Andy Lyons/Getty Images(KNOXVILLE, Tenn.) — University of Tennessee’s current basketball coach Holly Warlick reflected on the profound impact former Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt had on her life and gave her insight on the numerous accomplishments Summitt, who died Tuesday, achieved in her career.
Here’s everything you need to know about Summitt’s legendary life from Warlick’s call with reporters Tuesday.
Summitt and Warlick’s Bond as Coaches
Warlick worked as an assistant on Summitt’s coaching staff before becoming head coach herself. During her time as an assistant, Warlick “had a lot of great opportunities” to leave Tennessee, but she chose to stay with Summitt, the all-time winningest D-1 basketball coach in NCAA history.
“Pat and I talked a lot about her career, my career, what I needed to do. … I just thought, it just doesn’t get any better than this,” Warlick said. “I’m here, I am working for her and this program. And she and I used to joke, I’d say, ‘You know, Summitt, I’m gonna be pushing you up in your wheelchair to the court.’ And she’d go, ‘You’re gonna be sitting right next to me.’ And I said, ‘Absolutely.'”
“We had such a strong connection and … we shared so much outside of basketball,” Warlick said. “Honestly I didn’t see me coaching anywhere else than Tennessee.”
Summitt’s Coaching Style
Warlick praised Summitt for creating a model for others to use to start their own basketball programs. Summitt always wanted to give women equal opportunity, Warlick said, and as a female coach Summitt always exemplified the hard balance between being tough but showing love.
Summitt also emphasized academics, Warlick said, and had rules: Players must sit in the first three rows in class, and if you miss a class, you miss a game.
The legendary coach is remembered for holding a 100 percent graduation rate for all her players who completed their eligibility.
The Ultimate Warrior
Warlick described Summitt as the ultimate teacher and leader, but also said Summitt was the ultimate warrior in her battle against a tough disease.
Summitt stepped down as Tennessee’s coach in 2012, which was one year after she announced her diagnosis of early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
Summitt’s outspokenness about her disease and desire to found a cure will lay groundwork for people to come, Warlick told reporters.
In an official statement Tuesday, Warlick said: “Pat was my coach, my mentor, my colleague and a very dear friend. It is impossible to put into words how much she has meant to me and so many other individuals here at Tennessee and beyond.
“She played a very significant role in molding me into the person I am, and I will forever be grateful for the genuine care, guidance and wisdom she unselfishly shared with me and so many others through the years. I’ll always treasure the laughter we shared, the stories we loved to tell and certainly those stories we embellished.
“Pat gave me strength and courage to face anything. She was driven to perfection and always remained true to her standards. That meant doing things the right way, no matter what. In my eyes, there’s never been anyone better than Pat Summitt. She entrusted me with her legacy, and I will continue embracing her passion and doing everything in my power to uphold that.”
Summitt, 64, died peacefully this morning at Sherrill Hill Senior Living in Knoxville, Tennessee, her son, Tyler Summitt, said in a statement.
“Since 2011, my mother has battled her toughest opponent, early onset dementia, ‘Alzheimer’s Type,’ and she did so with bravely fierce determination just as she did with every opponent she ever faced,” Tyler said. “Even though it’s incredibly difficult to come to terms that she is no longer with us, we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease.
“For 64 years, my mother first built her life upon a strong relationship with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Her foundation was also built upon love of her family and of her players, and love of the fundamentals of hard work which reflected her philosophy that ‘you win in life with people,'” Tyler said. “She’ll be remembered as the all-time winningest D-1 basketball coach in NCAA history, but she was more than a coach to so many — she was a hero and a mentor, especially to me, her family, her friends, her Tennessee Lady Volunteer staff and the 161 Lady Vol student-athletes she coached during her 38-year tenure.”
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