Pat Summitt joined by loved ones with disease progressing

ByABC News
June 26, 2016, 11:19 AM

— -- Pat Summitt's family has acknowledged that the legendary coach's health has declined in recent days and has asked for prayers amid a "difficult" time.

In a statement released Sunday morning, the family said that the former Tennessee women's basketball coach's early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, has progressed over the past few days.

"She is surrounded by those who mean the most to her and during this time, we ask for prayers for Pat and her family and friends, as well as your utmost respect and privacy," said the family's statement, which was released by spokesperson Erin Freeman.

The Knoxville News Sentinel, citing a source, reported early Sunday morning that Summitt is "struggling" and that her family is "preparing for the worst."

There was an outpouring of support on social media, with sports figures such as Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs, former Volunteers football coach David Cutcliffe, WNBA star DeLisha Milton-Jones and "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts tweeting their prayers for Summitt.

Summitt, 64, coached Tennessee to eight national championships in her 38 seasons. She recorded 1,098 career victories -- the most in Division I college basketball history for a men's or women's coach -- before stepping down in 2012, one year after announcing she had early-onset dementia.

Since her diagnosis, Summitt has played a leading role in the fight against Alzheimer's. She launched the Pat Summitt Foundation, which is dedicated to researching and educating people about the disease while also providing services to patients and caregivers. The Pat Summitt Alzheimer's Clinic is scheduled to open at the University of Tennessee medical center in December.

Named the NCAA coach of the year seven times, Summitt led the Lady Vols to 22 Final Fours (18 NCAA, 4 AIAW) in her nearly four decades as coach. Of her eight national championships, she won three in a row from 1996 to 1998. Summitt continues to hold a position as head coach emeritus of the Tennessee women's basketball team.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.