Pat Summitt is diagnosed with early onset dementia
Looking back on Pat Summitt's career
After a storied 38-year career, Pat Summitt is stepping down as head coach of the Tennessee women’s basketball team to become a coach emeritus with the program.
Lady Vols associate head coach Holly Warlick will be named the new head coach.
Summitt said that she met with Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart and Warlick on Wednesday morning to finalize the transition. She said that the decision was hers and she’s comfortable with it.
“I feel really good about my decision,” Summitt said. “I think this is going to be a win-win situation for everybody. Holly and I will work really well together.”
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 Summmitt,’’ he said. “I look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role. She is an inspiration to everyone.”
Summitt announced last August that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, but 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.”
Summitt conceded that she doesn’t yet know the full scope of her new position.
“We had to give it a name; that’s pretty much what it is,’’ she said. “They kind of outlined everything. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to be. We have some things we have to talk about.”
Summitt still can attend practice and mentor the players. She can send letters, emails or handwritten notes to recruits, which will be of paramount importance. The Lady Vols currently have just six returning players on campus and three high school seniors signed for next season.
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 an 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.
During her career, which began with the 1974-75 season, Summitt coached Tennessee to eight national championships. She finished this season with 1,098 career victories and stands alone at that victory plateau among all NCAA coaches. Gene Bess of Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo., entered the season with 1,131 victories at the junior college level.
Summitt’s annual salary started at $8,900 in 1974. This season, her total compensation package was $1.5 million.
Earlier this month, senior Glory Johnson became the 21st player coached by Summitt to be named a State Farm (formerly Kodak) All-American. These players accounted for 36 total All-America honors under Summitt’s tutelege.
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.