Pat Summitt says 'it has been a privilege'

Pat Summitt and her son Tyler Summitt clasp hands during a press conference at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday, April 19, 2012. 

(SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Saul Young, copyright © 2012

Pat Summitt and her son Tyler Summitt clasp hands during a press conference at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday, April 19, 2012. (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

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A relaxed and smiling Pat Summitt said it's been a "great ride" and it is the right time for her to step down after coaching the Tennessee Lady Vols for nearly four decades.

"It has been a privilege," the Hall of Fame coach said Thursday during a press conference. Summitt will become head coach emeritus and longtime assistant Holly Warlick has been promoted to replace her.

"I just felt like it was time for me to step down knowing that Holly was going to be in great hands," said Summitt, who revealed on Aug. 23 that she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. "She's a great coach and you know I'm going to continue to support her. You know It's never a good time but you have to find the time that you think is the right time and that is now."

Summitt, who won more games than anyone else in NCAA college basketball during her 38 years at Tennessee, discussed the decision to step aside on the court named for her after her 1,000th win.

"It was really a great ride for me," Summitt said.

The ride on the coaching carousel may be over for Summitt, but there are other challenges and honors ahead.

The White House says later this year Summitt will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

President Barack Obama said Summitt is an "inspiration" as the coach who has won more games than anyone else in NCAA college basketball history and for her willingness to "speak so openly and courageously about her battle with Alzheimer's."

"Obviously, I didn't see it coming, but that's a tremendous honor," Summitt said of the Medal of Freedom honor.

In her new role at Tennessee, Summitt will report to athletic director Dave Hart.

"I made a choice early in my career to challenge myself to step up my game each and every day," Summitt said. "You can be sure I will take this same attitude into my new role as head coach emeritus and continue to teach our players the same commitment. I can promise you ladies I'm here for you. Trust me that that will happen."

The 59-year-old coach revealed Aug. 23 that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. Warlick, Summitt's longtime assistant, has been promoted to replace her.

During the press conference, Summitt called Warlick over and handed her a whistle.

"It is now time to turn over my whistle to you," said Summitt, who hugged Warlick and the crowed gave them a standing ovation.

"I know this works because I've heard it a lot of times," Warlick said, referring to the whistle.

Warlick isn't the only coach on the move. Tyler Summitt, Pat's son, will be an assistant women's coach at Marquette.

"This was her decision and I think that she took time after the season, thought about everything and the thing my mom's always taught me is to put the team before yourself," Tyler Summitt said. "She really felt like this was the best thing for the Lady Vol program. She's still going to be in a mentoring role."

Also on hand for the news conference were Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley and men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin.

Summitt tried to show people that it was possible to function even in the face of dementia and Alzheimer's. She had the blessing of Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek to keep coaching.

She delegated duties to Warlick, the associate head coach who directed the Lady Vols during games and addressed reporters postgame with other assistants taking on much more of the workload in an emotionally draining season that felt like a farewell tour it wound up being.

Yet Summitt's every move was studied to see how she felt, down to how many officials she yelled at or her icy glares at a player while overseeing a Division I program with a busy national travel schedule. After losing to eventual national champ Baylor in a regional final, Warlick's tears during the postgame news conference gave a glimpse of how exhausting the season had been and the possibility it was Summitt's last game.

"It has been a privilege to make an impact on the lives of 161 women who have worn orange," Summitt said. "I am so proud of them the Lady Vols student athletes and the honor to see them graduate and become successful young women."

Now Summitt can focus on her health and taking on duties that will keep her with the program she guided to eight national titles since taking over in 1974.

Summitt's new role will include helping with recruiting, watching practice, joining staff meetings, helping coaches analyze practice and games, and advising the Southeastern Conference on women's basketball issues and mentoring players. Summitt also will be working as a spokeswoman in the fight against Alzheimer's.

Summitt's final record stands at 1,098-208, 16 regular-season Southeastern Conference championships and 16 SEC tournament titles - the last won a month ago. During her time, Tennessee never failed to reach the NCAA tournament, never received a seed lower than No. 5 and reached 18 Final Fours. Those Final Fours tie the UCLA and North Carolina men for the most all-time by a college basketball program, and she never had a season with a losing record.

"Pat started coaching at a young age and no one will ever pass her on anything that she has done," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "There may be coaches that have more national championships but there will never be anyone who has meant so much to women's basketball. Pat now moves to the next chapter of her life."

Every Lady Vol player who has completed her eligibility at Tennessee graduated under Summitt, and 74 former players, assistants, graduate assistants, team managers and directors of basketball operations are currently among the coaching ranks at every level of basketball.

