Pat Summitt is the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, men or women, with 1,098 victories. She coached Tennessee from 1974 to 2012, winning eight NCAA national championships. Summitt stepped down as head coach at the end of last season after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. She serves as head coach emeritus for the team today. In her new book with Sally Jenkins, "Sum It Up," Summitt shares her close bond with her son, Tyler. Summitt had six miscarriages but gave birth to her only son Sept. 21, 1990. Here is how it played out:
I power walked right up until the day I delivered, and on those walks I would have conversations with Tyler. I had an idea that I could get a head start on bonding with him and made it a point to speak aloud to him every morning, and again at night, imagining that he would get to know the sound of my voice. I would tell him about my day or my hopes for him.
The last conversation I had with him while he was still inside me was on the morning of September 20, 1990. I was two weeks from my due date, and I'd had a bad night, couldn't sleep, and was up and down with a backache and a constant need to go to the bathroom. Which should have told me something. I was scheduled to fly to Pennsylvania for the day with Tennessee assistant coach Mickie DeMoss to see our most important recruit, an electric, bouncing guard named Michelle Marciniak, who was the top high school player in the country. My husband, R.B., was adamantly opposed to the trip. "Boys tend to come early," he warned. We bickered about it, until I called my obstetrician, Dr. Leonard Brabson, who, though he wasn't overly thrilled at the idea, didn't forbid it either. I told R.B. I was going ahead with the trip.
Michelle was taking visits from every big-name coach in the country, and we couldn't afford not to go, I rationalized. Also, I had booked a charter flight on the university's plane, at the suggestion of Tennessee athletic director Joan Cronan, who didn't want me flying commercial, and I was reluctant to cancel.
"I'm going to be all right," I said. "Mom will be all right, so let's get dressed."
I always think I have time to do one more thing.
Mickie and I went to the airport and boarded the charter flight to Macungie, Pennsylvania. But I was very uncomfortable on the plane, constantly shifting in my seat to ease my back. Then, just as we landed -- I felt -- something. I looked at Mickie. She said, "What's wrong with you?"
"Mickie, I think maybe my water just broke."
"What does that mean?"
"That means I'm getting ready to have Tyler."
Her eyes widened. "We're going home," she said.
I said, "No, wait. Let me call the doctor."
We got off the plane, and I found a restroom and some paper towels. Then I called Dr. Brabson on a pay phone, and described what had happened, and asked if I needed to turn right around. He said that I was probably still several hours from delivering, and women having their first babies tended to labor longer. "Do you want to stay and make the visit?" he asked.
"Well, I don't want to overreact," I said. "I chartered the plane and flew up here, so I guess I do."
Brabson told me that since it was only a two-hour flight back to Knoxville I was probably fine, but I would want to keep it short.
I hung up the phone and said to Mickie, "He says I can make the visit."
Mickie said, "Are you kidding me?"
She was a nervous wreck as we got in our rental car and drove to the Marciniak residence. When we got there, Michelle was still at school, but her mother, Betsy, opened the door. She gave me a hug and said, "How are you doing, Pat?"
"Well, I'm in labor," I said.
Betsy said, "What are you doing in my house?"
I explained that my doctor said it would be several hours before the baby came, and I wanted to make the effort to talk to Michelle. "Just don't tell her," I said. "I don't want her to be distracted." Betsy looked at me skeptically, but I promised her I was fine.
Just then Michelle walked in, radiating star quality. She was tall for a guard, almost six feet, with a kind of gleam to her, an open-faced girl with a shelf of white-blond bangs that hung over saucerlike blue eyes. The entire family gathered in the living room, and Mickie laid a large embossed book on the coffee table, and we began our song and dance about the virtues of the University of Tennessee, showing her pictures of the dorms and other facilities. But any hope I had for a calm, undistracted visit disappeared. Everyone in the room was tense, including the family dog.
So I walk in, and something seems a little bit strange, everyone's on edge. I didn't have a clue, but I knew that things weren't right. People were not relaxed. My dad's sitting on the edge of the sofa jingling his change in his pocket, and my dog Frosty is running around like crazy. -- Michelle Marciniak
It was the most rushed, hurried presentation ever. Mickie flipped the pages and talked so fast that she sounded like she was motorized. She said, "This is the dorm this is where you'll sleep this is the cafeteria this is where you'll eat this is the weight room this is where you'll train . . ."
All of sudden, I felt a spasm. I made a small sound, stood up and excused myself, and went to the bathroom. My back was killing me -- I suspected I was having contractions, but I never envisioned feeling them in my back. After a bit it eased, and I went back in the living room and sat down again. Mickie was still flipping through pictures, saying, "This is the student center this is the academic support center where you'll study this is the administration building . . ."
I felt another contraction. I suppressed a moan, stood up and excused myself again, and went into the other room to call Dr. Brabson. I explained the situation, and he said, "Why don't you just come on home."
Pat is getting up and going to the bathroom, and coming back in. Gets up, uses the phone, and comes back in. Gets up, uses the bathroom, comes back in. Gets up, uses the phone. And I'm like, Okay, seriously, what is going on? —Michelle Marciniak
I walked back in the living room, and I said, "Michelle, I'm afraid we have to cut this visit short. The baby is on its way." All of a sudden it clicked with her why her dad was pacing and fiddling with the change in his pocket. I turned to Mickie. "We've got to go. Now," I said.
