Candace Parker and Glory Johnson participated in a WNBA teleconference Monday that originally was set up several days ago to chat with the media about the upcoming Los Angeles vs. Dallas game on ESPN2.
But after the news broke Sunday about Pat Summitt’s declining health from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, the teleconference also became a forum to ask the two Lady Vol legends about their iconic head coach and how they are coping as Summitt enters the end stages of a brutal disease.
“You lean on family,” Parker said. “That is the biggest thing that she has done is create this family atmosphere.”
Dozens of former players have visited Summitt, including Parker, Tamika Catchings, Semeka Randall, Jody Adams, Cierra Burdick, Alberta Auguste, Shelley Sexton Collier, Michelle Marciniak, Kara Lawson, Nikki Caldwell, Shekinna Stricklen, Vicki Baugh, Kelley Cain and others. Caldwell is a former Tennessee assistant coach, as is Mickie DeMoss, who also was in town.
Parker confirmed that she was in town this weekend and was able to see Summitt. She chose to keep private the content of the conversation out of respect to Summitt’s family. Tyler Summitt remains at his mother’s side.
“I did go to Knoxville. I did see Coach,” Parker said. “My thoughts and prayers are with the Lady Vol family and with Tyler and with Coach Summitt. She has meant a lot and means a lot to a lot of different people.”
Parker also said that Summitt would want Lady Vol Nation to be strong right now.
“She is a legend and has touched so many lives,” Parker said. “She changes the individual, and she has changed the way that I have looked at life, and she has changed the way all of her players have. Through this disease, through Alzheimer’s, she has been exactly what she has lived her entire life – and that’s strong.
“And that’s what we need to be right now. We need to be strong for everybody.”
Johnson, when asked for a favorite Summitt memory, mentioned the coach’s famous jalapeno corn. Johnson declined until her senior season to try the corn because she didn’t like spicy food.
“It was absolutely amazing,” Johnson said. “I had been missing out on it for three years. I didn’t want to try something new, and I think that was a lesson in itself.”
Johnson last saw Summitt on April 20 the day before she left for training camp in Dallas. She shared that she took her twins, Ava Simone and Solei Diem, to visit Summitt. Johnson also was able to talk to Summitt about motherhood.
“It was the first time I was really taking the babies out of the house,” Johnson said. “We took the babies to go see Pat, and she was able to hold Solei and rock Ava to sleep. She didn’t miss a beat. She knew exactly what she was supposed to do when a baby was put in her hands. It was automatic. She said how cute they are and how heavy Ava Simone is.
“It was a great situation. I was so happy that the babies got to experience something like that.”
Johnson also addressed the overall reaction to Summitt as tributes and prayers have poured in for the coach.
“Lady Vol Nation is really strong when it comes to family,” Johnson said. “It is a situation where everyone is hurting. We know how much she has done for people all around the world.”
The audio links are below. The connection with Johnson was lost a couple of times, as her cell reception went in and out during the teleconference, so the sound quality is not as good at times. (The links also play better through the SoundCloud app, which is available for Apple and Android.) The game tips at 10 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday on ESPN2.