Several former Lady Vols support Warlick’s promotion.
“No one’s more deserving than coach Warlick,” said Chamique Holdsclaw, who led Tennessee to three straight national titles from 1996-98. “She’s been by coach Summitt’s side consistently. She played at Tennessee. She knows about the tradition. She knows about the expectations, and she’s learned from the best.”
That feeling is echoed by Tennessee’s current players.
“I don’t think there would be anybody else who could step in and handle it like she’s doing it,” junior guard Meighan Simmons said.
Warlick must maintain that continuity while showing she’s in charge now. One person familiar with this challenge is Bill Guthridge, who replaced Dean Smith as the North Carolina men’s basketball coach in 1997 after working on his staff for three decades.
Guthridge led North Carolina to two Final Four appearances the next three years before retiring. Guthridge said he benefited from frequent contact with Smith. He believes Warlick’s friendship with Summitt could help in a similar manner.
“We continued to talk basketball through those three years, and he was very helpful to me,” said Guthridge, who doesn’t know Warlick personally. “Dean Smith was very smart. I’m sure Pat is very intelligent in how they handle everything. My guess is it’s probably similar to what Tennessee has.”
Warlick has much in common with her predecessor, but that doesn’t mean everything’s staying the same. That will be apparent whenever an official makes a call that would have brought out one of Summitt’s trademark glares.
Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker played for Summitt and Warlick while leading Tennessee to national titles in 2007 and 2008. Parker said both are outstanding communicators, but they make their points differently.
“Do I think she’s going to be like Pat and give the death stare and all that stuff? No,” Parker said. “But it might be something different. She’s not like Pat. If that’s what you’re looking for, that’s not the hire. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. It’s definitely fun to have someone who’s within the program but also a little bit different.”
Warlick emphasizes rebounding and defense, the hallmarks of Summitt’s best teams. Tennessee’s defense hasn’t been as sharp lately, which helps explain why the Lady Vols haven’t reached the Final Four since 2008, their longest drought since the NCAA began running the tournament in 1982.
“I think the last couple of years, defense has not been a priority to our players, for whatever reason,” Warlick said. “It’s going to be a huge priority here. Our recruiting’s going back to getting kids who can play defense - obviously who are skilled players but are athletic and can play defense.”
Warlick put her foot down recently by sending the team on an hour-long punishment run at 5 a.m. Senior guard Taber Spani couldn’t recall enduring anything like that before.View Entire Story
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