Tennessee’s iconic coach Pat Summitt steps down
Pat Summitt, who won more games than anyone in NCAA college basketball history, stepped down Wednesday as coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols, less than eight months after revealing she had early-onset dementia.
“I’ve loved being the head coach at Tennessee for 38 years, but I recognize that the time has come to move into the future and to step into a new role,” the 59-year-old Hall of Famer said in a statement issued by the school.
Longtime assistant Holly Warlick will take over for Summitt, who will become head coach emeritus.
When the Lady Vols lost in a regional final to eventual national champion Baylor, Warlick’s tears were a telltale sign of how draining the season had been and also that it likely was Summitt’s last game.
“She is an icon who does not view herself in that light, and her legacy is well-defined and everlasting,” athletic director Dave Hart said. “Just like there will never be another John Wooden, there will never be another Pat Summitt. I look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role. She is an inspiration to everyone.”
Summitt will report to Hart in her new role while assisting the program she guided to eight national titles since taking over in 1974.
Tennessee said that Summitt’s responsibilities will include helping with recruiting, watching practice, joining staff meetings, helping coaches analyze practice and games and advising the Southeastern Conference on women’s basketball issues and mentoring players.
“Pat’s vision for the game of women’s basketball and her relentless drive pushed the game to a new level and made it possible for the rest of us to accomplish what we did,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement. “In her new role, I’m sure she will continue to make significant impacts to the University of Tennessee and to the game of women’s basketball as a whole.
“I am thrilled for [Warlick] as this opportunity is well deserved and Pat will be a huge asset to her moving forward,” he said.
Warlick, a three-time All-American who played for Summitt, was her assistant for 27 years.
Hart said he watched Warlick grow this season under what he called “unique circumstances” and that she is deserving of the job.
“Her mentor will be available for insight and advice, but this is Holly’s team now,” Hart said.
Warlick said she was thankful for all Summitt has done in preparing her for this opportunity as her coach, mentor and friend.
“We will work as hard as we possibly can with the goal of hanging more banners in Thompson-Boling Arena,” Warlick said.
One of Summitt’s former stars, Tamika Catchings, saw the news on TV during a meeting.
“Everyone in the back of their minds was thinking this was going to happen anyway. Holly will do a good job,” she said.
Last season, while Summitt devoted more attention to her health, Warlick took the lead during games and handled postgame interviews, while the entire staff handled recruiting and practices. Even so, Summitt still managed to put on her trademark icy stare a time or two during the tournament.
“As I’ve said many times, Pat Summitt is a pioneer in basketball,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Her amazing career accomplishments are among an elite group of leaders.”