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ATLANTA (AP)Georgia Tech women’s basketball associate head coach Tasha Butts said Wednesday she has been diagnosed with an advanced stage of breast cancer.

The 39-year-old Butts said she was diagnosed last month. She intends to keep coaching as much as possible while she’s being treated.

”This has not been an easy discovery,” Butts said in a statement issued by the school. ”I never thought I’d be sitting here dealing with this disease. But I have full confidence in my doctors, my faith, who I am and who I was taught to be, which is a fighter.

”I want to, and hope to be, an example and an inspiration for others who may be experiencing the same thing.”

When Butts is unable to be with the team due to her treatments, women’s basketball chief of staff Mickie DeMoss will step in as an assistant coach.

Georgia Tech (6-2) knocked off No. 21 Georgia 55-54 last weekend and is preparing to host No. 3 Connecticut on Thursday night.

Last season, the Yellow Jackets reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in school history.

”We were all shocked with Tasha’s diagnosis, but the positive is she is in a fantastic city with doctors extremely qualified to treat her,” head coach Nell Fortner said. ”Tasha is a strong woman who has every intention of beating this diagnosis, and we will be with her every step of the way.”

A former WNBA player, Butts joined Georgia Tech’s coaching staff in 2019 after Fortner was hired as head coach. She had previously spent eight years as an assistant at LSU.

She was promoted to associate head coach after last season.

A native of Milledgeville, Georgia, Butts played collegiately at Tennessee. She was part of teams that went 124-17 from 2000-04 and reached the Sweet 16 all four seasons, including back-to-back appearances in the national championship game her junior and senior seasons.

Butts spent one season with the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA and also played internationally. She went into coaching as an assistant at Duquesne in 2007, spent three years at UCLA, and moved to LSU in 2011.

”While I am still processing this life-changing diagnosis and learning how to deal with it day-to-day, I have full confidence in my team of doctors with the treatment plan they have put forth and that I have already begun,” Butts said. ”The tremendous amount of support I have received from my family, close friends, and Georgia Tech family has made these past few weeks a little more bearable and easier.”

She encouraged all women to get regular examinations.

”Through my process, I have learned that early detection is the best possible approach,” Butts said. ”Early detection can offer someone a piece of mind in such a life-changing event.”

The Georgia Tech community has helped her cope with the stunning diagnosis, Butts said.

”The No. 1 priority for me right now is to take care of myself through treatment and surround myself with people that will take care of me to the same degree,” she said. ”I have an incredible support system at Georgia Tech that I am grateful for. While undergoing treatment, I will still be here at Georgia Tech and in full support of our program as I can be.”

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