2012, is survived by her son Tyler, 25, former head basketball coach of the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters.