Summitt is out at Tennessee
Pat Summitt, who won more games than anyone in NCAA college basketball history, stepped down Wednesday as coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team, less than eight months after revealing she had early-onset dementia.
“I’ve loved being the head coach at Tennessee for 38 years, but I recognize that the time has come to move into the future and to step into a new role,’’ the 59-year-old Hall of Famer said in a statement issued by the school.
Longtime assistant Holly Warlick will take over for Summitt, who finishes with a 1,098-208 record, eight national titles, 16 regular-season Southeastern Conference championships and 16 SEC tournament titles.
“She is an icon who does not view herself in that light, and her legacy is well-defined and everlasting,’’ Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said. “Just like there will never be another John Wooden, there will never be another Pat Summitt. I look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role. She is an inspiration to everyone.’’
Summitt will report to Hart in her new role as head coach emeritus, which includes 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.
Warlick, a three-time All-American who played for Summitt, was her assistant for 27 years.
Hart said he watched Warlick grow this season under what he called “unique circumstances’’ and that she is deserving of the head job.
“Her mentor will be available for insight and advice, but this is Holly’s team now,’’ Hart said.
“We will work as hard as we possibly can with the goal of hanging more banners in Thompson-Boling Arena,’’ Warlick said.
Last season, while Summitt devoted more attention to her health, Warlick took the lead during games and handled postgame interviews, while the entire staff handled recruiting and practices.
Summitt’s diagnosis came during one of the Lady Vols’ most disappointing stretches - by Summitt’s lofty standards, anyway. Tennessee hasn’t won a national title since 2008 and hasn’t even reached the Final Four, which ties for its longest such drought in program history.
Tennessee’s five seniors were part of the team that lost in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament, the only time in school history the Lady Vols had bowed out on the first weekend.
In Summitt’s tenure, Tennessee never failed to reach the NCAA Tournament, was never seeded lower than No. 5, and reached 18 Final Fours.
Her impact reaches beyond wins and losses, with every player completing her eligibility graduating, and 74 former players, assistants, graduate assistants, team managers, and directors of basketball operations are currently among the coaching ranks at every level.