Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in college basketball history, is stepping down from her position with the Tennessee Lady Vols, 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 Wednesday in a statement issued by the school.
Longtime assistant Holly Warlick will take over for Summitt, who will become head coach emeritus.
A news conference is scheduled Thursday afternoon at the school in Knoxville.
When the Lady Vols lost in a regional final to eventual national champion Baylor, Warlick’s tears were a telltale sign of how draining the season had been and also that it likely was Summitt’s last game after 38 years at the school.
"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. I look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role. She is an inspiration to everyone."
Summitt will report to Hart in her new role while assisting the program she guided to eight national titles since taking over in 1974.
"I would like to emphasize that I fully intend to continue working as head coach emeritus, mentoring and teaching life skills to our players, and I will continue my active role as a spokesperson in the fight against Alzheimer’s through the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund," she said.
Warlick, a three-time All-American who played for Summitt, was her assistant for 27 years.
Hart said he watched Warlick grow tremendously this season under what he called "unique circumstances" and that she is deserving of the head job.
"Her mentor will be available for insight and advice, but this is Holly’s team now," Hart said.
Warlick said she was thankful for all Summitt has done in preparing her for this opportunity as her coach, mentor and friend.
"We will work as hard as we possibly can with the goal of hanging more banners in Thompson-Boling Arena," Warlick said.
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 the bulk of the recruiting and management of practices. Even so, Summitt still managed to put on her trademark icy stare a time or two during the tournament.
Summitt’s diagnosis came during one of the Lady Vols’ most disappointing stretches — by Summitt’s lofty standards, anyway. Tennessee hasn’t won a national championship since 2008 and hasn’t even reached the Final Four, which ties for its longest such drought in program history.
Tennessee’s five seniors were part of the team that lost in the first round of the 2009 NCAA tournament, the only time in school history the Lady Vols had bowed out on the first weekend.
Those seniors promised they would win a ninth national championship this season — not just for Summitt, but as center Vicki Baugh put it, "We’re playing for everyone who has Alzheimer’s."
But they couldn’t make it back to the Final Four, losing to Baylor and Brittney Griner, a player Summitt couldn’t convince to come to Knoxville.
Summitt’s career ends with a 1,098-208 record, 16 regular-season Southeastern Conference championships and 16 SEC tournament titles. She also led the 1984 Olympic team to a gold medal.
During her time, Tennessee never failed to reach the NCAA tournament, never received a seed lower than No. 5 and reached 18 Final Fours.
Her impact reaches beyond wins and losses. Every Lady Vol player who has completed her eligibility at Tennessee has 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.