Pat’s final gameplan was a masterpiece.

And the grim reaper hasn’t even spotted the knockout blow coming out of the corner.

Faced with a diagnosis of early onset dementia, ‘Alzheimer’s Type,’ Coach Summitt had an opponent she couldn’t beat in regulation. But the fates probably should have looked beyond those championship banners to the qualities behind the coach that inspired and detailed her teams to those feats of victory. Should have taken note that this coach regularly sought out the best to challenge herself and her team early and often each season, and used every lesson and nugget ruthlessly as inspiration to motivate and scheme out those opponents when it mattered in the postseason.

Her approach was no different in this contest.

The plans she made for the Pat Summitt Foundation, the details she put in place, all of it with that same determination and dedication she’d managed so well on the basketball court, motivated and inspired the largest team she ever coached, us.

We’ve backed Pat and the records for funding of the research that will one day help unravel this disease have fallen just as quickly as the milestone victory marks she crossed in the NCAA record books. It won’t arrive fast. It may take the equivalent of 1,098 small victories each taken one practice and one game at a time. But it will arrive.

It will arrive because Pat drew up a game plan of action that mobilized us for the long term, inspired a vast team toward a postseason in her honor, knowing she would be the martyr in this close game, but that a full season still lies ahead.

It was the way she once wore down the walls about basketball and the differences between men’s and women’s programs. She refused to accept less than equal footing until it became everyone’s expectation.

Pat taught us losses are supposed to hurt, and this one certainly does. She also taught us that defeat is what inspires us to work harder the next day to be better, and we will.

It will take determination by fundrasiers and researchers. It will take the dedication of volunteers and the monetary donations of thousands over years. But it’s a challenge we can’t refuse if we’re going to really back Pat.

Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times.

An East Tennessee newshound since 1990, minus a few years spent working the road race circuit in D.C. , Marcus has been a reporter, copy editor and sports editor, and is now a production manager of APG's Design Hub located at The Daily Times.

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