Change is coming to the Tennessee women's basketball coaching staff for next season.
The Lady Vols announced on Monday that assistant coach Mickie DeMoss is leaving to join the staff of the WNBA's Indiana Fever. The ultimate determination is whether DeMoss' departure is just the beginning of a historic transformation.
UT coach Pat Summitt is pondering her coaching future as she deals with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. With her staff playing a bigger role, Summitt continued to coach this season after announcing her diagnosis last August. With Summitt's 38th season over, UT officials are giving her time and space to sort through some options.
In a university release, Summitt sounded pleased about DeMoss joining the staff of Fever coach Lin Dunn. DeMoss' decision ended a collegiate coaching career that spanned 35 seasons. She spent 20 total years at UT. During her first 18 years, Tennessee won six national championships, and DeMoss was promoted to associate head coach in 2000. She returned for the 2010-11 season after four years as the coach at Kentucky and three seasons as an assistant at Texas.
"From my perspective, I am so excited for Mickie,'' Summitt said. "Coaching at the next level has always been one of her professional aspirations, and the Fever is one of the best teams in the league.
"Obviously, Mickie is not only a great coach but she is a lifelong friend. We will certainly miss her at Tennessee and the contributions she has made during the 20 years she has been a part of our championship program."
DeMoss was a key coaching figure in assisting Summitt this season. DeMoss drew from her experiences in helping care for her mother, Wilma, who endured a lengthy battle with dementia. During the season, DeMoss' sister, Susie, said that she didn't think it was a coincidence that DeMoss returned to UT's staff last season.
"I think God has her there,'' DeMoss' sister told the News Sentinel. "I think she's supposed to be there for Pat at this time in her life."
DeMoss said in a UT release that Dunn contacted her "a few months ago" about the opening on her staff.
"I told her my immediate concern was helping Pat and the Lady Vols basketball team,''DeMoss said.
Summitt and DeMoss eventually discussed the opening and DeMoss told her of her interest in the WNBA.
"When Pat and I talked about the opportunity to coach at the next level, she told me she would support me in whatever decision I chose to make,'' DeMoss said. "I've been in the game for 35 years and this is always something I've wanted to do."
The DeMoss opening on Tennessee's staff isn't expected to be filled until Summitt's future is determined. Along with coaching, DeMoss was UT's recruiting coordinator. The Lady Vols remain in the hunt this spring for two junior college prospects: Uju Ugoka, a 6-foot forward from Gulf Coast (Fla.) State College and Wilka Montout, a 6-5 center from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
UT associate head coach Holly Warlick is believed to be the lead recruiter of Ugoka while assistant Dean Lockwood is believed to have the same responsibilities regarding Montout.
Ugoka is a finalist for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's junior/community college player of the year.