NEW YORK — Pat Summitt smiled, laughed and shook her head at times.
The Hall of Fame coach, who has early onset dementia, was part of the audience watching a screening of a documentary about her career. “Pat XO.”
“It’s a wonderful film and they did a great job with it,” Summitt told The Associated Press. “It was really incredible to see all those people share their stories.”
The show is part of ESPN Films’ Nine for IX documentary series. It debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival on Sunday and will air July 9.
Summitt’s son, Tyler, was the lead storyteller, spending time with his mother on a couch in their home going through a scrapbook of her life. The film starts from Summitt’s earliest days and goes through her retirement last April.
The 60-year-old former Tennessee coach acknowledged in her recently released book that at times she may not remember all the milestones of her career. This project will provide a reminder.
To tell Summitt’s story, the filmmakers sent cameras to those who knew her best and had them record testimonials.
Former players Tamika Catchings, Chamique Holdsclaw, Michelle Marciniak and Candace Parker all told stories of their mentor. Longtime friends and rival coaches, including Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma, also talk about Summitt.
“It was an honor to be a part of this film,” Catchings wrote in an email. “For all that Pat has done and continues to do, it’s a blessing to give back to her and celebrate the great things she has done on and off the court.”
Catchings called the filming technique — using a camera to self-record her thoughts — “kind of a weird but neat concept.”
“It’s not hard to talk about someone who has helped mold me into the woman I am today,” she said.
Marciniak and her parents recalled the famous story of a pregnant Summitt breaking water as she was paying a recruiting visit to their home. Summitt left the recruiting trip early and wouldn’t let the plane land anywhere but Tennessee.
In one the most poignant moments, Summitt was talking to Tyler about having to step down from coaching last year. She called it the right thing to do.
As the two were discussing it, Summitt started to tear up — one of the rare times she has shown emotion about her decision. Her two dogs, Sally Sue and Sadie, sensing their owner was saddened, came over to the couch to console her. Summitt wound up providing the consolation, petting the labs and letting them up on the couch.
Summitt received a long ovation from the crowd when she was introduced before the premiere by executive producer Robin Roberts. Roberts called the project a “labor of love to produce and a testament to her lasting friendship” with Summitt.
Summitt devotes much of her time now to the Pat Summitt Foundation, which works to provide grants to nonprofit organizations to help educate, fund research and fight Alzheimer’s.