Following 38 years, 1,098 wins and eight national championships, Pat Summitt is officially stepping down as Tennessee head women’s basketball coach, the school announced Wednesday.
Summitt will serve the Lady Vols in a new capacity as head coach emeritus, while Holly Warlick, a 27-year assistant under Summitt, will be promoted to 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 from Tennessee athletic communications. “I support Holly Warlick being named the next head coach, and I want to help ensure the stability of the program going forward.”
Summitt revealed on Aug. 23, 2011 that she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia-Alzheimer's type, after visiting the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in May. Summitt, who will turn 60 in June, spent one final season on the bench after her diagnosis.
According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Summitt met with Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart and Warlick on Wednesday morning, and the ultimate decision was hers.
The venerable Summitt steps down with a 1,098-208 record. A 2000 inductee to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Summitt transformed Tennessee into a national powerhouse with an NCAA-record 18 Final Four appearances. She was named the NCAA’s coach of the year seven times and completed a perfect 39-0 season with her 1997-98 team.
“It is extremely difficult to adequately express what Pat Summitt has meant to the University of Tennessee, the sport of basketball and the growth of women’s athletics nationally,” Hart said in the statement. “She is an icon who does not view herself in that light, and her legacy is well-defined and everlasting. 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.”
A former walk-on at Tennessee in 1976, Warlick grew into a three-time All-American playing under Summitt and returned to the program in 1985 as an assistant. As a player, she led the Lady Vols to three AIAW Final Fours (1977, 1979, 1980) and had her jersey retired following her senior season.
“I’m very thankful for all Pat Summitt has done to prepare me for this opportunity,” said Warlick. “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.”
In her new role as head coach emeritus, Summitt said she will spend her time “mentoring and teaching life skills to our players,” while continuing her work as the spokesperson for the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund, which provides grants to nonprofits helping the fight against Alzheimer's.
Summitt began suffering from memory loss in recent seasons, prior to her diagnosis. She spoke openly about her illness before the 2011-12 season, but rarely addressed the issue during the season. Summitt said in August that she planned to coach as long as possible, a statement supported by UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek.
Summitt led Tennessee to all 32 NCAA women’s basketball tournaments since its inception in 1982. Just as impressively, every UT women’s basketball player to have completed her eligibility under Summitt left Tennessee with a degree, according to The Associated Press.
A press conference on the court at Thompson-Boling Arena will be held Thursday at 1:30 p.m., with Summitt, Warlick, Hart and Cheek all in attendance.
The court the press conference will be held upon is named “The Summitt” in honor of Tennessee’s greatest coach.