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Pat Summitt says she felt forced out as Tennessee coach after diagnosis

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:46 PM EDT, Thu October 4, 2012
Pat Summitt says she felt forced out as head coach of the Tennessee women's basketball team.
Pat Summitt says she felt forced out as head coach of the Tennessee women's basketball team.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Coaching legend filed affidavit as part of a lawsuit by former university employee
  • Summitt won more than 1,000 games and eight national titles
  • She has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's
  • She still has role with team as coach emeritus

(CNN) -- Pat Summitt, the all-time winningest major college basketball coach, says in an affidavit filed Thursday that she felt forced out as head coach of the Tennessee women's team after her diagnosis with early-onset Alzheimer's

In April, the coach announced her on-court retirement eight months after revealing her diagnosis.

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"I just felt like it was the time to step down," Summitt said at her retirement. "It's never a good time, but you have to find a time you think is the right time."

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But according to an affidavit she filed in conjunction with a lawsuit filed by a friend and former colleague against the university and its athletics director, the legendary coach didn't make the decision to step down on her own.

In her affidavit, Summitt described a meeting in March with athletic director Dave Hart, in which she said she was told she would no longer be coach after 38 seasons. Summit wrote in her affidavit that she had wanted to make that decision herself.

"This was very surprising to me and very hurtful," Summitt wrote in her affidavit.

Summitt's statement also said that Hart met again with her and he "indicated that I misinterpreted what he said."

Summitt's affidavit came in a lawsuit filed by a former media relations director for women's sports, Debby Jennings. Jennings is suing the school for age and gender discrimination and for retaliation.

Jennings said in her lawsuit that she wrote an e-mail to Hart the day after his initial meeting with Summitt, with Jennings saying in the e-mail that she opposed the decision regarding Summitt and considered it discriminatory.

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Jennings said Hart retaliated against her two months later by giving her the option to resign, retire or be fired. She alleged that even before that, she had many of her work responsibilities taken away and given to younger men.

Efforts to reach Hart Thursday night for comment were unsuccessful.

Jennings, who had worked at Tennessee for 35 years, retired in May.

In her complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Jennings said she was forced out because "certain members of the athletic department ... wanted to model UT-K's athletic department as a good 'ol boys club."

A spokeswoman for the university said she could not comment because the legal case was ongoing.

Summitt, who led the Lady Vols to eight national championships and whose 1,098 wins are the most in major-college basketball history, remains involved in mentoring Tennessee players and recruiting as the team's head coach emeritus through April 2013.

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