Photo by Saul Young, copyright © 2012 // Buy this photo
Pat Summitt on her future plans
With an NCAA tournament to think about, Tennessee's Pat Summitt isn't preoccupied with her coaching future.
"Oh, I haven't made any decision about that,'' the UT women's basketball coach said after Wednesday's practice at Pratt Pavilion, "just trying to win a championship."
Summitt responded to speculation that she wanted to return next season by saying, "I haven't suggested that."
The Lady Vols, the No. 2 seed in the Des Moines (Iowa) Regional, open against No. 15 Tennessee Martin on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 4:10 p.m.) at Allstate Arena in suburban Chicago. No. 7 DePaul and No. 10 BYU play in the other NCAA first-round game. The winners meet Monday night.
Summitt, who is in her 38th season as coach of the Lady Vols, announced in August that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type but would continue coaching. While questions persist over whether there will another season, Summitt cast her future at the university in a broader context.
"I love the game,'' the 59-year old said. "And whether I'm here at UT, I may or may not coach. So it is what it is. I'm just going to try to get another championship for this group."
Summitt's contract runs through the 2013-14 season. A clause states that if Summitt stays through the contract's duration, which would be her 40th season, she will receive a $1 million bonus.
UT associate head coach Holly Warlick said that she and Summitt haven't talked beyond this team and this season.
"I think she's just taking it each day at a time,'' Warlick said. "My expectation is she'll be here. It's her decision. I'll support her 100 percent."
For the tournament, Warlick is expected to handle media interviews, as she has throughout the season. The responsibility has been one of the more obvious examples of her expanded role, one that she conceded last month was "harder than I anticipated." But she was OK with that then and sounded like she would be OK going forward.
"Absolutely,'' she said. "It's my make-up. It would probably blow everybody's mind if I'm not at Tennessee. It would probably blow my mind, too."
Warlick seems more comfortable in her role after Tennessee's strong showing at the SEC tournament. If so, Summitt is a big reason why.
"I've gotten really great feedback from her at the SEC tournament,'' Warlick said. "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.
"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.''
Warlick sounded like Summitt in saying that she's not preoccupied with her coaching future either. She doesn't want the situation to detract from the NCAA business at hand.
"I know it can be a distraction but I don't think Pat's allowed it to be, nor any of our staff,'' Warlick said. "It hasn't been about Pat, which it has but it really hasn't. We've just really tried to focus on this team and give them the best opportunity to get better and put them in a situation to win."