Thursday, April 26, 2018
Sports

Pat Summitt steps down as Tennessee Vols coach

Pat Summitt, who won more games than anyone in NCAA college basketball history, stepped down Wednesday as coach at Tennessee, 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.

Assistant Holly Warlick takes over for Summitt, who becomes head coach emeritus.

A news conference is scheduled for this afternoon (1:30, ESPNU) in Knoxville.

Summitt told the Washington Post the decision wasn't difficult, particularly given her long and productive association with Warlick, an assistant under Summitt the past 27 years.

"It is what it is," Summitt told the Post. "And Holly has been doing a lot, and we not only have a great friendship, we understand each other. And we can work through this."

Warlick, 53, a three-time All-American and former Vols point guard, has been on the coaching staff for all eight NCAA championships won under Summitt.

"She is my coach, mentor and great friend, and I am honored with the opportunity to continue and add to the great tradition of this program," Warlick said.

Summitt told the Post she felt good in terms of her health and intended to keep working not just for herself but also for the Vols' young players (Tennessee is losing five seniors) and for others facing medical challenges: "I think I can help others just by my example."

She intended to make that point when she met with her team.

"The thing is, I have to keep living and doing what I want to do, and those players mean the world to me," said Summitt, who has two courts named after her — one at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville and the other at her alma mater, Tennessee-Martin.

When the Vols lost in a region final this past season to eventual national champion Baylor, Warlick's tears showed how draining the season had been and also that it likely was Summitt's last game.

"She is an icon who does not view herself in that light, and her legacy is well-defined and everlasting," athletic director Dave Hart said. "Just like there will never be another John Wooden, there will never be another Pat Summitt."

Summitt reports to Hart in her new role while assisting the program she took over in 1974, ending with a 1,098-208 record, 16 regular-season SEC championships and 16 SEC tournament titles along with the eight national titles. She also led the 1984 Olympic team to gold.

Summitt's impact extended off the court, too: Every player who completed her eligibility at Tennessee graduated, and 74 former players, assistants, graduate assistants, team managers and directors of basketball operations are currently among the coaching ranks at every level of basketball.

Her new responsibilities include helping with recruiting, watching practice, joining staff meetings, helping analyze practice and games and advising the SEC on women's basketball issues and mentoring players, the school said.

"Pat's vision for the game of women's basketball and her relentless drive pushed the game to a new level and made it possible for the rest of us to accomplish what we did," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "In her new role, I'm sure she will continue to make significant impacts to the University of Tennessee and to the game of women's basketball as a whole."

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.

"As I've said many times, Pat Summitt is a pioneer in basketball," Duke men's coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Her amazing accomplishments are among an elite group of leaders. … I am honored to call her a friend."

Summitt's diagnosis came during one of the 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.

"It doesn't bother me," Summitt told the Post about those speculating how sick she is. "Everybody knows the diagnosis.

"It gives me a chance to show people you can get up every day and go to work and live your life."

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