HOOVER, Ala. -- Pat Summitt still has a powerhouse team, and she's not going anywhere yet. That's good news even to the Tennessee icon's coaching rivals after Summitt revealed in August that she had been diagnosed with dementia.

"Every day, I can't wait to get on the court," Summitt, 59, said Thursday at Southeastern Conference media day. "I'm not ready to retire. I may be old as dirt when I'm still trying to win games."

Winning games probably won't be a problem this season. Summitt's Lady Vols are unanimous favorites to defend their SEC title.

Summitt would much rather talk basketball than discuss her illness, but she amiably fielded questions about her condition, sitting at a podium next to associate head coach Holly Warlick.

If anything, Warlick said, battling dementia has made Summitt even more focused and conscious of time management.

"She is fine, she is at every practice, she is heavily recruiting," Warlick said. "She is still our head coach, and she is doing a heck of a job."

Summitt's SEC coaching peers have rallied around her. She's still just "Coach" to Nikki Caldwell, a former Lady Vols player and assistant who is heading LSU's program.

"I see her as 'Coach.' I don't see her any different than that," said Caldwell, part of one Tennessee national championship as a player and two as an assistant. "I see her as somebody who is still hungry as a teacher for the game, someone who still loves the game, someone who is still passionate about preparing her team for greatness.

"You're going to literally have to put Coach in a wheelchair and get her out of there. Only she'll know when it's time."

And that time doesn't seem to be anytime soon.

Summitt is every bit the coach when she talks about her "game plan" for dealing with dementia.

"It doesn't really feel any different," Summitt said. "You get your game plan and you go at it every day. You mix up things that you want to do day in and day out and go to practice, doing regular stuff.

"I don't think it's something that's slowing me down," she said. "I think if anything, it's revving me up."

She works brain-teasing puzzles on her iPad for an hour or two in the mornings to keep her mind sharp. The daily business of coaching helps, too.

"It's not just doing puzzles, it's yelling at those players when they're not doing things the right way," Summitt said. "It keeps me involved."

Summitt smiled when asked if the experience of facing the microphones and television cameras is as stressful as coaching, which she's done with the Lady Vols since 1974.

"I expected everybody to ask me about it," she said. "It is what it is. We will move on."

One group that shouldn't expect Summitt to ease up: game officials.

"Don't worry about it," she deadpanned. "I know those referees."


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