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But having a protean offense is the point, and not just to flummox a defense: "On offense we try to personalize what we do so the players can be instinctive. And our offense might change over a season, because kids get better. You don't want to put them in a box. You don't want a kid to be 'a four man.' We're not shaping them. They're themselves."
When Krzyzewski looks back, it may be to retrofit some old teaching trick or to find inspiration. The pictures help. "But looking in the past just to celebrate victories all the time?" he says. "Every once in a while that's cool. But you've already eaten. You've already been fed. How can you be hungry if you're always eating?"
TOUGHEST OPPONENT YET
Piloting her Mercedes down Alcoa Highway, fastening earrings, applying makeup, wriggling into pumps at stoplights, pulling into the parking lot of Thompson-Boling Arena on two wheels—this was a woman known to her son and her staff, as Tyler Summitt says, "for being able to do seven different things at the same time."
When Pat Summitt abandoned her car in that lot before a game two years ago, keys in the ignition and motor running, it was easy to chalk up the incident to Ms. Multitasking taking on a bit too much. But last season those around Summitt knew something was wrong. "It wasn't that she forgot someone's name," her son says. "It was little stuff. Instead of doing seven things at once, suddenly she could only do maybe four."
After the season, she visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., with her son and Mary Margaret Carter, an old sorority sister. (Pat and banker R.B. Summitt, Tyler's dad, divorced in 2008.) An MRI and a spinal tap helped lead to the diagnosis and, at first, a wall of denial. "There was the initial stage where she asked, 'Why me?' " Tyler says. "It broke her down and she took a while to build herself back up. She had to regain courage before she could tell the world. But she went back to her principles, of the program being an open book. And my mom, she sees this like any opponent. She wants to beat it."
On Aug. 18, Summitt, her son and her lawyer, Robert Barnett, met with Cronan and Dr. Jimmy Cheek, chancellor of the Knoxville campus. They agreed that she would continue to coach. Then she gathered her players to share her diagnosis. "She told us that she was still gonna remember our names," recalls guard Ariel Massengale, "and that she was still gonna yell at us."
In a videotaped message from her living-room couch, with one arm draped around one of her yellow Labs, Sadie, Summitt broke the news to "my Tennessee family." The response overwhelmed her and her circle: e-mails, text messages and letters poured in, including one from Nancy Reagan, who had lost her husband to the disease. "Our Number 1 goal is to protect Pat, the person we love and care about," Cronan says. "Second is to protect her legacy, and third is to protect the program. We're in uncharted waters. But if you were in uncharted waters, wouldn't you want Pat to be your captain?"
Summitt works out five days a week, meditates and performs mental puzzles on her iPad. She takes medication to slow the degeneration of the cerebral cortex. And she hopes that continued engagement with the game will help prolong her faculties. "Pat's gonna do all she can for as long as she can," says Sexton Collier, "and after that she knows we'll always remember for her."
Her assistants run the huddles, but Summitt retains a public profile, and her sense of humor is as sharp as ever. At a recent luncheon, listening to the emcee run on in the past tense about her accomplishments, she piped right up: "Hey, I'm right here! I'm not dead yet!" When Villanova coach Harry Perretta paid a visit several months ago, she pulled out her iPad to challenge him to some of the puzzles. "I can't even turn the thing on, and then I can't, like, get any right," Perretta recalls. "And she goes, 'Harry, I'm supposed to have dementia, not you.'"