Pat Summitt is diagnosed with early onset dementia
Looking back on Pat Summitt's career
In stepping down as Tennessee women's basketball coach, Pat Summitt's new role as head coach emeritus at least helps soften the transition for her.
"I think it's real safe landing place for her," said former UT assistant Mickie DeMoss, who left the staff earlier this month to become an assistant with the WNBA's Indiana Fever. "It's a position where she still can stay involved but it lets her manage her time better. I think that's something she probably needed to start doing."
After a season of coaching while also battling early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, Summitt thought about her future and the program's stability in reaching her decision. Former associate head coach Holly Warlick completed the historic transition on Wednesday by becoming the new coach — UT's first since Summitt took over in 1974-75 and amassed 1,098 victories and eight national championships in the ensuing 38 years.
"I feel really good about my decision," the 59-year-old Summitt told the News Sentinel in a phone interview. "Holly and I will work really well together."
No contract information was available in conjunction with Wednesday's announcement. Warlick's annual salary was $204,000 while Summitt's total compensation package for the 2011-12 season was $1.5 million. She had two years left on her contract that included a $1 million bonus if she completed 40 seasons with the Lady Vols.
Warlick was unavailable for comment. A press conference is scheduled for this afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena in which Summitt and Warlick will appear together.
Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart lauded Summitt's legacy as "well-defined and everlasting."
"Just like there will never be another John Wooden, there will never be another Pat Summitt,'' Hart said in a school release. "I look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role. She is an inspiration to everyone."
After announcing her diagnosis last August, Summitt continued to coach with the blessing of university officials. In the wake of her announcement, Warlick assumed a bigger role, taking on many of the responsibilities normally reserved for the head coach.
"I feel like Holly's been doing the bulk of it,'' Summitt said. "She deserves to be the head coach. I'm going to support her. No doubt, I'll be there for her."
Warlick will be making her head coaching debut after spending the past 27 seasons as a UT assistant, a tenure that began with the 1985-86 season. While acknowledging the difficulties of her revised role during the season, Warlick, a former Lady Vols point guard, seemed more comfortable in her role late in the season. If so, Summitt was a big reason why.
"She was very complimentary of me and so that to me means so much and to these kids because I'm doing something in front of the best coach in the world,'' Warlick said before the NCAA tournament. "And I'm not trying to be Pat Summitt. I'm trying to take what she's given me and carry on with this team."
Hart said that Warlick has earned her opportunity.
"I watched Holly grow tremendously as a coach throughout this past season,'' he said. "Under unique circumstances, the job she did away from the glare of the lights and crowds was as impressive as the job she did during game action."
Tennessee's season ended with a 77-58 loss to eventual national champion Baylor in the final of the Des Moines (Iowa) Regional.
Since reaching 1,000 victories in 2009, Summitt has stood alone at that victory plateau among all NCAA coaches. Gene Bess, the men's coach at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo., has 1,152 victories at the junior college level.
Earlier this month, senior Glory Johnson became the 21st player coached by Summitt to be named an All-American. These players accounted for 36 total All-America honors under Summitt's tutelage.
Summitt has two basketball courts named after her — one at Thompson-Boling Arena and the other at her alma mater, UT Martin. She also has a street named after her on both campuses.
Saul Young/News Sentinel
Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt monitors practice at Thompson-Boling Arena on March 19, 2010, on the basketball court named after her.