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Pat Summitt says thought she was forced out as Tennessee coach

Former University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers head coach Pat Summitt reacts after her team defeated Rutgers University Scarlet Knights in t
Former University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers head coach Pat Summitt reacts after her team defeated Rutgers University Scarlet Knights in t

By Preston Preeden

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Former Tennessee University women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, who won more games than any other college men's or women's coach in U.S. history, said in an affidavit filed on Wednesday that she was forced to step aside last spring after being diagnosed with dementia.

The university announced in April that Summitt, 60, would become head coach "emeritus" and relinquish day-to-day coaching duties to her assistant, Holly Warlick.

In the affidavit dated August 10, 2012, and filed on Wednesday in a Tennessee court in an unrelated case, Summitt said she did not choose to step aside but was told by Athletic Director Dave Hart on March 14, 2012, that she would not be head coach the next season.

"This was very surprising to me and very hurtful as that was a decision I would have liked to have made on my own at the end of the season after consulting with my family, doctors, colleagues and friends, and not be told this by Mr. Hart. I felt this was wrong," Summitt said in the affidavit.

Summitt went on to say that Hart later told her that she had "misinterpreted what he had said" during their private meeting on March 14.

A university official could not be reached immediately for comment.

Summitt's affidavit was filed in support of a former female colleague, Deborah Jennings, who filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court alleging Hart discriminated against women at the university.

Summitt, known for her fiery competitiveness, coached 39 seasons, winning eight national championships and compiling a record of 1098 wins to 208 losses. She was admitted to the national Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.

She announced in 2011 that she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, a condition which leads to memory loss. She continued to coach but Warwick did most of the talking during games and Summitt often sat silently on the bench.

Summitt received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, from President Barack Obama in May.

Deborah K. Jennings v. The University of Tennessee, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, 12-CV-00507. (Editing by Philip Barbara)

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