For those who closely follow basketball, the loss of Pat Head Summitt last month hit hard. Summitt's nearly 30-year coaching career for the University of Tennessee Lady Vols--starting when she was just out of college herself--revolutionized NCAA basketball play. By the end of her career, Summitt had led an undefeated season, taken 10 NCAA titles, and racked up more wins than any other coach in NCAA basketball history. Still, most would say her coaching time was cut short when, in 2012, an Alzheimer's diagnosis led to her stepping down from the Lady Vols.
Sum It Up is a memoir that weaves in and out of Summitt's professional life, from her beginnings as a great player in the infancy of post-Title IX women's college basketball through her championship coaching years with the Lady Vols. Basketball, however, is not its sole topic. While Summitt uses gameplay and player anecdotes to give readers a glimpse of her tough-love coaching style and life philosophy, much of the book focuses on her personal life--retracing her difficult childhood in Tennessee and working through her late-in-life diagnosis with Alzheimer's. It's not a sports book as much as a book that has a lot to say about success and struggle, working through the pains of illness, loss, and the difficulty of being a determined and hardworking woman in a coaching field and sport dominated by men.
It would be hard to find someone who leaves this book without falling completely in love with Summitt's stubbornness and refusal, and harder still to find someone who doesn't emerge with a curiosity about women's NCAA basketball and the WNBA where some of Summitt's players still lead the league.