Former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt talks at a… (Wade Payne / Associated…)
The White House announced Thursday that former Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt will receive the nation's highest civilian honor, The Medal of Freedom.
Through a statement released by the press secretary's office, President Obama said: “Coach Summitt is an inspiration – both as the all-time winningest NCAA coach, and as someone who is willing to speak so openly and courageously about her battle with Alzheimer’s.
"Pat’s gift has always been her ability to push those around her to new heights, and over the last 38 years, her unique approach has resulted in both unparalleled success on the court and unrivaled loyalty from those who know her and those whose lives she has touched. Pat’s coaching career may be over, but I’m confident that her work is far from finished. I look forward to awarding her this honor.”
Summitt was notified of the award last week. Each of the medal's recipients will be honored at a White House ceremony later this year.
Summitt told reporters Thursday that she "didn't see it coming. It's a tremendous honor that I appreciate very much."
Summitt officially stepped down as head coach of Tennessee's women's basketball program Wednesday, putting an end to her storied 38-year career.
She was diagnosed in May 2011 with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.
"It's never a good time, but you have to find a time that you think is the right time," Summitt said during a news conference Thursday. "And that is now."
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Pat Summitt to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom