Pat Summitt head coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team signs autographs for fans during practice prior to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Final Four at Pepsi Center on March 31, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.
(March 30, 2012 – Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America)
(PhatzRadio / USA Today) — Pat Summitt, who has more wins than any basketball coach in NCAA history, is stepping down after 38 seasons at the University of Tennessee as she continues her battle with early onset dementia.
Summitt, 59, who has 1,098 wins and a record eight NCAA championships, will remain head coach emeritus. Long-time assistant Holly Warlick, 53, who took over daily supervision of the basketball office after Summitt revealed her medical condition in August, will be the new head coach.
“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,” Summitt said in a statement.
Warlick played four years under Summitt from 1976-80 and has been with the program as an assistant coach since 1985.
“I support Holly Warlick being named the next head coach, and I want to help ensure the stability of the program going forward,” Summitt said. “I would like to emphasize that I fully intend to continue working as head coach emeritus, mentoring and teaching life skills to our players, and I will continue my active role as a spokesperson in the fight against Alzheimer’s through the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund.
“If anyone asks, you can find me observing practice or in my office. Coaching is the great passion of my life, and the job to me has always been an opportunity to work with our student-athletes and help them discover what they want. I will continue to make them my passion. I love our players and my fellow coaches, and that’s not going to change.”
Tennessee finished 27-9 this season and was eliminated from the NCAA tournament by eventual champion Baylor in the Des Moines Regional final. But Summitt attended the Final Four in Denver and was honored during the semifinals along with other former U.S. Olympic women’s basketball head coaches.
Summitt’s career by the numbers
1,098: victories, most among any coach at any NCAA level, men or women
208: career losses
135: NCAA tournament games
18: Final Four appearances
16: SEC regular-season titles
16: SEC tournament titles
8: NCAA championships
7: National coach of the year honors
Summitt received a prolonged standing ovation from a sellout crowd of nearly 20,000, mirroring receptions she received at opponent’s home courts throughout the season.
“I’ve said it many times. I don’t care who wins more championships than her, there will never be another Pat Summitt,” said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey at the Final Four. “People get it. They understand Pat Summitt has done so much for our game, and she did it graciously.”
Patricia Sue Head was still a college senior at Tennessee-Martin when she was hired to become Tennessee’s head coach in 1974. She accepted the position, even though she was “absolutely overwhelmed and scared to death” by the challenge.
Women’s basketball fans became familiar with the ice-cold glare Summitt would direct toward any player who fell short of her expectations, but she was extremely shy at the beginning of her career. When UT officials introduced her as “Pat,” she never corrected them or informed them she had been called Tricia or Trish all her life.
“She’s done so many things with class and integrity,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “She’s so well respected by everybody in the profession that I think you just go, boy, I would love to be like her. I think she’s impacted every coach who coaches.”
Wherever Tennessee played this season, fans would fill the stands holding signs reading “We Back Pat,” in recognition of her public acknowledgement of her condition.
“Pat is one of those rare individuals whose influence crosses all boundary lines,” said Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale. “Literally thousands of coaches in a vast array of sports abide by her tenets, passing them on as gospel to their players.
“I, and an entire generation of women’s basketball coaches will always be indebted to her for the culture of excellence she helped to create in our sport.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan lauded Summitt’s record of graduating every player who completed eligibility during her tenure.
“Pat has an unparalled ability to develop leaders and champions from the court to the classroom,” Duncan said. “Her career is a powerful reminder that the job of coach is not just to win games, but to be a mentor and help develop the life skills of their players.”
As head coach emeritus, Summitt’s duties will include working as a liasion to athletics director Dave Hart, serving as an adviser to the Southeastern Conference on women’s basketball issues and serving as a mentor to all Tennessee coaching staffs. She also will be active in recruiting and participate in general staff meetings.
“I will miss seeing her on the sidelines on game day, but I am very happy Pat will be continuing her work with Tennessee as head coach emeritus,” said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. “She is a model of class and courage.”
Tennessee has a scheduled a news conference Thursday at “The Summitt,” the basketball court at Thompson-Boling Arena, to formally introduce Warlick . Summitt, Hart and Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek also will attend.
Summitt’s son, Tyler, 21, will become an assistant coach for Marquette’s women’s program, according to TheWashingtonPost. He is due to graduate from Tennessee this spring after completing his degree in three years.