Court Adjourned: Pat Summitt steps down after illustrious career

Pat Summitt stepped down as head coach of the Tennessee women's basketball program on Wednesday, becoming coach emeritus. Summitt, who joined the program in 1974 said, “I feel really good about my decision.”

Photo by Saul Young

Pat Summitt stepped down as head coach of the Tennessee women's basketball program on Wednesday, becoming coach emeritus. Summitt, who joined the program in 1974 said, “I feel really good about my decision.”

Tennessee associate head coach Holly Warlick makes her first postgame press conference appearance after  the Lady Vols'  season opener against Carson-Newman at Thompson-Boling Arena on Nov. 1, 2011.

Photo by Saul Young, Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee associate head coach Holly Warlick makes her first postgame press conference appearance after the Lady Vols' season opener against Carson-Newman at Thompson-Boling Arena on Nov. 1, 2011.

Pat Summitt is diagnosed with early onset dementia

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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.

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Comments » 10

lahvolman2 writes:

I'm just glad to say I was alive during Pat's entire career. She can never be replaced, only emulated. Her impact on the game of basketball both womens and mens is unparrelled and will never be matched. Thank you Pat sounds shallow at this point but is the only thing I can think of to say. God speed and God bless you.

allvol9 writes:

I just can't imagine Pat not being head coach. But I love that she is still involved. She is the face of women's sports and is the icon at UT. I love and respect her so much. What a class act. Go Pat and Go Vols!

burpee_von_rotweiler_IV writes:

She gets "a $1 million bonus if she completed 40 seasons with the Lady Vols."

Give it to her no matter what. She has earned it. With her work ethic she has crammed 76 seasons worth of effort into her 38 years at UT.

VolAtUGA11 writes:

Robert Neyland, Phog Allen, Paul Bryant, Adolph Rupp, Joe Paterno, Dean Smith. These are the names with whom Pat Summitt will be compared. And a good argument could be made that she was better than all of them.

I wish her and Holly Warlick much success in their new careers. Tennessee has been fortunate to have such class acts at the top of the women's basketball program for so long. Go Vols!

Texgreenfield writes:

Pat we love you. What a classic example of charm, grace, strength, and love for her team. Pat I wish you could run for President. You would have my vote.

Dear please take care. You are a legend and I hope you have a wonderful life from here on in. Thanks so much for what you did for UT ladies and also for being the fine example of leadership in a world gone mad.

Much Love!!

min32926#266113 writes:

Pat, thank you for what you've done for Lady basketball, thank you for 8 National Championships, and thank you for all you do for the Vol Nation! We will always love you.

VolVox writes:

Pat, thank you so much. The way that you represented UT and the State of Tennessee as a whole will always be remembered, and no words are adequate to convey the requisite gratitude. From the student athletes that you graduated to the championships you won, and everything in between, the legacy you are leaving simply could not be stronger or more impressive. In my eyes, you are above the luminaries to whom you are compared because I simply don't think they made as much of an impact in as many areas as you. What many other people would not realize is that in saying that I am not minimizing anyone else's accomplishments; I am merely saying that your accomplishments, as great as they are, have actually been a little underrated by some outside of Tennessee. Congratulations to you on having a career that will always be the yardstick by which any other coach's career will be judged, male or female.

Winston_Wolfe writes:


You are the embodiment of class and the ultimate example of a leader. UT and everyone who ever came in contact with you are better for the experience. We love you and wish you all the best.

JackTheNipper writes:

As I posted on another site....I think most of us knew this day would come, albeit way too soon. Coach Summitt led her Lady Vols to some amazing fetes, lets hope she can lead her doctors to a cure for the disease she and so many others are burdened with. All the best to Pat and everyone with dementia.
Let me add that I am sure many of us UConn fans have the Coach in our prayers. Most of us really didn't care for Coach Summitt only when the Lady Vols played our beloved Lady Huskies. We appreciate someone that works hard, shows class, and the Coach has done just that. Now Pat, go kick some doctors behinds and lead them to a cure!

silentmajority writes:

Congratulations to a great coach! Pat will go down in history as an iconic performer in an important area in many citizens' lives. But not ALL citizens; incredible as it seems,, the vast majority of Americans have never seen a basketball game.

Meritorious, yes. But worthy of a Presidential Medal of Freedom? According to Wikipedia, the Medal is

"the highest civilian award in the United States. It recognizes those individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors".

Heady stuff. World-class stuff. Sugsestive of the Sgt. Yorks and Albert Einsteins of history. It is difficult to see how winning a thousand games OF ANYTHING can "contribute to the interests of the United States", any more than anything obama has done to deserve a Nobel prize.

I know I am asking for literal heaps of burning coals to be heaped on me. But sometimes one must call a spade a spade.

Give Pat our love and an extra million or so, and give her a star on ourUT flag. But be careful of overdoing it!

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