At the young age of 22 Patricia “Pat” Summitt was introduced as the head coach of the Tennessee lady Vol basketball program at the University of Tennessee. A graduate of UT Martin and a former college player and Olympic silver medalist, coach summit knew a thing or two about the sport she loved. Over the next 38 years Pat dedicated her life to Tennessee athletics, the betterment of women athletes, and their futures.
During her storied career the Wizard amassed 1,098 wins *(the most by any coach), 8 National titles, and 32 combined regular season and post season SEC Championships. Not to mention in 2000 she was picked as coach of the century, won coach of the year eight times and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. Not only do this accomplishments and statistics cement coach Summitt as a pioneer of the sport but turned the Lady Vols basketball program into a perennial power house. During her tenure every one of her players graduated and 34 went on to play in the WNBA.
A former player, assistant head coach and best friend that sat along side Pat for 27 of those 38 years was Holly Warlick. Sadly when Pat was diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type in 2009, and later had to step down in 2012, it only seemed fitting who Summitt would pass the baton too. Holly Warlick became the Lady Vols head coach in 2012 and has attempted and for the most part succeeded in making lady vol basketball, the fans and Pat proud.
Over her five year head coaching stint (2012-present) Warlick has combined a 108-24 record, 4 sec championships and 3 elite eights in four seasons. With all the success you may think Holly was free from criticism, but the standard for this women’s program is different; – this is Tennessee.
Lady Vol Basketball stands as a program rich in history and prestige only matched by that of UConn . The majority of Tennessee teams are accustomed to final four appearances and National Titles. While elite eights and SEC championships are satisfying, Holly must take the next step in keeping the fan base and boosters happy or risk the program fading into obscurity .
This seems to be easier said then done. As reported by the Daily News, “The Lady Vols fell out of the AP poll for the first time in 31 years, a streak that’s lasted 565 consecutive weeks. The seven SEC losses are the most ever for a Lady Vols’ team”. In addition, you pair that with a slump in recruiting and an inept offensive scheme and a divide has begun to build.
Be Patient’ The Future Could Be Bright:
As with any high profile job, critics gather. However, as we enter uncharted territory there are things we must remember. 1. Pat Summitt hand picked Warlick to succeed her as the head coach of the program. While things have been shaky on Rocky Top as of late, I, like you should trust the coaching pick of a lady who brought women basketball to the forefront and won the most games ever as a division 1 coach (men or women). 2. Elite Eights and SEC titles are nothing to hang your head on. Warlicks Lady Vol teams have been successful and reached accomplishments that exceed the majority of other women programs.
Plus, nobody can replace Summitt and if a change was made, who do you bring in that more proven? 3. The #1 recruiting class headed in for 2017. According to ESPN, Holly Warlick got commitments from No. 2 Evina Westbrook and No. 12 Rennia Davis during the early signing period. They joined No. 9 Anastasia Hayes and No. 55 Kasiyahna Kushkituah to form the No. 1 class in the country.
There’s potential for a bright future, but the pressure in Knoxville is real. The need to win-and win big to ease the pressure on Holly and The Lady Vol Basketball program – is now. The want and desire to make a legend in Pat Summitt proud of the legacy she left behind for Holly to maintain is constant. Coach Warlick understands that better then anyone. “I’m following Pat Summitt,” she says.
“It’s going to be, if I win I’m supposed to and if I lose, I don’t know how to coach. You just have to weed through that. You have to keep plugging away.”