There will never be another Pat Summitt, but the Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team might have gotten the next closest thing.
Summitt's successor as the Lady Vols' coach, Holly Warlick, was announced as UT's new coach during a news conference Thursday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Warlick played for Summitt at UT from 1976-80 and has been an assistant under Summitt for the past 27 seasons.
"I think the thing that is comforting for players is we know that she's a mini Pat Summitt in a way," rising senior Taber Spani said.
This past season, Warlick assumed many of the head coaching responsibilities as Summitt dealt with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.
Summitt will have a new role with the team next season as head coach emeritus, which means she won't be far from the program.
"Like (Warlick) said in her press conference, her philosophies and her values are very much in line with Coach Summitt and what she is about, and so that's going to make the transition a lot smoother," Spani said. "But Holly is her own personality as well, so we're excited about adjusting to that and looking forward to that."
Summitt's voice will still resonate throughout the gyms during practice. There will also still be "The Stare," Summitt's famous stare down that can send chills through players and officials.
The Lady Vols are glad they won't be seeing a total makeover next season.
"I think seeing this year and seeing a mini version of what next year might look like, that makes the transition a lot easier instead of a very abrupt difference," Spani said. "So knowing that Coach Summitt is still going to be around and still going to be very involved in our program, we want that as players and we need that as players, and she knows that Holly needs her to be involved."
Summitt met with her players before the press conference. Many of the Lady Vols appeared subdued — and some of them sad — as they took their seats before the news conference began.
However, their moods lightened as Summitt, her son Tyler, and Warlick spoke to a huge media gathering.
"It is an emotional day," said Cierra Burdick, a Lady Vols freshman last season. "It's bittersweet. Coach (Summitt) is accepting a new role, and I think she's happier in that new role. Holly is stepping up into a greater role, and she has big shoes to fill, but I have full faith and confidence in her that she will do so in a way that will benefit the program."
Burdick said she was relieved that Warlick was hired as Summitt's successor.
"I think it would have been a complete curveball if they brought in a completely different coaching staff with different coaching styles," Burdick said. "I think the fact that (Warlick) knows the tradition and the legacy from Pat, I think it's going to make this transition a lot smoother."
Glory Johnson, a former Webb School star, won't be around for the transition. Johnson completed her eligibility this past season, and Monday was selected by Tulsa with the fourth pick of the WNBA draft.
Johnson said the players were pleased to hear of Warlick's promotion to head coach.
"I think we were more happy just because Holly's been there for Pat since she's been coaching," Johnson said. "They've coached great together. Playing under Holly a lot this season because Pat wasn't able to do what she normally does was hard, but at the same time she handled it very well. (Warlick) stepped up, and it was great playing for her. She was positive throughout the whole experience, and Pat was positive as well."
Johnson knows some things won't change after she leaves UT. Like Warlick's own version of Summitt's stare.
"Yes, she does (have it)," Johnson said. "She yells just like Pat does. She yells just as loud as Pat does. It's just she's a lot more goofy off the floor, but on the floor they have the same mentality. They're always about winning and being successful and doing whatever it takes to get the job done."
Dave Link is a freelance contributor.