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Summitt: It has been a ‘great ride’ at Tennessee
Question of the Day
“I know this works because I’ve heard it a lot of times,” Warlick said, referring to the whistle.
“This was her decision, and I think that she took time after the season, thought about everything and the thing my mom’s always taught me is to put the team before yourself,” Tyler Summitt said. “She really felt like this was the best thing for the Lady Vol program. She’s still going to be in a mentoring role.”
Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley, men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin along with members of the Lady Vols basketball team were among those in the crowd.
Summitt tried to show people during the season that it was possible to function even in the face of dementia and Alzheimer’s. She had the blessing of Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek to keep coaching.
She delegated duties to Warlick, the associate head coach who directed the Lady Vols during games and addressed reporters postgame with other assistants taking on much more of the workload in an emotionally draining season that felt like a farewell tour it wound up being.
Yet Summitt’s every move was studied to see how she felt, down to how many officials she yelled at or her icy glares at a player while overseeing a Division I program with a busy national travel schedule. After losing to eventual national champ Baylor in a regional final, Warlick’s tears during the postgame news conference gave a glimpse of how exhausting the season had been and the possibility it was Summitt’s last game.
“It has been a privilege to make an impact on the lives of 161 women who have worn orange,” Summitt said. “I am so proud of them the Lady Vols student athletes and the honor to see them graduate and become successful young women.”
Summitt left a few minutes later, heading to the locker room for a statewide radio broadcast. Hart then introduced Warlick as the new head coach. She said when she was offered the position, her biggest concern was Summitt’s health and well-being _ but Summitt assured her that she was fine.
“She pulled that stare on me and she said, `You need to be happy and I’m not going anywhere,’” Warlick said of the conversation. “So I’m happy today.”
Now Summitt can focus on her health and taking on duties that will keep her with the program she guided to eight national titles since taking over in 1974.
Summitt’s new role will include helping with recruiting, watching practice, joining staff meetings, helping coaches analyze practice and games, and advising the Southeastern Conference on women’s basketball issues and mentoring players. Summitt also will be working as a spokeswoman in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
Her final record stands at 1,098-208, 16 regular-season Southeastern Conference championships and 16 SEC tournament titles _ the last won a month ago. During her time, Tennessee never failed to reach the NCAA tournament, never received a seed lower than No. 5 and reached 18 Final Fours. Those Final Fours tie the UCLA and North Carolina men for the most all-time by a college basketball program, and she never had a season with a losing record.
By John McAfee
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