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.”
Rick Barnes Says He Would Have Left Tennessee if UCLA Paid Buyout
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes could have been the next head coach for UCLA, instead of Mick Cronin, if only the Bruins were willing to open up their wallets.
Barnes says that if UCLA would have promised to pay Barnes’ $5 million buyout, he would have left Tennessee to take the job at UCLA.
“I think I would’ve been the coach at UCLA,” Barnes said (h/t ESPN). “I’ve said that to people before. I really felt at that time that’s what would happen.”
Barnes was honest and open with his decision process during the news conference, saying that he struggled with making a final decision due to financial matters.
Barnes has since agreed to a new deal with Tennessee that will pay him $4 million per year before increasing to a $6 million annual sum by the end of the contract and provide more cash for his assistants.
“I’m supposed to be at Tennessee,” Barnes said. “And it’s really above and beyond the basketball program. I’m in love with this community. I’m in love with this state. I just think we got a lot of great things going on in this town.”
“A lot of praying went into it, I can tell you that,” Barnes said. “There was a lot going on. When you get down to a situation like that, it has to make sense from a financial standpoint. Bottom line is we couldn’t work it out with the buyout.”
Barnes also informed UCLA that he would not depart Knoxville without talking to athletic director Phillip Fulmer and others in the community.
I told them point blank, ‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with my team,'” Barnes said. “‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with people here that have been really good to me.’ … I said, ‘You just can’t say send a plane tomorrow and we’re leaving. I’m going to make sure this is done the right way.'”
“There was one time in my mind I truly felt that’s what would happen,” Barnes said about potentially taking the UCLA offer. “It got to that point where I felt like my prayers had been answered.”
The Madness is Underway
As we inch closer to selection Sunday, many conference tournaments are underway finding teams who will automatically make the NCAA Men’s basketball. Here are the teams that currently in the tournament:
Atlantic Sun: Liberty
Big South: Gardner–Webb
Horizon: Northern Kentucky
Missouri Valley: Bradley
MEC: Fairleigh Dickinson
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Summit League: North Dakota State
Summit League: Saint Marry’s
Out of the 32 conferences with automatic bids in the tournament, 12 of them have been clinched. All the until selection Sunday the remaining 20 conferences will have their tickets punched. Who will that be? Stay tuned!
Tennessee Basketball Ranked 4th In (Early) Preseason Top 25
A school built on football lure now has a thriving basketball team to get behind. In a early CBS basketball poll, the Volunteer squad is ranked 4th in the preseason. This should bring relief to a fan base whose struggled with a lackluster football team in recent years.
Under Coach Rick Barnes (SEC Coach of the year 2017) the Vols went 26-9 last year, won a share of the regular season SEC title and reached the final of the SEC tournament. Tennessee should return most of their pivotal pieces for the 2018-19 season.
Admiral Schofield (2017-2018 ALL SEC second teamer) who tested the NBA waters has returned for his senior year to play along side Grant Williams (SEC player of the year) and Kyle Alexander. If they can stay healthy along with the supporting cast, this team has a legitimate chance to reach the final four.
According to Andy Katz, “Tennessee is the team to beat in the SEC this year,” and did I mention Coach Barnes recruiting is nothing to take lightly. Recently committed 5 star combo guard, Josiah James added his name to the class of 2019 and pushed the Vols recruiting into the top 10 nationally.
Although it’s too early to tell how this season will play out its certain the hype is warranted and reaching heights it hasn’t seen since the Bruce Pearl era.
Could it be!? Tennessee – a basketball school?
Follow the journey when the Volunteers tip off against Louisiana Lafayette on November 9th.
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