An era closes in women’s college basketball today as Tennessee’s Pat Summitt steps down. But the woman stepping up knows exactly the size of the shoes she is being asked to fill.
Holly Warlick has spent three decades, first as a player for the University of Tennessee, then as an assistant and associate head coach under Pat Summitt, shaping the Lady Vols basketball program and watching from the sidelines as Coach Summitt became the all-time winningest coach in the NCAA. Warlick has been courtside for 27 seasons and stepped up effectively to oversee the daily supervision of the Lady Vols’ practices and games after Coach Summitt announced her dementia diagnosis prior to the start of the 2011-12 season.
Coach Warlick is more than prepared to take on the job presented to her. A Knoxville, TN native, she was a walk on, All American point guard for the University of Tennessee from 1976-1980. She is often considered to be one of the best to play for the Lady Vols. Warlick was the first player in the history of UT Athletics to have her jersey (#22) retired at the end of her career.
After brief stints as an assistant coach at Virginia Tech and Nebraska, Warlick rejoined her mentor in Knoxville in 1985 and has been there for all eight NCAA championships and 16 Final Fours.
Her induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame came in 2001 and she was named the WBCA’s Assistant Coach of the Year in 2007.
She has had no trouble adjusting her enthusiasm and knowledge of the game into the coaching role. Considered an expert in recruiting, she has done much to help shape UT into a national powerhouse. While Pat Summitt has often been “the face” of the program, Summitt has commented that her assistants were “the backbone.”
Holly Warlick works just as hard with her charitable endeavors as she does on the court and in the locker room. Champions for a Cause was founded by Warlick in 2007 with former player, assistant coach and current LSU coach Nikki Caldwell. Their organization is dedicated to raising funds and awareness for a cure for breast cancer. It has also worked with The Pat Summitt Foundation to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s across the country.
Now as one of the greatest to coach the game of basketball leaves the court, her position is confidently given to a coach who loves Tennessee, the Lady Vols and the Big Orange Nation.
The University of Tennessee has “kept it in the family” and placed this beloved program into the hands of a hometown girl.