Why wouldn’t she? Summitt won eight national championships, and Warlick played a prominent role in that success — first as a player and later as an assistant coach.
But after just more than a year on the job, it’s obvious Warlick is not averse to change.
She still preaches the virtues of defense and rebounding, which were the cornerstones of Summitt’s dynasty. However, she’s not oblivious to the shortcomings of a program that has failed to advance beyond the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament in five years.
Following Warlick’s first season, she recommended the firing of associate strength and conditioning coach Heather Mason.
“We just wanted to go in a different direction,” Warlick said in regard to Mason, who was fired last month. “I thought we weren’t in as good of shape as we needed to be.”
Warlick said that was evident as soon as the Lady Vols began group workouts in preseason.
“We want to run, go up and down the floor, play full court,” Warlick said Wednesday at the SEC spring meetings. “I thought we needed to be in better shape than that.
“You can get 20-something points off layups if you press. Your defense can lead to easy buckets.”
She’s right. But if Warlick is truly intent on playing a full-court game — akin to the one UT played in its 1997-1998 undefeated season — she will have to change more than a strength and conditioning coach.
Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and Semeka Randall could have made any strength and conditioning coach look brilliant in the late 1990s. “The Meeks” were ready to run for 40 minutes as soon as they laced up their sneakers.
My point: Recruiting will be a bigger factor in reshaping UT’s game. And it won’t just be a matter of signing quicker, athletic players.
Signing more players will count almost as much.
“I would love to get back to that (full-court) style,” Warlick said. “It’s hard work and you have to get in shape. It’s hard to press for 40 minutes.
“You need numbers. That’s why we’re trying to get our numbers up (through recruiting).
Summitt didn’t sign her full complement of players. She viewed more players as more players not playing.
So in the interest of team morale, she didn’t fill up her scholarship allotment.
But there are far worse scenarios than having unhappy players on your bench. Warlick learned that the hard way when injuries left her with seven available players for some games this past
“I’d like to be close to (the scholarship limit),” Warlick said. “That’s difficult as far as playing time.
“But if you play a certain style, you can do that.”
Kentucky has proved as much under coach Matthew Mitchell, whose teams have been committed to full-court pressure and up-tempo play. Such a commitment demands a deeper bench than Tennessee had last season.
Warlick said she will begin interviewing candidates for a strength and conditioning coach next week. Maybe that will be a step in the right direction.
But the bigger step toward building Warlick’s dream team will come through recruiting.