Michelle stared at me with big alarmed seventeen-year-old eyes that said, Are you about to have a baby on my couch? Everyone immediately went into motion. Mickie babbled that she wasn't sure she could find her way back to the airport, so Michelle and her brother Steve offered to lead us there in their car. We went speeding through town at eighty miles per hour -- and at one point took a shortcut the wrong way down a one-way street.
We finally got to the area where the private planes were parked, and we pulled onto the tarmac. Michelle and Steve stopped at the gate and watched us with their fingers up on a chain-link fence. Here's what they witnessed: I walked up the steps and boarded UT's King Air 200, while Mickie hurriedly ran up the steps of another plane. Michelle turned to Steve and said, "Did you see what I just saw?" Mickie got on the wrong plane. I was the one in labor, but she was the one who was totally flustered. A pilot said to Mickie, "Can I help you?," and she realized her mistake and ran back down the gangway and found her way to our plane.
I settled in my seat and thought about R.B. I had called him just before we left the terminal. I said, "Well, my water broke, and I'm on my way back."
R.B. said, "Do you think you need an ambulance?"
"That might not be a bad idea," I said.
I explained to our pilots, Dave Curry and Steve Rogers, that I was in labor, and I asked if they had any wine on board; I had read in one of my pregnancy books that a glass of red wine could slow contractions.
"No," Dave said, "but there is a bottle of bourbon on board."
"Well, give me that," I said.
He brought me a plastic cup full of it, but I took one whiff and turned my head away. I couldn't possibly drink it. "Here," I said, and handed it to Mickie.
She belted a big swallow. Tossed it right down.
The pilots asked for an emergency takeoff and got clearance. As the wheels went up I fished around in my briefcase and handed Mickie an emergency pamphlet I carried on how to deliver a baby. She accepted it, with a look of stark terror, and began reading—and downed another belt of bourbon.
We were airborne when the contractions began again, and this time the spasms were so bad I couldn't sit in my seat. I got down on my hands and knees in the narrow aisle, moaning. Mickie rubbed my back, but my moaning got louder and turned into a wail. Mickie jabbered at me nervously about Ruthie Bolton, the great Auburn player who came from a family of twenty-one children.
"It's okay, Pat; just think about Ruthie Bolton's mother. She had twenty-one children. If she had twenty-one, you can have one."
I said, "Mickie, you have to calm down."
Then a contraction struck and I wailed again, and the noise made its way to the cockpit, where our pilots were growing nervous. They radioed ahead and asked for an emergency landing at the closest airport, which was Roanoke, Virginia. Steve came to the back of the plane, where I was still on all fours.
Steve whispered to Mickie that they wanted to land the plane and get me to a hospital. After he returned to the cockpit, Mickie said, "Pat, they want to put us down in Virginia and get you an ambulance."
Now, I had no intention of giving birth to my baby in Virginia. Virginia was the school that had knocked us out of the NCAA tournament, and caused me so much pain. As far as I was concerned at that moment, it was a hateful state with absolutely nothing to recommend it. My baby wasn't going to be born anywhere but Tennessee. My home was in Tennessee, and my husband was in Tennessee. R.B. was going to be present at the birth of our son -- it had taken us ten years to bring Tyler into the world, and I didn't want him to miss it. He hadn't wanted me to make the trip in the first place, and I owed it to him to get home if I possibly could. I did not want to face him if our son was born in Virginia.
Between breaths and clenched teeth, I said, "Mickie, you go tell them that if they land this plane in Virginia, they're going to have a madwoman on their hands."
Our pilot Steve hit the throttle, hard. I found out later we burned nine hundred gallons of fuel in an hour, flew so fast that the plane would have black exhaust streaks along the sides when we landed.
R.B. was waiting for me on the ground with an ambulance, and I thought he was going to climb over the seat and drive it himself. We got to St. Mary's Hospital at about 7:30 p.m., and by then it had gone out over radio scanners that the UT plane had requested an ambulance for Coach Summitt, so it was all over Knoxville that I was in labor.
Dr. Brabson arrived to examine me and explained that Tyler was in the "posterior" position, meaning that he was turned in the womb toward my stomach, which was why I felt the contractions in my back. He didn't want to do a Cesarean, because he felt that with some patience he could turn Tyler around, but it would be a while before I gave birth, and I'd be in some distress. I said, "I've got to have an epidural." I was over being brave. An attendant came in to give it to me and said, "This is going to hurt."
I replied, "Just hurry up and do it. Because after this, nothing is ever going to hurt again."
Tyler didn't appear for four more impatient hours. I watched some TV and visited with the nurses who all came in to chat. In the meanwhile, Dr. Brabson kept going out and delivering other babies. He'd come back to my room and say, "Another boy!" Finally I said, "Don't you leave this room again."
My son was born at 12:18 a.m. on September 21, 1990. R.B. was right by me, and we locked hands while I pushed. He was saying, "You're doing great, you're doing great."
First Tyler's head emerged, and then his little arm popped out. Then the doctor lifted him and laid him in my arms.
He was born and before the nurse even started cleaning him up, Pat said, "Hey, Tyler." His head turned right around, and they made eye contact. It was obvious that he knew that voice. And there was a bond right there that words can't describe, for all of us. -- R.B. Summitt
Adapted from "Sum It Up: A Thousand And Ninty-Eight Victories, A Couple Of Irrelevant Losses, A Life In Perspective," Copyright © 2013 by Pat Head Summitt. Written with Sally Jenkins. Published by Crown Archetype, a division of Random House, Inc.