Holly Warlick remembers Stokely Athletics Center

Warlick was more than player at facility that will close on Dec. 15

Heather Moats bring two sons Kenton Moats, 4, left, and Thomas Moats, 6, to receive autographs from Tennessee head women's basketball coach Holly Warlick on Thursday, December 6, 2012 at the Stokely Athletics Center Tennessee Official Team Shop. 
  
 (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Photo by Saul Young, 2012 Knoxville News Sentinel

Heather Moats bring two sons Kenton Moats, 4, left, and Thomas Moats, 6, to receive autographs from Tennessee head women's basketball coach Holly Warlick on Thursday, December 6, 2012 at the Stokely Athletics Center Tennessee Official Team Shop. (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Tennessee head women's basketball coach Holly Warlick signs autographs for fans on Thursday, December 6, 2012 at the Stokely Athletics Center Tennessee Official Team Shop. 
  
 (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Photo by Saul Young, 2012 Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee head women's basketball coach Holly Warlick signs autographs for fans on Thursday, December 6, 2012 at the Stokely Athletics Center Tennessee Official Team Shop. (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Heather Moats, left, and her sons Kenton Moats, 4, left, and Thomas Moats, 6, have their photograph take with Tennessee head women's basketball coach Holly Warlick on Thursday, December 6, 2012 at the Stokely Athletics Center Tennessee Official Team Shop. 
  
 (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Photo by Saul Young, 2012 Knoxville News Sentinel

Heather Moats, left, and her sons Kenton Moats, 4, left, and Thomas Moats, 6, have their photograph take with Tennessee head women's basketball coach Holly Warlick on Thursday, December 6, 2012 at the Stokely Athletics Center Tennessee Official Team Shop. (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Holly Warlick has enough memories of Stokely Athletics Center to serve as the building's historian.

The Tennessee women's basketball coach didn't just play there as a Lady Vol. She also went to Tennessee men's games at the facility that served as the home of UT basketball before Thompson-Boling Arena.

She broadened her Stokely experience by seeing Elton John, Elvis Presley and Whitney Houston in concert there.

Even the concessions left an unmistakable impression.

"It used to have, seriously, the best smelling popcorn," she said. "When you walked in the door, all you could smell was great popcorn."

Warlick paid a visit Thursday to sign autographs at the Official Team Shop. Her appearance served as a tribute to Stokely, which will be closing on Dec. 15.

The men's team will honor the memory of Ray Mears at their Dec. 13 game against Wichita State. Mears coached UT and energized the program and Stokely from 1962-77.

"There's so much Tennessee basketball history in this building," said Jimmy Delaney, UT's senior director for marketing and sales. "We wanted fans to remember it one last time before the doors were shut."

Warlick recalled watching Vols All-Americans Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King play at Stokely. The halftime entertainment was unforgettable, too.

"I remember when the halftime show was the guys on unicycles, dribbling the basketball," she said.

Warlick played her entire Tennessee career at Stokely, earning All-American honors three times and playing on Tennessee's first SEC championship team in 1979-80.

Warlick said that her first game there was against Kentucky on Nov. 13, 1976. She remembered scoring her first basket by tipping an inbounds pass on the front of the press, stealing the ball and scoring an easy layup.

She missed her share of layups in that game as well, which she said factored into teammate Patricia Roberts scoring a Stokely-record 51 points.

"It was my first game in a really big arena," Warlick said. "... I probably bricked about 10 layups and she came in and trailed and scored. So I had 10 assists. I felt like I was a part of her record."

The Lady Vols' top 20 crowds there ranged from 10,000 to 4,883.

"To me, it was great place to play," Warlick said. "People, especially on the ends, they were right on top of you."

The people and the place left quite an impression.

"It was all I knew," Warlick said. "So I thought it was awesome."

Summitt Honored: Tennessee head coach emeritus Pat Summitt was honored with the AARP Andrus Award. The award, which is named after AARP founder Ethel Percy Andrus, recognizes those who embody the organization's goal of bringing lifetimes of experience and leadership to serve all generations.

Summitt who was diagnosed in 2011 with early onset dementia Alzheimer's type, was selected based on her work with the Pat Summitt Foundation and raising awareness of Alzheimer's.

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Comments » 5

RockyTFrustrated writes:

Remember when the student section would open their 'Daily Beacon' and in unison we would chant 'who cares?' or 'so what' or 'big deal' each time a member of the opposing team was introduced before the game? My favorite was Joe B. Hall though. We gave that poor man phooey the ENTIRE game. "Sit, Joe, sit!"

And I really don't care for popcorn. But man did I enjoy Stokely's! Holly was right.

Kinda wish we played there now.

snafu14u#241639 writes:

Great college old school venue. I saw Ernie and Bernie and Pistol Pete and many others. It was a sweat pit but the energy was electric. Tried out for the BB practice team there......too slow. Bonzaivol

VolinVirginia writes:

in response to RockyTFrustrated:

Remember when the student section would open their 'Daily Beacon' and in unison we would chant 'who cares?' or 'so what' or 'big deal' each time a member of the opposing team was introduced before the game? My favorite was Joe B. Hall though. We gave that poor man phooey the ENTIRE game. "Sit, Joe, sit!"

And I really don't care for popcorn. But man did I enjoy Stokely's! Holly was right.

Kinda wish we played there now.

That sure would be a tight fit - getting all of us in there now. But you are absolutely right - love your comments.

vol68 writes:

I saw my first game at Stokley when Don Devoe's Vols took on USC Trojans. I have always wanted us to play at least one of the December teams (that do not draw a crowd in TBA) in Stokley each year just for nostalgia and to let younger fans experience Stokley. It would had been a way to draw a bigger crowd for some of these early games.

docwater#225789 writes:

I recall one year we beat South Carolina's football team in a hard fought game. The SC fans all said "wait until basketball season". We played them the next year and they came into Stokley ranked number one, only to be beaten by Coach mears deliberate style. Nice memory from pre-SEC expansion days.

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