There is nothing in her condition to prevent her from still doing what she does best, which is to teach kids how to do things the right way — “how to commit,” she says — and show them how much more they have in them than they realize. The rest she will make up as she goes along.
“I’m going to play all this by ear, I’m not going to predetermine what I’m going to say and do,” she said. “One thing is, I just don’t want everybody worrying over me. I can’t control that. But being active and being around and participating and dealing with the players, that’s number one for me, that they know I’m going to be there.”
The Pat of 2012 is not the intense creature she once was, but I like the qualities that have replaced all that fire. It’s as if the disease has stripped away her reserve and unveiled who she is at her core, a person of surpassing generosity and sweetness. Evidence of which was her encounter with her bitter arch rival, U-Conn. Coach Geno Auriemma, at the Final Four; they met each other with a warm hug that left both of them in tears.
“We don’t need any more fighting in the world,” she says grinning. Here’s a shocker: she rooted for him in the tournament.
All of which is to say this is not a formal retirement, nor should it be. She has too much left to give — and receive. “The players,” she says, “are my best medicine.”
Pat is still here. Tomorrow she will rise, read her morning paper and drink coffee, field phone calls, and finalize the details of her formal announcement. She will stand up on the dais and all the cameras will point and everyone will speculate again how sick she is. “It doesn’t bother me,” she says. “Everybody knows the diagnosis. People know.”
“It gives me a chance,” she adds, “to show people you can get up every day and go to work and live your life.”
For previous columns by Sally Jenkins, see washingtonpost.com/