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Comments » 22

gamecockfan writes:

Pat you will always be a great mentor. So many young ladies looked up to you and knowing you have been such a great coach that is a true blessing and that dream of playing Ladies basketball can come true.
You are a Legendary Coach and you will be greatly missed.
Best wishes to you and your family.
And you may not be on the court but you will always be to the SEC families and friends
COACH PAT SUMMITT
From the Gamecock Nation
God Bless and we will always have you in our thoughts and Prayers

TnDan writes:

Years ago I had the priveledge of working with her, and she was great - very personable and reasonable. Not at all like some other people who have enjoyed similar (or even less) success. I think it was a two-way street: UT, and Knoxville, was privileged to have such an outstanding person as Pat Summitt representing them.

gamecockfan writes:

in response to gamecockfan:

Pat you will always be a great mentor. So many young ladies looked up to you and knowing you have been such a great coach that is a true blessing and that dream of playing Ladies basketball can come true.
You are a Legendary Coach and you will be greatly missed.
Best wishes to you and your family.
And you may not be on the court but you will always be to the SEC families and friends
COACH PAT SUMMITT
From the Gamecock Nation
God Bless and we will always have you in our thoughts and Prayers

And im adding to my post
And you may not be on the court but you will always be to the SEC families and friends and FANS

maxvolfan#217855 writes:

I vote for a statue of Pat in front of TBA. I picture one of her standing there hand on a shoulder of a player (Glory) just to name one and have that focus stare of coaching a player to be the best she can be.

oldnuke69 writes:

In addition to the obvious winning records, a very important note is "Every Lady Vol player who has completed her eligibility at Tennessee graduated under Summitt..."

Bubba_Knows writes:

She will go down in history as one of the greatest coaches in any sport and at any level. Pat is a legend! Thanks for making Tennessee basketball a national power Coach! Best of all, thanks for doing it with Class!

GreerVol22 writes:

in response to maxvolfan#217855:

I vote for a statue of Pat in front of TBA. I picture one of her standing there hand on a shoulder of a player (Glory) just to name one and have that focus stare of coaching a player to be the best she can be.

i'm not sure one statue is enough

Jakevol writes:

When thinking of great coaches in College Sports, I think of OSU W.Hayes, Mich Bo Schembechler, GT B.Dodd, B.Bryant and Bob Neyland in Football (Bryant never beat Neyland). I think of UCLA Wooden, Ky Rupp, D.Smith NC. Duke Krzyzewski mens basketball. Only one comes to my mind, when it comes to Ladies Basketball, Pat Summitt, who changed ladies basketball not only at the college level but HS and beyond as well, and became the benchmark for others to follow. How lucky for the Tennessee Nation to have been blessed to have had her. Her players feared her, while still respecting her,, just like Neyland. We love you Pat,,
.....

underthehill writes:

Best case scenario for Pat and Lady Vol fans..

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to maxvolfan#217855:

I vote for a statue of Pat in front of TBA. I picture one of her standing there hand on a shoulder of a player (Glory) just to name one and have that focus stare of coaching a player to be the best she can be.

Agree! IMO there should already have been a statue of her.

nascar writes:

Can any coach in NCAA history, other than Pat Summitt, say that EVERY person that completed their eligibility in their program actually graduated? That is a record to be extremely proud of. Congratulations, Coach.

collegegrad writes:

As one enters Alcoa on Airport Hwy, the sign says "welcome to Alcoa, home of Pat Summitt"

Fall_Creek_Vols writes:

The greatest.

Ever.

AgentOrange007 writes:

in response to maxvolfan#217855:

I vote for a statue of Pat in front of TBA. I picture one of her standing there hand on a shoulder of a player (Glory) just to name one and have that focus stare of coaching a player to be the best she can be.

I vote for a statue of Lane Kiffin for the front of TBA. Then put a statue of Pat standing over Lane giving him The Stare.

vol4good#206163 writes:

I am Proud to be a Tennessee Fan and Grad Today! Love you Pat! Thank you for Everything!

Brutus writes:

in response to Fall_Creek_Vols:

The greatest.

Ever.

AMEN!

OldVols68 writes:

No Pat -- the privilege was ours: to have you as our coach for all those years. Thank you for blessing the Volunteers with your presence.....

WytheVol writes:

in response to Fall_Creek_Vols:

The greatest.

Ever.

The only 3 words that can sum it up. Well said!

volaholic45 writes:

Absolutely the right move. But, man, is it painful and heartrending.

gillblog writes:

Let's begin the campaign to name the Women's NCAA Basketball Championship as the "Pat Summitt Trophy".

Yes, truly the privilege has been ours. Pat was just having a good time and we, the fans, were blessed to be able to watch her having it.

maxvolfan#217855 writes:

in response to collegegrad:

As one enters Alcoa on Airport Hwy, the sign says "welcome to Alcoa, home of Pat Summitt"

I'm from Maryville so I noticed that too.. odd.

Jakevol writes:

in response to GreerVol22:

i'm not sure one statue is enough

OK GreerVol22, your in charge and where do we send the money having one made for her?

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