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Pat Summitt First Felt She Was Being Pushed From Tenn. Coaching Job

Pat Summitt coaching a game in December 2011.
Ezra Shaw
Getty Images
Pat Summitt coaching a game in December 2011.

A lawsuit against the University of Tennessee and its athletic director has revealed that earlier this year legendary women's basketball coach Pat Summitt felt that the school official was trying to force her to step down from her job.

That stands in contrast to statements Summitt made last spring. The coach, who is dealing with early-onset dementia, said then that it was her decision to become "head coach emeritus."

Summitt also says in an affidavit, however, that her feelings might have been due to a misunderstanding.

The suit has been brought by former Lady Vols media director Debby Jennings against athletic director Dave Hart. Jennings, 57, contends she was forced to retire this year and that she was the victim of age and gender discrimination.

In an affidavit filed in connection to the suit, Summitt states that she met with athletic director Hart on March 14, 2012, and that he "indicated to me that I would not be coaching the Lady Vol Basketball Team in the next school year. ... This was very surprising to me and very hurtful as this was a decision I would have liked to have made on my own at the end of the season."

Hart also told her she would become head coach emeritus, Summitt stated.

"Following the conversation with Mr. Hart," the affidavit reads, "I was very upset and shortly after my meeting with Mr. Hart, I told people about Mr. Hart's decision, including Debby Jennings."

Summitt adds, however, that "unbeknownst to the individuals [with whom] I shared this upsetting news, Dave Hart spoke with me again, subsequent to the March 14, 2012, one-on-one meeting, and indicated that I misinterpreted what he said."

Summitt's move to the head coach emeritus position was announced in mid-April.

University officials have "flatly denied the charge that Summitt was forced out," The Associated Press reported last week. " 'It's absolutely not true,' university spokesperson Margie Nichols said. 'It was Pat's idea to become the head coach emeritus. I think she made that really clear at her press conference earlier this year.' "

Her son Tyler "wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press Wednesday that, 'We are not going to comment right now on this matter.' "

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.

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