Nightly News | August 24, 2011
>>> pat summitt , the hall of fame basketball coach at the university of tennessee has revealed that she is in the early stages of alzheimer 's at age 59. tonight msnbc's chris jansing has more on what happened when summit got her stunning diagnosis and how her fighting spirit is part of a new game plan .
>> reporter: for 37 years as coach of the tennessee lady volunteers , pat summitt has earned a reputation as a fiercely tough competitor. but not prepared her for an unbeatable opponent.
>> earlier this year doctors at the mayor clinic diagnosed me with an early onset dementia, alzheimer 's type.
>> at first i think she was a little mad, she was about to punch him in the face.
>> reporter: in truth there had been clues, including uncharacteristic memory lapses, even in the heat of a game. but pat summitt didn't become the winningest coach in basketball history by giving up. so after allowing herself a few months to accept the devastating diagnosis, he made a bold decision.
>> i plan to continue to be your coach.
>> reporter: her lawyers told the university they had every right to fire her, instead they embraced her.
>> we're going through uncharted waters , but we're really glad that we have the captain that we do that's leading us and that's pat summitt .
>> she'll take on new responsibilities, but she'll still be court side doing what she's always done best.
>> she's really focused on putting women first, women having the opportunity to do whatever they want.
>> reporter: when she broke the news to her team tuesday, she ended up comforting them.
>> the tears were from just the sadness and the shock of the whole thing, but by the end, no one was crying because it turned motivational really quick.
>> reporter: facing the toughest challenge of her life, mat summit is living the virtues she's always taught, honesty, compassion, and determination.
>> my mom says, it is what it is, but it will be what you make it.
>> reporter: and those closest to pat summitt know, even an unwinnable challenge will not defeat her. now the course of early onset alzheimer 's is unpredictable. but her son says she's hilting the gym hard and doing